Regarding Jim Versluys's
Piece On Atheist Groups
I greatly enjoyed the discussion of the pros and cons of joining an Atheist organization (August, 2001). For the record, I am heavily involved in an Atheist organization in Portland, Oregon, and think Atheist organizations can be both valuable and rewarding.
Why organize? Simple: power. It is a truism that political power is a function of numbers and degree of organization. I invite the reader to provide his or her own examples of this. They are everywhere. The churches know this; the NRA knows this; the corporations know this; the unions know this; the political parties know this. Shouldn't Atheists know this?
Positive Atheism's magazine and web site are an excellent resource for those who cannot or will not be part of an Atheist organization. The site provides a sort of virtual organization that allows isolated Atheists to share ideas and learn from other Atheists. Simply by using Positive Atheism's resources, one becomes a member of this virtual organization.
My personal experience with Atheist organizations is that they reflect the diversity of humankind. They include bitter infighting and exemplary cooperation. Members range from authentic intellectuals to the simple-minded. The interests of members range from crude religion bashing to the deeper forms of philosophical materialism. Politics ranges from libertarian socialism to libertarian capitalism, and everything in between.
I accept this diversity (and the related frustrations) as the price of getting the benefits of organization and as part of my commitment to human rights for all.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, organizations provide human contact with those who share core Atheist beliefs. And to many of us, this matters a great deal.
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