Sunday, September 23, 2007

Social Networking for the Secular Community?

VJack at Atheist Revolution brings up a topic that I think we (meaning the atheist/secularist blogosphere) should be talking about.

He notes that "We Need a Secular Community."

A while back, I was browsing Deviant Art, where I have a page for some of my photography. Before my Minolta SLR broke, I was an amateur film photographer and it was a nice place to display my work and discuss topics of interest with like-minded people. Artists of all kinds are welcome at Deviant Art: writers, poets, photographers, digital artists, musicians, painters, sketch artists, etc.

I hadn't been to Deviant Art in a while and I had just started this blog when I visited just to get a copy of a photo I no longer had on my computer. It occurred to me then that an atheist community like this would be fascinating and useful. Many of the artists at Deviant Art have their own, independent websites which they link to, using DA as a hub that links artists together. There are forums, galleries, message boards, journals, and stores to sell prints, etc.

Here's the comment I left at Atheist Revolution:

I thought some time ago about what it might be like to create a social networking site. Niche groups do very well with these types of internet based communities and they often branch out beyond the internet.

Examples are, of course My Space and FaceBook, which each have their share of atheist, humanist, etc members -but something on par with Deviant Art, where all members share a commonality of being secularists would be interesting.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation *almost* reaches this, but something with user pages, blogs, galleries to show personal artistic talents in audio/visual/literary talents, podcasts, etc. would be a fascinating venture. One that could feasibly pay for itself if the right advertising were utilized.

The potential to act as a hub that would tie in all the atheist/humanist/secular/etc blogs and sites is the part that appeals to me.

What if atheists had an online community that acted as a hub that socially linked each member to all other members great and small in a way similar to Deviant Art? Atheist writers and artists could sell their books, share their prose and poetry, display their artistic talents, and so on.

But the hub would be a goldmine for activists and lobbyists for the atheist/secularist causes. We could aggregate and disseminate information and news that concerns us more efficiently. We could organize activities, meetings, conferences, etc. more effectively -both in the internet and outside of it.

Such a site could generate its own revenue through advertising and perhaps even membership fees for premium content (i.e. feeds to conferences or ad-free user pages) and this revenue would be used to promote and maintain the site.

These are just thoughts. I'm under no delusion that my blog is all that read or visited to generate sufficient discussion here, but VJack got me thinking about this again with his post. A Secular Social Networking Community would touch on the points that VJack bullets at his site such as: creative growth, shared wisdom, and setting the record straight. It would provide a platform to reinforce feelings of safety and protection by showing those who are secular-minded that there is a whole community and thousands who share their understanding of the world. It would provide a starting point for political power by creating a place where organizations like Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Center For Inquiry, American Atheists and others can mobilize grass-roots action and lobbying for secular causes. And of course the psychological sense of community and social support would be a given -something that the atheist/humanist blogosphere is already providing with blogs like the Friendly Atheist, Atheist Revolution, Daylight Atheism and so many others.

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