The Non-Religious Patriarchy: Why Losing Religion HAS NOT Meant Losing White Male Dominance (excerpt)

coverNow available through Wiley Online!

This is not my first academic publication, but it is my first journal article, so I am very excited!  Here’s an excerpt:

Beyond this, the atheist movement fails to address or analyze the problem in meaningful ways. Within the critiques of organized religion, there is “little analysis of the relationship between economic disenfranchisement, race, gender, and religiosity” meaning that such critiques inevitably are of “limited cultural relevance for people of color.”31 Likewise, such critiques often fail to engage with the reasons that religion can be a very useful thing to women and people of color, in a strictly utilitarian way, even while it oppresses them. The atheistic, science-and-objective truth above all point of view means that the experiences of those without the luxury of choice or who cannot place more importance on philosophy than taking care of their families are both not explored and treated as inferior. Religion is not simply about a belief system, and treating it as though it is, is only possible with a blindness to all of the social benefits it provides, even while acknowledging all of the injuries it creates as well. From the position of privilege many in the atheist movement occupy, the focus is always on what is false rather than on what helps one to survive. This is not to say that organized religion is a net good, or something not worth fighting against, but rather to say that ignoring the reality of how religion helps people means being unable to offer meaningful alternatives to it.

There is a pervasive belief that “objective” science holds all of the answers without an acknowledgement that most values and causes are supported by philosophy and personal worldviews as well.32 A white male scientist is naturally going to be interested in causes related to being a white male scientist and blind to or ignorant of causes not related to that. It is a systematic bias. As a movement founded primarily by white male scientists who felt ostracized, the atheist movement has a difficult time acknowledging that science has its problems both historically and as the sole foundation of a worldview and that being white confers special privileges, as does being male. Ironically, their deep commitment to skepticism often fails to include a skepticism aimed at their own worldview.

The movement “likes to talk about the European Enlightenment as if nothing bad could ever legitimately be said about it”33 despite the fact that the Enlightenment was responsible for scientific rationalization and implementation of terrible programs that exploited and hurt people of color and women. Historically, science has been responsible for: terrible programs of eugenics, claims of biological race, and sex differences that have sense been proven to be untrue, justification of slavery, scientific experiments on people of color, forced sterilization of women who committed the crimes of being poor, unmarried, or not white, forced imprisonment of women who were sexual or became involved with someone of a different race, and the list goes on. Science has been responsible for a great many crimes against humanity, and the majority of these crimes have been committed against those least able to defend themselves. There is a natural distrust from people who have faced generations of horror at the hands of scientists and science and the atheist movement’s focus on science above all, with no recognition of the problematic history, makes it difficult for many to trust it.

In addition to the fact that church offers so many benefits to women and people of color that the movement offers no alternative for, the atheist movement often fails to create a welcoming environment. Even without addressing the fact that the movement does not make an effort to emulate the community support of church, it also does not treat the issue of welcoming women and people of color as an important one.

31. Hutchinson, Moral Combat, 199

32. Pigliucci, Massimo, Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science, 1st ed. (Sinauer Associates, 2002).

33. Edwords, “The Hidden Hues of Humanism.”

There is also a piece by annalise fonza: Black Women, Atheist Activism, and Human Rights: Why We Just Cannot Seem to Keep It to Ourselves!

In this sense, therefore, this article is constructive and written to assert that black women atheists should be at the table with women who struggle for reproductive rights and with those who fight for religious rights. In this essay, I discuss the ways in which black women such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ayanna Watson, Sikivu Hutchinson, Jamila Bey, Kim Veal, and Mandisa Thomas have risked social status and reputation to raise the awareness that they too struggle for human rights and in particular for the rights of women to choose not believe in a god or supernatural ideas. Indeed, my objective is to assert that black atheist women must be a part of these dialogues and debates on matters related to gender, religion, and human rights, especially at this point in history, when human and civil rights for females/women are threatened worldwide by governance that is informed by patriarchal masculinity that conveys the need to control the fate of the female body.

If you need more information or help accessing the article, feel free to contact me.