Aug 15 2013

Secular synthesis and why we need it – or, Hello Freethought Blogs

You already know that I’m a #FTBully. Of all the letters after my name (admittedly, there aren’t very many), those are the ones I’m proudest of. My feeling is, that tells you all you need know about me. Keep reading though.

I’m 22, secular, British, poly, queer, tall, ex-Christian, “left wing and long-winded”, a nerd, a graduate and a keyboard warrior. What that actually means is fallacious discourses piss me off, and so do faulty ideas they transmit. I’m skeptical, you might say, in that sense.

The backdrop to my joining this network is an organised skepticism more divided than ever, teetering toward civil war. I have no problems with that division. If our blogosphere and the community around it become the dogfight expected right now, things will get worse before they get better – but they will, I think, get better. There are problems in our movement – racism, misogyny, transphobia, harassment, wage theft, corruption – that we need to fix, and any chance we take by addressing them is a chance for self-improvement. Should skepticism implode in the coming weeks or months, there’s no point letting it implode again a year or several down the line: the time for staring down internal conflicts, all of them, is now.

Because of that, there won’t just be posts here on UK atheism – that is, on why our image as a godless paradise is unwarranted, our secular community underdeveloped and our strains of fundamentalism growing. There won’t just be posts on leaving extreme religion – how Hallowe’en once terrified me, how my niece was an evangelical at four years old and how I thought aged eight that Satan had possessed me. There won’t just be posts about mainstream and LGBT culture’s myths of sexuality, about sex and relationships, about the nerdsphere or about far-right religion’s fast-forming grip on UK campuses. There will be all of those, sooner or later, but not just those.

I named this blog Godlessness in Theory because I think we need new secular dialectics. I first encountered things like feminism and social justice largely through the atheist scene – I came of age reading Skepchick, Butterflies and Wheels and Greta Christina’s Blog – and I think it’s valuable, vital in fact, to view our movement through those kinds of frameworks. I’m not convinced, though, that it’s enough to switch between discourses as I’ve found myself doing; to blog on atheism some days and queerness others. The most exciting thoughts I’ve had in skepticism have been listening to Pragna Patel, Sikivu Hutchinson or Natalie Reed, in whose work secularity and social justice collide and complete, coherent modes of thinking germinate which speak to both. I love these writers’ work, because this is more than intersectional action; it’s an innovative, synthetic analysis. Pursuing secular synthesis as they have – bringing godlessness into theory, and vice versa – is my long-term stated aim. That’s what I’m here for, and what I think can repair our movement – even, perhaps, make it stronger than ever.

Wish me luck.

For the moment, an overview: if you haven’t read anything by me before, or you’ve read a post or two and you want to read more, the following ten posts are a good place to start.

I’m looking at archiving the rest of my past writing here; to stay updated in the mean time, go and Like this blog on Facebook. If you feel like you still want more, browse through my writing in the areas linked or see my blogroll here for the people I like reading. You can also drop me a line via email or Twitter, and believe me, I’ll be reading the comments.

Hello if we don’t know each other. Hello again if we already do. And hello Freethought Blogs – you’re the greatest network of them all. I’m thrilled to be here.


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  1. 1
    Gregory in Seattle


    FYI: Unicode characters can cause the title not to render on the main index. You may want to change the title of this post and remove the long dash.

  2. 2
    Alex Gabriel

    Thanks. What could I use instead?

  3. 3
    Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

    Welcome!!! <3

  4. 4
    Funny Diva

    I do wish you good luck, but only because everyone needs some and not because I believe for a moment that your skills are anything but ample.

  5. 5
    Reality Enthusiast

    Congratulations! And thanks for the Pragna Patel link. I was not aware of her before.

  6. 6

    Fantastic introduction — sounds like you’ve never had an independent thought!

  7. 7
    Alex Gabriel

    Sorry to hear it. Your vacuity seems very original.

  8. 8
    TGAP Dad

    Welcome! I hope you enjoy it here at FTB. As a bit of an Anglophile, I’m looking forward to reading your posts.

  9. 9

    I’ve always used two hyphens, but I recognize that certain people meet such suggestions with the same contempt I would have for the suggestion that a piano could be adequately replaced by an electronic keyboard.

  10. 10
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Hi and welcome to FTB.

    Your name is quite familiar – I’m sure you have been quoted and linked from blogs and comments here, and I’m fairly sure I’ve read some of your work over at THC.

  11. 11
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Mirror, mirror…

  12. 12
    Alex Gabriel

    Quite possibly – I’ve been hanging around the blogosphere for a while. Easier than getting a real job. >_>

  13. 13

    Welcome aboard! Everything you (don’t really) need to know about me: the first of your links I clicked on above was the Man of Steel review. (Spot on IMO.) I’m sure the other posts are nice too… ;)

  14. 14
    Alex Gabriel

    I like where your priorities are.

  15. 15

    Welcome Alex. I wish you luck, although somehow I doubt you’ll need it. Hard work and talent tend to help. This should be fun.

  16. 16

    Here’s wishing you luck!
    And patience – I see you caught your first troll already.

  17. 17
    Alex Gabriel

    There’s a bridge somewhere with nothing to hold it up.

  18. 18

    Lovely to have you :) as a fellow Brit I am very interested to read your thoughts on atheism/secularism in Britain. I’m always amazed that people think it’s such a non-religious wonderland!!

    Jess x

  19. 19
    Great American Satan

    Do you have preferred pronouns?

  20. 20
    Alex Gabriel

    Thanks for asking! :) I’m preeettttttyyyyyy much cismale – but given I’ve never had to fight for ‘he’ and ‘him’, and I’m fond of fuckery in gendered areas, I won’t complain if you go for something else.

  21. 21
    Ophelia Benson

    Well it’s about time!

  22. 22
    John Phillips, FCD

    Welcome from yet another Brit.

  23. 23
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    Welcome, Alex! I’ve enjoyed your writing over at the Heresy Club, so I’m glad to see you appearing here where I don’t need to stray too far from many of my favourite on-line haunts. Best of luck for your blogging exploits here.

  24. 24

    Heh. I see you’ll fit in fine. Not that there was any doubt.

    I recognized your name from the list of 100 on FA a couple weeks back, and it is a delight to see you here.

  25. 25
    A Hermit

    Noticed this prescient line in your letter to Paula Kirby…

    “The point of freethought, to me, is that it’s atheism plus.”

    Damn, you’re good…

  26. 26
    Alex Gabriel

    And weeks before Jen McCreight even came up with it! Best. Comment. Ever.

    (In fairness, I think I’d heard ‘atheism plus’ in small caps used before – at least once on The Atheist Experience to refer to things like humanism and so on.)

  27. 27
    Alex Gabriel

    Thank you, pleased to hear it!

  28. 28
    Alex Gabriel


  29. 29
    Alex Gabriel

    Thanks! Currently moving all my old THC posts over.

  30. 30

    Welcome! The British take over is proceeding nicely I see…

  31. 31

    Welcome Alex! I’ve enjoyed your writing before. I hope you settle down here, I think you’re a good fit.

  32. 32

    Welcome, Alex:

    I have a very good friend whose first name is Alex and whose initials are AG; if you’re anything like him you’ll do VERY well in this world and the ne–, sorry, my bad! {;>)

    I just had a thought. Somebody should do a re-write of Hawthorne’s, “The House of Seven Gables”. It could be called, “The House of Seven Steeples” and be about a tight-assed, misogynistic, xenophobic, anti-gay, etc. society. Hester Prine’s “A” could be on a baseball cap and stand for atheist. Okay, you can flesh it out.

  33. 33

    A very warm welcome and ‘hello’ Alex… From another UK reader.


    Al Lee

  34. 34
    Wrath Panda

    Huzzah! More of us Brits! \o/

    Skimmed the Keswick convention post and subsequent follow up. Having lived in proximity for so long (my mum lives in Aspatria, though I have long since escaped to more populated climes), how could I possibly not have known about this sort of thing? It seems like there could be minutes of entertainment to be had there! Do you plan on making a report a yearly thing? :)

  35. 35
    Alex Gabriel

    Not sure – I might not be there in future! But there are certainly other things I’ve written in similar ‘eyewitness’ formats and will keep writing in future. See for example this post.

  36. 36
    Fuzzy Cthulhu

    ” If our blogosphere and the community around it become the dogfight expected right now, things will get worse before they get better – but they will, I think, get better.”

    What an excellent way to begin. Looking forward to more. From one British to another- Willkommen!

  37. 37
    Yemisi Ilesanmi

    Welcome, Alex! Nice to have you here. :)

  38. 38
    Alex Gabriel

    Thanks Yemmy! Nice to meet you, I’ve enjoyed your blog.

  1. 39
    Another FT boolly » Butterflies and Wheels

    […] Oh and did you know Alex Gabriel has joined Freethought Blogs? He has. […]

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