I was talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago about religion and codes of conduct for geek spaces. Geek spaces are unusual in the U.S. in that they lean toward majority-nonbeliever populations without explicitly being organized around a lack of religious belief. This can create some unusual dynamics that organizers might want to consider, one of which my friend was trying to figure out how to deal with. I’m sharing the outcome of me thinking about this, reading up on prior discussions, and talking with other friends here as a framework for others thinking these questions through.
The first thing to remember in spaces where a minority becomes a majority is that, while the power structures that exist outside these spaces may be attenuated within them, they don’t disappear. To use an example people are familiar with, men may unconsciously expect and even be allowed to disproportionately interrupt and talk over women even in feminist spaces. Their words may carry more weight. We carry the habits of a lifetime with us even into groups that are created to oppose them.
Those of us who are involved in organized atheism see proofs of this all the time. It’s trivial to find atheists telling atheist activists–in activist spaces—that they need to demonstrate more respect for the phenomenon of belief or religious tradition or the role that religion plays in society. Though atheists themselves, these people have internalized the demands of religious power and impose them on others.
If the concerns of the dominant religion can intrude into explicitly atheist spaces, they will intrude into spaces that are incidentally majority-atheist. They will continue to be found in geek spaces. [Read more…]