I often find myself arguing with people about what I see as basic points about atheists and the atheist movement. And a big problem is that I find these points to be extremely obvious, and can only discuss them with scorn or snark. I often want to tell people that it’s not my job to educate them, and they can educate themselves.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any good place to refer people. Despite the vast online presence held by atheists, decent atheist 101 resources are lacking.
I can speculate why: most introductory atheist materials address the adversarial relationship between atheism and religion. “Atheism 101” seems to consist of going over basic arguments for theism, and explaining why they’re wrong. And then there are a few extras, like why atheism doesn’t imply a lack of morality, and a lot of hairsplitting over agnosticism vs atheism.
Maybe the issue isn’t a lack of resources, but that the available resources simply aren’t to my satisfaction. When I want 101 resources, I often want them to explain “Yes, there is an atheist movement, no it is not a religion, why is this so fucking hard?” or “No, not every context is appropriate to argue about religion, but you’re effectively telling atheists to shut up,” or “Yeah some atheists are angry, and why shouldn’t they be?” Only, say it nicer than I would.
One of the more useful resources I’ve found is Greta Christina’s Blog (and her old site has a nice sidebar with many highlights from the archives). I should also plug her recent book, The Way of the Heathen, which I believe includes some of this content.
Perhaps this is because Greta talks about atheism in a similar context to when I talk about atheism. Namely, Greta is an experienced and long-time queer and feminist activist, as well as an atheist activist. Perhaps like me, she has to give an account of her activism to other activists, justifying her cause without necessarily trying to convince people that religious beliefs are wrong.
Perhaps other atheists never find themselves in such contexts. Perhaps they’re satisfied with the current 101 resources, because the only thing they ever want or need to explain about atheism is that atheism is right and religion is wrong. Or maybe they’d rather not rely on atheism 101 at all, doing all the work for themselves.
I also have complaints about some of the common contents of atheist 101 resources. I get peeved at discussions of definitions, particularly ones that talk about agnostic atheism, or the distinction between “strong” and “weak” atheism. It’s prescriptivist rubbish, with no concern for how words are used in practice. If you ever want to know where “dictionary atheism” comes from, try reading some basic atheist resources.
The controversial nature of atheist definitions can be an obstacle. Obviously you want a 101 resource to explain definitions, but you also want it to stick to basic uncontroversial facts. My preferred solution is for everyone to agree with me so that it’s no longer controversial, haha.
Dear readers, do you know of any good atheism 101 resources? What sort of things would you like to see in atheism 101?