Adam Lee: Atheism is Not Enough

Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism has a column in The Guardian arguing that atheists should move beyond merely arguing about the existence of God and should put more of a focus on social justice issues like gay rights and feminism. I agree with him, of course, with one minor quibble.

It’s time for atheists to move past theoretical questions about the existence of God and onto more practical pursuits – like how to fight for justice.

The atheist community is quickly coming up against the limits of debating whether God is real. The New Atheist movement made a splash in the early 2000s with its brash assertion that the existence of God was a hypothesis that can be examined, debated and critically analyzed like any other, and rejected if the evidence is found wanting. Its critiques, targeting both the feverish imaginings of fundamentalism and the stale platitudes of conventional piety, were as cleansing and welcome as a cool breeze in a stuffy room.

But while that stance can be the beginning of a philosophy, it can’t be the end. It raises the question: once you no longer believe the claims of religion, what do you believe?…

As the atheist community becomes larger and more diverse, attracting a broader range of people from different backgrounds, this is a natural direction for our activism to take. It’s also a step that both atheists and people who care about social justice should applaud, because our alliance makes both causes stronger. Our opposition is largely the same: the socially conservative faction, bolstered by religion.

That’s why the more that the atheist community moves beyond purely philosophical debates to embrace the practical pursuit of justice, the more we can establish a reputation for ourselves as a force for good in the world.

I certainly agree that we should focus more on social justice issues; much of this blog’s space and much of my own efforts over the last decade or so has been devoted to exactly that. But I don’t think that means others in the movement should do so if that is not what animates them. Counter-apologetics,as much as it tends to bore me to death, is important and those who specialize in it and are passionate about it should continue to work in that area. Those who specialize in the creation/evolution debate should continue to focus their efforts on that, and likewise for those who focus on separation of church and state, or on building secular communities and so forth.

This is a very big and broad movement and there are lots of aspects that one can focus on and specialize in. And I think people should focus on those aspects that they feel passionately about. Not everyone has to push for social justice as I do. But I would hope they would at least not stand in the way of those of us who do. That’s where the problem comes in, with those who are actively fighting to prevent others in the movement from making social justice issues a priority.

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  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Look, it’s bad enough that you want to ruin Jesus, but now you people are also trying to ruin His Naturally Created Order! Gayhomos,, sluts, urban thugs and other Unpopular Minorities are supposed to get treated like shit. That’s what they’re for! If He meant for them to be treated well, God would’ve made them aging heterosexual Christian white men.

  • http://kamakanui.zenfolio.com Kamaka

    “with those who are actively fighting threatening rape and murder to prevent others in the movement from making social justice issues a priority.

  • Sastra

    This is a very big and broad movement and there are lots of aspects that one can focus on and specialize in. And I think people should focus on those aspects that they feel passionately about.

    I agree. I’ll also ad that it makes sense for people to stick with the “there is no God,” “God is a hypothesis,” and “faith is not a virtue; it’s a vice” messages if the public rejection and resistance to this is still enormous. No way can we say that our culture has moved beyond this issue — or that it doesn’t impact decisions.

    I think individual atheists have moved ‘beyond’ arguing for atheism themselves, but that’s a different matter. There are also atheists who have moved on from fighting for social justice causes to fighting against the philosophical roots of irrationality and theism. Both are important and there’s no obvious direction as to where we start and where we end up.

  • abb3w

    “Logic, logic, logic. Logic is the beginning of wisdom, Valeris, not the end.”

    Whether God exists or doesn’t is an “IS” question; issues of social justice are “OUGHT” questions. Science and Engineers both seem useful; those who attempt engineering, however, historically seem to be at more risk of screwing up when the reach of their knowledge exceeds the warrant of their wisdom.

    Some might oppose prioritizing social justice efforts above those towards social epistemological consensus — and might have a point, if efforts to progress on the latter is the cheapest and easiest route to progress to the former. (While I’d not hold my breath that it’s the most fruitful, it at least still seems not fully mined out.) Some might oppose some particular effort because they see it as an incipient mistake of the sort that Prohibition, Eugenics, and Communism now seem to have been (and much as Freethought groups in the late 1800s and early 1900s appear to have been among those divided over those questions); or perhaps merely that it’s not clear it would be a benefit commensurate with the effort required. Some may be because of fundamental disagreement as to the nature of “social benefit” or “social justice”, or of what aspects of it are most important. And, of course, some may oppose it because they are assholes who’ve been enjoying being part of the problem.

    I’m pretty sure Ed has his notice directed mostly at the last faction; however, it would seem reciprocal that social justice types try to distinguish among these.

    Nohow… yeah, the movement seem to need greater amounts of competent engineering.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com Gretchen

    I agree. I’ll also ad that it makes sense for people to stick with the “there is no God,” “God is a hypothesis,” and “faith is not a virtue; it’s a vice” messages if the public rejection and resistance to this is still enormous. No way can we say that our culture has moved beyond this issue — or that it doesn’t impact decisions.

    I think individual atheists have moved ‘beyond’ arguing for atheism themselves, but that’s a different matter. There are also atheists who have moved on from fighting for social justice causes to fighting against the philosophical roots of irrationality and theism. Both are important and there’s no obvious direction as to where we start and where we end up.

    Agree with Sastra. “Atheism” referring to “the body of all people who are atheists” does not and cannot stand for an individual atheist. Individual atheists go through their own individual trajectories of focuses and passions, and within atheism there are at any one point people who are at every point in this trajectory. Not only does not every atheist begin with arguing philosophy and end with social justice, but there’s no particular reason why that should be the standard for every atheist.

    And hey, some of us do both, depending on our moods! Some of us talk about philosophy one day and social justice the next. And then the next day we might talk about video games. Or knitting. Or basketball.

    Now, don’t get me wrong– personally, I’m really done with presentations at atheist meetups and conferences that revolve around how terrible and wrong religion is. Not because I disagree, but because I’ve heard it 1,000 times already. But the person sitting next to me maybe has not. The person sitting next to me might be hearing this for the first time ever. That’s entirely possible.

    There’s absolutely no reason there isn’t room in atheism for everybody. Everybody, that is, who is willing to practice respect for their fellow human beings regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, class, etc.– and religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

  • Taz

    Our opposition is largely the same: the socially conservative faction, bolstered by religion.

    While this may be true, I don’t think it’s a situation we want to encourage. I’m an atheist, but the majority of people I know are theists of one stripe or another, and liberal on social issues. The right-wing has made it a core strategy to equate religion (particularly Christianity) with their conservative viewpoint. Let’s not help them.

  • https://www.facebook.com/joseph.sexton.7 Joseph Sexton

    Atheism really is nothing more than a disbelief in god(s). It means you have to look elsewhere for ethics/morals/coherent philosophy. Not all of us look in the same place. Therefore, not all of us share a common vision of what “social justice” looks like. “Atheism” isn’t shorthand for a particular value system.

  • martinc

    I disagreed with Adam Lee’s article when it appeared in the Guardian. Specifically this paragraph second from the end, which I have torn apart to comment on each point individually:

    As the atheist community becomes larger and more diverse, attracting a broader range of people from different backgrounds, this is a natural direction for our activism to take.

    No it is not. The broader the range of people within the atheist ‘tent’, the less likely it is they will all agree on other social issues. And we can’t afford to lose those supporters of the atheist cause by adding a whole bunch of checkboxes they have to tick before they can support us.

    It’s also a step that both atheists and people who care about social justice should applaud, because our alliance makes both causes stronger.

    No it doesn’t. It makes us look like rent-a-crowd, saying “we’ll support YOUR cause if you support OUR cause.”

    Our opposition is largely the same: the socially conservative faction, bolstered by religion.

    It is nonsensical to define ourselves by the fact we are both hated by the same enemy. The Christian Right hate Muslims too, but that does not make Muslims and atheists natural bedfellows.

    Atheism is about not believing in God. I am sure there are massive correlations between atheism and social justice (I’d like to think the linking factor is high intelligence, but maybe that’s just me) but I think we do both atheism and social justice a disservice in implying that you can’t cheer for one without also cheering for the other. It plays into the hands of our opponents.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    It’s time for atheists to move past theoretical questions about the existence of God and onto more practical pursuits – like how to fight for justice.

    This guy seems to think atheists haven’t started doing that already. Clearly he has a wee bit of catching up to do.

    It is nonsensical to define ourselves by the fact we are both hated by the same enemy.

    It’s not at all nonsensical to acknowledge a fact that affects our lives and demands some sort of response.

    The Christian Right hate Muslims too, but that does not make Muslims and atheists natural bedfellows.

    No, but it DOES mean atheists can, and should when possible, reach out to at least some Muslims to form a unified response to Christian bigotry and extremism. And to Muslim bigotry and extremism too while we’re at it. The more religious people see atheists willing to work with them for common good goals, the more they’ll see that atheists are moral people capable of doing good.

    I think we do both atheism and social justice a disservice in implying that you can’t cheer for one without also cheering for the other.

    How is it a “disservice” to reinforce the idea that we’re humans with human rights and obligations toward other humans? Your insistence on keeping atheism separate from moral causes is almost an exact mirror-image of some Christians’ explicit disdain for “good works.”

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    One of the most important messages we’re hearing from atheists recently is that people CAN be “good without God.” This is an idea that is inextricably linked with atheism itself, not a “social justice cause” separate from “dictionary atheism.” And what better way to get that message out than by actually reaching out to others to show them it’s true by actions, instead of just telling them?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    It’s time for atheists to move past theoretical questions about the existence of God and onto more practical pursuits – like how to fight for justice.

    The most infuriating thing about quotes like this is that they assume — with neither discussion nor evidence — that people become atheists FIRST, based only on abstract reasoning about the evidence for and against the existence of gods; and THEN make choices about which social-justice causes to support. My take on this is, if abstract reasoning was the most pressing issue in your life that caused you to become an atheist, then you were lucky to have such a sheltered life at that time. The fact is, there are huge numbers of people who became atheists for much more immediate and pressing reasons — i.e., because they had been seriously harmed by religion, and got away from it out of pure necessity. For them, the “social justice cause(s)” was the CAUSE of their atheism, not something they chose to do afterword. Telling such people that atheism should be separate from political morality or social-justice matters is pure insulting bullshit, and minimizes the relevance of their own life experiences.

    That’s why people embrace social-justice causes: because they have real effects on them. They’re not just abstractions that happen to other people.

  • martinc

    Raging Bee @ 9

    How is it a “disservice” to reinforce the idea that we’re humans with human rights and obligations toward other humans?

    Because “we” aren’t – not all of us, anyway. Huge numbers of atheists may well have concerns with human rights – I do myself – but that does not define atheism. And if we allow factors like a concern for human rights to be included in the definition of atheism, we pervert that definition. That is what it seems to me that Lee was suggesting – that atheists as an organized group should stand up for cause X or cause Y. I am perfectly happy for individual atheists to do that, but it should not be considered inherent in atheism.

    I am not trying to separate atheism and a concern for human rights. The vast majority of those who support atheism also support human rights. But there is no reason why people can’t simply be personally supporting both causes without attempting to shoehorn one into the other.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Because “we” aren’t – not all of us, anyway.

    Wait, are you saying not all atheists are human? Or are you saying that not all atheists feel they have obligations toward other humans?

    Why the fuck would atheists want to welcome amoral people into their tent, just to boost their numbers? That’s what evangelical Christians do.

    Huge numbers of atheists may well have concerns with human rights – I do myself – but that does not define atheism.

    It does for just about every atheist who became an atheist out of human-rights concerns. Are you saying their definition, based on their experience and values, is less valid than yours?

    And if we allow factors like a concern for human rights to be included in the definition of atheism, we pervert that definition.

    Pervert it? I’d say that would ENHANCE it. Not to mention that it would help to debunk certain negative stereotypes about meanie amoral atheists, which you seem eager to perpetuate.

    I am not trying to separate atheism and a concern for human rights.

    Yes, you are.

    So tell me, is it right or wrong for atheists to assert that people can be good without God? Is it right or wrong for atheists to demonstrate this fact in their actions?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    That is what it seems to me that Lee was suggesting – that atheists as an organized group should stand up for cause X or cause Y. I am perfectly happy for individual atheists to do that, but it should not be considered inherent in atheism.

    This sounds a lot like the standard libertarian pretend-response to large-scale injustice: yes, there’s bad things happening, but people should only respond to them individually, because collectivism is bad. I’m tempted to suspect that you ARE a libertarian, and are trying to neuter atheism as a progressive movement from the inside.

    And why are you so eager to insist that concern for social justice should NOT be inherent in atheism? It really sounds like you want to make atheism as irrelevant as possible in other people’s lives. Why would an atheist want to do that? Why would an atheist want to make atheism meaningless in the wider world?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    “Atheism” isn’t shorthand for a particular value system.

    No, but it inevitably informs certain conclusions about which values we should adopt, and certain decisions that all humans have to make anyway. If we assume that a) there are no gods from which values and morality can originate, and b) we humans have to have to have a moral code to live by, then the conclusion is that our morals have to be based on what’s best for humans, without regard to the alleged desires of any other unproven entities. And that, in turn, obligates us to devise our own moral codes, using our best understanding and reasoning, and act on our decisions. So no, atheism isn’t “shorthand,” it’s a basis and a starting-point.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    And we can’t afford to lose those supporters of the atheist cause by adding a whole bunch of checkboxes they have to tick before they can support us.

    Whose support would atheists lose if they embraced, say, a Muslim women’s rights movement? Would that be the sort of people an atheist movement would want in the first place?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    No it doesn’t. It makes us look like rent-a-crowd, saying “we’ll support YOUR cause if you support OUR cause.”

    How is it “rent-a-crowd” to engage in coalition-building and deal-making to get something done? Where I come from, that’s called “politics,” and it’s how we get large numbers of people from different backgrounds to work together to solve a problem or right a wrong. You ARE in favor of solving problems and righting wrongs, right?

  • abb3w

    @15ish, Raging Bee

    No, but it inevitably informs certain conclusions about which values we should adopt, and certain decisions that all humans have to make anyway.

    I’d disagree. Trivially, not all atheists are rational; it’s entirely possible there’s one who disbelieves in God because that’s what he was told by his garden gnomes, and I wouldn’t trust any further conclusions he’d reach.

    Less trivially, among atheists who’ve reached the conclusion as an empirical inference, that merely informs that certain conclusions about values aren’t validly reached from the conventional basis. (EG, “You ought to do what God says” and “God says thou shalt….”) Empiricism answers questions about “is”; and, with the addition of at least one “ought” premise taken axiomatically, can inform on “ought” questions; but it doesn’t dictate which “ought” axiom must be taken. Thus, even if both sides are atheists, there’s room for considerable debate about “ought” questions; EG, between Marxist Communist Atheists versus Randite Capitalist Atheists, or Deweyian Humanist Atheists versus Social Spencerian Atheists.

    @15ish, Raging Bee

    our morals have to be based on what’s best for humans

    No, they don’t have to. Beginning with another silly counter-example, they might instead be based on what involves humans eating the most cheese. True, this doesn’t line up particularly well to conventional morality that most religions agree on; however, it’s a logically valid basis (and probably more clearly defined than most), and it seems likely you already accept that religions aren’t completely right anyway.

    As a slightly more serious problem with that “what’s best” basis, there seems room for considerable disagreement about whether choice one is “better” versus “worse” than choice 2, not to mention how to balance cases where what is better for person A is worse for person B. (Most social justice types don’t find “nine out of ten people enjoy gang rape” a persuasive argument in favor of it.)

  • martinc

    Raging Bee @ 13,14, 16, 17:

    are you saying that not all atheists feel they have obligations toward other humans?

    The definition of what constitutes “human rights” is not as cut and dried as you make out.

    Examples:

    “This group condemns Israel’s attitude to the Palestinians.”

    “This group endorses Israel’s right to police its own territory.”

    Both of those might well be held up by different people as being “human rights” issues – and yet they could be interpreted by those who want to do so as endorsement for opposite actions. Where do you draw the line on what constitutes a “human right”? I have a line, you have a line, everybody else has a line, but they are not the same line.

    Why the fuck would atheists want to welcome amoral people into their tent

    That’s the point. The “tent” is not owned by us! The tent is “people who don’t believe in God”. We don’t get to decide “No, you’re not allowed to be considered an atheist unless you have met or exceeded the required level of concern for human rights.” There are complete assholes who are atheist, and it’s pure sophistry to attempt to re-define atheism so that it doesn’t include assholery.

    atheist who became an atheist out of human-rights concerns

    Really? Who becomes an atheist out of human rights concerns? Surely the vast majority of atheists become atheist because of an absence of evidence for the existence of God, not for some political reason of disagreeing with the actions taken by the religious? In my experience, those who find themselves in political disagreement with their religion resolve the problem by either finding a new religion or becoming one of the ‘Nones’: those who don’t identify with a particular religion but may still believe in God. I would think there would be very few people who would say “I don’t like the morality displayed by any particular religion, and therefore I will cease to believe in God.” They are much more likely to say that God still exists but his morality happens to accord with their own.

    is it right or wrong for atheists to assert that people can be good without God? Is it right or wrong for atheists to demonstrate this fact in their actions?

    I strongly agree it is right to assert that people can be good without God and to demonstrate it in their actions. My point is that attempting to demonstrate that “all atheists are good” by trying to redefine atheism so that it precludes those who aren’t good is pointless. There will still be non-good atheists, and we simply look absurd by trying to pretend they aren’t atheist because they don’t support one or more particular human rights. I’ve spent years arguing against the “No True Christian” argument from the other side; I don’t want to see atheism go down the same route.

    why are you so eager to insist that concern for social justice should NOT be inherent in atheism?

    I’m not “eager”, it’s the simple truth. That’s what atheism is: non-belief in God. There is nothing whatsoever inherent in atheism apart from that belief. If you want to start an Atheism Forum that has “non-belief in God plus much much more!!!”, be my guest, but that isn’t what atheism is.

    engage in coalition-building and deal-making to get something done?

    By all means do so, but don’t change the definition of atheism to do so.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Both of those might well be held up by different people as being “human rights” issues – and yet they could be interpreted by those who want to do so as endorsement for opposite actions. Where do you draw the line on what constitutes a “human right”? I have a line, you have a line, everybody else has a line, but they are not the same line.

    Those are legitimate questions, but none of that means atheist movements cannot, or should not, involve themselves in matters other than atheism. Nor does it mean atheism is irrelevant to anyone’s decisions regarding such matters. Also, WRT the specific question of Arab-Israeli conflict, a lot of that is influenced by religious belief, so it’s kind of absurd to say that atheists shouldn’t apply their non-belief to that question and offer a different perspective. Same goes for other issues such as evolution, gay rights, sex-ed, blasphemy laws, etc., where religious beliefs play a central role, and atheists, AS ATHEISTS, have a major stake and don’t have much room to pretend they’re unconnected to atheism.

    Really? Who becomes an atheist out of human rights concerns?

    I already answered that question in comment #11: people who became atheists because they saw (or felt) how religion or religious thinking violates human rights. Your blindness to that point says a lot about you.

    I’m not “eager”, it’s the simple truth. That’s what atheism is: non-belief in God. There is nothing whatsoever inherent in atheism apart from that belief.

    On what grounds do you way that “that’s what atheism is” to ALL ATHEISTS? And what makes you think all those other issues really are “apart from that belief?” I don’t believe in the underlying principles of monarchy, and I don’t believe in those of fascism either. Do you really think my political priorities exist apart from those non-beliefs? Of course they aren’t — they’re among the major pillars underlying my values and priorities. The idea that non-belief in gods is something that just exists in a vacuum, separate from the other important issues in our lives, is both absurd and demeaning.

    Atheism not a final destination; it’s just another step some people take in their lives. And just as there were previous steps that led to that step, so that step leads to the next. If you want atheism to be the last step in your life’s journey, or just a dead-end where you pause a bit before backtracking to your main course, that’s your decision. Don’t expect the rest of us to do the same.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    And one more thing: we’re taking about MOVEMENT atheism, which means atheists getting together and MOVING toward something. An individual atheist can sit back and not apply his non-belief to any other aspect of his life; but what’s the point of a movement that does the same? That kinda contradicts the whole point of having a movement in the first place. An atheist movement that just says “Okay, we’re all atheists, and now there’s no other items on our agenda!” is a movement that won’t really, you know, move anywhere. Who needs that? When atheists get together to affirm their non-belief, it’s both good, and inevitable, that they’ll start asking themselves “Okay, now what? What does our non-belief mean, and where should it take us from here?” And if non-belief doesn’t take anyone anywhere, then what’s the bloody point?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    That’s the point. The “tent” is not owned by us!

    It’s not owned by you either.

    The tent is “people who don’t believe in God”. We don’t get to decide “No, you’re not allowed to be considered an atheist unless you have met or exceeded the required level of concern for human rights.”

    And YOU don’t get to decide what atheism should, or should not, mean to anyone else; nor do you get to decide whether atheism leads anyone else to conclusions or decisions in other issues.

    There are complete assholes who are atheist, and it’s pure sophistry to attempt to re-define atheism so that it doesn’t include assholery.

    Really? You insist on saying atheism does not, and should not, include social-justice concerns; but then you say we can’t say it does not include assholery. Are you aware of the contradiction here?

    And no, I’m not talking about the DEFINITION of atheism; I’m talking about the CONSEQUENCES of atheism. Rejection of religion has consequences for people in their lives and decisions, just like any other decision or conclusion we make.

  • martinc

    I already answered that question in comment #11: people who became atheists because they saw (or felt) how religion or religious thinking violates human rights.

    I have personally met hundreds of atheists and never met one who became an atheist for those reasons, but I accept that perhaps you have. I suspect they are a very small percentage of atheists.

    Your blindness to that point says a lot about you.

    Thank you for your contribution of personal abuse.

    On what grounds do you way that “that’s what atheism is” to ALL ATHEISTS?

    On basic dictionary grounds! That’s what atheism means. No amount of trying to shoehorn all the other wonderful stuff that you and I believe in into the definition changes that one iota. If you are a human rights supporter who does not believe in God, then you are a human rights supporter and an atheist. Even if every person you know who is an atheist is also a human rights supporter, that does not make ‘atheist’ include ‘human rights supporter’ in its definition. As long as it is possible to be an atheist without being a human rights supporter – and it clearly is – it should be obvious that the defining factor for atheism is non-belief in God, not any set of beliefs in human rights, no matter what percentage of atheists hold them.

    Whether atheism is a ‘final step’ in someone’s journey does not change what atheism is. It’s a simple dictionary definition.

    If you want atheism to be the last step in your life’s journey, or just a dead-end where you pause a bit before backtracking to your main course, that’s your decision. Don’t expect the rest of us to do the same.

    You continue to use the traditional religious argument of “if you fail to get in line behind my argument, you must be working for the devil!” I have not and do not use atheism as a way of avoiding supporting human rights; I am simply pointing out what I thought was a fairly obvious fact: that the two are not the same thing. I am a human rights supporter and an atheist; that does not mean that I think human rights support should be inherently assumed in atheism. My pointing that out should not be assumed to mean that I do not support human rights.

    An atheist movement that just says “Okay, we’re all atheists, and now there’s no other items on our agenda!” is a movement that won’t really, you know, move anywhere.

    There are ample reasons for atheists to band together for the purpose of atheism. Atheists are being killed in countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan; atheists are discriminated against in developed countries etc. etc. ad infinitum. As constantly detailed in Ed’s pages, Christians in the USA will often try to assume a default condition of Christianity, which if endorsed by government is against the US Constitution. There is plenty for atheists to do.

    And YOU don’t get to decide what atheism should, or should not, mean to anyone else

    No, I don’t. The dictionary does. It says it means a non-belief in God.

    You insist on saying atheism does not, and should not, include social-justice concerns

    I have said that the definition of atheism does not include social-justice concerns. I strongly support atheists supporting social justice concerns; I do so myself.

    Rejection of religion has consequences for people in their lives and decisions, just like any other decision or conclusion we make.

    It does indeed. But it would be breathtakingly naive to assume that an interest in social justice is automatically one of them. There are atheists who don’t subscribe to social justice. Some of them have run autocratic regimes, as the religious like to point out. We cannot just define them away.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    I have personally met hundreds of atheists and never met one who became an atheist for those reasons, but I accept that perhaps you have. I suspect they are a very small percentage of atheists.

    I read about such people nearly every day, mostly here. And how many you “suspect” there are doesn’t make their experiences less meaningful, or their grievances less important.

    On basic dictionary grounds! That’s what atheism means.

    Why is the dictionary more important to you than the reality of what atheism means to the real lives of actual atheists?

    There are ample reasons for atheists to band together for the purpose of atheism. Atheists are being killed in countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan; atheists are discriminated against in developed countries etc. etc. ad infinitum. As constantly detailed in Ed’s pages, Christians in the USA will often try to assume a default condition of Christianity, which if endorsed by government is against the US Constitution. There is plenty for atheists to do.

    There you go — you’ve just given a few examples of how atheism rather quickly and directly leads to support for certain social-justices causes.

    I am simply pointing out what I thought was a fairly obvious fact: that the two are not the same thing.

    No, they’re not the same thing. But they’re CONNECTED. The decision to give up beliefs in gods, and to significantly alter one’s mode of thought as a result, influences many of the decisions you make later, and is influenced by previous circumstances.

    You continue to use the traditional religious argument of “if you fail to get in line behind my argument, you must be working for the devil!”

    Um…no, I never said anything like that.

    But it would be breathtakingly naive to assume that an interest in social justice is automatically one of them.

    I’m not “assuming” that, I’m concluding it based on what I’ve heard atheists say.

    There are atheists who don’t subscribe to social justice. Some of them have run autocratic regimes, as the religious like to point out. We cannot just define them away.

    No, but we don’t have to let them change what atheism means to us either; nor do we have to let their mere existence overrule our own concepts of consequences and responsibilities.