January 7, 2012

Atheist Community

CommunityIs there an atheist community? Should there be an atheist community? What do we even mean by community in this context?

At the micro level, it makes no sense to talk about "an atheist community" but several atheist communities. Think about the small meet up groups where a handful of atheists get together for various social and activist-oriented events. These are the sort of atheist communities where one can easily get to know everyone else and have the sense of working together in a tangible way.

At the macro level, "the atheist community" refers to an aspect of the broad atheist movement. At this level, we can probably use the terms "community" and "movement" in a nearly interchangeable way. The only real distinction, at least for me, is that I generally prefer "movement" when I am imagining a long temporal dimension. That is, I see the atheist movement as a reflection of not just the current atheist community but as the collective progress from communities over time.

In this sense, I think that there is an atheist community and that it is the broad collection of atheists who are working on the goals we share. I do not believe that one must be an active member of national atheist organizations and attend national atheist conferences in order to be part of the atheist community. And while I am aware of objections to the merits of having an atheist community, I am convinced that the benefits of such a community far exceed the costs.

So yes, I regard atheist community as a good thing. We need an atheist community as well as a larger secular community. We need communities like this to consolidate political power and provide support for atheists in need. I've previously suggested some steps in developing and promoting an atheist community, and I continue to think that this is in our interest.

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