A Schism in Atheism

It is mind-blowing to me just how passionately some people are against the idea of Atheism Plus. Comment threads abound with people rudely and vocally not-getting-it. Blog posts are popping up indignantly decrying the whole idea for a variety of non-reasons. Insisting that the secular movement is being torn apart! And will someone please think of the children!?! I get this mental image of Chicken Little running around the farm yard: ‘The Sky is Falling!‘ Only it’s a bunch of grown-ass atheists flapping their arms and squawking about something that doesn’t have to affect them at all.

Guest Blogger Billybob on Canadian Atheist is a part of the noisy crowd of naysayers and a perfect example of the Chicken Little variety of naysayer that I’m talking about. ‘I want my word back!‘ and ‘This battle is unnecessary and wasteful. Just leave my word alone!!‘ Yeah, fuck you I can’t use ‘your’ word. I’m an atheist and I’m using the label. I’m an atheist plus…I’m a whole lot of other things. That’s kind of the point. Atheism Plus is an opportunity to show the world that it’s not just about atheism. Okay, we all don’t believe in god. That’s established. So we’re supposed to, what? Write blog posts about how awesome we are that we share this nonbelief? How much smarter we are than theists? Make fun of religious people? See, that would pretty much be a giant circle jerk. And while that is fun at times, the thrill dies off pretty quickly. Some of us want to do more. Or at least have the opportunity to discuss it.

So we’re all atheists. Now let’s do something with that. Those of us who care about social justice issues will do just that, under the banner of Atheism Plus. Note the capital letters. Don’t want to talk about social justice issues? Don’t. But don’t show up on our threads to poo-poo and whine about how atheism isn’t about feminism or LGBT rights or whatnot. You’re right, atheism has nothing to do with that. Thank you for stating the obvious. Now, go away. Feel free to come back when we’re discussing the War on Xmas and picking apart holy books. And that has been the trouble as of late. Any atheist who wants to discuss these issues gets bombarded by naysayers who remind us that social justice isn’t a part of the dictionary definition of atheism. No kidding. What a shame.

The irony being that now that a new wave that does care about these issues is created, those same naysayers are stamping their feet and pouting and flooding the comment threads with complaints about how they’re being excluded. You’re being excluded from something you didn’t want to be a part of? Hmm… Yeah, seriously, fuck off already.

This is how ridiculous it is: Imagine I start a group called Toronto Awesome Atheist Association (I never checked to see if this is an actual thing. If it is, didn’t mean to center you out). A group dealing with atheist issues that specifically concern those who are awesome and living in Toronto. The internet then explodes as legions descend upon my website telling me that atheism isn’t about Toronto and I’m tearing the movement apart! Riiiiiight… Actually, I’m focusing on one area so that the members of the TAAA have a place to discuss what’s important to them without cluttering up generic online atheist forums where people don’t care about being an atheist in Toronto.

A group from Free Thought Blogs had a Google+ Hangout that they made public. In it they attempted to address some of the issue people say they have with Atheism Plus. Instead they mostly got terribly sidetracked and goofed around. But still worth the watch. You can find the video on PZ Myers blog, Pharyngula. In it, Jen McCreight of Blag Hag, who was the one who wrote the original post that kicked off Atheism Plus said the following (p.s. Thank you to the fine folks who transcribed the video.) :

I mean, I’ve talked about, I want to go start my own social justice atheist group. Or I want to start a forum where we can just talk about this, without being constantly harassed. And what have I got in the last 48 hours? Is nothing but a constant slew of harassment. And so it’s like, we can’t even go off and start our own group without them saying how crappy our group is, and how much they hate it, and how I’m a fascist, narcissistic, anti-intellectual cult leader? It’s just like,if you’re not interested in issues of social justice and how they relate to atheism, then don’t talk about it! But if we want to talk about it, we should be able to.

If there is a schism in atheism it is because of the naysayers. It’s because of the misogynists and the racists who make so many feel unwelcome in the secular movement. It’s because of those who refuse to take any criticism and refuse to even consider changing and becoming more inclusive. It’s because of those who demand that we stop talking about social justice issues because it makes them feel uncomfortable…because we’ve taken the spotlight off them for a brief moment and shone it on bigger issues. They created the need for Atheism Plus and now they’re still whinging about how unfair it is.

Yeah, it’s really unfair not to feel welcome…
Their Irony detectors appear to be broken.

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Atheism Plus. Where Atheism and Feminism Meet – Part II

The first part of this post can be found here : Where Atheism and Feminism Meet – Part I

Atheism Plus. The term was coined by Jennifer McCreight and the commentariat of her blog, Blag Hag. The idea being that we want a label that applies to more of what we do believe, and not just what we don’t believe. Jason Thibeault , from Lousy Canuck, defines it thusly : ‘the “atheism plus” label takes the part of the Venn diagram where humanists and “new” atheists and social justice advocates overlap, and defines itself as that overlap.

I am wholeheartedly on board with this suggestion. I’ve often said that my feminism and social justice ideals stem from my atheism. And yet, atheism at its core has nothing to do with either of the other movements. I am a feminist because believing half the population is somehow inferior to the other is irrational. I believe in Social Justice because we only have one life and we should strive to make this place where we live the most pleasant place we can, before we die and the ride is over.

At its core, atheism is merely the lack of belief in gods. Many people have no belief in gods. People who identify as MRAs, and racists, homophobes, people who are not skeptics, and people who are capitalists all may have no belief in god. I share this label with people who do not share any of my philosophies. The irony being that it was my atheism that brought me to these other philosophies. It didn’t bring everyone here. It did bring enough of us to the destination where we should probably have a label to describe where we’re coming from.

The idea of creating a new wave of atheism for those atheists who fit the description of Atheism+ seems to be receiving a lot of pushback. People who insist that tossing all this extra luggage into the trunk is going to cause division and strife amongst atheists. Guess what? The division and strife is already there. As I noted in my previous post, I feel very unsafe and unwelcome in the atheist movement as it stands. I am not the only one. Jen’s original post on starting a new wave of atheism explained her feelings on the subject and they are very similar to my own.

And then I found this quote :

An atheist movement cannot be inclusive of atheist women… and also be inclusive of people who publicly call women ugly, fat, sluts, whores, cunts, and worse; who persistently harass them; who deliberately invade their privacy and make their personal information public; and/or who routinely threaten them with grisly violence, rape, and death.

Greta Christina, Why Atheism Plus Is Good for Atheism

Not just women, either. As it stands, the movement is already divisive and exclusive in regards to sexism and racism, and homo/trans-phobia. Which explains why the current face of the atheism is a group of old white men. That’s not my atheism. It’s not reflective of the rest of us. And there are a lot of ‘the rest of us‘. So give us a banner to crowd under. So we can march forward united. The chaff having been left to the wayside. They were making us look bad and they weren’t contributing anything worthwhile anyway.

Atheism Plus. Where Feminism and Atheism and Social Justice meet. Call me an optimist, but I have high hopes for this movement. It’s exactly the face we need to help secularism grow. One that is supportive of LGBT issues, feminism, people of colour, and one that embraces social justice. A friendly face, as it were.

Islamophobia?

I’ve noticed a trend lately where liberal left-leaning atheists tend to shy away in horror whenever someone says anything disparaging about islam. I’ve seen numerous people called racists and islamophobes for saying something that no one would bat an eyelash at if it was said of christians. Frankly, I think it’s gotten ridiculous. The fear of being seen as a racist apparently trumps speaking out against a harmful and vile philosophy that seeks to gain power in our society.

I’ve never personally been called an islamophobe (I’m sure that will change after this post) but I do bristle when I see the label applied to others. Because to me it stinks of a silencing buzzword. In the same way that anti-feminists try to use the words ‘bitch‘ and ‘man-hater’ to end conversations with women.

Let’s break islamophobia down for a moment : islam (The so called religion of ‘peace’) and phobia (intense fear. I would dispute the phrase ‘irrational fear’ in this case). Now what would we possibly have to fear from a religion with such a strong history of violence and aggressive expansionism? How could we hate a religion that refuses to grant half the population even basic human rights? A religion that preaches that you must submit or die. One that encourages lying to nonbelievers to make your religion seem more palatable.

Yes, by that definition I’m an islamophobe.
I have nothing positive to say about this religion. Or any of the monotheistic and Abrahamic religions, to be completely honest. Don’t for a moment think that christianity is somehow kinder and better than islam. Both are violent and irrational at the fundamental level. So this term ‘Islamophobia’? I don’t see the term as being pejorative when applied to someone who’s speaking out against what I perceive as evil.

Is it the same as racism? No. Because because being a muslim is not a racial thing. It’s a religious thing. You choose (or are brainwashed or bullied) to be a muslim. I could be a muslim–Okay, I’m lying. I have self respect and a fundamental need to seek out answers with evidence and not fairy tales. Not to mention the fact that I’m a woman and this is not a religion that has any tolerance for women. I’ll never be a muslim. But the point stands, anyone from any cultural background from anywhere in the world can choose to buy into this silliness.

Islam is not a race it is a religion. The fact that the majority of muslims are ‘brown people’ has more to do with the fact that people almost always choose to stay with the religion they were raised in. It’s relatively rare to convert to a completely foreign religion. Both religions were born in the desert and are utterly incompatible. So they had to part ways. Christian families moved north, muslim families stayed south. Correlation does not imply causation. Skin colour does not predict religion.

The most unfortunate thing, as far as I’m concerned, is that by standing by my right to find fault with islam, and I maintain that there’s plenty of fault to find, the people most likely to agree with me are the racists. nowhere was this more evident then during ‘Everyone Draw Mohammed Day‘. A day of protest condemning the threats of violence from muslims against anyone who dared to make a representation of their beloved prophet.

I agreed with this support of freedom of speech. I agreed to protest anyone trying to silence us with fear. I participated. I drew my depiction, a rather bland portrait of a bearded muslim man. Hey, it wasn’t about art, it was about principle! Most of the other drawings were, well, vile. It became more about vilifying brown people than focusing on islam or Mohammed. I participated a second time: it was a worse parade of racism. I did not participate in 2012. The people participating drew sikhs and hindus and muslims and called them all Mohammed, because to them brown people in turbans are all the same anyway. The original meaning had been too badly corrupted and the protest had been stolen by racists.

I recognize that racists revile islam. But as I said, they don’t appear to be able to tell the difference between any person of colour in ethnic attire. This is not the same thing as specifically calling out islam on its faults. In fact, the two couldn’t be further apart. I’d be amazed if those tea-bagger style racists knew the first thing about islam. For those that do know about the ‘religion of peace’ and who choose to shine a glaring light on its ugliness, have at it! This is not something that should have other atheists turning on them in horror and accusing them of racism. It’s a dishonest accusation, or an ignorant one. And I can’t help but feel it may have more to do with fear than with reason…

Here’s some awesome smack talk from my favourite islamophobe, Pat Condell. He totally nails it.

Mythic Mondays – Jesus Hates F*gs

That’s right: Figs. Jesus hates them. It’s an unreasoning and petulant hatred too, according to the bible.

Matthew 21:18-22
King James Version (KJV)

Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!

Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.’

Jesus sees a fig tree, has a complete conniption when he realizes it’s not in season and has no fruit for him to eat and smites the tree. He then writes out a cheque for free fulfilled prayers which his ass never quite gets around to cashing. This is a totally rational reaction to a tree…if you’re a five year old throwing a temper tantrum. He totally wasn’t acting like a spiteful asshole teenager at all. I’m thinking the son of Yahweh needed some serious anger management counselling.

And then there’s this bit:

Jeremiah 29:17 KJV ‘Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.’

That’s some serious righteous rage, right there. I don’t believe it’s ever been explained why our man Yahweh and his son Jebus have such a hard-on for persecuting figs but they were never big on explanations or…logic.

Or… did you think the title of this blog post referred to something else?

Well, good luck trying to use Jesus to justify homophobia, there’s nothing to back it up in the bible. At least not in the New Testament.

In Leviticus it states that a man cannot lie with a man as he would a woman. Which apparently lets lesbians completely off the hook. This divine wisdom is, of course, right beside passages that threaten hell for wearing mixed fibers, planting more than one crop in a field, having a rounded hair or beard cut, eating pork or shellfish, or having a tattoo. Which most christians are so super careful not to do. So clearly this rule about making sure lesbians don’t have sex with men must be pretty important right?

In warning others that homosexuality is a sin, this guy (in the photo in the left) is going to hell for having a tattoo…and prolly wearing mixed fibres too. He takes his bible really seriously when it’s backing up his chosen form of bigotry. Ignores it elsewise. Credibility…gone. I just hope for his sake that he’s not a fan of Fig Newtons too.

What Free Speech Does Not Mean

One of the most common arguments you’ll see from the ignorant on any number of a variety of topics is the ‘It’s free speech’ argument. Lately I’ve seen this with the Daniel Tosh Rape joke scenario, the We-Need-Moar-Guns-To-Stop-People-From-Shooting-Theatres debate, the Chik-Fil-A We-don’t-hate-gays-but-donate-to-anti-gay-groups debacle. And numerous other ridiculous situations that I have a hard time imagining anyone would want to defend.

Usually, the ‘It’s Free Speech’ argument is said completely without irony and without an understanding of what it actually means. It’s like people think it’s a ‘get out of argument free card’.

What free speech means:

That you are free to voice your opinion without government interference.

That’s it. Full stop. That’s all it means. Here’s what it does not mean:

That you are free to say something remarkably stupid without receiving criticism.

As I’ve said on a previous post : ‘No one is above critique. See that’s the flip side of the ‘Free Speech’ argument that so many seem to draw like a gun. Yes, you can say stupid things…and then I can verbally tear you a new asshole for it.’ If you try to tell me I’m not allowed to criticize something you’ve said…you’ve just committed the ultimate hypocrisy in asserting that your Free Speech somehow outweighs mine.

That I have to listen to what you have to say.

MRAs (Male Rights Activists) may rant and rave and froth and foam to their heart’s content. And they do quite frequently. I’m not interested and I’m not listening. My brain can only handle so much unreasoning hate and pure stupid. In no way have I taken away their rights by focusing my attention away from their fecal flinging. I won’t pull you off your soapbox…but I have the right to walk by without stopping.

That I have to provide you an opportunity to voice your opinion.

I believe this is part of the FreeThoughtBlogs vs Thunderf00t comedy. He was given a blog space by them…they realized he was only there to shit disturb…they promptly removed him. No Free Speech was taken. As a presenter or organizer, I don’t have to allow you the stage. As a webmaster I don’t have to give you a blog. As a blogger, I don’t have to let you write a guest post and I certainly don’t have to allow your opinions in the comment section of my personal blog. I’m not the government and I’m not censoring you. I’m just not giving up my space for your opinions. Get your own damned blog. I hear there’s this place called WordPress that gives them away for free!

That I must continue to support the person who is exercising their free speech.

For example, if I choose to boycott a business because they are vocal in their bigotry, this is not infringing on their free speech. They chose to voice their opinion. I chose not to support it. If, as another business, I choose to sever our relationship, this too is not taking away the rights of the first business. They chose to voice an opinion that may not be well received by the masses. There are consequences in that.

That the listeners must agree with the speaker.

Have your say. Try to swing me to your perspective. Don’t throw a temper tantrum and accuse people of stealing your free speech when they don’t instantly bow down to your demands or agree with you. Be an adult, for chrissakes. Or by all means, flop down in the mud and throw your temper tantrum. It gives us fledgling bloggers something interesting to blog about. And by ‘blog about’ I do mean ‘mock relentlessly’.

Where Atheism and Feminism Meet – Part I

This blog is called Canadian Heathen. This is because I identify as an atheist. Also because maple leafs and socialized healthcare are awesome! The majority of my blog posts have not, however, been primarily concerned with atheism. Or…Mounties. At first glance this may be confusing (or annoying) to some.

For me, my atheism and feminism stem from the same place: rationality and skepticism. Belief in gods is irrational. Sexism is irrational. Often the first leads to the second. There’s a strong correlation between religious belief and lack of women’s rights. Both of these things affect me. As a woman, the sexism is often the more noticeable for me. Also the more likely to piss me off. Because it’s all up in my face and it’s not something I can ever escape from. Once you see…you cannot unsee.

It’s also sometimes more baffling for me. Sexism doesn’t just come from the religious folks. I wish that were the case. It’s really easy to dismiss a stupid statement coming from someone who truly believes a snake tricked a woman into eating an apple. Unfortunately, there’s a nice heaping helping of unreasoned sexism that’s coming from fellow atheists and skeptics and this is something that I just don’t understand. How can you let go of one set of irrational beliefs while clutching desperately to another? More importantly, why would you want to?

I’ve been an internet forum warrior. Hell, I’ve even been a troll. I’ve clashed with religious fundementalists over the basic tenets of their beliefs with varying degrees of success. I remember years ago being on a forum arguing against religious fundementalism with a muslim dude. The muslim dude was ill prepared, as he was throwing some of the most common theistic arguments at us. The sort of thing that’s been debunked again and again. Pascal’s Wager and the like. Suffice it to say that he was floundering. Then one of my ‘allies’ piped in with : ‘you’re getting beaten by a girl, you know. What does that say about you manly muslims?’ I was completely derailed and flustered.

Really, random-internet-dude-who’s-suppose-to-be-my-ally-here? You went there? To score points in a flame war you tossed aside all reason and taunted his manhood by insulting half the population and in particular one of your allies. How exactly was I supposed to respond to that? Laughing along with him would be tacit agreement that I’m a second class citizen. I remember that what happened was that I turned my ire on the atheist and asked him what the hell his problem was. His response was something like : ‘But look how mad it made muslim guy’. Mine was : ‘And look how mad it made me. Do you really want to ‘win’ this fight by alienating half of your potential allies? Don’t knock me down in order to get a shot in at some random internet idiot.’ I got a sullen :’sorry…’ and he withdrew from the conversation.

This last anecdote is a mild one. There’s far worse things going on within and without the atheist community at the moment.

There’s the infamous Elevatorgate scandal, which all things aside (and whatever you happen to think about being propsitioned in an elevator at 4am in a strange country), taught us that if a woman speaks up about something that bothers her, she will get threatened and harassed mercilessly…for years! Or a condescending ‘Dear Muslimah‘ letter from one of the most respected members of the atheist community.

There’s are numerous situations where a rape survivor has mentioned that joking at the expense of the victims is not funny…who then promptly receive rape threats, because apparently that’s the go-to silencing tactic when calling a woman a Bitch doesn’t work.

The backlash that Surly Amy is getting because she’s a woman…because she’s a skeptic. Because she has opinions. Read that link, it’s a pretty horrifying example of the sort of shit that women who are atheists have to put up with…from their supposed allies! Among other things another atheist laments that Amy won’t be setting herself on fire anytime soon.

There’s a highschool girl sharing her gotta-make-you-smile story of how her very religious mother gave her a Carl Sagan book for Christmas…and then the rape threats that followed. And seriously, this girl is not even an adult yet.

So, above and beyond the fact that as an atheist I must fight against the religious right trying to lobby to take away my rights as a person, and as a woman, I’ve got this secondary fight going on. One where I need to give my apparent allies the side-eye from time to time and wonder if they really have my back or not or whether they’re waiting to throw me under the bus to score points in a frikken flame war. This is why so many of my posts have focused and will focus on feminism. To me, it’s all part of the same picture. In this case, the more uncomfortable part of the ‘good fight’.

The Canadian Heathen

First, I’d like to mention that I mean Heathen in it’s pejorative sense. The noun and not the adjective.  I am not a member of one of the neo-pagan Germanic groups.  If that’s what you were expecting, this is very much not the right place.

The word heathen (noun) is defined by Merriam Webster as:

‘1 : an unconverted member of a people or nation that does not acknowledge the God of the Bible
2 : an uncivilized or irreligious person’

I am an atheist.  A Canadian.  I have a tendency to swear when passionate.  I am a left-wing socialist leaning feminist and an animal rights advocate who is fluent in sarcasm.

So basically, I’m the bitch your mother warned you about.

In this space I’ll be blogging about atheism, feminism, and social injustice.  Also:  snark.  Anything that pisses me off sufficiently to put pen to paper, so to speak.  Mainly because I’m starting to feel bad inflicting these things on my rather politically neutral friends and family on Facebook.  And Twitter oppresses my verbose nature with her 140 character constraints.  Finally having a blog means I have a space to get my rant on for serious.

Cheers,
The Yazata