May 7, 2013

A Litmus Test for the Secular Community?

Litmus paperThis post was completely re-written after it was discovered that the original contained inaccurate information with a high potential to be misleading and unfair to an individual mentioned. This was not intentional, but that does not make it any less of a problem. That is why I apologized to the party involved. I removed the original post; however, because of the frequent 404 errors this removal has continued to generate, I decided to re-write the post to address the question posed in the title in a different way. Because of the re-write of the original post, I deleted the original comments since they were no longer relevant.

If there is a secular community of some sort, what sort of requirements should be in place before we consider someone to be a part of it? Is being non-religious sufficient, or must one also be a humanist, a feminist, and/or someone interested in advancing particular causes we might collectively describe as "social justice?" And here's perhaps an even more intriguing question:
Assuming that there was a secular community and you were part of it, is there anything you could say or do that should lead the rest of us to expel you from it? That is, what sort of "sins" would justify the community-at-large from expelling someone?
I cannot pretend to have the answers to either of these questions. I'm honestly not sure that it makes sense to talk about a secular community in the sense of one unified community with shared values, standards, and norms. We secular individuals are just too diverse, and I'm not sure that being secular (i.e., not religious) is enough to tie us together into the sort of community that should attempt to regulate who gets to enter it and who must leave it.

There are atheists who have argued that the uncritical acceptance of feminism should be part of a litmus test required to be part of the secular community. I do not agree with this. There are atheists who have argued that political liberalism should be part of a litmus test required to be part of the secular community. I do not agree with this either. People who seek to implement such litmus tests are certainly free to form their own communities with various requirements for inclusion, but they have little basis for imposing them on the rest of us.