We hear a lot about “tearing apart” this or that – skepticism, the atheist movement, the world of skeptoatheo science-loving nerdery. Sometimes the idea is that the tearing apart is mutual, and sometimes it’s that it’s only the pesky feminists (or the mythical Atheismplussers, who are always people who aren’t in fact Atheismplussers, like PZ and Rebecca and me).
Anyway – this idea of tearing apart is interesting. It seems like an odd thing for people who see themselves as involved in a movement to object to, because being involved in a movement also tears things apart. That’s the point of being in a movement. A movement about Keeping Everything Exactly the Same needn’t bother to be a movement. It can relax.
Movements tear things apart. Movements oppose the status quo; they’re about change; they move toward change. Change tears things apart.
Ok, the defender of movement purity could reply to me. Ok, the movement is about change, but it has to unite and work together to make that change happen, so a new movement within the movement that tears the movement apart will defeat that goal.
Maybe. Then again maybe not. Maybe what it will do is change the movement in such a way that it becomes better and thus more attractive and thus bigger. Or maybe it will split into two halves, and both halves will become bigger, or one will and the other won’t, but the two combined will still be bigger. There are a lot of possibilities.
But the point is that “tearing apart” is really just another word for change, and change isn’t necessarily bad – and we all know that, or else we wouldn’t be in a movement in the first place.
Shit’s dynamic, people. Change is all the time. You can’t freeze anything at one particular moment and declare that the Platonic ideal of what it’s supposed to be. Right now the atheist movement is torn apart by battles over feminism. Well I know I’m not going to stop arguing for feminism and against noisy belligerent sexism, and I know I’m not the only one with that commitment, so there you go.