According to "Bad,"
What I care about is rationalism. Skepticism. Science. And while these values do, in fact, feed into why I don’t share the beliefs of theists, they aren’t necessary for me to be an atheist (I could imagine not believing even without them). Nor do I think that sharing similar values would make it necessary for someone else to become an atheist. But I care about these values, and there’s a big ole’ period at the end of that sentence.From this standpoint, atheism can be viewed as an incidental outcome. If one applies reason, skepticism, science, and the like, one arrives at atheism. No atheist movement is needed, and in fact, any such movement might even detract from a focus on reason.
This is an argument I have heard many times before, and each time I encounter it, it strikes me as attractive but incomplete. The thing is, this is an argument that cannot simply be discarded wholesale. It contains a vital kernel of truth that must be acknowledged.
Bad is absolutely correct that atheism is a consequence of reason's application. It is not a path from which one accomplishes a goal, but an endpoint. Reason leads to atheism; not the other way around. Bad is also right to point out that atheism does not mean anything other than the lack of theism. It is not a philosophy, religion, or worldview.
But does this necessarily mean that there should be no atheist movement? Not when one recognizes what the atheist movement is really about - identity.
It is natural for humans to seek identity. We label everything around us as a way of understanding our world and helping us react to it more quickly. By uniting under the atheist banner, we communicate something to each other and to the believers. As long as we continue to remember what atheism is and is not, I see little problem with using it in such a way. Of course, I am an advocate of reason, skepticism, and science. I also happen to be proud that I have taken these tools to their logical conclusion - atheism.
The atheist movement is a movement about identity. It is larger than atheism, and it includes reason, skepticism, science, philosophy, and empiricism. While atheism is not a worldview, this movement captures something larger that does indeed approach a worldview. It does not define us, but it is a part of how we define ourselves.
Tags: atheism, atheist, secular, atheist movement, critical thinking, reason, skepticism, science, philosophy, religion, worldview, identity