Decent Human Beings Owe Our Social Justice Agenda Everything

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.


Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at

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  1. Oh no Olivia, you can’t use that kind of language when talking to anyone at The Daily Banter (except maybe Bob Cesca). It’s liberal/libertarian dude-bros all the way down. Chez Pazienza is even worse, having once boldly declared that “people who find things ‘problematic’ are simply people with out real problems.”

  2. He is right, there is nothing inherent in the word atheist that suggests skepticism, liberalism, humanism, or even curiosity.

    Plenty of atheists are not skeptical (looking at you Bill Maher), or liberal (Penn & Teller, S.E. Cupp although I’d suggest she is more a pseudo-atheist since she buys such a large swath of the Christian mythos), or humanist (Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ antiquated views on women, Harris’ and Maher again on Islam, and any number of libertarian dudebros on the poor), or curious (as I would suspect might be Mr. Luciano’s problem, trapped in his me, me, me bubble).

    All those people are atheists, all those people fail to live up to these other ideas, and all these people are free to not join in the new direction on the atheist movement. Now if they would kindly just shut the fuck up and let us by they can be on their way to the dustbin of history.

  3. So I read the article and my look on my face was pure “Wow, he tried it”.

    I was pretty sure we were past the whole “Dictionary Atheism is the only true Atheism” nonsense some time ago, so this cat’s point is as stale as month old bagels. If that’s how he wants to roll, great. No need to lecture the rest of us trying to do more with our atheism than sit on our high horses being better than religious rubes and only speaking up when there is a Nativity scene on a city hall lawn.

  4. I came to atheism through philosophical and ethical objections to the Christian faith I was raised in and honestly believed and practiced into my twenties. Before I decided that I didn’t believe that any god existed, I first decided that regardless of existence the god of Christianity didn’t deserve my love, worship or service.

    So yeah, I’m a feminist and a social justice warrior first. Those things triggered my exit from religion. It’s entirely possible that if the religion I was exposed to hadn’t been so virulently awful, I might still profess faith (not that I regret anything, just being honest).

    I wonder if this person has a problem with the atheist charity orgs or if he would disapprove of the hedonistic atheist social group I belong to that does a lot of drinking and talking and eating together and rarely talks about being atheist because none of that has anything to do with disbelieving in god.

  5. Right, an atheist doesn’t need to be a decent human being, but every atheist I want to associate with, or spend time with, or talk to, or have the slightest interaction with has to be a decent human being at a minimum.

    I have not the slightest bit of desire to associate with people who are not decent human beings, whether they are atheists, christians, Democrats, Republicans or Libertarians. If they are not decent human beings they can all rot in the Hell hole they are digging for themselves.

    I love to associate with decent human beings of all persuasions, gay, straight, male, female, black, white, Christian, agnostic, atheist, trans, SJW and everyone else. If you are a decent human being, I will embrace you because we have enough in common that matters, in fact, we have all that matters in common, we are both decent human beings.

    All you non-decent human beings, please stay away from me until you have pulled your shit together. Thank you.

  6. Neither Skeptic nor Atheist equals ‘libertarian’ or Randroid. Yes there is a Venn-diagram overlap, but it is scarcely enough to let the confusion continue.

    I wear my Red A still, and hope it would catch on. I wish I could tack on a blue ‘plus’ sign for the one in 100 people who recognizes the symbol at all.

    Perhaps, instead of pointing out that Atheism and Skepticism imply taking authority with a grain of salt…isn’t that obvious already? We should begin issuing an ‘Atheism MINUS’ tag to the misogynists, guru-worshippers, homophobes etc.

    The vast public is still pristinely unaware of these clashes, and barely comprehends that the Religious Right isn’t in control of the entire U.S.

    1. I simply say if ‘atheists don’t owe your social justice agenda shit’, then obviously, you don’t get to use religion’s historical oppression of women in discussing atheism. Nor do you get to talk about sexual abuse by priests. Or religion’s role in excusing genocide. Or…

      Because using causes you don’t really believe in to prove your point is hypocritical.

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