Infidel753 has written a rather fertile article entitled Internet insularity. I say fertile because it’s spawned numerous responses and articles like Ute’s Speaking Out and John Evo’s The Common Agenda of Atheists. It’s actually John’s article that made me aware of Infidel753′s fertile piece and I’ve felt myself needing to respond as well at considerable length.
I think the dangers of insularity that Infidel753 describes don’t apply to atheists online. I’ve yet to meet or hear of an atheist who thinks we’re really a majority, that we do in fact stand for what most people think, or are completely surprised to see political candidates pandering to christians. No, we all know we’re a minority, a much hated and misunderstood minority, and in that respect the sense of community that the internet allows for is much needed. I think it continues to be a valuable support mechanism for atheists on many levels and as discussed on several blogs recently, is very important as a beacon in the storm to those just beginning to examine the god thing, those recently arriving at an atheist answer or even those well entrenched there but who have always thought they were some lone and perhaps crazy individual.
I also don’t see atheists online being as gullible as Ron Paul supporters, swept up in some cult of personality pinning all their hopes and dreams on some odd little outspoken man to right all the wrongs. No, what I see are people with even more of the frustrations, the anxieties, the desperation than the Ron Paulians but yet don’t blindly latch on to someone to be their messiah. Oh we have our champions like Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris but they are repeatedly scrutinized and dissected. I don’t see their opinions being white washed or some team of atheist apologists rushing in to do spin control explaining what Hitchens “really meant” when he said we should bomb the hell out of all of them muslims. Even amongst ourselves online we don’t hesitate to dissect and criticize what each of us has to say, and this perhaps is due to what we all really share, and that’s critical minds.
Aside from the occasional mindless anomalies, atheists became atheists due to critical thinking. We looked at the issue, weighed the evidence, rejected the irrationality of faith and arrived here together. Now not all issues are as cut and dry as the god issue, so when we apply this same thinking to US foreign policy, health care, immigration reform, abortion, gun control or even capital punishment we probably won’t be arriving at all the same conclusions. We can be diametrically opposed to our atheist kindred next to us, but perhaps at least we can rationally debate the issues because we share that common ground of critical thinking and rejection of irrational faith. A commonality in the manner in which we think is far more important than a commonality of opinion. On a common ground of rational critical thinking, variety of opinion is actually a good thing.
What I see the atheist community as is something like the abolitionists, the suffragettes, those who fought for and still fight for civil rights and women’s rights and even like the gay community. What unites us is fighting for our rights, minority rights, against a devious, well entrenched enemy which is no longer satisfied with it’s long held trespasses against us but has been actively seeking and gaining even more ground through both political power and in capturing control of the hearts and minds of the majority (at least here in the US). We of an atheist opinion are still small, relatively unorganized, and besieged on all sides. The supposed dangers of becoming insulated in our little atheist world seem like a fantasy in light of today’s reality and I say we should be so lucky to have insularity become an actual problem.