Moving Toward Post-Atheism


Bridget GaudetteThis post was written by Bridget Gaudette, our spring intern for Members and Partners programs.

I was inspired by a recent article by George Dvorsky, the Chair of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. The article was titled “Why Humanists Need to Make the Shift to Post-Atheism.” First, let’s examine what he could mean by “post-atheism.” I posit two possibilities: 1. describes humanity when all religious belief has disappeared. In this case, we’d all be post-atheists because atheism would be too irrelevant to have any value in our identity; 2. suggests that there is a more evolved and thus more desirable state than atheism. That is, it reflects a more clear-headed and less heated stance that some atheists will eventually reach as they mature beyond atheism. I believe #2 is the perspective that the author is drawing from.

The central theme of the article was to encourage us to move away from bashing religion while building up the humanist movement. The part of the article that got me thinking was in the first paragraph. Dvorsky said, “I’m getting annoyed by all the anti-religious propaganda that litters my Facebook newsfeed […]. What are you hoping to achieve by posting such facile and inflammatory material?”

I am guilty of posting the occasional anti-religious picture meme or quote myself, but I do not see the point in the extremes. I don’t want to see a Jesus or Mohammed engaged in sexual acts with each other. I don’t believe it serves the greater good. The same is true with publicity stunts that some in the secular movement feel are necessary. I am coordinating a protest with some fellow freethinkers and the concept was simple: we get some signs and a group of people and we let the townsfolk know that we oppose religious encroachment on public property. I was criticized for not introducing more drama. When I asked what I should have done, the criticizer stated that she would have brought a bunch of fake rocks and done a faux-stoning. In the fashion of WWJD, I thought about a person who found success when fighting for equal rights: MLK Jr. What would he have done? Dress up in whiteface and drag around a chained-up black man for dramatic effect to demonstrate the societal shackles that black Americans were still encumbered by? No. I don’t think so. This would have gotten him more press, which is the point of such stunts, yes, but does it help legitimize the movement? Do we get taken more seriously? I think we have to look at best practices. What actions have brought about the most change? Stunts or lawsuits? Dramatics or persistence? Costumes or reason?

All this being said, I, like Voltaire, might not agree with what you say or how you say it, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. We all need to vent, and this is good for our mental health. Some folks do this by displaying anti-religious pictures or by lashing out at theists. That’s fine as long as the goal of bettering humanity is always in the forefront. Add some substance.