I can’t keep up

Baby Elephant in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Just a general note about some of the latest chaos in the atheist blogosphere:

I’m subscribed to a lot of atheist blogs, and I do read all of them. I haven’t been able to write much during the semester as I was adjusting to a new job and it turned out to take way more out of me than I anticipated. But I did read. I read as some came forward with stories they had been hiding out of fear, embarrassment, or shame; I read as some responded with sympathy and support and others responded with counter-accusations and insults; I was reading when names were being avoided and when (some) names were finally named. And it stressed me out, and then I would stop reading for a while. Then I would start reading again, like a moth drawn to a flame, or a rubbernecker to the sight of a car crash.

I don’t think I’m alone. It’s hard to stomach all the drama, especially given how much I do care about the atheist movement and want it to flourish. And frankly, I don’t know if I can keep up with who I’m supposed to like and who I’m supposed to dislike anymore. Over the last few months it felt like every time I turned around there was a new person I thought was friendly and cool who said something super-transphobic and refused to apologize when confronted, or a new person I thought was smart and interesting who turned out to be an enthusiastic apologist for another’s sexism and/or racism, or a new person I thought was an atheist hero who turned out to be a serial sexual harasser (or assaulter). I’m sure I didn’t catch every name that was named, and that I’ve forgotten some along the way. Not that there were an anomalously high amount, compared to what you might expect in any sizable chunk of humanity — just that in the back-and-forth posting and tweeting fray, I got kind of dizzy.

As a blogger myself I now feel kind of like that confused baby elephant trailing behind the stampede. All my friends got really upset and went somewhere, and I missed the fuss. What am I supposed to do now? Should I be unsubscribing from the “bad” blogs and Twitter feeds? Will people get the wrong idea about me and where I stand if I retweet something clever said by someone once at the epicenter of a scandal, or if I write a positive blog post about something (non-offensive and interesting) they wrote?

Well, in case it needs clarifying later: let it be known that I am confidently intolerant of intolerance (though there is nuance to this, of course), and that I believe everyone deserves basic human dignity and respect. I believe in working for social justice and I speak out against bigotry. My plan is basically to play this like being a fan of problematic media: I can like some things a person says while still acknowledging that that person has made some (possibly very serious) mistakes. RTs are not endorsements, etc. etc.

Readers: I’m only a baby elephant human being, so please be nice to me if I mess up or fail to be clear enough about this in the future. I would love to hear your perspectives on how you’re handling these atheist-movement growing pains, and I hope you’ll take me to task in the future if you think I deserve it.

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