Poisoning the Well »« This is it boys, this is war!

Why We Need Diversity

One of the major issues in Atheism is what face we show to the world. What kind of image we project an a lot of that is positive except for one thing. Diversity.

So why is Diversity important? Well? Let’s look at this piece from the Christian Post.

To start with? It’s an interview between the CP and a sociologist. And while I disagree with the sociology of the matter 

Atheism changes over time and is a reaction to the dominant religious beliefs of the time. Today’s atheism is, in part, a reaction to the political activism of conservative Christians, or the “Christian Right.” This is one of the conclusions found in a new study of American atheists, There is No God: Atheists in America, by University of North Texas sociologists David A. Williamson and George Yancey .

One of the things I remember from Latin class at school was a teacher telling me that the original charge against Christians in Rome was “atheism”. Not because they believed in Jehovah but that they claimed other gods didn’t exist.

For their research, Williamson, associate professor of sociology, and Yancey, professor of sociology, used an online survey, with open-ended questions, of 1,451 atheists and conducted face-to-face interviews with 51 atheists from two separate regions of the country.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Yancey spoke about what motivated him to write the book, why he thinks it is important to study atheists, and whether atheists have a moral system.

A lot of the ideas they discuss are “silly” but some of them are part of the problem the movement faces with diversity.

CP: You find that atheists are mostly highly educated, wealthy, old, white, men, and that was consistent with some random samples as well.

Yancey: Yeah. The only thing that might not be as consistent is a couple of studies suggest that atheists may not be quite as wealthy as some other studies did. But the other things, they tend to be men, educated, older. Although, there is some indication of some younger atheists coming up.

And this is the problem here.

I know a few atheists and freethinkers I have met are guilty of this as was I.

We have forced atheism into a rut. Our “champions” left some pretty fucking big boots and so far no one has stepped up to fill them.

And I don’t think we CAN fill them. So we end up venerating the boots like Bharata venerating Rama’s Shoes as a mark of his brother’s rule in exile (That’s right! Hindu Metaphor). And so we portray this image of “Old White Guys” since Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennet and Harris are all White Men who in some cases are old.

And we lack the same kind of thing in a younger generation. The Great Creationist Wars on the Internet made a lot of the current generation of Atheists but now?

Now I fear the greatest platform for atheism (Reddit) has been subsumed by blind tribalism and a fascination for Memes.

That’s right. Richard Dawkins unfortunately created an idea that’s destroying atheism. Why spend hours writing a blog post when a simple rage comic or a meme post will do better? We lose a lot of depth through this and a lot of atheists would rather go sit around doing that. And while that’s merely a symptom of the Internet (I mean… we still reward readers with Cat Pictures) but it is indicative that newer writers cannot break through the wall we have erected. Particularly around Hitch who is treated like Atheist Jesus.

This wall isn’t the canonical wall of faith but one where we are so enthralled with the work of a handful of atheists we cannot see past them.

This means people still see Hitchens as a leader of atheists despite being dead. This means the public face of atheism is still “Old, White and Male”. And rather than fix this we are still embroiled in a battle of whether we need more women in atheism or whether we should encourage ethnic minorities.

In order to change this we need to create a dialogue where we give people voices and make atheism more friendly to people of different cultures, religions and indeed gender. Otherwise we suffer with a dearth of new blood and stagnate.

CP: So demographically, they look, more or less, like the U.S. Senate.

Yancey: [Laughs] I hadn’t thought about it that way, but, yeah, that’s a good way of looking at it.

That’s not a good thing for us.

CP: You’re basically talking about a privileged group – wealthy, old, white guys. You say it makes sense that atheists would come from a privileged group. Explain.

Yancey: If you are a person with social status and power, and you want to do things the way you see it, and then there’s religion out there that says, no, this is the way it should be done, that’s going to make you less willing to support or accept that sort of religion. Something we write about in the book is this notion of control. If you have social status and others who don’t tend to see things the way you do because they have religion and follow that, then it will tend to make you more antagonistic toward religion than you would normally be.

Except that’s not the main attraction of Atheism. The issue is that people in the USA is that there is a direct correlation between scientific education and atheism and such education requires money.

The majority of extremely rich people with power are NOT atheist. They may be “the nones” or secular but most have a religion.

Atheism is based on the fact that religion doesn’t make sense. That when you apply critical thinking to religion you end up questioning it. The majority of atheists are “agnostic atheists”. There is no evidence for a god so we don’t believe in one. Agnostics don’t know if a god exists or not but it’s not for me. I don’t see why one SHOULD exist.

The reason why most atheists are “well off” is because science makes people question atheism and science education tends to give people middle and upper middle class jobs. In addition? Most of the poorer demographics have bigger things to worry about such as work than something being wrong on the internet.

To date not one person has provided me an iota of evidence that god exists. And remember, every Christian claiming Jehovah exists in my head sounds like a declaration that Harry Potter is real since Christians are Hindu Atheists.

CP: You found that a lot of atheists believe that religious adherents should not proselytize. Do they proselytize? In other words, do they think it is important to convince others of atheism?

Yancey: Yes and no. They don’t proselytize in the way that Christians tend to proselytize. Atheists tend to believe that people are religious because they are socialized to be that way. Therefore, while atheists aren’t going door to door to convince people of atheism, they do talk about making sure that our school systems socialize kids correctly and that kids are socialized so that they will learn the facts in the way that atheists tend to see the facts. They enunciate a perspective that, if that happens, you’re going to see a lot less religion.

A lot of atheists do believe that religion will decrease over time because people are going to be given the truth in the way that they are educated and socialized. So that is how atheists see a spread of an anti-theist or non-theist perspective is through institutions rather than a one-on-one “witnessing,” as Christians would call it.

No.

We push SCIENCE in schools. Science isn’t the way atheists see the facts. Science is a peer reviewed system of experimentation and observation by which you can explore and understand the natural world. We don’t believe in the invocation of the supernatural. I don’t know how my laptop works, but it certainly is not magic goblins.

If a school were teaching about Magic Goblins as a method of laptop function I would be fighting that too. We want a secular experience in government schools so that children learn without the applied theology of religion. You wouldn’t want your kid coming home and declaring your steaks as cow killing! You wouldn’t want your kid to stop eating bacon! Then why on earth is it somehow acceptable to shoehorn Christianity into them?

Religion DOES have a place in schools though. Religious Education and Philosophy Classes should teach kids about all faiths and indeed atheism but with an unbiased look at them.

CP: You found that atheists often expressed that they strongly value open-mindedness, yet they were not very open-minded to the notion that they could be wrong about the existence of God. Were they aware of this contradiction or oblivious to it?

Yancey: We didn’t really probe that. I think it’s fascinating and maybe we should’ve probed that.

It doesn’t make atheists different from other individuals. A lot of us have contradictions. We say one thing and five minutes later we’re saying something totally different.

My suspicion is that they don’t see it as a contradiction. In their minds, there is so much evidence that there is not a God that that is just the way it is.

I am unlikely to be wrong. To date there is no evidence of any gods. The Christian is more likely to be wrong about the existence of his god and just as likely that should a god exist that it goes by the name of Shiva.

CP: Some critics of atheism argue that atheists are immoral or have a weak sense of morality. What did you find?

Yancey: Atheists have a different sense of morality than a traditional Christian. But whenever you talk about what people ought to do, then you are enunciating morality.

Atheists believe that people should be rational, that people should do critical thinking, that people should keep religion out of politics. This is a different set of moralities than how Christians may see it, but it is a moral system. We do talk about an atheist morality.

I think, because they tend to be progressives, they see certain conservative political philosophies as immoral as well, as irrational or as intrusive, things of this nature. So we would argue it is not accurate to say that atheists are immoral. If you want to say they are not moral by a traditional system, that’s fine. But, to say they are immoral implies that they don’t have declarations of what is right and wrong and clearly, they do.

Thank goodness for small mercies. At least they got this bit right.

It’s a relatively small part of the interview but it’s a good indicator of why we as a movement need to try to get more people speaking out and writing and exchanging ideas. It’s also an excellent reason for more diversity in the movement. We may think that PR is beneath us but PR is half the battle into being accepted.

Comments

  1. smrnda says

    As a female atheist, I find the ‘atheists are all old white guys’ to be kind of annoying. Atheists acknowledge the need for diversity and the already pre-existing diversity within atheism, though enough make a point that atheism needs to be more welcoming to a more diverse group of people. But religious people aren’t really content to say that wealthy, educated white guys tend to be atheists more often than other groups of people; they want to pretend that’s the ONLY people who are atheists so they can make a point that atheists are privilege, well to do and snotty. They’re just looking for a way to make atheism into being about anything except people rejecting the claims of religion on their own merit.

    Are there any studies that look at how level of education or knowledge about science affects religious belief for women or non-white groups of people you know of?

  2. says

    I don’t know. Aren’t LGTB seen as an atheist demographic? There has been media coverage of military atheism, and students in high school – female students. As per established white males, some of that is good, as an answer to the Christian white male establishment.
    I also see Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders as secular organizations every bit as prominent as Christians in the fight against poverty and disease.
    It is a marketing question, sure, but prominent secular and atheist organizations play a part by who they promote to leadership positions in their organizations that have a certain measure of publicity.
    I guess that science is the biggest presence of atheist in society, and there is a problem with that being a white male domain. I hope that rising graduation rates of women in medicine, and the face of feminism can lead a change in appearance to the face of atheism, hopefully in the all areas. I don’t see a lot of prominent minorities represented in feminism at the moment, and equality in education can. in time, erode the demographic of the privileged white dude.

  3. says

    The ‘ethnic’ context of feminist struggles has
    been systematically ignored (except in relation to various minorities,
    especially ‘black’) and we suggest this has helped to perpetuate both
    political and theoretical inadequacies within feminist and socialist
    analyses.

    http://dare.uva.nl/document/182582#page=470

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>