Networking for the no-Gods crowd

“The Problem with Atheist Communities” makes some good points, but I think it underestimates how much atheists, just by virtue of being atheists in a theist-dominated society, actually have in common with each other.

It’s true that a group for atheists is kind of like a group for people who don’t collect stamps — or perhaps more accurately, a group for people who don’t have hobbies.

But if pretty much everyone had a hobby, and not having a hobby was considered weird and kind of scary, and if hobby clubs were one of the main sources of social interaction, it might very well make sense to have a club for people without hobbies.

(pic via Lorenz Lammens)

5 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for the linking.

    I think what I would say here is that to highlight on the commonality of being atheists in a theist-dominated society is needlessly crippling. After all, then, that creates a divide between, say, American and Middle Eastern atheists on one hand and European and east Asian atheists on the other hand. Generally, I could probably predict that when we say, “Atheist in a theist-dominated society,” unless our name happens to be “Ayaan Hirsi Ali” and we are seeking asylum from Somalia or Saudi Arabia, we are generally being quite America-centric.

    For the sake of a sense of internationalism, I will downplay the America-centric nature of saying “Atheists live in a theist-dominated society.”

    I think that even beyond that, the commonality differs. For example, being “atheist in a theist-dominated society” is vague. What kinds of theists are we talking about. For America, we say “Christians” as if this is a monolithic group. But we *do* have to deal with different denominations. The ex-Mormon atheist has different experiences from the ex-Catholic atheist, and both may have different experiences from the ex-Evangelical atheist. All of these may have different experiences from the atheist who grew up atheist but simply lived in an area that was predominantly Mormon, Evangelical, Catholic, or whatever.

    This too culminates to a bit of a different idea than an “atheist” club or a club for those without hobbies. Rather, it suggests that we would have a club not about not believing in God (that is, about atheism), but instead clubs about recovering from Mormonism, Catholicism, Evangelicalism, etc.,


    • Posted by brachinus on January 27, 2010 at 8:33 pm

      If highlighting commonality is “crippling” because it creates a divide, how is not highlighting commonality any better?

      Sure, atheists come from different backgrounds (and sure, there’s a place for extremely specific groups for recovering from specific things), but most places in the world (except maybe Communist or former Communist countries), theism is the cultural norm, and atheism the exception. Europeans are less nutty about religion than Americans, but even there it’s not as though atheism is quite the norm.

      P.S. If there are groups for ex-Mormons, ex-Catholics, ex-Evangelicals etc., and those groups had a big meeting, should we call it “secumenical”? 😉


      • We already have a divide imposed upon us (as you note) because of the way our society (e.g., American) works. So, the “nonbeliever” “believer” distinction already exists. But from there, not creating further distinctions goes to establish a flexibility or universality. The way I see it, *atheism* is pretty darn universal. It doesn’t matter what you believe, what you think, what you act, etc., Because atheism is *only* the lack of belief in deities. This way, atheism is an umbrella of several many different ideas, and all of them can support the “brand” (whatever that is) without supporting each other.

        I’d argue though that you’re really overestimating worldwide theism. It’s not just “communist and former communist countries” where atheism is the exception. (But then again, saying “communism” is kinda irrelevant these days. Is China communist?) Rather, even in most capitalistic (whatever you want to say that) European communities, atheism is effectively the norm. Even if there is a state religion, that is not to say the same thing as people believe in deities, or that religion is practiced anything like it is in the US. You note this: “Europeans are less nutty about religion than Americans,” but I mean, even though surveys are pretty sketchy (particularly in self-identification…people who don’t believe but don’t take the name “atheist,” etc.,), these numbers aren’t disheartening, even if they are ranges:

        I’d probably adjust my argument a bit. Atheists wouldn’t need to be the “norm” or have a numeric majority in order to have noticeable commonalities living in a theist-dominated society. Rather, the more important detail is in how the society structurally opposes atheists (if it does). I think that precisely because Americans are nuttier about religion, this means that in addition to having a numerical advantage against atheists, it has a structurally stronger opposition to the very idea (least trusted minority = atheist) that wouldn’t be the case for much of the rest of the world.

        P.S. I like that…”secumenical.”

    • They have 12 Steps programs for everything else. Why not one for “recovering from Mormonism, Catholicism, Evangelicalism, etc.,” As someone with a dual diagnosis of Major Depression and Cocaine Addiction, I’ve been forced to deal with the “standard” 12 Step models far more than I would have chosen otherwise. As far as I’m concerned, they’re nothing but Christianity Indoctrination programs.

      If it weren’t for the fact that I’ve lived my entire life in a global nuthouse filled with theists, I might not have developed the problems that I did. The last thing I needed was more religion crammed down my throat. A program set up for the purpose of helping people recover from what this religious nonsense has done to them sounds like an excellent idea to me.

      Besides, having some competition for one of their greatest sources of recruits would really piss them off. I like the thought of that.


  2. […] reminds me of a post I wrote earlier (The problem with atheist communities), and a response to it (Networking for the no-Gods crowd). I pointed out the difference in atheists, and the responder suggested that I underestimated the […]


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