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.
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.
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.