The Asian Panel at FTBCon has spawned a group for Secular Asian Americans

Our panel was composed of East and South Asians, and Hemant Mehta joked we were the only Asian freethinkers. We wondered why we didn’t see more Asian faces active in the freethinking movement. Yau Man Chan‘s theory is that culturally many Asians don’t want to rock the boat, and prefer to keep their heads down. Many may not want to clash publically, and put themselves out there opposing theism.  It was a great discussion, we had a great panel in addition to the people we already mentioned with Vic Wang, Cindy Cooper, Razib Khan. Shanon Nebo joined me as a fellow Nones co-host, which was brave of her. Some might be intimidated being the odd person out with that many Asians. It is so easy to make a misstep, and inadvertently offend on sensitive cultural topics.

Speaking of that I can’t resist saying that I was actually correct on one of the points of contention with Razib Khan. A viewer asked a question about women’s issues getting more Asians involved in secularism. My response was that Asians tended to vote Republican due to financial issues until relatively recently. Khan disagreed. He did add a lot of interesting points about the history of secularism in East Asian governments like China. Many Asian governments don’t have the entanglements of theocracy, for good reasons. The major Eastern religions don’t tend to be as dogmatic as Abrahamic religions can be. It was an interesting discussion, Damian Torres Reinhard of Background Probability did a fair review of the panel,other panels, and FTBCon’s room for improvement.

Some Asian freethinkers were interested in starting a group to continue the discussion. You can join the Secular Asian Americans even if you are not an Asian American in solidarity with what they face trying to have a voice in a society dominated by religion. There were people, who aren’t Asian, but curious about Asian freethinking issues and culture who joined too.

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  • Razib Khan

    My response was that Asians tended to vote Republican due to financial issues until relatively recently.

    i know the data from the 1990s. i don’t consider that recently personally. but that might be perhaps because i interact with so many ppl who barely remember the 90s :-)

  • lpetrich

    I concede that I was a bit concerned about lumping people with Asian ancestry together — it’s like lumping US people with Mexicans.

    But I did like that panel discussion — most Asian religions are very different from Abrahamic ones, and the creation of the Universe doesn’t seem to be a high priority in most of them. The Buddha told his Parable of the Poisoned Arrow, implying that it’s pointless to concern oneself with insoluble questions like that.

    The Jain and Hindu belief in a eternal and cyclic Universe had been a common belief in the classical Greco-Roman world — the Stoics had notably believed that.

    Four as an unlucky number in China — I was reminded of what some people think of the number 13.