December 7, 2008

"Who's a Real Atheist?" Revisited

Communication major dimensions schemeImage via WikipediaOne of the many perils of blogging (and many other types of writing) involves a failure by the author to communicate his or her intended message effectively. Misunderstanding results, and the author's intent gets lost. I think this is particularly difficult when blogging because of the diversity of the audience. Readers of this blog range from high school students to persons with advanced graduate degrees. Some are not native English speakers. Some are even (gasp) religious believers. Communicating effectively to such a diverse audience is often challenging. The best an amateur like me can do is attempt to correct misunderstandings and clarify my intent. I'd like to do that now with a recent post, Who's A Real Atheist?

In writing this post, my intention was to use a recent post by Austin Cline as a springboard for addressing atheist identity and the cohesiveness (or lack thereof) in the atheist movement. I did not mean to imply that Austin himself was attempting to classify people into "real atheist" and "Uncle Tom atheist" categories. Those who read his post realized that this was not at all what he was saying.

The mistake I made was in simply referencing his post and then assuming that those discussing it in the comment thread would have all read it as I did. This was an absurd expectation on my part, and I failed to frame Austin's post appropriately. Moreover, the title of my post was a poor choice in this context. The question of who deserves to be called "a real atheist" was mine and not his.

Some of those who commented on my post merged my question with Austin's post and then criticized him for something he never stated. My apologies to Austin and to my readers. I botched this one by leaving too much to the inference of my readers and failing to frame the discussion clearly.

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