I'm back now, albeit somewhat reluctantly. I am lousy about taking breaks when I need them. I needed this one for other reasons, but I also hoped that having some time away would be good for adjusting my perspective a bit. I'm not yet sure if anything of the sort happened. I guess we'll see. What I will say is that this is the first time I can recall where I have taken a deliberate break from this blog and found myself unable to stop thinking about the sort of content about which I write. I suppose it shows me I still give a damn, and maybe that realization is worth something.
This should not imply that I thought about atheism and related content all of the time. I didn't. But neither did I manage to clear my mind like I wanted. The new Pope and the wall-to-wall media coverage got in my way, as did the breaking news that Mississippi's conservative legislature and governor have passed a measure promoting prayer in school. The fact that everyone I encounter here in Mississippi seems to want to talk about their Christian beliefs did not help either. But honestly, I can't blame my inability to get away on any of that. I find this stuff too interesting to keep my distance for long.
I found that one particular subject kept returning to my thoughts: how great it would be to have a somewhat more unified atheist community - or at least one without so much bickering over things that seem somewhat trivial once one gets some distance from them. Try as I might, I couldn't escape the conclusion that I really don't have any answers regarding to how to bring that about. I've realized that I am guided by little more than a vague sense that it is better to keep talking about our differences with the goal of resolution and/or tolerance than it is to demonize one another and form opposing factions.
Perhaps the atheist community is dying or already dead, and we will instead have many atheist communities with different priorities. That does not seem so bad, especially if it would bring an end to the personal attacks. Of course, it would also be nice if the various factions could co-operate effectively and not regard the others as enemies.
I Have Great Readers
While I am behind in reading the comments you left in my absence, I have enjoyed what I have read so far. Of particular interest were the comments on this post that involved exchanges between blondein_tokyo, Cephus, Neil, ronlawhouston, rblevy, and others. I really appreciated seeing some genuine attempts at discussion focused on trying to figure out where the other party is coming from.
Again and again, I am reminded of how important it is for all of us to work at making sure that we read what the other person wrote rather than making too many inferences about what it might have meant or holding on to whatever past disagreements we might have had and then using those memories to color our current interaction. Of course, this is easier said than done.
What I noticed in these exchanges and what I notice in most similar exchanges I have seen is that many people who find themselves on different sides of the Freethought Blogs/Skepchick/Atheism+ divide are sometimes not as far apart as they think they are. And yes, this applies to me too.
Thanks for keeping things going around here in my absence. You've left me much to think about.
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