I’m always on the lookout for new resources for atheists. I happened to catch @AtheistRepublic on twitter promoting blogs, if I recall correctly and decided to sign up and give it a closer look. They have a fairly diverse range of resources available, from featured blogs, a section for documentaries specific to atheist interests, an area for creative expression, a venue for promoting books, a store for atheist tchotchke, a meme gallery, and various infographics. There is also a public discussion board with a forum set up for debate, and several others for topical talk around atheist interests.
I think many folk would find some items of interest among the resources sections, good quotes, and general words of encouragement for atheists who are considering coming out. It also has a possible potential to be a safe place for atheists looking to meet and enjoy the company of people with common interests. I certainly think that is the intent of the website founders. The reality is somewhat problematic if my experience there is anything to judge by.
I generally tend to steer clear of public discussion boards for a number of reasons. Unmoderated ones are prone to trolls and nightmarish flamewars, the moderated ones rise and fall on the quality and commitment of the website staff. Typical visits generally show low user/member participation, and those who do, tend to run in toxic cabals who are xenophobic to outsiders.
I did not find the members of Atheist Republic to be welcoming or friendly. Now to be fair, I didn’t make any effort to introduce myself to the group, and made only a few comments on what could be considered adversarial posts by believers who visit the website. My brief experience might very well be atypical, or it might not. I’ll never know. I stopped participating when I encountered what I consider to be troubling behavior by the forum staff. I asked reasonable questions about forum policies which were dealt with by making an impersonal announcement devoid of any explanations. They didn’t owe me any details certainly, but since national nuclear launch codes weren’t involved, I figured it was safe to press for some further information from the staff or at least a personal acknowledgement of my questions. The second post was marked internally as “read” and fell quickly in the post queue behind other older posts. It became clear to me no-one was interested in courtesy or minimal transparency for that matter. No one attempted to contact me privately at any point.
It’s a little puzzling but I built a bridge and got over it. I would recommend atheists to avail themselves of the website, as there are good resources, but I would be hesitant to encourage anyone to use the discussion boards until some effort is made by the website staff to improve their public relations commitment.