In the general public, there is an expectation when discussing the infighting amongst atheists, that there will never be a concrete movement away from God due to lack of cohesion. That because of atheists’ insistence on individualism and no clear rank and file, atheism in itself, is a flawed logic doomed to go out of style.
Obviously, the only flawed logic being applied is the assumption that atheism needs a concise rank and file, that it is necessary to form some type of dogmatic guideline in order to succeed. For the gazillionth time, the general public is trying to automatically tie some type of philosophy into atheism, and unfortunately, leaders in atheism are doing so too.
This is the very large error that is the detriment to the atheism movement. Individualism is necessary to being an atheist because the only requirement to be an atheist is a non belief in deities. Everything else that one decides to do as a result of not believing in gods has nothing to do with being an atheist. It has to do with that individual’s personal lifestyle choices.
But, the New Atheism and Atheism+ movements seek to tag on guidelines for being a proper atheist. And if you do not conform, you are ridiculed, ignored, or sometimes shunned. This type of behavior is very much puzzling to atheists around the globe, wondering why a difference of opinion on whether religion should be stamped out or permitted would preclude one from one form of atheism versus another. There is only one form of atheism!
The answer to that question was provided by Freud over a century ago. “A narcissism of small differences”. And that is what plagues the atheists of today.
Freud had coined this phrase after studying some earlier works of a British anthropologist by the name of Crawley. Freud recognized that there was a desire “to achieve a superficial sense of one’s own uniqueness, an ersatz sense of otherness which is only a mask for an underlying uniformity and sameness’.
The term appeared in one of his later books entitled Civilization and its Discontents, where it demonstrated the relation to the use of the inborn aggression in man to ethnic conflicts. It should be said that this is a process still considered by Freud, at that point, as ‘a convenient and relatively harmless satisfaction of the inclination to aggression’.
One would have to ask how harmless this satisfaction is in today’s age, where seemingly small differences are tantamount to the rise and fall of a politician’s career. Where a conflicting viewpoint entitles an individual to obscene amounts of negative backlash that remains available for public viewing until the internet evolves, yet again, into a different form of communication. Unlike the world of Freud’s Victorian atmosphere, we live in an age where all we have are small issues to argue over. Globally, priorities are very much aligned on the same page now, leaving us with smaller conflicts to pick at in order to keep pursuing the ever desired individualism our ego craves.
For those unfamiliar with narcissism, here is a very bare bones definition:
- excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.
vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-centeredness, self-regard, egotism, egoism More
“his emotional development was hindered by his mother’s narcissism”
extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.
self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.
(Via Google Dictionary)
As a larger analysis, atheism is not inherently narcissistic. It is just a lack of belief. Period. The narcissism comes into play when those who classify as atheist then start applying philosophical and social practices to their identifier to further exemplify their statuses from others.
For some, to be atheist means to be materialist. For others, to be atheist means to be humanist. And even further than that, there are those who treat atheism as meaning to be anti religious. One atheist’s crusade to stamp out religion would appear as inhumane to another. An atheist’s embrace of evolution can appear as pseudo science to another.
These differences are perfectly acceptable. It is the overriding avarice to be standing out above the rest, and to attain notable recognition for that feat, that a trickier cliff of solidarity is being climbed, and one easily falls into alienation with a single misstep. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and even Dennet, have made the cliff the size of Mount Everest for those of us out there who do not want to reach the apex of such a precipice, but instead maintain a healthy respect for all aspects of secular living in the world while still showing our support.
Are we less atheists because we do not agree 100% with their philosophical or social causes? Of course not. To suggest otherwise diminishes their missions, but somehow, they do no seem to recognize this. Much like the religious, if you do not agree, they seek to convert your views to match their own, or relegate your significance to the larger spectrum of the atheism movement to nil.
Hitchens was frequently known for his abrasive attitude towards atheists who didn’t support Israel, and his vitriol to anyone who supported the right to abort. He frequently interchanged humanism, secularism, and atheism, as being identical concepts, and this did the atheist community no favors when trying to garner further understanding in the global community.
There is a sense of moral absolutism brewing in the atheist community. Do we really need to divide our classification of lack of belief into further genus? Feminist atheists, humanist atheists, secular atheists, material atheists, etc.
What do these divisions accomplish? Atheists around the world have seen how divisive the genus of theists are. Shiites vs Sunnis. Catholics vs. Baptists. It goes on and on.
Can we not rise above such things? Be unified in our lack of belief, and quit giving the general public ammunition to tear us down by not allowing our representatives of atheism to conflate atheism with philosophical and moral absolutes. This is the key to help speed along the acceptance of atheism in more communities.
By allowing for such small differences to greatly divide us, our accidentally nominated spokesmen are making us appear as haphazard and disjointed as the very theistic cultures we set out to be apart from.
When will they do the right thing and cease applying extended humanities to a mere classification?