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I found atheist blogs sort of by accident, having been exposed to the blogosphere by a completely different route (teacher blogs, interestingly--I did a high school research paper on education policy, and I wanted to get a sense of what real teachers thought). When I started seriously thinking about being an atheist, returning to some atheist blogs I had stumbled upon seemed natural. Some of the earliest atheist blogs I read were of the more confrontational and scientifically oriented variety (Pharyngula being the most obvious example). I think I was ready for that confrontational stance, as I was already somewhat jaded with regard to organized religion, and the unapolegetic tone such sites take with regard to their atheism shook me up and made me really think about whether I could justify my beliefs. Aside from that, I was also really helped by posts that made me realize that atheists were real people, many with defensible and compassionate belief systems. Blog carnivals were great for introducing me to the atheist blogosphere as a community. I saw that there were lots of different kinds of atheists... most importantly, I suppose, that they didn't all fit the angry intellectual teenage boy model, the only one I knew closely in real life. I guess what I'm saying is... lots of different things helped me, and needs will in some regard be different for different people. Which is why it is amazing that there are so many different atheist bloggers out there, many of them with complimentary commenter communities. There should be a way for ex-believers of all kinds to find what they need. And if readers hang out on the internet much, they learn about the characteristics of those communities. For instance, the Pharyngula commmenters can be vicious, while people will be easier on you at Ebon's place, provided you aren't being deliberately obnoxious. That said, we can't assume that everyone understands such things the first time they stumble in. So you're right... before we respond to believers, we should take a second to think "what if this is their first step?" It may or may not change our response, but it may in some cases make us gentler when it counts.
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Nov 18, 2009