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The Double-Edged Sword of Atheist Community

I have strongly advocated in favor of building a positive atheist community. I think a community of reason is very important. For starters, such a community would strongly help in lobbying politicians to vote against the religious fundamentalists and would help to establish more reasonable public policies.

However, many times I meet atheists who tell me that building an atheist community is destined to fail because the only thing atheists have in common with each other is the lack of belief in a god or gods. It is somewhat true that all atheists have in common with each other is a lack of belief in a god or gods however, a large number of atheists tend to also value reason and evidence-based thinking. There are some common values that many atheists and other people of reason hold and I think we can build a community on those shared values.

But I really think that those who point out that atheists only have their lack of belief to unite them are really just being a little lazy. After all, one can make similar statements about gay people. The only thing that all gay people have in common is an attraction to the same gender. Building a community based on that would surely be destined to fail, right? Yet the gay community is extremely strong. So I see no reason why the atheist community can’t do what the gay community has already done.

On the other side however, there are those within the atheist community who have a more dogmatic view that all atheists must approach religion in the same way they do. There are atheists now who strongly believe that all atheists should work with religious people and sing kumbaya. These so called “atheists 3.0” think that we need to build a positive atheist community and that all atheists need to take their approach. As I stated above, I strongly advocate building a strong atheist community. But I also acknowledge that atheism isn’t a religion and as such, there is no dogma.

There is no one way to be an atheist. That being the case, I don’t think that the so called atheist 3.0 should have the monopoly on atheism. I think building a positive atheist community is a great approach, but I also think that some times atheists need to be vocal in challenging the religious. I think the approach of ridiculing ridiculous beliefs and being critical of beliefs which are not thought about critically is also a great approach and I don’t see why we all must embrace only one approach.

One of the things that makes an community of reason so great is our diversity of ideas and the lack of dogmatic thinking. No one speaks for all atheists and there is no singular atheist message. Unlike religious fundamentalists, I don’t think that people who think differently than I do are evil nor do I think they are going to burn in Hell for all eternity. Quite the opposite, I think diversity of thought and diversity of approaches is one of strengths of the community of reason, not a weakness.

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