- The round table will be published on February 8 2012. We hope that we will be able to agree final drafts of all the pieces submitted by then; however, if a piece is still not in a version that both the author and TBAT can agree on, it will have to be omitted. We hope to include everything, but at this stage, getting it published in a version that represents at least most of the authors is the priority. Authors who could not agree with TBAT on a final version will be, of course, welcome to add their comments to the thread. If they do and people feel they were left out unfairly, TBAT reserves the right to explain what the disagreements were; obviously we won't quote any private correspondence should we need to make such an explanation.
- As most of us know, an Atheist 101 was requested some time ago and we've been working on it for ages. However, while it's been referred to on and off as 'the atheist 101', we've been planning to call it an atheist round table rather than a 101, because we felt '101' wasn't quite accurate: there are so many different ways of being an atheist that a 101 on the subject would be practically impossible. How do you do a 101 without overgeneralising to the point that some atheists end up getting excluded from something that's supposed to speak for them? Well, lately we were struck by Nick Kiddle's comment which talked about this very problem: there are certain myths circulating about atheists, many of them hostile, and atheist activists have been taking steps to correct and debunk them. However, those debunkings can be a problem in themselves when they're too sweeping; in trying to refute the basic misconception that atheists are all miserable rotten people, one can sometimes risk sounding as if unhappy atheists, or atheists with mixed feelings, or even just atheists who disagree with other atheists, aren't 'proper atheists'.
Atheist Myths 101: It's More Complicated Than ThatThe structure will be this:
In cultures where atheism is a minority position, there are often misconceptions about what atheists are actually like - and if atheists are a mistrusted minority, those misconceptions are often rather hostile to boot. Atheist activists are attempting to debunk these myths, quite rightly; however, when trying to debunk a hostile myth it can be easy to go too far in the other direction and end up oversimplifying things in a way that makes other atheists feel excluded. In the spirit of our motto, we'd like to promote an understanding of the debunked myths about atheism that's rather more complicated than that.
We will then list common myths about atheists or atheism, the common refutation to them, followed by a longer and More Complicated Than That discussion of the issue.
Atheists believe in a hostile and meaningless universe.
No, atheists simply locate meaning in non-divine interpretations of the universe.
More Complicated Than That response:
Atheism as a philosophical position doesn't necessarily imply a meaningless or hostile universe. Concepts like 'meaning' and 'hostile' are very much dependent on personal interpretation: what one person finds meaningful, another finds meaningless, and there's no absolute scale of 'hostile' or 'not-hostile' to measure things against. Some atheists consider the material universe to be meaningful in itself. Some atheists aren't particularly bothered about the nature of the universe and find meaning in other things. Some atheists do think it's a hostile and meaningless universe. Of those, some think that this is no reason not to enjoy life and create our own meaning while we're here. Others find life hard - atheists are just as prone to depression as anyone else - but simply don't believe in any deities even if they wish they could. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in deities; this can co-exist with a wide variety of beliefs about what kind of universe this is.
In the interests of preserving the privacy of atheists who would suffer from being 'outed' in their communities, the piece will handled in the same communal way as with the Depression 101. This means:
2. Suggestions and additions should be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, who will edit and compile them.
3. Copyright will be public domain.
So if anyone wants to write a piece on atheism that they can sign their name to and retain copyright, best to write a solo piece and send it to us for publication separately.
Everyone who sends in a suggestion, addition or contribution to the Atheism 101 and anyone who emails TBAT indicating their interest in the project (including beta reading) will be sent (by return email) a link to the location of the working draft.
 The other thing that really bothers me is when people make pronouncements like "atheists don't see the universe as bleak and hostile". I know they mean that there is nothing inherent in atheism that would make you see the universe that way, but the way it comes across is always that atheists are all above such things. And I'm very much not. I do see the universe as bleak and hostile because of my history and my mental state. And I feel like I'm not welcome among atheists because I make the movement look untidy and give religious fundamentalists a weak point to attack. [The Problem of Proselytizing, Jan 20, 2012 at 05:40 AM]↩
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