Nope, we can’t.
In theory that should be all I need to say. But in practice one of the reasons we can’t have nice things is coincidentally a reason why I have to explain that.
Atheists are quite often perceived as a monolith – as a new movement that actively opposes religion speaking in unison about how the world will be better place once people abandon age-old superstitions, myths and beliefs.
Problem is – it’s not a monolith. It’s a conglomerate of as many different groups, subgroups and individuals as you may think of, and each and every single one of them brings to the table their own beliefs, convictions, opinions, mistakes and what have you. The only time atheists can speak in unison is when they speak about what they don’t have – a belief in a god. When they start to speak about what they actually have – it turns into a brain-piercing cacophony of ‘me!me!me!’ attitudes and personalities, seasoned with not-so-occasional bullshit beliefs not that different from religion. This is exactly why we have this saying – that organizing atheists is like herding cats. And it is! If you don’t believe it yet – you will quite soon.
There are many different reasons for that – atheists in general are individualists, usually they are reluctant to follow an authority, they are quite opinionated, some of them are better educated than the average masses, especially in the matters of religion, but the level of ‘education’ differs among atheists as well. Atheists most of the time don’t accept the idea they might be wrong about something (even though they declare otherwise) – which is no different from theists. Atheists, even though they like to think about themselves otherwise, are the same as theists. Scrap the lack of belief in a deity and we are EXACTLY the same – we have our fears and hopes, beliefs and irrational thoughts. We believe things for bad reasons (like GMO/Monsanto conspiracy, that Traditional Chinese Medicine/acupuncture works, that the only proper way to know the world is X and Y is totally useless (even though we can’t actually prove it and we just assert that in a session of a mental masturbation – precisely the same thing theists do), etc.). We don’t even know who we are – arguments about what is and what is not an atheism happen ALL THE TIME. We don’t look at how we use those terms and how we should, we don’t revise our opinions or our definitions – because they are OURS and nobody’s else. So everyone else should just use OUR definition no matter what, no matter the utility, lexical value or cohesion with most widely used labels. And on occasion some atheist will yell at you that definitions don’t matter – just to use the definition in his very next statement.
There are ‘billions and billions’ of reasons to become an atheist. This is why you can have an atheist that is also a gun-nut, or a spammer that does not react to your plea NOT to spam. Or a conspiracy theorist claiming 9/11 was an inside job. Nobody is free from Duning-Kruger effect.
And all those things come from what we believe in, not from what we don’t. So in a way us being atheists is irrelevant, it only allows us to meet up in a certain venue. Then – cat herding commences.
All the things we believe in can divide us and usually they do. Not every atheist is a rationalist, not every one is a sceptic, not everyone is following the evidence and is willing to revise their position on a given issue once evidence is presented. There are various factors at play. Even personal sympathies may influence your assessment of reality. Someone said your internet friend is wrong – you’ll go and start contradicting yourself in subsequent comments but you will not let the truth and reality prove your ‘idol’ was wrong.
This unique feature – that we are connected by what we don’t have – gives us many weaknesses but also serves as a shield. There is no point in talking about atheists as a whole in therms of what atheists ‘believe’. There’s no such thing as something all atheists believe. Someone killed three people and, at the same time, was an atheist? Well – you can’t draw a conclusion about atheists in general basing on that. Especially given the fact that atheists don’t fight religion, anti-theists do (of course an atheist can be an anti-theist, but doesn’t have to be, there are even anti-theists that are not atheists, etc.). We can’t be thrown into the same category as there is no such classification that will withstand the reality of millions of differing beliefs and opinions, glued only by a weak cement of something we all lack – a belief in a deity.
Since we are almost the same as theists – all things we ‘bitch about’ will be done by us as well. We’ll try to organize in movements, we’ll have schisms in them over silly irrelevant things, we’ll fight among ourselves regarding definitions and facts, we’ll have wars and some of us will even kill other people. But not because of the atheism, but because of things we do believe in. It’s a belief that informs actions – which is why you don’t see atheists arguing over who lacks belief in a deity more. But you do see them arguing over gun control, GMO, science classification, definitions, labels, accommodationism, and hundreds of other things atheists, just like theists, BELIEVE.
Can we have then nice things? No, we can’t. Atheists can’t have nice things and they won’t. Obviously we’re able to organize in some groups and those groups will occasionally achieve their goals, but you can be sure that the moment that happens, some other atheists will diss that and frown and cry and whine about how those first atheists did wrong. And we won’t have nice things.
I don’t think “internal” discourse is a fool’s errand. After all – rarely as they do, people change their minds and shift their positions. Dialogue, as long as it is held in a non-hostile way, is what’s necessary, is like an air for us. Without it we’ll die, the movement will dissipate and theists will “win”.
In my opinion this notion of nice things is kind of ‘theistic’ one. Atheists, diverse as they are, should not abandon striving for nice things. It’s just maybe we should be satisfied with just things, as for the movement of people whose beliefs differ on virtually anything, having things is already a huge success.