|PZ Myers at the 2010 Global Atheist Convention. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The question in a task like this is always, "Where do we start?" In this case, I think we need to begin with a clear idea about what sort of community we are trying to encourage. For example, do we want a broad secular community that might include atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, etc., or should we limit our initial efforts to fostering atheist community? This is an important question, and not an easy one to answer. Perhaps we could even do both simultaneously, conceptualizing our task as involving parallel efforts operating at different levels of inclusion.
To begin the discussion about what sort of community we should try to foster, I offer the following recommendations:
- Even though a broad secular community (i.e., atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, etc.) may be our ultimate goal, we should start with building atheist community.
- One of the more important initial steps should involve atheist identity, educating our fellow nonbelievers about the meaning of atheism and giving them something with which to identify.
- Initial efforts to develop atheist community should emphasize common political concerns where support is likely to be nearly unanimous (e.g., preserving separation of church and state, opposing religious extremism, ending informal religious tests for political office, opposing anti-atheist bigotry, etc.).
- When encountering resistance from our fellow nonbelievers, we should frame the issue as one of ensuring political representation.
I'll end with a quote from PZ Myers worth remembering:
And at the same time, as skeptics and science-minded people, the principles of tolerance we adopt are going to have to include frank disagreement and criticism of ourselves and others. That should be a central part of who we are, that we do not muzzle our ideas and that we can go up to our fellow atheists and say, "you're wrong" on just about anything, but without simultaneously implying that they're going to be ostracized from the community.Subscribe to Atheist Revolution