AACon13: An object lesson in building communities

I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to share my experience of the convention with people. I figure that even if few people read them, I’d like to look back at these posts in a few years and remember how enjoyable it was. In case you missed some, here are the recaps of:

In case it wasn’t obvious from those four posts, I had an amazing time. I don’t regularly get the opportunity to travel out of town for these conventions, and it was kind of American Atheists to host this particularly enormous event in my home town. I loved the speakers, but just getting to meet and swap stories with people who have influenced me or been influenced by me, was really enjoyable.

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Atheism+: Social interaction in atheist communities and elsewhere

Yep, it’s another post about Atheism+.  Just because Jen McCreight is on vacation to take a break from being trolled and harassed, doesn’t mean the rest of us still aren’t interested.

First things first: There’s a new episode of Godless Bitches.  Have you heard it?  You should hear it, it is made of win.  Beth, Tracie, and Jen were broadcasting in front of a sizable live audience at the Atheist Alliance of America national convention in Denver, along with special guest Greta Christina, who as far as I’m concerned ought to be on every week.  Tracie had some inspired commentary on how she became interested in being more than a dictionary atheist and take on these issues.  I can’t sum up in a way that does it justice, go listen.

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How not to build inclusive communities

I’m a software developer, as many of you know.  A few months ago, a friend of mine took me to lunch a few times to talk about a web-based game he was interested in producing.  It didn’t pan out, but it was interesting to have a design discussion with someone who has a lot of business experience but is something of a rookie where web games are concerned.

Ultimately the game idea has been tabled, but without getting into any detail, part of the design was intended to allow people to upload multiple pictures to be used as character avatars.  The assumption was that it would be clip art or cartoon doodles, stuff like that.

Being a practical type when it comes to gathering requirements, I asked him: “Have you thought about what safeguards you will put in place to keep people from uploading objectionable content?”

I can’t see any possible way that THIS could go wrong.

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I’m pretty sure the ACA has been an Atheism+ organization for years

I was in a very slow line for Master Pancake (an Austin comedy group) the night Jen McCreight posted her brainstorm about a movement called Atheism+.  And it was spot on — despite the fact that I was standing in a crowded space, I had to keep reading and pointing out excerpts to my wife.

I noticed I haven’t been blogging much, and I feel extra guilty that I haven’t contributed anything to the current inter-blog discussion about what a good idea Atheism+ is.  Ultimately I don’t really have a lot to say.  For as long as I can remember being involved with the Atheist Community of Austin there have been discussions about how to keep events from being overwhelmingly populated by white guys like me.  We’ve spoken many times about how atheism doesn’t necessarily extend philosophically to anything other than “not believing in any Gods”; how technically Raelians are atheists; and you can be an atheist and still believe in all sorts of supernatural woo as long as it’s not God.  That’s all still true.

Technicalities aside though, we’ve also been bold about taking on issues that are outside the minimal scope of atheism, and worked to present a strong front of core values from our community.  The ACA has had a booth at the Austin Gay Pride festival for several years running, and put out press releases denouncing politicians banning equal marriage rights.  We’ve had many on-air discussions with concerned atheists from minority groups.  We’ve spoken for women’s rights to choose, and defended that position despite the fact that anti-abortion atheists exist.  Our TV show has a fairly diverse cast, and we’ve been producing Godless Bitches for a year and a half now — a show hosted by prominent female voices and promoting outreach on behalf of atheist feminists.  More recently, the ACA board began drafting a formal anti-harassment policy for members as soon as the issue started gaining discussion where conventions were concerned.

Our group strives for a diverse, welcoming environment.  There’s an argument that comes up a lot where tolerance is concerned, but should not be taken seriously by anyone: that you can’t be truly tolerant unless you tolerate intolerance.  Or alternatively, if you identify and condemn bigotry, you are being bigoted against the bigots.

Hopefully people get the point through my rambling, but this is a roundabout way of saying that I think “Atheism+” is a welcome new label for an old concept, it’s something that many groups have already been striving for before Jen bothered to give it a new name, and I’m all for spreading this particular meme.

For more excellent posts on the subject, please see: