The dudebros are at it again, and this time they’re confused. At The Daily Banter, Michael Luciano asks “Did I sleep through some radical redefining of the word ‘atheist’? It’s always been my understanding that an ‘atheist’ is someone who simply lacks belief in deities. That’s it. Somehow, though, it’s suddenly incumbent on atheists to take up certain social and political causes, and that’s just silly.” He’s just honestly asking for some clarification guys. Maybe we should help him.
Michael. Oh dear, sweet Michael. Of course you can be an atheist and be a selfish asshole with no interests in whether or not others have a place in your community. There’s nothing inherent in the definition or practice of being an atheist that requires you to have empathy and compassion towards your fellow human beings, as we have well seen in the behavior of prominent atheists time and again. No one is trying to deny that. So I’m sure you ask again, why is it that people are trying to force social justice ideals on atheism?
Let me direct you to where Heina has already given a great explanation of how atheism as a movement already cares about social justice, and add that I suspect that the reason the Social Justice Warriors are so interested in bringing social justice to atheism is because we are a.atheists and b.people who believe that equality is a basic standard of human decency. The “woman problem of atheism” as Luciano so eloquently puts it, isn’t a problem because atheism has to be feminist. It’s a problem because any organization that repeatedly excludes, harasses, and ignores women is a shithole that needs to change. I’m not sure if Luciano missed this, but social justice movements actually ask everyone to live up to these expectations because they believe that societal structures that systematically oppress entire groups of people are a bad thing, whether or not they’re religious or atheist in nature.
On some level, our dear friend Michael understands this. “This isn’t to say that many atheists don’t advocate for say, wealth redistribution, but when they do, they do so in their capacity as liberals and not as atheists, which to remind, is simply nonbelief in god,” he admits. I’m glad that Michael knows under which identity I personally choose to do my activism. Here I thought that I was writing on an atheist site that is interested in intersectionality and draws on skepticism, atheism AND feminism as a way to showcase that atheists can do better. But no, I’m actually writing for a liberal site that is only interested in liberal politics and might just as well be a Christian site. Interesting.
I’m also intrigued to note that Luciano utterly ignores the heavy overlap between skeptic and atheist identities. Many atheist communities include some element of skepticism in their mission: they want to be rational and fact based in how they approach the world. This is again not integral to the atheist definition, but is an important part of atheism for many people because skepticism is how many of us came to our atheism. Some of us have this bizarre desire to apply our values (including skepticism) equally across our lives and have come to the conclusion that sexism, racism, and other discriminations have no basis in facts. And we did it through the same tools that brought us to atheism. Perhaps there’s a connection there?
But no, Luciano makes sure to reiterate “While liberalism and atheism aren’t mutually exclusive, they’re hardly one and the same.” Wow. I’m glad you cleared that up for us. Oddly enough, there are still some of us out there who are hoping that atheism and people with a shred of human decency are one and the same, and that’s what we’re appealing to. The people who are saying these things don’t give a rat’s ass if you’re liberal or conservative, but they do care if you are actively pushing them out of your movement, discriminating against them, and essentially treating them like worthless piles of shit. Oddly enough, the desire to be given basic human respect and equality is not associated with any political party. The inherent connection between equality and atheism is that there are people who are atheists who want to be treated equally. In case you haven’t figured out where the atheism comes from yet, it comes from the thousands of atheists who are female, people of color, disabled, queer, or any other minority who want an atheist community that lets them in.
If you can’t see all of us from your white, male, able-bodied, cis, straight pedestal, maybe it’s time to come on down to real life and hear what it’s like for the rest of us.