“What do I Think About the Conflict in Atheism?” Asked an email.
Well? It is a disease of change. It is bad but these were issues that have always been there. I am a british indian atheist but I am currently living in India as an expat out here. I was pretty much blogging in quiet at this point last year. When I heard that people wanted more diversity, I was pretty surprised by the backlash against a simple idea.
Diversity is important to us. I started blogging because there were no role models in atheism for people like myself. I also kind of started blogging as a way to unwind and de-stress. So it actually amused me when I see some of my hate mail. The TAM one in particular is high on my list because there is a genuine group of people who seem to be rubbing their hands with glee that I am somehow excluded from TAM this year because it would bankrupt me and make me go “out of business” as it were.
A little piece of information for you. I make around £1 from the blog a day… There have been some days where I have made a whopping £4 from the blog but generally I make around £1. Yes! Shake your fists at my mighty earning potential…
This is not big money anywhere in the world. Considering the amount of effort that goes into making a blog post? I also have other stuff I do during the day. To wish me bankruptcy is a tad “evil”.
And the second thing you should know is that Indians are rather poorly represented in Atheism/Skepticism. The chance that I would have been at TAM in any role is very very low because people often “forget” about us. We aren’t represented heavily in atheism. We do wish we were though.
Which is why our community should be more inclusive to people of colour, GLBT and women. Atheism is like pretty much any society dominated by a majority and our majority is “White, Male and Judeo-Christian”. We can toss in “American” to that list too. There are precious few voices outside the majority. When you start yelling about who represents what, you end up drowning out voices who legitimately want to be heard and who really should be listened to.
There are naysayers on this. My mere association with Freethought Blogs has made me a target for criticism and even active attempts to reduce traffic. I have watched really tragic stories on things like Female Genital Mutilation or the Indian Rapes get buried by anti-FTB despite the content being things that we can fight for and make a positive change in the world. I have seen derailment and indeed people simply poisoning the well for the sake of it. I don’t mind the naysayers as much as others do, I am more puzzled than irate. Because they have forgotten one thing.
I am IMHO a diversity hire. I represent a group of atheists who aren’t heavily represented in atheism. If I said Ambedkar or Periyar would you recognise the names? I came from a tiny blog. I got a hundred hits a WEEK and I don’t really mind going back to that. However I also know that I am at this moment representing one of the few ex-hindu western atheists out there. You may not think we have “problems” but we do. We face down immense sexism. We face down arranged marriages. We face down pseudo-science, caste and alternative medicine. But here is the thing. You will NEVER hear about our struggles without doing things like this. You won’t hear about how lonely it is or how we have to face down Hindu/Muslim antipathy.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be more inclusive. The “Geek” community is fighting the same fight that we are and we do share a lot of members with them. Our community is enriched and improved by inclusiveness. What surprised me was the backlash against this notion of inclusiveness. There were people who believed that atheists should just be about atheism and mainly about Judeo-Christian Atheism. That we should not use our perspective for anything else apart from Atheism (which is amusing since atheists have no problem in using their skepticism for a god to discuss pseudo-science). That we shouldn’t or don’t have to improve our culture so that more atheists can be vocal. That we shouldn’t use our atheism to be productive. That we shouldn’t have responsibility of speech alongside freedom of speech?
This is a rather big shock to me considering what I do and why I do it. I understand not taking part but to actively condemn a group suggesting more diversity is better is “shocking”.
If I had a female atheist from India wanting to be heard and she found out that there were people in our movement who were blaming women in a country infamous for it’s misogynistic stance for a horrific rape; would she join? What if she found out about the kind of harassment female bloggers have been subject to? That she can never be vocal about the things she finds interesting or horrid because the naysayers can just harass her into oblivion. In this case A Voice for Men gave a voice to a Indian Rape Apologist. I barely gave a voice to a woman who wasn’t even allowed to talk to her father in law except through her son. Where is the fairness in that?
The naysayers have claimed that what they do is not harassment but parody. That it is an expression of free speech. I suggest they go read about all the kids who have killed themselves because they too were subject to such “parody”. It’s bullying. It’s simple as that.
What’s there to discuss? On the one side you have people arguing for an atheist movement that should be more inclusive and on the other you have people fighting for it to be the old monolith. And we have all seen the harassment aimed at people like Stephanie Zvan who has been called a variety of things from the usual bitch and slut to silly spellings of her name (Black Zvan?). To outright posts of NSFW pictures mocking her. A horse is horse and a dog is a dog, that was bullying.And you want me to tell my readers that there are no problems in Atheism? I may not agree with Atheism Plus but I do agree something like it should exist for the SOLE reason that the backlash has proven categorically that atheism has a sexism problem and that we need to genuinely fix it. It also has a problem with being more inclusive to non-white people and this is blatantly evident when you look at the open demographics.
Because at the moment all that’s coming from the argument is “We aren’t sexist! Take that back you horrible cunts!”.
So what are the major points of contention?
Firstly? There are no sides to this argument. This is not Jets vs. Sharks. We disagree with each other a lot. In fact I have criticised Atheism+ despite being in favour of many of the same goals (our conflict is methodology and academics). My criticism has been vocal but I have informed people about my stance then proceeded to carry on my with my life rather than focus my entire atheist existence into a campaign of harassment.
Secondly. Consider what their goals are. One group wants atheism to be more accessible to minorities. The other effectively wishes to carry on in a system that doesn’t do enough to be accessible to anything outside the status quo.
It honestly is idiotic as hell. I don’t work as a blogger. This is a hobby to me rather than my life. It still irks me that people are willing to actually stop any income I receive from writing. It irked me even more to notice that there were people who tried to do the same to people who were reliant on their blogs for their income.
Free Speech is great, but how you use it is an insight into the kind of society you wish to build. You can use it to bring down tyrants and you can use it to do things like spread transphobic hate (witnessed from the anti-stance). You can use it to defame and harass and you can use it to deny things that are patently sensible.I ran into the entity known as the Slymepit in one specific article. A Voice for Men ran an article from an Indian MRA. The best case scenario was that the man who wrote it was highly delusional. The worst case scenario is that he was a rape apologist which is no surprise since India post the Delhi Rape/Murder played host to an ever increasing dialogue of such. What surprised me was the level of support AVfM had from the Slymepit. For all the vaunted “free speech” championed by people who say that we are the ones ruining atheism not one of them seemed to be vocal against their own members who were sponsoring rape apologists with nary a word.
How can we compromise our stance? We cannot have only “half equality”. We cannot sweep the fact that we have an issue with equality under the carpet. And there is little compromise when it comes to trying to bring equal opportunity to a movement.It’s simple.
Just look at the backlash against having rules at conventions. I haven’t been to an atheist convention, but I have been to medical and geek ones. Both have rules. They have concrete things that are explicitly stated in order to quickly and efficiently deal with conflicts so that ALL may enjoy the gathering.Yet we don’t? Why? We don’t believe in any gods. Does being atheist suddenly exclude you from harassment both against people we don’t like and or sexual harassment? Night Clubs Have Rules Against This… The actual meat markets we go to dance and hit one each other have fucking harassment rules. If you keep doing things that are disruptive you get kicked out. Yet we as atheists think these rules ruin our fun?
What stances do you THINK we should compromise? That women should be equal and the lack of female voices in high positions is not acceptable? That we shouldn’t discriminate against LGBT and Queer (Sorry I am not an expert in the various terms used which is pretty much indicative that we need more of them to be vocal amongst us) people and encourage them to have a voice? That we should be more welcoming to people who aren’t “white” as we are underrepresented in mainstream atheism? That we should use our atheism to stand behind social causes that we believe in? That we should use the skepticism that comes hand in hand with atheism to look at social issues affecting us to come up with solutions? That we should learn about other cultures so as to be more understanding with their atheists or realise the problems they face? That these problems may be different from ours? Which of these issues do you wish for us to compromise on?
Where exactly do you see compromise? Which issue are we supposed to throw under a bus to bring peace to this conflict here? Who do we sacrifice to bring peace? Who do you want martyred and scapegoated?