We All Get Burned
The Freethought Movement: a diverse culture of largely good and often brave people who are putting themselves out there in the fight against the false and frequently damaging claims of superstition.
So why is it so eager to divide, rather than unite?
Of course, a community of people that prides itself on enlightenment and skepticism will often bring a measure of strong personality (and ego) to the table. And the blogosphere is a tempting bullhorn for anyone who might feel misunderstood, slighted, insulted, misrepresented or wronged.
A point of disagreement happens with Person A, and the first response from Person B isn't understanding, empathy, compassionate concern or constructive input at the source. Instead, it's an explosion of finger pointing, vitriol, division and even scandal. Person A returns fire with a full battery of jabs, sarcastic slams, jeers and insults. Person B does likewise. And of course, both parties ask all within earshot to choose sides.
What a tragedy. A small spark which could have been quelled without fanfare is fanned into an uncontrollable wildfire, harming everything and everyone in its path.
Nobody's saying that people should operate without challenge, but I am aghast at how easily and quickly disagreements on legitimate issues devolve into finger-pointing, poisonous language and ugliness.
We're supposed to be fighting superstition. Instead, we're fighting each other.
And the world is watching.
If I had stumbled upon this kind of unpleasantness as a believer, I might have immediately walked away from all things atheist, convinced that these supposed "freethinkers" were far more splintered and unpleasant than the church. I might not have been so quick to watch, to listen, to entertain a different perspective, to examine the evidence, to plug in, to open myself to a then-foreign secular worldview. I might have missed out on all of the wonderful things a reason-based, deity-free life (and community) had to offer.
There's a time for constructive, solution-based conflict. I'd just like to see our disagreements addressed, not with shouting voices and finger-pointing, but with empathy, compassion, effective communication, solid information, goodwill and a focus on the larger goal: a reasonable, rational planet for ourselves and our children.
Perhaps one day we'll stop firing the flaming arrows and discover the beauty and power of the olive branch.