The Godless Community

I’m a big fan of Atheist Revolution. In fact, of all the blogs in the atheosphere that I read, Vjack’s is the only one that I would be hesitant to delete from my Google Reader. Vjack has a post on a topic that I find near and dear: Defending the Atheist Movement. He begins thus:

Driving down the freeway, I observe two men, both riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles, pass each other while heading in opposite directions.Both extend the well-known “low wave,” a one-armed salute one often sees among bikers. There was no reason to suspect that these men knew each other, only that they share a common bond. They belong to no real community and certainly have no organizational structure. Their bond is about a shared identity. And even though they may never meet face-to-face, the connection is palpable.

And like the biker culture, Vjack rightly points out the existence of dissent among motorcycle enthusiasts in which there is an elite group that considers itself to be “bikers” and the rest “posers.” He doesn’t say this in terms as explicit, but the atheist movement is very much the same in that there are those that consider themselves to be “atheists” and the rest to be the equivalent of “posers.” This sub-group of weak atheists, Neville Chamberlain atheists, and other disparaging or pejorative terms that separate them from the “militant”-type atheists, many of whom embrace the “militant” term with open arms.

Personally, I’m not a big favor of “militant,” “weak,” “Neville Chamberlain,” and other monikers, though I acknowledge they do tend to characterize individual atheists that have differing opinions of how to approach the topic and movement of atheism.

However, there are some commonalities that atheists generally share. Even the bikers who disparage the “posers” cannot disagree that there is something alluring and free about riding a motorcycle -a quality shared between the posers that ride Hondas, Yamahas, and BMWs and the “bikers” that stick to their Harleys and Indians.

The atheist who considers himself to be “militant” in his atheism also shares most of the same concerns as the atheist that is less-militant. And Vjack nails it on the head here:

1. Sharp, sustained criticism of religion as irrational and destructive
2. Promotion of a reality-based worldview including reason, science, skepticism, critical thinking, secular education, and secular humanism
3. Defense of atheist rights from a Civil Rights perspective to end anti-atheist discrimination and reduce anti-atheist bigotry
4. Support for atheists in their escape from religion

Possibly the only item above that might not be universally shared is the first, but even the “Neville Chamberlains” among us probably recognize the irrationality of religion, so some bit of that point will also ring true. Reading the comments of Vjack’s original post, there is a bit of disagreement with some to the inclusion of “secular humanism,” but I think their reservations are misplaced. Some view secular humanism as a pseudo-religious position. This might be true but only if you accept that the things that it takes from religion is the sense of community and social bonding, leaving the supernatural and other deleterious aspects behind. The result isn’t a religion or even a philosophy that aspires to be a religion. The result is a worldview that simply says you can have morality and justice in the world without invoking supernatural origins or authority.

But Vjacks main point is the one that shouldn’t be overlooked, regardless of how each of us individually characterizes our own atheism: we our bonded by a common godless position. Whether we are hard-line militant atheists or agnostics who think its fine for the religious to believe what they will, we each accept that the supernatural isn’t necessary to live our lives. We each recognize the irrationality of religion. We each attempt to hold a rational worldview. We each desire that atheists rights be recognized. And we each hope that those seeking to escape religion are at least provided with an environment that allows them to make their own choices and to inquire freely.

I don’t always agree with all of its members, but I’m proud to be a member of the godless community.

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3 Responses

  1. Thanks for the link and the kind words. I cannot wait to use the phrase “Neville Chamberlain atheists,” and I will, of course, give you credit for coining it. Interestingly, of those four points you cited, people have had the most problems with #2. It seems that there are many atheists out there who reject secular humanism and have rather harsh feelings about it. But like you said, I don’t have to agree with all atheists in order to be a proud member of the godless community.

  2. As much as I’d like to take credit for “Neville Chamberlain atheists,” I first read it in Skeptic magazine and have seen it used to describe a couple of the Science Blogs atheists that are on the “framing science” side of the argument.

    I read the criticisms of secular humanism in you comments and wanted to comment, but I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the discrepancy is that some atheists have with secular humanism used in a general sense. Does this mean they are anti-humanist? Opposed to humanity? Or are they simply defying the application of a philosophical label?

  3. Great post, I am of the opinion that our community can use many voices presenting our shared views from many angles.

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