• Shunning and Defriending in the Atheist Community

    There has been a wave of atheists shunning and defriending other atheists because of differences or even perceived difference of opinions. This is what the atheist community has become. Who are we? The Amish?

    Yesterday, I saw a status update of one of the people on my Facebook friend list who was downright joyful about having the opportunity to defriend a few people because they held a belief that this person didn’t like. This isn’t the first time I have seen this type of behavior from atheists and in some cases even prominent atheists on Facebook and Twitter but it still surprises me every time.

    I get that sometimes you need to defriend someone. There have been times when I have had long conversations with someone who just seems crazy irrational. Some people have no interest in a conversation and just spam my Facebook wall and comments with hate. That’s not what I am talking about today though. I’m talking about defriending someone not because of their behavior, but because of a position they hold.

    I’m vocal about my atheism and yet I still have plenty of religious friends and family both on and off line. I see religion as probably the most destructive forces on the planet and yet I don’t defriend anyone who is religious. If they want to defriend me, that’s on them, but I hope that they will see my status updates and articles in their feeds and it might give them something to think about. Maybe it might even start a… dare I say it… a conversation.

    This idea that we have to surround ourselves only with people who are in lockstep agreement with us borders on cultish behavior. There shouldn’t be a “safe space” for critical thinkers. Every space is safe as long as you have the ability to criticize irrational ideas and beliefs.

    Skeptics don’t need to protect ourselves from dangerous ideas. We have reason and critical thinking. We are like Obi-Wan Kenobi, fully capable of walking into the most retched hive of scum and villainy without a care in the world. Death sticks aren’t going to tempt us because we are just not into it. When someone expresses a differing belief on an issue we feel passionate about, we should rip it apart with reason and logic, not delete it and unfriend the person.

    Skeptics should be better than this. We’re the ones who aren’t afraid of facts because the facts are always on our side. If a fact comes out that disagrees with our position, our position changes to fit the facts, not the other way around. So if someone makes an absurd comment denying climate change, the usefulness of vaccines, questioning the morality of atheists, has a different opinion on male infant circumcision, etc., we should educate them, not defriend and shun them. That doesn’t help them or us. If you disagree with that, let me know so I can defriend you. 😉

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    Article by: Staks Rosch

    Staks Rosch is a writer for the Skeptic Ink Network & Huffington Post, and is also a freelance writer for Publishers Weekly. Currently he serves as the head of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason and is a stay-at-home dad.