"Atheist and Agnostic Group" boasted 35,000 members until it was deleted on 1 January for the third time in as many years. It was founded in 2004 by Bryan Pesta, an assistant professor at Cleveland University who established it as a social network "specifically for godless people."
The group was closed down for the first time two years ago after an organised campaign by Christians persuaded MySpace to delete it. It was eventually restored and MySpace promised to protect it. This time, despite a petition from 500 users and repeated emails to customer services, MySpace seems reluctant to reverse its actions.
Pesta is understandably furious, particularly given the treatment Christian groups have received in the past: “When the largest Christian group was hacked, MySpace’s Founder, Tom Anderson, personally restored the group, and promised to protect it from future deletions.”
Last April the atheist group won the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy's Excellence in Humanist Communication Award and the chaplain, Greg Epstein, has expressed his displeasure at MySpace's actions: “It is an outrage if Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the world’s largest social networking site tolerate discrimination against atheists and agnostics – and if this situation goes unresolved I’ll have little choice but to believe they do.”
The decision has caused much debate on the Richard Dawkins website, where users have been discussing what action should be taken against MySpace. Suggestions include:
- Is there someone we can contact to complain?
- Should Professor Dawkins continue to support and promote these sites in the light of what has happened ??
- I'll be deleting my account at the end of the day when I get home.
- My account is now closed! My personal protest!
- But isn't Myspace just for ridiculous wankers anyway?
- Create multiple accounts and tag all of the as Atheist
- Fuck 'em I've no use for these social network sites anyway
Also, check out Bill Thompson's web exclusive article "Facebook knows I'm an atheist", where he wonders what the consequences might be of letting social networking sites know about your unbelief.