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I was recently asked an interesting question via email by an atheist who indicated that she is feeling disillusioned with the online secular community due to what she described as the "irrationality" and "intolerance of dissent" she attributed to some prominent bloggers and many of their more vocal fans. I can certainly understand that sentiment. After telling me that she is thinking of having nothing further to do with online atheism because of this, she posed a question I wasn't expecting:
If you were just starting out today and had seen all this shit, would you even bother starting an atheist blog?This question caught me off guard, and I was not initially sure how best to respond. I knew where she was coming from. I have heard this sentiment from others, and I'd be lying if I were to say that I'd never had similar thoughts. Yes, I think I would start an atheist blog today. I do not think I would be deterred by the toxic elements in the atheist blogosphere. There are plenty of things happening in the online secular community today that might give me pause in considering whether I would want to start a new atheist blog, but I do not believe this would be one of them.
When I look around the atheist blogosphere today, it is far more crowded than it was in 2005 when I started Atheist Revolution. The upside of this is that there are many great atheist bloggers who have not divorced skepticism, embraced dogmatic ideology, or made their careers by promoting paranoia and an irrational threat narrative. Consider blogs like Friendly Atheist, Deity Schmeity, and Reason Being that manage to produce informative and thought-provoking content for the secular community. Notice how Freethoughtify, Bitchspot, and God is a Myth are breaking down boundaries and introducing the secular community to diverse viewpoints. We have science blogs like Epiphenom, blogs on teaching like Teach Not Preach, and satirists like Laughing in Purgatory. This is the atheist blogosphere of which I am happy to be a part.
I understand why someone might be discouraged by some of the behavior of a few atheists. But instead of letting the bad behavior of some discourage a new voice from entering the atheist blogosphere, I'd say this bad behavior is why we need new rational voices. Much like we encourage moderate Christians and moderate Muslims to speak out against the extremists among them, we should be empowered to address the consequences of dogma and bad behavior in our community and to push for change.
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