Rather, people care about their groups


Another interesting item from The Righteous Mind. People don’t vote on self-interest all that much – that is, “self-interest is a weak predictor of policy preferences.” [p 85]

Rather, people care about their groups, whether those be racial, regional, religious, or political. [p 86]

Or all those in sequence, which confuses things; or all those in sequence plus others plus all those not so much in sequence as in competition all the time, waxing and waning depending on which is most salient at any particular moment. That’s my gloss, not his, but I think it has to be right, since we’re all part of all the groups he named plus a bunch of others, and they’re not all equally salient at every moment.

But anyway, the basic idea is useful and suggestive. A lot of us have experienced our atheism becoming less salient while our our membership in the gender group “women” has become more so, lately. We’ve experienced this so strongly that many of us express considerable hostility to the atheist “movement” as such.

Why is this? I don’t even need to explain it, do I. It’s because big chunks of the atheist movement have taken to using a fairly large number of women as verbal punching bags, using gender-specific words and sexual disgust as boxing gloves. That makes our gender group a lot more salient while it makes our atheism group seem hostile.

I wonder how that’s going to work out over the long haul. I don’t know, and I wonder.

Comments

  1. says

    Rather, people care about their groups, whether those be racial, regional, religious, or political.

    An interesting point.

    I think I tend to make my group the entire human population, though no doubt I can be seen to also favor some more limited groups.

  2. Rodney Nelson says

    A lot of us have experienced our atheism becoming less salient while our our membership in the gender group “women” has become more so, lately. We’ve experienced this so strongly that many of us express considerable hostility to the atheist “movement” as such.

    I’m an atheist and not a woman but I feel closer to “women” than to atheists right now. That’s because certain atheists are making the group “atheist” an unwelcoming place with their misogyny directed to “manginas” like me. But women are welcoming me as a ally in their conflict against the MRAs.

  3. freemage says

    I think the first time I heard this spelled out was in What’s the trouble with Kansas?, which talks at length about how Kansas conservatives were relying on people who were voting strongly against their own self-interest (in terms of tax policy, government funding and so on) because of their adherence to conservative Christian mores.

  4. freemage says

    Someday, FtB will add an Edit option to their comments. I have to believe.

    Anyway, I meant to add: The odd thing is that this tendency is one that could be considered laudable, even noble–sacrificing your personal benefit for the ‘greater good’. But in my experience, most conservative Christians don’t go that route. Instead, they insist that somehow laissez faire business regulation and soak-the-workers tax structures are somehow in the best interests of blue-collar labor. I don’t know if it should be chalked up to cognitive dissonance or what….

  5. anon1152 says

    “That makes our gender group a lot more salient while it makes our atheism group seem hostile.”

    I see what you mean.

    But I was under the impression that most of your allies were also atheists. (Is that right?).

    Is there any data on how divided the atheist/skeptic/etc community is by this issue? (e.g., what proportion of the atheist community sides with you, and others like you?)

  6. freemage says

    Anon: I don’t think there’s any large reliable polls–but it’s not even about the sentiment across the broader community. Its’ about the active voices in the online and convention activist community that’s the problem. Some of the bigger organizations have simply foundered, horribly, in handling this issue, and some of the ‘big names’ in the online blogging community have been relentless in creating a hostile environment online. So even if these hostile voices are a small minority fringe of the broader atheist community, the overall silence by that same group in the face of these actions is sufficient to create an unwelcoming environment that makes the atheist activist identity less worth keeping for many women (and allies and co-travelers, for that matter).

    The one time that the canard “silence implies consent” is really true is when one person claims to speak for another. In this case, some utterly vile voices have been claiming to speak for atheist activism, and appeals to the broader community have been met with silence.

  7. artymorty says

    These Righteous Mind posts got me intrigued, the way you’ve applied some of its observations to These Times Of Deeep Riffts and all, so I gave it a read. (You’ve inadvertently created a book club!)

    The book does make good food for thought, I’ll grant it that. It’s odd, though — part fascinating and well-told, part irritating and wrong. More of the latter and less of the former as it progresses. I found myself continually pausing, initially to let my mind wander and relish some fresh new ideas, but later, just to cool my irritated nerves.

    (Robert Wright’s books had the same effect on me. Daniel Dennett said to Wright once, during a polite argument, “By my lights I see you going on just beautifully. Then, suddenly, you veer off to the side and, wait a minute, where did that swerve come from?” I’d say the same thing to Haidt if I ever had the chance.)

    Anyways, about the group stuff.

    How does the current climate bode for the future of the atheist movement? What would a feminism-averse, sexism-tolerant atheist movement look like in (say) ten years’ time? Probably small, stagnant, insignificant. Like this:

    manboobz.com/2012/12/28/2012-year-of-triumphs-for-the-mens-rights-movement

    Atheist “movement” leaders: take note!

  8. stevebowen says

    I can see why you feel the atheist movement is hostile to you at the moment, but it isn’t really. The misogynists and the MRA brigade are not representative, just loud and obnoxious. At least I hope and believe that to be the case.

  9. raymoscow says

    artymorty: ‘ What would a feminism-averse, sexism-tolerant atheist movement look like in (say) ten years’ time?’

    Well, right now the antiwomen folks are looking like the Klan: http://bit.ly/xzeOrX

    Hate is as hate does.

  10. kevinalexander says

    In the world that we evolved in the people who didn’t have a powerful tribal sense didn’t live to reproduce.
    Human nature is so tribal that we go ahead and identify ourselves as members of groups that don’t even exist. There’s no such thing as an atheist community. You can’t identify yourself by what you don’t believe in.

    Women atheists are not being attacked by fellow atheists. They are being attacked by members of the misogynistic asshole community who happen to be atheists.

  11. Lyanna says

    But people perceive their self-interest as deeply connected to the groups they are part of. Their economic and political interests usually are connected to their race/religion/whatever. And their PSYCHOLOGICAL interests, their EGOS, almost always are. White men voting with their “group” against Barack Obama are absolutely voting for their own self-esteem, which is reliant on their pride in their membership in the group White Men, which is in turn reliant on the superiority of White Men over the Others.

  12. Kle says

    Well, women can all become religious if they want.

    That is not to far from the truth, anyways. Three times as many men identify as atheist (cite).

    I would not advise choosing truth based on feelings, however.

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