The August/September 2012 issue of Free Inquiry is out and I have an article in it about how atheists can be pretty abrasive online… to other atheists.
The backdrop of the issue is “the new activism,” one that looks beyond just the logic and reason and arguments and actually helps people get through the day. As editor Lauren Becker writes:
Secular humanism should not be about defeating one’s fellow humans. Yes, of course we need to win arguments, but the point of winning the argument should be winning the person, holding onto the person while he or she lets go of the harmful beliefs.
One of the most proven and effective ways to do this is to translate our good arguments into good actions, which can often speak louder than words. The way we live and treat one another can be one of the best arguments for our worldview. For the times when our words aren’t effective, we ourselves can be the best evidence for the value of secular humanism.
My article for the issue involves how we often tear each other apart online, feelings-be-damned:
As soon as there’s a disagreement with other atheists — over sociopolitical views, the way we interact with religious people, activism methods, or even the nature of elevators — we turn on the “demonize” switch without a second thought. It’s true that atheists are alike only in the fact that we don’t believe in God, but one would hope more of us would treat each other with respect when we disagree. It’s not enough, it seems, to use reason and logic to pick apart another person’s argument. We also have to resort to name-calling or imply that the person is a traitor to our cause. I’ve heard atheist “firebrands” say that they support having more diverse voices in the conversation only to throw those attempting an alternative approach under the bus. Forget any potential merits to the alternatives; the battle is won only when you’ve made yourself feel superior.
We’re supposed to be better than that. We have a “post first, ask questions later” mentality when we could (in many cases) just write the other person an e-mail or call them to hash out disagreements. But part of being in an Internet-based community is that we air our dirty laundry for the world to see even when it hurts us all in the long run.
Also in the issue, Alix Jules has a really great piece on being a black activist:
… Though African Americans will reluctantly accept separation of church and state, they will not willingly accept separation of church and race.
It wasn’t until I became hell-bent on disproving secularists’ claims of moral equity and relativism — on addressing the challenges to my scripture — that I came to understand the fallacies of my own arguments. My very journey to validate my faith undid it. By the end of my exploration, I found I had given up my faith but also unwittingly signed over my “black card.” I went from being a Doubting Thomas to also being an Uncle Tom.
I found myself alienated by other grieving parents’ constant talk of being reunited with their children someday. I had no patience with credulous stories of signs from beloved sons and daughters. Every time a mother referred to the day her child died as his or her “angelday” brought me one step closer to the obvious conclusion: what I really needed would not be found through mainstream grief support.
You can check out selected articles from the issue here.