It’s no secret to anyone who deems themself part of the atheist movement that our ranks have been suffering through several (and no longer facetiously named) Deep RiftsTM over the past couple of years. More and more godless activists and bloggers are taking up the mantle of social justice issues, including that bugaboo of far too many so-called peers, feminism. An increasing number of women (and male allies) are daring to speak up about such controversial subjects as the need for anti-sexual harassment policies at major conferences and the importance of keeping in mind how one shouldn’t allow their carnal desires to affect anyone else’s public experience. Because, as we’ve all seen, merely asking people to display a modicum of respect and consideration for others is now cause for years’ worth of arguments, broken alliances, and death threats.
There’s a staggering amount more to be said about the matter, but it’s all pretty much been discussed, debated and (for some) settled by people far more involved and pertinent than myself, so I shall abstain. But in the meantime, these Rifts continue to grow, with some people declaring that secular activists should limit their focus to purely atheism-related matters and ignore anything else regarding diversity and inequality, and ever-more who passionately disagree. At this, I command you to read Jen McCreight’s utterly brilliant post on the matter, and why it’s time to let those Deep Rifts continue to spread and form our own, grander, healthier movement:
I don’t want good causes like secularism and skepticism to die because they’re infested with people who see issues of equality as mission drift. I want Deep Rifts. I want to be able to truthfully say that I feel safe in this movement. I want the misogynists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and downright trolls out of the movement for the same reason I wouldn’t invite them over for dinner or to play Mario Kart: because they’re not good people. We throw up billboards claiming we’re Good Without God, but how are we proving that as a movement? Litter clean-ups and blood drives can only say so much when you’re simultaneously threatening your fellow activists with rape and death.
It’s time for a new wave of atheism, just like there were different waves of feminism. I’d argue that it’s already happened before. The “first wave” of atheism were the traditional philosophers, freethinkers, and academics. Then came the second wave of “New Atheists” like Dawkins and Hitchens, whose trademark was their unabashed public criticism of religion. Now it’s time for a third wave – a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists. It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime. We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.
Now go and read the whole thing, if you haven’t already. Seriously. Do it. Now.
Of course, it is never any easy – if at all possible – to predict just where such divergences will lead. But, as previously said, any rifts that serve to expose the festering, hateful underbelly of the skeptical/atheist movement are only desirable and useful. I want no part in any movement where large factions see and treat untold numbers of their fellow advocates as lesser human beings, if even human at all, merely because of entirely irrelevant physiological attributes. If you don’t believe that women’s issues should be taken seriously, or ethnic minorities’ issues, or LGBT folk’s issues, or the same for any other group or class of people with real problems that require actual solutions, then I don’t wish to be associated with whatever kind of socio-political ideology you espouse. The rest of the world deserves better.
As such, whenever appropriate, I will now start referring to myself as a third-wave atheist. I ask that anyone reading this whose views are majoritarily aligned with those who care about what happens to various minority groups do the same. In the mean, it’s time to reclaim this movement in the name of those who actually give a shit about more than one narrow subject. Behold what I like to call Humanism 2.0, or Atheism+:
Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.
It speaks to those of us who see atheism as more than just a lack of belief in god. danielmchugh summarized how I feel perfectly:
Religion is responsible for generating and sustaining most of the racism, sexism, anti-(insert minority human subgroup here)-isms… it gave a voice to the bigotry, established the privilege, and fed these things from the pulpit for thousands upon thousands of years. What sense does it make to throw out the garbage bag of religion yet keep all the garbage that it contained?
I can’t help but see social justice as a logical consequence of atheism. I’m for getting rid of all the garbage.
Heads and farking nails.
Now, I can’t pretend I’m all that involved in the atheo-skeptic community beyond my role as a rather lazy blogger who just enjoys his Blogger-powered outlet for his surplus of thoughts and opinions, partially for the reading pleasure of the occasional wanderer who happens to find some modicum of interest in my written meanderings. (I also can’t seem to form a sentence that’s under fifty words.) But I do feel that even hanging onto the bandwagon that other, better peers have gotten rolling is still preferable to not taking any part at all. It’s all about momentum and clout, after all, and every last meat-world and online voice counts. So although I’m basically limited in my ability to add to the chorus, I prefer to do whatever little I can, even if it’s just slapping a logo onto my obscure little blog. Anything is better than nothing.
And so, I’ve taken the liberty of adopting the above-pictured symbol (originally from Blag Hag commenter One Thousand Needles, with some minor retouching by me; get your high-res version here [760×680]) as a timely replacement for the old “Scarlet A of Atheism”. May it live long and prosper.
Of course, now for the elephant in the room … who are we supposed to put in charge of writing up the new atheist manifesto? Dang paperwork.
Edit (08/20/12 12:35 AM ET) – Added some additional thoughts.