Reaching the choir

Much discussion has focused on bringing women and minority groups into the secular fold.  Considering the gender gap in secular communities (these numbers are from America) this is a laudable goal.  Conversely, in religious communities there is an inverse relationship in the ratios of women and ethnic minorities. From Protestant communities where there are 8 percent more women than men to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Historically Black Churches where there are 20 percent more women than men. There is a real disparity in the secular community between gender and ethnic minorities and white males. In fact atheists equal the Mormon Church, a racially segregated community until the 1970s, in disproportionate ratios of whites to ethnic minorities with 86 percent white adherents to 14 percent ethnic minority adherents.

Why is there a gap between women and ethnic minority participation in the secular community? That’s the million dollar question.

Some charts with data collected by the Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Survey…

table-gender-by-tradition

table-ethnicity-by-tradition

Unfortunately often when these sorts of questions are asked; there are superficial answers that affirm the status quo rather than brainstorm solutions to the problem. To paraphrase some have speculated that women are less likely to be secular because they aren’t “intellectually active” enough. On the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities; I’ve sat in presentations where whites have asked black speakers why blacks are Christian because of slavery in the Bible. There is a bit of lazy thinking that comes with stereotyping and overgeneralizing going on. Especially by secularists who aren’t members of these groups, and lack the personal experiences or they haven’t taken the time and thought required to educate themselves to understand a different point of view.

One often neglected piece of data on the topic of secular diversity is income.

table-income-by-tradition

Christians still hold an eroding majority at 78 percent of the US population. About 30 percent of Protestants and Catholics, the largest sects of Christianity, live under the poverty line. In comparison atheists and agnostics are about 4 percent of the population, and about 20 percent of them live under the poverty line. If you look at the numbers for historically black churches the number jumps to 47 percent. Another church with a high level of minority participation are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Half of the JWs are black and latino and 42 percent of their members live beneath the poverty line.

It’s true that at about 40 percent college graduates atheists and agnostics are better educated than the average Protestant and far exceed churches with majority minority populations. Education is definitely a factor in religiosity. However the list of most educated adherents also reads like which groups have better access to education in this country by culture or income. Not just for women and minorities, but for everyone affected by poverty including whites. So you still can’t tease income out of the equation.

Religious institutions have traditions in place that support the poor. However, the support can often come with ideological beliefs that trap their adherents in the cycle of poverty. The Catholic Church’s stance forbidding birth control is a good example of this.

My experiences growing up in both the Catholic and the Southern Baptist Church doctrines limited my choices as a woman. I was told early and often that my role in life was to be subservient to a man. These doctrines condition women to accept patriarchal authority without question. Looking back on it now deciding who’s in charge of important decisions by genitals rather than critical thinking was not a good idea. Studies have shown that educated, empowered women make better life choices that fight the cycle of poverty.

Some organizations in the secular community are working to close the income gap by offering childcare and low cost and free admissions. Skepticon every year is supported by donations. It is an example of an organization that saw a need and stepped up to fill it. Low cost regional conferences like FreeOK help to alleviate problems caused by the cost of travel. Internet conferences like  FTBCon and internet resources like podcasts, blogs, and youtube help to close the income gap too.

One of the most interesting findings of the Pew Forum’s study is that the “Religiously Unaffiliated” is the fastest growing population of them all. The Catholic Church is losing the most to attrition, but they are staying even by immigration. Although Protestants still have the most adherents in the US especially in the South, it too is in decline. The young are where churches are losing the most adherents to us. If the trend continues most people will be unchurched. Secular organizations will hopefully rise to the occasion and welcome the newcomers.

One group that interests me that could use more focus is evangelicals. They are most often from the South. I live in the South, and was raised in a Southern Baptist Church. So I have had a front row seat to the havoc they wreak on public policy in education, reproductive rights, poverty and so on. Can they be reached? The answer sometimes is surprisingly yes. Matt Dillahunty and Beth Presswood of the Atheist Experience and Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist are examples of evangelicals gone rogue. Their media outreach has helped other evangelicals to see the light of reason.

It is one area where me and Aron Ra are different. He doesn’t understand why believers believe because he never really had strong religious beliefs. There is a disconnect between unchurched and lifelong disbelievers and former believers that gives rise to generalizations just like with any group that is prone to being misunderstood. The secular community can always find new ways to welcome former believers, and that can only be improved with greater understanding.

Towards that goal, I have asked Tasa Proberts, former believer and musician for the GUTS megachurch In Oklahoma to chat with me and Shanon Nebo on The Nones about her deconversion from evangelical Christian to atheist. Part of what helped her deconvert is the outreach of The Atheist Experience. We’ll be joined by the Atheist Experience’s Russell Glasser and Jen Peeples. We will also have Recovering from Religion Tulsa facilitator Rhonda Dorle on. It should be interesting if you want insight into former believers to have a greater understanding of them, or if you are a former believer too and want to help, or if you are an evangelical looking for a way out.

[important]The show will be on Thursday December 19th on our youtube channel. I will also post a link to watch it here on the day of the show. Visit our facebook for updates.  You can also PM us there with story ideas or questions.[/important]

[notice] This is the link to watch the show directly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IExEG9dKzdg[/notice]

The Trouble with Religious Bullies

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Sometimes it must be hard for religious bullies to punch down as hard as they would like to on despised minorities like nonbelievers and LGBT especially when they’re asked to stop.  It seems no matter how politely you phrase it; the mere act of the mildest resistance to their authority is met with denials, outright fabrications, back peddling, character assassination, and even counter-accusations rather than a decent apology and an attempt to make amends.

I won’t go into the shenanigans Aron and I have been faced with pleading with the Rowlett City to stop using public meetings to promote Jesus in this post. That is a separate post related to the same sort of trouble with Christian privilege as this one. They don’t get that their religion doesn’t give them special authority, and sacred immunity to criticism. It is because of these conflicts with the religious majority that I am posting in solidarity with Amanda Brown and her father Roger Gorley.

Not all domestic partnerships are respected equally.

Not all domestic partnerships are respected equally.

She writes here about her father’s run in with hospital authorities and his partner’s family for simply wanting to hold his gay partner’s hand. The family had no authority to ask him to leave as he has power of attorney. Gorley should have the same rights as heterosexual domestic partner to care for an ailing spouse. The reality of the situation is that that only works when people respect those rights. He was eventually handcuffed and dragged out of the hospital by the police.

You may have already heard of Amanda Brown from her work on We Are Atheism. A project that encourages nonbelievers to come out. She also helps organize Reason Fest every year in Lawrence Kansas.  Reason Fest is going on this weekend if you can make it. I’d like to say a brief thank you to Camp Quest for providing children’s activities. It helps my family make this trip more doable. Kudos to the people that sponsor Camp Quest.

Many of us are already aware of this story through social media or blogs. In this digital age, the hospital’s inappropriate actions in interfering in a patient’s legal wishes brought them unwanted attention. Did they own up for their discriminatory actions and apologize?  Heck No.

Instead they blamed the victim whilst claiming their own fairness, which is not demonstrated by their actions.

Research Medical Center was one of the first hospitals in Kansas City to offer domestic partner benefits, which have been in place since 2005, and we have had a policy specifically acknowledging domestic partners’ visitation rights in place for years.

This was an issue of disruptive and belligerent behavior by the visitor that affected patient care.  The hospital’s response followed the same policies that would apply to any individual engaged in this behavior in a patient care setting and was not in any way related to the patient’s or the visitor’s sexual orientation or marital status. This visitor created a barrier for us to care for the patient. Attempts were made to deescalate the situation. Unfortunately, we had no choice but to involve security and the Kansas City MO Police Department.”

 

Amanda has already made a good defense of her father on her blog detailing what has been going on. I can’t imagine my reaction after caring for Aron for years being forced to leave his side against his wishes. It wouldn’t happen, because we are a heterosexual married couple with a marriage that is recognized by the state. Despite the assurances, legal partnerships do not get the same respect as a legal marriage.

I’ll be seeing Amanda this weekend, and will podcast from Reason Fest with Youtube Atheist Shayrah Akers formerly of Dogma Debate.  We are hoping to connect with her to help her spread the word of this injustice. She is raising money to help with her father’s legal fees. Hopefully, she can find some time while she is helping Reason Fest run smoothly. We Are Atheism is also promoting Atheists Giving Aid‘s efforts to do something to help the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing. At this time they are 4 dollars shy of 12,000 dollars.

This will be our first podcast of “The Nones“. We are shooting for Sundays at 12:00 PM. Our goal is to talk about issues that concern the 25 percent of us that are nonreligious. Right now, the nonreligious are practically ignored despite our numbers in this country. We are also hoping the show coming from the point of view of women will add more diversity to our community’s discourse.