The Growing Importance of an Atheist Community

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Like it or not, atheism has become more than a "lack of belief in gods".

 

Sure, if you want to pull out a dictionary you can prove me wrong and say that is all atheism is. Yet doing so would be naive as to the world we live in and ignoring the movement that is happening all around the world.

 

Many people want to call this movement by many names, humanism, secularism, skepticism, or your choice of label that strategically avoids the word atheist, but when your movement is made up of at least 99% atheists, guess what, you have an atheist movement.

 

Perhaps though, a better term would be atheist community. Because we don't have leaders, we don't elect people to speak on everyone's behalf, but the media does take to certain voices more than others and we use these outlets to our advantage. This community is a necessity to the lasting effect atheists can have in the political arena, and you cannot ignore that atheism is entrenched in politics.

 

Now it can be said that for many, the only thing atheists have in common is their rejection of god claims, because atheists can come from many different political and social backgrounds. Republican talking heads like S.E. Cupp claim to be atheist yet support the most theocratic political party in the US. Ayn Rand, another famous atheist was a staunch free-market libertarian who condoned pure selfishness as a part of human nature.

 

These atheists are rare, and for some like Cupp, I question her sincerity in either politics or atheism and wonder if one or the other is a good money making gimmick.

 

So maybe not all atheists agree on the same political ideologies, though I would ask anyone to show that the overwhelming majority is not liberal, leftwing based ideologists, instead of selfish or theocratic ones. If there is one thing all atheists have in common politically it is that we are not the religious right.

Written By: Dan Arel
continue to source article at huffingtonpost.com

39 COMMENTS

    • In reply to #2 by aquilacane:

      Like it or not, basketball is more than just a sport, it is a black sport. After all, 78% are black. (Don’t get me started on equal opportunity employment)

      Not where I live (outside the US border).

      • In reply to #18 by msloane:

        In reply to #2 by aquilacane:

        Like it or not, basketball is more than just a sport, it is a black sport. After all, 78% are black. (Don’t get me started on equal opportunity employment)

        I should have specified NBA

        Not where I live (outside the US border).

  1. This is a terrible piece of muddled thinking. The abysmal failure of confidence experienced by the liberal left in the USA is in no way solved by grafting on the more successful “brand” of Atheism. These Godly and (proposed) Nongodly proofs of moral merit for political actions are deeply flawed, both.

    Atheism, being, in some form, advocacy for the condition of being atheist, can have only one political ambition beyond that advocacy and that is to deny the supernatural authority underwriting the political and social advocacy of theists. Just…that.

    There are plenty of atheist right wingers. Abandon them at your peril.

    • In reply to #3 by phil rimmer:

      Atheism, being, in some form, advocacy for the condition of being atheist, can have only one political ambition beyond that advocacy and that is to deny the supernatural authority underwriting the political and social advocacy of theists. Just…that.

      Agreed that the positions are not mutually exclusive, but you have to acknowledge a strong correlation between atheists and liberals. In normal circumstances I wouldn’t feel so free to put forth my own left leaning political views, but I do so with the understanding that there are a lot of fellow travellers commenting on this site. I think I’d be backed up if things got nasty! :-)

      • In reply to #9 by Nitya:

        In reply to #3 by phil rimmer:

        my own left leaning political views

        This is what I don’t say any longer. I say I have left leaning moral values or sentiments. My politics, however needs more inputs than the fact of my cognitive quirks to rumble into action.

        I think the alignment is with the religious and the conservative sentiments rather than any natural alignment between atheism and the left, though the end result is the same. This is because of the overlap of moral values regarding, authority, loyalty and purity. These are the values of those afraid of losing their social capital. (Incidentally, the Lego Movie, just watched with my daughter, is an awesome critique of the forces of conservatism.)

        Would you feel as safe expressing your views here if it were politically more mixed but you were surrounded by more women and/or more people interested in cool intellectual debate?

        Surrounded by like minds the (modest) anarchist in me feels inclined to argue. (If it ain’t broke, break it.) Ideas must be tested.

        • *In reply to #12 by phil rimmer:

          Would you feel as safe expressing your views here if it were politically more mixed but you were surrounded by more women and/or more people interested in cool intellectual debate?

          I’d feel quite safe with a greater diversity of left/right sentiments, though not as safe in the sort of hostile environment I’d face if I commented on talkback radio. The gender divide doesn’t influence the degree to which I’d be prepared to speak out about my politics (oops! sentiments) but if I thought I was going to be shouted down by an aggressive, redneck , male commentator I’d probably hold my peace.

          • In reply to #13 by Nitya:

            *In reply to #12 by phil rimmer:

            …if I thought I was going to be shouted down by an aggressive, redneck , male commentator I’d probably hold my peace.

            Funny, isn’t it. I look for such confrontation. I love it.

          • In reply to #16 by aquilacane:

            In reply to #13 by Nitya:

            >

            Funny, isn’t it. I look for such confrontation. I love it.

            So do I …at times. I like to chose my battles. Normally I’d have to psych myself up first. :-)

        • In reply to #12 by phil rimmer:

          think the alignment is with the religious and the conservative sentiments rather than any natural alignment between atheism and the left, though the end result is the same. This is because of the overlap of moral values regarding, authority, loyalty and purity.

          This is why there are so few of the ‘Ayn Rand’ types out there. It’s not a good fit. No doubt there are many conservative atheists ( it would be surprising if there were not) but I suspect that they tend to ‘believe in belief’.

          Abandon them at your peril

          I guess we need to stick together on this one and leave it to the politicians to fight the political battles ( though like you, I find this area very frustrating.)

          • In reply to #23 by Nitya:

            In reply to #12 by phil rimmer:

            Conservative atheists may be the very conduit for draining the religious swamp. You are surely correct in thinking they may be prone to believe in belief, especially as they may lay store in the innate virtues of authority and loyalty, both got from unquestioned beliefs. Their proclivity for authority and loyalty must be engaged by a commitment to reason to be tamed (as all our sentiments should be). What authority, and loyalty to whom, are their struggles.

            I have several times argued that right wing atheists have a longer journey to get here and any discouragement to take the first step, as Atheism plus was keen to do, and as Dan is perhaps inadvertently doing here, is shooting Atheism in the foot.

            In making this site welcoming to all voices with an interest in Atheism, science and reason, I urged we shouldn’t presume who feels excluded and voiceless…

            Besides, if we can all agree to abide by the authority of evidenced reason and the fact of our differing sentiments we can perhaps negotiate down their wild overuse of Kragle, the very essence of conservatism. (Sorry, you’ll have to watch the Lego Movie for that one. No spoilers from me.)

  2. Every time I read articles like this I get more and more convinced that the term ‘atheism’ is in itself a peril. On the one hand the religious put atheism on par with satanism, Nazism and other evils of this world. On the other atheists are fighting with each other about who has the right to claim this term as their own, of course promoting their own exclusive definitions. In both cases, this term seems to do more harm than good.

    Yes, I understand why this term is so popular. It attracts attention. It’s understandable that new movements that want to gain popularity want to call themselves atheists. I mean, who would invite a bunch of secularists or rationalists to the morning show? Call yourself an atheists and suddenly people are interested. But, this comes with at price and I think the harm this strategy causes, in the long term by far outweighs the potential positive short term benefits.

  3. Grouping people together because of what they don’t believe? Nonsense. Believing in Secularism, Naturalism, Free speech, Free thinking, Humanism etc. OK. Redefining Atheism to mean any of the later is irrational. Remember, the Primal Atheist is a new born child. He/she has learnt any ‘isms’ yet.

  4. Geez I dunno. I’m an atheist AND a conservative. Apparently that makes me a rare SOB. I always thought that science was the best defence against the religious.

    I am curious though …are there any conservative athiest groups out there?

    I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, “”Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.”

    Well, I’m an old geezer,(well over 50 trips around the sun and still kicking), and have to say, Churchill had a point. Perhaps not a great one, but a point none-the-less.

    • In reply to #6 by holysmokes:

      Geez I dunno. I’m an atheist AND a conservative. Apparently that makes me a rare SOB. I always thought that science was the best defence against the religious.

      I am curious though …are there any conservative athiest groups out there?

      I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, “”Any man who is un…

      I’m a conservative and a Liberal and all other forms of ives and als. It just depends what the hell we’re talking about. To be one or the other is completely irrational, which is why I don’t vote for people who represent a political party, which is difficult. There hasn’t been an independent run in my riding ever. When a person with a good plan comes out to represent the people in their riding, I’ll consider them. At the moment; however, they all represent their party and I don’t give a shit about their party.

    • In reply to #6 by holysmokes:

      >

      I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, “”Any man who is un…

      Ummm, no, not Churchill, a bit vague as to origin, Bismarck most probably, picked up by many, but not Churchill. Sorry.

  5. “Many people want to call this movement by many names, humanism, secularism, skepticism, or your choice of label that strategically avoids the word atheist, but when your movement is made up of at least 99% atheists, guess what, you have an atheist movement.”

    Sorry, but this is ignorant bullshit (and I stopped reading at this point).

    I am what I am. I am not, solely by virtue of someone else’s arbitrary pigeon-holing, going to be co-opted into any kind of movement, political party or – dare I say – evangelical religion that I have not freely decided to join.

    Words have meanings; the English language is precise. These terms all mean different things. I know devout priests who are secularists, for example. Humanism is (according to the British High Court of Justice) a “belief system” entitled to protection under the European Convention of Human Rights, whereas atheism is not. An atheist can be a skeptic about, say, the claims of anti-vaxxers or young earth creationists. And so can the Pope.

    Conflating all these terms for a petty self-serving purpose (“so I can claim more supporters”) is deceitful and an act of an ignoramus.

    Whoever you are Dan, come back when you have something sensible to say.

    [Last sentence slightly edited by moderator to bring within Conditions of Use.]

  6. So maybe not all atheists agree on the same political ideologies

    I would have hoped by now that those who place their confidence in evidenced reason would have abandoned ideologies altogether. Pre-packed solutions to novel problems is the polite face of dogma. Rather we should be placing our confidence in evidenced reason alone and processes that can feed this maximally. Ideologies are the very root of the political malaise. They are divisive as religious faiths with almost as little evidence in their favour.

  7. Phill Rimmer

    Ideologies are the very root of the political malaise.

    Here’s what politics should be. From Space Chronicals by Neil Tyson:

    “To govern a society shared by people of emotion, people of reason, and everybody in between – as well as people who think their actions are shaped by logic but in fact are shaped by feelings or nonempirical philosophies – you need politics. At it’s best, politics navigates all these mind-states for the sake of the greater good, alert to the rocky shoals of community, identity, and the economy. At it’s worst, politics thrives on the incomplete disclosure and misrepresentation of data required by an electorate to make informed decisions, whether arrived at logically or emotionally”

  8. The primary goal of a unified body of atheists should be to educate other atheists in the vast disciplines of science that support its view while informing the world of the true history of world religions, how they developed, evolved and still influence every facet of human culture today.

  9. Muddled thinking indeed here.

    Ayn Rand, another famous atheist was a staunch free-market libertarian who condoned pure selfishness as a part of human nature

    Why would holding these views in the least disqualify this guy from being a genuine atheist? or indeed disqualify someone who aimed at “overturning women’s rights, ending marriage equality and enforcing bad economic policies that drive more Americans into poverty”
    As far as I know Stalin had perfectly valid atheist credentials! And conversely, why would not an extreme religious and narrow-minded bigot not be a most loving and generous person, using his/her meager resources to give zakat to refugees, and avoid hurting a fly?

  10. Like it or not, atheism has become more than a “lack of belief in gods”.

    No, it has not. This column actually demonstrates that it has not.

    It’s not all bad. Good things are happening.

    Atheists and Agnostics are standing up for themselves. They’re doing this by calling themselves atheists. Atheists have a separate world-wide struggle to have their human right to religious freedom protected and recognised. It is a struggle that is literally life and death … as we speak. Please do no more to undermine them.

    Many people want to call this movement by many names, humanism, secularism, skepticism, or your choice of label …

    Yes, not Atheist. There has been a very minor increase in the number of people applying skepticism when thinking about politics. It is not driven by atheism. There is no atheism philosophy, nor goals, nor driving force. That’s why these people are joining groups that do have those attributes. Remember: “Just as each atheist is unique in many of their own ways, so are groups.”

    … when your movement is made up of at least 99% atheists, guess what, you have an atheist movement. Interesting statistic, from … ?

    This is a category mistake.

    Perhaps though, a better term would be atheist community … we don’t elect people to speak on everyone’s behalf, but the media does take to certain voices more than others …

    I so wish that we’re true. Sadly the media are on the lookout only for people ready to stick their heads above the parapet and make a controversy.

    This community is a necessity … [etc.]

    Community is an American television comedy series aired on NBC.

    Republican … S.E. Cupp claim[s] to be atheist yet support[s] the most theocratic political party in the US … I question her sincerity in either politics or atheism and wonder if one or the other is a good money making gimmick.

    Write Bill Maher, nominate her for his take-down a Senator idea. But don’t tell me you see the green shoots of an Atheist movement based on evidence better interpreted as being: This politician also doesn’t understand what atheists are, that they’re critical thinkers.

    … not all atheists agree on the same political ideologies …

    Critical thinkers do not support ideologies – this is Critical Thinking 101.

    I would ask anyone to show that the overwhelming majority [of atheists are] not … leftwing …

    Critical thinkers don’t follow any dogma. Read Peter Boghossian’s book A Manual for Creating Atheists for an excellent insight into why academic leftism is not supported by critical thinkers. By extension, we can see that leftism is currently not fit for purpose – for rounding up the votes of critical thinkers.

    If there is one thing all atheists have in common politically it is that we are not the religious right.

    This label means what exactly? Thinking about the Tea Party I guess he means atheists are not certifiable. I can live with that. Does the simple fact of being sane make us an identifiable, coherent, politically motivated group? Actually, in the context of current US politics … it might.

    Atheists want the benefits of a secular society, but too many refuse to do the work.

    True; organized secular humanists are not being actively supported by the people who support their aims. Many people think through their position on religion, declare themselves atheists, then fail to recognize their new thinking skills apply to politics and many who make the leap and apply critical thinking to politics, are lazy.

    … the US would be lost overnight to a theocratic right. Ready to overturn whatever secular laws remain in the constitution.

    I have encountered resistance to this idea even on these very pages. Skepticism is being sustained by a media withholding evidence and applying propaganda. That makes motivating secular humanist critical thinkers warm work.

    While we are busy infighting …

    I see different groups with different priorities hammering out compromises and coming to common positions. The wagon train is heavy and cumbersome … and it’s moving in one direction.

    We should be thanking these groups and individuals in this fight, not chastising them for being “the face” of atheism as many have.

    We should be encouraging more critical thinking, getting people off their behinds, berating journalists for their idle complicity and reaching out to people who are open-minded. Manufacturing a controversy between different groups of critical thinkers and humanists doesn’t help.

    You can get behind the groups you like and ignore the ones you don’t.

    Pretty Please

    Silence is an action, the action of inaction.

    Withholding support for the political process is a political stance with a long and distinguished history. But in representative democracies it has limited effects and can blow up in your face. Withhold your vote and your representatives will come from the Tea Party – a happy place?

    Feel good: do good work, get involved.

    But don’t pretend that labels are always meaningless, and embrace diversity.

    Peace.

  11. There would be no need for the word “atheist” if religion were not so dominant in so many aspects of life, politics, society etc.
    Generally we do not need “a-” words to describe what we are not, but in this case it is a necessary word, which by default must encompass the whole range of human political spectrum and attitudes, with the exception of “belief”. To imply or claim that atheists have a position on anything other than “god/s” is absurd, but as someone already said, perhaps more open-minded, liberal, educated and confident people will tend naturally towards atheism. It certainly doesn’t preclude racist, sexist or homophobic atheists. They just let the side down, when other groups choose to associate certain negative positions with atheists in order to make a point.

    That said, I find it liberating to use the word openly, if nothing else to see the range of reactions on people’s faces, and then I wonder how their opinion of me changes for better or worse.

  12. in reply to nitya (comment 23) No doubt there are many conservative atheists ( it would be surprising if there were not) but I suspect that they tend to ‘believe in belief’.

    Yep, I’m one. I am ever so glad this thread has let me come out of that closet. Whew! (And I don’t “believe in belief” either.)

    • In reply to #28 by 78rpm:

      in reply to nitya (comment 23)

      No doubt there are many conservative atheists ( it would be surprising if there were not) but I suspect that they tend to ‘believe in belief’.

      Yep, I’m one. I am ever so glad this thread has let me come out of that closet. Whew!

      lol

      Well someone was intent on shutting the closet door…

      And I don’t “believe in belief” either.

      Gottit.

  13. Three or four times written, it’s asking a bit of some members, but I’ll write the sentence again… Atheism is not another team in a certain sports league, It’s the state of placing no value on, nor holding any interest in, sports at all.

    The wrinkled noses and furrowed brows of so many of the people writing above this, were almost audible to me. I think what so many posts are seeking to communicate, is frustration that the natural, and often ugly, group-mentality can exist in all areas. You might not be surprised to find I deplore patriotism. Pride in randomly inherited identifiers is irrational at best.

    Some persist with rallying calls akin to “Because Atheism is the most logical standpoint, WE MUST STAND TOGETHER”.

    Please! As a hypothetical, ponder a scenario where all humans on Earth who acknowledge the planet is not flat becoming known as “Aflatearthers”. “We deny flat Earth, we are Aflatearthers”, some might proudly boast. “We’ve reached acceptance of this basic fact, we are now a group that includes the people who barely grasp this, and the people at the highest level of cosmology and physics and biology”.

    I’m wandering, as I often do. What I’m railing against here, essentially, is the “checkpoint”, the admission to some “V.I.P.” for attaining mere logic and free thought. The subsequent clichéd conduct of this crowd is peer-seeking. So many superficially or basically free-minded individuals still suffer from archaic needs to belong to a group, and cannot escape the need to have an enemy.

    You wouldn’t demand solidarity betwixt, nor even identify collectively, all whom deny the Earth is flat.

    It is monumentally disappointing when, so often, people such as the author here, demand a class, “The Atheist Movement”. As disparate and individual as the “Aflateathers”, the author overlooks the fact many are simply those on a certain (logical) rung of the ladder. The basic ladder of our species, impinged upon often by religion and superstition. This state is simply having grown up in an environment conducive to, or having intelligently sought the ability to, filter the facts reasonably and independently.

    • In reply to #30 by Timothy McNamara:

      This is pretty much what I think about the whole idea of an “Atheist Movement”. Not believing in fairies would be unremarkable were it not for most people believing in them and unfavourably stereotyping those who don’t, so it’s really about the fairyists. I suppose one could make the case that it’s more about criticizing religion(s) and challenging ignorant stereotypes about atheists, but in that case it would be more accurately a secularist movement. In any case, I’m concerned more about checking people’s attitudes to reason, faith, and science than about increasing the ranks of the so-called “atheist club”.

      • In reply to #31 by Zeuglodon:
        >

        This is pretty much what I think about the whole idea of an “Atheist Movement”. Not believing in fairies would be unremarkable were it not for most people believing in them and unfavourably stereotyping those who don’t, so it’s really about the fairyists. I suppose one could make the case that it’s more about criticizing religion(s) and challenging ignorant stereotypes about atheists, but in that case it would be more accurately a secularist movement.

        I think that has a lot to do with differences of view about “atheism” on this site.

        The “stridency”, needs to be in proportion to the level of religiosity in an atheists home locality – or the area where a particular event is taking place. – A very variable situation world-wide.

  14. In reply to #14 by aquilacane,

    I’m a conservative and a Liberal and all other forms of ives and als. It just depends what the hell we’re talking about. To be one or the other is completely irrational, which is why I don’t vote for people who represent a political party, which is difficult. There hasn’t been an independent run in my riding ever. When a person with a good plan comes out to represent the people in their riding, I’ll consider them. At the moment; however, they all represent their party and I don’t give a shit about their party.

    I’m was not referring to political parties, but rather the majority of my own personal views regarding life in general. I appear to lean conservative, not because of a political party, but because of the way my mind works. Conservatism and politics are not mutually inclusive.

  15. The only reason statements like “Atheists are x, y, z” can even get off the ground is because we are still a relatively small group. If/when irreligion becomes the dominant view then any such statement would be meaningless.

    It seems ridiculous then to base the atheist identity on any formulation of such a statement, even attempting to do so appears incredible short sighted.

  16. I think the word Evolutionist is the most appropriate name for us because evolutionary facts provide us with the most convincing arguments that prove that all religion is just fictional fairy tales

  17. One of the nauseating ironies of so called progressive liberal atheists is ,that they support the provision of privileges to Muslims; despite the fact that Muslim dogma is the antithesis of liberalism!

    • In reply to #37 by Blasphemyman:

      One of the nauseating ironies of so called progressive liberal atheists is ,that they support the provision of privileges to Muslims; despite the fact that Muslim dogma is the antithesis of liberalism!

      Out of curiosity, what privileges are being extended to Muslims that are denied to non-Muslims?

  18. In reply to #39 by groo:

    Many religious people are evolutionists.

    The problem is that many of them are theistic evolutionists, not scientific evolutionists, but that they pretend the two views are both “scientific theories” and that the “faith” version is the same as, or superior to, the science.

    Clearly any “faith” derived views, are not scientific methodology, but cognitive dissonance allows believers that sort of delusion!

  19. Sorry sir, but the atheist community gather on one issue and one issue only. That issue is that there is no evidence that enables us to believe that a god, of any form, exists. Other ideologies or beliefs can coexist with atheism but they cannot claim atheism. Certainly political persuasion is not a prerequisite for acceptance with the community of atheists. I, for one, reject the left of politics because they are often dogmatic beyond reasonable justification, just as I reject the right for the same reasons. On balance, I would classify myself as a right leaning centrist. I utterly reject any concept that my atheism should influence my political views.

  20. Many people want to call this movement by many names, humanism, secularism, skepticism, or your choice of label that strategically avoids the word atheist, but when your movement is made up of at least 99% atheists, guess what, you have an atheist movement.

    I completely disagree.
    It’s not a fear of negative connotation of the term ‘atheist’ that I prefer to use other terms, it’s that my atheism is not the driving factor and I would wager not the driving factor for most of us.

    An atheist movement would be a movement intent on spreading atheism and converting people into atheists.
    A secular movement is a movement intent on the spread of secularism, a sociopolitical movement not a theocratic one.
    The fact that the vast majority of secularists are atheists doesn’t equate the two terms.

    A secular movement is rational, fair and cannot be construed as a crusade. (except by those who don’t understand what secularism is)

    An atheist movement on the other hand can only be perceived as a crusade by those who aren’t atheists.

    I couldn’t care what nonsense people believe, so long as they don’t prioritise those beliefs over more rational ideologies such as equality, human welfare and scientific efficacy.

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