My friend Neil Carter recently opined on Facebook:
Most skeptics have become experts at dismantling religion. Would that they were half as good at creating something better to take its place.
And I have to agree with him on this point. I’ve said before that there needs to be more community building. We’ve spent too much time being pushed to the margins and learning to be quiet, hidden, and self-sufficient. We’ve hidden ourselves away from the public, particularly in the South.
As Humanists of all stripes we should be working to build a better community rather than solely working to tear down. We should form more organizations like the Sunday Assembly or Chattanooga Humanist Assembly. Even groups like ChoirNooga can bring different communities together.
The atheist movement has become too focused on battling the religious communities around them. To be fair, there is a fair amount of hostility built up from years of abuses by these religious institutions. Some have been directly affected by people around them, others have grown frustrated with a group in a position of dominance that denigrates, mistreats, and maligns any who do not fit their mold.
By focusing on the abuses, atheists get labeled as angry, hateful, and defiant. They are often portrayed as bitter and resentful. If, instead, they can be convinced to change course and help us build a positive community, it leaves far less of a leg to stand on for people who want to claim that atheists are only against and not for anything.
By solely focusing on tearing down oppressive communities, atheists feed into the narrative that they are fighting against. Changing tack and building up instead should defuse that narrative. In Everybody is Wrong About God, Lindsay argues that we should focus on building up communities.
The best way to show that atheism is more than just a stance against religion, to show that it holds moral values and desires to build a strong social fabric, people must engage in constructing a society based on values we share in common. Not everyone will be interested in sharing this ideal. If enough people across all religious backgrounds can work to build on what we share rather than what is different about us we can build a much stronger society.