Tonight at the Minnesota Atheists Regional Conference I’m participating in a panel discussion on “Atheism and Religion: Confrontation or Accommodation“. Sound familiar? Interestingly, they had a hard time finding panelists who are openly in favor of pure accommodationism, although I’m sure there will be nuances between us that will give us lots to talk about. I think that sort of tells you who won the Great Accommodationism Wars that raged on the blogs a few years ago.
Anyway, it’s a panel, so I didn’t have to prepare a talk, but I did put together an introductory statement that I can use to lay out my position. This will be familiar ground to many of you, but seeing as I’ve been neglecting the blog all day, I thought I’d at least throw it online. And here’s what I plan to say:
Let me first strike a note of harmony and unity: we’re all atheists. Those of us who are activists for atheism share a common passion for the cause — the reason why we are activists is that we care very deeply about this cause.
But there are differences. Not just in how we operate, but within our motivations — atheists are a diverse lot.
For instance, for some of us, the passion might be for reconciling our godless communities with the religious default in our society: how can we help people realize that we are people too, and that we can work together?
Others might be driven to correct the deep inequities favored by religion. They don’t want to make friends, they want to see injustices resolved. If that means tearing down institutions that others cherish, then so be it.
Some of us are committed to identifying truths. When we see intellectual laziness and outright lies, we’re appalled. Before we can be friends, they have to realize that what the religious are saying is completely wrong. Don’t ask me to grit my teeth and get along with creationists, for instance: I am constitutionally incapable of allowing that nonsense to pass.
These differences between accommodationists and confrontationists are real. They represent the fact that this isn’t a group of cookie-cutter atheists whose every goal is identical; we share the broader purpose but have different foci and strengths within it. The only way to resolve these differences is to allow individuals to follow their different strategies. You will not catch me telling the kinder, gentler wing of atheism to do exactly as I do; I can see the value in their approach and encourage them to go to it. But you will also not catch me responding well to someone telling me to soften my righteous anger — I do what I do because it achieves MY goals, because it is effective FOR ME, and uses my strengths.
Working together as atheists does not mean that we subordinate the favored tactics of individuals to follow a single line of attack. The accommodationists must accommodate themselves to diversity.