Why No Social Justice?


I never understood why people don’t think “social justice” is a good thing. After all? People are unequal. There are real problems out there in social groups affecting different people for different reasons.

Here we see a defence of why social justice should not be a part of atheism at least in the guise of A+.

1) Atheism is not a group of people or a collective. It is not an ideology. Atheism and atheist are simply terms that define a person who does not believe in god or gods. Many view atheism through the eyes of a religious context. As if one must be confirmed or proclaim themselves an atheist to be one. Whether someone wants to associate themselves with ‘atheism’ or not, if they do not believe in a god or gods, they are an atheist. If someone is born, never taught what a god or gods are, never hears or learns of the concept of god, and never comes up with the concept of god, they are by default, an atheist. There is no further qualification for atheism. No introspection into one’s belief, no fact gathering or any thought of whether to be an atheist or not is required, although many atheists do engage in such things which ultimately have lead to their becoming an atheist. Atheism and atheist are merely semantic designators.

You are right.

HOWEVER and this is a big one… There is an atheist community. We have meetings. I may not show up to them but I am told they are fun. Atheists get together and sacrifice a crying infant to the great god Tlaloc and then eat the brains of Christians. A roaring good time for all the family (except the baby and the Christians).

Atheists are just people who don’t believe in a god. That’s it. We may follow entirely different ethical  stances and ideas. Penn and Teller are atheists too. They are also libertarians. I am an atheist. I am more centre left wing. I like money and intend to acquire a lot of it. I also think that people should earn a minimum wage and not be forced to fight over table scraps and get healthcare.

I am also in favour of women getting access to healthcare, gays being free to marry and a general trend towards less sexism and racism until it vanishes. Because these are good causes to fight for. I don’t agree with A+ because of an over reliance of safe spaces but if it works for them then it’s fine. I unfortunately learnt my trade without a safety net and prefer to simply trade blows with a problem till it falls over and gives up. It’s worked for me and this is empirically true. This may JUST be the kind of social justice I am in. It’s why I don’t get along with A+ on a pure methodological standpoint.

But we both fight the same fights. We have the same goals even if their methodology appears more prone to navel gazing and worrying about the words used than thinking about how to distract FGM and then stamp the practice out. You end up with worrying about hurting feelings when you need to be belligerent.

I have had mobs show up. I kept clinics open during strikes and I kept treating patients under threats. I find that people who get pissed off about words such as “Stupid” and “Idiotic” to be rather unsuited to the sort of work I do.

But if they want to fight that way then it’s THEIR CHOICE.

As a result, I do not believe that atheists should congregate under a banner of atheism. Aside from our non-belief in god or gods, we share many different beliefs about epistemology, ethics and general life principles. We can agree with each other and disagree. Other than Atheism, I do not believe it is beneficial to unite for a common cause under the banner of atheism. Many atheists believe in evolution, and we congregate to promote evolution. We do not do this a atheists promoting evolution. We do it as evolutionists promoting evolution.

Except in this circumstance due to the social pressures on non-white, non-male, non-straight atheists you end up in a situation where you only have white, male atheists. We do have a community. We read blogs, we talk to friends who we meet at conventions and we do WANT TO DO STUFF TOGETHER.

Let’s take Nerds for Example. I am one. I like a lot of “nerd” things. I read comics. I play table top games and while Videogames today are more popular, I played them when they were the hallmark of the “nerd”. I did Cosplay. What tended to happen was that like minded “nerds” got together and did similar things together. I liked DC more than Marvel. I didn’t declare the Marvel Readers to not be nerds because I disagreed with their hobby.

Some atheists look at their atheism and see it as an eye opener. That there are religious problems in the world and that we as atheists are uniquely positioned to oppose those things.

Otherwise being an atheist is just boring. My atheism and my ethics mean that I should try to help people around me because there are no gods to do so. We must make Heaven at our feet. There is no Kingdom of God, only the Republic of Man.

If you don’t think we should try and make the world a better place then that is fine. It’s your life after all.

However, you cannot tell me what to do. You cannot tell me to not help others or to encourage atheists to do so as well. We are a group that is consistently villified and we share a belief that due to our atheism that religious bigotry is unacceptable and so we fight it. It is a social justice cause that we fight because we are atheists and because the ethics that is born out of “no gods” means we either fight it or let others fight it without hamstringing them.

So, although it might seem like a good idea for atheists to come together to promote social justice, it is not. One might say, “Well isn’t better since we’re all atheists and we all believe in marriage/gender/racial equality, we should come together as a united front?” The answer is “no, it is not.” It actually limits our ability to promote social justice. By flying the flag of atheism while we fight for social justice, we alienate those who do not wish to be a part of a partisan group but also wish to promote social justice. Any christian, for example, who wishes to promote marriage/gender/racial equality (they are out there) will feel an immediate hostility (be it perceived or real) if he shows up to a rally that is dominated by ‘Atheist Social Justice’ protesters.

Except that Atheism Plus was promoted as a group of atheists who were interested in doing more with their Atheism than just sitting around quoting Hitchens. Remember I was doing this “job” before A+ was founded. They are the “Newbies” to this game.

I find the problem here is we can as social justice  atheists work with religious people. I don’t scream bloody murder and punch nuns. I regularly speak to priests and encourage them to make changes. Many of them do know I have no faith in any gods. We can be polite. The rabid religious bigot is a minority and people are mostly decent.

In fact? The depths of inhumanity are often committed by good well meaning family men. The men who fired chemical weapons, operate gas chambers and wielded machetes were not “bad men” in their own eyes. They went home to their families and played with their kids. That’s the problem with social justice. The people who you are fighing against are often “not bad people”, just misguided.

And we can work with religious people. I mean you have to if you are an atheist. If you cannot work with religious people on a daily basis or on social justice, you are no different from the bigot. And likewise, if my lack of faith is the deal breaker in helping people then I am afraid the problem here is that you don’t care about helping people. You care about being “religious”.

2) By becoming a partisan group of “Atheists for Social Justice” we take away from the actual matter at hand. We make gender/marriage/racial equality an ‘atheist’ cause (or at the very least, we make it appear as such) and this detracts from the cause itself. We, in effect, usurp the cause and threaten to undermine it. Atheism, in itself, has nothing to do with a gay man being able to marry. If we support this cause, we should do so because we believe this man has the right to marry his love and not fly the banner of atheism while we do it.

Actually.

The major problem is that there isn’t gender equality or racial equality within atheism itself. That is why people are having problems. You don’t think there is a problem. Black and Asian atheists do. Why? Because their atheists aren’t getting the same treatment. They aren’t standing on stages and they aren’t talking about stuff. In addition? They keep hearing some disturbing things.

Same for women. We actually treat the GLBT pretty well so we are ahead of that problem.

Atheism has nothing to do with Gay Men Being Able to Marry. But an atheist doesn’t have the religious “force” compelling him to hate the GLBT. He can analyse the reasons why he doesn’t like the GLBT and realise that it’s mostly down to cultural distate. He can realise that the GLBT have equal rights to us and only wish for the legal recognition of their marriage ceremonies and to gain access to the social support that religious marriage has had for centuries. And that this doesn’t harm “religious marriage”. Or straight marriage. This may encourage him to stand with the GLBT. This may encourage a lot of atheists to do so.

Atheism may not have anything directly to do with social justice but it does encourage people to think about it and do something about it.

Because we cannot call out the big boy in the clouds to fight our battles. We must do so ourselves. And that is why atheists want to do social justice and that is why stating that we shouldn’t is foolish.

Comments

  1. says

    This guy’s rationalizations are so transparently lame that I can’t help thinking he’s another libertarian trying to neuter yet another progressive movement that threatens the status quo. He reminds me of Ron Paul blathering about how black people shouldn’t think of themselves collectively or act like they have common interests that they might achieve by working together.

    Libertarians have infiltrated atheism and a few other movements, and they’re nothing if not relentlessly manipulative in their camapign to undermine and destroy any and all progressive movements that threaten the position or comfort of the rich.

  2. rq says

    We must make Heaven at our feet. There is no Kingdom of God, only the Republic of Man.

    These are some beautiful words. I would steal them for my Facebook page if I was braver.

    Thank you for writing.

  3. Alan Dempsey says

    I am definitely not a libertarian. I am also not rich. I also don’t intend to undermine any progressive movement. I think Atheism Plus is doing a fine job of that. When we attach anything but our non belief in gods t atheism it makes it very difficult to actually promote the atheist cause. That’s when creationists start firing off things like “Atheists believe evolution and have think morals come from this or that.” It dilutes the original message. In the same that atheism dilutes the strength of racial/gender/marriage equality. You’ll start hearing things like “Oh who cares about marriage equality, they’re all a bunch of godless atheists, they’re going to hell anyway” It gives the opponents of these causes one more thing to use against us.

    My partisan beliefs about cosmology have nothing to do with racial/gender/marriage equality. Even if there is a case where it is the church or religion that is causing the inequality. The non-belief in gods will not help that. It’s not a flaw of the god or gods, it’s a flaw of the person.

  4. says

    When we attach anything but our non belief in gods t atheism it makes it very difficult to actually promote the atheist cause.

    Actual events prove you wrong. Some of the most effective promotion of the atheist cause comes from exposing the evils done by religious people and institutions, and showing how morality based on non-belief is just plain better for everyone than morality based on irrationality and faith.

    You know what really makes it difficult to promote atheism? People like you who throw a tantrum whenever we try to make atheism relevant and beneficial to other people in real life. People like you who actively reinforce negative stereotypes of atheists as uncaring, selfish and amoral.

    That’s when creationists start firing off things like “Atheists believe evolution and have think morals come from this or that.”

    Creationists lie and bullshit no matter what anyone else says.

    My partisan beliefs about cosmology have nothing to do with racial/gender/marriage equality.

    You have partisam beliefs about cosmology? That might at least partially explain why your arguments are so fucking incoherent.

  5. skemono says

    That’s when creationists start firing off things like “Atheists believe evolution and have think morals come from this or that.”

    No, creationists have been vomiting forth that line since long before there was an Atheism+ movement. It was false then, it’s false now, regardless of the existence of atheists who also promote social justice.

    It dilutes the original message.

    What original message would that be?

    In the same that atheism dilutes the strength of racial/gender/marriage equality.

    Adding more voices to promote equality somehow dilutes it? That’s some backwards thinking.

    You’ll start hearing things like “Oh who cares about marriage equality, they’re all a bunch of godless atheists, they’re going to hell anyway” It gives the opponents of these causes one more thing to use against us.

    Opponents of these causes are already opponents of these causes. They don’t sit around thinking “Yeah, equality for people of all races and genders sounds great. Lemme check who’s supporting that, though… atheists!? Well, clearly I was mistaken and racism and sexism are just fine and dandy.”

    It makes no sense whatsoever to proclaim that you’re somehow benefiting movements for social justice by sitting them out.

  6. mattyarbrough says

    I fundamentally do not understand people in the atheist/skeptic communities who are opposed to A* (an ad hoc signifier to encompass everyone/every org that promotes social justice A+ or not). If you don’t think those are important issues or if you prefer to keep your areas of interest totally isolated from one another for some reason that’s entirely your business. Why discourage others from approaching things in the way they prefer?

    Not into battling racism? Fine, don’t. But don’t complain that other people do care about it and engage in it in an effort to make the world a better place.

    “Atheism should strictly address god claims and atheist orgs should not address ANY OTHER ISSUE EVER” is as fundamentalist as extremist religious believers, as detached from reality, and as privileged and dangerous as well.

  7. says

    If you want to get a better idea of what kind of person we’re arguing with here, check out his views on the Block bot:

    http://alanvsworld.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/the-block-bot-internet-fascism/#more-138

    From the article cited:

    I have always been a firm believer that surrounding yourself with people whom only believe the same things as you is not conducive to progress. If I were an outspoken Feminist, like many Atheism Plus folks are, I would not seek to block misogynists. I would instead engage with them, in a polite and rational way.

    This guy has no idea what he’s taking about.

  8. says

    @Raging Bee, M.A.Melby has a good take down of that post if you want to join in… http://sinmantyx.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/block-bot-mind-control-lasers-cause-the-end-of-civilization/

    I was very impolite by reacting badly to him defending an Indian MRA, implying my joke about blocking the MRA is part of a 101% #misandry policy was sexist and him calling blocking on Twitter fascism. Apparently I should have responded in … “a polite and rational way” /derailover

  9. Francisco Bacopa says

    Hasn’t social justice always been a part of atheist thought? Early deists and skeptics like John Stuart Mill, Harriet Taylor, and Adam Smith. Later on didn’t Robert Ingersoll and Samuel Clemens write about social justice issues all the time. Wasn’t the womens suffrage movement chock full of atheists in the early days?

    I say we dismiss the arguments of the tone police. History is on our side.

  10. says

    Yeah, Francisco, but people like Dempsey don’t care about history, or about anyone’s actual thoughts. They just want to hog the cool label without earning the coolness.

  11. Sister Eu says

    We don’t actually have the same goals – some atheists are even anti-choice.

    I agree that there is nothing wrong with a group combining atheism and social justice for themselves.

    I personally had no issue with some group naming itself something more than/other than Atheism and claiming to also be for social justice. They clearly differentiated themselves from atheists in general. I find the point criticized in this article and the claim that A+ itself is divisive to be contradictory in a way. A+ itself isn’t divisive…those people already disliked and were up in flames with other people, all they did was gather together on A+.

    At least now I can filter some people out and identify them.

  12. Sister Eu says

    “I have always been a firm believer that surrounding yourself with people whom only believe the same things as you is not conducive to progress. If I were an outspoken Feminist, like many Atheism Plus folks are, I would not seek to block misogynists. I would instead engage with them, in a polite and rational way.”

    I could see saying that if no one ever tried to debate with or talk to people believing wrong things we wouldn’t have progress but I don’t understand this whole “don’t ever personally block people who are saying things you find shitty because you’re hindering progress/Unknown Other Reason That Speaker Thinks Speaks For Itself”

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