Author Topic: Should Atheists organize. . . should they seek community?  (Read 2646 times)

Persimmon Hamster

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Re: Should Atheists organize. . . should they seek community
« Reply #75 on: November 06, 2010, 04:29:23 AM »
This thread is great.  It articulates everything I've found myself thinking recently.  Never before have I seen so many posts that all echo my own thoughts exactly, even the posts that are in direct contradiction to each other -- because whenever I think about this issue I swing back and forth within minutes myself.  But this thread has been here since 2008 and it stopped after 5 pages?  What's with that?

Several people said that atheists would have a hard time finding a common belief/goal/motivation/whatever.

I can think of one goal that I am pretty sure a large number of American atheists would support, and that is separation of church and state.  I myself am getting pretty sick of watching religion shape public policy, and election results, etc.  But what can we do about it?

I think public opinion of atheists, especially in rural areas, is pretty low.  I'm just speaking from my own experiences there.  I feel compelled to change this somehow.  I feel that if we could truly turn that around, we could get out of the situation we're in now where a political candidate who isn't a Christian has very little chance of getting very far.  That's my main concern.  I don't care if candidates are Republican, or Democrat, or Libertarian, or Libertarian Socialist, or Socialist.  I just care that they are atheist, and have a chance.  Actually I'd be almost as excited if they were Muslim, or Buddhist.  But ideally, atheist.

But how?  Well, I think atheists who all would support that goal could get together, and negotiate that.  In as democratic a manner as possible.  This thread does a lot of theorizing, and so do I, but to get actual results you actually have to come together, commit to stop the theorizing and to start hashing out actual details.  If you can't all agree on some points, you negotiate -- as long as your belief in the common goal is strong enough to warrant giving a little here or there on some points.  If not, you walk away and let those who remain continue negotiating.

What might such negotiation look like?  Well if I were at such a gathering, I wouldn't beat around the bush and I would encourage you not to either.  Say what's on your mind!

First, I would say we need highly regular gatherings.  Once a month is not enough.  You don't make progress without a steady, honest commitment to results.  You won't work out all the negotiations in the first gathering, either.  Disagree?  We'll talk about it.  

Next, I would say we need to commit to regular community service, and the nature of that service would surely be a subject of heated debate.  But the point is, people may not all like Christians, deep down, but I believe most will at least think to themselves, "at least they help the poor."  "At least they have good intentions, I can get behind that."  We need them to say the same or similar things about "atheists".  We need to identify ourselves as atheists clearly (a term like free-thinker would help avoid the existing stigma, but I want to kill the stigma and reclaim the term).  We *want* to be stereotyped, because we should know that's what people are going to do no matter what -- but we want that stereotype to have a positive light.  We want some control over our stereotype.

Next, I would even dare to say that eventually, when the gatherings get so large they can't be held in someone's home, when we start to have expenses associated with, say, "advertising" (printing fliers to call for volunteers or to post at local businesses), or anything else, and when we know we can trust each other enough, we need some dues.  An atheist "offering", to the common cause.  We let the gubment tax us, for their own ends, why not tax ourselves and do as we see fit?

And, I would say that our goals *should* include becoming so large we don't fit in a home or a garage or a large shed.  I'd love to see a mega-"church" on the corner some day, and see people driving by, saying, "what's that?"  "That's the atheist church."  But atheists are against churches, you say?  I say, who cares, let them call it a church if they want, we know what it is.  It's a building where we meet, where we set up our tables and cook our chili for the soup kitchen, where we bring in a speaker of some kind.  It's a symbol, a monument, to this stereotype -- this word we unite under, "atheist", and the efforts we are making to contribute to society.  We know we're nothing special, we know what our goal is -- to show that we aren't degenerates, that we value the benefits of society and civil rights and have morals and want to contribute to a happy future for humanity.

And if you would disagree with any of that, then great, say so, and by the process of negotiation we will arrive at a platform.  And if someone doesn't agree with that platform, they don't have to be there.  If this results in the creation of multiple factions/sects/whatever, who cares?  I suppose I have "faith" that reason and the atheist tendency to prefer it over all else will naturally cause any faction to still have altruistic motivations at its core and will still contribute to an overall improvement in public opinion.  The individuals lacking altruism, or not believing in it, won't even show up, and will just stay at home, like they are now, and complain or criticize us.  They won't be as publicly visible so it won't hurt anything.  That's my theory!  The only danger is if we think it is within some significant number of atheists to unite and do the opposite -- to act in ways that will decrease public opinion.  Like to unite and start terrorizing people or something.  But why would an atheist do that?

I just don't know how much longer I can sit around and do nothing, and if I do something, I really want the world to know that an atheist is doing it.  You can see my world view over there, I'm going with "ignostic" right now, we could debate awhile about whether I'm truly an atheist -- I would grant anyone at least the possibility that something you could call a god exists (personally I find it very improbable and lacking anything even barely approaching convincing evidence).

But the word the world seems to oppose, is "atheist".  That's the word I want to change the public opinion of, even if I'm not sure if I am one, in the strictest sense.  Ya know?

Incidentally, I do believe in helping others.  So, while one could interpret everything I've said as just wanting to do *anything* to turn public opinion around, fortunately, one obvious way to do that happens to align with my true sentiments.  What I'm saying is, it's not like I want to robotically enact community service in order to trick people into thinking I'm a good guy.  I like to think I'm already a good guy, and I want them to know that, and to know I'm an atheist.  So when they hear someone else is an atheist, they will start to think that maybe they're a "good guy" too.  

But I don't know how many people live around me that would actually do this.  I intend to start attending freethinker/secularist meetups in my area to get a sense of that.  And you know, I think I might just believe in this strongly enough that just maybe, quitting my job, uprooting my life, and going wherever the most atheists are may not even be out of the question if that seems to be the only way.  That's how ticked off about things I am.  Sometimes.  Often.  Usually.  :P
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Inevitable Droid

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Re: Should Atheists organize. . . should they seek community
« Reply #76 on: November 08, 2010, 11:39:37 AM »
I'm still thinking about the question this thread raises.  I'm going to see if there's any organized freethought activity in my local area.  Meanwhile, three preliminary comments:

1. Web community satisfies a lot of my social needs.  This message board is a good example, of course.  To me this board is the equivalent of a pub, where we gather without any purpose except to shoot the breeze.  Task-oriented web communities would also be possible.  I tossed off an idea for one at this thread: Atheist Ethical Community - http://www.happyatheistforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=6146

2. I of course agree with many others that the one political opinion we would all almost have to share is secularism, and that opinion could form the nucleus around which even cats like us might herd.

3. I recently conceived the notion that religion doesn't have to be based on faith, but could be based on hope instead.  Religion has a strong community aspect that many find appealing, even some atheists.  What if there were religions based not on faith, which atheists reject, but on hope, which atheists could embrace without qualm.  I am running an experiment based on this notion, although this particular experiment is focused primarily on learning if atheists would want to be able to officiate weddings themselves, or have their weddings officiated by other atheists, openly.  See the link at my sig if curious.  But hope can obviously look in many directions, all ahead in the future, but veering off sideways from there to gaze at possibilities in the arts, medicine, technology, education, research, lifestyle, conservation, exploration, or anything else that inspires hope.  Perhaps this is the future of religion for an increasingly atheist humanity: sacred space, sacred time, sacred community, around hope.
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The Magic Pudding

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Re: Should Atheists organize. . . should they seek community
« Reply #77 on: November 08, 2010, 01:17:18 PM »
Quote from: "Inevitable Droid"
3. I recently conceived the notion that religion doesn't have to be based on faith, but could be based on hope instead.  Religion has a strong community aspect that many find appealing, even some atheists.  What if there were religions based not on faith, which atheists reject, but on hope, which atheists could embrace without qualm.  I am running an experiment based on this notion, although this particular experiment is focused primarily on learning if atheists would want to be able to officiate weddings themselves, or have their weddings officiated by other atheists, openly.  See the link at my sig if curious.  But hope can obviously look in many directions, all ahead in the future, but veering off sideways from there to gaze at possibilities in the arts, medicine, technology, education, research, lifestyle, conservation, exploration, or anything else that inspires hope.  Perhaps this is the future of religion for an increasingly atheist humanity: sacred space, sacred time, sacred community, around hope.

Religion does seem to have the stench of the supernatural hanging about it, I think the word is better avoided.
And the hierarchy passing down their judgement on right thinking I can do with out.
The green/conservation movement offers some people a focus.
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Thumpalumpacus

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Re: Should Atheists organize. . . should they seek community
« Reply #78 on: November 08, 2010, 05:40:10 PM »
I have no interest in joining a "movement".  I pay attention to some secular organizations, in order to support their support of the "wall of separation", but I have no desire or interest to be a member of any group.  I find the idea distasteful.

As far as religious perceptions of the irreligious, I simply do my best to be a good man and live a good life, and make my lack of belief plain; after that, those who know me are free to judge based on whatever criteria they desire, because I don't really care what they think of me anyway.
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Khalliqa

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Re: Should Atheists organize. . . should they seek community
« Reply #79 on: December 05, 2010, 12:06:43 AM »
Forming a temporary community seems sound.. as a buffer to the alienating tyranny of the greater society...

A long term goal of community would not be feasible without agreed upon core values and tolerance for others who are not atheists..  

However, there are predominantly atheist societies that are tolerant of diverse views..  so it is realistic..

Inevitable Droid

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Re: Should Atheists organize. . . should they seek community
« Reply #80 on: December 05, 2010, 09:07:20 AM »
Quote from: "Khalliqa"
Forming a temporary community seems sound.. as a buffer to the alienating tyranny of the greater society...

A long term goal of community would not be feasible without agreed upon core values and tolerance for others who are not atheists..

Why would a temporary community be more sound than a permanent one?  Does it follow from your next statement?  Regarding that, why would feasibility depend on tolerance for non-atheists?

I agree that a community, to be viable for any length of time, long or short, would need some agreed upon core values, as expressed in some agreed upon purpose(s).  If an atheist community, such purpose(s) would need to transcend atheism itself, since atheism is simply a negation, an absence.  We could take as our starting point the epistemology that many atheists share, that which endorses knowledge seeking through three modalities, and three only, namely, logical empiricism, math, and formal logic.  Thus an atheist community could be one whose purpose was to celebrate, promote and defend the practice of, education in, and non-dilution of, logical empiricism, math, and formal logic.  The non-dilution component would preclude any tolerance for creationism or intelligent design.  But yes, I think tolerance for anyone who could fully participate without hypocrisy and without disruptiveness could make sense.  Deists, some Buddhists, Wiccans, and Reform Jews could all probably clear that hurdle.
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Khalliqa

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Re: Should Atheists organize. . . should they seek community
« Reply #81 on: December 05, 2010, 11:18:20 AM »
Quote from: "Inevitable Droid"
Quote from: "Khalliqa"
Forming a temporary community seems sound.. as a buffer to the alienating tyranny of the greater society...

A long term goal of community would not be feasible without agreed upon core values and tolerance for others who are not atheists..

Why would a temporary community be more sound than a permanent one?


There is currently no homogeneous atheist communal body and as such any attempts to form one now would bring together the diverse  REASONS for atheism..  Some are atheist out of study..  others are atheist out of social isolation and do not really understand their own moniker.. :-/   The thing that all atheists have in common however is a rejection of acceptance of God and this alone is not sufficient to began a community but it is sufficient enough for support against the larger society..

I think temporarily the above reasoning for unification makes sense but it would not last long..  so yes..  my confidence in such a thing temporarily does follow from the following statements..  regarding the necessity of core values.. for a more permanent community..

but my main and primary concern was that, as you have also acknowledged,  a community would have to move and unite around something more than atheistic belief..  and there  is no guarantee that an atheistic definition would yield a cohesive and passionate unification for other values...  that does not mean I know the probability of such a thing happening only that there is a disconnect present there.. (mainly because I am aware that predominantly atheistic societies do exist...  so I am aware that it is possible..  while in theory.. especially here in America, I see the diverse reasons for  people becoming atheist as a seeming big hurdle to overcome... and it gives me pause..)

My latter concern was that  once common values are established..  a viable community has to interact with the rest of the world and allow for tolerance of those who will think differently lest it becomes tyrannical..  I did not thing that tyranny was a goal so ..  it was added as sort of addendum...

Inevitable Droid

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Re: Should Atheists organize. . . should they seek community
« Reply #82 on: December 05, 2010, 02:44:03 PM »
Quote from: "Khalliqa"
was that, as you have also acknowledged,  a community would have to move and unite around something more than atheistic belief..  and there  is no guarantee that an atheistic definition would yield a cohesive and passionate unification for other values...

Maybe a passion for thinking could be the driving force?  I'd like to see freethinker grammar schools, which wouldn't push atheism per se, since children are too inexperienced at thinking to be able to defend themselves, but would push thinking as a discipline.  Teach children to come at the world from a perspective of logical empiricism, mathematics, and formal logc, and they will arrive at atheism on their own - and even if they don't, they will have learned to think, which can only be good, for them and for our country.
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Whitney

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Re: Should Atheists organize. . . should they seek community
« Reply #83 on: December 05, 2010, 03:44:05 PM »
Quote from: "Khalliqa"
There is currently no homogeneous atheist communal body

Eh hem...
American Atheists http://www.atheists.org/
Atheists United International http://www.atheistalliance.org/
United Coalition of Reason http://unitedcor.org/national/page/home

These are just as homogeneous as any theistic organization...you can't expect any group to be able to please everyone.

Khalliqa

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Re: Should Atheists organize. . . should they seek community
« Reply #84 on: December 05, 2010, 04:56:32 PM »
Quote from: "Whitney"
Quote from: "Khalliqa"
There is currently no homogeneous atheist communal body

Eh hem...
American Atheists http://www.atheists.org/
Atheists United International http://www.atheistalliance.org/
United Coalition of Reason http://unitedcor.org/national/page/home

These are just as homogeneous as any theistic organization...you can't expect any group to be able to please everyone.


Thank you for the links..  My reference was all encompassing however.. I did not communicate, but should have stated, my intention was all atheists..

My acknowledgement of various atheistic societies was an attempt to balance my initial generalizing by letting it be known that I was not absolutist in my opinion..

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Re: Should Atheists organize. . . should they seek community
« Reply #85 on: December 05, 2010, 06:09:17 PM »
I don't get your point then because it seems unreasonable to expect that such a broad group could find common ground outside of lack of belief...I'd even go so far as to say that it is undesirable for all atheists to have common ground other than not believing in god.  If we could ever unite under one thing it would be the idea of freethought and then there are plenty of deists/theists who would also happily join in.

Khalliqa

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Re: Should Atheists organize. . . should they seek community
« Reply #86 on: December 05, 2010, 07:09:13 PM »
Quote from: "Whitney"
I don't get your point then because it seems unreasonable to expect that such a broad group could find common ground outside of lack of belief...

In many discussions atheists are treated as one group.. My experiences are such that when atheist speak of themselves are of spoke of they are seen as one entire body.. I saw the query and responded assuming they were referring to all atheist..  and responded in kind..  refuting that notion and acknowledging that there are communities that are in existence that are dominant, but not uniform, in the atheist worldview.. In addition, such generalized referencing necessitated a balance so that I would not be confused as someone who is absolutist simply because I responded to what I thought was an absolutist query..


Quote
I'd even go so far as to say that it is undesirable for all atheists to have common ground other than not believing in god.  If we could ever unite under one thing it would be the idea of freethought and then there are plenty of deists/theists who would also happily join in.

I agree .. This was my point as well..  Broadly.. unity would have to occur beyond the rejection of god..

periwinklefish

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Re: Should Atheists organize. . . should they seek community
« Reply #87 on: January 15, 2011, 06:59:09 PM »
:)