Tauriq Moosa has a beautiful, and deeply sad, post on a goodbye to all that about the atheist movement and what it had meant to an ex-Muslim.
I can’t escape the weird identity I have and it’s this identity which makes me so angry at the leading figures – i.e. white men – of a movement that changed my life. But I’m more fucking angry at the sycophantic nature of a movement that was supposed to have abandoned sanctity for reason and evidence.
I wanted to never speak about Richard Dawkins – or rather the environment that views him with infallibility.
I wanted to avoid saying anything about Sam Harris. I got what I wanted from their books – both books, which I loved and which had a profound, life-changing affect on me. For the better. Dawkins made it safe and sane for me to question and engage; Harris conveyed a civil focus on deep questions that required evidence to engage in. Hitchens conveyed beauty and brilliance in the secular outlook, which helped me engage with my parents as I left. It came at a time when my parents divorced, when I had no friends, and no direction. It was a confusing horrible mess, yet here was Dawkins waxing poetic about meaning, here was Hitchens pointing to poetry and to Salman Rushdie.
But those same tools they used to carve out a path now remain clutched firmly in their hands, with a refusal to cut out the poison that sits within so many of us.
And it didn’t have to be that way. They didn’t have to dig in their heels, they didn’t have to get furious whenever a woman dared to talk back. They didn’t have to use their fame and status to lay waste to everything around them.
Including me. Including bloody me. And I’m not the one with honorary degrees, renowned expertise, PhD’s, New York Times pieces, best-selling books. But it can still be me.
Because I’m a man, who has never experienced sexism, who doesn’t know what stupid, shitty, sexist, misogynist thing I might say – today, tomorrow (but hopefully never).
Because I don’t know everything.
Because I don’t know what phrasing might sound like; and, even if I didn’t intend to be a sexist shit, no matter how many articles I write against sexism, doesn’t excuse one (severe) fuckup. Digging in my heels indicates I care more about maintaining an image of infallibility than that I’m a critical person willing to admit:
“I stepped over the border of ignorance and into bigotry. I never intended to hurt or harm. I would never want to do that to friends or innocent people. Please accept my apologies for saying something fucking stupid. I deserve your reprimands for being another man saying something that sounds like it’s from the 18th century.”
Because I hope to never have friends who say I can never be sexist, never be wrong, because I’m their buddy.
It wouldn’t be so bad if they were friends who say “I’m surprised he said something sexist, I never would have expected that.” But to say “I’ve never heard him say anything sexist” and treat that as demonstrating total non-sexism? Oy.
As a brown person in the atheist movement, I’ve never felt particularly welcome. Seeing the tactics of white men defendng other white men from obvious bigotry that isn’t obvious to them – and, worse, seeing their sycophantic followers convey these men’s infallibility – has never made my view more entrenched: I want nothing to do with this “movement”.
I thank all these amazing people – yes, including Dawkins and Harris – for what they’ve done. I thank them from the bottom of my pathetic “social justice warrior” “feminazi” heart. But this is no longer a space I want to be part of when the first lesson they taught me – question yourself, question your most deeply entrenched views, question how you might wrong – is now no longer allowed to be applied to them.
Adam Lee continues to be called a liar, without anyone saying what he’s lying about. Ophelia who has been watching Dawkins and similar highly prominent folks for years is declared an opportunistic, click-bait blogger. Forget her books, her articles, her columns. Greta Christina gets told by Sam Harris’ fans that she should shut up about sexism (again, not Sam Harris’ fault, but the culture of inclusivity, which is my major focus). On and on, it goes. Silence, lies, betrayal. No. No more.
Goodbye to all that.