In January, I created a petition calling on atheists to show their support for feminism and diversity. That petition, with more than 2,000 signatures, was delivered to the leaders of the largest atheist and secular organizations at the end of January.
The petition also attracted over 400 comments from people who wanted to further explain why they were signing. Most of these comments were excellent, and I want them to be seen more widely. In this post, I’ll continue spotlighting some of my favorites.
It is unconscionable that atheists, who are supposed to be devoted to reason and resisting the restrictive and highly patriarchal religious structure, should still be arguing these points and using open misogyny to support their side. These despicable tactics must be resisted and denounced.
Every day I read yet another bundle of tweets, more blog entries, more facebook updates, from women who are vilified, harassed, threatened, and subjected to all manner of public humiliation for speaking up and speaking out against sexism and abuse. It’s time for the leaders of the various “Nones” groups to stop denying that there is a problem and to start working to address it.
Atheism is for anyone and everyone, or at least it should be. We can and should be better than “society at large” in dealing with issues of sexism, misogyny, racism and homophobia because as atheists we are supposedly free from the harmful religious dogma that supports these regressive stances.
If you want atheist, skeptical, and secular movement meetings to look like those crowd shots of the Republican National Convention, then ignore the problems with diversity and with harassment and bullying. If, on the other hand, you want everyone to find those movements attractive and welcoming, something needs to change.
We are all prone to prejudice, stereotypes, and lazy thinking. It’s part of being human, but we don’t like to think of ourselves like that. Having your prejudices pointed out is uncomfortable, but what counts is how you react. You can stop and think, at least consider that your critic might have a valid point, maybe work a little on yourself or the way you express yourself. Or you can pull down the blinds, dig in your heels, insist on your intellectual perfection, and quickly become irrelevant. It goes without saying that there’s no place for racism in the atheist movement, it should be equally obvious that sexism is unacceptable. Alienating and othering half the population is not the way forward. Atheism is not just for grumpy white men like me, let’s be inclusive!
The skeptical movement should be dedicated to the honest enquiry of the world – and open to all who would be our fellow travellers on that quest. We should not be a movement that attempts to stigmatise or bully others on account of their gender, sexuality, race or any other such attribute. Nor one that attempts to misrepresent our opponents – and yet it is clear that many people opposing simple changes to support these goals have not been engaging in an honest debate. This should not be the face of the freethought community.
If Atheism is to have a positive effect in this world it is not as an abstract belief system shaking a fist at another abstract belief system it is as a practical movement focused on justice and reason. To accept injustice and bigotry in Atheism is to plead special cases for irrational bigotry just because it’s not being practiced by a religion. I repudiate this view.
Because a vocal minority is creating a toxic environment within the community – and a horrible impression to outside observers. To reflect our REAL numbers in the world – we need to reflect the actual diversity OF the atheist community. We can’t do that by allowing a tiny hateful group acting out on the net to be our public face….
If the skeptical/atheist movement is to remain relevant then we need to represent the audience we want to have rather than simply be content with the one we have for now. Preaching to the choir and makes no sense if we wish to grow.
I am tired of people spending exorbitant amounts of energy on attacking valuable members of the community, sometimes in retribution for their crime of relating their own experiences. I’m tired of deference being given to bigotries, both soft and hard, that curtail efforts to improve diversity. And I’m tired of people succumbing to harassment campaigns and being driven out of the community, even while the perpetrators of these campaigns feign that they themselves are being harassed by being told to stop.
It is unbecoming of a community of rationalists to lionize such efforts at enforcing cultural conformity at the expense of our own diversity. It is galling to see a valued member of the community come out so strongly in favour of those who would damn it to the obscurity that comes with stagnation. We stand against this now, or we fall.