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Guest Post: The Nature of Privilege

This is a guest post by Andrew Tripp, a philosophy and art history major at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. He is the President of the DePaul Alliance for Free Thought, a Secular Student Alliance and Center for Inquiry on Campus affliate. You can contact him on Twitter at @ahtripp and at his blog, Considered Exclamations.

By Andrew Tripp

The following is a post based upon the talk that I gave recently at the Center For Inquiry’s Leadership Conference; video/audio is not up yet, but I will be giving another talk with most of this one’s content at the Secular Student Alliance’s annual conference in just under two weeks’ time. In it, I draw upon many sources, notably the work of Lorraine Code, to make a case for greater secular work for social justice.

TRIGGER WARNING: descriptions of violence

I’m writing about this today because I think the atheist/skeptic/humanist/insert chosen descriptor here movement is way, way out of touch with the world.

This concept shouldn’t be too unfamiliar with any of you who read Ed’s blog, or many of the other great voices on FTB; this network has become the awesome place that it is because it is so incredibly diverse, that rather than the echo chamber (or, as Jamie Kilstein put it at the conference, third level of hell) that the Pharyngula comments have become, FTB bloggers may agree on certain issues a lot, but the perspectives are incredibly diverse. It’s not just scientists, but it’s anti-racist experts like Crommunist, trans* activists like Natalie Reed, sex-positive writers like Greta, and utter badasses like Sikivu Hutchinson who are creating the discourse.

This is not to suggest that science, separation of church and state, or other issues that have traditionally been what the movement has focused on are unimportant. However, in the following post, I want to posit that, ultimately, their privileged status needs to be seriously reexamined in the face of what is actually happening in the real world outside of the communities who care about science over everything else.

Now, it is impossible for me in the space of a 20 minute presentation or a blog post to present the entirety of institutionalized oppression and violence in any way that would properly describe it. So, I’m going to focus on two issues that I think are most prescient to the discussion relating to atheism: reductionism and privilege.

The first I originally did not intend on including in the presentation, at least not under that guise. However, after Dan Fincke outlined it during his Blogathon for SSA Week, I realized that it fit quite well into my framework. He said:

Atheists sometimes have an annoying tendency in my experience to be reductionists, especially about matters that are part of the social or moral or psychological world. They often want to say things like we’re all really just a bunch of atoms. There is a tendency to talk like the only level of explanation that is at all meaningful is on the physics level. Now, of course everything in our experience is ultimately physical and made up of atoms, which are further composed of subatomic particles. But that does not mean that atoms are the only level on whichtrue things can be said. Those atoms combine in remarkably complex patterns that give rise to the objects of study in chemistry, biology, psychology, and sociology. Those emergent patterns are real. It’s not like in biology we say, “There’s no such thing as evolution because this organism and its descendants are really still just patterns of atoms”. The differences in the patterns of atoms that make up one organism and its offspring are significant. They are worth saying there is something new evolved in nature when an organism is distinct enough in the patterns of its properties from its ancestors. These are real subjects of study. Real differentiations in nature. It would be stupidity to judge those patterns as somehow artificial simply because there is a way to conceptualize the organisms in purely atomic terms that pay no attention to the features that are interesting on the biological level.

In my thinking, this sort of reductionism is the kind of belief that leads directly to erasure and marginalization, as Dan briefly mentioned. The reductionist mindset allows one to remove the personal from life; when there are only atoms, why should we worry about anything that make them up? Whether or not this attitude is consciously constructed or not, it is the one that prevails currently in many atheistic circles, and what it has resulted in is yet another reinforcement of the old white male-driven hierarchies.

We haven’t been looking to break down the old ways of knowing; instead, we have coopted them and slapped a secular label on them. We have been trying to create a permanent, ahistorical, neutral set of standards by which all knowledge and worth is to be judged; that of science, atomism, whatever we choose to call it. It’s the same type of framework that has been used by popes, priests, and dictators for centuries; the enemies of freethought, of rationality, the things we have been supposedly fighting for. By inhabiting this reductionist philosophy, we have never looked outside the box; the framework does not allow, epistemologically, for questions of identity to enter our conception as being a worthy aspect of investigation, for it is such a subjective thing; our conceptions of our and others’ being is always in flux, always depending on sense data gained from experience. It resists quantification.

The result of this rejection of identity has been ignorance of the concerns and circumstances of those who do not fit the norm set out by the knowledgeable class who propagate the ways of knowing I have briefly set out; the Dawkinses, Harrises, Krausses, etc., have never to my knowledge ever stopped for a moment to consider the issues and oppressions that their objective mindset, in a way, helps to reinforce; in the former’s case, when he did, he ended up only revealing his ignorance on such matters.

Frankly, they have no compelling reason to do so. As I will come to below, issues outside of the malestream (to borrow from Lorraine Code) are frightening to those of us within our safe environs. We get worried over whether or not evolution is being taught properly in school; a trans* woman of color has to worry about being killed for being who she is every single day of her life. The majority of you reading this are, I am willing to bet based upon statistics on atheist demographics, like me in appearance; white, male, reasonably well off, probably college educated, have a dependable safe place to live, etc. You do not have to rationally worry about being shot at, or killed, or robbed, or suffer any other such form of violence. This is called privilege.

Allow me a moment to emphasize: privilege is not a dirty word. It has often been treated as such by deniers in our movement, but, simply, privilege refers to all of the unearned advantages that a dominant group holds over others. To borrow Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s concept of kyriarchy, we hold many different forms of privilege at the same time, all of which intersect with and reinforce each other; for instance, we certainly live in a patriarchal culture, where the male gender is held in greater esteem above all other gender identities and thus holds greater power because of it. Rather than go into all of the technical aspects of intersectionality and make a long post even longer, I’ll point you to Jason Thibeault’s excellent post on the subject, as well as one of the classic works on privilege by Peggy McIntosh.

Ultimately, what these privileges do, by giving us power in society, is allow us to live free of oppression and violence. As a white male, I will not be viewed as suspicious by law enforcement; while living in one of the most segregated cities in America, I can choose to live in a neighborhood where violence does not happen at a higher rate than it does in Afghanistan. I don’t have to worry about being catcalled or harrassed as I simply walk down the street, something that happens to my female-identified friends every single week.  I do not have to worry about such activities leading to being sexually assaulted, as one in four women report happening to them; since that number only includes official reports, the number is most likely far higher. As a cisgendered male, I do not have to worry about being murdered simply for expressing my identity as such, unlike Paige Clay, a trans* woman of color, who was shot in the head in Chicago on April 16th, or Brandy Martell, who was murdered in Oakland on April 29th. Agnes Torres Sulca was tortured and killed March 12, 2012. Deoni Jones was stabbed to death February 4th in DC. Lashai McLean was killed in DC on June 21, 2011. Cece McDonald has been sentenced to prison for defending herself against a group of transphobic attackers, during which she killed one of them, and will most likely be placed in the male section of the prison where she will serve time, and most likely not receive proper medical care during that time.

Those half dozen instances are the tip of the iceberg in terms of the avalanche of attacks on trans* people throughout the world, particularly against transwomen of color. A nationwide survey of bias-motivated violence against LGBT people from 1985 to 1998 by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that incidents targeting transgender people accounted for 20% of all murders and about 40% of all police-initiated violence. According to the same project, in 2010

44 percent of LGBTQH (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV-affected) murder victims were trans women, and in 2009 trans women were 50 percent of murder victims. Yet trans people as a whole are only about 1 percent of the LGBTQH population. Trans women also more often experienced multiple forms of violence and more severe violence, as well as more police bias and violence.

Against all of these happenings, I really cannot get pissed off or self righteous about whether or not it says God on my money or not. When people are being murdered in America at higher rates than those in decades-long war zones, I have a lot of trouble caring about whether we have free will or if it’s all determined.

However, going back to what was said above about intersectionality, that does not mean that I am saying that those issues do not matter. I would rightly be ridiculed if I were to say that proper, rational education of our children did not matter, or that I did not think that our nation should be a secular one, free of the influence of regressive religious institutions. What I am saying here is that if we want to be a movement that is relevant, that is interested in making our country and world more rational, more reasonable, a place where all are equal, then we cannot say things like “atheism isn’t involved in social justice” or “our movement is only concerned with THESE issues; we should leave the others to the feminists/queers/socialists.” In order to solve the problems that we have traditionally been associated with, we have to tackle issues of violence against marginalized groups too. In order to be secular, we have to be anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-transphobic, anti-homophobic, anti-every single aspect of oppression that plagues our society.

Admittedly, as I said above, I have not gone into detail on every aspect of intersectional oppression. However, what I hope I have done is provide enough of an outline to open a reader’s eyes a bit more. To fully explain these issues in one place is functionally impossible. Instead, please follow the links I have included, and explore more about these issues; education is power. Particularly Jason and McIntosh’s pieces are very important, and read the bloggers I listed as well. The Incite! Women of Color Against Violence collective has many excellent books out on these subjects, and I would highly recommend you support them. Resources are everywhere; as good skeptics, I think we can all find them and investigate them.

Right now, this movement at large does not include everyone. It does not give everyone equal time. Instead, it lionizes the classic fount of knowledge; the white, male academics. We must include everyone in our struggle, or be swept aside into irrelevance.

Comments

  1. says

    this network has become the awesome place that it is because it is so incredibly diverse, that rather than the echo chamber (or, as Jamie Kilstein put it at the conference, third level of hell) that the Pharyngula comments have become, FTB bloggers may agree on certain issues a lot, but the perspectives are incredibly diverse.

    That’s nonsense about the Pharyngula comments.

  2. Mattir says

    I am beyond tired or the Pharyngula commenter meme. May I state that I liked the post, or is that something that is off limits for Pharyngula commenters?

  3. lancifer says

    Just another lame attempt to link atheism to progressive dogma.

    No thanks.

    Like it or not there are plenty of freethinkers that don’t agree with your spin on racial issues or your alleged remedies.

    There is no such thing as “social justice”. Justice is measured one person at a time.

    Funny to see the pharynguloids protest their cliquishness by acting like a clique.

  4. F says

    I’ll just add my noise to the “echo chamber” here and say that it seemed like the entire article seemed to be indicating that all the issues listed were somehow exemplified by Pharyngula commenters, which is simply batshit insane or really poor writing. One may not like something about the atmosphere of the comments there, but the people who comment are all over those issues and have been since I started reading; they are not reductionists and are not an echo chamber. The same people comment on most of these blogs, so I’m not sure how this dichotomy is even possible.

    Again, maybe it was just the way it was written, but the bit on Pharyngula comment threads seemed to be the pivot there. If he simply does not like the comments there, whatever, but there seems no point in mentioning it at all if he is not suggesting that this is where ignorance of these serious problems and white male privilege lives.

    I’m sad that this is my largest reaction to the post.

    Aside from that, its great that he is speaking out about these issues to his audience. It’s good that he his getting this message out to atheists, secularists, humanists, and skeptics who may not be considering these problems. I’m glad he mentions the fine writers addressing these topics at FTB. But the commenters at Pharyngula? Way ahead of you, buddy. Years ahead.

  5. Mattir says

    One other thing – does the author know that not every commenter on Pharyngula is a Genuine White Cis Het Man™? The whole dig at Pharyngula is way too similar to the “no women on Pharyngula” accusation that surfaces from time to time, and is, similarly (and to put it gently) inaccurate.

    It’s a rhetorical device fairly guaranteed to alienate many sympathetic readers, although if tone trolls are your target demographic, I suppose it might be worthwhile.

  6. Brownian says

    There is no such thing as “social justice”. Justice is measured one person at a time.

    If evidenceless assertions were truth, the ‘freethinking’ community would be relevant.

    Funny to see the pharynguloids protest their cliquishness by acting like a clique

    “You just proved my/the point!” is my favourite internet argument, made popular by such freethinking communities as every second fucking person on the internet ever.

  7. F says

    Yeah, lance. Facts are cliquish. Racism and sexism aren’t real. Treating people like human beings is a fucking dogma.

    Nice “justice” dichotomy, too. Please explain how

    Justice is measured one person at a time.

    makes any sense at all (sounds like a dogma to me, anyway), or more sense than “social justice”.

    Tell us how “social justice”, which I take to be fair and equal treatment of any group, class or individual, is a silly notion with respect to the American Revolutionary War, how the US treated and continues to treat Blacks and Native Americans, apartheid in South Africa, or the treatment of women in repressive and extreme Muslim cultures, for some less nuanced examples. But I suppose the US had to free one slave at a time, after some sort of legal review, right? And/or none of these problems exist any more, yes?

  8. marismae says

    DePaul places a great emphasis on social justice and giving back to the community as part of their programs; I’m a recent graduate of their SNL program. So I was rather excited to see someone from DePaul (a Catholic University) posting here. But starting off with a false assertion about Pharyngula is a poor way to begin a guest post. Personally, it is one of my favorite blogs. To reduce it to an echo chamber because (duh) many people there agree on many things seems not just short-sighted, but also suggests you didn’t do your homework first.

    That said, I will have to disagree that the privileged status separation of church and state in the movement needs to be re-examined. There are a number of social justice issues tied *directly* to the attempt by the religuious right to disintigrate the that separation. Women’s reproductive rights comes to mind right away – since it is the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops that is making such a fuss over birth control, for example. And separation of church and state is what allows us to publicly BE atheists. So I’m sorry, but I really think that MUST remain central to the skeptical, freethought, and atheist activist communities.

    I do agree, however, that social justice is something we should also give a great deal of focus to. Making sure there is equality for all, and quality of life for all, makes -all- of us better off.

  9. says

    @lancifer:

    So you suggest we just let people continue with the incorrect trope that Pharyngula is an echo chamber? Lovely idea.

    Tell people Pharyngula isn’t an echo chamber = Pharyngula is an echo chamber
    Ignore people who call Pharyngula an echo chamber = Pharyngula is an echo chamber

  10. tomh says

    You don’t seem to realize it, but the biggest and most privileged group in America is the religious. Their privileges are written into virtually all secular laws in the US and affect every single person in the country. You trivialize it when you sneeringly refer to “whether or not it says God on my money or not,” which is hardly the issue of religious privilege. All of the personal crimes you describe are violations of laws that have nothing to do with atheism or skepticism. Religious privilege that is written into law has everything to do with them.

  11. osguido says

    Thanks a lot for proving the point.

    In a post talking about how TS women are attacked, murdered and beaten, more than half of the commentaries are about the very important nature of the commenters in Pharyngula. Gee, poor guys, accused of being an echo chamber. It must be extremely hard for them.

  12. lancifer says

    Hey F,

    Although you started with a string of idiotic straw man arguments I never stated I’ll answer the one actual question that related to what I said.

    Please explain how

    “Justice is measured one person at a time.”

    makes any sense at all…

    Do I really have to explain that to you?

    If you fuck over ten people of African decent and then go out and fuck over ten Caucasians that is not “justice”. Justice isn’t about making sure the number of victims of each irrationally determined “race” are equal.

    Justice is about ensuring that each individual has the opportunity to follow their own desires without unfair interference from others. It isn’t about measuring the physical characteristics of those that succeed and rigging the game to “even” them out.

  13. lancifer says

    Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort,

    I just sad it was “funny” that the reaction to being called an echo chamber was three “echos”.

    You know “funny” right? Humor?

    Oh, if forgot, you hang out at Pharyngula. One of the most humorless places on the net.

  14. says

    @lancifer:

    Seriously? You think Pharyngula is humorless?

    This morning I was having gigglfits over the misspelling of “priorities” to “prioritities.” I’ve laughed out loud at a lot on that site. I’m curious where your perception of a lack of humor comes from. Regardless I’m not feeling the argument right now because I feel like an ass.

  15. marismae says

    @Katherine – I wouldn’t feel like an ass. The first thing you read is often the first thing you react to. That doesn’t, by any means, indicate that you don’t care about the other issues Mr. Tripp discussed.

  16. eric says

    What I am saying here is that if we want to be a movement that is relevant, that is interested in making our country and world more rational, more reasonable, a place where all are equal, then we cannot say things like “atheism isn’t involved in social justice” or “our movement is only concerned with THESE issues; we should leave the others to the feminists/queers/socialists.” In order to solve the problems that we have traditionally been associated with, we have to tackle issues of violence against marginalized groups too. In order to be secular, we have to be anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-transphobic, anti-homophobic, anti-every single aspect of oppression that plagues our society.

    Making people less (e.g.) homophobic will lead to a more secular and just society, that’s very true. But its sort of like getting everyone to defend your right to speak your opinion by getting everyone to agree with your opinion – it misses the big point of secularism.

    We probably should be doing both, in parallel: reducing bigotry AND convincing bigots that their bigotry is not a good basis for law even if they choose to keep it. But we really, really need that second bit. We can’t make personal acceptance of anti-sexism etc. the foundation of secularism, because if we do that, we run the risk of people not getting what secularism is.

    I’d also argue that Mr. Tripp is actually asking us to do the more difficult step before we do the easy one. IMO, eliminating everyone’s bigotry is going to be much harder than getting us merely human, irrational bigots to recognize (as a greater governing principle) that making our own peculiar irrationalities and bigotries the basis for law is not a good thing. So in saying we should do A (reduce bigotry) to do B (build a more secular society), he may be putting the cart before the horse. A leads to B, yes, but B also leads to A, and B is easier.

  17. says

    Didn’t even notice that part about it. Now I feel like a complete ass.

    Katherine, Katherine, Katherine… *shakes head*

    You KNOW that admission of error or weakness is against Pharyngula Hivemind Rules. In order for us to be effective totalitarian bullies, we absolutely MUST present a united front.

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to schedule you for a reeducation session. Make sure to wear your rubber bodysuit. If yours is still in the cleaners, you can pick another one up from the commissary between 0900 and 1300. Now… *consults clipboard* How does next Monday afternoon work for you? I’m afraid we’re all booked until then.

  18. says

    We can’t make personal acceptance of anti-sexism etc. the foundation of secularism, because if we do that, we run the risk of people not getting what secularism is.

    What is secularism, then, if people are going to be confused when they hear that anti-bigotry is an integral part of it? Now I’m confused.

  19. says

    @marismae:

    I didn’t read the article cause I was annoyed at something that’s a triviality compared to what is likely to be something I’ll truly have to worry about. If I had, indeed, read the article I wouldn’t have posted my annoyance at all (and in fact not much at all anyway cause I can’t really speak to it. I’m a computer analyst, not a sociologist.)

  20. says

    Like it or not there are plenty of freethinkers that don’t agree with your spin on racial issues or your alleged remedies.

    I’ll believe that when I hear those people justifying their positions with plausible, mature, rational arguments. The ones I’ve heard from so far (including you, Lance) may be atheists, but they’re clearly not free of dishonesty, prejudice, ignorance, authoritatianism, and/or irrational mindsets.

    There is no such thing as “social justice”. Justice is measured one person at a time.

    Ah yes, a hyperemotional Randroid pretending there’s no such thing as society or a common good. If you think this sort of clueless bullshit proves you’re rational, you need to grow up a few decades.

  21. says

    If you fuck over ten people of African decent and then go out and fuck over ten Caucasians that is not “justice”. Justice isn’t about making sure the number of victims of each irrationally determined “race” are equal.

    1619 is when the first Africans were brought to this country as slaves, and it was not until the Civil War’s end in 1865 that slavery was actually 100% abolished in this country. That’s 246 years. From 1865 forward, racial discrimination was protected by law and social convention until 1964’s Civil Rights Act and 1965’s Voting Rights Act. That’s one hundred more years, giving us a grand total of 346 years in which African-Americans were considered unequal to “White” Americans, and for more than half of those they weren’t even considered people.

    Do you really believe that 47 years is more than enough time to re-stack the deck in favor of equality? That 346 years of blatantly racist government & business policies and social attitudes are erased from our culture because an elected official signed a piece of paper? That two-ish generations is enough time for people to completely shake the consequence of those policies and attitudes?

  22. slc1 says

    Re Raging Bee @ #22

    What else should we expect from a global warming denier like Mr. Lancelot? A perfect example of every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.

  23. says

    We can’t make personal acceptance of anti-sexism etc. the foundation of secularism, because if we do that, we run the risk of people not getting what secularism is.

    What, exactly, does that even mean?

  24. eric says

    [eric] We can’t make personal acceptance of anti-sexism etc. the foundation of secularism, because if we do that, we run the risk of people not getting what secularism is.

    [SamStrange]What is secularism, then, if people are going to be confused when they hear that anti-bigotry is an integral part of it? Now I’m confused.

    Yes, if anyone was saying that, that WOULD be confusing. But as far as I know, nobody is, not even me.

    Or maybe I missed your snark. If you were just being witty, I apologize for taking it overly-seriously. If you really don’t understand my point, I’ll be happy to try and explain it better.

  25. says

    slc1, you’re too kind. Lance isn’t just an AGW denier, he’s an opponent of nearly every significant large-scale attempt to mitigate the effects of long-entrenched racial, sexual, religious and ethnic bigotry in our society; and in fact, he’s an opponent of even the admission that such effects exist. As disgraceful as it is, his AGW denialism is only the tip of a very smelly toxic dungberg.

  26. eric says

    errr…Sam, misread your comment as ‘if bigotry were an integral part of it.’ Sorry about that.

  27. lancifer says

    chriswalker,

    “Do you really believe that 47 years is more than enough time to re-stack the deck in favor of equality?”

    You are missing the point. I am saying that “stacking the deck” is absurd and counterproductive no matter its duration.

    You can’t fix racial discrimination with more racial discrimination.

    The idea is to ensure that the “deck” isn’t “stacked” at all. The idea that you will only have a “just” society when everyone has the same amount of stuff or achieved the same accomplishments is delusional and actually antithetical to rationalism.

    Now if an “individual” can show that he/she was directly injured by actions based on these irrational beliefs they should be due compensation.

    Our goal should be to ensure that the organs of government do not play favorites based on irrational categories such as race or attempt to distribute assets and services to individuals based on this unscientific metric.

    This does not mean that racism, sexism, gender bias etc. do not exist. It just means that I think the best way to address the effects of these irrational biases is to ensure that the organs of government do not make decisions based on them.

  28. marismae says

    Organs of Government sounds like some kind of starnge libertarian thanksgiving dish!

  29. raven42 says

    There are a lot of problems in the world, including racism, homophopbia, transphobia, classism, etc. If you stop and listen to the people who are really experiencing these things, you’ll find that racism especially is far more of a problem than you might think. There are some really awful forms of religion out there, forms that make all these problems worse, but there are also religious people who are doing tremendous good. I feel like there is an element in New Atheism that puts a distaste for religion ahead of pursuing good in other areas. Maybe some day people will set aside their superstitions entirely, but for now people who want to make the world a better place have a lot of potential allies both secular and religious. I would like to see better separation of church and state, less unearned religious privilege, etc., but I’d also like to see atheists be more willing to set aside differences when it comes to accomplishing good things.

  30. lancifer says

    What the fuck does my “belief” in AGW have to do with the price of tea in China.

    It’s just more smear tactic, group think, horseshit that has become part and parcel of this site.

    You can’t address my points so you resort to playground taunts.

    The big difference between Dispatches and Pharyngula is that Ed isn’t an overly sensitive, tyrannical, ideologue, bully that comes to the rescue of his dimwitted minions with the ban hammer.

    Grow the fuck up.

  31. says

    Organs of Government sounds like some kind of starnge libertarian thanksgiving dish!

    It is — the same rotten, putrid, diseased turkey he serves every time he shows up.

    This does not mean that racism, sexism, gender bias etc. do not exist. It just means that I think the best way to address the effects of these irrational biases is to ensure that the organs of government do not make decisions based on them.

    So if five hundred blacks are lynched, or stripped of their right to vote, the government is supposed to ignore, and deliberately forget, that all of the victims were black and all of the perpetrators white? That idea is so far beyond ordinary stupidity, I’m forced to suspect that Lance may be a Southern nationalist.

  32. says

    What the fuck does my “belief” in AGW have to do with the price of tea in China. It’s just more smear tactic…

    Remembering what you’ve said before is a “smear?” Gods you’re a cowardly little crybaby.

  33. says

    …rather than the echo chamber (or, as Jamie Kilstein put it at the conference, third level of hell) that the Pharyngula comments have become…

    How terrible, that commenters who don’t believe, for instance, that women are fully human get shouted down.

    Also, I agree with the other Pharyngulites that you obviously aren’t even glancingly familiar with how comment threads go.

    This is not to suggest that science, separation of church and state, or other issues that have traditionally been what the movement has focused on are unimportant. However, in the following post, I want to posit that, ultimately, their privileged status needs to be seriously reexamined in the face of what is actually happening in the real world outside of the communities who care about science over everything else.

    “Don’t you have more important things to think about?”

    Though I guess it behooves someone employed by a Catholic university to pretend their employer isn’t a major stumbling block for social justice. Particularly for people who defy the rigid gender roles it holds up as ideal.

    Atheists sometimes have an annoying tendency in my experience to be reductionists, especially about matters that are part of the social or moral or psychological world. They often want to say things like we’re all really just a bunch of atoms.

    Which atheists? Because not all atheists match that stereotype. Is this the usual canard that we’re all economically privileged straight white cis men with STEM backgrounds?

    Against all of these happenings, I really cannot get pissed off or self righteous about whether or not it says God on my money or not. When people are being murdered in America at higher rates than those in decades-long war zones, I have a lot of trouble caring about whether we have free will or if it’s all determined.

    I can walk and chew gum at the same time. More to the point, the word god on my money is a symptom of the religious privilege that allows your employer to attempt to deny equal rights to those of us who aren’t straight cis men.

    Lancifer, you go right on believing that society is all about the individual, despite all the copious evidence to the contrary compiled by sociology. Which, I am guessing, you don’t “believe in,” since you are said not to believe in climate science, either. If only they could be as rigorous as, oh, laissez-faire economics, right?

    Osguido, trans* issues are discussed regularly on Pharyngula, as many of our commenters do not fit into the gender binary. I find your scolding disingenuous, especially since the OP is trying to deflect attention and blame from his employer, which is no friend to GLBT people.

  34. says

    This does not mean that racism, sexism, gender bias etc. do not exist. It just means that I think the best way to address the effects of these irrational biases is to ensure that the organs of government do not make decisions based on them.

    So you admit racism is a fact, but you don’t think governments should make decisions based on facts? Fuck off to bed and quit trying to tell us what freethinkers are supposed to think. You’re just another reich-wing moron who can’t handle reality.

  35. says

    The idea is to ensure that the “deck” isn’t “stacked” at all.

    Too late! It’s already stacked. The question is what to do now. Obviously you have no constructive suggestions.

    As for Eric, yes, I was being completely serious. Secularism encompasses anti-bigotry. Why would this be confusing to anyone?

  36. smhll says

    @25

    I think it means that if you serve up side dishes at your Spaghetti Supper, it’s not a Spaghetti Supper any more.

  37. says

    I’m a little baffled by all the attention paid to that one little paranthetical aside about the Pharyngula comments section, which is a reference to a joke made by Jamie Kilstein at the CFI conference (he said PZ was one of his favorite people on earth, but thought the comment section of his blog was the “third level of hell”). Read it in context, folks; he’s actually praising PZ and other bloggers at FTB for caring about social justice in a post in which he is arguing that it is not only good but necessary for atheists to take on social justice issues. That one little aside is hardly worth getting upset over, especially at the price of ignoring all the actual substance of the post.

  38. says

    Daisy Cutter wrote:

    Though I guess it behooves someone employed by a Catholic university to pretend their employer isn’t a major stumbling block for social justice. Particularly for people who defy the rigid gender roles it holds up as ideal.

    Andrew is not employed by DePaul, he is a student there. He runs a student freethought group there. And he sure is hell is not someone who excuses the role of the Catholic Church in preventing social justice, for crying out loud. He is an outspoken opponent of the rigid gender roles you rightly oppose as well.

  39. Brandon says

    So if five hundred blacks are lynched, or stripped of their right to vote, the government is supposed to ignore, and deliberately forget, that all of the victims were black and all of the perpetrators white?

    This is not a correct portrayal of lynching as an historical item. Here’s the lynchings count as per the Tuskegee Institute –

    http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/shipp/lynchingsstate.html

    There’s every reason to view lynching as a horrifying, racist tradition, but saying that all of the victims were black is just inaccurate.

  40. Andrew Tripp says

    I think my point on how much many atheists want to avoid this discourse, becoming incredibly irrational by doing so, has been proven by this comment thread’s obsession with one offhand comment.

    Daisy Cutter, to a couple of your points: One, DePaul is indeed a Catholic university. Secondly, I am not employed by them. As a matter of fact, they’re paying me to go there with scholarships. I would point out that, just as you ask me not to paint all atheists with the same brush (which, incidentally, I did not; in fact, I believe I made it rather clear that I highly respect many of the writers on this network and elsewhere that were in that post you linked), you shouldn’t paint all Catholic universities with the same brush. DePaul is Vincentian, not Jesuit or one of the super awful orders; they are dedicated to social justice and raising up people who have never had economic or educational advantages. We are not officially recognized by the Pope because we have an LGBTQ Studies major and minor program, as well as many, many faculty who are deeply involved in progressive activism. Our President, a priest, is a gay man who danced drag before becoming a priest. The university spends lots of money funding community service projects and other forms of outreach all across Chicago.

    Frankly, most people at DePaul, even the religious ones, are far more devoted to making the world a better place than most atheists I know. At the end of the day, I don’t give a shit what deity a person believes in or not; if they’re standing up against the tides of misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, capitalism, the prison-industrial complex, and all the other forms of oppression that exist, I’m gonna stand with them.

  41. Andrew Tripp says

    “My bad. He’s a student, not faculty. He’s still pretending that religious privilege has nothing to do with the marginalization of women and GLBT people. And he’s blithely conflating “atheist” with “person who is inevitably privileged on multiple axes.””

    Where on earth did I say that? As I said, it is impossible to give the full overview of privilege and intersectional oppression in one blog post. Religious privilege is a huge contributor to the systems I describe above. I simply chose to analyze issues that, far as I can see, this movement is either ignorant of or viciously opposed to.

    And, yeah, seeing as how most atheists are white males, I’m gonna say that most atheists are privileged. Everyone’s got privilege of one sort or another; it is inevitable. Thus, atheists are privileged.

  42. Brandon says

    Andrew Tripp:

    I think my point on how much many atheists want to avoid this discourse, becoming incredibly irrational by doing so, has been proven by this comment thread’s obsession with one offhand comment.

    I liked Brownian’s analysis of this earlier:

    “You just proved my/the point!” is my favourite internet argument, made popular by such freethinking communities as every second fucking person on the internet ever.

  43. Brandon says

    I simply chose to analyze issues that, far as I can see, this movement is either ignorant of or viciously opposed to.

    Are you really asserting that atheists, as a demographic group, are viciously opposed to mitigation of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and the general plight of the downtrodden?

  44. MyaR says

    a reference to a joke made by Jamie Kilstein at the CFI conference

    This is the problem — Andrew has weakened his case by making an inside ‘joke’ (and a bad one — ‘third circle of hell’ =/= ‘echo chamber’), which may play perfectly okay in the original context, but is going to be all kinds of distracting when that context is missing. And making reference to Jamie Kilstein is not enough to provide that context, because most of us weren’t there. It also sets up the rest of the piece to read somewhat scold-y, which I don’t think was the intent.

    I think the whole piece could’ve used a couple more drafts, and someone else’s editorial eye (‘prescient’ is misused, and makes it hard to figure out that sentence — was he going for a fancy ‘relevant’?).

    Overall, my reaction is sort of a head-pat, ‘that’s nice, you’ve recognized that privilege, oppression, and intersectionality exist, and that freethought/skepticism/atheism are not immune from their influences — so now what?’ I suspect that’s because I’m not his audience, though.

  45. MyaR says

    To be fair to Andrew, I don’t think most of us are part of his target audience. After all, we’re all here commenting on the biggest atheism + social justice site on the intertubes.

  46. marismae says

    As far as Catholic Universities go, DePaul is pretty liberal. And they really do focus on social justice issues. At the risk of using anecdote as data, a paper I did on the IGLHRC and LGBTQ rights was very well received by my Professor (of course, it was a course on human rights issues and the U.N., so I wouldn’t expect any less).

    In fact, DePaul was the only academic institution in my area that allowed me to pursue my B.A. /without/ requiring me to take classes on religion. All of the others that I looked at (aside from community colleges that didn’t offer a full B.A.) required a Bible study or religious class of some kind. And that was just for a cookie cutter Business Admin degree.

    That is only my experience with the SNL program though, which is for adult students. I have no idea if their other schools/programs are as liberal-leaning or non-religious. I am no fan of Catholic-run institutions in general, given what we’ve all been hearing lately about Catholic-run Hospitals, etc… but my own experience with DePaul was a very good one, speaking as an atheist who was raised as a Jew!

  47. says

    And, yeah, seeing as how most atheists are white males

    Citation needed.

    Also, Andrew and Marismae, I really don’t give a fuck how “liberal” DePaul is. It’s a Catholic school. It’s intimately tied to the world’s largest kiddie-raping organization. If it truly posed a threat to the Vatican’s hegemony, they’d be trying to silence it like they are the “radical feminist” nuns.

    ZOMG CATLICK SOSHUL JUSTISS!! doesn’t do shit to make up for the force of evil that the RCC is in the world.

  48. marismae says

    @Ms. Daisy Cutter – I understand where you’re coming from, and I’m sorry to have upset you. It doesn’t make up for the force of evil that the RCC is in the world, no. I don’t think that even the dissolution of the Vatican could make up for that at this point.

  49. says

    I think my point on how much many atheists want to avoid this discourse, becoming incredibly irrational by doing so, has been proven by this comment thread’s obsession with one offhand comment.

    If you think that, you’re very confused.

  50. Abby Normal says

    I’m a little baffled by all the attention paid to that one little paranthetical aside about the Pharyngula comments section…

    Really, with all your years observing the human drive to defend one’s tribe, this reaction was baffling?

  51. Crip Dyke, MQ, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    There is no such thing as “social justice”. Justice is measured one person at a time.

    What an idiotic statement. I, too, shy away from the term “social justice” because I think it doesn’t communicate essential ideas well. But that doesn’t mean there is no such thing as justice that is social in nature.

    For that to be true, there would have to be no such thing as *injustice* that is social in nature. There is documented evidence that humans act differently in different social situations. In a mob or crowd, persons are willing to do things that they would be entirely unwilling to do when acting as an individual. This does not mean that no individual is hurt by crowds or that individuals cannot be said to have any culpability, but the dynamic that created a specific injustice wasn’t simply chosen or created by one person independent of social forces. Our very human sociality creates dynamics that can encourage or discourage justice. Just as the rules and customs of economic systems can encourage or discourage justice. In addressing these, it makes perfect grammatical sense to say that there is social injustice or economic injustice and opponents of these dynamics make perfect sense when they say they work for social justice or economic justice.

    But now let’s look at the even more boneheaded statement, “Justice is measured one person at a time.”

    If an international tariff was imposed on Ecuadorian cocoa but not on Cote d’Ivoire cocoa (or any other cocoa growing nation) it might be impossible to find that any given farmer lost money to the tariff. After all, there is still a thriving local trade in chocolate. My best friend went to an Ecuadorian cocoa plantation where she was allowed to pick beans, see the drying process, run the paster, and take processed cocoa and turn it into chocolate. While this particular farm wouldn’t be hurt by the tariff per se, what if another farm moved into this niche after the tariff? If the first farm goes under, is it bad management, good competition, or the tariff? If some combo, to what extent, exactly, is the original farm hurt?

    Moreover, if the tariff was put in place to encourage the country to grow crops other than cocoa it would be wrongheaded, but countries like Colombia have a legitimate disagreement about the damage done to the lives of Colombians by the drug trade.

    So even if you can prove the loss to the first farmer, can you prove it’s an *unjust* loss?

    The only reasonable way to judge the justice or injustice of such a policy is at the social level where its positive effects can be contrasted with its negative effects and comparisons can be made between the group that is intended to be affected (coca growers) and the group that is actually affected (cocoa/cacao growers).

    Injustice ultimately affects individuals, but the experience of an individual is not the only measure of when, where, and to what extent injustice occurred.

  52. DaveL says

    I agree with your central thesis that, if the Freethought movement wants to be relevant, it needs to battle dogma and assorted shitty thinking most where it causes the most harm.

    However, I don’t know who these atheists are who “talk like the only level of explanation that is at all meaningful is on the physics level”? I don’t think I know of any. In fact I don’t see how this criticism fits with the atheist movement at all.

    So I find it disingenuous when you slip in little straw-man attacks like this prior to your central thesis, and then declare your point proven when the target audience is distracted by the former. It’s like saying “The problem with philosophy and art history majors is that they hardly ever bathe and they smell bad. Besides that, they tend to prioritize their own self-image over nuclear arms proliferation.” So when you object that you do indeed bathe regularly…

  53. tomh says

    Andrew Tripp wrote:
    Religious privilege is a huge contributor to the systems I describe above.

    Yet, for some reason, you simply chose to ignore it in your post and focus instead on the failings of the secular community. Religious privilege is not just a contributor to the systems you describe, it is the driving force behind the resistance to change that fixing those systems require. By securing exemptions from things like civil rights laws, healthcare laws, zoning laws, tax laws, and so on, they manage to put up huge roadblocks to resolving the issues like discrimination that you are so passionate about. Rather than railing about the lack of action from skeptics, look to the source of the problems – religion.

    Frankly, most people at DePaul, even the religious ones, are far more devoted to making the world a better place than most atheists I know.

    Your acquaintances among atheists are obviously limited.

  54. Sili says

    Funny to see the pharynguloids protest their cliquishness by acting like a clique.

    So are you saying we should be out in force agreeing that, yes, we are indeed an echo chamber?

  55. flex says

    @Lancifer

    The government is us. Our government, at all levels, is a reflection of the society we live in. It is clear that there is deeply entrenched discrimination in our society. One tool available for us to reduce that discrimination, to alleviate the difficulties people who suffer discrimination have in succeeding in the world, is to use our government to address discrimination.

    Anyone who has looked into the various government programs designed to reduce discrimination will find that they, at best, attempt to level the differences. These programs, regardless of what you believe, do not promote one group of players in our society above another. They promote an equality of opportunity. This may look like one group is being preferred above another, but when the group in question starts in a hole you look particularly lacking in empathy when you complain that society (through the mechanism of government) is trying to fill that hole in.

    If you truly are libertarian, why are you objecting to increasing the competition among workers? Simply because the government is doing it? Would it be okay if unions worked toward equalization of society as well? Many of them do so.

    In regard to the OP, I am far prouder to call myself an atheist now that the atheists are recognizing that reducing the power of organized (or dis-organized) religion in society is not enough. At least not enough to create the society we would like to live in. The secular movement can be an invaluable ally to the humanists who have been fighting for social change for decades. For the secular movement has some abilities which the humanist groups have lacked, an un-relenting commitment to evidence.

    This does not mean that the humanists have ignored evidence, but that for decades the humanists have compromised with other groups in order to make what little progress which has occurred.

    The original secular battles between the UFO and bigfoot believers pretty much were battles between middle-aged, white, protestant, moderately affluent men. Both sides met that demographic. The battles to get god off of our currency were, and are, fought by the same demographic. The dominant group fighting rather trivial battles among themselves. This battle is not unimportant to getting atheists accepted as equals in society, but when the only admitted atheists were already part of the dominant group, it really is not all that important to the marginal groups of society.

    What the secular movement has started to do, however, is train their evidence-searching spotlight into societies basements and gutters and uncovered a whole ecosystem of misogyny, prejudice, and injustice. They are starting to look at inner-city violence, incarceration statistics, inequalities caused by prejudice rather than ability, our educational system (good and bad), corporate culture, religious teachings and the politicization of churches, and our own government. And they find bigotry, intolerance, and loads and loads of beliefs existing without any evidence to back them up. Many practices in society are based on hearsay and heritage, much reasoning is fallacious or built on dis-proven evidence.

    In many cases, simply exposing these problems can cause action. Many people didn’t even know they existed, or were unaware of how they contributed to the culture that generated them. The recent tempest in a tea-pot over having an sexual harassment policy at secular events is a good example. It is clear to me that as soon as it was brought to many convention board’s notice that they started to talk about adopting one. It was an obvious thing to do, and no one could seriously have any objections (aside from those who were afraid they would be targeted).

    Other changes will be harder. There will be some people who will get the concept of privilege right away, others who can be argued into recognizing their privilege, and a few who will never figure it out. There are some people who have committed a lot of energy toward working the world as it is and who will fight any changes, even if they would benefit from the changes.

    It is not enough for the atheist groups to simply fight religion, they should (and do) expose the weaknesses of the authoritarian mindset exemplified by religion. And they are, thankfully, expanding beyond simply looking at religion. It is also not enough for the humanist groups to agitate for social welfare, to bring attention to declining educational standards, living conditions, and institutionalized prejudice. They need to, and are, working to identify how the authoritarianism mindset creates and propagates these societal problems.

    The integration of these groups can only make both groups stronger and more willing to fight to enable individuals to live without fear, to allow individuals to pursue their dreams.

    And this comment was probably much too long. The TL/DR version:

    Be excellent to each other.

  56. says

    I’m a little baffled by all the attention paid to that one little paranthetical aside about the Pharyngula comments section, which is a reference to a joke made by Jamie Kilstein at the CFI conference (he said PZ was one of his favorite people on earth, but thought the comment section of his blog was the “third level of hell”). Read it in context, folks; he’s actually praising PZ and other bloggers at FTB for caring about social justice in a post in which he is arguing that it is not only good but necessary for atheists to take on social justice issues. That one little aside is hardly worth getting upset over, especially at the price of ignoring all the actual substance of the post.

    I’ll try to explain. I’m not in his target audience, and neither are many of the Pharyngula commenters. his comment that I quoted @ #53 confirmed to me that he was setting up some ignorant contrast between the Pharyngula commenters and the FTB bloggers in which the former are relative reactionaries. As someone who’s spent literally years at Pharyngula, other atheist-skeptical blogs, and my own blog addressing social justice questions and arguing for their relevance to this community, and being called every sexist and misogynistic slur on the books (including by one of FTB’s now-former bloggers, and I’m not talking about TF) for my trouble, I do take exception to that, especially from some Andrew-come-lately to these issues. And I do so on behalf of others at Pharyngula, members of some of the groups for whom he’s arguing for justice and others who’ve often been at the forefront these battles for a long time.

    He’s confused, and should recognize that. It’s a good piece otherwise, but to have someone suggest that we took offense to that remark because we want to avoid talking about social justice is simply absurd and not something I’m going to let stand. I think he heard that remark from Kilstein – I don’t know how it was meant in context – and misconstrued it, which led him to say something stupid.

  57. Mattir says

    Ed, the problem is that those of us who comment on Pharyngula hear that comment all the freaking time, and it’s tiresome. I like PZ fine, but what I really like about Pharyngula is the breadth of knowledge and perspective in the commenter community. If push came to shove (such as if PZ became a disciple of the Pope or Ken Ham), I’d ditch PZ in a heartbeat and the various communities that have formed through the comment threads would continue on just fine, (Also, it’s tiriesome to hear how we worship PZ and function as his minions, Very. Very. Tiresome. Some of even came to read Pharyngula because of a post about which we disagreed.)

    I did read the rest of the post. I agreed with it, even. It’s just that some communities are just a tad sensitive because of events of the last few weeks…

  58. says

    Ed, the problem is that those of us who comment on Pharyngula hear that comment all the freaking time, and it’s tiresome.

    It’s also just so silly in context. He constrasts us with the diversity of Crommunist, Natalie Reed, Greta Christina, and Sikivu Hutchinson. If we’re an echo chamber, it extends to their blogs as well, where the commenter overlap with Pharyngula is enormous. Hell, when FTB was first starting and PZ asked, I suggested Hutchinson. (I’m not saying that had any impact, but trying to convey that the notion that we’re off in our little non-social-justice world ignoring FTB’s attempts to expose us to a diversity of perspectives is ludicrous. Someone could only think this if their experience with Pharyngula is very minimal.)

  59. says

    addressing social justice questions and arguing for their relevance to this community, and being called every sexist and misogynistic slur on the books (including by one of FTB’s now-former bloggers, and I’m not talking about TF) for my trouble,

    Sorry – that was misleading. In that instance, as opposed to the vast majority, the slur was not in the context of a social justice argument.

    Apologies for the derail. I think I’ve said my thing.

  60. demonhauntedworld says

    Everyone’s got privilege of one sort or another; it is inevitable. Thus, atheists are privileged.

    Come again? If “everyone” is privileged, the concept of privilege makes no sense.

  61. Ze Madmax says

    demonhauntedworld @ #64

    Come again? If “everyone” is privileged, the concept of privilege makes no sense.

    It makes perfect sense if you stop to think about it for a minute. Privilege is not a yes/no binary, it has different effects for different people. A White woman and a Black man both have different sets of privilege, which influence how they experience life within society. Similarly, they both experience some degree of disadvantage because of gender and race, respectively.

    They key point in the sentence you quoted is “of one sort or another.”

  62. geraldmcgrew says

    those of us who comment on Pharyngula hear that comment all the freaking time

    Gee, now why would that be?

  63. geraldmcgrew says

    rather than the echo chamber (or, as Jamie Kilstein put it at the conference, third level of hell) that the Pharyngula comments have become

    As you’ve now seen, you cannot criticize the Great Oz or his “minions”. Once you do that, nothing you ever do afterwards can overcome this violation of the established hierarchy.

  64. savagemutt says

    It’s also just so silly in context. He constrasts us with the diversity of Crommunist, Natalie Reed, Greta Christina, and Sikivu Hutchinson. If we’re an echo chamber, it extends to their blogs as well, where the commenter overlap with Pharyngula is enormous.

    While each blog has its fans, its easier for a new reader to discern an “echo chamber” at Pharyngula than the other blogs simply because of the volume of posts.

    While most commenters here at Dispatches may be in agreement with whatever Ed’s written, its easier to see the dissenting opinions because comment counts rarely go beyond 50 or so. Its exceptional if one breaks 100.

    Meanwhile, posts at Pharyngula routinely garner hundreds of comments, and while the same rough proportion of dissent may exist as exists at Dispatches its harder to find simply because there’s so much more to wade through.

  65. Ze Madmax says

    geraldmcgrew @ #67

    As you’ve now seen, you cannot criticize the Great Oz or his “minions”. Once you do that, nothing you ever do afterwards can overcome this violation of the established hierarchy.

    Uh, that’s weird. I’m pretty sure nobody has been forbidden from criticizing “the Great Oz or his minions.” Unless you think that people disagreeing with an unfair description of their community shouldn’t voice that disagreement.

    So, next time a religious figure says that humanists and atheists are amoral, evil logic-robots who should be kept away from children, we shouldn’t say anything. Otherwise people may think atheists are bad people!

  66. flex says

    demonhauntedworld wrote @64,

    Come again? If “everyone” is privileged, the concept of privilege makes no sense.

    Let’s try your phrase with a different concept. “If everyone is living at an altitude, the concept of altitude makes no sense.” Do you see why a universal condition can have differences within that condition?

    In this context privilege has a situational aspect. It is a form of prejudice, but not a negative prejudice, a positive form.

    Let me describe some situations:

    A black man walking into a church in a black community will likely feel more welcome than a white man doing so. In this situation, the black man has a privilege over the white man.

    A white woman entering a singles bar is likely to feel more welcome than a white man doing so (albeit for possibly the wrong reason). In this situation the white women has a privilege not accorded to the white man.

    A white man with a ‘God is Dead’ t-shirt entering an atheist convention is likely to feel more welcome than a white man wearing a ‘Jesus Saves’ t-shirt. In this situation the person wearing the ‘God is Dead’ t-shirt has a privilege over the person wearing the ‘Jesus Saves’ t-shirt.

    These are easy situations to see that privilege exists, but varies according to the situation.

    Privilege of this nature will always exist. It’s part of being human. You have privileges I don’t have, I have privileges you don’t have.

    However, there are areas where privileges have direct, long-lasting, differences in very fundamental aspects of life. Fundamentals which include the ability to get a job, find shelter, and live without harassment or fear.

    As a educated, white, male who doesn’t make an issue of religious beliefs (I’m glad I live in Michigan where questions about individual beliefs are rare and are considered in poor taste), I have a significant privilege when looking for employment, in being cautioned rather than arrested when I’m caught speeding, in getting a loan for a house. When walking down the street I’m not looked at with suspicion, nor do I get ogled (although I occasionally get friendly comments about my whiskers).

    These privileges exist for me, and they do not exist for women, minorities, or foreigners. I can walk with a black friend and he gets less looks than he usually does, but I get more. When I walk with a women she doesn’t get hardly any looks, she is seen as belonging to me.

    These are not the privileges I want, and rather than have everyone be treated with suspicion or seen as an object of desire, I work to change the people who are making the choice to privilege me, to provide the same privilege to others. To educate the people who look on minorities or foreigners with the same privilege they grant me. I want the privilege I have to be expanded to others.

    Because doing the opposite, having people distrust anyone outside of their little circle, is unthinkable.

  67. flex says

    Let me clarify that second to last paragraph a bit. I want to eliminate the privilege that I have of being seen as more trustworthy or not as a sexual object by expanding that privilege to everyone. At that point it ceases to be a privilege. I don’t want it to go the other way.

  68. anonymouroboros says

    Pharynguloids flip out about insults to their community and miss the overall point. News at 11.

    As an aside, the fifth level of Hell would probably make more sense in this context than the third.

  69. tomh says

    Andrew Tripp wrote:
    Everyone’s got privilege of one sort or another; it is inevitable. Thus, atheists are privileged.

    Perhaps you could list a few of the privileges that atheists enjoy because they’re atheists. Not because, as you claim, they are white males, but privileges that only atheists enjoy in America. We know religionists, even the most extreme cults, enjoy privileges aplenty, from tax exemptions to exemption from child abuse laws, but atheists? Just a few would do – I’m having a hard time coming up with any.

  70. mikelf says

    Pharynguloids flip out about insults to their community and miss the overall point.

    Seriously. The author points real malevolence directed to outgroup members, and the Pharynguloids make it all about them. People are being meeeeaaaan to them!!!! Boo-freaking-hoo.

  71. rimmo says

    Reading the comments section to this thread is a profoundly depressing experience.

    Andrew Tripp states that experiencing privilege (as we as a demographic on average WILL) is a thing that must be acknowledged, and is not inherently shameful. The comments react with rage that anyone would suggest our lives are privileged.

    Andrew Tripp states that the torture and murder of trans in the US is a far larger problem that what national mottos are written on the money. Amazingly, the comment thread directly insists that the opposite is true.

    Andrew Tripp suggests that the atheist movement is far more comfortable rehashing the same old semantic arguments it’s had for years rather than confronting serious problems in society that do not directly apply to our average demographic. The comment thread INSISTS on rehashing the same old semantic arguments, and cannot understand why he is not.

    Seriously, I counted only three comment posts even referencing the suffering of trans in this comment thread. THAT IS WHAT ANDREW’S POST WAS ABOUT. ‘You just proved my point’ is a stupid type of argument, but Andrew is directly saying that we need to address these issues, something we do not like doing, and the commenters have utterly refused to even attempt. He’s challenging you to talk about something outside your normal comfort zone, and you’ve breathtakingly failed.

    And attacking him for having ties to the RCC just because of the university he is a student at, which somehow invalidates his arguments, is a point so asinine I feel embarrassed for you to be even trying to suggest it. To imply he’s not bashing religion hard enough for your tastes so his thoughts are worthless is pathetic.

  72. demonhauntedworld says

    It makes perfect sense if you stop to think about it for a minute. Privilege is not a yes/no binary, it has different effects for different people. A White woman and a Black man both have different sets of privilege, which influence how they experience life within society. Similarly, they both experience some degree of disadvantage because of gender and race, respectively.

    They key point in the sentence you quoted is “of one sort or another.”

    The language of privilege is absolutely a yes/no binary. Whites have privilege over blacks. Men have privilege over women. Heterosexuals have privilege over homosexuals. Cis-gendered people have privilege over trans-gendered people. Some group of people is going to be on the losing side of all of those inequalities, unless privilege is construed as a transitive loop. Yes, where people are members of one privileged class but not another, they will have privilege in some situations but not others. But that’s not what Andrew said.

    He asserted that atheists (full stop, no qualifiers) are privileged. What group do atheists qua atheists have privilege over?

  73. xtog42 says

    You know who was really big into “social justice”?

    Hitler,….and Mussolini,….communists and Castro, heck the KKK and right wing militias probably think they are about social justice too, as did Jim Jones.

    Social justice means whatever the speaker wants it to mean which makes the term ridiculous to pin down, not unlike the term God.

    The only reason the phrase is being seen more and more here at FTB is because the “TAM is a den of sexists” meme didn’t work,…then the “DJ Grothe is a victim-blaming misogynist” didn’t catch on,….then the “trolls just want women to shut up thing didn’t go anywhere”, nor did the “boycott events and books thing”,…so now the goal posts have been moved again in order to change the debate to one the derailing sexism trolls are sure to win,…the one about whether atheists should either be for or against “social justice” — whatever that means, what other kind of justice is there? says the sociology teacher.

    This is just hilarious, Ed puts up something that should have been like slop to the hogs, but instead the thin skinned chip-on-the-shoulder dog whistle crowd picks up on a meaningless aside and gets into a major brawl over it,…with all of the “grow the hell up”, “what the f***s, the “crybaby” catcalls and “f** offs” we have all grown to expect from the FTB discussions. Thank goodness this site is moderated better than PZ we are told, imagine how this discussion would go over there.

    You know, maybe this isn’t a groupthink thing after all here at FTB, it’s just an assortment of insatiable mean-spirited imps looking to get off by making personal attacks to whomever happens to be in their sites at the time, or a cross between a circle jerk and a circular firing squad depending on how well the crowd actually read the initial post.

    Get ready for the banning threats, the requests to go to some other blog if you don’t like it here, the armchair psychoanalysis, the mind reading and the self-righteous social sanctimony — I’ve tried to put some of that in this post itself, so you all would feel at home.

    Pass the popcorn!

  74. lancifer says

    I’m all for government actions that are designed to help people that are disadvantaged. I don’t care how they became disadvantaged other than to make sure that if it is a systematic issue it is addressed.

    For example, if a driver’s license branch has been denying people of one ethnicity a driver’s license it is completely reasonable to require that they have a neutral policy towards ethnicity (or whatever).

    This was the purpose of the civil rights laws of the 1960’s.

    It is quite another thing to observe that a certain “group” of people are disadvantaged and then design remedies that “favor” that group over others.

    For example having the driver’s license branch drop the fees for the ethnicity that had been under-served previously, or worse, deny licenses to the so called “privileged” people that had been getting driver’s licenses.

    This only serves to perpetuate the “group” thinking that caused the problem to begin with. It also disadvantages people that had no role in the discrimination to begin with.

  75. lancifer says

    Now, to the actual point of the post.

    What the fuck all does “social justice” have to do with secularism or the so called atheist movement?

    The proper focus of the secular movement should be advancing the position of atheism in our society and removing any unfair impediments to freethinkers and dismantling the unfair advantages of religionists.

    What’s next, a move to make sure that the members of the secular movement have proper dental hygiene? Or a requirement that free thinkers aren’t “mean”?

  76. rimmo says

    Whilst I can have sympathy for those who earnestly want the drive towards a secular atheism to be a completely apolitical movement, there is the predominant outlook that secularism fundamentally entails advocating a world guided by reason.

    So from that, you must ask ‘Is it reasonable for the majority of society to discriminate against blacks/atheists/women/trans/the poor’ which IS a question solved by an evidence based approach. You could say ‘Is it reasonable to discriminate against pedophiles/white supremacists/creationists?’ too, but following the evidence suggests there ARE good reasons to treat these people with suspicion. This is why discrimination is a question for secularism.

  77. Michael Heath says

    lancifer argues:

    The proper focus of the secular movement should be advancing the position of atheism in our society and removing any unfair impediments to freethinkers and dismantling the unfair advantages of religionists.

    While I’m in no way religious, I think it’s more prudent for secularists to not ostracize religious people who are secularists simply because they’re religious but continue to embrace and recruit them. In fact the historical success of secularism is dominated by those with liberal religious beliefs.

    This reminds me of how conservatives continue to demand an ever-purer form of conservatism which risks ostracizing an increasing number from their movement, where conservatives abandoning some of their leaders has already begun. It is consistent with the secular woman group Ed posted about earlier, that group also conflated secularism with atheism – which I find disconcerting and unfair to secularists who happen to be religious.

    Should we work to get Barry Lynn fired as Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State because he’s a Christian minister; in spite of years of hard work promoting secularism at an executive level? I think not, in fact our black president who is one of our most secularist presidents ever provides a great recruitment opportunity into the black churches. We could have used a lot more of them in CA when the Prop. 8 vote was lost in 2008.

  78. Suido says

    @Lancifer 379:

    I refer you to this.

    You are not the only type of atheist. Your aims are not the only aims held by atheists. You do not get to decide the ‘proper focus’ of the secular movement. You seem to have missed this part of the speech:

    However, going back to what was said above about intersectionality, that does not mean that I am saying that those issues do not matter. I would rightly be ridiculed if I were to say that proper, rational education of our children did not matter, or that I did not think that our nation should be a secular one, free of the influence of regressive religious institutions.

    No one is forgetting about working against religion. No one is preventing you fighting the good fight on that field of battle, with your +2 sword of rationality. I’m sure you’ll do a fine job. However, you seem to be actively opposing the idea of other people using their time and money to address issues that they feel are important. Why?

    What’s next, a move to make sure that the members of the secular movement have proper dental hygiene? Or a requirement that free thinkers aren’t “mean”?

    I’ve heard this argument before, something about gay marriage leading to beastiality and paedophilia? Congratulations, you used the
    slippery slope fallacy. As penalty, you may no longer use your +2 sword of rationality.

    Speaking of

    Now, to the actual point of the post

    Do you acknowledge that trans people have it tough?

    Do you acknowledge that not all of the issues facing trans people are necessarily to do with religion?

    If so, do you further acknowledge that other groups have it tough as well – not as tough, but tough nonetheless?

    If not, what colour’s the sky where you are?

  79. says

    (he said PZ was one of his favorite people on earth, but thought the comment section of his blog was the “third level of hell”).

    Oh, I’d put it deeper than that.

  80. Suido says

    @rimmo#75

    Andrew Tripp states that the torture and murder of trans in the US is a far larger problem that what national mottos are written on the money. Amazingly, the comment thread directly insists that the opposite is true.

    Citation? I see arguments in the comment thread, with people agreeing and disagreeing about that position. The lead commenter ‘insisting the opposite is true’ is coming from an extreme libertarian point of view, so no surprise there. Others are arguing against, and you just ignore them.

    I’m so impressed by the way you hold yourself above the hoi polloi and refuse to defend the speech and its point against the detractors. So noble.

    You too, aaronbaker.

  81. says

    Maybe Rimmo (and I) should have acknowledged a greater wealth of perspectives here; however:

    there’s entirely too much Pharynguloid butthurt;

    I’m not a big fan of Lancifer’s hyper-individualism, which caught my attention more than a lot of the other comments–though I went quite a ways in that direction when I was younger, so I don’t feel entitled to insult him about it;

    the dig at someone “employed” by a Catholic university was out of line;

    and obviously, I think, violence against LGBT folk, often though not always religiously motivated, is clearly more important than whether the word “God” is on the fucking currency.

    Is that getting down sufficiently with hoi polloi for you, Suido?

    (Incidentally, since hoi means “the,” you really shouldn’t say “the hoi polloi”; that’s my pedantic note for the day.)

  82. flex says

    lancifer @78 wrote,

    For example having the driver’s license branch drop the fees for the ethnicity that had been under-served previously, or worse, deny licenses to the so called “privileged” people that had been getting driver’s licenses.

    Since there doesn’t appear to be a limit on driver’s licenses I doubt any denial would occur.

    But let’s use this example for a little discussion. Why do licenses cost anything at all? Why shouldn’t the state maintain the DMV or SoS offices as a service to it’s citizens and provide licenses to anyone who passes the test? The fee isn’t particularly large, but it does represent a barrier to entry for some people, and thus a barrier to some people applying for jobs that require the license.

    Further, since the state is generally using these fees as a way to pay for the cost of maintaining the licensing facility, if the government finds that a particular group would like to get a license, but can’t afford the fee. And another group is experiencing a shortage of drivers. It would make sense for the state to offer a cheaper license for that group. Everyone gets what they want expect for the poor sods who paid full price and don’t see the benefit they get by reducing unemployment and increasing the flow of money throughout the economy.

    There are other options as well. Like offering a license for free to unemployed people, but if they don’t get a job in 6 months they will owe the state the fee or have their license taken away. If they do have a job, then the state covers the cost of the license knowing that they will pay far more than that in income taxes.

    Or the state could increase sales takes or income taxes or even property taxes a fraction and no one pays for their license.

    You could even argue that the federal government should issue driver’s licenses rather than the state.

    None of these options sound fair to some people. To some people the idea of making it easier for other people to live and work is anathema. They ask, “where is mine?” Well, because of the privileged status I hold in society, I already have mine. Generally, those who are asking are unaware that they have experienced privilege. It has been easier for them to find employment, get a house in a good school district, walk through town without fear. It’s not easy, no one said that they skated through life, but it’s not as hard as others have it.

    There are a lot of others. Women, atheists, Hispanics, Black, Muslims, Hindu, LGBT, etc. All of these should be equal in the eyes of the state and in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of an employer. The evidence is starkly showing us that they are not viewed as equal.

    The laws, generally, do not make such differentiations, but the people enforcing the laws do. The enforcers are often blind to both their privilege and prejudice. This doesn’t make them bad people, but it does mean that society does favor some groups more than others. The purpose of these discussions of privilege, is to educate people so they are aware of their biases. This won’t stop prejudice or privilege from occurring, but it may reduce it. Make it less acceptable in society and over generations the affect may lessen.

    Even projects that require generations to effect minor changes in society have to start sometime, so how about now?

  83. lancifer says

    Suido,

    I’m sure you’ll do a fine job. However, you seem to be actively opposing the idea of other people using their time and money to address issues that they feel are important. Why?

    If you or anyone else wish to advance the cause of “insert cause unrelated to atheism here” have at it.

    Just don’t ask me to donate my money or time to “insert name of atheist organization here”.

    Is that so hard to understand. Especially when you are advocating policies that I think are actually detrimental to the “problem” you seek to remedy.

    News Flash!

    Atheists have many different political viewpoints. The term “privilege” as expressed by the author of this post is a red flag to many of those people.

    If you want to make atheist organizations into progressive political ones you are going to alienate many many atheists.

    So’ I’ll ask again. What does advancing progressive political talking points have fuck to do with atheism?

  84. lancifer says

    Michael Heath,

    Please note that I said “religionists” as opposed to the religious. I am completely comfortable with Barry Lynn being in charge of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

    Religionists seek to impose and maintain laws and policies that favor the religious over the nonreligious.

    I am an atheist but would be violently opposed to a society that had institutional biases toward nonbelievers.

    The theme that runs through all of my comments is that I am looking to influence government to ensure that it is open to all and treats all of its citizens equally.

  85. lancifer says

    flex,

    I have no a priori objection to any of the modifications to the license branch you discuss. That’s because none of them was based on the race or ethnicity of the applicant.

    Despite the slur that I am “hyper-individualistic” I have no objection to a government that attempts to address the causes and results of poverty. This is a legitimate goal of government if the governed agree with the proposition.

    It is only when you use the pseudo-political drivel of privilege that I object. Every person enjoys advantages and disadvantages relative to others. It is not the proper role of government to make people “aware” of their advantages and disadvantages let alone attempt to redress the endless regress of “injustices” perpetrated against various groups of people that posses certain characteristics by people that possess another set of characteristics.

    It doesn’t take much intelligence to see that no “equilibrium” point can ever be reached in such a moralistically irrational scheme.

  86. Suido says

    @ Lancifer.

    Nice dodge on my questions about trans people.

    What does advancing progressive political talking points have fuck to do with atheism?

    So, you’re incapable of following links and reading? You’re incapable of understanding that some people come to atheism for humanist reasons?

    Alas, I’ll spell it out, really clearly for you.

    Some people reject religion first and foremost because religions promote inequality. Fact. Therefore, issues about equality are directly relevant to the atheism of these atheists.

    If you deny the truth of this, you are simply denying that any point of view besides yours can be true. Are you that arrogant?

  87. Suido says

    @aaronbaker

    Agreed on the butthurt. Doesn’t change the fact that they’re making valid points about poor writing/aim of the speech, which diverts attention from the central point. FWIW, in regards to the commenters who seem to ignore the central point – of course they agree with the central point, pharyngula has been banging that drum for years.

    RCC is valid target, anytime, anywhere. Anyone associated with the RCC should realise what that means. If DePaul is so progressive, why the fuck are they associated with the RCC?

    Nice catch on hoi polloi – I think I’ve always prefaced it with ‘the’. Thanks.

  88. says

    Suido:

    I’m as disgusted as anybody with the RCC–more specifically, the RCC hierarchy, which I think, in the light of recent revelations, can reasonably be called a criminal conspiracy.

    But every church, even the RCC, is a mix of good and evil. In my work (I’m a legal aid lawyer), I’ve found Catholic Charities to be one of the best social service agencies there is; I can’t praise them highly enough.

    I’m also pleased to see nuns bucking the bishops on some of the specifics of the Affordable Care Act. Their doing so underscores, incidentally, what a scandal it is that women are still excluded from the highest places in the Catholic hierarchy.

    And the Church has created some better than average colleges and universities. DePaul’s emphasis on social service is a GOOD thing about it. Every university–given many of the sources of their funding–is morally compromised to some extent–complete purity would dictate never attending any of them.

    As for Pharynguloid sensitivities–yes the swipe was unnecessary, distracting, and perhaps unfair. In hopes of avoiding misunderstanding, I’ll express myself VERY carefully here: it nonetheless amazes me how SOME (NOT ALL) Pharyngula posters will hurl personal abuse for hours on end–but get ever so exquisitely ass-chapped when receiving some of the same. If you insist on being a mini-Mencken, you should grow a thicker skin.

  89. chrisdevries says

    The following post may not concern many posters here on a site that is active in fighting for social justice, but there are some atheists who need to hear this message as often, and described in as many different ways as possible so that eventually it sinks in. This is my stab:

    I think what many of us are trying to get across to the others is that for atheism and antitheism to be relevant, we need to fight not only the root of the problem (religion), but the implications of religious thought. This may come as a shock to many people, but we are already a politicized movement. As Jon Stewart once said, “reality has a liberal bias” (or something to that effect). Ultimately, we are scientific realists, and as such, we take the position for which there is the most evidence. This has implications for issues both directly linked to religion, and issues that are just related to power. Look at Christianity’s position on abortion. It is the Christian’s assertion that something all magical-like happens after naughty time, when a sperm fertilizes an egg, and all-of-a-sudden a soul is born! Thus our laws must treat the subsequent cluster of cells as it would any fully-grown human being, for example, the mother of the cluster of cells, giving it all of the human rights that she has. And for people so concerned with human rights, many Christians will still specifically argue against legislating protection of the human rights of LGBTT* individuals. The evidence demands that we give the mother more rights than the blastocyst, just as it demands that we recognise that people who aren’t like us are still fully human and deserve equal treatment in our society.

    Godlessness means that this is the only life we get. It means that there will be no Second Coming, no grand ending to human life on Earth. This has endless political ramifications. Yes the ecosystems upon which we rely for our own survival are resilient, but not infinitely so. Environmentalism therefore becomes not about saving the planet (which can recover from the human plague within a few million years), but about saving our own species. Our efforts therefore MUST include fighting on the issues that affect the survival of our species: climate change, globalization, sustainable farming/fishing, pollution. There is an evidence-based position that says our economic system must be fundamentally altered to take into account both the services we receive from our environment (i.e. that which is “free for the exploitation” under our current system), and the damage our activity does to our environment (i.e. the damage brought about to the environment by our substantial waste products). This absolutely intersects with power imbalances and racism, the privilege of the white Westerner, social injustice. If we’re dumping toxic waste byproducts of a manufacturing process in a developing country because we have exported our factories to a country that has less stringent environmental laws and/or monitoring of laws, when we consume the products that come out of that manufacturing process, we’re being racists. Blind racists, ignorant racists, Wal-mart racists, yes. But racists. Because we are taking advantage of a product that was made cheaply through the exploitation of less powerful people. The damage to the environment: on our hands. The illness resulting from contamination of groundwater that tens of thousands depend on for survival: on our hands. Money talks and we are talking with our wallets.

    Fighting for social justice isn’t always about religion, but that doesn’t make it totally disconnected from our core goal of reducing the role of religion in society. Studies have shown (look ‘em up yourselves dammit!) that as societies become more politically stable, healthy, educated and prosperous, they become less religious. So as eric (#18) said, reducing bigotry (which takes so many different forms) helps to reduce the influence of religion in our world. Reducing the role of religion in society directly however, doesn’t necessarily reduce bigotry (but it often does). We need people working on both fronts. But after all of the hullabaloo amongst the freethinkers of FTB regarding elevators and harassment policies (just by way of example), it is clear to me that we need to take the first step of fighting inequality and prejudice within our group. Privilege and the power imbalances that exist in spite of the supposed rationality of our community prove that even atheists can be irrational.

    Privilege hurts us all! Those people who are relatively unprivileged in any interaction have valid viewpoints and worthwhile ideas, and if they see themselves as marginalized, they stop trusting “the system”, because it’s stacked against them. A healthy society is built on mutual trust and respect, not suspicion and resentment. I only recently figured this out, so I can absolutely see how some people see privilege as either something that’s not really there, or a bonus they’re going to take advantage of. It’s hard to see the extent to which our success or failure is determined by luck of the draw. This is why we need to keep connecting these ideas, arguing with the unenlightened, and always working for equality. We are rationalists. Let’s start acting like rationalists.

  90. hbart says

    Upon reading this post, what immediately comes to mind is the old chestnut about some issues being more worthy than others. We shouldn’t work on x, because y is more unjust!

    I seem to remember that one of the bloggers on FTB (I’m sorry but I don’t remember, though I think it might have been Greta) has remarked on this attitude.

    I don’t think it’s the case that we should focus on the most unjust thing in the world first and start eliminating problems from there on up. There are a lot of problems with that kind of thing (like the subjectiveness of what is the worst thing in the world, for one, and the fact that the sceptical movement is too diverse to focus on one thing, for another).

    This is not to say that any one issue is unimportant, but that there are so many that it seems like there is no option but to try and tackle all issues simultaneously. I would kinda love to see what a laser-focused Skeptical Movement cold achieve. it think it would be glorious, to bring to bear the full weight of every person in the world that is disgusted by bigotry and destroy it at it’s source. It’s a fond dream, but I doubt that it’s possible to do.

  91. flex says

    lancifer wrote @91,

    I have no a priori objection to any of the modifications to the license branch you discuss. That’s because none of them was based on the race or ethnicity of the applicant.

    Ah. And now we get to the meat of your concern. Yes, I deliberately avoided mentioning race or ethnicity with this example. Yet race and ethnicity are key elements in bigotry and racism.

    As an abstract principle you appear to agree that individuals who need help can be helped by society through government action. You even appear to agree that groups of people sharing a similar trait, lacking a driver’s license in our example, can be helped through government action.

    But you exclude race or ethnicity as a shared trait which can be used as an identifier of bigotry and prejudice. Why?

    Bigotry and prejudice do exist toward broad racial and ethnic groups, you can’t deny that. There is plenty of research showing that bigotry and racism are at least partially the reason certain races and certain ethnic groups have a harder time getting jobs, loans, and even trust within our society. And there is research demonstrating that racism and bigotry is at least partially responsible for a disparity in suspicion by police, and even sentencing in the case of a crime.

    It is strange to me that you accept that groups can be identified and receive help through government action and then you immediately deny that race or ethnicity can be used as an identifier of a group, even though racists and bigots clearly do use race and ethnicity as group identifiers.

    If you desire me to understand how you can make such a distinction between a group of people who lack driver’s licenses and a group who includes, say, all Hindu immigrants, you will have to explain further. I can see one difference already, there isn’t a strong prejudice against people who lack driver’s licenses, but as I see it, the prejudice should increase the desire of reasonable elements of society to combat the prejudice.

  92. flex says

    lancifer also wrote @91,

    It is not the proper role of government to make people “aware” of their advantages and disadvantages let alone attempt to redress the endless regress of “injustices” perpetrated against various groups of people that posses certain characteristics by people that possess another set of characteristics.

    I assume that by using the scare quotes you are trying to say something more than what you wrote, so let me try to parse this.

    “aware” – make people feel guilty.
    “injustices” – false accusations of unethical activity, or possibly admitted unethical activity against prior generations.

    So, re-writing your paragraph, it appears you are saying:

    It is not the role of government to make people feel guilty about their ancestor’s, or their own, bigotry and prejudice. Nor is it the government’s role to help groups that are marginalized because the groups who want/need help may be lying, and they will never be satisfied anyway.

    If that is not what you really meant, please clarify.

    Let me make some points about the above, however.

    First, being educated about past injustice and bigotry doesn’t have to make anyone feel guilty. Certainly there will be some people who will try to use guilt as a method of persuasion, but there is no reason anyone needs to accept it. However, even if people develop a feeling of guilt, if the other reaction is to deny that history happened, I think that guilt is a small price to pay for an understanding of history. So it is the proper and responsible thing for society, through public education (our government), to inform the public that injustice has occurred both in the past and continues to do so in the present.

    Second, most people in groups who’s ancestor’s have experienced cultural prejudice are not asking for remuneration or redress. Most people would like two things, an apology for it happening in the first place, and a promise that it would never happen again. They recognize that their ancestor’s problems cannot be solved today.

    Third, people who currently have difficulties finding a job, getting loans, or being generally trusted by society would like changes made in today’s society to correct these issues. Sure, they may use arguments about how since their ancestor’s didn’t get a fair chance in life, they are having a harder time themselves. This is true, but they are not saying we should be going back in time to give their ancestor’s help. They are pointing out that there is a systemic problem in our society and they are asking for some help in fixing it.

    It is well within the scope of government to identify and correct systemic problems in our society which make it more difficult for individuals of certain races, gender, ethnicity, etc., to be successful.

  93. harold says

    Privilege hurts us all!

    My problem here is that “privilege” is one of those words that is used in discourse without adequate definition.

    If you’re using it to mean favored access to positions that involve responsibility over others and should be distributed on the basis of competence, through nepotism or institutionalized bigotry against others, then this is correct. The privilege that allowed George W. Bush to become a governor and a president hurt everyone, including George W. Bush.

    However, “privilege” is often used in other ways. Sometimes it is used to refer to a position of prestige that was earned. An athlete being selected for a professional team may very well say something like “I feel privileged to be a part of this organization”. It is true that human talents and attributes are distributed unequally, and arguably “unfairly”. The athlete may, and in the case of US professional sports, often does, come from some community that is extremely oppressed and anything but privileged in other ways. Yet in the sense of unequal distribution of valuable assets, the athlete is relatively privileged. As I will elaborate below, many people are both privileged and oppressed at the same time. What if George W. Bush had been, or is, for that matter, a closeted gay man?

    Finally, “privilege” is not infrequently used to describe something that most people would agree that all humans should have in an ideal world, but that they don’t. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, there was a now-forgotten push for universal health care that culminated in Bill Clinton’s health care bill, the “Harry and Louise” ads, and the backlash election of the Gingrich congress in 1994. “Health care is a privilege, not a right!” was a slogan adopted by opponents of universal health care at the time. (This was taken from the more universally accepted “driving is a privilege, not a right” slogan that emerged to support tougher laws against drunk driving.)

    Because of the different uses of the term, we are left with ambivalence as to how to respond to privilege. In the case of George W. Bush, it’s fair to say, it would have been better for all concerned to take his privilege away. If he had needed to mature, develop actual competencies, and do something useful, everyone, including him, would have been better off.

    On the other hand, if someone starts off in an otherwise non-privileged background, but obtains a high social position due to talent in something like science, athletics, or music, it’s a different story. By no means am I arguing that our society distributes rewards, even those for expression of clear talent, in an optimum way, but it is a very different type of privilege.

    Lastly, we could say that health care, or a non-abusive family for a child, or some such thing, is a “privilege”, in the sense that hundreds of millions of people don’t get it, but I would favor making such privileges universally available.

    One thing I find moderately distasteful is the phenomenon of people who take for granted an intensely privileged existence for themselves, while complaining savagely about the privilege of those who have even slightly more. For example, suppose George W. Bush had wealthy, white female classmates at Yale. They might legitimately complain about his particular privilege, relative to theirs. In fact they might well legitimately complain that most of all of their male classmates enjoyed an unfair privilege. I would strongly agree, in the sense that I very strongly agree that women deserve fully equal access to all careers, freedom from violence, dignity, and so on. Yet at the same time, one would hope that the exquisitely privileged status of many of George W. Bush’s classmates, male or female, would also be acknowledged. When the privileged complain about the somewhat more privileged, it is perfectly legitimate, but can create the impression that they lack self-awareness of their own privilege.

  94. eric says

    rimmo @75:

    Andrew Tripp states that experiencing privilege (as we as a demographic on average WILL) is a thing that must be acknowledged, and is not inherently shameful. The comments react with rage that anyone would suggest our lives are privileged.

    I didn’t get that from this thread at all. Several objected to the Pharyngula sideswipe. You’ve got Lancifer arguing against any form of redress or policy change at all, and people arguing against him. And you’ve got a bunch of random other comments. But not one, as far as I can tell, said “hey, I’m not priveleged and don’t you say I am” or words to that effect.

    Maybe I came closest to that so I’ll clarify. I’m priveleged. This is a bad thing. I agree with and support Mr. Tripp’s attempts to change it. I think he may be going about it the wrong way (see @18). Several other people probably agree with me that religion is a more fundamental driver of the bigotries he’s trying to fight than he acknowledges; i.e., what he sees as the most critical/more critical social issues, what he wants to put (more) front and center in atheist movements, we see as the symptoms of the disease. However, that is a disagreement over tactics, not goals. Its a disagreement over how to best reduce bigotry and privelege, its not a disagreement over whether we should reduce those things or not.

  95. says

    What the fuck all does “social justice” have to do with secularism or the so called atheist movement?

    Many, if not most, atheists became atheists because they saw that religion and supernatural beliefs were the enemies of their notion of individual or social justice. Jesus, boy, I’ve known this since I was TWELVE; and if you had any trace of honesty, you wouldn’t have to ask that question at all.

    The proper focus of the secular movement should be advancing the position of atheism in our society and removing any unfair impediments to freethinkers and dismantling the unfair advantages of religionists.

    Yeah, that’s a major part of the “social justice” agenda that you came here to ridicule and oppose.

    What’s next, a move to make sure that the members of the secular movement have proper dental hygiene? Or a requirement that free thinkers aren’t “mean”?

    First you try to tell the secular movement how to behave, now you’re mocking the idea of telling others how to behave. Are you really too stupid to see how obvious your hypocricy is?

  96. says

    It is not the proper role of government to make people “aware” of their advantages and disadvantages let alone attempt to redress the endless regress of “injustices” perpetrated against various groups of people that posses certain characteristics by people that possess another set of characteristics.

    Actually, you ignorant-assed right-wing bigot, it IS the proper role of government to educate people about their rights and duties under the law, and to correct injustices for the good of all. What other purpose can government possibly have?

    If you want to live in a country where government doesn’t govern, move to Somalia. Write when you get work, and tell us all how much freer and more prosperous you are when government do shit for its people.

  97. says

    It is only when you use the pseudo-political drivel of privilege that I object…

    …and “the pseudo-political drivel of privilege” must always sbe countered by the pseudo-religious drivel of the spoiled teenage brat — excuse me, the “hyper-individualist” — who has no clue what life is really like outside his mom’s basement, and doesn’t want his precious spirit crushed by having to give a shit about people not like himself.

  98. eric says

    Lancifer @90:

    Religionists seek to impose and maintain laws and policies that favor the religious over the nonreligious.

    I am an atheist but would be violently opposed to a society that had institutional biases toward nonbelievers.

    The theme that runs through all of my comments is that I am looking to influence government to ensure that it is open to all and treats all of its citizens equally.

    One: you seem perfectly fine with the current institutional biases towards, for example, men. They get higher pay rates for the same job. Medical and health care are designed with men in mind. Their testimony is believed by juries more than a woman’s. And so on. Seriously, how can you not see it as a bias that viagra is covered by insurance but birth control pills aren’t?

    Two: removing privelege IS ensuring government treats all of its citizens equally. Take the case of testimony in the case of sexual assault. Giving more weight to woman’s testimony is not stripping away the rights of the accused or giving women an unfair advantage, its just treating them as if they were a man giving testimony. Its treating them equally. When men give testimony about being assaulted, its almost never assumed that they are lying. Heck, its almost never assumed that they are even honestly mistaken. But when women give testimony about being assaulted, its the opposite: the baseline assumption of most people is that they are wrong, lying, or that its highly probably that they are mistaken. If or when someone takes offense at the idea of giving more credibility to a woman’s word in sexual assault cases, they are supporting a male bias already inherent in our system of justice, because they are not treating a woman’s testimony the same as they would a man’s testimony in the same situation.

  99. says

    The theme that runs through all of my comments is that I am looking to influence government to ensure that it is open to all and treats all of its citizens equally.

    That’s just fucking hilarious.

  100. scienceavenger says

    I stopped my scan at “female-identified friends”. The word is “women”, and its a handy one. I’ll never understand why people with otherwise intelligent things to say would want to clutter up their writing with the worst of politcal-correctness, especially given the likelihood that it will turn off one’s intended audience.

  101. scienceavenger says

    My curiosity got the best of me, now I want someone to give me back the 10 minutes of my life I wasted reading this drivel. Atheists should stop worrying so much about church/state/science issues and get more concerned about our status as privledged white males (a description I have no issue with) who need not worry about the mistreatement 0.001% of the population suffers? Are you fucking serious? Add to that the completely unrecognizable description of Pharyngula and atheists in general (outside of Objectivists, I’ve never encountered an atheist who didn’t understand emergent properties) and it makes for possibly the dumbest article I’ve ever read on any of the sci-blogs. And I used to read Matt Nisbet regularly.

  102. lancifer says

    Some of you seem incapable of answering my points and insist on blatantly distorting or rewriting my remarks.

    Such as…

    flex,

    So, re-writing your paragraph…

    See, now it is something you said. Feel free to disagree with your own words. Just don’t claim you have addressed my point.

    Suido,

    Nice dodge…

    I didn’t “dodge” anything. I made clear points that you are ignoring.

    eric,

    …you seem perfectly fine with the current institutional biases towards, for example, men…

    Beg pardon? What the fuck are you talking about? I said that the proper role of civil rights legislation was to correct institutional biases. Just because I didn’t make a laundry list that included gender based pay inequity doesn’t imply that I am “fine” with it.

    When you folks are done arguing with your own imaginations let me know.

  103. lancifer says

    flex,

    It is strange to me that you accept that groups can be identified and receive help through government action and then you immediately deny that race or ethnicity can be used as an identifier of a group, even though racists and bigots clearly do use race and ethnicity as group identifiers.

    It is quite simple. Poor people are poor for a wide variety of reasons. Uneducated people as well. More people of a certain physical trait may be poor but that doesn’t mean that all or even a majority of those folks are poor.

    Rather than tailoring programs to the various racial (or whatever) groups the programs should target the poor. Which is the condition that needs correcting.

    There are plenty of poor white folks. Should we be telling them that they are “privileged” and therefor we are not going to provide assistance because some of their ancestors took advantage of the ancestors of non-whites?

    Even worse, should we tell them that we are providing assistance to non-whites that are not poor because they are not “privileged”.

    Only using a perverse distortion of the word could that be considered “justice”.

  104. flex says

    lancifer @108 wrote,

    See, now it is something you said. Feel free to disagree with your own words. Just don’t claim you have addressed my point

    Which is why I asked you to re-phrase your statement in case I miss-interpreted it.

    What does “aware” in your quotes mean?
    What does “injustice” in your quotes mean?

    Do not blame the reader if they are uncertain of your message and ask for clarification.

    If I didn’t get your point, it is not my job to re-analyze your statement and try to get a different meaning from it, it is your job to clarify what you mean.

    So try again, what do you mean by this:

    lancifer @91 wrote,

    It is not the proper role of government to make people “aware” of their advantages and disadvantages let alone attempt to redress the endless regress of “injustices” perpetrated against various groups of people that posses certain characteristics by people that possess another set of characteristics.

  105. flex says

    lancifer wrote @108,

    Rather than tailoring programs to the various racial (or whatever) groups the programs should target the poor. Which is the condition that needs correcting.

    At this point can you give me an example of a program which is designed to help the poor which instead uses a proxy of race or ethnicity instead?

    Because I don’t disagree with you, but I fear you may be tilting at windmills.

    There are programs which target specific minorities, but they are targeted to address specific issues those minorities face. These programs are not a general “this minority group needs more help than the same non-minority people facing the same issues”, they are instead, “this minority group has a specific problem with getting the same type of job an equivalent non-minority person has, so let’s see if there are ways to overcome the prejudice against hiring this specific minority group.” Can you see the difference?

  106. flex says

    Sorry, that last post was in response to #109. But I doubt that anyone has lost the thread of the argument because of this miss-attribution. :P

  107. lancifer says

    flex,

    I am happy to further explain what I meant by,

    It is not the proper role of government to make people “aware” of their advantages and disadvantages let alone attempt to redress the endless regress of “injustices” perpetrated against various groups of people that posses certain characteristics by people that possess another set of characteristics.

    It is the proper role of government to ensure that it provides services to all of its citizens without regard to race, religion ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or any other characteristic or behavior that is not explicitly illegal.

    Also to ensure that private entities that provide vital services also do not discriminate on this basis.

    It is not the proper role of government to play favorites (based on these same characteristics) to redress alleged past injustices.

    And the government is most certainly doing some of that now. Universities consider race and ethnicity to assign limited funds and enrollment for instance.

  108. lancifer says

    I fear we have gotten far a field from the topic of this post.
    The question wasn’t about the government’s role but the mission of atheist or secular organizations.

    Making allowances for “privilege” (of different flavors) is not a necessary function of these organizations. In fact it is a contentious topic, as evidenced by this thread, that serves only to distract from the proper mission of these organizations.

  109. tomh says

    lancifer wrote:
    It is not the proper role of government to play favorites (based on these same characteristics) to redress alleged past injustices.

    Well, that’s one opinion. In 2003 the Supreme Court ruled that public universities could not use a point system to increase minority enrollment but could take race into account in other ways to ensure academic diversity. They expected that system to last 25 years in order to redress past discriminatory policies. However, this year the Court agreed to take an admissions case at the U of Texas, and it looks like a very good chance the five conservative justices will undo the previous ruling. So you will get your wish after all.

  110. says

    Universities consider race and ethnicity to assign limited funds and enrollment for instance.

    The same vague, ignorant, non-specific racist demagoguery I’ve been hearing since the ’70s. If you can’t describe exactly what you mean by “consider,” then your charge is bogus.

    I fear we have gotten far a field from the topic of this post. The question wasn’t about the government’s role but the mission of atheist or secular organizations.

    You’re the one who mentioned the role of government, dumbfuck. Funny how you only complain about threadjacking AFTER your threadjack gets debunked and you stand exposed (again) as a lying, uncaring fool.

  111. flex says

    lancifer @113 wrote,

    Universities consider race and ethnicity to assign limited funds and enrollment for instance.

    Yes they do. They are allowed to consider race or ethnicity when making decisions between similar applicants. Note that the definition of similar is vague. This is because applicants are not identical so some judgement calls need to be made. So a white man with a 3.6 GPA and a few extra-curricular activities in high school may well be rejected while a black woman with a 3.5 GPA but a few more extra-curricular activities may be accepted.

    However, there are plenty of additional things to consider.

    First, not all universities have a policy of doing this. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, does any government policy at the federal or state level say that universities must have such a policy.

    Second, college admissions are a limited resource from which minorities have traditionally been represented at a lower rate than the general population. Historically, there has been a prejudicial treatment by the system, so combating that prejudice by allowing (not requiring) admissions boards to consider race or ethnicity is not an unreasonable adjustment to policy. If, over time, applications and admissions become more representative of population, considering minority status among similar applicants may well be discontinued.

    Third, while being denied admission to the college of choice can be disappointing, the opportunity for education is not being denied. A student who has been denied admission can apply to another college. They also can usually take courses at a local community college which will transfer to the large school should a subsequent admission to the preferred school be accepted.

    Universities may also prefer people who have been awarded scholarships. So I don’t deny that prospective students who have been awarded scholarships from organizations which promote minority education may also have a slight edge. But I can hardly fault the university for that, they like to know that they will get paid.

  112. says

    flex, there’s really no use arguing with Lance about this. He’s a paultard, in pretty much the same Randroid camp that opposed the Civil Rights Act and EVERY government attempt to mitigate entrenched discrimination (possibly all the way back to the abloition of slavery). He wants to ignore the existence of racism (as well as global warming) at the policy-making level altogether, so the finer points you’re going on about won’t even register with him.

  113. flex says

    lancifer @113 wrote,

    mission of atheist or secular organizations.

    Every atheist and secular organization will have different missions. If you don’t agree with any of their missions, you are free to found an atheist or secular organization of your own.

    You are free to express your opinion of other atheist or secular missions, but unless you are in a position to change their mission expect to have little impact.

  114. flex says

    Raging Bee @118 wrote,

    flex, there’s really no use arguing with Lance about this.

    The beautiful thing about internet arguments on a well-frequented forum is that you can assured of two things.

    1. Your opponent will never (well, hardly ever) admit that the arguments you have presented have changed their mind.

    2. There are likely to be a few hundred people who are reading both sides and may be influenced. So it’s good to give them something to think about.

    For those who are annoyed that the discussion of the governments role in helping minorities have usurped a thread which started talking about privilege, I apologize. However, I feel that once you recognize the disparity in privilege the natural reaction is to look at ways to correct it. People like lancifer argue that we should eschew using a very powerful tool from our toolkit, the power of government. While I agree that the government is usually a sledgehammer rather than a scalpel, sometimes that sledgehammer is the right tool for the job.

  115. says

    “I can choose to live in a neighborhood where violence does not happen at a higher rate than it does in Afghanistan.”

    The link in your quote goes to a news article comparing Chicago’s murder rate to the number of U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan. There is a hell of a lot more violence in Afghanistan than that effecting Americans. Is this a case of very sloppy reporting, or are you just blind to your own US-centric priviledge?

  116. tomh says

    flex wrote:
    to the best of my knowledge, does any government policy at the federal or state level say that universities must have such a policy.

    That’s correct. “Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) allows, but does not require, state schools to take race into account, as one of several factors, in admissions. Some states, California and Michigan, for instance, have forbidden the practice. Their minority enrollments have dropped as a result.

    However, as I mentioned in #115 that’s likely to change when the Texas case comes up this fall. After all, O’Conner wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 2003 case and she’s been replaced by Alito, who has already shown himself to be hostile to using race to achieve integration in a public school case. It seems likely to go 5-4 to forbid using race as a factor in admissions, or rather 5-3, since Kagen has recused herself, having worked on the case as solicitor general.

  117. dontpanic says

    I have to agree with hbart@96. This post reeks a bit of “how can you not be most interested in my priority?” false dilemma.

    aaronbaker@87:

    But every church, even the RCC, is a mix of good and evil. In my work (I’m a legal aid lawyer), I’ve found Catholic Charities to be one of the best social service agencies there is; I can’t praise them highly enough.

    Ah, having lived in IL last year when they rage-quit over the possibility of adoptions by gay couples, I’m going to have to raise an eyebrow at this one. I think they also did the same in MA, and perhaps elsewhere. Are we throwing those people under the bus now in order to make nicey-nicey with the religiously oriented? Praise them on the good things, fine. But hyperbole about not being able to praise them “highly enough”? Ah, no.

    I also think a bunch of the “butt-hurt” by the pharynguloid crowd is due to what looked like a slam by someone who seems to be new on the scene. I want to re-iterate SC’s point that a number of the matters put forward in this piece have been major issues of discussion at PZ’s place, probably with a history longer than the Tripp has been in his current program of study.

    Also, when I’m reading a piece and I come across something that’s obviously not true/badly slanted (or appears to be because it’s a failed “inside joke”) before they even get to the meat of their thesis, my first impression is: “why should I believe anything this person says?”. Good job at the own goal of undercutting the message before the discussion even got started.

    Oh, and lest anyone think I’m some sort of SC sycophant, ah, she and I definitely don’t get along.

  118. eric says

    lancifer:

    It is not the proper role of government to play favorites (based on these same characteristics) to redress alleged past injustices.

    That’s is utterly batty. The entire judicial branch and a pretty big portion of our executive branch is dedicated to doing exactly that. There is little qualitative difference between sending someone to jail for a 1980 murder and telling a company to pay women the compensation they should have earned from 1980 onwards. How can you justify thinking that the former is a proper role for government but not the latter?

  119. lancifer says

    eric,

    There is little qualitative difference between sending someone to jail for a 1980 murder and telling a company to pay women the compensation they should have earned from 1980 onwards.

    Again, try to follow what I have actually said. Of course our justice system is there to redress losses by individuals caused by others. That is not the same as requiring redress for alleged injustices against people no longer alive by people no longer alive that shall be granted to the descendants of the former and imposed on the latter.

  120. lancifer says

    flex,

    Notice I haven’t called you an idiot or any number of other personal insults? Yes, we may not get each other to agree, but we can gain a more nuanced understanding of each others point of view.

    Notice I haven’t responded to Raging Bee? That is because he is more interested in personally attacking me than engaging in a rational discussion.

    I don’t pretend that my point of view is the only “correct” one. I am just trying to articulate the reasons I prefer a system that does not make decisions based on physical characteristics.

    I have enjoyed reading your ideas and I have appreciated the rational way you have presented them.

    That’s the way internet (and any other) discussions should go if the goal is mutual understanding.

    Unfortunately that is not always the goal of commenters.

  121. lancifer says

    flex,

    People like lancifer argue that we should eschew using a very powerful tool from our toolkit, the power of government. While I agree that the government is usually a sledgehammer rather than a scalpel, sometimes that sledgehammer is the right tool for the job.

    Be careful there flex, “people like” is a way to put words in my mouth that is bordering on dishonest.

    I am all for the government using its “sledgehammer” to crush racial (and other) prejudice. I just think that the “hammer” should fall as a reaction to prejudice and not on people that aren’t engaged in prejudice.

    Telling a student that they are more qualified than a student of a different group but that your group did some shit to their group in the past is irrational in the extreme and only serves to perpetuate the idea that the two students are fundamentally different in some meaningful way.

    Is that the message that you want to send? Do you believe that the two students “are” fundamentally different? Think about that last sentence again.

    Do you think that we should deny educational opportunities based on race? If so explain to me in detail how that is morally any different than the racial discrimination of the past?

    The idea that we can “stack the deck” to help people of one group based on the past is inherently racist. It is perpetuating the problem not eradicating it.

    You can’t end racial discrimination with more racial discrimination.

    My biggest problem with the whole “privilege” idea is that is based on the same unscientific basis as racism itself!

    Mr. “A” it it has come to our attention that you are a member of the “insert idiotically destructive and unscientific classification here”. Therefore you should be aware that you are “advantaged” in your dealings with others based on having “insert idiotically destructive and unscientific classification here” privilege.

    What exactly is Mr. “A” supposed to do? Feel bad?

    What exactly is the government (or in our case the atheist organization) supposed to do to Mr “A”? Make him pay more or get less services?

    Mr “B” it has come to our attention that you are a member of the “insert idiotically destructive and unscientific classification here”.

    Therefore you should be aware that you are “disadvantaged” in your dealings with others based on not having “insert idiotically destructive and unscientific classification here” privelege.

    Again, what is Mr. “B” supposed to do? Feel sorry for himself? Get angry at people that look like Mr. “A”?

    What exactly is the government (or in our case the atheist organization) supposed to do to Mr “B”? Make him pay less or get more services?

    Look, I know that “people that think like you” mean well. The problem is that we have to stop this bullshit somewhere and you are just perpetuating the problem you claim to want to stop.

  122. says

    I just think that the “hammer” should fall as a reaction to prejudice and not on people that aren’t engaged in prejudice.

    What specific policies actually punish people who “aren’t engaged in prejudice?”

    Telling a student that they are more qualified than a student of a different group but that your group did some shit to their group in the past is irrational in the extreme and only serves to perpetuate the idea that the two students are fundamentally different in some meaningful way.

    This is a ridiculous misrepresentation of college admissions policies and their rationale and purpose; and this rhetoric is clearly intended to appeal to the most ignorant and resentful segments of the population. It certainly won’t work with anyone who knows how colleges actually work. Once again, Lance proves his “libertarian” rhetoric is nothing more than a thinly disguised appeal to racial fears, hatred and resentments.

    I guess the Cato folks have updated their wardrobes to replace those old stained white sheets with designer patterns. Other than that, it’s the same old racism our parents saw in response to desegregation.

  123. says

    Notice I haven’t called you an idiot or any number of other personal insults?

    Notice how Lance seems to think that makes his lies and racist BS acceptable? Guess what — it doesn’t.

    Also, notice how Lance brags about his tone, rather than the substance of what he actually said? There’s a reason for that.

  124. flex says

    lancifer @127 wrote,

    Telling a student that they are more qualified than a student of a different group but that your group did some shit to their group in the past is irrational in the extreme and only serves to perpetuate the idea that the two students are fundamentally different in some meaningful way.

    I don’t know if you’ll understand this, but this is exactly the sort of statement that makes me thing that my analysis back at comment 98 is accurate. What I’m reading from the way you present this argument and reading between the lines is that you think that the actions and ideas that progressives like myself promote, and would like public institutions like universities to promote is based on a feeling of guilt. I assure you, this is not the case.

    The shit that happened to someone’s ancestors is not irrelevant, it explains the situation we are in today. However, it is the shit we have today that we have to deal with. That part of today’s shit is a result of the shit that happened generations ago is an accurate assessment of reality. Minorities are underrepresented in universities because their great-grandfathers didn’t have the economic means to educate their children because they were not seen as equal members of society. This is not a reason to feel guilty and punish people, this is a problem to correct.

    Allowing the use of race or ethnicity as a factor to select between two similar applicants is not a punishment for the one who is not chosen. It is a recognition that minorities are under-represented at universities.

    The choice has to be made. One of the two applicants is not going to going to get into the school of their choice. The applicants are equally qualified, so what criteria do you use?

    Do you flip a coin because the odds are fair, or do you recognize that, considering the prejudice and bigotry which are still strong forces in our society, choose the person who you know is going to have a harder time in life once their schooling is over?

    I agree, it isn’t an easy choice to make. But guilt about someone’s ancestors has nothing to do with it. It all has to do with recognizing the reality we live it. To me that is far more rational, and humane, than flipping a coin.

    Finally, race or ethnicity is one of many factors admission boards use to determine whether applicants are accepted. It is not the only one, and if there is a large disparity in qualifications, the better qualified applicant will be chosen. Go read my #117 again.

  125. flex says

    For what it’s worth, while I can maintain an internet conversation during the week, it’s hard for me to do so on the weekends, real life intervenes. So since I believe we have reached a natural stopping point for this conversation, I’m not going to try to respond further.

    I leave you, lancifer, with the opportunity to make your closing arguments without expecting a rebuttal from me. :)

    Cheers!

  126. says

    dontpanic:

    I didn’t mean to suggest Catholic Charities was beyond criticism; obviously they’re not. I’ve just seen enough of the good they do at close hand to praise them highly for it.

  127. says

    Oh, and Lance? Repeating bigoted lies and demagogic shrieking-points long after they’ve been debunked is not civil behavior, so people who do these things don’t get to lecture others about civility and name-calling. So it seems you not only lost the factual and rational argument, you also lost the “tone” argument as well. Guess is just sucks to be you, eh?

  128. lancifer says

    flex,

    My wife is African American.

    But that may not mean what you think it means in regard to our conversation. She does have all the physical features you would associate with African descent. But because she was born in Ethiopia her ancestors were never slaves or colonized by Europeans (a point in which she and her fellow Ethiopians take great pride).

    So if some poor white kid from Appalachia, with superior grades, is up against her for college admission she gets the nod. How does that grab your justice bone?

    Oh, and by the way, she comes from a middle class (by Ethiopian standards) family and has never suffered any deprivation despite American misconceptions about Ethiopia.

    The fact is people’s physical features tell you very little about who they are or what qualities they posses.

    People are people and you should try to see them as individuals.

    You probably accept that idea in the abstract but apparently you are incapable of applying it in a practical way.

    You are not alone. This is a not so subtle form of racism that is very paternalistic as well. If you think that you should make “allowances” for people based on their ancestry or ethnic background you have stripped them of their individuality.

    This limits you and injures others. You should stop doing this.

    I will not accept this behavior even though I know you mean well.

    Stop making judgments about people based on the color of their skin, the shape of their lips and noses, or the texture of their hair.

    Cheers!

  129. Michael Heath says

    Lancifer writes:

    So if some poor white kid from Appalachia, with superior grades, is up against [an African-American] for college admission she gets the nod. How does that grab your justice bone?

    In the state of Michigan when I was in high school both black students and rural students had a different set of factors used to recruit us; with looser admission standards than those used for students of any color who came from richer zip codes. So I find your argument to be a strawman, especially when I also consider all the criteria the Univ. of Michigan was using at the time their admissions standards was considered by the SCOTUS several years ago, with Justice O’Connor writing the opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger.

    As a white kid raised in a poor rural all-white town, UM’s recruitment effort included inviting several of us down for a weekend program to entice us to enroll there. [I instead choose Michigan State U.]

    As a public university these looser standards were not focused merely on considering the potential of the student after filtering out advantages, which lancifer defectively and dishonestly ignores in this argument and his past ones. ‘Dishonestly’ given this flaw in his set of premises was pointed out before by at least me and yet he continues to avoid/deny it. UM also sought to achieve another objective. That objective is to see graduates radiate out of their learning experience at UM back into the towns and neighborhoods where young people don’t get the same quality of education and other services as they do in the richer zip codes. They’re looking to end the amplifying feedback of being disadvantaged by where you came from, whether it was predominately black neighborhood of Detroit or a sparsely populated poor county in northern Michigan.

    I don’t follow racial politics very much so my arguments are based predominately on my own limited experiences. However I am certain of this fact, black kids with educative potential in Michigan have it far worse than mediocre students from the richer neighborhoods; so I’m in no way empathetic to these white students like lancifer is. To show how appalling our state is, our state divies out more education funds to the richer neighborhoods than the poor ones. So state funds might provide $13,000/student in the richer neighborhoods for school operations* while towns like the one I live in might get only about $8000/student. So the liberal public universities response on looser admission standards offsets this sort of discriminatory practice by illiberal state politicians.

    Lancifer, the quality of your arguments are consistently awful. Following is a link to a book that can help you understand the basic components of an argument and how to build a credible one. It also provides some help in understanding how to identify and deconstruct flawed arguments. It’s called, How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Asking the Right Questions, and here’s a link to it at Amazon: http://goo.gl/BMLAZ . It won’t make you more honest, but perhaps if you learn to craft an argument you’ll be less inclined to misrepresent others’ arguments and disingenuously or otherwise defectively frame your arguments with the wrong set of premises or dishonest ones.

    Raging Bee’s presumption your ideology causes you to be so dishonest can be overcome; from my perch he appears incorrect in assuming you don’t really care about objective truth. I think there’s a small part of you that wants to be honest, in spite of our so rarely seeing any evidence that’s true. Education often helps develop emotional intelligence, so I think theres a chance for you to become credible. Right now you are a truly abhorrent character with your rampant dishonesty, especially your denial or avoidance of inconvenient facts in order to protect previously derived positions which favor your political ideology.

    *How Michigan divies up funds for school physical facilities is done differently and even less fair. For an excellent treatment of Michigan’s economy, especially state fiscal policies, MSU Econ prof. Charles Ballard’s book is incredibly enlightening and considered authoritative by even many state Republican legislators: http://www.amazon.com/review/R12OKAY71TLAA2/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm [my review].

  130. lancifer says

    Michael Heath,

    More of your usual insulting drivel. It still just makes me feel sorry for you.

    When you can’t present compelling evidence you resort to lame attempts to demean the people that dare to disagree with you.

    Ho hum.

    Your pathetic argument is self-defeating.

    …my arguments are based predominately on my own limited experiences.

    And even more sadly on your own self-aggrandizing over-estimation of your intellectual abilities.

    It seems that we do not live that far apart. I would be more than happy to meet you in a neutral setting and debate the topic of your choice.

    Regards.

  131. tomh says

    lancifer wrote:
    So if some poor white kid from Appalachia, with superior grades, is up against her for college admission she gets the nod.

    You obviously have no idea how the system works.

  132. dingojack says

    Hey Ed – any chance of nominating Lance for the Bryan Fischer Award?

    “Michael Heath,
    More of your usual insulting drivel. It still just makes me feel sorry for you.
    When you can’t present compelling evidence you resort to lame attempts to demean the people that dare to disagree with you.”

    :D Dingo

  133. lancifer says

    tomh,

    It’s quite simple really.

    Making decisions that affect people’s lives based on race is wrong. Period. It was wrong when it favored “white” people and it’s still wrong when it favors “non-whites”.

    You can put lipstick on the pig as you like, but it’s still a pig.

    If you want to help people that are disadvantaged then do so. You needn’t consider race at all.

    In fact many programs have changed due to the Supreme Court’s 2003 split decision on affirmative action.

    Even Justice O’Connor, the swing vote in the portion allowing some race based discrimination, said “race-conscious admissions policies must be limited in time.”

    I would argue that there is never a good time to discriminate based on race. Most, if not all, of the goals of race based policies can be achieved by tailoring the programs to other non-racial metrics.

    What is your objection, if any, to this approach?

  134. says

    Michael Heath, More of your usual insulting drivel. It still just makes me feel sorry for you.

    Heath was a lot more thoughtful and charitable to you than I was, and this is how you respond? If you had any credibility before, this would have flushed the last of it down the toilet.

    If you want to help people that are disadvantaged then do so. You needn’t consider race at all.

    How can you help people who are disadvantaged because of their race without considering their race? Your mindless demand that our entire society have such a huge blind spot pretty clearly proves your bigotry and dishonesty.

  135. says

    Also, Lance, you never actually specified ONE SINGLE ACTUAL CASE where someone was deprived of an education simply because he was white. Like the racist you are, you offer nothing but vague insinuations and no real case.

    And no, “my wife is black” doesn’t help your “case.” My girlfriend is black too. So what?

  136. anotheratheist says

    Where I live my risk of being a victim of a violent crime is twice as high as that of a woman. And yes I’m deeply thankful for that privilege and would not want to live without.

    Secondly at least 50 % of the times when the word privilege is used on the internet there either in reality is no privilege or it is a means to disregard somebody else’s opinion.

  137. flex says

    lancifer @134 wrote,

    So if some poor white kid from Appalachia, with superior grades, is up against her for college admission she gets the nod. How does that grab your justice bone?

    I come back from the weekend and find that this is where you went?

    Pathetic.

    While you don’t deserve an answer after throwing that bit of chum into the waters, for the benefit of the crowd you can have one anyway.

    A hypothetical is not evidence. If your wife applied to a college (which from the way you phrased it she hadn’t), and if a poor kid from Appalachia (who apparently exists only in potential) also applied to the same college, and if that poor kid had better grades (non-existent human has better grades than existent human?), and if there were no other criteria that the college looked at than grades and race (which is not true, as has been explained to you numerous times), then is it unfair that your wife would be selected over the poor kid? That is a lot of ifs.

    Even if it was true, it is not necessarily unjust.

    What is the hypothetical difference in grades? Does your wife have a 2.6 and the poor kid a 2.7? That’s well within the margin of error of GPA assessment. GPA’s are not a perfect scale, the same person taking the same classes at different schools with different teachers will have different GPAs. This is reality.

    If your wife had a 3.8 and the poor kid had a 4.0, they would both beat out kids with 2.5 GPAs regardless of race.

    Second of all, if your wife lives here in America, you should be aware of the systemic racism in this country. It doesn’t matter how proud she is of being an Ethiopian, she will have experienced racism. For you to be blind to that means either you don’t speak to your wife, or possibly don’t listen. There are other possibilities as well, but that would be calling you a liar so I will avoid making the assumption that you are deliberately arguing in bad faith.

    Your argument, your single hypothetical example, originates from the very institutionalized racism that we have been talking about. The racism that spews from Rush Limbaugh, or the racism from the advanced course of “A Bloke in the Pub Told Me”.

    I hope jumping the shark was worth it to you.

  138. says

    …I will avoid making the assumption that you are deliberately arguing in bad faith.

    At this point, that’s not an assumption, it’s an observation.

  139. says

    It doesn’t matter how proud she is of being an Ethiopian, she will have experienced racism. For you to be blind to that means either you don’t speak to your wife, or possibly don’t listen.

    In fairness, there are two other possibilities: she does experience racism, but it’s nothing compared to how she was treated in her country of origin; or she doesn’t experience racism as long as she stays close to her husband and his self-protecting circle of racists-pretending-they’re-not-really-racists-just-asking-questions-based-on-racist-premises.

  140. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Well, what I learned from this is that there are A LOT of whiny ass dudes desperate to belong in the Pharyngula Horde, but who don’t cuz they suck at making coherent sentences, who will take any opportunity to whine about how they can’t be in the club because they’re so totally awesome.

  141. says

    …and they all wish they could quit PZ, but they’re just too toatlly awesome to look at the list of other FTBs in the rightmost column of PZ’s page for possible alternative venues.

  142. says

    “It’s just more smear tactic, group think, horseshit that has become part and parcel of this site.”

    I’m fuckin’ gobsmacked! This is what happens when one misses important updates by commenters.

    I had no idea that the lamefuckdickwad Lancifer was the same lamedickfuckwad as Lance the AGW denialist. Gosh, that clears up a lot. Knowing that that Lancelancifer is only ONE stupendously skullfucked moron instead of TWO less stupendously skullfucked moronis will be a great help the next time I see one of his lyingfuckbag screeds.

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