Define your terms


An interesting question. American Atheists asked on Twitter:

Seeking input! What blog do you think best represents #atheists/#atheism positively? Doesn’t have to be an exclusively atheist blog.

But what does AA mean by “positively”? I asked, in several doubtless annoying tweets, but AA had skipped off to other activities so I didn’t find out.

The word has come to be a blanket term for nice or not hostile aka not critical while “negative” has come to be a blanket term for nasty or critical or skeptical.

So you see why I asked. Organized, campaigning, activist atheists don’t necessarily see “not critical” as “positive”…so what are we talking about here?

Of course the candidate that came immediately to mind as answering the apparent question was The Friendly Atheist – and sure enough the three replies that came before my annoying questions all named that very blog.

But is that what we mean by representing atheists and atheism positively? If we say that aren’t we buying into exactly the canard that AA exists to combat? If we say that aren’t we buying into the conventional wisdom that outspoken unapologetic atheism is itself, and by itself, not “nice” and not “friendly” and thus not positive? Don’t we want to get away from that perception?

Plus there’s the problem that calling yourself The Friendly ______ implies that other ______s are not friendly, and that too is not altogether “nice” or positive.

So I replied Eric MacDonald’s Choice in Dying. I think Eric represents atheists and atheism positively because of his thoughtfulness, learning, careful argumentation, passion, commitment, and fire of indignation.

Comments

  1. rbh3 says

    Plus there’s the problem that calling yourself The Friendly ______ implies that other ______s are not friendly, and that too is not altogether “nice” or positive.

    If this is aimed at Hemant Mehta, as it seems to be, I’ll note that he does not use the definite article in his blog name.

  2. says

    If this is aimed at Hemant Mehta, as it seems to be, I’ll note that he does not use the definite article in his blog name.

    He does, however, use a definite article in his book. And even without the definite article, it would still carry the whiff of implication. I’m a regular reader of Hemant’s blog, but I’m with Ophelia here that it’s not ideally named.

  3. says

    I don’t think American Atheists of all secular advocacy groups views “positive” as a synonym for “non-confrotational” or anything like that. Their court cases, and Dave Silverman’s combative appearances on programs like ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ are likely what they’re best known for. Hell, Jon Stewart’s publicly accused them of “mak[ing] people hate [atheists].” I’d certainly worry about that kind of statement coming from, say, CFI, or the JREF, but I think AA’s earned some good faith assumptions on this particular point.

    And hey, I think Hemant’s blog does reflect positively on atheism, though it has nothing to do with the title (which I wouldn’t have chosen for it personally). But considering the title charitably, it’s probably targeted more at countering the perceptions of society at large (in the same way that, for example, the ACA, whose spokespeople make no bones whatsoever about criticizing religion, talks about “positive atheism” right in their motto) rather than making critical generalizations toward other atheists.

  4. says

    And hey, I think Hemant’s blog does reflect positively on atheism

    Depends what you mean by atheism. For the fabric softener atheist crowd and the religious, it probably does.

    What blog do you think best represents #atheists/#atheism positively?

    Most non-slyme associated blogs, really. Because slyme blogs and blog networks, and maybe that needs to be said more clearly, and is the more useful application of this exercise, do in fact reflect negatively on atheism.

  5. says

    Depends what you mean by atheism.

    I suppose I mean both the concept of nonbelief and atheists generally.

    For the fabric softener atheist crowd

    Sorry, I honestly don’t know what this means.

    and the religious, it probably does.

    I mean, I don’t think atheists need any help from atheist blogs in representing themselves to each other as atheists. Surely we can only be talking about our image to non-atheists. And yeah, I do think Hemant reflects positively on us to the religious; not necessarily because he cultivates an image of being friendly (though that probably helps for at least some people), or because he’s charitable, but also because he’s a smart dude. I think both of those things together.

    Most non-slyme associated blogs, really. Because slyme blogs and blog networks, and maybe that needs to be said more clearly, and is the more useful application of this exercise, do in fact reflect negatively on atheism.

    Agreed there. I don’t think blogs designed specifically to facilitate anti-feminist infighting are helpful at all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>