This is part of a series of articles intended to illustrate the usefulness of treating atheism as a social justice issue, rather than trying to wall atheist discourse off from social justice discussions. Read the introductory post here.
As I intimated in the panel discussion of masculinity we had last weekend, the fight over women’s access to contraception was a particularly illustrative example of the existence of gender oppression at the expense of women. No moment was more visually perfect than what occurred in a panel about the right of religious organizations to deny insurance coverage of contraception to their employees. This image is forever burned into the feminist discourse:
One of the current fights happening within the atheism movement is a dispute (often heated, usually stupid) over whether or not the atheist community should concern itself with so-called “social justice” issues. I say this fight is “stupid” because the idea of someone insisting that people not talk about some topic in order to live up to some ridiculous and fictitious ‘purity’ standard is a level of dog-in-the-manger hubris that defies rational explanation. Atheist bloggers, like all bloggers, are going to discuss whatever they think is interesting; atheist communities, like all communities, are going to discuss those issues that are relevant to their needs and interests. Suggesting that because you are not interested in something necessarily means that nobody may be interested in it is both howlingly silly and self-unaware.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve become progressively more aware of another, more central flaw in the contention that discussions of atheism must be walled off from social justice issues. Previously, I was content to take the “let people discuss what they want to discuss” position – if you’re only interested in talking about religion, then go nuts. Nothing wrong with that, right? Religion is an interesting topic, but there’s nothing inherent to religion that requires you to care about LGBT issues, or race issues, or gender issues – you’re talking about belief in a supernatural being.
(Some of you are already screaming into your monitors about why this position is wrong, but let me walk all the way through this) … Continue Reading
This is an open letter to the Philosophers out there who consider themselves to be involved in Skepticism (even if only in a tertiary fashion). The ones that I specifically have in mind as I write this are Dr. Massimo Pigliucci, Dr. Daniel Fincke, and Dr. Daniel Dennett*.
Let’s begin with my credentials: I am nobody of import. I am just a guy, whose friend has invited him to occasionally contribute a blog post. I have a Bachelor’s in Philosophy, which means that I have little more than a cursory grasp of the issues within Philosophy. I am not attached or affiliated in any way with any organisation. I’m just a guy with an opinion, who does his best to flesh that opinion out.
Because I was raised Catholic, I sometimes feel the call to do penance for my sins. If I have done something mildly naughty, I say a few ‘Hail Mary’s. If I’ve done something particularly bad, I might wear a hair-shirt for a couple of days. But if I have sinned so egregiously that nothing but the most severe punishment will do, I read the things people write about Ophelia Benson. The level of brain-exfoliating stupidity evinced by her committed claque of ‘enemies’ is usually painful enough to ensure that I will never transgress so profoundly again.
Please join me in welcoming our newest guest author to the Manifesto – Jasmine! You will undoubtedly remember her from her participation in episode 5 of SERIOUSLY?! I am excited to have her perspective joining the crew here, and am looking forward to hearing more from her.
Between Thundef00t’s recent videos —where he projects his views on free speech, how feminism is “poisoning” the atheist/secular community (it isn’t) & how he thinks secular women should respond to disrespect on the internet— and the recent failed “experiment” carried out by a few YouTube atheist vloggers to see if viewers care more about content with drama than topics of substance(the three main culprits have since closed their channels), it’s pretty obvious that things are not as they should be in this collective known as the YouTube atheist community…hell, maybe with the main atheist and secular community, period.
These occurrences, along with the continued issues regarding the treatment of women and other groups, have me and others wondering if it makes sense to continue to build a community or a movement based only on the basis of a lack of belief in a god or gods. I would argue that having such a community in itself isn’t a bad thing and shouldn’t be dissolved; however I do think there are micro-issues within the community that I think need to be addressed. … Continue Reading
We support making the atheist movement more diverse and inclusive. It’s long been clear that the skeptical movement has a preponderance of white men. While we don’t disdain their participation, we believe skepticism is valuable and important to people in all walks of life, and in accordance with that principle, we consider it vital to have a movement that reflects the demographics of the society we live in. If our community continues to be dominated by white men, it will become increasingly out-of-touch and irrelevant as Western society becomes increasingly multiracial and multicultural and as non-Western countries gain economic and cultural power.
To that end, we urge the atheist and skeptical organizations to make a conscious commitment to diversity: to intentionally reach out to people of all ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds to speak at our conventions, to serve on our boards of directors, and to be the public faces and representatives of skepticism. We believe that there are talented, dedicated and eminently qualified people of every gender and every race, and that seeking them out will strengthen our movement and broaden its appeal.
I’ve talked about the value of diversity a number of time on this blog: … Continue Reading
A commenter going by the handle ‘Lee’ has been asking some pointed questions about how to respond to claims of discrimination. I tried to give a robust answer, which ended up ballooning into a full-length post.
I’ll respond by bringing the two into one. If someone claims they have been discriminated against, or they feel they have been discriminated against, what would you suggest as the next step?
1. investigate their claim, ascertain the details, come to a conclusion.
2. accept the claim, start accusing.
When you sort of scoffed at #4, I read that as endorsing (2) above. Perhaps I’m mistaken? I mean, I don’t want to appear to be dodging your questions, I think they’re good questions, but they’re not precisely relevant to the argument presented in #4. They assume that you would take route #1. Your second question seems to me to put that person’s participation into a higher priority slot than, say, checking if they’re full of it or not before making accusations.
So instead of jumping right to invective and scoffing back, I’m hoping to get an idea for why you reject #4 [#4 referring to point 4 in this week’s Movie Friday, and my disagreement that there is a meaningful difference between perceived and real discrimination – C].
And in a separate comment…
I suppose a correlated question would be: is it your position that we should take anyone and everyone’s non-rational (i.e. no grounds established) fears or feelings as actionable representations of the world, simply on the off chance that those fears or feelings may turn out to be grounded in reality, or because similar claims have been grounded in reality in the past?
Ohmygosh you guyse, I am just super excited. I was poking around in the dashboard of this site yesterday, and I noticed that I was getting a lot of hits from a Youtube video. Seeing as it is highly unusual for me to get referrals from Youtube, I clicked on through to see what was driving traffic to the site. Well wouldn’t you know, someone loves me and loves this blog enough to record a ten minute piece of fan mail! I’m so incredibly flattered. For someone to take ten whole minutes out of what I’m sure is a very busy schedule of hating the shit out of women to talk about little ol’ me? Gosh…
Well it’s the oddest piece of fan mail I’ve ever got. It doesn’t even seem like fan mail. It seems like he doesn’t like me! But that can’t be… I’m so loveable.
For those of you who didn’t/couldn’t watch all the way through, I will summarize IntegralMath’s* points: … Continue Reading
This morning I was pointed toward a post written by Dr. Michael Shermer, a prominent skeptic, author, and neuroscientist. In it, he responds to an article by author and fellow FTBorg Ophelia Benson in which she sharply critiques the acceptance of stereotypes about the agency and willingness of women to speak up in skeptical circles, using a snippet of an statement that Dr. Shermer said in an interview: that while the gender ratio of non-belief is probably roughly even, it may be that men are more willing to speak up about it, which is one explanation of why it is more difficult to book female atheists for interviews.
I encourage you to read both Ophelia’s article and Dr. Shermer’s response first. My response is below:
Hello Dr. Shermer,
I remember watching the interview in question and being annoyed by your response to the question of why it was more difficult to find female atheists to join discussions. Your response, that speaking out might simply be “a guy thing”, was non-controversial but nonetheless disappointing, because this is not a question about which there is no information. You are, by your own admission, aware of the growing role that feminist discourse has been playing in the skeptic community overall in the past number of years. And yet, despite your awareness of its existence, your response betrayed no hint that you had listened to or understood anything that had been said by those voices – which is not to say that you haven’t, but there was certainly nothing in your “guy thing” response that suggests you have.
Let’s rewind the clock a bit and look at the context into which your statement was spoken. … Continue Reading
Disclaimer: the central metaphor of this post is scatological, so if you have a particularly weak stomach, might I suggest you watch this video instead.
There is a far-too-common meme that exists among a subset of the nonbelieving community that goes more or less like this:
Well of course religion has led people to do bad things. Nobody is denying that. And I certainly don’t believe there’s any truth to it, but some people believe sincerely and do good things. It’s therefore neither fair nor is it accurate to paint all expressions of religion with the same brush. Religion has inspired people to do great good, as well as great evil.