The Heathen Hangout

The Heathen Hangout FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question No. 7

Is it really ethically OK to have a private club for nontheists only?

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Answer:
The internet is a wide place, where all sorts of public and private web-boards abound. In that context, a private club for nontheists is nothing special nor unwarranted; no discrimination is made on inherent properties, i.e. properties one cannot choose and has no control over, and the admittance criteria only refer to what people choose to accept and how they choose to behave. In this respect, the Heathen Hangout is like any other private forum of a shared, chosen viewpoint; it is like USA Democrat or Republican clubs, or like UK Labour or Conservative clubs, or for that matter like the private forums for various Christain denominations or for Moslems. Ethically, the HH fits into a free association of shared point of view, where that (very broad) point of view does not pose any antisocial or unethical purpose.
Almost all members of the Heathen Hangout also belong to other, entirely seperate, boards, those others being public discussion boards; the HH does not seek to replace public discussion or debate, it is simply an additional activity, seperate from public life on the net.
It wuld be perhaps ethically quite dubious were the Heathen Hangout to insist on a rigid atheism, and make that the sole requirement for membership, as for example allowing atheist racists, as long as they are atheists, and then allowing the promulgation of racism; but that is simply not the case      admission criteria for the Heathen Hangout are quite specific about barring the advocation of such bigotries, and merely insist on a very broad shared viewpoint, nontheism, as well as a commitment to not promoting bigotries and similar antisocial activities. In this respect, the HH relies on a very broadly defined and loose basis of secular humanism; while it is recognised that there are also theist humanists, the HH concentrates upon secular humanism, not humanism as a whole, and in view of the other reasons for its existence as a private forum, then the private nature of the HH, combined with its emphasis on sociability, private conversations and humanist purpose does not pose any unethical basis or goal.
Moreover, links are given on the front public index page of the HH to other sites which function as public debate/discussion forums, and thus information is given to all to suit all purposes.
It is also often mooted that such private clubs may lead to a hardening of attitudes, a self-imposed ghettoization where since opposing points of view are not heard, there may be a rigidification of attiudes. This, from experience, is totally untrue with regard to the Heathen Hangout --- you will find far more rigid attitides, vergving on the frankly unthinkingly bigoted, on many public discussion/debate forums, where the continual conflict between opposing camps means a huge peer pressure to adhere to one line or the other, and to be as nasty as possible to the other camps. That means in practice that a public discussion/debate board can, and often does, not lead to greater understanding or finding common ground, but instead to a hardening of conflicting attitudes and a worsening of the entire atmosphere of that board.
The links given, by the way, on the HH front public index page, represent web-boards that from reports or epxerience provide more or less fair playing grounds for most if not all opposing camps, yet one will still often find on those public boards limitations on whom may take part, and also in practice sometimes may lead to opposition for the sake of opposition, rather than mutual give-and-take.
Thus, the HH does its best to provide information about alternate venues, as well as to ensure a free discussion arena inside it, once the admittance criteria and rules have been met --- and all web-boards, whether public or private, have admittance criteria and rules, if only to prevent abuse by spammers. The HH is no exception in having rules and admittance criteria.

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