What is the atheistic community? It is
what happens when atheists get together and share their
understandings, values, goals, humor and anything else of concern.
To some we share the view that much of religion is bizarre falsehood.
We can take advantage of our critical thinking skills to dissect how
and why the various permutations of religion are false. The vast
majority of us would be happy with the term skeptic and we would use
our critical thinking skills on a large variety of cultural nonsense
outside the domain of religion. As part of that we typically have
great respect for the consensus of scientific opinion. The vast
majority of us share the notion that there exists a common good and
it is worthwhile thinking about how we achieve that common good.
Obviously not everyone who has posted
here shared the last value of three values cited above. We had
someone very passionately asserting his very selfish world view.
However. there is likely to be less than one percent of those in our
meetup who will take their libertarianism to the extreme of anarchy
with no care concerning how we find or value the common good.
Frankly the notion of building a society around personal selfishness
would strike most of us as sociopathic insanity.
I think many of us look to the
Scandinavian countries as an ideal definition of where we would like
to see secularism evolve in our country. If everyone in our country
valued the critical thinking skills of skepticism, the empirical
findings of science and a desired to use those skills for the common
good the result would be similar to the very high levels of average
happiness and low levels of societal dysfunction that we see in all
of the Scandinavian countries.
How do we achieve that? I think the
relatively frontal attacks on religion from Richard Dawkins, Sam
Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett were a necessary step
toward a secular society. We must continue to include such criticism
of religion as we go forward.
However, I think we need to look to the
wild success of the GLBT community as they approach wide acceptance
and hopefully including the full equality of marital rights. In the
beginning there were some very violent confrontations with police,
legal battles and demonstrations asserting gay rights. However, a
huge part of the current evolution of gay rights comes from people
just being “out” and visible. Ellen DeGeneres is primarily just
a very entertaining host of a talk show. Her comfort with her sexual
orientation is obviously present on occasion but her show would not
be a success if that was its emphasis. The fact that people like her
means that they associate that warm positive feeling for the person
with an empathy for the rights that Ellen desires in her life. The
evidence is that positive engagement, being out in a comfortable way
that emphasizes common values, is a way to nurture acceptance.
I am finding an astonishing increase in
people asserting the “new atheism” is too strident. It is
asserted that it just makes people more defensive and determined to
defend their religious dogma. However, these claims are made with no
evidence whatsoever. I routinely meet people who have either read
the books or watched a Christopher Hitchens debate and became
atheists. There is often the claim that the logic and reasoning of
the new atheists are somehow defective. This is done with arguments
that seem more defective than any flaws that I see with the new
atheists. I see no reason to move away from what seems to work quite
However, I think we have reason to
include more positive engagement as we see with Ellen. That is in
part what I want to do with our Secular Voter's Forum. I am thinking
that I might also want to put together a presentation on atheism that
would be somewhat positive to a religious community. After all, if
we can move religious communities in a direction where they use
critical thinking, accept science and are willing to vote for an
atheist, haven't we achieved a large part of what needs to be done to
move society in the right direction?
There has been a war in our secular
community between those who are confrontational with religion in all
cases and accommodationists who want to work in a positive way with
religious communities. My vote is that we do both. We need to
decide which we want to do with the context. If harm is being done
in the name of religion let's fight against it. If there is little
or no visible harm let's see if we can create a friendly rapport with
our religious friends.