When Atheists Attack Each Other


The battle for top dog plays out on twitter


Unity is overrated as a virtue. Dissent can be thankless, and critiquing mistaken as disloyalty to a higher purpose. Movements will eventually have people falling out, over ideas or clash of personalities. After all when something matters to you the ability for clear heads and compromise, let alone reaching a consensus, may be the last thing to have as an objective for yourself.

Wondering where to begin writing about the Atheism Plus and detractors I thankfully saw Martin Pribble’s post Walking A Thin Line – The Perils of an Online Voice. If you have no idea what this is all about read his post for a fair attempt at being even handed to both camps, with measured criticism on both. It is a good introduction so I can move on to other things. Having tweeted the link Alex Gabriel offered his thoughts which have rather taken a march on my own being original here. Walking On Thin Ice may have been a better title for Martin – because this may be one instance where protagonists on either side will not appreciate an even handed reflection on what has been happening.

I have spoken to Martin before about being for Sam Harris’ position that using atheist in social policy debates is like lying down in a chalk outline laid out for us by theists. If we are talking about homosexuality and they suggest God is against, quoting bible and scripture I can point out the nonsense of using their God and how even if we allow for this being how on earth you know what their will is and why we should give a damn – without being concerned that perhaps instead values of ignorant men long since dead are imprisoning the living.

Yet I can win this convincingly as a secularist, that no one gets to impose their religion on anyone else especially when someone’s happiness and well being is at stake. Political principles of citizenship and human rights, let alone pluralism in a democracy, win this without resulting to an atheist/theist feud. More on this and being a critical free thinker in my post here.

The infighting within the atheist online community may seem a big deal to us that regularly use social media. I expect to the vast majority that do not it will seem churlish, capture the banner of the atheist spirit over others, a storm in a tea cup. Mud slinging and demonizing – civility lost in a deluge of insults and vulgarity. It is getting so heated it will take more than a censor bot to stop the torrents of hatred from hounding some from using social media. Or saying a plague on both your houses.

The bot is being used to label people with tags that immediately ruin a person’s standing – that smarts even if you do not care a jot for what those deciding these things think. This is already happening in the real world when prominent members in the atheist community use their influence to blacklist speakers, or ruin reputations with allegations but no evidence that could go beyond the court of public opinion. Maybe we think we can be flippant because we care about issues so passionately – it hardly justifies sitting in judgment based on one tweet, or rumors. Well, if you want to have others decide what you can hear and who from on twitter more fool you. The point is this storm in a tea cup is happening in the real world, and otherwise good people are being spilled out.

I look on with bewilderment and anger at how quickly people are being labelled. For me atheism is not the issue but secularism in the political process and society. My anti-theism means I am critical of religion – good people will do good things and find good things from their religion to commend this just as bad people will do the same. The problem is once you say a text or leader is sacrosanct then ideas can become heresy, and morality turned on it’s head as not a matter of reason and empathy embracing a common humanity, but tests of identity by trial that no one of compassion would ever do. Beyond a personal understanding of good and evil things become a matter of faith. The tribal nature of A + makes me think this is happening here to.

Political Secularism

In this battle secularism is claimed as only being possible because of atheists, they are the champions. Neglecting that secularist principles were well established by theists/deists who saw religious conflict as needing to be made a personal one and not one to be played out in civil strife. Or that by sheer numbers alone the most persecuted are the religious by the religious. We all have a stake in a secular state, yet we are allowing the religious and atheists to denote secular as atheist. Not on my watch.

Regarding Dawkins – he is a social commentator first with particular interest in religion and it’s impact on society. He is a retired biologist whose books on science, and in particular public understanding of evolution, mark him as an intellectual. Yet whether it is his praise for Fitna, not maintaining The Out Campaign Website, tweets needing re clarifying / apologies later – there are things to be critical of him. He is not just this guy you know – with his platform, his influence both financial and as a public figure, are ones that make secularism as a big tent difficult to be reconciled with the atheist troll you see online.

The world is a far bigger place. Do not confuse the social media world of infighting and name calling for being representative of all. Yet without twitter I would not have met secularists, both atheist and theist, who want freedom from religion and religious freedom for real. That in itself is worth the occasional loud mouth that tries to test my civility. I find often it is those that dish it out that get it back; for some reason they cannot stomach that.

UPDATE: good example of double standards by Atheism Plus linked to in this tweet by Rah.

UPDATE: much more detailed analysis here of what is happening.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

My Huffington Post Blog


Filed under atheism, Dawkins, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, secular

4 responses to “When Atheists Attack Each Other

  1. I remember when this all began and I laughed at it. I still, at times, laugh at it. I think we’ve made it pretty far in the last 5 years, and social media has helped us. It was only a matter of time, however, before the things that united this movement became marginalized by petty differences.

    This sentence says it all: “The tribal nature of A + makes me think this is happening here to.” We can’t help but to act this way. After 2,000 years there are 40,000 Christian denominations. Every year 20 new denominations pop up. The same is likely to happen within the online atheist community. A+ will breed A++ and so on. Quite frankly I’m tired of hearing them argue with eachother. I almost completely stopped watching THunderf00t, but it appears that he is getting back to the things I like about him.

    Anyway, if the online atheist community has to fraction, so be it. I’ll be fine at the end of the day; still not believing in gods, still countering metaphysical arguments, and still researching early Church history. Whether others want to stay united long enough to make a real difference is up to them.

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