September 6, 2017

How to Stop the Atheist Infighting

pointing fingers in blame
What if all the online infighting we see taking place among atheists was not merely a harmless oddity or the sort of minor distraction that did not have any real consequences? What if it was seriously undermining our ability to pursue many of our shared goals and making it more likely that religious privilege would persist?

If this possibility seems far-fetched, consider that "divide and conquer" is a common and effective strategy for weakening one's opponents. If you were a Christian extremist who wanted to make sure those pesky atheists would never accomplish anything, you'd almost certainly be delighted by our infighting and all-around pettiness. When we are at each other's throats, we're making little progress at ending your Christian privilege.

If there aren't plenty of other reasons that might persuade you to stop attacking other atheists online, consider a pragmatic one: it prevents us from effectively challenging the religious majority and advancing our common goals. Instead of continuing to emphasize our disagreements, we could embrace our many agreements and work together to bring about some real change.

I first mentioned David Smalley of Dogma Debate With David Smalley a little over a year ago after he wrote a post I wish I had written about the detrimental impact of atheist infighting. He has continued to think about this subject and has become quite good at not only articulating the problem but also at outlining some of what we need to do if we want to solve it.

Here's a video of his talk from the 2017 Gateway to Reason Conference, "Eating Our Own: How You Can Save the Movement."

He makes many strong points, noting how many atheists are continuing to engage in religious thinking and how the lack of nuance in our online communication makes it harder to accomplish much of what most of us claim to value. The whole thing is worth a watch, but my favorite part comes near the end (starting at around the 32:30 minute mark). This is where Smalley highlights how our behavior is negatively impacting us and suggests several steps we can take to improve things.

The good news is that nothing he suggests is particularly difficult. At least, it should not be too difficult for those with a commitment to freethought. I hope you'll consider joining me in giving some serious consideration to what he has to say.

H/T to Atheism and the City