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The Flawed Atheist Community

The Flawed Atheist Community

Religion is a human construct, so of course we see in religion all the flaws inherent to humanity. I am reminded of the words of Voltaire: "If God has made us in his image, we have returned him the favor." But ridding a person of the religion doesn't rid a person of one's humanity, so many of the same problems exacerbated by religion occur independent of religion.

Religion didn't create the problems, at least initially. People created religion because of the problems, and as such religion perpetuates and subsequently causes and sustains the problems.

The problems to which I refer are fear, elitism, judgmentalism, absolutism, egocentrism, megalomania, and delusions of grandeur. These aren't the only problems associated with religion, to be certain. These are simply the issues relevant to this blog entry.

The atheist community has rubbed me the wrong way in recent months, so much so that I have considered canceling my membership. My moral code has not changed, nor has my outlook on life, the universe, and everything. What has changed is my view of the so-called "skeptic community." The PZs and the ThunderF00ts (Thunderfeet?) and the Amazing Atheists of the world have tossed enough rotten apples into the barrel that the whole bunch reeks of the smell.

PZ was one of the first blogs I started reading regularly when I became immersed in the community nearly four years ago. Thunderf00t was one of my favorite YouTubers back then. His videos were amazing (key word here: were).

I never liked the Amazing Atheist. The guy gets on my nerves. But whatever. My point is that the rose-colored glasses through which I viewed this community of skeptics and freethinkers got ripped off my face and stomped to tiny pieces.

I've always been more critical of "my side" than of those who represent "other teams." I don't want to accept an argument simply because it contains a conclusion I prefer or agree with. I only want those arguments that stand up to the test of reason. I maintained this view when I was a Christian. I scrutinized the arguments of my fellow Christian apologists. I consider that practice to be a major factor in my personal exodus from Christianity.

This post isn't meant to be a diatribe against any individual or group. I'm done talking about the internal problems of the skeptic community. I have no interest in any "gates" or any atheist subgroups or drawing battle lines. "Us vs. Them" is too much of a religious notion for me.

I'm here to announce that I'm not canceling my membership. Granted, if my online presence disappeared completely tomorrow, only a handful of people would notice, but this isn't about me. This is about us: humanity. We're not perfect. We make mistakes all the time. I've never been more confident in my values and moral code as I am now, and I give credit to the discarding of my faith, but, like I said, eliminating religion doesn't rid a person of any and all flaws or mistakes in reasoning.

I'm not giving up on the skeptic community because we're always going to be imperfect, and that's okay. We are capable of achieving greatness, but it won't come without stumbling and falling down along the way. We shouldn't think that we've already made it. We shouldn't think of ourselves as having already reached enlightenment. In my frustrations, I forgot my own damn mission statement: "if you see the Buddha, kill him." It's not really the Buddha we see, but our own desire for knowledge that, ironically, blinds us to reality.

The ghost of Socrates should haunt the freethinker. The beginning of wisdom is the realization that we are not wise. Knowledge begins by realizing just how little we know. Donning the label of "skeptic" or "freethinker" or "atheist" doesn't magically give us understanding.

Having this understanding not only helps us remain humble, remembering the inherent frailty of humanity also helps us be more empathic and patient with others. We will be less inclined to draw battle lines, and better prepared to learn from each other.

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