Monday, August 27, 2012
#AtheismPlus, Atheism 2.0, and top-down reform
Just the other day, my lovely wife came home from teaching a group of medical professionals (about sickened penises, but that doesn't come into this story) and she was rather excited to share her thoughts on TED talk from Alain de Botton, which she had listened to on the ride home. After a bit of back-and-forth, I realized that I was more deeply annoyed with de Botton than I could really explain. After a bit more, it hit me that my annoyance with Atheism 2.0 was roughly the same size and shape and flavor as my annoyance with Atheism Plus. When it comes down to it, both of these projects are packed with really good ideas that I'd love to see more atheist groups try out, but I have serious doubts about the value of rebranding and profound reservations about the qualifications of those who have appointed themselves to lead these reformations.
Here is how I'd really like to see it done: Local activists leading the charge, without regard to the brandings and blessings and bromides reigning down from the highest levels of the freethought kyriarchy. Want to give atheists a chance to enjoy church music, as de Botton advises? Don't just preach or write books about it, reserve a table for 30 atheists at Gospel Brunch at the Boom. Want to give atheists a sense of calendar, as de Botton strongly advises? Then key your major group events to the solstices or equinoxes. Do you agree with de Botton that communal meals are a vital part of bonding a community together? Then organize weekly lunches and monthly dinners.
Want to give atheists a chance to show solidarity with the LGBT community, in the spirit of A+? Arrange for them to table at your local Pride Festival, or better yet, march in the parade. Want to give atheists a chance to show solidarity with those being denied civil rights? Pay for tables for atheists at the ACLU banquet, to raise money to defend those rights in court. Want to help out the hungry or the homeless? Then volunteer to do so, or raise money for the cause, or both. Want to fight against theocracy? Organize an annual legislative review and lobby the lawmakers to back off.
The thing is, the amazing members of my local group have already done all these things, we've been doing most of them for years, and we still recognize all sorts of room for improvement. We are actively seeking out new ways to diversify our group in every way, and we exchange ideas with local activist leaders in Ponca City, Stillwater, Lawton, Norman, Edmond, Tulsa, Wichita, Dallas, and even Springfield, MO. We don't need top-level bloggers and bestselling authors telling us how to rebrand and remake our local groups. The grassroots are going to continue to grow from the ground up, regardless of what's happening on the mountaintops.
If all you've done is take to the podium or the keyboard to share your wonderful ideas for reforming the movement, I'm not remotely interested. If you've actually done something, really changed something for the better in your community, then please, do step forward and tell your story. Meanwhile, we've got work to do.