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Concoctions of Thought

One of the things about the ReasonRally that I'm still chewing on is the relative quiet of bridging-identity groups. There were groups that were present that tried to represent secular Jewish culture, black atheists, and the like, but those tables were almost entirely quiet. I'm not sure if that bothers me; in the long run I hope that ethnic identities have far lower borders between them, with people usually considering the sum total of all human culture as a smorgasboard from which they can freely draw in construction of their personal identity (again, down with the people who kvetch about "cultural appropriation"; their separatism is error). That said, I think these groups probably are really useful to some people; people who are just becoming comfortable with postreligious identities. We're aware of groups of ex-Amish, as well as groups of ex-fundamentalists of various sorts, and beyond being able to provide support for specifics nearly unique to that situation (having lost touch with one's entire family, etc), we also are creatures of social fabric, with our words and stories and histories defining us; people might reasonably seek people with a common past or seek to build fusion identities if they personally leave another group.

Plus, becoming atheist doesn't mean leaving one's neighbourhood, usually. I would not press on black or jewish atheists any kind of duty to build a fusion identity or to take part in groups for that, but I wonder if it's a problem if efforts to build them are not doing very well. Hopefully not.

There was fortunately a wide recognition that not all of us believe the same things; the many factions in secularism (and the many people who are not affiliated with any of them) were accepted. It was, nontheless, a vaguely left-wing gathering; the vague mentions of politics generally excluded anything further conservative than mainsteam republicanism; mainstream republicans who are moderate in their views probably would not have been too offended, but anyone leaning beyond that (unfortunately, almost necessary to like any republican presidential contenders right now) probably would've had a lot to disagree with.

This doesn't bother me much; the bare fact of atheism is a major line in a worldview, but it is not the only significant line. As I've repeatedly said, I am ready to get along with liberal Christians on many topics, and consider objectivism (a philosophical libertarian-themed atheist philosophy by Ayn Rand) to be far more dangerous and disagreeable than even the devout christian left. Also, as I've mentioned at the local AA meeting, for any religious worldview, there is almost certainly a corrisponding secular worldview, with different philosophical underpinnings but the same conclusions.

For those of us who are not Secular Humanists, not Objectivists, and not AA-style atheists, particularly those whose views are vaguely near mine, we really need to build a new identity and raise a flag; Technocratic Socialism needs to become a thing to fill that space. Our moderate radicalism, emphasis on academia, rejection of the multiculturalist flavour of liberalism, and various methods of reforming society and redoing our economy are ideas that need to be said without requiring people to piece them together from the tepid (generic liberals) or the stupid (the crazy radicals). There is room for us, and there is a need for us. We can claim and reform the mantle of socialism from those who have misused it; we can bridge activism through skeptical-but-willing engagement, and we can better society through these efforts.

I am starting to think about how we can do this; I lack the charisma or people skills to be the kind of leader needed to do this alone. I can give speeches off-the-cuff that are pretty decent, and I am strong in debates, but we need this to be bigger than me, and if it is to be leader-centric in formative times, it should ideally be managed by someone both sober enough not to be corrupted by that experience and someone extroverted enough to not melt under the pressure. Also, finding people who bridge the liberal-academic and activist communities while really having a foot in each world might be challenging; once a group is established it probably would gain the means to attract or even create that temperment in people, but before then I expect things would be rough. (Even my stance towards activism is not radically or even particularly democratic; I pull different things from each community and would like any group to share those intuitions).