The secular movement has a problem, in that some of our foremost leaders get media attention by causing controversy. While this helps them draw in followers, it causes an atmosphere of infighting in the secular community that hinders us from partnering, takes our eye off the ball of important issues, and makes us look crankypants to outsiders. No wonder the stereotype of a secular person is condescending and angry.
At the Secular Policy Institute, we know that the problem comes from who we partner with, in two ways.
First, we want to positively partner with anyone who will work with us, including religious organizations. We don’t bash religion and we seek to partner with everyone. This prevents doors from closing with politicians and other big decision-makers. We even have several churches in our coalition because plenty of liberal churches support our goals of separating of church and state, and ending discrimination against nonbelievers.
Second, we also avoid partnering in some situations. We believe the secular movement should stop rewarding those who cause discord. Why are “shock jock” bloggers invited to lecture at major secular conferences? Freedom of speech is a confusing issue, but it means that each person can speak freely through his or her own channel. It does not mean that angry voices have a right to dominate unmoderated discussions on our own Facebook pages and forums. Perhaps as a community we are responsible for leading a cultural tone and guiding people towards constructive debate.
Apparently we are not alone in wanting to look more professional as a movemnent to the outside world. This week, SPI coalition member Atheist Ireland publicly dissociated itself from blogger PZ Myers in an open letter.
What are your thoughts? Do you feel that strident internal criticism makes us stronger, or that our generosity to be inclusive to all voices is being taken advantage of? Let us know on our Facebook page and on Twitter.
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