One thing about the background to all the current argy-bargy which I’d like to talk about stems from the nature of the ‘atheist’ or ‘sceptical’ community. Please forgive all the broad archetyping which is to follow.
It’s this - If we compare it with say, a church, you’ll find that in a church, whatever the ages of the people, they are the same kind of people. I mean that the 50 year olds are pretty much just older versions of the 20 year olds. The 20 year olds represent a good approximation of how the 50 year olds were when they were that age. A church ‘speaks’ to you in the same way whether you’re 20 or 50.
Now, I contend that the atheist community is very much not like this. Here’s an analogy – suppose there’s an ecosystem, say a species of coral on a reef. There’s a fish, the Clownfish which, as a juvenile, swims around the reef generally, but, as an adult, comes and lives on our bit of coral. Then there’s a shark, whose babies hatch out and spend one year on our coral before swimming away and spend the rest of their lives terrorising surfers. Now, it maybe true that both the Clownfish and Shark live on the same coral, but they haven’t really got much in common – they come to the coral at different points in their lives and for very different reasons.
In my case, age 20 I wouldn’t have wanted anything to do with the atheist community. I was still going though my misguided “many paths to god” phase. It was only when i realised that “I don’t know” is a perfectly fine answer that i was interested in the atheist community, primarily as a refuge from those who are certain that their dogma is right. It’s the respect that the atheist community has for views which lack dogma and lack certainly which is what attracted me to it.
I accept I may be generalising too much here, but my archetypal ‘A+ supporter’ has joined the atheist community because she’s embraced some sociological and political ideas which run contrary to her religious upbringing. The pain and family conflict is still fresh in her mind and she wants the company of like-minded people.
The two of us are temporarily sharing the same space. But not happily. I am likely to be unhappy if I’ve spent 30 years finding a refuge from dogma only to be told to “Shut Up And Listen!” by someone who is more certain about everything than I am about anything and regards my lack of certainty as something to be remedied by some ‘education’. My hypothetical Aplusser is equally disappointed and frustrated to go through all the pain she has only to join a community where some people have exactly the same opinions about her new cherished beliefs as her Dad.
I hope I’ve made clear that I’m not saying that ‘old people are wise and the young foolish’. The point is that our community attracts a different category of person depending on the part of life’s trajectory they’re on. I wouldn’t have been interested age 20, and I don’t think the current A+ crowd will be interested age 50 (a guess I know – would be interested to find out).
Comments welcome …