I just got 200 comments and counting on my local atheist group when I posted this:
"On a matter of self reflection as a group I would like to discuss the idea of us calling anyone inferior or superior based on religion, race, gender, sexual orientation - as there all share the same medal of racism.
I realise that XXX may see this as the promotion of political correctness. I don't support political correctness as a means to an end. I do support freedom of speech. And I like the idea that we are free here to discuss opening about our attitudes.
What concerns me is that in the atheist community (on the many forums and you tubes that I've seen) I have observed what looked to me like, arrogance, prejudice, superiority and dismissive attitudes.
I realise that we all have our own nature - but I do support the idea that we can all try to act on science and reason - and not perpetrate racism or other harmful attitudes based on false beliefs about superiority. And think it important that we become more self aware of these issues and come up with effective methods that deal with it.
Preferably compassionate - based on the principles of Naturalism, rather than regressive aggression against it."
Is this a very contentious issue?
I actually left my 'local atheist group' after a huge row for just this thing.
It was decided among these men with privilege(all young, able, cisgender, white, heteronormative, males who were well-to-do), that allowing a minority group to decide what word they want to be used to refer to them(such as black or african-american--I've met people cool with one, but not the other, and vice-versa), was impinging upon their freedom of speech(so...they'd keep using the word "cripple" if a disabled person asked that they not say that BECAUSE FREEDOM OF SPEECH).
They also had a habit of verbally attacking agnostics and they called me a feminazi(because talking about equal rights is totally the same as the wholesale slaughter of a cultural group), and then told me that as an atheist woman, my job wasn't to speak up or talk about issues I faced, it was to have lots of precious atheist children for an atheist man who could "put up with my ugliness", and raise his atheist kids well.
Nevermind that I hate kids and have no plans for kids, ever--apparently my only purpose in their group would be for one of them to choose me as a wife.
Annnd that's one of the reasons why I left, and will be choosing my next group VERY carefully. I have no wish to fall in with such a misogynistic group of men ever again.
Humanism is important if we don't want Atheism to just become another partiarchal, misogynistic, ableist, homophobic, xenophobic, racist following for people. We cannot tackle all these issues at once--I hold no visions of magical fix everything utopias--instead I know that we have to go one person at a time, a little bit at a time. Kind of like getting people to question their fundamentalist ideas about how every word in the bible is true--I have to slowly make people realize that attaching worth to someone based on with whom and how many people they've had sex with is wrong. I have to make people slowly realize that racist words or sexist words(bitch, cunt, slut, whore) are all words that you cannot use due to the cultural attachments to them. I'll compare them to this--you know those people who are decent, but still part of the catholic church and give their money to it every Sunday, but they just sort of blink and look past all the molestation scandals and the AIDS problems in Africa if you ask them? That's the type of people who use those words. They never look past the use of the word on whatever random girl(I once heard a guy call a girl a slut because she was wearing high heels to dance in...), and instead, continue to use them. They fail to realize that the use of such things are promoting a culture of value based on things that we should have moved past. Does anyone seriously think that any sexual partner they have needs to be a virgin? If you're here, and you think so, maybe you need to re-look at your values and see which ones you're getting from yourself--by looking at what actually matters, and which ones you're clinging to from a bronze-age misogynistic book that was concerned with patrilineage.
Atheism unforunately tends to be people with privilege--it's young, male, cisgender, hetero, able, white, and relatively well-off. The Atheism club I left was nothing but that--I'd see female faces sometimes, but they'd never stay longer than one meeting. At first I wondered why, then the big row that caused me to leave answered my question.
If you want to start helping atheist groups become more diverse(instead of the bag of privilege that I mentioned above) we need to be aware of what privilege we do have, and we need to reach out to other people who are missing it. By being atheist--outwardly atheist, we are giving up privilege. being Christian grants one certain types of privilege in this country. Mostly it grants an unquestioning privilege, that you're trustworthy, that people can trust you to do good things. When you become atheist, you're giving that up. It's part of the reason minority groups are less likely to become nonreligious--because they're already at a loss when it comes to equality--what person in their right mind is going to step back and take another nibble off what little privilege they enjoy?
To educate yourself about privilege:
http://chewingovertheissues.tumblr.com/post/10469585881/a-primer-on... -- quick primer, written by someone who is far more eloquent than I on the subject matter
http://microaggressions.com/ --contains examples of every type, submitted by people. Basically, if you see people quoted as doing something here--don't do it. It's not treading on your 'freedom' when you don't do it--you're treading on their freedoms by doing such things. And really, is it so hard to be a decent human being?
Size is an up-and-coming social equality issue. A lot of people don't recognize thin privilege, so I didn't include it--but it is a privilege, just a lesser-known one.
Myself? I'm white, fat, atheist, asexual, able, young(relatively) and female. The dice rolled in my favor in that atheist, asexual parts are things I can hide--but not so well on several other parts.
really interesting - thanks for sharing and the links :)
I have never encountered this kind of arrogance among atheists except in cyberspace, and that is bad enough. I have been to forums where I perceive grinding resentment among participants that Christians and other theists have established all the rules for civil conduct. No longer associating in that domain, it would seem that they now assume a freedom to selectively single out others for incivility on their own terms, to cultivate their own prejudices without recrimination. Many assume a a sense of Neitzschean ubermensch, and others are fair game if they do not meet their high standards. It makes my skin crawl.
In being so quick to be defamatory of others, one could find himself scorned and denounced for his own unremarkable foibles, even to the point of being victim to violence. Being atheist allows us the freedom to formulate grounds for civility and compassion for ourselves, based on criteria that embraces reason and evidence in a variety of social circumstance ~ not to avoid civility altogether. Sometimes we have to be stern when someone else is not responding to our social activity rationally (look at my avatar), but that is different from being deliberately uncivil.
Sam - I like your way of looking at this.
No wonder you left. I would have too. Thanks for the great discussion and personal sharing.
Good Points, since joining the atheist community, I find human compassion to be something Spock can not find the rational logic in possessing. But unlike Spock, Self-gratification and self-exaltation seems to be the order of their thinking rather than acting for the benefit of the group. Could they be priests without a god selling the same patriarchal system of cultural prejudices?
I agree there is a glitch in the system here.
I wonder what we can do about it?
Jonel, the group as you describe it, is one that requires discernment. Is the group giving you what you need? If yes, then stay with them. If no, run, don’t walk to the nearest door. I have a philosophy that just about everyone dislikes but it is: there are more than 7 billion human beings on this planet and I don’t have to spend one minute with those who do not respect me.
Language matters! The choice of words, how one uses them, whether they disrespect instead of respect human rights is important.
When it comes to beliefs, not all beliefs are worthy of respect. Believing that priests should get away with sexual abuse of others, or when they deny safe sex in the case of AIDS and STD, or when they deny women the right to control their own bodies is outrageous and should not be tolerated, period. It requires strong language to confront them even if they claim they have a right to their beliefs and opinion. They don’t have a right to their morals and ethics that violate others and not all opinions are equal, i.e. the earth is flat vs. round.
Christian privilege is an attitude, not an empirical fact. That attitude can – must - be challenged whenever it comes up. If one has to be Christian in order to be a public officer that is the height of hubris.
Being “correct” religiously is like being “correct” politically. Write about alternatives in either subject and just expect threatening phone calls. If we don’t develop a tough skin able to slough off the insults, we have no business speaking our truths. By silencing ourselves we will silence us. By thinking clearly, discussing widely, reading from many excellent sources we can become confident in what we think and then can stand tall, proudly, competently and powerfully.
Thanks for the links. They raise issues I hadn't thought of, especially micro-privilege.
If you want to start helping atheist groups become more diverse(instead of the bag of privilege that I mentioned above)
Yes, it is unfortunate that a "bag of priviledge" is formed whenever people of any sorts, including atheists, come together. Leaving such a group does not appear to be a right solution. Everybody has to fight to get equality.
Ok, first of all, I am not racist, a bigot, or prejudicial. However I know some people that fit all three definitions. And you know what? I agree wholeheartedly with my Racist friend, why? Because he was beaten senseless by a pack of animals that happened to have a dark skin color. Now when I say Beaten senseless I don't mean they punched him and kicked him, la di dah. No They started with a brick to his head, and then each took turns kicking him in the mouth. He has no teeth now, at least not in the front. So if someone wants to be racist. I am right behind them.
the thing is Erin - you can't now say that all men with dark skin are violent - you may wish to avoid them yourself, for fear of your personal safety - but there are white, yellow, pink, brown, light brown skinned people who are just as violent - and there are majority of us who are not outrageously violent in this manner.
The stereotype of "black violent man" is very pervasive--it's present in society and it's actually the exact caricature that a woman who killed her child and hid the body in a river used to try to blame someone else for it. There's an entire book of poetry written by someone, thinking from the point of view from that fictional man.
Erin, it sounds like you are xenophobic. Scared of other cultures and groups. Everyone is prejudiced--realizing why and making intelligent choices rather than allowing base fears to control you is what rational thought is about. I've been warned, a million times over, that men will rape and kill me, etc--and there's plenty of evidence to back me up on this. But do I consider all men rapists? no! do I consider all men as possible murderers? No! That'd be downright crazy. I instead take guys on an individual basis--unless I'm given a reason for fear or worry, I'm usually better friends with guys than I am with ladies my age(mostly due to similar interests/hobbies).
Being angry at the group of men who seriously mauled your friend--that is understandable. Blaming every person with brown skin is not--It's no better than the people who claim we're just like the atheist serial killers that are in jail--and thus we deserve to be put in jail, too.
I also understand being traumatized by seeing your friend in such shape, and knowing that people are willing to do such horrible things to other humans--it's not something that goes away so easily, especially if you remember it every time you see that friend. But it's all too easy to create a "big bad" in your mind--a caricature of the real thing that's easy to tack all your hatred and problems onto--and that's the same thing I've seen over and over again. Oversimplification of the issue--trauma, mental health, issues in society--these things aren't simple, they have layers and history and a vast amount of effort is required to wade through any of them--I'm not an expert.
But I daresay you don't think that -every- brown person is the same as those people. At least, I hope not.
Alice--you're right, violence exists in all colors. Trying to pin it on one skin tone results in the ever-popular "big black guy" character that you see in police sketches, wanted photos, etc--black people aren't more likely to be violent or commit crimes than whites are, they just tend to not have the money for excellent defense attorneys.