Another day, another white male atheist stuffed full of himself to bursting, all eager to tell us icky feminists, people of color, LGBTQ folk, and other sundry social justice warrior types that we’re getting smudge marks all over his atheism. It’s pristine! It’s pure! It’s just a dictionary definition! Ewww, stop getting your SJW cooties all over it, yucky! *runs away screaming like the boys we used to chase at recess in the first grade*
Today, it’s Michael Luciano. Tomorrow, it’ll be some other dumbshit waving a dictionary around and pompously declaring atheism a pristine nothing. Well, if you’re the sort who likes to sit around feeling all smug and superior over nothing, fantastic. It’s a big ol’ world full of chairs, and you’re welcome to drag one into the corner and sit there enjoying the fact you played the Wednesday Adaams Game and came up with no for an answer.
Should you decide to sit in your chair and enjoy your triumph, perhaps gently sneering at churchgoers as they pass by your window, no one will worry a bit about the fact you’re a pathetic specimen of a human being. Seriously. What the hell use are you if all you can do is wave your arms and shout, “The dictionary definition of an atheist is all atheism is!”?
Like Buffy and the Scoobies said, “Where do we go from here?”
Cuz that ain’t it, muffin. That’s like answering a single question on Jeopardy! and then running around the set screaming, “I win! I win! I am better than Ken Jennings and everyone for all time!!!” You look like an absolute jackass, doing that shit in public. Especially when you go beyond the dictionary definition of atheism and start doing things like challenging creationism or public prayer. Where is your dictionary atheism now, buttwart?
Anyway. I could take the Smack-o-Matic down from the wall and administer some loving* correction, but it’s ever so much more fun to watch other people accomplish the job far better than I could. I shall allow them to take it from here.
Here’s a definition for you: “a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods”. There is an important word in there: “person”. Atheists are people. These dictionary atheists are always quick to forget that. People have responsibilities to each other, and further, the rejection of religion and the understanding that the universe, and we human beings, lack any kind of grand purpose, shapes the pattern of those responsibilities. You simply cannot pretend that atheism is meaningless outside one philosophical abstraction.
Well, I suppose you can…but then how can you find any reason to even be an atheist?
Criticizing Islam based on Muhammad’s marriage to a child, anti-woman sentiments, and proscription of apostasy on pain of death is to use social issues to promote atheism. Pure, true atheists would do well to refrain from such criticisms and instead focus solely on the fact that there is no god. Social arguments are not relevant to believing in no gods.
Let’s say you aren’t all that enthralled by Beef Recipes (That sound you heard was Ed Brayton fainting at the mere thought). But we have a bunch of ex-Hindus for whom beef was a major taboo looking forward to eating beef. Now you may think a Big Mac is hardly an earth shattering meal to be consumed to thumb it’s nose at religion but you know what? A fair few Ex-Hindus look forward to eating it when we can. Hell? Penn wrote about a Jewish fan who was breaking Kosher law when he became an atheist who he took out for pork and shellfish.
So to you a Big Mac may not be an atheist event, but to me it is. And that’s the point of having a more inclusive atheism. You begin to realise that many atheists have different ideas.
But you don’t have to take part. No one’s forcing a gun to your head to eat a damn Big Mac.
Oddly enough, there are still some of us out there who are hoping that atheism and people with a shred of human decency are one and the same, and that’s what we’re appealing to. The people who are saying these things don’t give a rat’s ass if you’re liberal or conservative, but they do care if you are actively pushing them out of your movement, discriminating against them, and essentially treating them like worthless piles of shit. Oddly enough, the desire to be given basic human respect and equality is not associated with any political party. The inherent connection between equality and atheism is that there are people who are atheists who want to be treated equally. In case you haven’t figured out where the atheism comes from yet, it comes from the thousands of atheists who are female, people of color, disabled, queer, or any other minority who want an atheist community that lets them in.
Atheism might not contain but it certainly strongly implies certain positions on social issues: mostly, that without a religious or supernatural source for morals, ethics, law and societal cohesion, humans have to work those things out themselves and base them on reason.
In the realm of social justice, discrimination against women, LGBT people, people of colour and non-religious people, have many religious justifications. Examined in the absence of those religious justifications, there more or less are no reasonable justifications for such discrimination. This implies that the discrimination, being unreasonable, is therefore unjust. Injustice demands opposition; it demands justice.
Atheists often point to the discrimination they experience at the hands of the religious due to their lack of belief; is opposing that discrimination not a social justice issue? What of keeping classrooms, local councils and other public areas and ceremonies secular, so as not to discriminate against non-believers or non-Christians? Is that not seeking justice?
It should be entirely obvious that one of the damaging effects of religious belief is the denial of equal rights to women, to gay people and even to racial minorities. In all three cases, discriminatory policies are justified by the religious beliefs that atheist activists fight against. We cannot be effective in countering the negative effect of religion-based public policy (or more broadly, cultural norms and non-political societal structures) if we don’t take up those fights for equality.
I’m so fed up with being any part of a movement that has this ridiculous childish hero-worship thing going on. Guys, get over it.
Listen. You can thump your dictionary all you like, Dictionary Atheist. I’m sure you and the Bible thumpers can have a marvelous time together, seeing who can thump their holy book the hardest. Sit in your chair and enjoy all the nothing you believe in. Heck, you can even rouse yourself enough to go out and try to kick religion out of the public sphere, if you wish (although you’ll need to turn in your dictionary for that – it ain’t in the definition of atheist. Sorry, bro). If you don’t want to go beyond that and be a decent, helpful human being who cares about other people and does your best to make the world better, that’s your business. As Avi said, no one’s forcing you at gunpoint. Most of us can’t even stand guns anyway.
But do, please, get the fuck out of the way of those who give a shit. And don’t wave that dictionary at me. I see it’s the Oxford Unabridged, and I assure you that one more wave will earn you a painful thump over the noggin with it.
*Actually not loving. I kinda don’t like you.