Look, what you see is not all there is, aka the availability heuristic, comes up again, this time at Alex’s, in a post about the fact that some people have every reason to be passionately angry at and about religion, and the related fact that others shouldn’t be telling such people to tone down their anger.
People like us are infamous for words like ‘privilege’, ‘splaining’, ‘problematic’; part of the power of concepts like these is that when transferred between activist contexts they expose parallels. I’m deeply aware there can be only limited analogy between atheism and the concerns of more marginalised groups, and would hate to devalue their language. But I’m convinced of the following:
It is a form of privilege to be an atheist who’s never experienced religious abuse, as many of us have who are antagonistic.
It is privilege blindness to expect — without a clue what we’ve experienced or what it means to us — that we give up our self-expression so that you can form alliances with faith communities that deeply injured us.
It is tone-policing if when you’re not telling us to shut up about it, you’re telling us how to talk about it. How dare you tell us to be more respectful.
It is splaining if your answer when we detail histories of religious abuse is ‘Yes, but’ — or if you tell us we can’t blame religion for it since not all believers do the same. We know the details. You don’t.
Commenter smhll made a very apposite comparison:
I agree very strongly. I’m truly fortunate that my parents barely even bothered to fake any religious faith (even decades ago; I’m oldish). My sibling and I got taken to a liberal church maybe twice a year. My parents were even fairly sex positive.
There’s a parallel to be drawn between people who’ve only had mild, okay experiences with police and people who’ve only had mild, okay experiences with clergy and churchgoers. (But I don’t want to oversell the similarity since police brutality is extra painful this week.) Just because some people get acceptable treatment from police (when they rarely are confronted) doesn’t mean that that behavior is a constant.
See? That’s what you see is not all there is. I haven’t had bad experiences with the police; I don’t get to conclude from that fact that there are no bad experiences with the police to be had. I don’t get to generalize from my experience in cases where I have good reason to know that my experience is not typical. Some kinds of experience it’s ok to extrapolate from, and it’s part of empathy to do so. Other kinds, it really isn’t.
HjHornbeck also made the analogy.
I’ve been finding myself gradually slipping towards the “faitheist” side. Liberal believers seem gloriously liberal, a refreshing break from the angry fights I’ve gotten into with semi-liberal or conservative atheists.
But as Benson recently pointed out, what you see is not all there is. Just because I’ve had no experience with religion, let alone been effected by it, doesn’t mean others have experienced the same nor that they are unjustified in being angry about their experiences. To each their area of expertise, and thanks to your history yours is the subtle corrosion of liberal belief.
I’d be wise to listen, rather than argue over tone or strategic alliances.
If you listen, you might learn more about what there is.