Eating Our Own: How You Can Save the Movement (David Smalley | The Thinking Atheist)

While I've been peripherally aware of him for a while, David Smalley has not spent much time in the center of my focus when it came to scoping out atheist material on YouTube or elsewhere ... at least up until now.  His talk – Eating Our Own – came up in my YouTube feed courtesy of Seth Andrews and The Thinking Atheist, and being aware of some of the fractures which have been and are continuing to occur in the atheist movement, I gave it a look.  I am very glad to have done so.

Smalley takes a measured yet critical look at how the atheism, online and otherwise, has segmented itself into camps and subcultures, then each takes to sniping at others, mostly about minor points and issues which unfortunately overwhelm what should be the primary points of contention.  The fact is that such fragmentation is costly to us, especially at a time when religious interests are getting a boost from the likes of Donald Trump, and that we need to be willing to push the side issues TO THE SIDE and pull together on the central and most critical points which concern atheism and related matters, such as state / church separation.

The thing is, though, David says it much better than I can, so I'll leave you in his good hands.  Please enjoy ... and THINK about this.

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Replies to This Discussion

Smalley is right. I won't speak of the individual things he mentioned even though they are on target. However, I will mention a glaring item that, for me, is hard to dismiss and that is the division of atheism groups by race. I can name all of the people of color atheist groups across the country while in the major atheist organizations people of color are difficult to find aside from a leader (a leader). The power of a movement is diluted when those in it disagree to the point of nonparticipation.

Donald, one exception I would like to cite is the work of Mandisa Thomas.  She spoke at a joint meeting of NOFS, Cleveland CFI and perhaps some other local atheist organizations a few months ago.  She gave a terrific talk and specifically focused on how people of ANY color can help ex-believers of the black community.  I wish we could have recorded it.

Thanks Loren for an important and well presented discussion.

In one of Smalley's last slides:

"How we save it:

We stick together, because WE are all we have.

We stop searching for the perfect atheist.

We refuse to become yet another unlikely cult.

We stop allowing the screeching nonsense to control the narrative.

We speak up reasonably and respectfully.

We stop eating our allies.

We stop eating our own"

Those all seem like good things.  I think that a lot of the behaviors that David is addressing, are in groups or discussions that I dont see myself.  But then I have a pretty secluded life. 

Don I agree with you about race.  To me, when a person is able to see in another person, up close and personal, the humanity that is the same as their own - despite differently shaped features, different skin color, hair, and accent, and sometimes different community and experience, that is when they start to know something valuable about the human condition.

Religion grows and prospers by defining "us" and "them", restricting "us" to narrowed identity and vision, while dehumanizing "them".  Which often leads to some terrible consequences.  As atheists, we know we have only one life, and in the end it seems brief.  We should do what we can as a community that benefits from the talents and experiences of all of us.  That means having a meeting of minds, talents, and emotions among people of all races.

Complete agreement, Daniel.  I wish I could say that a guy I've been following one way or another for the past five or so years, one Steve Shives, agreed with you and Smalley, but apparently, he doesn't, and that bothers me more than a little.  Things like that make me worry that the atheist movement, such as it is, will remain fractured and fractious for a while to come.  Meantime, I try to keep my own house in order and not do to others what I wouldn't have done to myself ... and hope that's enough.

Loren, I had forgotten about the infighting folks.  I think what you do is excellent, and far more than just enough.  I also really appreciate your attitude.

Well put, Daniel.

"Violence arises from powerlessness."

Loren, I don't remember which ancient Roman gave us Smalley's message.

Isaac Asimov came close with "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."
Except that we are talking less about violence than about toxic disagreements, especially online, as Smalley stated.
Loren, violence can be expressed physically, verbally, or via gestures.

What they have in common is powerlessness and a need to influence the actions of others.
Tom, I can ignore somebody who's ranting and raving at me. However, the second they throw a punch at me, they're fucked. I will see to that personally. The difference between verbal violence and physical violence is the difference between talking about ice cream and eating it, except nowhere near as pleasurable.
Okay, if you insist.




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