Wayne Laugesen, the editorial page editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, has a piece in which he chides the atheist movement as a whole.
He says we had a good run, but we’re committing a comedy of errors:
… The organization Atheist Agenda, at the University of Texas-San Antonio, draws attention by offering pornography in exchange for Bibles, Torahs, Korans and other religious texts.
Here’s some unsolicited advice for the college atheists: Grown-ups don’t think it’s cute, and you don’t help the atheist cause by aligning it with porn. We’re just saying…
Meanwhile, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has decided to battle the U.S. Postal Service over its new Mother Teresa stamp….
He focuses on things like the recent chaos at the Richard Dawkins forums as evidence that our movement is fading fast.
That’s ridiculous. There are plenty of things atheists do that I like and much that I dislike. But overall, we’re heading in the right direction.
And when you have momentum on your side, a few distractions won’t change that.
The few blemishes we have don’t necessarily set us back all the way. I’m not a fan of Smut for Smut but I don’t think they’re going to undo everything that Dawkins and Sam Harris and the national organizations have been working toward. They don’t help, but they’re not the end of the world.
We’re not unified in our tactics but we don’t have to be. And we’re not going to keep our mouth shut if we don’t like what someone else is doing. That said, we are basically unified in our message that we would be better off living in a society where religion had less power than it does now. We’d be better off without all the superstitious nonsense. We’d be better off if people realized they could be good without a god.
But how does Laugesen treat the few instances where atheists don’t come off looking great?
As a collective, atheists are falling apart. Their movement probably has no great future. It may have seen all the momentum it ever will. The atheist community will thrive only if non-believers find positive and constructive causes, as Mother Teresa did. It will find a future only if disbelievers put time and money into soup kitchens, homeless shelters, hospitals and AIDS hospices — as Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians do. A movement can’t go far on negative energy alone… If atheists want acceptance, and to make a difference in this world, they need to find the love.
But he has a point about the love. We can’t tear down religion without offering something to replace it. You can’t take away someone’s hope without inspiring them in another way. You can’t remove someone’s social network without offering them a new community to join.
The atheist movement is working on all of those things.
Laugesen neglects to mention groups like Foundation Beyond Belief (which I’m on the board of) which focus on getting Secular Americans to give to charity.
He forgets that young people are coming out, starting local groups, and being vocal about their non-theism moreso than ever before.
Yes, there are a few individuals and groups who do things that might hurt our image. But the overall trend is favorable to us and that’s not about to change because of a few people.
(Thanks to Bob for the link)