Hussein Kesvani writes about how internet atheism sucks. As an internet atheist, I have to agree.
To understand where online atheism is at the moment, you only need to do a quick search on YouTube – the platform that acts as a gateway for most people entering the internet atheist community. Some of the most popular viral videos include “How Feminism Destroyed ‘New Atheism'” by ThunderF00t; “Rape, Feminism, and The Amazing Atheist” by “The Amazing Atheist”, TJ Kirk; and various videos of Milo Yiannopoulos talking about atheism on college campuses.
Spend some time looking at this stuff and you’ll find there are few videos critiquing religion intellectually, or offering support to new atheists. Instead, the videos that seem to resonate most are those that use atheism as a smokescreen to comment on the horrors of female body positivity, of sex dolls “triggering” feminists and, of course, those hooked on British tabloid articles claiming the impending overthrowing of Western civilisation by invading Muslims. It’s the kind of thing you might see your Britain First-following uncle post on Facebook, before calling for all halal butchers to be closed because “they fund ISIS”.
There are of course some youtube atheists who do provide the intellectual critiques they want; try Aron Ra, or Seth Andrews, or The Atheist Experience, or…oh god, I just searched youtube for atheism to remind myself of all the great channels out there, and just got a long horrible list of just the worst people. It really is drowning in hateful noise.
It’s also oppressive noise. One thing I’ve noticed about the rational, conscious side of the youtube atheists community is that they tend to avoid calling out the bad actors on the other side — this is not necessarily a bad thing, if you’ve got an intellectual focus it is a huge distraction to have to slap down the horde of rotten atheists in addition to the hordes of rotten theists — but it does mean that there isn’t a lot of vocal opposition to the corruption of youtube atheism. It also doesn’t help that when someone like Steve Shives does directly attack the regressive atheists, he gets a ton of demented alt-right squirrels throwing 90 minute long raging monologues by talking kangaroos or suits of armor or chattering cow skulls.
The thing is that we need to do more than just declare how stupid believers are while shackling atheism to the likes of anti-feminism, racism, alt-right imperialism, and libertarian economic bullshit. We have to remember that our audience is more than our fellow smug unbelievers happily slapping each others’ backs at how clever we are. We have to also provide an intellectual and social home to people who are searching for answers.
“The majority of ex-Muslims leave Islam because they have issues to do with theology. There is a fear of being cast out by your community, but the process of leaving Islam is basically the same as anyone leaving a religion. Yet, the online atheist community – whose spokespeople are apparently white straight guys – make these videos talking about Muslim barbarians raping white women, or imposing sharia law on schools and cinemas. They don’t realise that they’re implicitly talking about our families, friends, the people we still care about.”
Those people, and people like them. Do you think black atheists want to share a space with people who argue for scientific racism? Or that women atheists find it pleasant to be told to go make a sandwich? We’re doomed if the only people favored by atheists are arrogant white dudes. Like me.