A Word on “Community” and Movement Atheism

Please join me in welcoming our newest guest author to the Manifesto – Jasmine! You will undoubtedly remember her from her participation in episode 5 of SERIOUSLY?! I am excited to have her perspective joining the crew here, and am looking forward to hearing more from her.

This post by Jasmine

Between Thundef00t’s recent videos —where he projects his views on free speech, how feminism is “poisoning” the atheist/secular community (it isn’t) & how he thinks secular women should respond to disrespect on the internet— and the recent failed “experiment” carried out by a few YouTube atheist vloggers to see if viewers care more about content with drama than topics of substance(the three main culprits have since closed their channels), it’s pretty obvious that things are not as they should be in this collective known as the YouTube atheist community…hell, maybe with the main atheist and secular community, period.

These occurrences, along with the continued issues regarding the treatment of women and other groups, have me and others wondering if it makes sense to continue to build a community or a movement based only on the basis of a lack of belief in a god or gods. I would argue that having such a community in itself isn’t a bad thing and shouldn’t be dissolved; however I do think there are micro-issues within the community that I think need to be addressed.

First and foremost, I think everyone needs to remember that atheism, like every other –ism or ideology, is NOT MONOLITHIC. People from all walks of life and variance of experience come to atheism, and not always via logic and reasoning. Logic and reason are not innate traits within us; they are acquired through learning and experiencing life, therefore they are not synonymous with atheism, and acquiring these capabilities does not make an atheist better or superior to anyone who ISN’T an atheist. We are all human beings, capable of being just as shitty and just as dogmatic in our thinking as the average fundamental evangelical, and it would do us well to remember this, lest we turn into the very thing we as atheists rally against. This is not to say that we can’t question, critique, or ridicule those theists that make extraordinary claims, or use their faith as a means to perpetuate ignorance and hatred. I suggest that we don’t lose sight of that thing those kinds of people don’t seem to grasp: nuance.

Second thing: Things are not always going to go smoothly within communities and movements; at some point, certain issues may come up within said movement, such as a current lack of diversity in the mainstream movement. Instead of taking the road of least resistance and downplay the concerns made by a group (groups) within the movement, we should hear them out and come to a consensus to remedy the situation. The worst thing we can do is dismiss the life perspectives of those who could/would make great allies or add more to the community.

Lastly, regarding drama…more specifically, drama between atheists in the movement/community: I think at times, debates or discussions over differences of opinion and ideals are conflated with being “drama”. Some people would rather debate theists than fellow atheists and I have to wonder…why? If there’s a particular issue between two atheists over something of significance that needs to be addressed, why should they not discuss it, especially if one of those atheists is acting in a very negative way, or they’re perpetuating ignorance? Discussion can lead to solutions and can open people up to other points of view that they might not have considered before, and these things can help keep a movement going. Why would anyone not want to do that?

So, I think that having an atheist movement and a community isn’t a bad thing in itself; we’re a rising minority in the US and the UK, and as that number increases, people will still need a base of support and information. However, it’s when our points of views become or remain narrow-minded and desaturated that runs the risk of making any movement seem unbearable and unappealing.

Follow Jasmine on Twitter, and check out her YouTube channel!


  1. flex says

    So, I think that having an atheist movement and a community isn’t a bad thing in itself …. when our points of views become or remain narrow-minded and desaturated that runs the risk of making any movement seem unbearable and unappealing.

    To some extent I question whether the increase in atheism can really be called a movement. It certainly is a phenomenon, but unlike some of the previous civil rights movements (even the current LGBT movement), there seems to be a lack of organization or drive to make the prejudice against non-believers a national issue.

    Instead there is a expanding group of individuals who lack religion; with a wonderful variety of individual skills, traits, talents, opinions and beliefs. Many individuals battles are taking place to reduce the impact of religion in the public sphere, for a large variety of reasons. A similar thing happens in other civil rights movements; people who are concerned about gaining those rights push where they can, and the results are like waves beating against a shore. Some waves are stronger than others, and wear away more of the rock, but all of them help erode prejudice.

    I would use different metaphor for what is happening as people loose their religion. It’s not waves against the shore, but autumn leaves falling off the religious trees. At some point the tree is bare and that pantheon becomes as relevant as the decayed elm of the Norse gods. The leaves are not trying to erode an entrenched belief, but the belief is being abandoned all the same.

    The atheist movement is kin to those leaves who have already left the tree telling those which have remained that there is no real reason to remain attached to their tree. The remaining leaves, for various reasons, deny that leaves can even be called leaves if they are not attached to a tree. The independent leaf’s rightfully get annoyed when those which remain on the tree claim that being attached to the tree is the only proper way to be a leaf. The atheist protests are about showing that all leaves, attached to trees or free to blow in the find, are still leaves.

    So it surprises me little that there are the trademarked deep-rifts in atheism. We would like to believe that having rejected the tree of religion that we are much better thinkers than those which remain on the tree. But all the variation of the leaves still attached to the tree are also present in the leaves which have left the tree.

    We can, and will, and do, form our own communities which are not tied to religion. But they won’t be formed because of our lack of religion but through the interests we share. I would like to think that the tree of humanism will be nourished by the leaves leaving religion, but that takes more effort from a leaf than just leaving the tree of religion.

    And now that I’ve blown a half-hour using properly absurdest metaphors it’s time for me to leave work and head to my committee meeting on solid waste.

  2. maudell says

    “we’re a rising minority in the US and the UK”

    …and Canada!

    I’m unclear as to what you mean by the vloggers experiment at finding out whether people cared more about “drama” or substance. What was their goal? I would assume they wanted to show people care more about drama, but I am very likely wrong.

    Anyway, I wonder about this group of atheists saying that making efforts to include more social groups (gender, “race”, sexuality, and other groups outside of the prevalent group) is in fact making the atheist movement smaller. “You shouldn’t have asked to be included, including more people is dividing us!” I tried Crommunist’s fair/unfair myth on that one, but it doesn’t quite fit yet in my opinion.

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