December 26, 2013

Atheist Blogs Will Remain Relevant

Blog of the day once again
Blog of the day once again (Photo credit: the Italian voice)
Whenever the end of a year draws close, many of us have a tendency to look back over the year to highlight the major developments that defined it for us. At the same time, we often use the approach of a new year as a time to look ahead to the future and ponder what the next year may bring. What changes are on the horizon, and where will we be at this time next year?

One interesting question about the future that was asked recently is whether blogs, a medium some are now describing as obsolete, will be as important a part of the atheist movement as they have been to date. Perhaps blog readership will decline because people no longer have the patience to read for more than 140 characters at a time or would rather mindlessly click the "like" button for their favorite meme.

In a post written for Friendly Atheist, Paul Fidalgo (Center for Inquiry) wrote:
If you’re like me, and you keep abreast of news and opinion on technology and media, you’ve already probably been told many, many times that the blog is dead, a medium that served its purpose in the twenty-aughts, but has now been rendered mostly irrelevant by Tweetbooksnaptumblegram.
I suspect most of you have heard about how blogs are dead or dying and are being replaced with one of the forms of social media. I've certainly heard this many times. Of course, I've been hearing for at least three years that email is dead and that it has been replaced with text messaging. I imagine that might be true for some people, but I've yet to see much evidence of it in my life.

Paul's question is whether the blog, as a medium, has a future as part of the atheist movement. He thinks it does, and I agree. He notes the importance of skeptical/atheist blogs in bringing us to where we are today and predicts that such blogs will be influential well into the future.
Will skepto-atheists still be relying so heavily on blogs in ten years? I’m guessing yes. The main reason is that we are a movement and a community based largely on proving Some Big Point that most or far too many people still don’t agree with. To be extremely general, let’s say the Big Point is that magical thinking is wrong, and lots of times really bad. You can apply that to all sorts of things, from religion to alt-med to The Secret to UFO conspiracy theories and so on. And blogs are still the best way to make that Big Point.
That makes a great deal of sense to me, and that is probably because I share his view of the main purpose skeptical and atheist blogs serve in our community. Paul refers to these blogs as "the intellectual clearinghouse, the library of ideas of the community." That's a wonderful description. I've often thought of skeptical and atheist blogs, at least the good ones, as something like the "think tanks" utilized by political parties. I don't see another medium taking over this function just yet.

I also think Paul is right to highlight the many individual voices one finds today in the atheist and skeptical blogosphere and how we are continuing to define ourselves. This entire atheist/skeptical movement is still growing, developing, and determining what our priorities will be. We have seen that our diverse voices can lead to conflict and infighting; however, I am convinced that these diverse voices are a crucial strength. Much of the conflict we have experienced can probably be viewed as the sort of growing pains one would predict whenever such a diverse group of people begins to come together out of a shared desire to improve the world.

I think that atheist and skeptical blogs will remain relevant for some time. While writing such a blog can certainly be frustrating at times, we are living in exciting times for atheism, skepticism, and secularism. Our future is far from set, and much work remains before us.