Skeptical schism?

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In “Atheism itself isn’t a movement” Ophelia Benson talks about the so-called “schism” between what she calls “movement atheists” (think “New Atheists”) and what she calls “plain atheists” — people who don’t want their nonbelief to define them, or make them part of some activist-type group, and who (in Benson’s view) would prefer for the “movement atheists” to just pipe down and stop making life harder for atheists by stirring up the believers.

As she puts it, “I deeply sympathise, but I also think that plain atheists should to some extent put up with it. We don’t actually want to dragoon them into “the movement” but we would like to be able to talk freely without even other atheists telling us to pipe down.”

Some folks have tried to paint this as some new “schism” among atheists, but as Benson herself points out, it’s just the ordinary difference of opinion you find among any sufficiently large group of people who are like-minded but not clones of each other.

In this blog, and in my own life, I tend much more strongly toward the “accommodationist” view, emphasizing that we share the world with religious people (some of whom are idiots, bigots or even terrorists), and we should try to be nice to people when we can. But by the same token, if you can make an effort to be polite and respectful to even the most strident religionists, why not make an effort to do the same for your fellow atheists?

(pic via SodaHead)

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One response to this post.

  1. …but as Benson herself points out, it’s just the ordinary difference of opinion you find among any sufficiently large group of people who are like-minded but not clones of each other

    Any group of free thinkers (or liberals) is in a constant state of “schism”. This is good and bad. Good, because questions are always asked. Bad, because a consensus is often hard to come to making moving forward rather difficult.

    An example is the environmental movement. Decades after the first Earth Day and we’re just now seeing the mainstream accepting that there is a problem we need to solve. While the opponents have a set agenda they move with, environmentalists come is so many varied forms that they often compete and dilute the greater message.

    Did that make any sense? I fear I am a better debater than an orator or monologist.

    Reply

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