Atheist Nexus Brouhaha

A Place of Peace?In the last few days it seems that there has been some commotion on the subject of the A|N in the Atheosphere. I’ve been keeping myself busy with other things and haven’t been very active in the Nexus and thus I missed the actual conversation.

What happened in short is that after the donation request, some people raised concerns regarding where the money is going, why so much is needed and other assorted questions. It seems that there is a general feeling of distrust and skepticism on this issue which I think culminated with the recent posting from the Atheist Blogger.
Adrian has since changed his opinion on this after private correspondence he had with Brother Richard but I think the whole event was for the best.

You see, I am a big supporter of transparency and furthermore I am a skeptic. It goes against my nature to simply accept someone’s word that “it’s for a good cause”. Indeed I am diametrically opposed to the following statement from the donation page:

Quite a few members have chastised me for posting the below budget. Many feel that I am being way to open and only making it easier for people to make me a target for their scorn.

If anything, I feel that there was not enough information provided in the donation page which is what led to people to question the amount of money requested. If the A|N were to not just request this amount of money, but also keeps thins secret I wouldn’t have bothered donating. Indeed I avoided donating anything before I got a breakdown of the donation amount and even then I did it conservatively as many sums were suspicious.

I can truthfully say that the only reason I donated in the first place is because I’ve already invested some time and effort to the A|N and I’ve grown to trust Richard from private conversations. However this is certainly not true for all, and Richard cannot really have one-on-one chats with every member of the Nexus in order to build up the same level of trust, and this is where transparency comes into play.

All examples of the Rational Responders or the FFRF making a lot of money and keeping things secret mean absolutely nothing to me, for I have not donated to them either. However I do believe that people who donate to those causes do so because of the level of trust and goodwill the people in charge have built up. The A|N OTOH is very new in all this and there is basically very little reason for people to donate – until that trust and goodwill has had time to grow.

For each vocal person like Adrian Hayter, who comes out and declares the reasons why he is leaving or not donating, you can be certain that there will be 100 silent ones who have the exact same concerns. I had many of the exact same questions with regards to the donation breakdown but instead of driving me to write about it, I decided to wait and see.

For this reason, the A|N team should be actually glad that someone voiced these concerns. By having someone challenge the donation drive and ask for questions, we (the silent majority) have now a much more clear idea of what is going on and can decide either way. Indeed having such a “detractor” admit publicly that he was wrong, is a good thing in the long run. It is in A|N’s best interest to encourage skepticism, not hide it.

I think Vjack put it best:

Frankly, those who seem determined to stick their heads in the sand bother me more than those asking tough questions. I am an atheist, but I was a skeptic first. To see dissent and skepticism discouraged in a community of atheists is surprising. The investigation was the right thing to do, and people should keep asking questions until they have been answered to everyone’s satisfaction.

Do not put your head in the sand and do not expect freethinkers to follow the religious motif of giving 10% of their income unquestionably. Yes, the respect to authority and the blind trust for “benevolent dictators” give the religious front much power and influence, but it is also part of their weakness.

You will never get the same behaviour from people like me, but make an effort to earn maintain our trust and 10% might start looking too little.

Nexus of activity

I’ve recently started taking a more active role in the Atheist Nexus (A|N for short from now on) which has recently reached 2200 members.

It all started when I decided to promote Get Satisfaction as a better place for support than the fora. Brother Richard picked it up and after some discussion and simple coding, we implemented it on the sidebar and started urging people to use it. I took the admin role in it and that was my trigger to take a more active role in the whole thing.

So currently there’s a few things going on. First of all, there is a new group for people who want to volunteer for the improvement of the Nexus. Currently they are just asking who wants to participate (in the various categories( but they’re not doing anything specific. My fear is that if they don’t step up and start asking for specific things to do, people are just going to lose interest. I’ve voiced my concerns and ideas on it but all I can do at the moment is wait for further news.

To tell the truth, I think it’s wrong to wait for instructions from “higher up”. We all know how disorganised and argumentative Atheists are so expecting them to take orders is a recipe for failure. We need to employ a way to use that to our advantage. My idea is that we should have a very decentralized concept of organization. People should be free to do what they wish to promote, help and expand the nexus. We should be promoting creativity unbound and ways to allow people to do absolutely what they want, how they want in order to build their networks or their projects. All that the nexus should be doing is serving as the hub and now and then giving the necessary sparks of activity to jump-start more of these.

At the moment unfortunately there’s only discussions in the fora going on, which is not very different than a regular message board like the Internet Infidels. While this is all well and good, it does not provide anything new or exciting and unless something more social or unique is created soon, people will stop bothering, especially since the forum engine is not the best I’ve seen.We need to start doing exciting stuff while iron is still hot!

I have an idea on what might make the Nexus stand out from all the other social networks and I’ve taken a first step by starting a group on it and I have had a moderate interest in it but I need more solid tools in order to make it work. The basic group options are just not sufficient.

Last thing I’ve been trying to have is to open the A|N to search crawlers and have it indexed in order to increase the SEO and discoverability. The others seem not to agree so much with my idea mostly because there is a general feeling of persecution going on (understandably in some cases). However having the A|N private does not provide any more security and it still stops people from linking to it. Anyone following a link to forum discussion or whatnot, will end up on a wall asking him to register and few would take the hassle, especially if they are not atheists. Thus, any interesting discussion outcomes or whatnot, are effectively closed off.

Another thing that I did manage to arrange from there is to discover more Atheists who use Twitter. I’ve started following most of the ones that I knew of and I’ve found that it is a good way to have some quick answers or conversations. I suggest that if you use twitter, add the rest of us and if you know other Atheists on it, tag them so that we can find them.

Anyway, currently there is still a lot of activity at the A|N but I have already noticed that most people who registered at the start don’t even bother logging in anymore. Hell, we’ve got 2k members and I can only ever see about a dozen or two online at any one time. I only hope that this will not die out before it even gets off the ground.

Political Orientation of the Freethinker

light spell
CC - photo credit: pbo31

Soon after I implemented the member pages in the ACP I noticed something interesting. It seems that most people who are irreligious, atheist or generally freethinkers have a tendency to orientate to the left libertarian quadrant of the political compass. This was further solidified when Waldheri, who noticing the same trend, inquired on it at the Atheist Nexus fora.

The results were impressive. From out of the 20 people who took the test, 80% were in the left-libertarian quadrant, with a lot of them being on the far left/libertarian end, three were in the right and just one firmly in the middle. All of them were in the libertarian quadrant.

To me this is quite…invigorating (for lack of a better word). It means that most atheists are indeed free spirits and have an intense dislike for authority. I cannot claim to know the reasons but it seems to me that this is quite probably because we are always at odds with the authority of organised religion and have realised that authority is always at odds with freethought.

Even though libertarianism was a bit to be expected, the amount of socialist-leaning freethinkers is the real news in this case. I am immensely happy that most of us realise the inherent superiority of socialistic principles over the “free market” and that contrary to the Objectivist claims of growing popularity, the economic leanings of most Atheists are to the left[1. This also explains why the Libertarian party of the US is so weak. Many Atheist must be turned off by the far-right political leanings it has, even though it is libertarian].

I guess that is another reason for U.S. Atheists to be disheartened, since they are living in a country where there is no left & right but rather right & extreme right. 😛

So I’ve been thinking. If so many of us are in that quadrant, shouldn’t we have an appropriate name? Unfortunately “libertarian” has been hijacked by the right-libertarians and generally when one hears that, they immediately imagine laisez-faire capitalism.

We have the other terms for our disposal of course: Libertarian Socialist, Anarcho-Communist etc, but due to the McCarthyist propaganda the immediate negative connotations (especially for US Americans) are too large. Furthermore, these are all two-word descriptions and I’d really like to see a description that is distinguishable and easily digestable.

Personally, I believe that Communist is the most appropriate term but due to people being in the habit of confusing Communism with Stalinism or Maoism, that would probably do more harm than good (I’m also curious to see how many of the people who took the test realised how close they are to true Communism – No that’s not a “True Scotsman” fallacy).

I’m afraid that at this point I don’t have any suggestion for a better name but I’ll keep you posted if I think of anything.

Most importantly however, this is the first actual common point a majority of atheists seem to have. If indeed there are many of us like this, this could be a way to deal with the “Herding Cats” problem that seems to be plaguing us. An actual political focal point that is absolutely different than all the other political movements out there could be what we need to start having a common voice heard.

In any case, I’d love to hear what the rest of you opine on this subject? Do you think/believe/agree that most of the Freethinkers are leftist libertarian? Do you have a good idea for a left libertarian political label that rolls of the tongue? Finally, can we use this as a way to organise and form the political muscle that is needed?

Άθεοι του Nexus

Μία καινούργια σελίδα δημιουργήθηκε στο διαδίκτυο σαν ένα social group για τους άθεους και αγνωστικιστές. Το όνομα είναι Atheist Nexus. Δέν ξέρω κατά πόσο θα είναι χρήσιμο μετά το facebook αλλά τουλάχιστον θα μας δώσει ένα περιβάλλον με πιο θετικές αντιδράσεις και περιθώρια συζήτησης και συνδέσμων.

Αυτή τη στιγμή, τα μέλη της σελίδας αυξάνωνται ραγδαία αλλά προβλέπω οτί μετά το αρχικό burst δημοσιώτητας, η ταχύτητα θα πέσει. Προσωπικά αναμένα πάνω-κάτω 10.000 μέλη αλλά ελπίζω να βγώ πολύ λάθως.

Anyway, δημιούργησα ένα γρουπάκι για όποιον έλληνα αποφασίσει να έρθει στο πάρτυ και ήδη ειδοποίησα τον πιο “κραγμένο” Έλληνα Άθεο που ξέρω 🙂 Ελπίζω να δω τους περισσότερους σας εκεί.

Spread the word