Sunday, August 26, 2012

Atheism +

This post has been coming for a while.  I’ve had to think about it and see how it shook out elsewhere.

That elsewhere is at Freethought Blogs, where a number of bloggers have been working out a new idea - Atheism+.

I think I’ll let Jen McCreight of Blag Hag say it first:

It’s time for a new wave of atheism, just like there were different waves of feminism. I’d argue that it’s already happened before. The “first wave” of atheism were the traditional philosophers, freethinkers, and academics. Then came the second wave of “New Atheists” like Dawkins and Hitchens, whose trademark was their unabashed public criticism of religion. Now it’s time for a third wave – a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists. It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime. We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.

This says perfectly what has been bothering me about our movement for a while.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a white, middle-aged+ cis-gendered male of the middle class - exactly what the atheist movement has been aiming at for a while, and yeah, I’m comfortable with that.  But then again, I’m not comfortable with that in that I can see the missing people.  White, middle aged, cis-gendered males can’t do it alone.  I’d love to think we could, but that’s a pipe dream.  We need others, we need everybody who doesn’t believe to pitch in and show the population of this country that atheists aren’t boogy men coming to steal your children.  There have been, and this is more than adequately illustrated on Freethought Blogs, elements of our movement who have shown themselves to be bigoted, blind and hateful when it comes to women’s issues, LBGT issues and other issues of social justice.

It’s as if their male privilege is somehow being threatened if others join us in expanding this movement in defeating the dark side.

I don’t get that.  My citizenship isn’t threatened by powerful women.  It isn’t threatened by my wife having equal privileges to mine, and my “maleness” isn’t diminished by either that or gay marriage.  My own marriage is just fine, thank-you-very-much and wasn’t bothered in the least when Maryland legalized gays getting married to each other.

I am not bothered by Trans folks living their lives as they wish, and living as the sex they think is the right one.  It doesn’t diminish my own sexual life nor my picture of myself or my relationship with my wife.  Same with Bi folk.
I am not bothered by people of other ethnicities as they live their lives, and in fact, I feel my life has been enriched by the contact I have had with people of all these different types in the last 25 years since I moved here from Texas.  My outlook on life has been enlarged considerably and I have learned much of value from that contact.

I believe I am a better citizen and a smarter voter because of the contact I have had with all of the people of different kinds, types and persuasions both in the meat world and online.

Which is why I want the atheist movement to begin to move beyond simple opposition to religion.  I have written a fair amount on the harm religion does to society, and I still believe that such opposition is necessary and as important as ever.

But we also need to directly oppose that harm, and work towards social justice for all people, because as an atheist, I not only oppose religion, but I oppose the attitudes religion brings to social issues that cause that harm.

I want to bring a better educational system to everybody, regardless of social strata and geography, because education is the linchpin to a better society.  I want to make the justice system better, because that directly affects the minority groups most negatively affected by a dysfunctional system.  I want to push for social equality for all, regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identification or biological dysfunction.

I want this because such social equality brings with it economic success and with economic success for the individual comes economic success for the entire country!  The more we can afford as individuals, the more our economy can afford to take care of the disadvantaged, and the fewer of them there will be.

Much has been made over at FreeThought Blogs about the “divisiveness” of the “+” part of Atheism+.  I don’t see it that way, I see it more as an addition that can attract more people than it may repel.

In other words, if this idea attracts you, then welcome!  If not, that’s ok too, go find a group that does, and we both can go on opposing the harm religions are doing to our society.  Each in our own way.

I urge you to go read Jen’s post, and her followup post Atheism+.

There are others who have pitched in and added their own thoughts, and you should read them, too.  In the meantime, think about this:

We are…

Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.

Plus, a cool logo!

No comments: