I’ve never really appreciated some of the terminology that most atheists that I interact with use in describing atheists or atheism, in general.
One of those words is community. I really don’t see how in the loosest interpretation that atheists could be defined in that way. We are not a social or ethnic group; nor do we have a shared culture or history.
We share, using that word loosely, one attribute: a non-belief in god(s). That’s it. Sure, some in certain localities may share a few of the commonalities I mentioned above, but as a whole? I don’t see how the word applies. So why do so many constantly refer to an atheist community? I’ve been looking for terminology that could best describe atheists as a whole and honestly there isn’t a term or word that would apply that I could find.
I think it’s lazy-speak, or maybe more accurately, wishful thinking since it has no basis in fact.
The other term I vehmently disagree with other atheists is describing atheism as a movement. I wrote about atheism as a movement a long while back, and yes, I even lazily referred to atheists as a community in the first paragraph because of the one commonality between us. That was clearly a reasoning error on my part.
A movement though? I don’t see it. Recently there was a blog post by one of The Usual Suspects to correct my heresy. In the post, the author states that yes, atheism is a movement and uses the gay rights movement as analogous to atheism. But wait! Isn’t the gay rights movement a civil rights movement? Well, yes, of course it is and that’s the problem with the example given. Atheism, is not about civil rights. Think about the gay rights movement: marches, rallies, in order to affect the same rights of employment, housing, and partnership as the rest of society. It has nothing to do with that fact, as she mentons, that not all gay and lesbian people agree on every jot and tittle of every issue. That’s having an individual conscience, just like atheists.
Next she bolsters her case by listing a number of individual organizations that either promote atheism, skepticism and reason, or humanism (not the same as atheism, by the way). Okay, so she mentions that just in Meetups there are 1075. So? What are they doing as a movement? It looks to me like a lot of different groups that hold their meetings and conventions to preach to the choir, but beyond that? Sure, there are organizations that lobby, even sue government at various levels for violations of separation of church and state, but does that qualify as a movement? Do all of these organizations work in concert for common goals? I may be wrong but if they do, its certainly are not transparent to me or anyone I know.
She then completes her poorly reasoned post by straw-manning the argument, as I’m making, that there is not atheist movement by saying there are people arguing that there shouldn’t be an atheist movement. I personally have never heard anyone say that, but then, in order to push a specific ideology, the author of that post often makes falacious arguments. For this specific author, as many are aware, her atheism is about pursuing an ideology.
Is it possible for atheism to become a movement? Perhaps, but in my opinion, it would be analogous to herding cats.