What Is Organized Atheism?
Parties? Parades? What!?

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Pauline"
Subject: Re: Are Atheist Groups Rightly Seen As Hate Groups?
Date: June 05, 2002 6:19 AM

This, I think, holds the key to what (I think) is your objection, here: The question I find myself asking after reading this segment is, How would organizing into a group turn hatred of an idea or concept or premise into hatred of people?

From what I can tell, the desire to meet in groups seems, for the most part, to be a leftover from going to church. In the groups I did not meet many who were raised atheists, most had simply transferred affiliation from religion to atheism as adults. Thus much of the thinking habits of a life of religion remained: this ranged from a tendency to apply religious logic to atheistic topics to thinking of atheism as the denomination of a positive outlook rather than as the absence of an entire way of thinking. I came to these conclusions because most of the people I did meet spoke of how much better atheism is than religion.

I went to one group for several years, but mainly (only) to be an activist. At one point i had hoped to use it for social outreach, but have since decided that affiliation in an organization because of mutually held ideology is the wrong context for social outlet. The fact that this group had its own building was quite a plus for me, as I was allowed to pursue my own projects in the building while it was not being used, which projects were related to Separationism. However, my use of the atheists' building ended up being quite an impairment for that project. People can divorce affiliation with a church from simply using their building: that is easy to see; however, to use the atheists' equivalent of a church building, though it ought to be the same, was not in the minds of many. Perhaps as many as one-quarter to one-third could not get it through their minds that I was only renting space in a damn building!

Our piece, "Why Advocate For Individual Activists?" with Juan De Gennaro, formatted as a simple Q&A but really the results of a much longer and more intricate discussion with Juan and a few others, explains the questions that I have raised regarding the validity of organized atheism. In fact, it is an extension of the question to which you are responding, "Are Atheist Groups Rightly Seen As Hate Groups?" Indeed, the question of whether atheist groups are rightly seen as hate groups, also the subject of my December, 1996, column, "How Do Others See Us?" which I wrote while I was still with the group.

Ah, now we have the trail of thinking and change of mind that I have undergone since I first began to ask myself (and, on occasion, the others) just what is our point, here? Why are we atheists gathering together into groups?

I still ask this question, and still don't know the answer, but others disagree. For example, I keep hearing about this group in Idaho. Everything I've heard speaks against my viewpoint about groups, to the point where I might even drive out to Idaho to check it out some day!

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six-and-a-half years of service
    to people with no reason to believe

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