April 11, 2011

Atheist Elitism

ElitistPerspicacity's post on Think Atheist, "If you have to be Genius to be Atheist, We are in Real Trouble," is one that every atheist blogger should read. You may not agree with all of it. I didn't. But that is part of what makes it worth reading. In it, we are challenged to remember that our audience is more diverse than we sometimes realize and that many of the people we need to reach are instead being alienated by some aspects of how we present ourselves.
...my deeper concern is that most of the current population does not have the opportunity for higher education and because of this, most don't have the chance to become critical/skeptical thinkers. Unfortunately, the tenor and attitudes that some in the athiest community have aren't helping this situation. Instead of being open-minded and debating in a civil fashion, many christians are instead ridiculed and berated by athiests—eventually causing many of them to leave these debates feeling “non-bielevers” are rude, hostile, and arrogant. I see this as a missed opportunity.
This argument - that our hostility may drive Christians away - it not a new one. I have explained in many prior posts why I think it is a poor argument and why those who hold ridiculous beliefs should expect to have those beliefs ridiculed. However, Perspicacity goes on to say that while most Christians may never be open to skeptical thinking on matters of religion, they may be able to think critically about the larger system that oppresses them. Perhaps this process (i.e., realizing that the system uses propaganda to prevent revolution, etc.) may bring Christians one step closer to critically evaluating the role of their religion in a similar process.

Perspicacity also has some more direct advice for us:
What I observe in many (but not all) atheist sites is atheists boasting about their high levels of education, and belittling others who don't have the basic knowledge or even education to even understand the argument. I also observe harsh judgment on grammatical errors, this prevents people from asking questions and communicating: and when there is no discussion there is no learning.
To be fair, I have not observed this behavior on any of the atheist blogs I visit. However, it sounds like it is out there and that it may even repel some atheists. Like Perspicacity suggests, we should ask ourselves what we are doing to make our contributions to atheism accessible to a wider audience.

On a personal note, I often struggle to remember to think abut how my posts might be perceived by someone new to atheism. I try, but I often fail. I tend to write these posts very quickly, and I don't always make myself go back and review them from different perspectives.

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