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The discussion about whether or not atheism is a choice, brought to my mind a feeling I've had, that some of the atheism I see on the Internet seems to me to be an identity philosophy, being used in all the same harmful ways as any other identity philosophy. I did a Web search with "identity atheism," and this came up at the top. I thought it might interest you, if you haven't already read it.
I ignored that post, and almost turned my nose up at this one too, but for some reason I decided to read it after all, and I'm glad I did. I actually is about what we ourselves can do! Even better, it's not only about what we ourselves can do for people adversely affected by the ravaging, but also what we ourselves can do to help reduce it. Everything, everything that I've been wishing to see, instead of all the posturing and fruitless debating that I'm seeing everywhere else.
Also, what you said about feeling sadness, anger, and even an intermittent sense of hopelessness, means a lot to me, because a lot of what I see in other discussions looks to me like people talking about some movie or TV series, without really feeling it, as something really happening to real people.
"It seems virtually impossible to pursue freethought and any sort of social acceptance or belonging at the same time. Being a freethinker seems to entail a willingness to go it alone."
I see some irony though, in saying that freethought rejects tribalism, in view of the tribalism I've seen under the banner of "freethought." The people promoting that tribalism have all claimed to be practicing and promoting freethought. I think I understand what you mean by "freethought," but something still troubles me about your use of the term. I'm not sure why, but your use of the term "freethinker" troubles me even more, because it seems tribalistic.to me. To explain why, I'll rephrase some things you wrote, in what seems to me a less tribalistic way.
"The free thinking that I want to practice includes a willingness to follow evidence and reason where it leads while simultaneously working to guard against all the various biases known to pollute decision making. That doesn't come by accident; it requires a sustained commitment."
"Swallowing the entire ideology of one political party without question and rejecting the entire ideology of another party is not free thinking. Thinking freely, to me, means critically examining individual ideas and accepting those that are reasonable and supported by evidence, regardless of which party might advocate them. This sometimes results in appearing to be a moderate; however, what is really happening is that in thinking freely I'm taking the good ideas and discarding the bad, without blind political allegiances or tribalism.
"For me, thinking freely has been an effective antidote to tribalism and some of the worst pettiness associated with tribalism. When someone on one side of any particular rift does something laudable, I feel free to praise it without worrying about betraying my values, or some tribe or particular dogma. And when someone on one side of any particular rift does something hypocritical, I feel free to criticize it and even repudiate it if necessary. I feel free to go where reason and evidence lead me without regard to various ideologies, dogmas, or tribal allegiances."
"It seems virtually impossible to consistently think freely and experience any sort of social acceptance or belonging at the same time. Thinking freely seems to entail a willingness to go it alone. At least, it has for me."
Also, I think that the benefits that you've experienced that you're discussing, as benefits of what you mean by freethought, are more from qualities of character that you might not think of as part of freethought, than from freethought itself, like love of truth, honesty with yourself and others, a sense of justice and fairness, and concern for the welfare of others. Without those qualities of character, emphasizing the role of reason and evidence as bases of belief over faith, tradition, authority, and/or dogma, can just as easily become an excuse for tribalism, and every other kind of harmful behavior, as any other way of thinking.
I don't feel confined to your two choices. I do allow my views to evolve, continually, and I always have, but certainly not to bring them in line with modern morality. ROTFL! You must be kidding. Or else, "modern morality" means something very different to you from anything I can see that it could possibly mean. What do you mean by "modern morality," and are you seriously advocating that we all revise our views to conform to it in every way.
Anyway, I'm surprised to see you, as someone who is promoting free thinking, advocating that the aim of revising our views should be to bring them in line with some way of thinking, no matter how much you approve of it, or what you call it, whether it's "modern morality," or even "skepticism" or "free thinking." Seeing you say that is especially surprising to me, after seeing your post about freethought and rejection of tribalism. The more I think about it, the more it surprises me. If a person changes their views about homosexuality, gays and gay marriage, it should be as a result of their own experience, observation, research and sound reasoning, and not in order to bring their views in line with whatever collection of views you're calling "modern morality," however that may be defined or whatever its content might be.
My views are certainly in opposition to current popular thinking about homosexuality and same-sex marriage, mainly because they're in opposition to current popular thinking about love, marriage, romance, sex, morality, healthy living, and many other things.
In your last words in the post, it looks like you're saying that when there don't seem to be any prospects for changing popular thinking, that we have to choose between fighting a hopeless battle against it, or believing it ourselves. I doubt that's what you meant to say, but really, the whole post, on the face of it, looks like that, like you're saying that if we disagree with some deeply entrenched part of popular thinking, we have to choose between devoting our lives to a life-and-death struggle to change it, and adopting it as our own.
Apart from that, I don't think we can ever be sure that any change in popular thinking can't be reversed. I've seen changes in popular thinking that I definitely would like to see reversed. I don't feel confined to choose between a life-and-death battle against them, or adopting them as my own. One example is the drug abuse I see being eagerly and aggressively promoted by doctors and health authorities, masquerading as treatments for diseases and disorders. Belief in those fictitious diseases and disorders has become deeply entrenched in popular thinking, and to all appearances irreversibly so. I certainly don't intend to conform to that way of thinking myself, but I don't intend to try to fight it either.
I'll admit that for a while, forgetting what I've been preaching to others, I did try to fight it, but now I'm following my own advice. I've given up trying to disprove the ideology, and instead I'm looking for ways to use the ideology to promote changes in the behavior, and/or encourage and support people who are doing that.
In a World Heritage Encyclopedia article, Allan Bloom, Noam Chomsky, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Roger Kimball, Mark Kingwell, Neil Postman, Daniel Quinn, and Slavoj Zizek are listed as cultural critics.
I do like your response though, much better than some other responses I've seen. For example I've sometimes seen people contriving some ad hoc, ambiguous, highly subjective mental process, for labeling what other people do as right or wrong, for some self-serving purpose like defaming Islam more than any other religion, or even simply for the sole purpose of proving that it's possible, apparently without any thought of using it as a guide for them to follow themselves, and presenting that as proof that it's possible to have morality without God. Behavior like that actually looks immoral to me, but I don't blame it on atheism.
For me, that has very little to do with my purposes, in practicing and promoting a code of conduct. For me, my code of conduct is not a checklist to go through for every action or inaction. It's a guide to attitudes and behaviors that I want to practice until they come naturally, and become habits and deeply rooted parts of my personality. In rare circumstances that could possibly result in telling the truth when it would have been better to lie, but as I see it, the benefits of training myself that way far outweigh the risks, for me and for everyone else.
In your specific, hypothetical example of writing countless blog and social media posts to express certainty that Bernie Sanders can and will win the nomination, even though you don't really believe it, I would consider that there are certainly countless other ways to pursue your purposes, without lying. For example there might be ways to persuade people honestly to vote for him, without that certainty, and your chances for success with that might be better than with lies that might eventually be exposed and that people might see through anyway, and which might backfire against you. Apart from that, there might be better ways to spend your time, honestly, that would ultimately do you and everyone else more good than having Bernie Sanders elected. Among a multitude of other possibilities, whether he's elected or not, the number of votes he receives can have an impact on the political and social environment.
From my experience, observation and research, I've decided that for my purposes, the advantages of systematically resisting temptations to lie, far outweigh the minuscule risk of accidentally telling the truth sometimes when it might have been better to lie.
Incidentally, I'm currently living outside the US, and the presidential election is the only one in which I can vote. I'm planning to vote on the basis of what I can find out about the honesty, integrity and other qualities of character I can find out about every candidate, regardless of their political views or what I think about their chances of being elected. Your endorsement of Bernie Sander feels to me like a possible sign of honesty and integrity in his character. Of course I'll investigate more deeply before I decide anything.