Atheism and Cohesion

I see some atheists on youtube (cough Thunderf00t cough) and elsewhere on the internet who seem to have the mentality that atheism is or should be some kind of cohesive force, united in the fight against religious tyranny. To an extent I agree, but some people take it to the point of believing that it is bad conduct to criticise or rebuke fellow atheists because they’re shouldn’t be any in-fighting among the ranks (or something like that). This ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ kind of attitude is essentially urging the exact kind of group mentality and ignorance that we aim to criticise among the religious.

I find it ironic that many of these people often criticise the ‘moderate Muslims’ for not speaking out against extremist Islam, whilst expecting atheists to refrain from speaking out against any of their kind. It’s also ironic that they criticise atheists for criticising other atheists…

I’m sorry, but where is the reason in thinking that atheists should refrain from criticising one another? If I hear someone making borderline racist statements, such as referring to Muslims as ‘backwards desert people’, or positing any kind of generalizations, and irrational remarks, I will condemn that person whether they are an atheist or not. This is because I firmly believe that one should use reason to develop one’s world view, and if I see unreason especially among those I identify with, then it should be pointed out and made clear that I do not share the views of that person.

Atheism is not, and should not be viewed as a cohesive group. That is not to say that atheists should not join together to speak out against oppression and injustice, rather that it should be done under the firm understanding that ‘atheism’ is a group made up of individuals united only by beliefs that they don’t have. Being an atheist doesn’t mean agreeing with other atheists blindly, or refraining from speaking out when you do disagree to save the face of the collective. If we don’t want to end up like those religious organizations whom we despise, then we should pride ourselves on a confidence and ability to speak out against members of our own ‘community’ whom we disagree with, as well as being able to support the individuals (not the beliefs) of members of all religions when reason calls for it, and to make sure to avoid generalizations and unreasonable claims about them.

An ‘us’ vs ‘them attitude towards atheism will get you nowhere. There needs to be a good example set, and that example is exemplary critical thinking and reasoning skills.

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