This is not intended as a strict dichotomy -- grey area is just fine --, but do you view atheism or aspects of atheism as being defined individually or defined as a group? This is about personal perception or ideals, and not describing how you think others perceive atheism.
I tend to feel that atheism has some common ground and unifying aspects amongst atheists, but ultimately atheism is more individualistic. We associate on this site, but that doesn't obligate us to behave one way or the other as atheists. I don't feel that I represent you as an atheist any more than you represent me. If you want to be a sinner, I don't think you're dragging me down. If you want to be a saint, I won't ride your coat tails.
It is true that others may judge me prejudicially as an atheist based on the behaviour of other atheists and vice versa. I hold responsible the person holding the prejudice for the most part. If we were activists in an atheist organization, I may moderate my behaviour and agree to a code of conduct for the sake of that organization, but for the most part I'd say we are just human beings trying to live our lives, and we owe each other nothing more as atheists than we personally feel we owe.
And yes, I am aware that 'sinner' and 'saint' are religiously loaded terms.
I am not particularly worried about outside viewers grouping atheists in a lump, or about atheists forming subgroups -- I agree that those things are inescapable. What concerns me is the idea of people speaking on my behalf as atheists, or trying to obligate me to hold certain values.
Someone like David Silverman represents himself as an atheist and he represents the American Atheists as an organization. While I accept that some people may judge me based on his actions, I will never acknowledge that he represents me.
I doubt I am all that unique as an atheist amongst atheists, but if I am the same as others it is because that's how I feel I should be, and not because that's how the group demanded I should be. One can say how a Christian should properly behave with some authority because of the positive values ascribed to that religion. I wouldn't acknowledge the same with atheism.
Not sure. It has taken on a sub-culture because the dogma of theism demands a refutation/response as strong as those who assert with said dogma. In other words, it's an endless battle that necessitates a group front.
The group dynamic is really just a bubbling of ideas. The fact that they congregate, have symposiums, conferences, etc. is not in direct conflict with individual or independent thinking. In fact, it's the exact opposite of theism --- where they thrive on absolutes. In absolutes, once one thing falls apart, everything does.
Theism brings along with it so much other baggage that one must believe in. It is also important to note that atheism doesn't splinter in to too many different "denominations." There is something called "Atheism Plus" -- which is a load of B.S. --- but other than that, the same principles apply: WE DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD(S).
So overall, for me, it is better off maintaining a group dynamic --- it is better suited to advocate against theistic ideas and theocratic laws. However, for ideas, individualism is important to re-shaping or re-defining previous ideas or once-held beliefs, in order to better our arguments or improve ourselves in general. : )
I agree. Even as an individual, I still have freedom of association and I can form consensus with others. I think it mostly gets problematic if we start dealing in true Scotsmen.
Strictly speaking atheism is about what we do not believe, which means we won't necessarily have much else in common. I know a lot of my other views are quite minority here on this site, but that doesn't make all you wrong-headed people somehow less perfectly atheist. *grin*
The consequence of that, though, is my extreme dislike of some atheist groups who claim that "atheism" defines them... but then have official positions on other issues, as if disagreeing with them on those makes you less of a good atheist. (This does not apply to groups primarily labeling themselves "humanist" because humanism is a larger body of beliefs, and atheism is just part of it.)
Hm, yes. I agree with the end-all be-all atheist whose primary label is atheist --- which is okay, but a lack of belief in one thing shouldn't be encompassing.
I am not sure you realized I was talking about organizations when I wrote my second paragraph. (Of course an individual is more than just a walking paragon of non-belief.) To make up a fanciful example, let's say someone formed a group called Terran Atheists. A worldwide organization. BUT the group not only took a stand on whether god exists, but also took a stand (one way or the other) on abortion (maybe it's anti-), gun control (maybe they think everyone should be required to own a fully automatic weapon), single payer health care... (maybe they think everyone should only be allowed to have 3 thousand dollars a year spent on their health care--but hey at least they will have the government pay that money). [OK I've deliberately chosen positions that will offend most if not all people here.] What do these issues have to do with atheism, and why should I be expected to take specific stances on them in order to join a group that's supposedly about atheism? Why should I join a group that will claim I support those other stances as well? Why join a group that in fact implies I am not really an atheist unless I support those positions?
A single-issue group should stick to that issue, or, if they really want to hold some sort of open forum to explore other topics, do so in a way that makes it clear the group as such doesn't take a position on it; that means if that cranky eccentric wants to talk about his stuff at the meeting you should tolerate him or tolerate no one.
Methinks this says it all. I believe that all Atheists have a general need to be fair, and to listen to other arguments in order to make up their own mind, but in the end, they will choose what they believe and it may or may not be similar to that of other Atheists. Which is likely why we will probably never call ourselves "Brights."
"Would like it to be this way" is a huge improvement over the practice of some religious folks of converting people with the sword, punishing apostasy by shunning or even death, likewise with heresy, likewise with "witchcraft," and likewise with other "sins" like homosexuality (but somehow not with blended fabrics).
That "Brights" thing gets up my nose. We are the "clevers". This sucks ass.
"Herd" is the right word, considering how many people kiss Richard Dawkins' inflammatory, ill-informed behind.