August 3, 2017

Secular Self-Segregation

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Mike D. (The A-Unicornist) concluded an interesting post about the failings of the "Christianity as counterculture" movement with the following:
In many respects though, the evangelical community is still thriving—especially here in the Midwest. The internet is now well-segregated even within individual websites like Facebook and Reddit, making it a bit easier for people to remain somewhat insulated. But the trend of religious defection shows no signs of slowing, and I'm confident that the church's habit of shooting itself in the foot and the ease of access to contrarian ideas will prevent another pop-culture renaissance of youth evangelicism from recurring anytime soon.
Atheists often criticize evangelical fundamentalist Christians for attempting to shelter themselves and their children from reality by self-segregation. I can recall Christian parents who would not permit their children to interact with anyone who did not attend their church. Of course, this would typically require homeschooling or sending their children to a private Christian school, so I did not have the opportunity to interact with many of these kids until they were much older and began to defy their parents' wishes. Not surprisingly, I found most of them to be poorly prepared to cope with the world.

I ran across mention of a new social media platform the other day called Secular Nest. I did not check it out and it seems to have already shut down, so I have little idea how it worked. I did take note that some of those behind it presented it as "the social network for nonreligious people." This raises one question for me: do we atheists really need our own social network? Is encountering religious believers online really so aversive that we need to segregate ourselves from them?

I'm not going to deny that something like this could be beneficial to some. I am imagining someone who is a deeply closeted atheist who might face serious repercussions if anyone were to learn of his or her atheism. Maybe something like this would provide a sense of security for someone like this. I'm just not sure this sort of thing is all that healthy for the rest of us. It seems to me that we benefit tremendously from exposing ourselves to people who are different from us and their perspectives.

Like Mike D. mentioned, it is very easy to segregate ourselves into ideological bubbles where we are relatively unlikely to encounter people who have different views from our own. If you are a liberal who cannot tolerate the thought of encountering conservative views, you can now significantly reduce your chances of doing so. If you are a conservative who hates liberals, you can minimize the odds that you might have to interact with them. All you really need to do is find a platform that is geared toward people who share your views and then block anyone and everyone who expresses views different from your own. I've seen plenty of people use social media this way, and some of them are very open about doing so.

Since I never signed up for an account at Secular Nest, I suppose it might be perceived as unfair for me to say anything positive or negative about them. All I can say is that I don't find the idea of a secular only social network to be particularly appealing. I do not enjoy encountering religious proselytizing online, but that doesn't mean that I want to eliminate all contact with religious believers. As a freethinker, I believe that it is healthy for me to encounter views different from my own.
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