CS: What do you love most about the nontheist community? Where do you think it can improve?
HM: I love how certain issues that are controversial everywhere else in the country, like marriage equality, comprehensive sex education, and science in schools, are almost non-issues within our community. Where can we improve? In many ways, we act like there’s an atheist orthodoxy everyone must follow. As the demographics shift and atheists increase in number, we have to realize we won’t always agree on every issue.
Hemant must have forgotten what he had just said when he went on to say the exact opposite. He loves how certain issues that are controversial everywhere else in the country are almost non-issues within our community, and where we can improve is in the fact that we act like there’s an atheist orthodoxy everyone must follow.
So how will be treat other atheists who happen to hold other controversial positions? There are atheists who are pro-life, Republican, gun owners, or home-schoolers. When I talk to them, they often tell me they feel unwelcome in both worlds—“I’m too atheist for the pro-life group, and too pro-life for the atheist group.” We have to ask ourselves: Are we united by our atheism or is it really more than that? Is it possible to be a rational thinker who holds contrary views on controversial issues? Will we allow ourselves to even have those sorts of debates or are they off-limits? Right now, those conversations are off-limits with many atheists and that’s a problem.
It depends on what we’re talking about, in what situation, with what people, for what purposes.
Are we united by our atheism? It depends. Am I united with people who detest feminism and make a habit of saying stupid things about it?
Nope. Not at all. I don’t care how atheist they are, because I care about the equality of women more.
And another thing: why is Hemant using the tendentious label “pro-life”? You know, the one that not too subtly implies that the opposition is pro-death? Why doesn’t he call them what they are, anti-abortion or anti-abortion rights?
And then, “off limits” is tendentious too. It sounds like an absolute when often it just means “I’ve had that conversation seven billion times already, I don’t need to have it yet more times just because some atheists are opposed to abortion.” Often it just means I don’t want to hear it; it pretty much never means no one should ever discuss the subject.
I guess that’s some of what I don’t love about “the atheist community.”