Peter Mosely talked about an article, by another atheist, that used the term, and a Free Thought Blog entry by Jason Thibeault also discussed this idea. So, the question arises, what is the deal with tribalism?
Honestly, this feels like the 2008 elections and the use of “socialist” to demean Barack Obama. Not a lot of people really seem to understand the concept and, so long as it remains that way, it appears to have a negative stigma.
Tribalism is, in so many words, a means of organizing like-minded peoples into a group; social or otherwise. This happens on macrocosmic, and microcosmic, levels; people consider themselves members of a community, a religion (or lack thereof), town, city, state, political group, country, and hemisphere. We are a social species, which means we need contact with others to help us make it through life. Though the numbers may vary (150 according to Dunbar’s number [which also dictates that groups of social circles determines brain size], to almost 300 according to other studies), the idea is that we require contact with other members of our species. This permits us opportunities to have help obtaining food, attending to the sick, and offering support and protection during times of crisis.
Being involved in a “tribe”, or specific social group, benefits us greatly. Because of the kinship and empathy we show the LGBTQ community, marriage equality has become a very real thing. We also are seeing fights against religiously backed legislation that would deny women the ability to control what happens to their bodies. As I had pointed out in the article I posted yesterday, the more antagonistic parts, or individuals, of atheism often are aggressive because of being in a social setting where their rights, or the rights of the social group they identify with, are infringed upon.
Tribalism is not a bad thing, in fact it was, and is still, a very necessary part of being part of the social species that is humanity. It provides people with the ability to empathize, to be altruistic, offer kin-selection to share resources, and to help defend their community against outside threats. Why not drop the “Sarah Palin” antagonizing of groups and think of a better way to critique movements you have problems with? Unless you have books to sell.