“The Movement” – What goals should atheists be working for?

Holla heathens!

Because of the Reason Rally being this weekend, our meeting on Friday was not at the chaplaincy – instead we met in the weird Hitler bunker in Holworthy basement. If you were intending to come and got confused about the location, do not fear – this upcoming week, we will be back at the third floor of 12 Eliot St, as per usual. Sorry for any confusion.

We talked about a lot of things at the meeting on Friday – #freethinkersfreeassociating – but, because of the Reason Rally, our main focus was the future of “the movement”: is there a non-religious movement? what does it look like? what should our goals be? Greta Christina, the cool atheist writer, has a really interesting blog post on this from December. If I’m reading it correctly, I think she’s arguing that people involved in the atheist movement have a lot of different goals: reducing anti-atheist bigotry by convincing the world that we’re not baby-eaters, creating legal change to protect the separation of church and state, and convincing people out of religion.

This was in the Lincoln tunnel a couple of years ago.

I think that part of the reason for the controversy here is that those goals might be mutually exclusive: putting up billboards that say things like “You know it’s a myth!” probably doesn’t endear us to many people. At the same time, I think we’re probably a bit too timid – is it really the worst thing ever if some people are offended because the word gets out that unbelievers exist? Speaking for myself, I think that you can probably manage all three of those goals: disseminate some moderately offensive (but funny – funny is crucial) propaganda, take on the most egregious legal cases, and do loads of interfaith work with the non-crazy theists.

This is how we do propaganda.

My rule of thumb would be this: respectfully disagree with the reasonable people, publicly eviscerate the fundamentalists, and be very clear about the distinction between them. Some people get angry with atheists for wanting evolution taught in public schools, and screw those people, but I’d wager that there are also people who get angry because they feel like they’re being grouped in with fundamentalists when they just have a more or less harmless faith. Don’t get me wrong: I think that belief in a deity is stupid and intellectually lazy. However, I don’t think that decent theists should be the target of our public and withering scorn: if they want to open up a dialogue about the reasons for our disbelief, then that’s awesome, but we should try to not alienate them.

Anyway, that’s the end of my rant. Some announcements for this week:

  • Immediately following our Friday meeting this week, we’ll be having the first meeting of the HSS book club. We’re reading The Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris – it’s a very manageable read, and you can get it on Amazon for not much money. We’ll have pizza, and we’ll start around 5:40.
  • HSS Assassin is starting this week! If you’re a current Harvard undergrad and you want to be part of this, email our social chair and ensure that you’re signed up.

In the beginning was the word…

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Every Sunday, one of our regular writers will post an update on what we’ve been doing and thinking this week – especially for people whose schedules prevent them from coming to our Friday meetings, this is a place where we can continue those conversations. We’ll also be updating more sporadically during the week if there are other discussions we’d like to highlight, like “Look what those crazies in Alabama are doing!”, “Oh god, what awful thing did Dawkins say this time?”, or (most likely) “The New York Times ran a piece about atheism, and it made no sense.” To ensure that you get all of those posts, you should subscribe for email updates.

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With lots of humanist love from the whole board,

Sarah