BDSM, Erotica, & Pseudo-Snuff: Astounding Observations of Groupthink


A post by Jamie

In July of this year, a former friend of mine who is an RCMP officer was exposed on national news as a practitioner of BDSM who had starred in his very own erotica. Unfortunately, he was also erroneously identified as the male component of a series of photos I can only reasonably describe as pseudo-snuff, which bear a chilling resemblance to the last moments on Earth faced by 49 women at the hands of serial murderer Robert Pickton — this was stated as an objective observation by journalists from two separate national media outlets, which both accused the RCMP officer of having some unspecified part in the serial murder spree (which was extended for nearly three years due to apathy and incompetence on the part of investigators in two separate jurisdictions, including his, because a marked majority of the victims were Aboriginal females engaging in sex work and illicit drug use). One of the journalists actually seems to have fabricated an even more sensational description of the photos as well. Turns out they were all duped by a single man whose hobbies include cyber-stalking, compulsive lying, and creative fiction writing in the form of letters to the media, RCMP, blog writers, and the lawyer who represented many of the grieving families of the serial murderer’s victims.

When the story first appeared in national news, I wrote a blog entry about what it was actually like to be this RCMP officer’s friend (spoiler: it’ll give any rational person at least one case of goosebumps). I criticized the photographer and models in the pseudo-snuff photos that were aired on national news, for attempting to eroticize violence against women. I also criticized the rest of the community for pretending this was not exactly what was intended when the male model took a fistful of the female model’s hair, bringing her to her knees in front of him, and held a large knife against her throat as she gazed up at him in terror. I didn’t know that my former friend was not the male model until I received a phone call that triggered a whole other past trauma (which I’ve since reported to RCMP), from the man in the photos. RCMP had found my first blog post within days, written an internal memo about it, and started monitoring my blog. They came to my home and I gave a two-and-a-half-hour statement about every detail I could summon from the depths of my memory. I took a look at the online space I used to share with this RCMP officer, which was named in the news stories, and was shocked to see hundreds of people convincing each other that there was no crime, therefore no criminal investigation.

I tried to assert that there was, in fact, multiple simultaneous investigations going on into this man (i.e., code of conduct investigations, what amounts to behavioural profiling, and investigations into the accusations linking him to multiple heinous crimes). I was met with personal attacks about my mental capacities and have been repeatedly libeled on both the website and on Twitter by a prominent business woman who thinks it’s her job to tell everyone I’m some sort of crazy person who is a threat to myself and others. I was also contacted by the man who, unbeknownst to me at the time, was solely responsible for setting this entire scandal in motion. He left extremely serious accusations against the RCMP officer on my blog (which have since been falsified) and emailed even more to me (all of which triggered my past trauma, but have all turned out to be blatant lies). I kept it a secret because he was pretending to speak on behalf of 500 dissident members of the RCMP, while claiming to be a former member himself. Over time, I have figured out who both the models in the pseudo-snuff are, and who the photographer was, and that I knew all of them. Not one of them has yet conceded that the photos they produced are pseudo-snuff, or that they are reminiscent of Canada’s most notorious serial murderer.

The RCMP officer who was so seriously libeled is now suing the lawyer who represented many of the victims’ families, the compulsive liar who was emailing and writing letters to so many people with false accusations, and two accomplices. The plaintiff’s lawyer claims that this may be the biggest privacy violation suit in Canadian history, with damages estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, the online blog of the 500 dissident RCMP officers turned out to be real, and not just the work of one very busy compulsive liar, and though it was censored within the first 24 hours because it originally contained libel against multiple members (but especially against that one in particular), it has since been re-published without the defamatory content and remains open to the public.

Now back to this barrier in getting through to thousands of people that there actually was not one, but many, criminal investigations. Nothing grated against me through this whole thing as much as out-right denial that there were any investigations taking place at all, despite the fact that the man had been accused of playing a critical role in a serial murder spree. Because this community was suddenly concerned about the possibility of legitimate threats to individual privacy, thousands of people talked each other out of cooperating with authorities during a murder investigation. And not just one investigation, either. Until some time after contacting me, authorities had yet to determine whether or not the female model in the pseudo-snuff images was even still alive. Any form of dissent was silenced, dissenters attacked, and opportunities for further contact terminated. But equally infuriating is the continued denial that racial privilege on the part of this community, which is almost completely composed of white people, has anything to do with what happened. To deflect attention from that problem, this community continues to co-opt the very concept of outing an LGBTQ for their own false claims of oppression, of which they claim this one (straight, cisgendered) man’s experience is evidence.

It is absolutely astounding to me that this victim-envying community is so hell-bent on avoiding any acknowledgement of wrong-doing, poor judgment, ignorance, or racial privilege, that they are actually prioritizing the issue of self-manufactured threats to their privacy, the very meaning of consent, and “kink-shaming” over the issue of very deeply offending the grieving families of the 49 victims through their collectively maintained ignorance. One can’t even say “But what about the consent of the victims’ families?” or “But what about the consent of the tax-payers who are now going to be slapped with the bill for three separate RCMP detachments to investigate all the accusations and leads that emerged while this entire community talked each other out of cooperating?” without being accused of being totally apathetic to the issue of this one RCMP officer’s right to spank behind closed doors with the expectation of privacy. Welcome, groupthink. I see you’ve been making yourself comfortable since early July.

Here’s the thing: I know readers of this blog will get what’s going on here, and will get that a number of things that went sideways through this entire series of events were just wrong from the get-go. But while this was all going on, I started to think deep about atheists claiming to be an oppressed group, using LGBTQ oppression as an analogy for bad things that happen when atheists experience conflict or are even met with damaging perceptions in mass media. When I’ve challenged this decision with individual atheists, I’ve been met with the exact same kind of hostility that has been leveled against me by the group I’ve spent most of this blog entry describing. But I actually am a queer and a trans* person, and virtually every atheist or kinkster who claims to be oppressed is straight, white, and cisgendered. The marked majority of those voices are also male. If you wouldn’t claim that atheist “oppression” is analogous to conditions of racial segregation prior to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States (and don’t you dare try that one with me), then keep your hands off the collective history of LGBTQ generations before me and my day-to-day life in the present. Every time you insist on doing that, it makes me think of groupthinkers talking each other out of cooperating with police when they knew there was no crime and could prove it.

I can’t even begin to form an adequate gesture of how viscerally offended I am by the comparison, as I think about women like CeCe McDonald (currently sitting in prison for the crime of successfully defending her life when someone tried to kill her for being trans*) being compared to prominent atheists who are, for example, sitting atop heaps of cash for defending racial profiling. Cut it out (and please read that if you or someone you have observed makes this totally ignorant comparison). I’m begging you.

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Comments

  1. baal says

    Both James Croft and Greta Christina agree that atheists should ‘out’ themselves as a tactic to gain greater acceptance of atheists. I agree. I also agree that that’s about as far as the analogy goes or should be used. Are you also not ok with this limited expression?

    (I don’t know what to express on the rest of the post. It’s harrowing to even read about let alone consider what it would be like to live through.)

  2. Paul W., OM says

    I’ve made analogies and comparisons between the atheism movement and the Civil Rights movement, Gay Liberation, etc. before, but I’ve never tried to equate them.

    I don’t think the “oppression” of atheists is anywhere near the level of oppression of racial minorities or LGBTQ people, and I don’t know anybody who does think that. That is usually not the point of such analogies and comparisons.

    We are nonetheless a generally misunderstood and widely despised minority, and that means certain analogies are in order. In particular, we should respect the black and LGBTQ communities and learn useful lessons from their experiences.

    I did read the article you linked to, and it didn’t convince me to “cut it out.” (I do think a lot of us ought to do more of what I usually do, and did above—make it clear that we’re not claiming the same kind or level of oppression.)

    The article struck me as mostly arguing against a straw man—the atheists who thinks his oppression is comparable in degree to racial minorities or LGBTQ people’s, and who thinks that religion is the only source of bigotry.

    I thought the author went overboard in the other direction, taking an equally cartoonish stance and saying that the problem is colonialism, not religion, as though the two were mutually exclusive, so you should be an anticolonialist and not an antitheist.

    That’s just ridiculous. Religion has historically been used to justify oppression of minorities and women—e.g., the caste system in Hindu India, slavery in the US, and patriarchy most places—and that is very much true of the oppression of LGBTQ people in the U.S. right now.

    The fact that some religious people manage not to be homophobic or transphobic doesn’t change the fact that religion is not just the biggest excuse but the only excuse that actually matters much in justifying denying people equal rights based on sexual orientation. All of the other excuses are clearly bullshit, and the only reason they’re still in play is due to religious opposition to gay rights.

    The fact that many religious people do manage to reject such religious nonsense doesn’t mean that religion isn’t an important cause of such bigotry—any more than the fact that most smokers don’t get lung cancer means that “cigarettes are not the problem.”

    It’s ridiculous that to get equal rights in my country, we have to counter religious bullshit (e.g., Leviticus) with more religious bullshit (e.g., selective Jesusisms) to get the swing votes, because the majority believes that religious bullshit is relevant to who should or should not be able to marry whom.

    Religion is a major risk factor for dangerous bullshit, including bullshit that justifies oppression.

    The fact that some bullshit turns out not to do much damage doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be anti-bullshit across the board.

  3. Paul W., OM says

    Ah, I see that the OP is a guest piece by you (HaifischGeweint), author of the other piece I was talking about… I’d missed that, and thought it was by Ian.

    Sorry for the confusion.

  4. says

    Not the point of such analogies — i.e., “Intent! It’s fucking magical!”

    I’m not buying this as a legitimate reason to keep insisting on using these analogies. Primarily because while you individually may be able to distinguish between what you’re saying and what you didn’t mean to say, most people won’t. A lot of people will actually claim that the two groups are analogous, and be completely serious about that.

    Frankly, I think atheism is a lot more like veganism, if you’re looking for a legitimate analogy.

  5. says

    P.S. I think that if you can’t see the relationship between the caste system in the Hindu faith and structures of colonialism, let alone the relationship between yourself (I am going to assume until corrected that you’re a Settler in relation to Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island) and thinking that this comparison is to North America is totally appropriate to make, just can’t be helped. Nothing anyone ever says will be enough to make you consider the possibility that your convictions just MIGHT be misguided.

    I also think you’re being dishonest in first claiming that what I’ve written about is an anti-theist straw person (don’t tell me you don’t see people bashing religious and spiritual people for no reason other than that they aren’t atheists, because if you do, I’m going to conclude that your vision of your allies is equally as selective as your vision of this problem). But then you go on to make an argument that amounts to “If I wave a magic fucking wand and make all religion disappear, it’ll fix the world’s problems! ESPECIALLY colonialism!”

    You’d be wrong. It’s not as though indigenous peoples in India prior to colonization by the Aryans (and the creation of the caste system) were atheists. They held to a religion/spirituality/whatever you/they would prefer to call it. The same goes for indigenous peoples of North and South America prior to colonization by the Europeans. And yet, prior to colonization of Turtle Island in particular, indigenous people didn’t oppress women, people of colour (OR white people), or LGBTQs (who are collectively referred to as Two-Spirit).

    OR DID YOU NOT REALIZE THAT.

    Goddamn, that was a long P.S.

  6. says

    P.S. Greta Christina also said that 9/11 was the “atheist Stonewall”. If you or anyone else you know doesn’t get how this is co-opting LGBTQ oppression, maybe start by googling “Stonewall”.

    9/11 was a terrorist attack, and Stonewall was a riot against police who were repeatedly raiding a certain establishment that was well-attended by gays, lesbians, and trans* people of colour.

    I can’t even begin to gesture at how big the explosion of fucks in my head was the day I read that.

  7. Martha says

    Really? People are fired for being vegans? Or arrested for blasphemy against meat?

    There’s no question whatsoever that getting rid of religion would not solve all the world’s problems. Obviously, that’s not the case, even if some atheists see it that way. But it’s foolish to deny that atheists are indeed a persecuted minority– or a minority with fewer rights than the religious majority– in many parts of the world.

  8. Paul W., OM says

    If we’re talking about movement politics, etc., it only makes sense to make analogies to previously and currently successful (or unsuccessful) movements. What else are we supposed to compare them to?

    If I analogize a chess or football to warfare, it’s not a claim that chess or football is as big or important as an actual war.

    If I point out that a porpoise literally is a whale, it’s just not a claim that it’s as big as a right whale or sperm whale. It’s just a little whale.

    Intent isn’t magic, but saying “intent isn’t magic” isn’t magic either. If you tell people what you do and don’t mean by the analogy—e.g., that saying a porpoise is a whale is not saying that it’s really huge—that’s more than intent. It’s an explicit statement, and “intent isn’t magic” doesn’t apply.

    You don’t seem to understand how analogies work and what constitutes a useful or valid analogy, or even to care.

    Your approach to analogies, if you applied it consistently, would invalidate a whole lot of pro-LGBTQ and anticolonial rhetoric.

    How dare gays compare their liberation to real liberation, i.e., of enslaved peoples? How dare anticolonialists talk about “possessing” black bodies if they don’t mean literal possession, i.e., the chattel slavery of the past?

    Not every analogy or comparison is an invitation to play Oppression Olympics, especially when the speaker makes it explicit that it’s not that kind of comparison.

    You may be well-meaning in trying to prevent relatively privileged people from using loaded analogies, but your good intentions are not magic.

    Sometimes an analogy is just an analogy, and often it’s especially useful to compare smaller things to bigger, better-known things. (How dare we call model airplanes airplanes, as though they could carry people? And God forbid we should call bicycles vehicles, which makes them sound like cars and trucks.)

    I fully agree that we should be careful about such analogies, and generally make it clear what we’re not doing with them, to forestall misunderstandings.

    But if people insist on misunderstanding them anyhow, that’s not a problem with the analogies.

    And if you don’t think it’s okay to make analogies to from lesser things to greater things, stop calling non-indigenous natives Settlers, okay?

    Or do you want to clarify the rules of your blatant double standard for analogies?

    Frankly, I think atheism is a lot more like veganism, if you’re looking for a legitimate analogy.

    My wife’s a vegan, and she’s utterly incensed that you’d make such a comparison. (<- joke)

    I really don't think you're in a position to be telling anyone what constitutes a legitimate analogy.

  9. says

    In North America, Martha? All across North America, applicable to all atheists? Or just a random minority within an existing minority within the atheist movement in North America?

    I’ve been fired because I was white.

    I’ve been fired because I gave a distressed former client of my boss an honest answer that actually calmed her down and likely prevented her from filing a lawsuit against him.

    I’ve been fired because I suggested people working in a kitchen wear a fucking hair net or a hat and stop blowing their noses directly in front of the deep fryer.

    I was very nearly fired from one job, after a 7-page letter was read to me, outlining every complaint that was never brought to my face by the people filing it, because I talked about having a pet iguana.

    You don’t see me claiming that this is oppression, because I actually understand what oppression is, that it’s systemic inequality, and that it’s not just random shitty experiences that happen sometimes to individual people because of some misunderstood or not particularly well-liked attribute.

    Don’t dilute the power of the word. If you can’t find evidence of SYSTEMIC OPPRESSION, then stop looking for reasons to claim it.

  10. says

    Excuse me, Paul, what the fuck?

    “stop calling non-indigenous natives Settlers, okay?”

    What the fuck do you think you just said here? Do you even understand the magnitude of nonsense you just expressed, asking me to enable you to avoid your inherited privilege?

    Great. So, from what I’ve been able to determine so far, you’re a straight white guy telling me, a queer trans person, when and if I can tell a straight white guy like you that your co-opting of LGBTQ oppression for analogies about things that don’t even represent systemic oppression, is legitimate.

    Why don’t you just start telling me when and if my identity is legitimate?

    Why don’t you just start telling me when and if my feelings towards another queer are legitimate?

    Why don’t you just start telling me to “get over” the history of generations before me?

    Your privilege is showing in spades.

  11. Paul W., OM says

    Nothing anyone ever says will be enough to make you consider the possibility that your convictions just MIGHT be misguided.

    I think it’s a little bit early in our relationship to be saying shit like that.

    I’m pretty sure that if you’re saying that to me, already, it’s more true of you than of me.

    You don’t know me, asshole.

    I am well aware that religion often coeveolves with colonial power structures and ends up justifying oppression. It’s something of commented about many times.

    I also think that there are other forms of oppression, often indigenous—there are conflicts of interest and patterns of cooperation and exploitation within societies as well as between them. (If you don’t understand that, you should really really study basic multilevel game theory. It’s inevitable.)

    Religion often plays a role in justifying exploitation within societies, not just between them.

    You seem to idealize indigenous peoples and blame colonialism for everything, much as you straw-man antitheist atheists for blaming religion for everything.

    Sorry, I just don’t think it’s that simple. Nowhere near, and it’s nowhere near true that Colonialism is the problem, such that religion is not the problem.

    If you don’t think religion is an important part of the problem, IMO you don’t understand colonialism. And if you don’t think that indigenous religion can cause similar problems within indigenous societies, by justifying exploitation, IMO you don’t understand religion.

  12. says

    That’s fuckin’ great, Paul. I’m an asshole because I acknowledge that there’s a complicated relationship between this society and the one you just pulled out of a hat to keep using the same kind of illegitimate analogy that I’ve already confronted.

    History lesson: THE SAME PEOPLE WHO COLONIZED TURTLE ISLAND COLONIZED INDIA TOO. We continue to re-colonize India through wage-slavery (i.e., outsourced labour). We continue to benefit from this relationship, while they continue to struggle within it.

    [sarcasm] Yeah, I totes just straw person everything. [/sarcasm]

  13. Paul W., OM says

    What the fuck do you think you just said here? Do you even understand the magnitude of nonsense you just expressed, asking me to enable you to avoid your inherited privilege?

    Is that really what you think I was doing?

    Wow.

  14. says

    I know!

    Instead of doing anything to stop the ongoing genocide against indigenous peoples, let’s criticize the structures within their communities as if they are unaffected by systemic oppressions against them, and somehow magically exist in a vacuum removed from existing oppressive structures!

    Then let’s all avoid our social privileges and pretend that they have nothing to do with our ability to treat the subject as if it’s a debate about how well we understand the oppression we are directly engaging in!

    Then let’s just criticize religion and colonialism as if they were exactly the same thing, as if to suggest that prior to colonization, indigenous people were already exactly as fucked up as they are because of colonization!

    Pat yourself on the back! I think we’ve effectively derailed this conversation! Whoop whoop!

  15. Paul W., OM says

    You seem to have a basic inability to understand analogies.

    Ever heard the expression that some crisis was somebody’s “Waterloo”?

    Did you think that meant there was a similar body count to the Battle of Waterloo?

  16. Paul W., OM says

    Well, your comments do seem to illustrate something basic in the OP—your inability to understand analogies as analogies.

  17. says

    You seem to have a basic inability to understand what the issue is here.

    This issue isn’t about correctly applying analogous reasoning, it’s about choosing between acknowledging your social privileges and avoiding them.

    And no, I actually haven’t heard that analogy applied to anything in all the years of my life. OH I MUST LIVE UNDER A ROCK AND HAVE NOT EVEN THE SLIGHTEST EDUCATION.

  18. says

    And your comments seem to illustrate when you can’t understand even the most basic principle of the argument I’ve made: social inequality.

    CONGRATULATIONS. REMIND ME AGAIN WHY I’M THE ASSHOLE HERE.

  19. says

    I have an idea:

    Go write your own fucking blog entry about how to use analogies, and leave anyone else who is interested in understanding their relationship to systemic social inequality to comment on this one.

    I hear WordPress is free.

  20. Paul W., OM says

    Quite the bonfire of straw men you’ve got going there.

    My not buying your incredibly simplistic ideas of colonialism and of “legitimate” analogies doesn’t make me the apologist for colonialism that you seem to think it does.

    Poor you, somebody disagreed with you. He must be Teh Evil Colonialist Oppressor.

    Hyeesh.

  21. Paul W., OM says

    That’s fuckin’ great, Paul. I’m an asshole because I acknowledge that there’s a complicated relationship between this society and the one you just pulled out of a hat to keep using the same kind of illegitimate analogy that I’ve already confronted.

    No, because (a) that’s not what’s happening, and (b) I didn’t call you an asshole about that.

    I called you an asshole for condescending to me about something I understand better than you think I do, telling me stuff I already know as though I clearly didn’t—and saying this, on the basis of very little information about me:

    Nothing anyone ever says will be enough to make you consider the possibility that your convictions just MIGHT be misguided.

    A lot of people around here (including me) consider saying such a thing about someone to be more considerably offensive than calling somebody an “asshole.”

    Really, now. Nothing that anyone says, ever, will be enough to make me even consider that my convictions might be misguided?

    Do you usually say that sort of thing to people you’ve just met, when you understand them as poorly as you understand me?

  22. says

    Jesus H. Christ. I thought you were done rolling out the “NO U”, but I see you’re not.

    Do you honestly believe I’m any more capable of reading your mind than you are of reading mine?

    All you’ve done here is prove my point, over and over and over and over and over again, with your barely elaborated “NO U” over and over and over and over and over again.

  23. Tabula says

    I linked this post to a close friend of mine whose rape was among those somewhat central in recent discussions of abuse in the BDSM community. She thinks you’re an idiot. So, there’s that.

  24. Paul W., OM says

    FTR, all the “bonfire” is was re-framing exactly what you’ve contributed here.

    Seriously? You seriously think that because I believe that indigenous people are capable of exploiting each other, and religion can be instrumental in that, I must think that colonialism is not typically a worse problem, which compounds that problem, or even a problem should be concerned about at all?

    You think I’m saying genocide is nothing to worry about?

    Wow. That’s some… um, er… impressive “re-framing.”

    *backs slowly away*

  25. says

    Apparently I need to declare some Captain Obvious type shit in here:

    1) I am not a cisgendered straight Black man.

    2) I am not a part of a hive mind.

    I know I’ve already said and written some shit that will have made this abundantly clear, but apparently at least one person is in denial of both of these facts, and is now criticizing me for failing to sound exactly like Crommunist.

    Well fuck that. I’m not his mouthpiece, and you shouldn’t expect me to be, either. He invited me to write here because he believes in what I’ve already been writing for quite some time. I didn’t ask, I just said thank you until I was blue in the face.

    I’m going to say and write things that you might disagree with. You’re free to disagree with them, and I’m free to continue to insist that you are approaching the subject with a closed mind or a privilege-clouded vision (whichever seems more immediately apparent, based on why exactly you claim to disagree). I’m free to stand by what I’ve said and continue defending it.

    This might come as a shock to many of you, but I’m really not particularly popular for saying shit that makes other people defensive. But I’m not doing it for popularity. So hate me if it makes you feel better about yourself. Look at all the fucks I give.

  26. julian says

    Hey, Paul W OM, shut the fuck up. I would like to actually read a conversation that you don’t deliberately drag down for no fucking reason. Piss off.

  27. Daniel Schealler says

    I can’t even begin to form an adequate gesture of how viscerally offended I am by the comparison, as I think about women like CeCe McDonald (currently sitting in prison for the crime of successfully defending her life when someone tried to kill her for being trans*) being compared to prominent atheists who are, for example, sitting atop heaps of cash for defending racial profiling. Cut it out (and please read that if you or someone you have observed makes this totally ignorant comparison). I’m begging you.

    Fair call: Duly noted.

    I’ll keep this in mind if I catch myself about to make that kind of analogy in the future.

  28. emily isalwaysright says

    Well done Julian that’ll show him! Such a display of linguistic and logical mastery will no doubt put anyone in their place.

  29. =8)-DX says

    I just read this article and have no idea the fuck about what is going on here. The comments didn’t much help either. Is RCMP the Royal Canadian Mounted Police? And one of their officers as far as I can get it did nothing but was framed by some people who made psuedo snuff and the RCMP covered it up or didn’t and this is all bad because of a mass murderer and you being trans*? (Btw what’s with the asterisk, never seen that)?

    I’m sorry, this is a bit too confusing for me, I’m not exactly sure who or what I’m supposed to get all offended at (BDSM? Murderers? Pseudo-snuff? The RCMP? Atheists using the word “out” or complaining about oppression?) Gaaaaaaaah! Please try to use less double negatives and “incredulous mode” language when attempting to explain something as complicated as this.

    I just feel lucky not to have your problems – take care.

  30. says

    Trans* is a way to be more inclusive of those who aren’t a binary gender.

    http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/05/what-does-the-asterisk-in-trans-stand-for/

    Transsexual, transgender, genderfluid, etc. are all included in the term Trans*.

    As for the rest, I’m not sure what RCMP stands for, though the first definition that comes up when being searched is Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

    The officer being framed for the pseudo snuff was innocent of the film, but apparently guilty of some other things, as indicated here by this sentence:

    I tried to assert that there was, in fact, multiple simultaneous investigations going on into this man (i.e., code of conduct investigations, what amounts to behavioural profiling, and investigations into the accusations linking him to multiple heinous crimes).

    HaifischGeweint’s complaint is that during all the sorting out of what did and didn’t happen, people were using the term of “outing someone” to apply to the straight, cis gendered officer who was accused of doing a pseudo snuff film. It’s not an appropriate term to be used when it doesn’t apply to the LGBTQI community. Ze is asking that the Atheist community not do the same thing by saying “outing” an Atheist, because it’s not the samething as someone from the LGBTQI community being outed.

  31. says

    I have not been amused by Greta comparing the situation of atheists to the situation of the gays either, but I’d point out she’s gay, and it isn’t co-option to mention your own oppression.

    It doesn’t really make the situation atheists are in any more similar to the one we’re in as gay people, though. Atheists in Merika have very little to worry about in violence, bullying, or other actual bigotry, just some level of jackassery. Its’ like nerds.

  32. Paul W., OM says

    I think part of the problem is that it’s very easy for people to understand the metaphorical concept of “outing” in a very general way that isn’t specific to LGBTQ people. It’s a good and interesting concept with broad applicability, and with punchy terms that people can immediately understand and correctly adapt to a different concrete situations, with little or no explanaton.

    When people adapt a metaphor to a somewhat different concrete situation, what they’re mainly doing is recognizing structurally similar situations, and picking words that get across that kind of structure—not necessarily “co-opting” or “appropriating” terms in the sense of trying to justify one concrete situation by comparing it to another.

    For example, when people talk about “outing” a CIA agent, such as Valerie Plame, they recognize the similar structure of the basic situation: she functions in the world, passing as a “normal person,” but her ability to function as she’s chosen to depends on the world not knowing her big secret.

    To say that Rove et al. outed Valerie Plame is generally not to equate CIA agents with gay people in terms of whose side you’re on, or how important the different concrete situations are, or whether the secrecy is justified.

    You can be anti-LGBTQ and pro-CIA, or anti-CIA and pro-LGBTQ, or pro- or anti- both, and the metaphor still works—if you say that Plame was “outed,” people don’t generally assume that you’re both pro-LGBTQ and pro-CIA, and trying to make the CIA’s cause out to be as important and justified as LGBTQ community’s.

    When atheists or the kink community “appropriate” the term, there is usually something more going on, but in the case of the atheist community at least, it’s still more about the structure of the situation, and about strategy, and not so much about how you value the atheist community’s goals compared to the LGBTQ community’s—such a comparison isn’t usually the point of using the same term.

    When Greta Christina says that more atheists should out themselves, I don’t take that as meaning that she thinks our cause is so all-fired important that we can equate it with the Gay Liberation movement of the 1970’s. She’s saying that the situations are structurally similar enough that similar strategies should work for us. In particular, we’re a little-known and widely-despised minority, and if we’re more visible and proud, and make our case, more people will come to understand us and not see us as obviously the Bad Guys, and eventually we can gain general acceptance.

    That’s a lot more structurally similar to the LGBTQ situation than the CIA situation is. The CIA is not a widely despised minority, which can gain general acceptance if enough covert agents “come out” as CIA agents—if they come out, the CIA can’t do its job.

    The beauty of the “outing” metaphor is that most people can easily see the relevant similarities and the dissimilarities, and know how to apply the metaphor, and how far it goes. In the case of Valerie Plame, it’s only talking about how she has an important secret she wants to keep, and outing her destroys her ability to operate as a covert agent. Whether that’s bad or important thing isn’t part of the metaphor—that’s up to you.

    In the case of atheists “coming out,” though, you can easily see more structural similarities to the LGBTQ rights movement—we are a despised minority that wants public acceptance, etc.

    Even so, the dissimilarities are important, and the metaphor can help understand how they’re.

    I don’t think atheists are typically as oppressed as LGBTQ poeple, and that makes Greta’s use of the metaphor better—it strengthens her argument that we should come out, because most of us have much less to lose than LGBTQ people did early in that movement.

    Greta’s use of the metaphor suggests that if we “come out,” it will cost us less than it did them, which is an argument in favor of coming out—we may achieve the same kind of victory, which you may or may not value all that much, but at least it won’t cost us as nearly as much.

    I don’t see that as disrespectfully appropriating terminology and trying to steal the glory of the LGBTQ community.

    I see it as paying great respect to people who have fought a harder battle, at great cost, and are winning, and trying to emulate those people in our own small way.

    I myself don’t think I’ve had much to lose by coming out, because I as an individual have not been much “oppressed” by religion—I’ve mostly worked in fields (academic science) where atheism is commonplace and I’m unlikely to lose my job for it, can meet like-minded people, etc. I have it pretty good. (Some atheists don’t.)

    My interest in promoting atheism isn’t mainly for my own benefit, or the benefit of especially privileged people like me, or just atheists—it’s for the benefit of other people, very much including LGBTQ people, who are more victims of religion than we are.

  33. lovetinkle says

    If there is a point to this piece (and I’ve no reason to think there is not) it is near impossible to detect in this wall of turgid prose.

    Why not employ the services of an editor?

  34. says

    Why bother, when we have the services of such insightful and helpful commenters like yourself? Why, with your constructive and specific criticisms (and obvious English expertise), I’ll save bundles!

    (Note to everyone else: people are leaking in from the Slymepit, so take that for what it’s worth. They also apparently think it’s just HILARIOUS that I’ve pointed this out. I’ll make explicit my policy here: guest bloggers are kings of their own castle, and short of abusive hate speech I’m not inclined to tell them what or how to write. I will, however, take great delight in shitting all over people whose ‘criticism’ amounts to “you suck, hurr hurr hurr”.)

  35. Martha says

    I do hope the slyme infestation will be short-lived, because this is an interesting and important topic.

    I’ve been thinking about the source of my uneasiness with the opening post, and I think there are two intersecting issues that it might be useful to separate, at least for the sake of discussion.

    1) Should the term “outing” be relegated for use only in relationship to the LGBTQ community?

    
2) Does a lack of one kind of privilege trump lacking another?

    To help myself think through the first issue, I looked up “outing” in this context on-line:

    “The exposing of one assumed to be or wishing to be considered heterosexual as being gay, lesbian, or bisexual.”

    Or:

    “(Informal) the naming by homosexuals of other prominent homosexuals, often against their will”

    I find these definitions imperfect. For example, they glaringly omit the transgender portion of the LGBTQ population. Nonetheless, they support the notion that the term is generally used with respect to the LGBTQ community.

    Intriguingly, another definition that might lead to misunderstandings in this discussion appears to be in slang usage:

    “[T]o tell a third party that someone has done something inappropriate. [E.g.] Gawker outed Michael Brutsch as Violentacrez.”

    I find it problematic to have both of these definitions in common usage. My own preference would be that there be a different term for exposing someone for an activity that directly harms people (child pornography) and one that doesn’t but could still prove costly in a person’s life (LGBTQ identity, atheism, consensual sexual fetish).

    To be clear, I do disagree with the OP’s contention that the term “outing” should be reserved only for LGBTQ people. Taking on Greta Christina for using LGBTQ terms improperly illustrates quite well that this is problematic. Nonetheless, I can agree to disagree about this point.

    I find the second issue I raised more troubling. There is absolutely no doubt that there are rich, white uber-privilieged cis-male atheists. There are also rich, white uber-privilieged Chrstian gay cis-men (Log Cabin Republicans, anyone?). There’s a pretty huge correlation in the regions in which being an atheist or being gay is a cause for concern for one’s physical safety. Yes, it’s a lot better for both groups in the US than it was even ten years ago, but people do lose their jobs and children for both reasons. I find it intolerant to dismiss the plight of the atheist in the Bible Belt because xie is straight or cis. Often, they are opposed by the same people who oppose the LGBTQ community.

    On the other hand, I wholeheartedly agree that being trans-gender has challenges and dangers that far outweigh those experienced by the average atheist or cis gay man. That’s an issue I’ve learned a great deal about in the atheist blogosphere and one that deserves more discussion in broader society, too.

  36. Paul W., OM says

    Jamie,

    I think it might be good if you would clarify what you mean by “systemic” “oppression.”

    I don’t generally see a lot of atheists claiming to be an “oppressed” minority, in so many words, or trying to equate our degree of “oppression” with those of patently oppressed groups like women, racial minorities, LGBTQI people, and various foreigners we can more or less dominate.

    What I do see is people claiming is atheists claiming to be widely despised, treated badly enough for often enough that it’s worth complaining about, and especially that we’re marginalized.

    I do think that marginalization is systemic and systematic—though maybe you mean something different by “systemic” than I do.

    Consider the fact that we in the US have elected Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, gays, lesbians, blacks, and Jews to Congress, but IIRC we’ve only ever had one openly atheist congressperson, Pete Stark, and IIRC he was not open about it until he had been in Congress for years, and had a track record such that people in his comparatively liberal district could know and trust him despite his being an atheist.

    We’ve had thousands and thousands of congresspeople, but never once have we put an atheist in Congress through the front door. One guy snuck in for a while, but he just got defeated, so we’re back to zero.

    Even just looking at recent years, atheists are grossly underrepresented in Congress, and in general in high elective office. We’re several percent of the population, but we get a very small fraction of one percent of the top public offices.

    I’m not saying that this shows that the bias against atheists is worse overall than against, say, blacks or Muslims, though there’s survey evidence that we are the least trusted of all the groups I’ve mentioned.

    Clearly, atheists are politically marginalized in the US—and we didn’t need statistics to tell us that. In our two-party system, both parties that count systematically pander to the religious majority, with individual politicians “faith” and churchgoing being one of the usual selling points, and both parties obliged to talk about those wonderful “people of faith.”

    Imagine that both parties overtly trumpeted their candidates whiteness or maleness or straightness, and overtly praised those wonderful “people of whiteness” and so on.

    That’s how biased our political system is against irreligious people, and especially outright atheists—carefully chosen terms are systematically used by both parties to praise everyone but us. If politicians don’t wear their religion on their sleeves, or don’t at least pay lip service to the wonders of faith, it is noticed and commented on, and becomes an issue of whether you’re insufficiently appreciative of religion. (Much as not wearing an American flag lapel pin at a Presidential debate raises the question of whether you’re insufficiently patriotic.)

    I think that counts as an obviously pervasive bias in favor of religion, and implicitly but quite obviously against atheism. It’s systemic—both parties do it, at all levels of elective office—and obviously systematic.

    If you don’t believe me, ask any political strategist from either major party. In the US, religion is considered uncontroversially good, with Christianity being obviously most favored, and thus that atheism is very bad—even a white male atheist is worse than being a nonwhite female Hindu, Buddhist, or even one of those dreaded Muslims.

    I’m not claiming that we are thus more oppressed than those groups, or that our “oppression” reaches a similar level, or that I’d even call it “oppression” without caveats and qulaifiers analogous to like saying that a porpoise is a small whale.

    IMO interesting to think about how and why we’re marginalized all out of proportion to how much we’re “oppressed.”

    I think that has a lot to do with what I said above about Greta Christiana’s structural analogy between the atheist movement and the LGBTQ rights movement and its implications for strategy.

    If we’re marginalized out of proportion to how much we’re actually oppressed, unlike women, racial minorities, and LGBTQI people, we may find it easier to use the similar strategies successfully. The stakes may be lower—at least for most of us, as individuals—but the costs are lower, too.

    Up to now, most of us have been “closeted” partly because we’re not all that oppressed—we haven’t had it so bad that we’ve felt the need to organize and fight for basic rights like marriage, or against the kinds of violence that LGBTQI people have been subjected to. It’s been easy enough for most of us to “pass,” as necessary, so we’ve put up with being broadly vilified.

    Many of us think it’s good for society for us to come out and fight the societal bias in favor of religion, which in turn supports crazy biases against women and LGBTQI people, and xenophobia about foreigners of different religions, which do support major oppression both at home and abroad.

    I don’t think casting that in terms of colonialism changes the picture very much.

    Maybe the religion that dominates our society is an artifact of colonialism, but it is also a tool of oppression, whether you see that oppression in terms of its colonial origins and applications or not.

    I’m guessing that you might disagree, and say that our wanting to fight religion broadly—including “foreign” more or less “indigenous” and “colonized” religions—is a form of cultural imperialism in itself. Who the hell are weare we—largely male, largely white, mostly Westerners—to criticize religion broadly? (Not just our own culture’s fucked up imperialist religion, but the religions of other people, which are often fucked up by the effects of millenia of imperialism and colonization?)

    Is that right? If so, it’d be good if you made that argument very clearly and explicitly, because a lot of us are not buying it at present.

  37. says

    Rutee Katreya:

    Your comment indicates that you don’t understand what is being co-opted and to what end. Being a queer trans doesn’t give me permission to co-opt LGBTQ oppression at my whim and fancy, to apply as an analogy in situations like the national exposure of a kinky RCMP officer along with defamatory accusations linking him to heinous crimes. Nor to apply as an analogy for the occasional frustrations, pain, and suffering of atheists living in a society in which the dominant culture is characterized by Christian colonial values (as if the frustrations, pain, and suffering of atheists are somehow unique in character, in that they are the only group that is impacted by this dominant cultural attitude — they are not).

    Greta Christina comparing Stonewall (what is largely considered the first major push for LGBTQ equality in the United States — even though Compton’s Cafeteria happened first) to 9/11 (what was a terrorist attack against all of the United States) is simply unacceptable and offensive. That she’s gay doesn’t give her a golden ticket to simply not be held accountable for the problem she created in that gesture. It wouldn’t make a bloody difference if she was straight, for that matter.

    At the time of Stonewall, both being attracted to someone of the same sex and being gender-diverse were still illegal and listed as mental disorders. The police were raiding establishments that were largely attended by gays, lesbians, and gender-diverse individuals, most of whom were people of colour. They had been doing this for decades, and in Canada in particular, some of those raids ended in police trying to gang-rape the straight into lesbian women, or simply beating gay men within an inch of their lives.

    WHERE is the legitimate basis for comparing this historical context for LGBTQs in relation to the Stonewall riots, to the historical context for atheists in relation to 9/11?

    There just isn’t. That’s why it’s co-opting. If one were to compare the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement to Stonewall, it’s not co-opting, because both groups were (and still are) systemically oppressed.

    I’m a little in shock that I’ve even had to go to the lengths of explaining this in that much detail.

  38. says

    At least we can agree on how annoying it is for a group of people that are simply marginalized but in no way systemically oppressed, to compare themselves to a group that actually does experience systemic oppression.

  39. says

    Paul:

    It astounds me that you can wax poetic for what amounts to your very own blog post in the comments section on this one, talking about analogies and structural similarities, and yet STILL miss the boat entirely on the issue of systemic inequality.

    Let me say that again, so it’s perfectly clear: You missed the boat with respect to the issue of systemic inequality.

    The point of this blog post (the one I wrote, not the one you wrote) is to expose to the light of day, a serious problem of privilege-avoidance, being perpetuated every time some straight white cisgendered atheist guy claims status as an oppressed individual.

    And when he says “But wait! That’s not what I mean!” that’s something we call a not-pology. How many times does someone have to tell you you’re communicating something completely different than you meant, before you as an individual will finally concede and change your choice in language or shift your conceptualization of the problem you’re trying to communicate?

    I’ve said it to kinksters and I’ll say it to atheists: this kind of shit is why people don’t like you — I’m both kinkster and atheist, so how do you think that makes me feel? I’m also relatively disadvantaged in every aspect of my life other than race/ethnicity, literacy, able-bodiedness, and having accessed an education for a few years (which doesn’t mean that I don’t experience occasional shitty treatment on the basis of being perceived as non-white, illiterate, disabled, or uneducated, because believe it or not, I do, simply by virtue of what I have to say). So what kind of a person, if not me, is it going to take to communicate to someone like yourself, that what you’re doing is not just insensitive but actually quite offensive and that it needs to stop?

    Being visible as an atheist (see what I did there?) won’t do any atheists any favours at all if you continue to dilute the very concept of oppression by co-opting the collective histories of a relatively underprivileged/oppressed group of people such as LGBTQs. It’s as simple as that.

    And for the record, I gotta tell you. Atheists and kinksters aren’t the only groups who co-opt oppression to claim how hard the dominant society is on them. I literally vomit in my mouth every time I see the pro-life movement co-opt the Civil Rights Movement.

  40. PatrickG says

    If you wouldn’t claim that atheist “oppression” is analogous to conditions of racial segregation prior to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States (and don’t you dare try that one with me), then keep your hands off the collective history of LGBTQ generations before me and my day-to-day life in the present. Every time you insist on doing that, it makes me think of groupthinkers talking each other out of cooperating with police when they knew there was no crime and could prove it.

    I really don’t get that last sentence. I view the LGBTQ community/movement as a model for the atheist movement, and thus I think it’s entirely appropriate to use the same terminology when describing tactics and strategy.

    With all due respect, and without knowing precisely where you live (your site only describes you as from Canada), I invite you to come try being atheist in Kentucky. You might get a different perspective on “systematic oppression”.

    It doesn’t take a long search to find people being punished physically and socially for being atheist — or even insufficiently religious. Here’s one fun example: CoR put up a billboard (a BILLBOARD) in Lexington, and people I personally know were directly threatened with bodily harm — and not via the internet, in person. Mind you, this is in Lexington, one of the most progressive places in Kentucky. Thank FSM I don’t live in rural Oklahoma or Alabama.

    Based on that case, and many others, yeah, I’m going to assert that being “out” as an atheist does bear some resemblance to being “out” in LGBTQ terms. The analogy is very appropriate, and useful to advancing the position of atheists and freethinkers in society.

    I do want to make a few things clear:

    1) No, I am not asserting that, where I live, being atheist is equally as bad as being a person of color or non-cis sexual identity. But it’s still bad.
    2) No, I am not asserting that the BDSM community you describe so vividly is correct in appropriating the term to “protect” themselves in the context of the investigations you detail.
    3) No, I am not asserting that Sam Harris is persecuted, or claiming that other atheists sitting on piles of cash are even remotely comparable to CeCe McDonald.
    4) Yes, I completely agree that some atheists claiming “oppression” are full of shit. So what? Does that invalidate the actual oppression other atheists actually do experience?

    To close, I refuse to “keep my hands” off of your “collective history”, because the tactics your community used and continue to use are working. I’m not going to avoid using a model of social activism and terminology that produces results, even if you want to associate me with criminal behavior and groupthinkers who failed a basic moral test. Your visceral reaction is, quite frankly, not my problem.

  41. says

    Paul:

    If you need me to explain to you what “systemic oppression” means, you’re in the wrong conversation. Stop fucking derailing and trying to waste my time and energy, and just go to the fucking work yourself.

    I’m not even going to bother reading the rest of your book-length comment. This is just too fucking obviously derailing for dummies 101.

  42. Paul W., OM says

    I don’t think dictionary definitions can tell us much about “slang”/new words like this.

    If you google “outed” and “valerie plame” you’ll see that article and headline writers have adopted the term in its general, abstracted sense, with phrases like “Outed CIA Agent” “Outed Valerie Plame,” etc., from sources like the Associated Press, the Nation, Raw Story, etc.

    Everybody knows what it means as a general phenomenon—all you have to say is “outed as a CIA agent” and people know you’re not talking about the LGBTQI-specific sense, and what sense you are using it in.

    And it’s such a good term in that sense that I think it’s inevitable that it will be used that way, instinctively, even by people who think and say that you shouldn’t.

    Guess who wrote this, back in July:

    As stated in update (2.0), the man in the photo, who is not Cpl. Jim Brown, phoned me and outed himself to me to demand I take this photo down.

    (Boldfacing mine.)

    http://haifischgeweint.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/with-all-due-respect-cpl-jim-brown-eroticized-violence-against-women/

  43. says

    Martha:

    1) The entire concept of outing is constructed on acknowledging that unless one is visibly trans, caught in the middle of a homoerotic act, or is as out as they possibly can be, one is not visible as an LGBTQ. Thus, one can be at risk of being outed.

    It is important at this point to acknowledge that a heterosexual person can be exposed to another person’s homophobia/transphobia, by erroneous attribution on the part of the phobe, of the perceived sexuality/gender of the person being gazed upon.

    It is also important at this point to acknowledge that both an atheist and a Christian can be as visible or invisible as they please, as a member of each respective group, and largely at their convenience. Each can be exposed to derogatory bullshit about either group, whether they are visible or invisible as a member of either group (or even just assumed to be one or the other).

    But what exactly is the comparison? Do atheists thump on science textbooks in public and spout evolutionary theory on the street corner, thus exposing themselves to being socially read as engaging in an atheist act in public? And what would be lewd about that in any case? It’s ridiculous, so let’s just try going deeper.

    When have atheists ever been repeatedly raided and harassed by police for gathering and talking about atheism and critical thought, while it was considered illegal and a mental illness in North America? Oh wait. That never happened.

    How many atheist have actually died in North America, simply because when someone found out they were atheist, they went apeshit and started beating them to death? Where is the legal precedent that established this as a hate crime, which was then countered by a legal defense that hatred of atheists just put the latest perpetrator into a blind panic that they were going to be raped and they just had to defend themselves? When have atheists in North America ever been prevented from marrying? Oh wait. That never happened either.

    When has any of this happened to someone because they were discovered a Christian? Oh WAIT! That never happened either!

    Maybe — just maybe — there’s a reason it’s appropriate to say “outed” when talking about a closeted gay/lesbian/trans* person, but it just doesn’t carry the same connotation when we’re talking about atheists, Christians, and a kinky cop who likes biting cling wrap off a consenting woman’s ass while she’s flung over his shoulder in a photo (which was published publicly online, I might add). Do you see where I’m going with this? Being a visible atheist doesn’t carry anywhere near the same emotional and political gravity as being a visible trans* person or queer.

  44. says

    Martha:

    2) Being poor for the entire course of my life, and born in a female body, which I have actually felt for the majority of my life is just the wrong kind, doesn’t “trump” the fact that my skin is pale.

    It doesn’t give me a right to minimize/trivialize/make fun of/co-opt anyone’s experience of oppression.

    In your example of rich atheists and rich Christians, I just have to point out to you that how we define “rich” is a direct product of colonialism — which brings me full-circle, right back to the indigenous women whose lives I continue to grieve (which in turn makes me furious that not a single person, apart from myself, involved in this entire scandal with the kinky cop’s photos, those of his doppelgang, and all the defamatory accusations on top of that, has conceded that they probably offended the surviving families of those women).

    I don’t believe religion or lack thereof is the type of thing that is appropriately categorized as bringing systemic privilege or oppression onto respective groups of people in North America. While I don’t deny that religiosity is woven into the dominant culture, I don’t believe that this alone makes it privileged. It’s a particular KIND of religiosity, directly linked to its colonialist roots, at the exclusion of all other kinds of religiosity/spirituality (especially that of indigenous people).

  45. Paul W., OM says

    If you need me to explain to you what “systemic oppression” means, you’re in the wrong conversation.

    You have an almost superhuman ability to miss the point.

    Of course I don’t think I do need you to explain “systemic oppression” to me.

    I think you need to explain why you

    (1) made such a big deal about whether the bias against atheists was systemic and

    (2) proceeded to argue that it isn’t oppression because it wasn’t systemic.

    I don’t think anybody here except (possibly) you understands how the bias against athiests is not systemic, as clearly demonstrated by the statistics about the US congress and a whole bunch of other stuff, including examples others have given here.

    IMO, if what we’re talking about isn’t oppression, it’s not because it isn’t systemic. It very clearly is.

    It’s not just me that isn’t buying your distinction or your argument that depends on it.

    I suspect it’s everyone here but you, but if I’m mistaken and someone can make sense of it for the rest of us, I hope they will.

    I’m not even going to bother reading the rest of your book-length comment. This is just too fucking obviously derailing for dummies 101.

    This isn’t derailing, it’s just disagreeing with major points and arguments you made in service of your main points.

    And it’s “book length” largely because I’m carefully spelling out issues you seem to oversimplify and misrepresent, so that you can respond more comprehensibly than you have so far.

    Near as I can tell, you made a bogus distinction that you can’t defend, and you used it to accuse us of stuff we didn’t actually do.

    And now instead of owning it, and either explaining it or retracting it, you accuse me of “derailing.”

    Sorry, you derailed yourself by making apparently crappy arguments, and refusing to explain or fix them.

    Not my fault for calling you on it.

  46. says

    How lovely for you, to be so straight and cisgendered, that my visceral offense to your language choices and paradigm is not your problem. Moving on.

    Go ahead, use visibility to gain the respect you feel you’re entitled to. That’s not the issue I’ve identified, which is when this visibility is called “being out as an atheist” — a co-opting of LGBTQ history.

    A co-opting that I will emphasize again, dilutes the power of the word oppression, which is a systemic force leaving oppressed individuals with paralysis a non-option and movement in any direction leading to restriction, censure, erasure, punishment, harm, discrimination, or other barriers. Every time you co-opt this concept of “outing”, instead of simply choosing terminology that reflects to the outside world that you’ve spent the time to think about your privilege for long enough to show a modicum of respect for the vast differences in scale and magnitude of painful experiences faced by people unlike yourself, you expose yourself as just another apathetic, privilege-avoiding whiner who calls everyone else out for behaving like invertebrates but fails to see it in himself when he looks in the mirror.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is why people don’t like atheists — some of whom, like me, are already oppressed by virtue of their gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, etc. (who you are then NOT helping at all)

    Maybe shit is really rough in Kentucky. High school in a bomb shelter was really rough, so believe me, I of all people know all about being antagonized to extremes of anger and grief.

    But imagine how much worse it would be for an atheist who is trans and queer. Or an atheist who is a woman of colour. I could keep going, but the point is, while you may have it very badly, that does not mean you are systemically oppressed. It just doesn’t.

  47. says

    Yes, the man who desperately wanted to remain anonymous phoned me and outed himself as the man in the photo I posted on the blog.

    Notice the difference in scale compared to if I said “This man was outed on national news as a pervert! It’s exactly like outing a gay person!” (as people actually said in relation to the cop).

    You have got to be the most nit-picky and antagonistic troll I have encountered in a long fucking time. And believe me, since publishing that writing in July and getting involved in the community to tell them that claiming oppressed status isn’t going to help them one iota, I’ve encountered a fucking lot of nit-picky antagonistic trolls.

    I didn’t say in the OP here that this has been my long-ago-established perspective. I said that this event — which started in July — got me thinking about atheists doing the same thing. DERP.

  48. Martha says

    Yes!

    I agree with everything you’ve said here, except that I don’t have enough knowledge of the facts of the case to come to a decision with respect to point two that you raise. If the cop in questions used his position to cause harm to the families of murder victims, he’s clearly wrong. Especially if this was a serial murderer stalking indigenous people in Canada, as I gather from Haifisch’s comments (the case in question has had very little coverage in the US, which makes it hard for many American readers to follow the OP).

    If he’s upset about being outed publicly because he “likes biting cling wrap off a consenting woman’s ass while she’s flung over his shoulder in a photo,” then I think he has a point.

  49. says

    Paul:

    Go write a fucking book about it for all I care. I get it. You don’t think that the frustrations, pain, and suffering some atheists occasionally face is limited in scale or magnitude, and you therefore think it’s appropriate to refer to it as systemic oppression.

    This is why I said, as early on as probably my first reply to you, that nothing anyone says will ever convince you that your opinion just MIGHT be slightly misguided.

    Because where the fuck is the evidence, Paul? Systemic oppression against North American atheists is a pretty fucking extraordinary claim.

  50. Martha says

    You are absolutely right about marriage. I stand corrected on this point. I fervently hope I won’t have to much longer, after the results in four states on Tuesday, at least not in North America.

    I also agree with Patrick that it is clearly worse to be a person of color or gay in the Bible Belt than to be an atheist. But you do a great injustice to people like Jessica Alquist or the boy in Alabama whose parents kicked him out of the house for being atheist by insisting that there is no privilege inherent in being Christian in our society. I agree with you that atheists aren’t the only group who are less privileged than Christians; people have clearly been killed for being Muslim (or even thought Muslim) in the US.

    I would also say that in much of the US, just as people assume others are straight (unless told otherwise), people assume others are Christian.

  51. says

    Martha:

    You want to talk about disservice? I’ve been homeless five fucking times. The first time I was homeless, I was living in an emergency accommodation shelter for women, with one or possibly two sex workers who were brutally murdered and their bodies dumped (one was lit on fire). Their killer has never been brought to justice, but a serial murderer (currently behind bars for life on charges against two women) who is suspected of killing 70 is thought to be the one. I also happened to be considering whether or not stepping out on that street corner was going to be my only way out of that shelter, while that guy was running around maiming, murdering, and dismembering sex workers.

    And you want to talk to me about a single homeless youth, as if this is evidence of systemic oppression, because he also happens to be atheists and his parents used that as an excuse to throw him out? It’s unfortunate. It’s really bad. It’s fucking hard being homeless. But I’m not going to take this one person’s experience and cry from the rooftops that atheists are oppressed and we should all have a fucking pity party over it.

    Hate me if it makes you feel better. Look at all the fucks I give.

  52. says

    But you do a great injustice to people like Jessica Alquist or the boy in Alabama whose parents kicked him out of the house for being atheist by insisting that there is no privilege inherent in being Christian in our society.

    That boy was almost immediately taken in by his older brother and a great many atheists came together and put together funds for him to start a college education. Jessica Alquist has had her parents behind her all the way and the atheist community at large. They raised a very generous sum that will likely pay for all of Jessica’s first four years of college tuition.

    The level of oppression is different, if only because while bad things happen, other people step in and pick up the slack. I don’t see that happening to the LGBTQI youths who are forced into homeless shelters and/or sex work.

  53. says

    I’m aware of what Stonewall was, and am quite queer myself, thanks. I actually don’t need my own history explained to me.

    Perhaps I’m using the term inaccurately, but I’m used to it being a matter of honkies, heteros, dudes and the like trying to use the problems of a marginalized group to their own advantage. As an extension of this, marginalized people using other people’s marginalizations on an axis that they’re privileged on (predominantly white gay people claiming descent from the racial civil rights movements of the 60s in the USA for instance) qualifies as well, by my understanding.

    If it’s solely on the validity of the comparison, you’re absolutely right. By my reckoning of the word, it’s not, but I could certainly be wrong on that.

    At any rate, you’re absolutely correct that the comparison is invalid. Atheists are on nothing similar a playing field to queers at all. Even if it annoys me a lot less because Greta is in fact gay, it doesn’t change that this shit also gives other atheists license to pretend they’re in a similar situation to gays. It’s also nice to see someone else recognize the sheer asshattery of atheists using the ‘outing’ language we have. Atheism is nowhere near the same on the list of things that I worry people finding out about me.

  54. Jeanette says

    I don’t love the comparison either, but in the article you linked, you suggested that religion isn’t the problem.

    There is no “the” problem- colonialism is part of it, yes. But women and LGBT people were oppressed in many societies long before that.

    “The” problem is a combination of different factors like human psychology, colonialism, power dynamics, and, yes, religion. Religion can be used as a misguided force for good but historically has more often than not has been used to justify evil.

    From the oppression of women in almost every society ever, to the caste system in India, to ritualized sacrifice of war prisoners in Aztec culture, to slavery in the U.S. to not allowing LGBT people basic human rights it has been used as justifier of bad things throughout many societies.

    And Christianity is privileged in the U.S. That’s just a fact.

  55. Paul W., OM says

    I get it. You don’t think that the frustrations, pain, and suffering some atheists occasionally face is limited in scale or magnitude, and you therefore think it’s appropriate to refer to it as systemic oppression.

    Jesus Christ, Jamie, how many fucking times do I have to clearly tell you that this is NOT what I’m saying, and even say the opposite myself, before you stop going back to square one and falsely asserting that that is what I’m saying.

    You do not get it.

    You do not get it.

    You still do not get the same damned thing as the first time around.

    Get it through your thick skull that I have said all along, and over and over again that I do think that the disadvantages faced by atheists are typically substantially less than those faced by obviously “oppressed” groups (like women, racial minorities, LGBTQ people, and brown foreigners).

    I’ve said repeatedly that that’s why I myself generally refrain from talking about atheist “oppression”—I do not want to make it sound like we have it that bad.

    You have muddied the waters and gone around in a great big circle back to that same false characterization of what I’ve been saying.

    I asked you early on whether your main concern was whether the disadvantaging of at wasn’t typically severe enough to call it oppression, such that it’s a matter of insufficient degree. (As I initially thought I gathered, but wasn’t sure.)

    You proceeded to stress not the magnitude and seriousness of how people are treated, but whether it’s systemic.

    You explicitly said it’s not oppression because it’s not systemic.

    I proceeded to show that it is what I would call systemic, and what I’m pretty sure most people here would call “systemic,” whether or not it rises to the level of “oppression” in terms of seriousness.

    I don’t think anybody but you knows what you actually mean by “systemic,” as distinct from being severe, and I’m beginning to think you’re not making a clear and consistent distinction at all—you’re moving the goalposts and then blaming me for addressing the “wrong” points.

    This is why I said, as early on as probably my first reply to you, that nothing anyone says will ever convince you that your opinion just MIGHT be slightly misguided.

    And like I said then, I don’t think that’s what’s going on. At all.

    I think your certainty about that may be interfering with your ability to pay attention to what I’m actually saying.

    I think you’re consistently misunderstanding and misrepresenting the very most basic points I make, over and over again, so that of course you can’t you can’t change my mind—you simply don’t understand what I’m saying, and keep trying to argue me out of positions I never held, or claimed to hold.

    And it’s getting pretty old.

    It’s not my fault that you can’t get simple ideas, repeated over and over again into your thick skull.

    Because where the fuck is the evidence, Paul? Systemic oppression against North American atheists is a pretty fucking extraordinary claim.

    Stop right there, and explain what you’re disagreeing with as I’ve asked you to do before.

    Are you still claiming that the disadvantages faced by atheists (whether or not they’re serious enough to call oppression) are not systemic?

    If so, what on earth do you mean by “systemic” such that the statistics about congress and the conventional political wisdom about pandering to religion do not count as evidence?

    I don’t think anybody here but you understands how that is not “systemic.” Either you are using the term in an idiosyncratic way that the rest of us do not understand, or the evidence I’ve given is at least prima facie evidence that you’re probably wrong. It may not be oppression, but whatever it is, that’s not because it’s not “systemic” as we understand that term.

    (And again, if somebody else does understand that term in a way that makes the argument make sense, I’d be happy to hear about it.)

  56. says

    Still though, that was a relatively recent and rare event. It is not universally the case that openly atheistic people are able to rely on a social safety net if they get kicked out of their homes by their parents. I dare say there are enough cases where people lose employment, lose family support, lose a lot of things, simply because they are nonbelievers. To my eye that is indeed indicative of a systematic prejudice against atheists.

    Whether that qualifies as ‘oppression’ is another question, but I am not of the opinion that they are completely unrelated phenomena. If there are atheists who think that they have it ‘as bad’ as gay Americans, then a) I haven’t come across too many of them, and b) they’re severely deluded. I think it’s worthwhile to try and frame issues by analogy, and the comparison to the experience of the gay community (having to hide your identity for fear of prejudicial treatment at the hands of an ignorant majority) is much more valid than a comparison to racial or gender rights issues where anonymity is not a possibility (or a rare possibility in the case of people who are trans gendered but who have to ‘pass’).

    There is a problematic element that enters into the conversation when we talk about how the mechanism is similar but fail to recognize that the consequences are not. There are comparatively few people who are “atheist bashed” and hospitalized (or worse, in many cases). People are not denied spousal visitation or other basic civil rights (aside from running for public office) due to their disbelief. Atheists are not targeted for violent sexual exploitation in nearly the same way that trans gendered people are. Those phenomena are real and are often ignored and/or denied by other atheists who seek to exploit LGBTQI people’s experiences as a way of framing their (our) own.

  57. says

    Much like women, non-white people, and the poor, Atheism has absolutely no problems with the gays and the trans, no sirrah. Pay no attention to the appropriation behind the curtain.

  58. says

    “The” problem is a combination of different factors like human psychology, colonialism, power dynamics, and, yes, religion. Religion can be used as a misguided force for good but historically has more often than not has been used to justify evil.

    So has the printing press, by volume. Religion doesn’t generally create new societal problems by its lonesome, it reinforces existing ones. Anything that the establishment can use to entrench itself, it will. Hence why I mentioned the printing press.

    From the oppression of women in almost every society ever, to the caste system in India, to ritualized sacrifice of war prisoners in Aztec culture, to slavery in the U.S. to not allowing LGBT people basic human rights it has been used as justifier of bad things throughout many societies.

    Religious justification was also found to end literally every one of those things (Cortez made use of local myth to ‘liberate’ the Aztecs’ subject tribes right into predominantly *SECULAR* slavery, for instance). Religion trends towards the status quo, and the status quo sucks, sure, but it’s not the unique motivator into shit.

  59. says

    Paul:

    If only you actually said what you mean, instead of writing entire novels around what you mean, then I might actually see your point. But I’ve stopped reading most of your comments, because I don’t have enough time and energy to deal with someone who can’t just get to the fucking point and say it like they mean it (but rather, talk around the fucking point all fucking day, and say it but not mean it like that, and then tell me how wrong I am for misinterpreting their psychically transmitted intent amid book-length replies).

  60. says

    Religion doesn’t generally create new societal problems by its lonesome

    I take this to mean things like providing a license for misogyny or homophobia rather than creating misogyny and homophobia that wouldn’t have been there otherwise?

  61. says

    Colonialism created the license. Colonialism generated a dialogue the left people clamoring for reasons, and in one particular brand of Christianity within the greater religion, people found their reasons to settle (and later circumvent) their cognitive dissonance.

  62. says

    I’m not entirely following you either. Longer version, I guess:
    Religion isn’t generally going to create the kind of oppression you (person I wrote the response to) are referring to. If the person wants to reinforce that oppression, they will create a religious doctrine that calls for that oppression. If they want to be kind and unbigotted, they will create a religious doctrine that calls for kindness and nonbigotry.

    Gods don’t exist; where else is this shit going to come from but the followers of the religions themselves? Have some fucking sense, atheists >.<

  63. Paul W., OM says

    Notice the difference in scale compared to if I said “This man was outed on national news as a pervert! It’s exactly like outing a gay person!” (as people actually said in relation to the cop).

    Sure, I see that difference, and agree that its’ a different thing.

    But you seem to have been making two very different points about this sort of thing, and specifically the use of the term “outing.”

    1. “Outing” somebody for being LGBTQI is typically a more serious thing in one way or another than outing them for most other things, e.g., being an atheist or kinky, and you should say “it’s exactly the same thing.”

    2. You shouldn’t use the term that way at all, if it’s not “outing” somebody for being LGBTQI, because it dilutes the meaning of the word.

    I think most of us more or less agree about #1, but with exceptions—there are some people for whom being outed as gay is less serious than some others being outed as kinky or an atheist. (E.g., outing a politician as kinky or an atheist may well lose destroy her political career, but outing one of my wife’s coworkers as gay wouldn’t—nobody in her workplace would care much, certainly not her boss.) There are some places in the US where it’s less acceptable to be an atheist than it is in other places to be gay. (E.g. most small towns in the south vs. most neighborhoods around universities.)

    I think most of us disagree about #2—we think using the term “outing” in a general way may “dilute the meaning of the term” in some sense, but it’s not an illegitimate attempt to steal the term from the LGBTQ community—it’s too good a metaphor for a more general class of situations, and it’s inevitable that people will use it in that more general way, as you yourself did in July.

    If people get bent out of shape by such “appropriation” and “co-opting” of a metaphor, they should probably think about how that’s a common pattern of repurposing of metaphors, not specifically something about disrespect for the LGBTQ community in particular.

  64. Daniel Schealler says

    Where did HaifischGeweint or myself make the assertion that atheists can’t claim to be oppressed or discriminated against?

    By my reading, HaifischGeweint is not saying that atheists don’t get oppressed or discriminated against, is not saying that such oppression or discrimination as comes our way is not important, and is is not saying that we shouldn’t act to correct atheist oppression or discrimination.

    By my reading, HaifischGeweint is arguing that the plight of LGBTs – particularly the Ts – is so significantly worse than the plight of white heterosexual cisgendered middle-class college-educated atheists that trying to force an analogy between the two is:
    a) fallacious, and;
    b) deeply offensive to a significant number of LGBTs

    This is then followed by a call to inaction: Stop making that analogy as if it was valid.

    Speaking for this athiest? I like to view myself as an ally of the LGBTs. So when one of them asks me to check my privilege and stop doing something, I’m going to check my privilege and, overwhelmingly very probably make a conscious effort to stop doing that thing.

    Given that no-one here is arguing that atheists cannot claim or act against discrimination against atheists, by what logic do you consider your objection here to be valid? Because I call straw-herring.

    (@HaifischGeweint: Jump in any time to set me straight if I’ve got you wrong here.)

  65. says

    Heh. You said “set me straight”.

    Less funny: “the LGBTs”. It reads to me similarly to “the blacks” or “the females”. Kinda reduces people to make gender or orientation their essential defining feature. I use (and prefer) it as an adjective rather than a noun. Jamie may feel differently.

  66. Martha says

    Well said, Crommunist. I completely agree with you about mechanism and consequences. In general, the consequences of being gay– and especially of being transgender– are worse in our society than being atheist. It was not my intention to suggest that they are. But the claim that being an atheist was to open oneself to as little difficulty as being vegan is overly dismissive. I suspect Canada is very different from the US when it comes to religious intolerance. On the other hand, it sounds as though I’ve been wrong to assume that Canada is much better than the US when it comes to LBGTQ awareness.

  67. PatrickG says

    A co-opting that I will emphasize again, dilutes the power of the word oppression, which is a systemic force leaving oppressed individuals with paralysis a non-option and movement in any direction leading to restriction, censure, erasure, punishment, harm, discrimination, or other barriers.

    You really argue that atheists are not subjected to a such a systemic force. Really? I’m almost rendered speechless (well, fingerless?). This is an unbelievable assertion.

    Counterfactual: BLASPHEMY LAWS.

    Riddle me this: in areas of the world where people are persecuted (jailed and killed) for being atheist, do they get to refer to themselves as “out” or “closeted”? Do they meet your completely arbitrary standard of oppression? Are they “systematically oppressed”? Or are they just “spineless” “invertebrates” who need to “look into a mirror”?

    But then, maybe you only care about your local situation (in which case, calling me apathetic is quite hypocritical), why not try surfing around on this very domain to find all sorts of wonderful examples of oppression of atheists in your own backyard. Try Dispatches from the Culture Wars to start. Go read up on the MRFF and the difficulties atheists in the military experience. Go read about the abuse and bullying of teens who don’t conform to faith (they’re not all as public or strong as Ahlquist). In short, educate yourself on the subject before you make ridiculous assertions.

    But, to sum up: you are absolutely, completely wrong when you assert that there is no systematic oppression of atheists. Demonstrably wrong. And completely offensive, to boot.

    Maybe shit is really rough in Kentucky.

    Maybe you could, you know, find out before cavalierly dismissing oppression of atheists in a highly religious part of the United States. Since you clearly don’t know, you have absolutely no basis for your assertion that atheists don’t experience oppression.

    But imagine how much worse it would be for an atheist who is trans and queer. Or an atheist who is a woman of colour.

    How on earth could you miss the material in my comment that clearly indicate that this is obvious and I understood this. Sheesh.

    I could keep going, but the point is, while you may have it very badly, that does not mean you are systemically oppressed. It just doesn’t.

    So your position is that because atheists don’t have it as bad, we should just shut up already? Seriously?

    You know, for someone who claims to hate the Oppression Olympics, you seem to be competing for medals in it. My point, again, was not that oppression of atheists was as bad as any number of other things, but that such oppression does exist, and you are completely and unequivocally arguing the opposite.

    Your entire argument in the OP is that atheists should not use the terminology of the LGBTQ movement because they are not actually subject to systematic oppression. The premise of your argument is false. Thus, yes, I say again: your visceral reaction is not rational, and I continue to disagree with it.

    [And finally, I overused the bold tag, because I’m just flabbergasted.]

  68. Martha says

    oops, that should say, “It’s not my intention to suggest that they [the consequences for being LGBTQ] are not [worse than those of being atheist]”

  69. says

    Paul:

    It is clear from your responses that you SIMPLY DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE the role of systemic social inequality in the conception of the problem. You can just go away now. Any fucking time. I don’t care to read repeat after repeat after repeat, in increasing lengths every time, of the same point that misses the boat over and over and over again.

  70. Emily Isalwaysright says

    Why do you assume that everyone understands words the same way? It’s perfectly reasonable to ask someone to clarify what they mean when they use certain words, to ensure the discourse is not at cross purposes.

    You make some good points, but right now you look a lot like you’re having a tantrum because you can’t convince everyone of something that appears obvious to you. The obvious is not always so obvious, you know what I mean?

  71. Daniel Schealler says

    Ninja’d me with the comment edit there, Crom.

    “Less funny: “the LGBTs”. It reads to me similarly to “the blacks” or “the females”. Kinda reduces people to make gender or orientation their essential defining feature. I use (and prefer) it as an adjective rather than a noun. Jamie may feel differently.”

    Also duly noted, and with that one I really should’ve known better: Nouns lend themselves to objectification moreso than adjectives. Stick to adjectives wherever possible.

  72. says

    Being vegan most certainly is not, by any measure, easy. If it wasn’t enough that 99% of eateries assume lactose-tolerance even when serving vegetarian food (for the record, I’m vegan-friendly, but lactose-intolerant), and big box food banks are equally apathetic on the matter, people generally give vegans a very difficult time and antagonize them even though their political decision makes zero difference to anyone else’s lifestyle.

    Hell, people pretty much pretend veganism isn’t even a thing.

    On the other end of the spectrum, people who take up more than a maximum allotted physical space are treated like shit and generally down-trodden and negatively stereotyped too, often being made to feel unwelcome by default.

    And like vegans, people who are larger than the allowed “average” have to pay more money for virtually everything, and then are put down as if they are acting entitled to special treatment when they offer any sort of dissenting remark about food that’s put in front of them.

    Food for thought. Something can be marginalized or even reviled without qualifying itself for oppressed status.

  73. PatrickG says

    My previous reply was left in some heat. It came across a bit more stridently than I’d intended.

    Crommunist’s post in response to #15, speaking to mechanism and consequence really sums up what I would have liked to say if I’d been a bit more considered. Of course, he does it better than I ever could have. :)

  74. PatrickG says

    I listed some more local examples, in case you were uninterested in things outside the US/Canada, though I could regale you with some stories from Central America. Anecdotal, however, if we continue talking I’d track down some better sources.

  75. says

    I might also add, I didn’t tell anyone to shut up. I said change the way you talk about it and show a little sensitivity to people who actually are systemically oppressed. I said stop diluting the power of the word.

    I’ve also said, “Hey, atheists. Stop silencing dissent within your ‘movement’ from people who aren’t cisgendered, male, white, middle-class, able-bodied, able-minded, college-educated, and from a strong supportive family.” I mean, that is, unless you want atheism to be nothing more than a glorified popularity contest. Then who am I to dissent? I am pale-faced and able-bodied, but otherwise disqualified.

  76. says

    Semantics. It’s basically what gives meaning to language, or I could never expect a single other person to understand what I mean when I say anything at all.

    Gee golly whizz. You’re the first person ever in the entire history of the world to tell a relatively disadvantaged person calling privileged people on their privilege-avoiding bullshit that they look like they’re blowing a temper tantrum because the privileged can’t see how they have it so good.

  77. says

    I ask because for the purposes of checking my social privileges (a white Settler born on Turtle Island), I intentionally limit these discussions to the scope of North America. I would ask you do the same.

    I don’t have time to track down everything everyone throws around in their comments, so I would really appreciate if for the sake of clarity, you at least provide some sort of location for the points you would like me to pay special attention to.

    Of course, it would also be terrific if other people began acknowledging the ways in which they are privileged, instead of avoiding it in this conversation that is explicitly about privilege-avoidance.

  78. PatrickG says

    show a little sensitivity to people who actually are systemically oppressed

    Well, since you continue to contend that atheists are not systematically oppressed, I really see no point in continuing. That and this has veered somewhat off topic.

    But, I’ll be sure to tell the people in my local meet up group who have lost jobs, been evicted, stalked, targeted by organized harassment, had to leave their home town due to constant abuse, and so forth that they can take great comfort in knowing they weren’t “systematically oppressed” and that other people have it worse, so it’s ok to dismiss their problems.

    I get that bad things have happened to you as a result of your status, and that worse things happen, on balance, to the LGBTQ community than to the atheist community. But that does not give you a pass to trivialize what happens to other people.

  79. Paul W., OM says

    It is clear from your responses that you SIMPLY DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE the role of systemic social inequality in the conception of the problem.

    I can acknowledge roles of systemic social inequality in any number of ways, but I can’t address your point if you seem to be using the word “systemic” in an idiosyncratic way that most of us do not recognize, repeatedly refuse to clarify what you mean by that term—which seems to be different from what the rest of us mean—and then accuse me of just not getting it.

    You can just go away now. Any fucking time. I don’t care to read repeat after repeat after repeat, in increasing lengths every time, of the same point that misses the boat over and over and over again.

    If you don’t want me to respond, stop consistently accusing me of saying things I simply never said, and denied from the start. Stop accusing me of failing to address things you refuse to make clear.

    If you want me to shut up and go away, stop flipping me ridiculous shit.

    If you keep trying to dismiss me with the back of your hand, don’t expect it to work.

    Don’t bother telling me how you won’t read my answers, over and over. It’s certainly not going to stop me from correcting the record if you keep saying that what I’m saying is wrong or irrelevant, and I don’t think it is.

    If you don’t care about my opinion, but still keep saying it’s wrong or stupid or whatever, I’ll simply return the favor, and go you one better—I’ll explain myself as many times as you mischaracterize me.

    You can stop that, any fucking time.

  80. says

    Here’s the thing about the article. Greta Christina starts off acknowledging that bigotry against atheists happens (I agree), then calls this discrimination (I am not so trigger-happy as to jump to that conclusion for all cases, but I concede that some of the time this is indeed the case).

    But wait! Because she apparently hasn’t worded it strongly enough, it’s not just bigotry, or even discrimination (seriously, that is a powerful word)! No, now it’s oppression (which implies a systemic disadvantage not implied by stating something is discriminatory, and for this reason, I disagree)!

    And then because people can legally think for themselves in ways that upset her, she turns into the Thought Police, and starts pulling a “it should be illegal to think like a bigot” argument.

    She even concedes that there are orders of magnitude of difference between the experiences of atheists with individual organizations (or even state law), and the experiences of women, people of colour, and LGBTQs, but says that’s not the point because she wants to be the Thought Police.

    This is unacceptable.

    I made a relatively minor request that carries a relatively major impact, but Greta Christina? She’s working up to an entire other ballpark, and I’m not swinging for her team on this one.

  81. says

    Try a thought experiment: read that blog journal from the perspective of an indigenous woman. Then tell me you’d be persuaded that Religion Is The Enemy.

    Greta Christina seems completely unaware of how virtually everything she wrote about is a problem created by colonialism.

  82. says

    Buddy, I specifically made the demand for people to show a little sensitivity to people who experience systemic oppression, for the express purpose of creating room to acknowledge the things in between “Life is perfect” and “Life is characterized by an organized system of oppression operating simultaneously at every level of society in every direction I face”.

    I specifically stated that when people make a comparison between “My life is hell” and “My life is oppressed”, that what they are actually doing is minimizing the power of the concept of oppression, and that takes the power out of what they are trying to say too. Because if the sting of oppression means less in theory than in practice, then saying “I’m being oppressed!” comes to mean a hell of a lot less too.

    So don’t tell me about minimizing experience. Don’t talk to me like I trivialize the suffering of people who have been evicted or lost jobs because they were dealing with a bigot. Don’t challenge me as if I’ve never faced any of this myself — I have, and I’ve made that abundantly apparent many times in the comments section of this post alone.

    Of course, just keep clinging to your privileges while simultaneously pretending that they don’t exist. I’m sure they’ll keep you warm when your bank account balance or the roof over your head is threatened (if that ever happens to you — I certainly wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, having been through it now five times).

  83. Paul W., OM says

    (Hmmm… I responded to this, but it ended up nested under a different comment above, somehow. Whatever.)

    You can stop mischaracterizing what I say and why I say it any fucking time.

    You can stop asking me to answer questions phrased in terms that you have repeatedly refused to clarify any fucking time.

    Until then, expect me to try to correct the record and explain how you’ve got me wrong. Repeatedly and in increasing detail, if necessary, if you keep missing the basic points.

    And you can just stop telling me it’s just derailing, that you won’t read it, etc. If that’s your attitude, it doesn’t matter—I’ll still correct the record.

    Don’t misrepresent me and then try to dismiss me with the back of your hand.

    You should know by now that it won’t work—that is not going to get me to shut up or go away—and you can just stop that any fucking time.

    BTW, Ian seems to agree with me on a lot of this stuff that you seem incapable of hearing from me, e.g., in his comment above where he talks about similar mechanisms but different consequences.

    Why don’t you falsely tell him that he thinks atheists are just as oppressed as LGBTQ people, or whatever, despite his saying he doesn’t, in pretty much the same terms I have (over and over from the start).

    Then how about ragging on him for a while about defending his privilege etc., and how you could never ever possibly get through to him because his mind is made up, he won’t acknowledge systemic inequity, and so on.

    It would make about as much sense, and I’m sure tired of it.

  84. says

    Dear Paul:

    You greatly annoy me, because despite the fact that I have openly declared that I am not paying you the attention you feel entitled to, and despite the fact that it should be clear that I am making good on that declaration, you continue to address me further.

    Please go away.

    Sincerely,

    Haifisch

  85. says

    Okay. For context, I went to school in this guy’s riding, which has historically (along with the rest of the Fraser Valley) been known for its high social conservatism.

    Of all the things I got bullied for, atheism (okay, it was only ‘atheism’ in school by virtue of my not considering the spiritual stuff I halfheartedly believed in to contain anything resembling a ‘god’) was not on that list. It’s not like I wasn’t open about it; if I wasn’t interested in explaining then I would just say ‘atheist agnostic’ and if anyone asked “do you believe in god” I’d simply say “no”.

    But I got lots of misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic crap thrown at me for not conforming to gender ‘standards’.

    I dunno, you tell me which is worse. Personally, I think there was a damn good reason why I asked the BC NDP nomination candidates for my riding about “the visibility and status of trans* people” rather than “the visibility and status of atheists”.

  86. Paul W., OM says

    Dear Haifish,

    You greatly annoy me, too, because despite the fact that you’re not “paying me the attention” you seem to think I feel I deserve, you do persist in doing me disservices, IMO—misrepresenting me or my positions or my actions, etc. (Though maybe I missed a post where you didn’t.) You’ve got to get in the last jabs.

    You are not making good on any intention that makes me inclined to let that pass.

    Depriving me of positive attention while continuing to give me negative attention just isn’t enough.

    Did you really expect that it would be?

    You can stop with that shit any fucking time. Just say you’re stopping, and actually do it.

    Don’t toss in any misrepresenting or dissing or condescension addressed to me or aimed at me, or we’ll likely just go around again.

    Just stop.

    If you can do that, I’ll probably stop addressing you, too. (I may address other people here, though, e.g., Ian.)

  87. proxer says

    HaifischGeweint;

    I think you’re getting a lot of blowback because you’ve mis-identified the problems that arise when drawing parallels between groups. BUT, I want to make sure that I understand what you’re saying before I respond. It sounds like your argument is this:

    “Atheists don’t face the same level of systematic oppression that LGBT people do, so Atheists shouldn’t draw parallels with the LGBT movement. If they DO, then the terms and history of the LGBT movement will lose their impact, by association with a less-oppressed group.”

    I want to acknowledge that we can regularly find people with privilege who complain about being part of an oppressed minority, and unfairly draw parallels with historically oppressed groups, including the LGBT community. Hell, the religious right does it all the time. The problem that I see is NOT that they draw the parallel, its that they misrepresent the situation. Parallels are very useful – to the extent that they are accurate.

    This brings me to the reason that I, personally, find such parallels useful. I’ll quote Patrick G from above:

    “I view the LGBTQ community/movement as a model for the atheist movement, and thus I think it’s entirely appropriate to use the same terminology when describing tactics and strategy.”

    Atheist teenagers regularly get shunned, ostracized, and kicked out of their homes if they reveal their atheism to their families. The question is not “Does it happen as often or as badly as it does to LGBT teens?” The question is “How do we help these young men and women? What advice and comfort do we give?”

    The LGBT community has been answering those questions for years, *over the course of the movement*. That history has value for atheist teens and the people who want to protect them. I don’t really care if you *approve* or not, I’ll be drawing the parallel of ‘coming out’ until it stops being useful.

    There are other parallels, but I think the point is the same for each. The LGBT community should be (and by and large is) happy to share its history and terms to help others. The problem isn’t with less-discriminated-against people drawing parallels, it’s with ignorant people drawing completely inaccurate parallels.

  88. says

    I’m not saying that association with lesser oppression is what dilutes the political impact of a word like “oppression”. I’m saying FALSE CLAIMS OF OPPRESSION take the power out of all claims of oppression.

    There’s a big difference between saying something is systematic in nature and saying something is systemic in nature. A group can be systematically targeted by some other group’s bigotry, for example, without being appropriately described as being subject to systemic oppression. I would argue that’s the distinctive phenomenon that’s being observed in the “bible belt”, for which some atheists are getting the shit end of the treatment.

    If you want to help at-risk teens, telling them they are oppressed isn’t going to put a roof over their heads. It’s going to get the attention of people who actually do experience systemic oppression, and those people (myself included) are then going to get really fucking irate at this co-opting of the very concept of oppression, and insensitive language choice.

    Your “coming out parallel” HAS ALREADY STOPPED being useful. Long time ago.

    LGBTQ communities haven’t been sharing their histories so that straights can co-opt it and turn their backs on their relative privileges — THEY’VE BEEN SHARING IT SO THAT RELATIVELY PRIVILEGED PEOPLE CAN BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS TO BE PRIVILEGED, and to stop being complete dickshits by patting themselves on the back for deciding entirely independent of any involvement with the communities they turn their backs on, that the oppression is over! It’s not over!!!

  89. says

    Yes, Mark Warawa, and that’s only one reason I’m pissed off at him. Not like I would ever vote for him anyway.

    I’m somewhat overwhelmed right now though; I need to get off letters to the papers because neither of them saw fit to mention my question, even though the entire room applauded and I had almost as many people come to shake my hand as did the nominee. ‘Cause that’s totally not newsworthy or anything.

    (On a slightly related note, one of the nomination candidates had a wonderful record as an ally for GBLTQ students. Sadly, she didn’t win.)

  90. Riptide says

    Something that HaifishGeweint neglects to mention (or, perhaps, to understand) is that there is a perfectly rational reason why straight, white, cis-gendered people who participate in the “BDSM community” use “gay” language to describe their minority status. It has nothing to do with straight people appropriating gay oppression, and everything to do with the history of BDSM.

    In short, before the AIDS epidemic killed off so much of the gay population, the organized BDSM “scene” was almost entirely comprised of gay people. (There were, and always have been, heterosexuals with BDSM proclivities–but they did not get together and form a shared community). Before about the middle of the 1980s, the *only* people who “outed” themselves as kinksters into BDSM had already outed themselves as homosexuals, and they used similar language to do it. Their sexual preferences *within* their homosexual identities were used against gay people generally, fueling the rhetoric of sexual perversion levied by the straight, white, cis-gendered power structure.

    The BDSM culture, as such, has only recently come to be dominated by straight people–and has only *very* recently (in the last few years) come into some kind of “mainstream” acceptability. (That itself requires its own analysis, especially since homosexuals are still very overrepresented at BDSM events, and yet are becoming invisible in the “mainstream” narrative about BDSM.) Thus the stories and attitudes of people in the BDSM community have been influenced directly by the wider homosexual experience–because, up until just before I was born, the BDSM community was widely seen as a subset of the homosexual community. Gay people paved the way for straight people to take their whips out of their own houses and into organized community spaces, and in many BDSM clubs (in Canada, at least), gay people are still integral to the organization and membership.

    Indeed, there are problems within the BDSM community, but on the whole, the white, straight, cis-gendered people in that community have been far more accepting of non-straight people of all kinds than the average person has been. Clutching your pearls and trying to shame those white, straight, cis-gendered people for adopting the language and customs of their homosexual forebears ignores the rich heritage that the modern BDSM scene owes to the gay pioneers who first formed it.

  91. says

    Atheists in Merika have very little to worry about in violence, bullying, or other actual bigotry, just some level of jackassery. Its’ like nerds.

    Actually, that’s bullshit. Atheists in America do indeed face a shitload of bullying and credible threats of violence, at least in huge swaths of what we tend to call the “Bible Belt” or “Heartland.” Maybe not as much as LGBTQ people, but at least in the same order of magnitude. The analogies aren’t always appropriate, but sometimes they are.

  92. proxer says

    I think we agree here:

    “False claims of oppression take the power out of all claims of oppression.”

    Alas, that’s not all you’re saying. You’re asserting that anyone less oppressed than the LGBT community has to refrain from using analogies or parallels to any movement as or more oppressed than the LGBT movement:

    “If you wouldn’t claim that atheist “oppression” is analogous to conditions of racial segregation prior to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States (and don’t you dare try that one with me), then keep your hands off the collective history of LGBTQ generations before me…”

    You seem to be comfortable with equating oppression of the LGBT community with the oppression faced by the Civil Rights movement. What would you say to an 80 year old black man who told you to “Keep your hands off the collective history of the generations of black people in America?” Because the LGBT community hasn’t faced anything even remotely close to THAT level of oppression…

    Your point about systemic vs systematic oppression is a distinction without a difference. What difference does it make when everyone like you in this swath of America has still lost their jobs? or been kicked out? or told that they’re the spawn of the devil? or lost every friend they had? or suffers real anxiety and depression due to the cognitive dissonance of ‘passing’?

    This argument is simply engaging in the Oppression Olympics, which has already been won by the orphaned, paraplegic, black, transgender, queer, atheist with Asperger’s. What’s worse, your argument is harmful, because you’re so wrapped up in your own ‘extra oppression’ that you’d say FUCK YOU to the very-real suffering of others:

    “Your “coming out parallel” HAS ALREADY STOPPED being useful. Long time ago.”

    You don’t get to decide that. In fact, if I may quote: “stop being [a] complete dickshit by patting [yourself] on the back for deciding entirely independent of any involvement with the communities they turn their backs on, that the oppression is over! It’s not over!!!”

    I gave you a clear example of where the coming out parallel has, is, and will continue to be useful for at least another decade. I talk to people of all ages every week who have to deal with ‘coming out’ decisions that are extremely similar in their fallout to LGBT ‘coming out’ experiences. I, and others in the Atheist community, have learned a lot about the motivations and emotions in play when someone ‘comes out’ from the LGBT community. I’m going to keep using those valid, not-at-all-false analogies, I’m going to keep repeating advice that I learned from LGBT history.

    Your only response was “Nuh Uh!” That’s pathetic.

    Fortunately, you are not the “Keeper of the LGBT history and terms.”

    You are also not enlightening – your piece here was poorly organized and poorly written. It was unclear exactly what you were talking about until the piece was almost over, at which point you took a left turn and made bad arguments for censorship – not allowing groups who are only ‘marginalized’ or ‘discriminated against’ from using the shared knowledge of groups who are ‘actually oppressed’.

    In your arguments in the comments, you’ve repeatedly used straw men and the oppression olympics. I have no reason to think you’re going to change any time soon, but I hope you do.

    Ian,

    lovetinkle and Pitchguest were spot on, this was a badly written piece making bad arguments that were poorly defended. I won’t be wasting my time reading HaifischGeweint’s peices again until they come recommended by someone else on FTB that I trust.

  93. scorinth says

    This article was poorly organized and I had trouble finding a main point, so this response should be read as a reply to previous comments, not the article itself.

    It seems strange to me to argue that the atheist movement shouldn’t be compared to the LGBT movement. The author, in his responses to comments here, seems to argue that it’s inappropriate because atheists don’t have it as bad, and claims that comparisons between the two communities cheapens the suffering of LGBT people, especially trans* people (I’d never encountered that term before, but I like it.)

    First, nobody means that all negative things that happen are the same in severity. I get that intent isn’t magic here, but I think what the author misses is that not only are such comparisons rarely intended that way, but they are, the vast majority of the time, taken that way as well. So, if I say to may queer atheist friends that coming out as one is similar to coming out as the other, and they all nod, agreeing that there are similar aspects, but one person stands up and says “NUH-UH! They are not the same and I am offended that you made that comparison!” Is it the speaker or the listener that is more responsible for the misunderstanding?

    Second, the author denies the fact that in some parts of the US, the abuse, while on the mild end of the sliding scale of oppression, is in fact systemic in nature. Atheists are considered to be the least trusted minority in the US, chronically under-represented at all levels of government, often spoken negatively of and rarely spoken positively of in the public sphere. Furthermore, those in power in our society do tend to use that power to continue to marginalize atheists. In short, I might re-evaluate whether anti-atheist bias is systemic or not when candidates for office stop assuming that loudly declaring their belief in a god will automatically increase their poll numbers.

    Third, of course the abuse atheists suffer is not as bad as that visited upon others. But if that means they aren’t real victims, then it means there could only truly be one real victim in the world, and only one evil. This is clearly not the case. So the other leg of the author’s argument against using LGBT-like language is cut out from beneath him.

    Fourth, to present a positive reason to use the language, as a gay atheist myself, there are a LOT of similarities between the coming-out experiences of gays and atheists. Being gay and being atheist are both matters of identity that can be effectively hidden from others, unlike race or gender. Hiding either of them causes some amount of mental anguish, creating incentive to live without hiding them. Both of them are seen by the community at large as being aberrant, negative, and at the extreme, evil, and so both gays and atheists are targeted by their neighbors. In both cases, it is tremendously comforting to associate with others who have the same trait, giving rise to the “gay community” and “atheist community” respectively. And both of these communities see that the members must as a whole gain acceptance, and that demands that those who are able come out and gain acceptance in the society at large, while those who are unable to come out must still hide themselves. With all of these parallels, it would be insane to claim that there is no value in the comparison. (I would not try to draw the same analogy between the gay or atheist community, and, say, any racial minority community. I hope I don’t have to explain why.)

    So, in summary, I understand the author’s argument against using the LGBT community as a model for the atheist community, and I reject said argument. At the same time, I reject his claim that the comparison doesn’t have positive value.

  94. says

    Yeah, as an atheist queer who’s lived her entire adult life in florida, texas, Puerto Rico, and georgia, no. I have never once worried that random people would use my atheism against me, even when arguing as an atheist, out loud, in public. Attacks against actual atheists are fucking rare, if not 0.

    It is not fucking comparable; fuck off heteros.

  95. PatrickG says

    Of course, just keep clinging to your privileges while simultaneously pretending that they don’t exist. I’m sure they’ll keep you warm when your bank account balance or the roof over your head is threatened (if that ever happens to you — I certainly wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, having been through it now five times).

    Sorry, you’ve completely lost me in presenting yourself as an honest interlocutor.

    For the record, I’m an unemployed person suffering from major depression who doesn’t even have a bank account, because I don’t have income and am entirely dependent on largesse from my partner and family. Even then, I’ve lived in eight different residences in the last two years, constantly trying to find a way to make whatever work I *could* manage pay for rooms in apartments/houses on a short-term basis.

    Fuck you. You clearly want this to be about your situation, and all I can say is Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you. You dishonest shit.

  96. PatrickG says

    And to more temperately respond: you’ve done nothing but “trivialize the suffering of people who have been evicted or lost jobs because they were dealing with a bigot.”. On many occasions, you’ve said they can’t claim the status of oppression! Apparently, calling their lies “hell” is fine, but they can’t claim oppression! I refer you to the post you responded to here in which I think it’s quite evident that parts of the world you are unfamiliar with are quite unfriendly to non-believers.

    You apparently can’t/won’t see that, and refuse to acknowledge that just because someone else isn’t hurt as badly as you are, that doesn’t mean they’re not still hurt.

    Christ on a cracker.

  97. PatrickG says

    And while I know I shouldn’t post repeatedly like this, did you even fucking read this part:

    But, I’ll be sure to tell the people in my local meet up group who have lost jobs, been evicted, stalked, targeted by organized harassment, had to leave their home town due to constant abuse, and so forth that they can take great comfort in knowing they weren’t “systematically oppressed” and that other people have it worse, so it’s ok to dismiss their problems.

    That was strictly because they were atheist. But, what, they’re not gay, so it doesn’t matter?

    And please don’t even attempt to read that as me minimizing the difficulties the LGBTQ community has faced. I’ve stated multiple times that yes, you have it worse, but that doesn’t mean others don’t suffer too.

  98. says

    When I heard about that racist piece of shit proposal 408, I seriously considered stopping testosterone injections so that I’ll get a cycle again, just so I can take the bus all the way out there once a month and throw used tampons at him.

  99. says

    Yeeeeeeeeeeeah, see, straights pretty much appropriated BDSM culture from gays too. They’ve even started deploying the hanky code at their fucking clubs. If you have any idea why that even existed to begin with, your blood would be boiling too.

  100. says

    Question:

    If being bullied by bigots for being atheist in the bible belt is oppression, then what the fuck is sexism? Racism? Colonialism?

    Particularly BAD oppression?

    I said it in my last blog post too, but I guess no one on this one caught that.

  101. says

    Alas, no, if you’ve been paying attention at all, you would have realized a long time ago that claiming oppressed status when it isn’t appropriate actually has the effect of minimizing the very concept of oppression (thereby taking the piss out of claiming oppressed status in the first place).

    But I can see you just really need to be right on this one, so I invite you to go ahead and write your own blog post about it so that I can continue on with my day, ignoring you and the glorified popularity contest you seek.

  102. says

    Beware: someone will most certainly call you an idiot or an asshole, and then say that your argument and support for it is pathetic and not up to snuff with this blog’s followers.

    Unless, like me, you’re not saying this to win fans but to preserve a modicum of respect for the very concept of sexuality- and gender-based oppression within a movement that isn’t doing itself any favours by comparing itself even in light of heaping piles of evidence of how inappropriate such a comparison is.

    Because there will be at least a few people who will get the message, and those are the people I’m writing for. I’m a bit too “mean” for most, and have literally been told I need to “stop verbally picketing”. LAWLZ.

  103. says

    Ooh. That almost hurt where my feelings should be.

    You CLEARLY don’t get that what you are describing here is A LOT more relevant to a discussion of what oppression actually is, how it is constructed, brought upon groups of people like you and I, and maintained at our expense — and how difficult it is to navigate through every layer of it to find a way out (or at least a way to thrive).

    Of course, the fact that capitalism is yet another facet of the greater oppressive force that is colonialism that is bearing down upon you, fails to register, as you insist on claiming that atheists are comparably oppressed to you by virtue of your invisible mental health struggle and your terribly low socioeconomic status (which are two things that directly shape MY life as well, and which actually caused me to be homeless until just a week and a half ago, for the fifth time).

    The personal is political. You COULD start to think about everything colonialism has cost YOU, and work from there to understand how to subvert, circumvent, and deconstruct it in your own life, to benefit other people who have it equally as bad or worse. OR you could work with it in minimizing other peoples’ experiences as much as possible, adding any number of “fuck you” at the end.

    Your choice. You’re the one who has to live with it one way or another.

  104. says

    Here’s a breakdown of what’s going on here:

    ‎(some) atheists: “Halp halp I’m oppressed because I’m atheist in a highly saturated Christian community!”

    (annoyed) Jamie: “While I certainly appreciate that you suffer and are in pain and are very frustrated, please stop diluting the concept of oppression, because other people who actually are oppressed have it significantly worse everywhere, and you’re not helping them by making false claims of parallel victimhood.”

    (more) atheists: “But we’re oppressed just like the gays! Hey thanks gays, for sharing your history, methods, insights, tactics, and experiences! we’ll catch up with you later when we’re done liberating ourselves!”

    (even more annoyed) Jamie: “Guys. Seriously. What the fuck. Do you have any idea how much worse I’ve had it all my life, and how you are minimizing my experience by pretending these are the same thing?”

    (even more) atheists: “STOP TELLING ME I’M NOT OPPRESSED YOU ASSHOLE.”

    You still sure you’re helping by keeping this shit up? Helping anyone else? Helping yourselves, even?

  105. says

    The problem is that you haven’t clearly defined the difference between systematic discrimination and oppression. Even I’m not sure how you’re differentiating between the two except in terms of severity, and there aren’t really any people here denying that it’s worse for gay people (for example) than it is for atheists. You’re insisting that it’s a difference of kind and not just severity, but haven’t said how the two are different.

    we’ll catch up with you later when we’re done liberating ourselves

    Your concerns of co-opting the experiences of oppressed people are valid and important. Too important, I think, to risk losing in this vicious back and forth that is now stretching into its third day. I think a clarification of how exactly you’re using the word “oppressed” would be helpful.

  106. says

    All oppression is a form of discrimination (in addition to bigotry, double-standards, and other means of establishing and maintaining an entire network of inequality), but not all discrimination is a form of oppression.

    Oppression operates on a scale of systemic inequality. What that means is that at virtually all levels of society, from individual to group to economy to authorities, military, and government — and beyond in the case of indigenous people (whose own government was supplanted by the colonial government) — all simultaneously and everywhere at once.

    Discrimination is often relatively isolated by comparison, though certainly not all the time. I never said systemic discrimination — in fact, I believe I specifically said discrimination can be systeMATIC, like the way hate groups will organize to be as visible and vocal as possible as frequently as possible until they trample out dissent simply by overwhelming anyone who confronts or challenges them and zapping their energy. I do not refer to discrimination as systemic, however, because that would be oppression.

    Bigotry is even more relatively isolated, operating between individuals.

    I readily acknowledge that atheists face bigotry and even discrimination at times, but this is not the same in either scale or magnitude, as claiming oppression.

    Like I said above somewhere. If being bullied for being atheist in a predominantly Christian region is oppression, then what the fuck is sexism? What is racism? What is colonialism?

    I think that when a single school institutionalizes bigotry against its atheist students, that’s discrimination. I don’t see the evidence for claiming that this discrimination extends to the point of threatening all atheists everywhere through every aspect of their lives, whether or not they are visibly identifiable as atheists (that would be oppression).

    I also think that when a group of people combine their hatred and bully the shit out of a single person, that’s called bigotry. But unless you can demonstrate that virtually all of society is organized this way at the expense of everyone who is similar to that single person, you’re not talking about oppression.

    Of course, since everyone just wants to jump straight to name-calling, questioning my ability to contribute in a meaningful way to this blog (on my second fucking post of all things), refusing my direct experiences as valuable insight while expecting me to accept anyone else’s at the same time (hello, double standard), and derailing the entire purpose of the post instead of engaging sincerely with the subject matter, very few people it seems are even willing to actually have a conversation about this, and I’m a terrible person and an even worse writer.

    For the record, I don’t believe any of this is helping prove the case for actual oppression, either.

  107. says

    The tldr; version, which I never thought I’d have to clarify on a blog of critical thinkers who could have easily applied google-fu instead of conflating radically different words, is this:

    Systemic is a structural adjective — we can think of society on the macroscopic scale, like an entire living organism, or we can zoom in at all levels until we’re looking at a single cell, as in an individual. Systemic means everything is effected. Like a systemic infection of the body, like septicemia. You can observe the signs and symptoms of infection just by looking at the society, and you can investigate the impact on individuals, groups, organizations, etc.

    Systematic is a strategic adjective — we can think of a scientific experiment or a military operation. Both are methodical, organized, controlled, and in no way randomized.

    These two words — systemic and systematic — are not synonyms. I am particularly careful to stress that oppression is SYSTEMIC and systematic. Discrimination is only systemic when it is a symptom of oppression (which you will observe in the case of sexism, for instance), in which case it’s simply more sensible to refer to this as oppression, because it’s not merely discrimination but all sorts of shit operating simultaneously and all over the place at once, all the time.

    We can change the record and show that we are sensitive to the suffering of oppressed people, or we can continue to turn our backs on them while demanding equality we already have in relative terms, leaving us scratching our heads wondering why we’re being accused of co-opting by people who strangely don’t play a significant role in the movement because for some reason no one ever seems to listen to them (which is in no way coincidental).

    Also I’m apparently NO GOOD at all about writing tldr;

  108. proxer says

    Your distinction is irrelevant to the outcome on the individual, and I’m not sure that you could show that any group exclusively suffers one over the other.

    Either way, I’ve provided clear examples where making analogies to the LGBT experience benefits people who are in real, dire emotional and sometimes physical straits.

    You insist that I have to stop making those analogies because these people are only suffering “systematic discrimination” and not “systemic oppression.” I think that makes you an asshole.

    For the record, I don’t think you’re a bad writer because I disagree with you – I disagree vehemently with William Lane Craig but I don’t think that he’s a bad orator. You’re a bad writer because your ideas are badly organized and poorly expressed.

    When you get to the point that you can admit that your post here wasn’t very good, maybe I’ll trust that you’re intellectually honest enough to have the rest of this conversation. Until then, I’ll just have to disagree.

    P.S. If you’re constantly fighting with people over your pet distinction-without-a-difference of systemic OPPRESSION vs systematic discrimination… maybe you should just say what you mean instead of using words that continually cause confusion. Or you could keep using words that reliably lead to meaningless arguments.

  109. awalk6801 says

    Firstly, thank you, Jamie, for defining systemic vs systematic. I’m new to (and attempting to rapidly self-educate myself on) many of these topics, so I didn’t really understand the distinction.

    Secondly (and my apologies if you addressed this earlier, this comment section is huge), what are your thoughts on how we LGBT people and others often make comparisons to the oppression of POC? I so often hear LBGT rights described as “The Civil Rights Movement of our time,” and this bothers me. For one because I think it implies that the civil rights movement in regards to POC has been completed.

  110. proxer says

    HaifischGeweint

    scorinth put a lot of effort into a number of arguments, first being that rarely do atheists actually claim ‘oppression’, and second that there’s legitimate reason for the atheist movement to borrow from the LBGT movement. You responded by straw-manning about oppression. I put forward, three times now, clear examples of the benefit that the LGBT history continues to provide to the atheist community. You haven’t addressed that example, or explained why I have to stop using terms like “coming out”, you just baselessly assert that my experience is invalid, while hypocritically lamenting that we are:

    “…refusing my direct experiences as valuable insight while expecting me to accept anyone else’s at the same time”

    Maybe you’re just unaware of what being atheist in significant parts of this country is like. Maybe you’ve never been an atheist in Utah. Maybe you’ve never been an atheist in the rural south:

    You tell your wife that you don’t believe in god. She immediately starts treating you like you’re the worst person on earth. She moves out. Your family stops talking to you. Her family helps her with the divorce papers. Because the entire community is centered around church, word spreads, and you find yourself passed over for promotion, or simply let go. You’re no longer invited to the neighborhood cookout. Any friends you DO keep are more interested in getting you to change than in being your friend. Anyone you talk to in the supermarket is likely to ask what church you go to. When you say ‘none’, at best they’ll invite you to theirs (subtext – you need to be more like us). More likely they’ll look at you funny and walk away. Why? because as scorinth pointed out – atheists are distrusted by the vast majority of people in this country, especially people in these geographic areas.

    Is that pervasive enough? Is it systemic? Is it oppression? I don’t care, because those questions have never been relevant to my argument:

    This is the kind of shit that gay people have been dealing with, and collectively getting better at dealing with, for years. Unlike other marginalized groups, such as people of color or women, gay people can often ‘pass’, and atheists can ‘pass’ even more easily. This is a blessing that comes with its own issues that the LGBT community has valuable experience with.

    They know to bring a friend if you’re ‘coming out’ to your parents, and to have a place to crash if you have reason to believe that you’re going to be kicked out. They know that you should check out the legal implications if you’re married or have kids. They know how to figure out who to come out to first, or how to make passing easier on yourself. They have demonstrated that the *more* people come out, the better it is for everyone.

    The point I’ve been arguing all along, that you continue to fail to address, is that your assertion that atheists have to stop using terms like ‘coming out’, or taking a page from the LGBT history when it comes to strategy, is not only absurd, it would deprive people who need it of an important body of knowledge and experience, while doing nothing to trivialize the LGBT experience, just like the LGBT movement has leveraged the history and strategy of the civil rights movement, while doing nothing to trivialize it.

  111. proxer says

    Awww damn, that last phrase is going to get you right back on the ‘systemic vs systematic’ train again instead of addressing the point. Let me nip that in the bud: I get what you’re saying – systematic discrimination = Jim crow laws, marriage inequality, being barred from holding public office. Systemic _oppression_ = the majority of your day-to-day interactions are impacted by being part of a marginalized group. Please address the point instead of throwing up the oppression straw man again.

    Incidentally, I think your definitions are overly broad – “threatening all everywhere through every aspect of their lives” Oppression clearly has geographic and other boundaries. Atheists in Pakistan? Oppressed. Richard Dawkins? NOT. Black people in England? Lesbians in LA? Michelle Obama?

  112. says

    I don’t know how many times I have to say this for you to accept it: I’m not talking about anywhere outside of North America.

    One of the MAJOR reasons for this is because North American LGBTQ history and the Civil Rights Movement overlap, and I would expect that the treatment of both LGBTQs and POC in North America is at least somewhat distinctive. Whereas LGBTQs are at imminent risk of death (or are forced to undergo gender reassignment, or even have open access to hormones, depending on where else precisely in the world you choose to talk about), it’s just not the same here. And whereas POC elsewhere can hardly be described as a minority, it’s different here.

    I really didn’t think I had to explain this. I’ve been very specific to stick to North America, whether I’m talking about LGBTQs, POC, kinksters, or atheists, and have clearly stated this already — not just on my own blog, either.

    We live in a colonial society, for instance — between just two major Canadian cities and a single strip of highway, nearly 200 indigenous women have disappeared, only 52 have been accounted for, and authorities just don’t seem to care to follow any leads indigenous community members come up with through their own efforts to investigate these missing and murdered women. While TWO serial killers in two separate cities were running around systematically targeting Aboriginal sex workers, Vancouver Police Department in particular actually started monitoring one and then said “Oh, nevermind. We’re not interested in him any more.” And then proceeded to stop working on the files early every day so that individual officers could go hit the pub or a stack of porn.

    I’m not even kidding.

    And again, as I’ve stated before, until being LGBTQ was de-criminalized in North America in 1969 (and later de-classified as a mental illness in 1973), POLICE were actually systematically targeting LGBTQs for raids, beatings, and rapes. This actually hasn’t stopped so much as slowed down. Meanwhile, police are also still picking up indigenous men, driving out to remote locations, beating the shit out of them, stripping them, and then telling them to go walk back into town for help as they drive off. Don’t even get me started on police executing indigenous men in custody, I really don’t have the patience for it at this point.

    I won’t comment on the LGBTQ situation outside of North America, because frankly, it’s still really fucking horrible here.

    I won’t comment on the Civil Rights situation outside of North America, because frankly, it’s still really fucking horrible here.

    I won’t comment on atheism outside of North America either, because while I have little doubt it’s really fucking horrible, it’s nowhere near as fucking horrible here — and one of the reasons why I continue to stress this is because claiming that what atheists experience in North America by virtue of their atheism is some sort of oppression does an absolutely terrible disservice to the people who are FIGHTING FOR THEIR VERY LIVES on the same soil EVERY DAY. It’s called avoiding privilege, and if you’re going to continue to avoid your privilege, the VERY LEAST you could do is respect the gravity of the oppression faced by people who are systematically trampled down simultaneously by individuals, groups, organizations, corporations, the economy, mass media, pop culture, dominant cultural values and attitudes, AND the government, ALL AT ONCE. DAILY.

    Fuck sake!

  113. says

    Please refer to the comment I just left proxer:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/crommunist/2012/11/07/bdsm-erotica-pseudo-snuff-astounding-observations-of-groupthink/#comment-94250

    Oppression isn’t “over”. In North America, the first major pushes for LGBTQ equality and the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement began simultaneously (probably in large part because those first major pushes for LGBTQ equality were primarily being made by LGBTQs of colour).

  114. says

    I don’t think you know what tone-trolling is. Please stop tossing words about when you don’t demonstrate an adequate appreciation for what they mean — such as the whole systemic/systematic issue.

  115. says

    Let me make something clear for you:

    The fact that you and I disagree on both my language selection (it’s my blog post, I think I’m perfectly entitled to write in the language I fucking choose to), and on what oppression means (which is really, quite frankly, disgusting), does not mean I’ve made a strawman argument.

    It means you fucking disagree, no matter what the cost to your own movement.

    The reason I’m not responding to your continued co-opting of concepts that are inextricably linked to understanding exactly what LGBTQ oppression and heterosexual/cisgender privilege are, is because you’re repeating precisely the problem I’m arguing you need to fucking stop doing.

    Why the fuck would I answer that? For what reason am I compelled to continue playing along with your false oppression, all the while thinking of cultural genocide, assimilation, the trans-generational effects of the Holocaust on Jewish families, and the number of gay and lesbian teens it took committing suicide in rapid succession before the rest of North America started to pay attention (primarily because, once again, LGBTQs responded first — remember It Gets Better? THAT’S WHERE THAT COMES FROM). Among many, many, many, MANY other forms of legitimate claims of oppression, none of which impact either kinksters or atheists.

    WHY should I be compelled to play along with someone like you, who won’t even acknowledge the ways in which you individually experience systemic privilege, pretending that because you’re atheist and you experience bigotry sometimes and discrimination other times, and because you see other atheists going through similar things, that it’s OK to co-opt the language, history, insights, experiences, and tactics of a fight against systemic oppression (YOU very likely CONTINUE to benefit from, as MOST NORTH AMERICAN ATHEISTS DO) that hasn’t ended yet?! So you can turn your back on the people you’re co-opting from until you’re satisfied that your own suffering has come to an end, before you start looking for ways to help them?

    I have ZERO motivation to cooperate with this tactic of yours. What the fuck is so hard to comprehend about that?

  116. proxer says

    “I don’t know how many times I have to say this for you to accept it…”

    0 times. You just have to be consistent, and you have to recognize that “North America” doesn’t cut it. Being an atheist in Utah is very different from being an atheist in New York, NY. Ditto rural Alabama and Seattle. Ditto rich vs poor.

    Once again, you failed to respond to my actual point, and fixated on minutia.

  117. says

    Your response to the entire purpose of this blog entry you continue to badger me on has been, from your first post, to TOSS MY ENTIRE POINT ASIDE and pretend it’s of no consequence whatsoever.

    Write your own fucking blog post, then. Since you’re so clearly a fucking expert on the subject you insist I invest my time and energy on.

  118. says

    …whatever the FUCK that topic actually is, considering how many times it’s changed while you dance around my consistent argument, looking for ways to avoid acknowledging it.

  119. proxer says

    1) I don’t think that we disagree on what oppression means. I just don’t care in the context of referencing the success of other movements when helping people.

    2) My argument is not a tactic, I have no interest, conscious or subconscious, of de-legitemizing LGBT history or present. On the contrary, I advocate for LGBT equality whenever I get the chance. You may dismiss that claim, but then you’ve just legitimized my dismissal of your representation of your own actions and intentions.

    3) You don’t know who I am, and you don’t know what privilege I have or don’t have. That’s the nature of these boards. More to the point, there is no requirement, practical or otherwise, to start every post with “Before you’ll listen to me, I have to acknowledge all of the places in which I have privilege:” I have *plenty* of privilege. I heartily recognize that, and when white, cis-gendered, upper-middle class people ask me “you don’t think Privilege is REAL, do you?” I make a point of explaining how it IS real, and I’m probably far better at it than you are, because…

    4) I may have attacked your arguments, but I certainly don’t stick words in your mouth, or worse, accuse you of malicious motivations. This part right here, was 100% manipulative bullshit:

    “So you can turn your back on the people you’re co-opting from until you’re satisfied that your own suffering has come to an end, before you start looking for ways to help them?”

    Who are YOU to accuse ME of intending to turn my back on anyone? Who are YOU to tell ME that I don’t look for ways to help the LGBT community? That I won’t even try until my own discrimination is over?

    Why should I bother to listen to anything you have to say, when you’ve pre-loaded everything I have to say with the image of a kafkaesque Privilege-Demon?

  120. proxer says

    In case 2) isn’t clear, I haven’t been dismissing what you say that you do and intend, but if you were to dismiss what I say about myself, you open yourself up to the same dismissal.

  121. says

    That first point is the problem. That first point is a basic point of unity, that if we can’t agree on that, we’re talking past each other forever.

    THAT IS WHY I WROTE THIS POST.

  122. says

    Apparently this thread needs adult supervision. Either people chill the fuck out and start LISTENING to Jamie, or I’ll shut down the comments and his will be the last word. This is quickly becoming the biggest hassle in my life, and quite frankly this is some internet shit for me.

  123. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    I don’t get the impression people are not listening – rather, that they are disagreeing, which they are surely entitled to do. Moreover, I have to agree with several others that the original piece is poorly written; and even after following the link to HaifischGeweint’s own blog, it was very difficult to get a clear idea of who is accused of doing what to whom. HaifischGeweint has an interesting and unusual perspective, but needs to stand back from what were obviously emotionally very difficult events in order to present them clearly and in context.

  124. says

    There’s disagreeing, and then there’s completely missing the central principle of privilege and then trying to derail the entire conversation.

    As for the issue I described, I described what is relevant to this particular blog post — privilege-avoidance behaviour doing a number of dangerous disservices to a lot of people who are facing serious systemic barriers; victim-envying behaviour doing a number of dangerous disservices to the same people (what do you know…); a number of seriously problematic defensive responses towards anyone who is more deeply connected to those people (or is one of them) and thus advances their dissent.

    All of these things have been repeated here in the comments section. That isn’t just “disagreeing”, and pretending it is? That’s a problem.

    To take in the entire scope of the specific problem involving kinksters and criminal investigations, you’d be looking at the #RCMP/VPD page at the top of every page on my blog, and reading over 2 dozen entries of my insights and observations through the process of watching a major paradigm shift that still somehow missed the boat on racial privilege.

    Instead, this piece is intended to evoke thought about what privilege and oppression even mean, and why it’s inappropriate to claim that every bad thing that happens to a group of people is some form of oppression (or why every good thing that happens is some sort of privilege). These two structures are systemic in nature, and thus, it is simply inappropriate to apply it to situations that are relatively localized (two individuals, or one individual and one particular organization).

    I’m talking about abstractions using concrete points of reference for examples here.

  125. Paul W., OM says

    Ian,

    I think we’re listening to Jamie and nonetheless disagreeing.

    I don’t think anybody here except Jamie buys Jamie’s line about “oppression” being qualitatively different from systematic discrimination because it’s “systemic,” not just “systematic.”

    Maybe we should, but we honestly don’t get why.

    “Systemic”-ness admits of degrees, too, and I don’t think you can say that the bias discrimination against atheists is simply not systemic, just systematic.

    I think that the examples that I and others gave indicate that such anti-atheism is both systematic and systemic, to everyone’s satisfaction except Jamie’s—and perhaps yours if you’re saying we’re “not listening.”

    For example, consider the fact that we have 538 congressional seats in the US and we have only ever had one atheist get in, and only through the “back door,” after hiding it to get elected the first few times.

    That indicates both a kind and a degree of systematicity—you can divide the US up into hundreds of small districts, and you’ll find significant bias against atheists in every single one of them, in terms of basic public opinion and in terms of practial political significance.

    You can also look at government. Pro-religious bias is enshrined in law, everywhere in the US, and it affects every single individual in the US, because religious tax breaks cost all the tax payers money, and deny everyone benefits of such tax monies that could be used for other things.

    I’d say that if those things don’t qualify as oppression of irreligion and irreligious people—being forced to select from religious and/or religion-pandering candidates, and being forced to subsidize religion—it’s because they’re not bad enough, and not because they’re not systemic enough.

    They are systemic—affecting public opinion, politics everywhere, government everywhere, and every individual’s finances and/or social benefits.

    But maybe they’re not systemic in enough ways (and I don’t think that the overtly political and governmental effects are the most important).

    That’s why I asked Jamie for a clear definition of “systemic,” in the crucial sense meant, for which I got nothing but abuse, repeatedly. Not because I don’t know what “systemic” means—I do (I’m a scientist who uses the words “systemic” and “systematic” correctly in peer-reviewed scientific papers)—but because I don’t know what the relevant system(s) are, or the relevant aspects of those systems, in Jamie’s view, such that the examples we’ve given somehow don’t count.

    If you know what Jamie means by “systemic,” such that Jamie is right that our examples aren’t systemic, by all means enlighten us, please.

    I don’t think Jamie actually has a particular concept of “systemic”-ness that will survive scrutiny and do the job of showing us to be obviously wrong about what constitutes “oppression” qualitatively rather than quantitatively—much less do the job of showing us to be the non-listening knee-jerk privilege-defending, “mantle of oppression”-appropriating assholes we’re being made out to be, over and over.

    I think—and I could be wrong—that there is no defensible qualitative difference between “oppression” and systematic bias and discrimination, in terms of systemic-ness.

    If there is one, I’d rather somebody made a serious and sincere attempt to explain it, rather than accusing people who just don’t get it of refusing to get it because they’re privilege-defending assholes.

    Absent such an explanation, I’ll tend to think it’s more a matter of degree—that there are lesser and greater degrees of bias and discrimination, and lesser and greater degrees of “systemic-“ness, and that there’s no qualitative line between plain old bias and discrimination and outright “oppression.”

    I think that for reasons, and I’d rather somebody be interested in those reasons, and explain how they’re wrong, rather than ranting about how AHA THAT’S WHY I WROTE THIS POSTING and accusing me of NOT LISTENING and trying to derail, and generally being an asshole.

    Here’s one of my reasons, which may not be right, but is sincere.

    I think that most forms of discrimination are not absolutely systemic—they don’t affect everyone, or anyone everywhere, all the time, in every way.

    For example, I’d say that the lynching of black men by vigilantes in the (US) South in the early 20th century was clearly a form of oppression, bigtime, and counted a lot toward saying that black people were oppressed, even though it was less “systemic” than some milder and more widespread forms of discrimination—it was not government policy enshrined in law, it was not subsidized by national tax schemes imposed on everyone, it was mostly the male sub-demographic who were victimized, and it was not geographically systemic in an obvious sense: there were many congressional districts, especially in the North, where it never happened at all, and relatively few where it happened many times—none of which matters much in deciding that it was terribly oppressive, which IMO it clearly was.

    In general, it doesn’t matter much to whether something counts as oppression that it’s applied pretty unevenly, in terms of geography, or sub-demographics of the oppressed group, or what aspects of society are most directly affected, etc.

    It seems to me that if it’s bad enough, for enough people in the maligned group, often enough, it clearly counts as “oppression” of that group. So lynching has to count, and has count to more than some more widespread and consistent but much less severe forms of discrimination. Severity always matters, and beyond a certain point, systemic-ness matters less.

    Do you disagree?

    So it seems to me that when we’re comfortable calling it “oppression,” as opposed to some lesser kind of systematic bias and discrimination, it’s mainly for quantitative reasons, and not mainly for qualitatative reasons, as Jamie keeps insisting and yelling insults at us for not getting it.

    I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’s not because I’m not listening, or just trying to derail. I seriously don’t get it, and I’m pretty sure that most people here don’t get it for the same reason—because we haven’t had it explained to us clearly enough, because Jamie’s too busy ranting about how we’re stupid or derailing or assholes for not getting it. (And strawmanning us as trying to claim oppression “just like the gays” and just as bad, no matter how many times we say that’s not true, and point out that it’s not what we actually said before either.)

    Let me give an alternative account that may explain why I and others think Jamie’s wrong, despite the fact that we have been listening. (And do give a shit about whether we’re appropriating the mantle of clearly much more oppressed groups.)

    I think that the term “oppressed” is quantitative in very much the same context-sensitive way that a whole lot of other adjectives are—most adjectives that admit of quantitative degrees.

    Take the word “selfish,” for example. When talking about human beings generally, you can say that humans tend to be “selfish”—most of us are more interested in our own well-being than the well-being of most other individuals.

    But if you call somebody “selfish” in other contexts, that means something much stronger—that they’re not just a bit selfish like almost everybody, or averagely selfish, or just a bit above average in selfishness—it means they’re considerably more selfish than average, putting them above the normal range of selfishness. They’re markedly selfish, so you’d notice them in particular, and even remarkably selfish, such that you’d remark on it.

    Notice that if we say somebody is “unselfish” that doesn’t mean that they’re not at least a little bit selfish, like almost everybody. It means that they’re remarkably less selfish than average. And if we want to say that somebody is a bit selfish, but not very selfish as the term usually connotes, we might say they’re “not unselfish.”

    I think that “oppressed” is that kind of word, which has a strong connotation of a certain quantitative degree, unless there’s some context to defuse that expectation.

    I think that’s why most atheists talking about bias and discrimination against don’t flatly call atheists an oppressed group, except in response to somebody else saying they’re not an oppressed group.

    It’s not that we’re oppressed, in the sense that connotes a high, “remarkable” degree of oppression—we’re not—it’s that we’re not entirely unoppressed, either; there’s some of that oppression thing going on.

    I think that most atheists are instinctively sensitive to those connotations, and usually avoid the term “oppressed” precisely because they are sensitive to it, and do not want to suggest that we’re oppressed in the obvious strong sense, like racial or LGBTQ minorities.

    We do say things like “outed,” because we don’t think the connotations of intensity are as strong.

    In terms of the mechanism/consequences distinction you made in the comment above that many of us liked, the word “outed” comes across as mostly expressing an idea about mechanisms—keeping secrets in public, revealing those secrets—and much less as connoting the severity of the consequences.

    The fact that we use the word “outed” but usually stop short of calling ourselves “oppressed” indicates we’re at least somewhat sensitive to degrees of oppression and don’t want to present ourselves as “oppressed” to anywhere near the degree that the term usually i—we don’t want to steal the “mantle of oppression” from much more oppressed minorities—and we instinctively try not to.

    I think that’s true, and that it’s something Jamie doesn’t recognize and appreciate: we are sensitive to this issue, even if we’re not sensitive enough and we try not to misrepresent our “oppression” as being nearly as bad as that of patently oppressed groups, like women or racial minorities or LGBTQ people.

    What we usually refrain from saying (e.g., “oppressed minority”) is more revealing than what we do say (e.g., “out”).

    That makes it particularly irritating when Jamie puts words into our mouths, repeatedly claiming that we’re shouting that we’re a terribly oppressed minority, as though our plight was just as bad, when in fact we generally conspicuously don’t do that.

    Notice that in that comment of yours, you too used a double negative:

    To my eye that is indeed indicative of a systematic prejudice against atheists.

    Whether that qualifies as ‘oppression’ is another question, but I am not of the opinion that they are completely unrelated phenomena.

    I’d say they’re not completely unrelated phenomena because its the the same basic phenomenon, in a weaker form than the term “oppressed” usually strongly connotes.

    So I wouldn’t normally say we’re oppressed, but we’re not unoppressed either—we’re in that middle ground where people tend to resort to double negatives to avoid overly strong connotations.

    It seems to me that the systematic (and at least somewhat systemic) bias against atheists does result in literal oppression of atheists, but not strongly enough to merit the normal, unqualified use of the term, which connotes that we’ve got it very bad.

    Do you disagree?

  126. says

    I think I get what’s going on here, now.

    A complete stranger on my Facebook isn’t convinced that LGBTQs are still oppressed, so they feel perfectly fine telling me that atheists are, because if I claim otherwise, according to him, I’m making an inappropriate comparison between a group of people that experience systemic discrimination and another group of people that experience somehow lots and lots worse systemic discrimination.

    So what he’s trying to communicate there is by claiming that atheists aren’t oppressed, he has a Golden Ticket to tell me that as an LGBTQ, I’m doing exactly to people of colour what he’s doing to LGBTQs, and if I can do it, then so can he.

    Isn’t that just wonderful? THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I MEANT. THIS IS A PROBLEM.

  127. scorinth says

    I don’t have a lot of time – already late for class – but I feel like I owe HaifischGeweint an update. This post and the associated comments thread have been in my mind a lot over the weekend, but I thought it had died down. Clearly, I was wrong.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’ve been convinced, but I think I see the point that undue association can cause harm. We see a community whose history of suffering lends useful information to some other community that’s still fighting its own battles. Is it immoral for the second group to use the information from the first group? It can be! If the use of those resources mean diverting energy away from fighting the oppression of the first group, absolutely. I think we can see that pattern in news media that consistently push important issues out in favor of celebrity gossip and the like.

    I don’t think the atheist community using LGBT language is actually causing harm, though. I don’t see anybody who cares less today about trans* issues because they care about atheist issues more today than yesterday. Furthermore, I don’t think people using “out” in an atheist context can in any way have that effect. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I haven’t been shown any evidence that I am.

    Finally, I want to say that there a lot of evils in the world, and a lot of suffering people, and a lot of people fighting against it in their own ways. Don’t berate people for choosing to use their energy to fight those evils that you wouldn’t fight. I won’t tell you that it’s somehow wrong to care more about LGBT people in North America than LGBT people in the Middle East. Just don’t stand in the way of their fight.

    Am I accusing you of holding back our fight against anti-atheist discrimination? I guess I am, in a way. We’ve shown you why atheists use the LGBT rights struggle as a model for its own little war, and it has done atheists tremendous good while causing no harm or minimal harm to the LGBT fight. I’ll stand by that assessment until you can show me that harm. Off to class.

  128. scorinth says

    I just realized that I have been doing you a huge disservice by responding to the comments instead of your original post. I’m sorry. When time is less tight, I’ll respond to the interesting points raised in the article instead of the huge derail-a-thon that is the comments thread.

  129. Paul W., OM says

    Ian:

    More on the “systemic”-ness issue…

    I think one significant measure of the systemic-ness of bias in a society is a public approval poll—it shows how thoroughly bias pervades the entire system.

    By that measure, there is demonstrably more systemic bias against atheists than there is against gays and lesbians. (Though I’d guess less than against trans* people; I haven’t seen specific numbers about that.)

    For example, more Americans say that they’d be willing to vote for a gay or lesbian than say they’d vote for an atheist.

    And I think the polls are quite right about that. There’s a reason why you can have a lesbian mayor of the largest city in Texas, of all places, but you wouldn’t find an openly atheist mayor of Houston or any comparably conservative city. Many people distrust gays and lesbians, but even more people distrust atheists.

    By that measure, and a number of other measures, the bias against atheists is more systemic than the bias against gays and lesbians.

    Which doesn’t mean it’s as bad—it’s not, and I don’t know any atheists who’d say it is—just that it’s more systemic in some clear senses.

    Similarly, if you look at geographical distribution of bias, you can find areas in which bias against gays and lesbians is much lower—e.g., in San Francisco, as opposed to Houston.

    There are places where it’s not surprising at all to find openly gay public officials.

    There are no places in the US where you wouldn’t be more surprised to find openly atheist public officials than openly gay ones.

    For example, I’ve lived in Berkeley, California, near the UC Berkeley campus—a place with about as high a density of atheists as you’ll find anywhere in the US.

    Even there, on or off campus, gays are more accepted than atheists, at least outwardly—it’s rightly considered very uncool to display any kind of antigay sentiment. But displaying anti-atheist sentiment is not as uncommon—liberal Christians, New Agers, and apatheist irreligious people regularly condescend about atheists, if atheism comes up, because being “spiritual” is widely considered a good thing, and calling yourself an “atheist” is widely considered a sign of lack of spiritual sensitivity and depth. Atheists just don’t get it, and are lacking a certain human something.

    That is not uncommon in politically liberal circles in the US—any bias against homosexuals is considered benighted, but a mild bias against atheism is considered enlightened. People like to think that religion is a good thing, unless you do it wrong (as in fundamentalism), and that all religions are really about spirituality, and spirituality is good. So atheism is bad, because it rejects all that’s good about good religion.

    That is another way in which it’s clear that the bias against atheists is systemic, and actually more systemic than the bias against gays and lesbians. Many liberal religious people have agreed to disagree about the details of religion, but to agree that religion is better than atheism. Most of those very same people are against homophobia.

    This sort of thing leads me to think that over the last thirty years or so, homophobia has become much less accepted in some major segments of US society—it has become less systemic—but antiatheist bias has not been rejected nearly as broadly, so at present is more systemic, if less important.

    I think that one of the major ways that LGBTQ people are oppressed more than, say, racial minorities, is around the issue of coming out to their own families.

    That issue is less systemic—homophobia is very unevenly distributed among families—but more important in making homophobia oppressive than most manifestations of general public and political bias.

    These days there are large segments of US society in which being homosexual is no longer considered to be a sign of rejecting one’s parents’ values, or of parental failure. Socially liberal parents may find it weird to find out that their kids are gay, but these days most liberals recognize that its not the kids’ fault, and not the parents’ fault, and is not any kind of rebellion or rejection. They’re therefore much more inclined to accept their gay kids as they are than they were a just a few decades ago, and not throw them out, or feel justified in pushing the kids away emotionally.

    That is less true of atheism. Atheism is still considered a “choice,” and a bad one, or something like that, by many liberals. It’s still commonly considered a sign of rebellion or of parental failure to instill religion or spiritual values in ones’ children, or just a sign that something is wrong with the kid.

    Atheism is considered abnormal by my many people who no longer consider homosexuality abnormal. And many parents consider a child’s atheism to be a rejection of them and their religious identity, in a way that they don’t consider a child’s homosexuality to be a rejection of them and their sexual identity—the kid’s just gay, not rejecting the straight parents and their straightness, so there’s nothing to be hurt and alienated about.

    Millions of relatively liberal Americans are more accepting of their kids being gay than they are of their kids being atheists. To be openly an atheist is often to pick a fight with one’s family, or to put an elephant in the room—the fight that you’re not having about God and who’s the better person for believing or not believing.

    I have some vivid personal experience with both, despite my admitted cis privilege. Unbeknownst to me, my own parents thought I was gay for about a decade. In my 20’s, I had mostly gay friends, and lived in a “gay neighborhood,” and was an advocate for gay rights. My parents therefore assumed I was actually gay myself, and secretly living the horribly sinful gay life—but not hiding it very well—and just not admitting it to them. They didn’t understand why I’d hang out with queers and live in queertown, and talk about the oppression of queers if I wasn’t a queer.

    And they didn’t know how to deal with it, so they didn’t press the issue. We just grew estranged, for reasons I didn’t entirely understand, and I mostly lost my own family, like many gay people do.

    So I’ve been there, to some extent. Didn’t much like it.

    Even so, it’s pretty clear to me that my estrangement from my own family had about as much to do with my atheism as with my supposed homosexuality. I was outed to my parents as an atheist years before they came to think I was gay, and I’m pretty sure that’s what created much of the distance between us that persists to this day, decades later.

    They couldn’t understand my atheism without me explaining it to them, and giving my good reasons for it, which would inevitably come down to fighting about whether their religion was true, and why I thought it wasn’t. I thought—correctly, I still think—that it wasn’t worth fighting about with my own parents. They’d inevitably see it as a rejection of and an attack on them and their beliefs and moral values, and it would put them in the position of trying to “save” their child, and so on, and I didn’t want any part of that.

    Arguing about religion with friends, acquaintances, or strangers is hard enough, and when you add in the parent/child dynamic, it’s likely to be a no-win situation.

    (Especially with parents like mine, who are very conflict-averse and have difficulty having actual arguments at all—they tend to take any disagreement very personally, even on much less personal and loaded subjects.)

    So we mostly implicitly negotiated a don’t ask / don’t tell truce; we don’t talk about anything of real significance ro substance—especially not sex, politics, or religion—because we disagree on too much, on too many levels, and are not good at dealing with conflict.

    As near as I can tell, my atheism created a bigger and more enduring barrier to acceptance from my own family than my supposed gayness did.

    Over the last three decades, my parents’ views about homosexuality seem to have changed substantially, like a lot of peoples’ have—they’ve come to realize that being gay isn’t the immoral choice they thought it was, and is more a hand you’re dealt in life. If they still thought I was gay, they could probably more or less accept me as gay, and get over their residual prejudices even more.

    I don’t think the same is true about my atheism. They still don’t get it, and are not close to getting it, or being able to engage in the kind of discussion that would be necessary for them to get it. Having a supposedly “gay” son probably influenced them to find out more about homosexuality and be more accepting of it, and that was pretty doable because it’s been a hot topic for decades—it has been part of the national conversation, and they’ve changed their views accordingly, to some extent. Like millions and millions of others, they’ve more or less come around to accepting that if their child is gay, that isn’t a rejection of them and their values, and isn’t a choice at all in the strong sense they used to think—it’s not something to reject a child over, or to let create an unbridgeable emotional distance.

    Not so with atheism. Like most people, they still don’t get it, and we still can’t discuss it without a lot of misunderstandings and hurt feelings, and much wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Or so I think, and I’m pretty sure they do, too, but I can’t be certain because we carefully avoid the issue.)

    So I keep my distance, usually physically and always intellectually and emotionally, and I’m emotionally closer to some friends’ liberal parents than I am to my own conservative parents—as I have been ever since I was “outed” as an atheist to my parents as a teenager—because we have a lot more in common, and can talk to each other.

    And I do feel that I have the right to call that being “outed.”

    I know what it’s like to feel rejected by parents because they think you’re gay, and I know what it’s like to feel rejected by your parents because they think you’re an atheist, and I’m pretty sure it’s mostly the same general structural kind of thing. What matters is mostly the seriousness of the rejection, not the difference you’re being rejected for.

    In both cases it’s because of systematic biases—and sufficiently systemic ones, as I understand the term. Those systemic biases don’t just affect every region of the country, and aren’t just enshrined in law, and aren’t just reflected in politics all the time, everywhere—they frequently reach into people’s homes and poison their relationships with their families, to some extent or other.

    I don’t think that on the whole the situation is nearly as bad for atheists as it is for LGBTQ people, but it is systematic and systemic in very similar ways, just to different extents and with different distributions of severity.

    There may be many more people who’d reject a gay child than who would reject an atheist child, and many more for whom the issue would create an enduring emotional barrier, but there are millions and millions of both, all over the country, and IMO, that’s systemic enough to count as oppression, even if it’s not common enough or commonly bad enough to call “oppression” in the usual very strong sense, implying that it’s very bad for very many people.

    The crucial differences are quantitative, not a qualitative difference in systematic-ness, IMO.

    You see that just looking at how LGBTQ people are treated by their own families, and how much it varies.

    For example, one of the major signs that LGBTQ people are oppressed is how many kids end up homeless and prostituted because they’re gay or trans—that’s one of the examples that’s come up here.

    But that’s not most LGBTQ kids. Many millions of people are accepting enough of LGBTQ kids that they wouldn’t flatly throw them out, and make them fend for themselves on the street.

    Still, it counts toward LGBTQ people being an oppressed class that a substantial, weirdly-distributed minority of families would treat their own children so extremely badly.

    I think that shows that beyond a certain point, how systemic the problem is is less important than how severe it is. A minority of gay kids being homeless and exploited counts for a whole hell of a lot, just like a minority of black people being lynched counts for a whole hell of a lot. That’s oppression if anything is, even if the majority of the group isn’t subject to it, or even threatened with it.

  130. Pitchguest says

    “Apparently this thread needs adult supervision. Either people chill the fuck out and start LISTENING to Jamie, or I’ll shut down the comments and his will be the last word. This is quickly becoming the biggest hassle in my life, and quite frankly this is some internet shit for me.”

    First of all, what makes you think people have not been “listening” to “Jamie”? Second of all, what constitutes “chilling the fuck out” when your friend Jamie has been throwing the temper tantrums in this thread and proxer, Paul W. and PatrickG has been trying to have an honest to FSM conversation and your friend Jamie has been insulting them and telling them to “go away”? Thirdly, you would shut down the comments because they disagree with your friend and then have him “have the last word”? (Right, because that settles the debate, I’m sure.)

    Finally, THE BIGGEST HASSLE OF YOUR LIFE? (Seriously. What.)

    The fuck?

  131. says

    Oh my god what the hell happened in here?

    Damn some white cis straight male able-bodied atheists really need to get over their undeserved sense of persecution and entitlement.

  132. says

    I write to inspire people to think, not to tell them WHAT to think.

    As far as telling me what I’m fighting for, maybe if my life wasn’t characterized by being so consistently trampled down in every direction I turn, I’d have the freedom to choose.

    “Don’t berate people for choosing to use their energy to fight those evils that you wouldn’t fight.”

    Maybe you should tell that to the people who called me names and told me to fuck myself.

  133. Pitchguest says

    Oh my god what the hell happened in here?

    Damn some white cis straight male able-bodied atheists really need to get over their undeserved sense of persecution and entitlement.

    What.

  134. Mr Dank says

    No, Natalie. What happened here is that some people seem to think that their position on the persecution train entitles them to not have to back up their assertations and get to fling poo when anyone doesn’t agree with them. Atheists can be, and are, persecuted and oppressed. The GLBTQ+, disabled, POC’s don’t have the market cornered on it. It’s not really that hard to wrap one’s head around. Time for another round of the Oppression Olympics?

  135. says

    When people are going off on a derail campaign instead of responding to the original content, this is transparent evidence that they aren’t “listening”. That’s not rocket science.

    I don’t think you acknowledge the magnitude of the offense Paul and Patrick are incurring against me, by derailing the issue and playing “Let’s debate whether or not this is a valid claim of oppression even though we’re not members of that unique group!”, that I am repeatedly stating I no longer wish to engage them any further.

    If that is unclear to you, of COURSE you would say something like I’m the one being rude and insulting. Because of course you missed the parts where people called me names, called my cognitive capacities into question, heavily criticized my writing style (my voice as a speaker from my particular social location), and told me to fuck myself, all because I suggested they stop and think about changing the record. Thanks for telling me how insulting I am.

  136. Pitchguest says

    No, seriously, what. What are you talking about?

    Is it relevant? No. Does it have any bearing on the conversation? No. Does it matter? No. Is it your answer for everything these days, Natalie? White cis straight and … sigh … “able bodied” are your boogeymen? (Sorry. Boogeypersons. No. Sorry again. Boogeyhir/xhe/ze/hir/zir/s/h/it.)

    Does it answer the question if atheists are systemically oppressed in rural areas like Utah in the United States, or Alabama, or Louisiana? Does it answer the question whether you could technically call it “coming out” for atheists in that part of the world, providing it would get you shunned from family and friends and the community at large? NO. IT DOESN’T, Natalie. It doesn’t. So what’s your point?

  137. says

    I don’t know how many ways I have to come up with saying this, so here it is again. I came up with this last night.

    Not all Bad Things© qualify as oppression. Some Bad Things© may be localized to a particular organization, for instance (in which case, it’s not systemic), or an isolated dynamic between two relatively localized groups of people. This is not to say that nothing should be done about them or that the frustrations, pain, and suffering they cause are of little to no consequence because of their relative impact when compared to someone who faces oppression (it’s not the Oppression Olympics, from which localized Bad Things© would be automatically disqualified anyway).

    It’s not ABOUT a market corner. It’s about law, the justice system, the whole economy, the entire structure of the colonial government itself, academia, the very language in which history is written (and whose hands did that writing), a dominant cultural attitude that white is supreme (and homogeneous, and everything that isn’t that particular kind of white is measured against this standard, falling short, and therefore cast aside as inferior), Western medicine, and the list goes on. If it was just a market corner where POC and LGBTQs, the working class, the poor, and people who live with disabilities, experienced persecution, then we wouldn’t be talking about oppression. We wouldn’t be saying “this is a systemic force of social inequality”.

    I don’t know WHY this is so hard for people to accept as even the most BASIC point of unity in this conversation!

  138. punchdrunk says

    People who aren’t oppressed shouldn’t co-opt the suffering of others?
    HOW DARE YOU!?
    Straight white cis-gendered able-bodied middle class atheist men have it ROUGH. Didn’t you see the ATHEIST part? Atheists have suffered in silence for far too long.

    Oh, wait, they’re pretty fucking loud. And they’re not in jail or being beaten up.

    But people might think less of them for being atheist, so it’s the same.

    Is there anything minorities can do that the (relatively) privileged don’t feel entitled to? I thought not.

  139. says

    You do realize that Utah, Alabama, and Louisiana, though very large geographic areas, are still localized regions relative to the entire expanse of the United States government, and especially relative to the entire expanse of Turtle Island?

    Localized. Not systemic.

  140. Pitchguest says

    I concur with Dank.

    Why the need to play out the victim card? Why is it so important to attest who has it worse? Atheists can be just as oppressed as LGBT depending on where you are, like say rural Utah in the US, Alabama, Louisiana, etc, so why not just accept that and move on? Why is the analogy of “coming out” as an atheist in these places such an affront to you, Haifisch … er… Jamie?

  141. Pitchguest says

    Errr… I’m sorry, but it’s Natalie who added the narrative of “white cis straight able-bodied” to the discussion, but please, do go on. And besides, it doesn’t matter, because even though you’re white, straight and … “able-bodied” (which is just another stupid word for “not crippled”) and you live in a place where atheists are being shunned by their communities, then yes, they can too be oppressed so what is your point besides pontificate like an idiot?

  142. Pitchguest says

    sys·tem·ic

    adjective
    1.
    of or pertaining to a system.

    2. Physiology, Pathology .
    a.
    pertaining to or affecting the body as a whole.
    b.
    pertaining to or affecting a particular body system.

    Whoops?

  143. Pitchguest says

    Because Paul and Patrick are not LGBT, they’re not allowed to make analogies pertaining to being LGBT in regards to atheists being oppressed (in some places)? What? So if they were LGBT, their arguments would have more depth?

    Besides, the argument escalated because you refused to allow the term “coming out” being used in association with atheists and because you refused to acknowledge that atheists can, in fact, be oppressed. Systemically. After that, in almost every post you built up these strawmen of things they didn’t say, so of course they would get mad eventually. You insulted them, so they insulted you back. Surely that should be fair game, no? But if you want to cling to your status as a victim (perpetually), go right ahead.

  144. says

    My life is pretty hassle-free. I manage to live most of it without having to deal with belligerent assholes, and yet here you are.

    And mostly the fact that the conversation has gone on this long without any of Jamie’s critics engaging with the fact that “discrimination” and “oppression” aren’t the same thing, and are instead griping about what a shitty writer he is, strongly suggests to me that this is more about lecturing him than listening to him.

    This isn’t a “debate”, and it isn’t going to be “settled”. I just want the assholery, which was entirely absent before people lost their shit on this post, to cease.

  145. punchdrunk says

    Is there any other way to pontificate?

    And fuck off with calling us ‘cripples’, asshole. I don’t know what hardships you’ve endured, but I don’t see any correlation between atheism and poverty, incarceration, rape, or homelessness.
    No evidence that people are murdered for being atheist. I don’t remember atheist activists being assassinated. Not in my lifetime, not here.

    Also, if faith is a choice, and believers’ deeply held personal identity can be viciously attacked without sanction, then the same goes for an atheist’s lack of belief.

  146. Daniel Schealler says

    @Pitchguest

    Systemic refers to something that is spread throughout, system-wide, affecting a group or system such as a body, economy, market or society as a whole.

    The use of ‘systemic’ to represent ‘society as a whole’ is common, and from what I have read here (I haven’t read every comment) HaifischGeweint is using the word consistently in that sense without equivocation.

    Dictionaries do not provide definitions – they provide incomplete lists of common usage. If a common usage is missing from a particular dictionary, then that is a weakness of that dictionary and not of the people employing that usage.

    That is how dictionaries are designed: The editors will draw common usages from a corpus of contemporary texts and periodically update those dictionaries as common usage shifts over time.

    Pitchguest, just checking wikipedia was simple enough to provide an example of common usage that is consistent with Haifisch’s usage here. The response you just gave – banally quoting a dictionary reference that happened to be missing HaifischGeweint’s common usage of the term ‘systemic’ – was about as deep as the water on damp pavement.

    The fact that you were that quick to dismiss HaifischGeweint’s usage without making a sincere effort to double-check if he was correct should give you pause.

    I assume you’re an atheist and a skeptic. If you are a skeptic, you should be familiar with the position that all humans, no matter how clever or rational, are subject to a wide range of cognitive biases. Atheists and skeptics are no exception.

    So please take this opportunity to double-check your position and look for unacknowledged bias.

    To be clear: I’m not saying that you have to agree or disagree with something in particular before you can be taken seriously.

    I am saying that your shallow and fast attempt at a dismissal is a red flag that you’ve got unacknowledged biases in play. If you care about what’s really true, then it’s surely worth taking some time to reflect and reconsider, just in case you might have missed something along the way.

  147. Pitchguest says

    Do you know what I consider assholery?

    (Note to everyone else: people are leaking in from the Slymepit, so take that for what it’s worth. They also apparently think it’s just HILARIOUS that I’ve pointed this out. I’ll make explicit my policy here: guest bloggers are kings of their own castle, and short of abusive hate speech I’m not inclined to tell them what or how to write. I will, however, take great delight in shitting all over people whose ‘criticism’ amounts to “you suck, hurr hurr hurr”.)

    Without evidence, of course, and then not providing the name of said ‘pitters. None of the people who posted here early on were ‘pitters, unless you mean they intended to post but were put in moderation (and you felt the need to point that out). Then threatening to shut down comments because people don’t agree with your friend, and then have him “have the last word.” Another example of assholery right there.

    Of course, the kicker is that you go on and on about privilege, not being able to extend the benefit of the doubt to strangers because it’s a mark of privilege, people of colour, blah blah blah and then you say “internet shit” (your words, not mine) is fast becoming “the biggest hassle in [your] life.” That’s your problem, Crommunist. You’re not just a hypocrite. You’re an asshole.

  148. says

    You think it’s assholery that I get a list of referring links to my posts and I can see you cross-posting shit on another forum? Well okay! And when a bunch of new people post their first comments here, it’s not exactly a leap of faith to conclude that the reason we’re getting a lot of new and abusive people in here is because there’s an influx of commenters from a forum that delights in feigning shock and outrage over everything that everyone at FTB does. So yeah… you think I’m an asshole. I almost hurt myself just now trying to care less.

  149. Paul W., OM says

    Natalie,

    Have you actually followed the arguments here?

    Nobody that I know of is questioning the idea that gay people are considerably more oppressed, on the whole, than atheists—or that trans* people are considerably more oppressed than that.

    Nobody that I know of is even claiming that atheists should freely call themselves “oppressed,” without serious qualifications about what that means, lest people think they’re claiming their “oppression” is anywhere near as bad as say, the typical gay person’s, much less yours or Jamie’s.

    What we’re disagreeing about is

    (1) whether it’s the same general kind of phenomenon, in important respects, but generally much weaker,

    (2) whether using just the term “outing,” but not the term “oppression,” is appropriating the mantle of oppression from patently oppressed groups—or whether it’s a valid term for similar issues of secrecy and revelation, in different contexts,

    (3) whether we should avoid using the term “oppression” most of the time, in deference to patently oppressed groups like women, minorities, and LGBTQ people, but still notice that what we’re talking about is an admittedly weaker version of the same kind of phenomenon—a milder form of oppression that we wouldn’t usually use the too-strong term “oppression” for, because it’s misleading about the scope and extent of the problem,

    (3) whether Jamie’s distinction between “systemic” and non-“systemic” bias and discrimination is really a qualititive difference, and if so, whether it is actually what distinguishes oppression, properly so-called, from less “systemic” forms of bias and discrimination…

    (4) or is the difference mainly quantitative, such that that we usually use the term “oppression” only to connote severe forms of systematic bias and discrimination?

    I for one agree with Jamie up to a point—I myself avoid using the term “oppression” for what happens to atheists, for fear of making it sound like we have it really bad, like LGBTQ folks, and I think other atheists should generally do so as well.

    I don’t know any atheists who think or claim that we’re nearly as oppressed as the patently oppressed groups I’ve mentioned, on the whole, or who want to imply that. I think most of us demonstrate that by instinctively avoiding using the term “oppression” in most contexts, even contexts where we use terms like “outing” in describing the structure of problems, and appropriate strategies.

    I also agree with Jamie that if using the term “outing” strongly connotes oppression on the order of severity experienced by gay or trans* people, we shouldn’t use it. I disagree as to whether people generally hear it that way—or whether they understand expressions like “outing Valerie Plame as a CIA agent” as describing the conflict structure of the situation more than as an attempt to appropriate the “mantle of oppression.”

    It is not clear to me that anybody here but Jamie actually agrees with Jamie on certain crucial points, and whether Jamie’s particular arguments are valid, as opposed to taking sides with the admittedly much more oppressed person, and blaming disagreement on blind privilege.

    I am skeptical that anyone here actually buys Jamie’s specific distinctions or the actual arguments based on them.

    Ian’s one substantive comment on the subject seemed to me to acknowledge that the people disagreeing with Jamie on points have points that Jamie keeps not addressing.

    I don’t think we’re quite the knee-jerk defenders of straight/cis/white/male privilege that Jamie keeps making us out to be. We disagree on things like how analogies and quantitative adjectives work, and come to somewhat different conclusions about what’s a valid use of which terminology.

    I may be wrong about that—maybe somehow my admitted privilege blinds me to Jamie’s superior linguistic insights—but if so, I wish somebody would actually seriously address the specific issues I’ve raised, and seriously defend Jamie’s specific points in light of what I think is contradictory evidence, and explain to me just where I went wrong in not buying Jamie’s specific distinctions, points, and arguments.

    Or you could just dismiss me as another straight cis white guy who must therefore be wrong.

  150. Pitchguest says

    punchdrunk:

    Is there any other way to pontificate?

    Good point. So my question to you is, why do it?

    And fuck off with calling us ‘cripples’, asshole.

    What? When did I call you crippled? I said “able-bodied” is a meaningless, stupid word for “not crippled”, but I didn’t call you crippled. Besides, that is the proper word for it. Or what would you prefer? Handicapped? “Not being able to walk properly”? The word “crippled” has a specific meaning, particularly one is who not able to walk because of illness or a physical injury. I say “able-bodied” is an idiotic word because it’s a condescending word essentially with the meaning “people with the ability to still walk.” Even old people, old black people, old black women would be considered “able-bodied” if they were still able to walk at their old age.

    It’s a word for people like Natalie Reed to wave around so they can feel good about themselves, even though I suspect that the reason I’m so angry all the time is because my cousin shot me down when I asked her to prom. It still stings.

    I don’t know what hardships you’ve endured, but I don’t see any correlation between atheism and poverty, incarceration, rape, or homelessness.

    Er, well, it’s a good thing I’m not making that assertion, then, isn’t it? But what’s your point? Are you saying that being LBGT has that correlation?

    No evidence that people are murdered for being atheist.

    I don’t remember atheist activists being assassinated. Not in my lifetime, not here.

    What are you on about? No one is claiming this.

    Also, if faith is a choice, and believers’ deeply held personal identity can be viciously attacked without sanction, then the same goes for an atheist’s lack of belief.

    What? Who says they can’t be? What does this have to do with the discussion?

    And thus did Pitchguest win the “biggest shithead in the thread” award. Which is impressive, because ze was up against some stiff competition. – C

  151. Paul W., OM says

    Daniel,

    I think that I, for one, have understood the basic idea of “systemic,” roughly as Jamie meant it, all along.

    Jamie’s analogy to a systemic infection is a good one, but I think taking it seriously also shows problems with using “systemic-ness” as a qualitative criterion for “oppression.”

    One thing to notice is that something being “systemic” does not necessarily mean it affects literally every part of the system, or that it affects the affected parts equally.

    That’s true of both systemic infection of a body and systemic bias against, say, gay people in a society such as US society.

    A systemic infection may be blood-borne “all over the body” but not get into some tissues, e.g., brain or bone marrow. And of the tissues it affects, it may affect some much more than others.

    That’s a pretty good analogy for homophobia in the US. There’s at least a little of it most places, but very little of it in some places (e.g., The Castro) compared to others (your average rural town in Alabama).

    I’ve used several lines of argument to show that bias against atheists is comparably systemic, though on the whole much less severe. There is some bias against atheists enshrined in national law and tax codes, so that every individual in the US is affected, though generally not very much, and there is greater bias against atheists that show up in public opinion in politics, but also systemically in geographical terms—there is no congressional district in the entire US where being an atheist isn’t a political liability.

    I think those things and others show that the bias against atheists clearly is systemic, and that if it doesn’t count as oppressive, it’s not because it isn’t systemic.

    Do you disagree? Do you think that the bias against atheists is simply not systemic?

    And if so, do you think that’s obvious, such that we don’t deserve an explanation as to why it seems “systemic” to us, but nonetheless isn’t?

    It seems obvious to me that the issue isn’t simply whether the effects are systemic, irrespective of severity—or that if it is, that needs some explaining.

  152. Daniel Schealler says

    What? When did I call you crippled? I said “able-bodied” is a meaningless, stupid word for “not crippled”, but I didn’t call you crippled. Besides, that is the proper word for it. Or what would you prefer? Handicapped? “Not being able to walk properly”? The word “crippled” has a specific meaning, particularly one is who not able to walk because of illness or a physical injury.

    *facepalm*

    Okay. Right.

    Words connote additional information above and beyond their most literal usages. The information connoted depends very much on the context of the speaker, their audience, contemporary society, and the history of usage of the term.

    I’m largely ignorant of what is connoted by the term ‘cripple’. But to me it seems sensible, prudent, and polite to err on the side of caution and restrict usage of the term when asked to do so by someone who feels that the term harms them in some way – particularly when I am too ignorant to make an informed decision.

    This minuscule effort required on my part to be minimally considerate of the people around me seems a very small trade-off in order to evade the distress my usage of those terms could cause in others.

  153. Pitchguest says

    @ Crommunist

    You think it’s assholery that I get a list of referring links to my posts and I can see you cross-posting shit on another forum? Well okay! And when a bunch of new people post their first comments here, it’s not exactly a leap of faith to conclude that the reason we’re getting a lot of new and abusive people in here is because there’s an influx of commenters from a forum that delights in feigning shock and outrage over everything that everyone at FTB does. So yeah… you think I’m an asshole. I almost hurt myself just now trying to care less.

    That’s nice, Crom, but you would notice I posted in here after you said you had an influx of ‘pitters, right? Which means I couldn’t have, as you say, ‘cross-posted’ on another forum until that very moment, but then that means you already made a blunder, wouldn’t it? Funny thing with words. They have meaning.

    The Slymepit is also a forum that ridicules this place. However, since you think they also “feign shock and outrage”, that would mean that the horrifying, terrible things you, and other bloggers here on FTB say, would be commonplace, no? They wouldn’t be able to “feign shock and outrage” if that wasn’t the case, would they? When you said people are “leaking in” from the Slymepit, did you mean they were browsing the site, or posting? Because you know, claiming Paul W., PatrickG and proxer as Slymepitters when they’re not, knowing full well what kind of reputation the Slymepit has in this place, is being a… oh, what’s the word? Beginning with A. Ends with sshole.

    But the reason why I think you’re an asshole is because you hold on to this notion of privilege this, privilege that, not extending the benefit of the doubt, insisting on the term ‘people of colour’ and so on and so forth, trying to make it seem as you have it sooooo hard, and then the biggest hassle in your life is the response to this blog post? The biggest hassle – in your life – is “internet shit.” Your life is pretty hassle-free? I guess it must be.

  154. Pitchguest says

    It’s a fucking medical term. Crippled.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cripple

    “A cripple is a person or animal with a physical disability, particularly one who is unable to walk because of an injury or illness.”

    Oh, but I see.

    The word generally came to be regarded[who?] as pejorative when used for people, in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada during the 1960s. Of late, in other English-speaking countries, the term is still widely used without pejorative connotations. Cripple is also a transitive verb, meaning “cause a disability or inability”.”

    My bad.

  155. Daniel Schealler says

    @Paul

    Do you disagree?

    My position is simple. I am too ignorant to hold an informed opinion.

    As stated above: I am white, male, heterosexual, cisgendered, college-educated, able-bodied, middle-class, professionally-employed, and 27 years old. I have no idea what LGBT issues are like from the inside. My understanding from the outside is shallow.

    Additionally, I am not an American. I’ve only visited America once, and the subject of religion never came up for the fortnight I was there. I live in New Zealand. So I can’t form an informed opinion on how atheists are systemically treated in America.

    But even so: When someone asks me to check my privilege and stop doing something that they feel imposes on them in some way, it seems sensible to me to err on the side of caution and stop doing that thing. To stop doing a thing requires very little effort on my part at all. In my view, it’s is a very small price to pay in exchange for securing myself against the risk of making a blundering error against the people around me.

    In my view this falls under the categories of politeness and common decency.

  156. Paul W., OM says

    Punchdrunk:

    But people might think less of them for being atheist, so it’s the same.

    I think you’re missing what some of us are disagreeing about, and what we’re agreeing about.

    Nobody thinks it’s the same in the sense of being equally severe, or “just as bad.” That’s not what the argument is about.

    I think we’re pretty much all agreed that the “oppression” of atheists (if that’s what it is) is much weaker, on the whole than the patent oppression of LGBTQ people, women, and racial minorities.

    But Jamie has made an allegedly qualitative distinction between systemic oppression and non-systemic non-oppression, and made it out to be an either/or distinction, not a matter of degree.

    That’s where we disagree. I and some others think there’s a continuum of degrees of oppression, and that we normally don’t call the weaker forms “oppression” because that sounds too strong.

    Jamie says that we’re flat wrong, and that the “oppression” of atheists isn’t really oppression at all, not even a very weak form of it—not because it’s too weak to call that, but because it’s not systemic enough.

    Do you agree with that?

    I think it is systemic but mostly weak, and think that it is therefore properly called a much weaker degree of oppression. (Which we should usually avoid flatly calling “oppression” because that sounds much too strong—precisely because we don’t want to appropriate the mantle of oppression from clearly more oppressed groups.)

  157. says

    Pitch:

    No, if they were LGBT, their arguments would not have “more depth”. Their arguments would be the exact same reflection of the exact same problem of minimizing the meaning of the word oppression.

  158. says

    Pitch:

    Evidently, you’ve never heard of the term “euphemism treadmill”, which is a particularly ironic phenomenon attributed to the fluctuating response from disabled people over time, to the language that is used to describe them and their bodies.

  159. says

    julian:

    I see you’ve come to the dark side. Here, let me show you my cookies.

    But seriously, yes, this is exactly why I’m so fucking angry about how this issue is handled in the atheist community at large.

  160. Paul W., OM says

    Daniel,

    OK, so you clearly don’t quite get Jamie’s actual argument, either, and you think you should defer anyhow.

    That’s interesting, and doesn’t contradict my guess that nobody here actually understands and buys Jamie’s specific arguments.

    I’d be happy to defer to Jamie’s preference, too, if it was just a “don’t say that around me” thing—I wouldn’t talk about atheists “coming out,” here, in front of Jamie.

    In general, though, when I check my privilege, I want to know whether what I’m doing is (or should be) offensive to the group in question, and why—I want to know what I’m actually doing wrong, and how it’s actually wrong, to better understand my privilege and the offense I may give.

    Or at least I need to poll some other LGBTQ people and see if they agree. I will do that, too, starting tonight at happy hour.

  161. Mr Dank says

    Yes it is Julian. You know that already because you are posting at the bottom of the thread that is still going on.

  162. says

    So, what, you expect all LGBTQs to be connected to a hive mind where we regularly reach consensus?

    I think you’ll be extra disappointed on Wednesday when my next blog post is published.

    P.S. if you’re understanding what the meaning of “checking your privilege” is, you wouldn’t be “polling” people who are different from you, to confirm or rule out what one person of that group has stated, that you disagree with by default because of how it inconveniences you personally. You’d be paying attention when someone like me tells you you’re causing a problem, and you’d stop and think about it on your own. You might pick up a book, a vlog, or a blog, and read/hear about the nature of the problem from other voices.

    Y’know. Like what I do when a person of colour tells me something about colonialism, slavery, genocide, or white supremacy. Or what I do when an indigenous person tells me about “starlight tours” and missing and murdered women. Or what I do when a person living with a physical disability starts talking about what it’s like to navigate through the barriers that are constructed with the explicit purpose of erasing their existence and needs.

    You’re not “checking your privilege”. You haven’t even stated what your privileges are. You can say the words but you can’t live up to them. The problem isn’t how I’ve communicated my ideas on this ONE blog post. The problem is your attitude towards the problem.

  163. Pitchguest says

    Perhaps you should have started out with an honest question.

    Well, my first question was which of the Slymepitters that leaked in. But I didn’t get an honest answer to that either. But I suppose if you simply declare all my questions dishonest, well, I suppose that’s the end of it, eh, Daniel?

  164. says

    If you’re fishing for cheese with that whine, I’m afraid I’m clean out of the tapioca-based stuff, and seeing as how I’m lactose-intolerant, you’ll be waiting a while before I’m re-stocked to my satisfaction. Can’t just rush out to any grocery store and get it.

  165. Pitchguest says

    I see you’ve come to the dark side. Here, let me show you my cookies.

    But seriously, yes, this is exactly why I’m so fucking angry about how this issue is handled in the atheist community at large.

    Oh, be quiet. How the issue is handled by the atheist community “at large”? You, and the high horse you rode in on, can bugger off. Unfortunately I didn’t see julian add anything constructive to the discussion, other than telling people to “shut the fuck up.”

    Also, crippled? Accepted medical term in most of Europe. Who knew? No worse a word than handicapped, which is also an accepted medical term in most Europe – and the world. But I’ll concede crippled. Which means that “able-bodied” is a condescending, stupid, meaningless word for “not handicapped.” Better?

  166. Pitchguest says

    I get it.

    But are you sure you want to go there? These things can be turned around so easily, you know.

  167. says

    Have you forgotten who published this blog entry in the first place? You’re telling ME to be quiet? Fuck you very much.

    It doesn’t make a lick of fucking difference to me what is “accepted” anywhere, if what is “accepted” is bigoted, discriminatory, prejudiced, malicious, or outright oppressive. I’m going to take a fucking stand against it, whether or not you personally want to hear it.

  168. says

    Goodie fucking gumdrops, you finally get SOMETHING.

    You know what gets turned around easily? Ass-fisting. There, I said it.

    If you don’t have any purpose in being here other than derailing, you’re free to just stop responding.

  169. Pitchguest says

    You know what gets turned around easily? Ass-fisting. There, I said it.

    I’m sorry, is that a threat?

    Are you threatening to ram your fist up my arse?

    You’re insinuating shoving your fist up someone’s arse (mine) as an example of something being turned around, and you accuse me of derailing?

    Huh.

  170. Pitchguest says

    I’m not sure how else to interpret that line.

    “You know what gets turned around easily? Ass-fisting.”

    Okay.

    Whatever you say.

  171. says

    A threat? Why would that be a threat? Are you homophobic?

    First of all, I don’t know you, and therefore could not possibly establish the required consent to engage in ass-fisting with you, and second of all, by virtue of your response here, I don’t think I could possibly relax enough in your presence to either give or receive such a wondiferous form of sexual gratification.

    Thirdly, have you ever put your fist all the way up to the wrist into another human being’s body, for the purpose of consensual sexual gratification? I’ve got to tell you, this “getting turned around” applies equally to ass-fisting as to vaginal fisting — I’m not even talking about a shift in the dynamic of who is receiving and who is giving. Some of the most intense stimulation the recipient receives during either form of fisting, is in fact, when you literally turn your fist around while fully inserted.

    As long as we’re going to derail the shit out of this post, we’re doing it as queer as fuck, thank you very much. If you can’t take it, I suggest you leave it be.

  172. Daniel Schealler says

    Well, my first question was which of the Slymepitters that leaked in. But I didn’t get an honest answer to that either. But I suppose if you simply declare all my questions dishonest, well, I suppose that’s the end of it, eh, Daniel?

    Disclaimer: I haven’t read every comment under HaifischGeweint’s post.

    I was going by the your post that started with ‘That’s nice, Crom…’ and ended with ‘I guess it must be.’

    In that post, by my count, we have 15 sentences. 8 of these are in the form of questions. Of those 8, 7 of them are clearly rhetorical as they all strongly imply their own answer as part of their delivery, or the answer is itself supplied shortly afterwards*.

    The one question-sentence left over smacks of rhetorical delivery too, but to be fair it isn’t quite as obvious as the others so deserves special mention. “When you said people are “leaking in” from the Slymepit, did you mean they were browsing the site, or posting?” seems like an actual question. But the immediate sentence afterwards, taken in context with the rest of your comment, makes it seem that you aren’t actually interested in the answer to that question, as you moved move on to call Crom an asshole on grounds of alleged dishonesty before waiting for an answer to your question.

    That’s almost 50% of the content of your post spent in delivering problematic questions – none of which seemed particularly honest.

    That statistic is of course unrepresentative because your 7 non-question sentences were all 10 words or fewer. Your rhetorical question sentences were significantly longer than that. Using an online word count tool, I’ve calculated that 229 out of 266 of your words were contained inside those questions.

    That’s 86% of the words of the comment dedicated to dishonest questioning. A very significant majority.

    On these grounds, I think that my comment about starting with an honest question if you’d like an honest answer was justified.

    You’re welcome to hold to a contrary view. But you’ll have to provide better reasoning than further rhetorical questioning of myself if you want me to take your view on this at all seriously.

    ————————-

    * I’m sparing you the sentence-by-sentence breakdown because I think that’s an unnecessary level of detail that will just clutter up the point I’m trying to make, which is long and detailed enough already But I’m willing to present to that detail if you want to press me for it. Got the file saved to my desktop.

  173. Pitchguest says

    Yes, it’s homophobic that I shouldn’t want you to shove your fist up my arse without my consent. Since “ass-fisting” was what you said could so easily be “turned around”, to interpret it as anything other than a veiled threat is not difficult. However, apparently because I’m a straight male atheist, asking a question like that signifies me as a homophobe. Apparently. (Since I suspect if I was female, it would be oh-so terrible. Or maybe not. I hear this is the place where terms like “chill-girls” and “gender traitor” gets thrown around.)

    Also, I don’t really care about your sexual fantasies and I don’t care how you do it, in your bedroom, or in public, ass-fisting or no, and frankly I’m not sure why you went there at all. (And if I may, I don’t care for being in your sexual fantasies either, thank you very much.) Ass-fisting can be turned around, okay, I wanted for Ian to answer a simple question and you went on about cheese and wine. Whining. Seeing as how you went there yourself, I don’t see how you can accuse me of derailing the thread, and if we’re really going to go there, most of what you say in this thread has been whining.

    Atheists co-opting the term “coming out”? Whining. Being upset that atheists claim they’re being oppressed? Whining. Being upset that people criticised your style of writing? Whining. Frequently using all-caps to signify THIS IS WHY YOU WROTE THIS POST? Whining. Trivial shit that should be handwaved away, and yet you throw a fucking temper tantrum like the little kid in the candy store. With Ian being the sitter of a spoiled child. “If you don’t listen to what my friend Jamie has to say, I will shut down the comments and he will have the last word and that will be the end of it!”

    As I said, it gets so easily turned around. Stop whining, Half Fish.

  174. Pitchguest says

    You know, it’s no wonder that Crommunist considers this person respectable.

    They both have a victim complex. Crommunist claims he cannot extend the benefit of the doubt to strangers as it’s a mark of privilege, but at the same time internet shit can become the biggest hassle in his life. And Half-Fish’s victim complex is lactose intolerance and Athlete’s Foot. I kid you not. That’s on top of their obvious discrimination (black, transgendered) but that means they can’t other things they can’t play their victim cards on.

  175. says

    I didn’t say anything about your ass, my ass, or anyone’s ass. Your knee-jerk terror at the threat of having your ass fisted (with or without your consent), because some queer on the internet said “ass-fisting” is entirely on you.

  176. says

    Haifisch is actually a word. You don’t need to start trying to reassign me a new name.

    Secondly, I didn’t say anything about my self-portraits project anywhere in this entire conversation (save for this comment now), and you are the person who equated my comment about lactose-intolerance to some sort of victimhood.

    Ass-fisting.

  177. Pitchguest says

    I didn’t say anything about your ass, my ass, or anyone’s ass. Your knee-jerk terror at the threat of having your ass fisted (with or without your consent), because some queer on the internet said “ass-fisting” is entirely on you.

    With or without my consent, huh?

    So possibly rape?

    Think about it. If you said this to a woman, if you said “ass-fisting” can be so easily turned around, what do you think she would say? Hm? Or, even better, what do you think she would say when you imply with or without her consent? Now, I don’t know the mind of a woman (obviously), but first of all I would think she thinks you’re a bit weird mentioning “ass-fisting” out of the blue, and secondly, I think she wouldn’t like the implication that maybe having a fist shoved up her arse “with or without” her consent. What do you think, Half Fish?

    To mirror a comment on another forum, maybe Laden is on to something about testosterone damaging one’s brain. Maybe you should stop, eh? You’re already showing signs of decline.

  178. says

    It’s also interesting how I can state so many times that I’ve actually been homeless multiple times; and yet you pick the stupidest random shit I either haven’t even mentioned or haven’t mentioned in relation to anything in this entire field of comments, to claim what I think is my highest priority.

    By interesting, I mean you’re a fucking numb-nuts, so please stop fucking badgering me.

  179. says

    I’m assuming you’re homophobic because you’re in the closet about wanting to have your ass fisted by some random queer on the internet, or the thought would never have crossed your mind.

    Thus, with or without your consent. Because I wouldn’t dare attempt to make up your mind for you, but you certainly seem plenty conflicted. YOU POOR POOR THING.

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