Atheism: A movement or an understanding?

There’s a small part of me that views atheism as a ‘movement’ of sorts, however I feel this part of me fading away quickly. I feel this part of me was at large in recent years, when I had just become an atheist, and I was hungry to meet with and connect with other atheists. I still feel a similar hunger, but it is mostly just for conversation and knowledge, which I get through talking to theists, atheists, and anyone in-between both on sites like this and in my life.

So I don’t really view it as a movement anymore, although I know there are people who do. It just seems like a simple truth to me now. Something both intrinsic and extrinsic that I came to through research and discussion, it’s just a piece of how I view the world around me, even if it is quite a large piece.

The problem with viewing atheism as a ‘movement’ to me is that you run into a lot of atheists who aren’t interested in being civil, not to say they are a majority among atheists but there’s plenty of them, and they’re only interested in telling people with opposing views how wrong they are. They don’t do it in a civil way, they don’t try to have a two-sided discussion, they don’t want to hear differing opinions, they don’t want to solve problems in ways that make sense – it’s made me more than understanding as to why a lot of theists are wary of me when I label myself an atheist (I do tack the word agnostic on there as well most of the time). People like this are just as bad as theists who are unwilling to hear the other side of the discussion. If you’re going to not believe in something – you should know what that something is, you should give people a chance to disagree, because if the truth is on your side then you have no reason to feel anger or fear towards someone else’s words regarding their beliefs.

But I have also met many people within the ‘movement’ (I’m really not sure if this is an accurate word or not) who were understanding, and genuinely interested in what theists had to say, and are concerned with truth and willing to listen rather than just finding childish ways to attack someone’s opposing views. I am grateful for these people in that they spread information in a way that others might listen, in that they intervene in wrong-doings in civil ways, but I worry that the group of atheists who don’t want to waste their time doing things right might forever ruin any chance I have (or others have) of being taken seriously without having to explain my views from every angle. Atheists are still a minority, and if we want to majority to listen and to treat us fairly, we don’t get there by spreading hateful messages and acting uncivilized.

I have begun to separate myself from the ‘movement’ aspect of atheism for reasons dealing with people like this. I can still talk about my views without having to feel a part of some group. But I don’t want to identify myself with a movement that, instead of doing things peacefully, often resorts to calling the other side names and telling them they’re stupid. Progress will never be made this way. People will never attempt to hear our voices if they sound angry and bigoted. We have reason, we have logic, hell, we even have proof – there’s no need to be angry, hateful,  childish, or whatever else towards theists unless you in fact do not want any progress made toward a secular society.

So my atheism is more of an understanding. It’s a truth, to me. It doesn’t have to coincide with some huge movement, I can reasonably fight for what I believe is right – secularism – without attaching atheistic ideas onto it. Theists can also be secularists, so why should I view it as some sort of war that’s us vs. them? Why should I label myself as part of a movement when there’s no need – I can still fight for freedom of religion, I can still try to do something about the wrongs done in this world without having to attach my atheism to it.


About thatcatkatie
I came to this site to discuss my beliefs, and yours too, and hopefully learn some things from my fellow human beings.

9 Responses to Atheism: A movement or an understanding?

  1. You manage to say quite a bit with so few words. I have to say that I have been wresting with exactly what you say in this blog. I generally refer to myself as a Humanist, I like the ideals and the philosophy. Generally amongst those who identify strictly as Humanist it is the lack of belief and the desire for secular ideals that is the message. I have nothing against people of faith, my real dislike is for religion. Very well stated article. Thank you.

  2. MC says:

    I’m at a similar point. It takes a lot of work to come to atheism, and then when you do, you have to work out what to do next.

    • thatcatkatie says:

      I think that the movement aspect of it could be better utilized in the future, but our numbers are still small and people aren’t used to being confronted with atheism. In the past, atheism was hardly regarded as anything else other than heresy and evil, we’re starting to gain a voice now but we’re not sure where to go with it it seems.

  3. savinokeith says:

    Just as any of the major religions have their extremists that ruin the image of the religion, so too does the atheist camp. The only way to combat any of the extremists is to do like you are doing, speak in a logical, open minded manner to people from all walks of life, and just set a good example for what you represent. In the end, all of us are in this crazy world together, with its natural disasters, disease, and death. We all need to get through it with as much humility and grace as possible. We need to accept that others will have a different path in life, and that is fine, as long as their path doesn’t interfere with others in a negative way.

    I end a lot of my comments by pointing out that none of us can truly answer the holy grail of questions ‘why is there something rather than nothing?’ In other words, how does the universe even exist? I’ve devoted an entire post to this question, and essentially no one, not even physicists who claim they know how to answer this question, know the answer to this. To me it seems logical that there is Something beyond our observable universe, but to me it is only speculation to discuss why we are here and what is expected of us.

    • thatcatkatie says:

      That’s true, not religion, nor philosophy, nor science has any definitive way of answering that question – all we can do is speculate. But I also often wonder if there NEEDS to be a why, but it’s hard even to contemplate.

  4. goldheathen says:

    Well said, I agree with your points, though I agree sadly. I wish that the movement you speak of was possible. There is, I feel, a great deal of work to be done combating and reversing the harm done by theism. If only we could organize the thoughtful, considered atheists, anti-theists, and agnostics to act as a barrier against the various insanities of the religious. If only those of us who know could make a more concerted effort not to exclaim and lambaste but to actually converse and teach maybe we’d make a greater impact. Somebody once compared organizing atheists to herding cats, unfortunately the comparison may be more apt than I’d have it be. Thanks for the post.

  5. superdillin says:

    I always view secularism as the movement, or even skepticism, more than atheism itself.

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