Getting It Right Early: Why Atheists Need to Act Now on Gender and Race

I want to talk about race and sex in the atheist movement.

Rebecca watsonI’m writing this because of the recent kerfuffle in the skeptical community, in which Carrie Iwan and Rebecca Watson of the Skepchick blog did a podcast interview about sexism at The Amazing Meeting (and about sexist remarks made at that meeting by “The Big Bang Theory” creator Bill Prady)… and were met with a barrage of hostile comments over the suggestion that the skeptical community might not always be the most welcoming place for women, and that maybe skeptics should be doing something about it. (Comments arguing, among other things, that women who complain about sexism in the skeptical movement are just being whiny, unreasonable, and politically correct.)

Sikivu hutchinsonAnd I’m writing this because of the interview I ran here in this blog with Sikivu Hutchinson, on being an African-American in the atheist movement… in which a surprising number of commenters reacted very strongly, and very negatively, to the idea that maybe there was a problem with the fact that the atheist movement is so predominantly and visibly made up of white men, and that maybe the movement should be doing something about it.

I want to talk about the fact that the atheist movement is so predominantly, and so visibly, made up of white men.

I want to talk about why this is a problem.

I want to talk about how this problem plays out, and how it perpetuates itself.

And I want to talk about why we need to do something about it.

Now, I don’t want to get deeply into overt racism and sexism in the atheist movement. (Not today, anyway. I may get into that in some later post.) For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that, when it comes to gender and race, everyone in the atheist movement is completely well- meaning, and has every conscious intention to not be sexist or racist. (I don’t actually believe that… but for the purposes of this post, I think it will be a useful assumption.)

Black scarlet letterInstead, I want to talk about why it’s important for the atheist movement to start paying attention — now — to race and gender. I want to talk about why it’s important for the atheist movement to start paying attention — now — to the fact that it is largely a white male movement… and to how that’s likely to affect the future of the movement, for everyone in it. I want to talk about into how, exactly, a movement that starts out being mostly white and mostly male, with mostly white men in positions of visibility and leadership, has a tendency to stay that way… even with the best intentions of everyone in that movement. And I want to talk about why this matters: why it’s a serious problem, why it’s going to matter more and more as our movement grows… and why it’s important to nip the problem in the bud, early, while our movement is still relatively young.

*

First, let’s talk about how this happens. Let’s talk about three distinct ways that racial and gender imbalances in a movement can perpetuate themselves… even if there is absolutely zero conscious intention to discriminate. (BTW, these apply to other marginalized groups as well; but race and gender are what’s on the table right now, so that’s what I’m focusing on. And yes, I know there are more than just these three ways. These are just the big, obvious ones that I’m familiar with. Comments about others are very much welcomed.)

Discovery-of-the-unconcious1: Unconscious bias. Even with the best of conscious intentions, people tend to be more comfortable, and more trusting, with people who are more like them. This has been well and thoroughly documented. It’s one of the most important reasons behind affirmative action: people in charge of hiring decisions will automatically gravitate towards people who are more like them. So if the people doing the hiring are white men, they’re more likely to hire white men… and then as the people they hire rise to positions of power, they in turn will be more likely to hire white men… and so on, and so on, and so on. If there is no conscious, deliberate attempt to seek out qualified women, people of color, etc., this process will perpetuate itself indefinitely.

This isn’t just true in hiring. It’s true in any community, and any movement. If a movement starts out being mostly made up of and led by white men, and there is no conscious, pro-active attempt to seek out and welcome women and people of color, then that movement will have a very strong tendency to continue being dominated by white men.

What’s more, people can have racist or sexist attitudes without being conscious of them. You don’t need to be a torch- wielding member of the KKK or Operation Rescue to say and think dumb things about race or gender. (As someone who has said and thought plenty of dumb things… believe me, I speak from experience.) A lot of racism and sexism isn’t grossly overt: it’s subtle, and it’s woven so deeply into the fabric of our culture that we often aren’t aware of it until it’s called to our attention. But you can be damn well sure that the people on the receiving end of those attitudes are aware of it… and it can put them off from participating in a community that they might otherwise be drawn to.

Focus2: Focus. People have a natural tendency to focus on the issues that concern them most directly. And if a movement — however unintentionally — is being dominated by white men, then that movement will tend to focus its energies on issues that concern white men… at the expense of issues that concern women and people of color.

You want an example? Sure. As just one specific example, I’ll cite the tendency of the atheist movement to provide an Internet community more than in- the- flesh communities… a tendency that ignores the powerful social bond that churches provide in the African-American communities, and that neglects the alienation and isolation that many African-American atheists feel when they leave their churches, and that fails to offer a replacement.

Self fulfilling prophecy3: Self-fulfilling prophecies. Let’s pretend, just for a moment, that #1 and #2 aren’t happening at all. Let’s pretend that there is no tendency, not even an unconscious one, for the leaders and organizers of the atheist movement to default to white men in citations and event organization and so on. Let’s pretend that there are no racist or sexist attitudes in the atheist movement — not even subtle or unconscious ones. And let’s pretend that there is no tendency in the atheist movement, not even an unconscious one, to focus on issues that largely concern white men, at the expense of issues that largely concern women and people of color.

Let’s pretend that none of that is happening. Let’s pretend that the atheist movement is largely and most visibly white and male, either because most women and people of color just naturally aren’t that interested in atheism, or because of pure dumb random luck.

Even if that were so? The tendency of the atheist movement to be dominated by white men would still tend to perpetuate itself.

Remember what we talked about before. People are more comfortable with other people who are like them. And that isn’t just true for white men. It’s true for women and people of color, too. If a movement is largely made up of white men, and if the leaders and most visible representatives of a movement are mostly white men… women and people of color just aren’t as likely to join up. They — we — are more likely to feel like fish out of water. We’re less likely to see the movement as having to do with us.

Mad-men-2And maybe more to the point: If a community is mostly white and male, a lot of women and people of color are going to assume that #1 and #2 are probably going on. I know that I’m less comfortable going to an event that’s mostly male… since the chances of having my femaleness be inappropriately sexualized are a lot greater. Women and people of color are naturally, and not unreasonably, going to be cautious about joining up with a movement that’s mostly white and male. We’re going to wonder why that is.

So even if the predominant whiteness and maleness of the atheist movement had somehow happened purely by accident, with no sins of either omission or commission on the part of white male atheists… the predominant whiteness and maleness of the movement would still tend towards a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if those hypothetical winds of fate that innocently led the movement to be largely white and largely male were no longer blowing in that direction, even if women and people of color suddenly sprouted an interest in atheism that they’d somehow never had before… this self- perpetuating tendency of largely white male movements to stay largely white and male would still tend to, well, perpetuate itself.

Plus, of course, all this is assuming that there is no overt racism or sexism in the atheist movement. An assumption that, obviously, isn’t warranted.

*

Circle of two arrowsSo that’s some of the ways that largely white, largely male movements stay largely white and male… even if nobody intended it to happen that way. But here’s the good news:

A lot of this is fixable.

Or at least, it’s addressable.

And it’s much, much easier to address in the early stages of a movement than it is down the line, after patterns have been established, and bad feelings have had time to fester.

So how do we fix it?

And why should we care?

That’s Part 2.

(The second half of this piece will appear tomorrow. I’m not going to turn off comments, but if you can hold off on commenting until Part 2 appears, I’d be much obliged.)

Atheists of Color: Updating the List

Please note: This post has a different comment policy than my standard one. Please read the entire piece to the end before commenting. It’s not that long.

A couple of years ago, I compiled a list of prominent atheists of color, and organizations of atheists of color, here on this blog. I did this for a number of reasons: mostly so that conference organizers, event organizers for local and student groups, anthology editors, bloggers, journalists, and people who are simply participants in the atheist community could easily be made familiar with the work of a wider range of atheists… a range that’s more diverse, and more reflective of the actual makeup of the atheist community. (tl;dr: Conference organizers, you no longer have an excuse. :-) )

The list is now somewhat out of date, and I’d like to update it. Please let me know in the comments if you know any of the following:

People/ organizations who should be on the list but aren’t. IMPORTANT: Please don’t just list their name! I need their name, the URL for their blog/ website if they have one, and a SHORT list of credentials: books, blogs, publications they write for, achievements, etc. Compiling and updating this list is enough work without having to do a ton of Googling.
Also important: Please DO NOT hesitate to nominate yourself for this list! If you’re an atheist of color and you’re any sort of public figure, either within the atheist community or outside of it — blogger, community organizer, scholar, scientist, author, artist, musician, activist, whatever — please let me know. Again, please provide your name, URL for your blog/ website if you have one, and a SHORT list of your credentials. And if you’re already on the list, but your information is incorrect or incomplete, please let me know.
People/ organizations who are on the list but shouldn’t be. If there’s anyone on this list who isn’t actually an atheist, or has stopped identifying as an atheist since this list was first created, or is no longer a public figure and has dropped off the radar, please let me know. Also, if anyone on this list is now dead, please let me know: this is meant to be a list of atheists of color who are alive and active now. And if any of the organizations on the list have since folded, please let me know.
NOTE ABOUT BLOGGERS: If a blogger hasn’t updated their blog in six months, and hasn’t stated on their blog that they’re taking a hiatus and plan to return, I’m going to drop them from the list, unless someone gives me a strong argument for keeping them on.
Up to date credentials/ biographical info. If the credentials/ biographical info for anyone on this list is out of date — if people have new books, new blogs, new positions at their organizations, if they’re working for different organizations, etc. — please let me know.
Up to date URLs. If you know the URLs for any of the people on this list who don’t have URLs listed? If there are URLs on this list that are out of date, and you know the current URL? Please let me know.

Once again, here’s a link to the original list.

A couple of notes on what I’m looking for here:

First: This is not intended to be a list of famous atheists of color throughout history. That would certainly be an awesomely useful project (and if anyone knows of this project existing, please speak up!) — but it’s not this project. This is meant to be a list af atheists of color who are alive and active now.

Second, and very importantly: I do not want to get into an argument here about why we need this list, or how we should just be color blind and ignore race altogether. In a perfect world, maybe we wouldn’t need it. We don’t live in a perfect world. Among other things, well- meaning people can unconsciously perpetuate racial bias without intending to… and we need to take conscious action to counter this unconscious tendency. If you think the atheist movement doesn’t need to make a conscious effort to be more inclusive, then please read these pieces:

Getting It Right Early: Why Atheists Need to Act Now on Gender and Race
Race, Gender, and Atheism, Part 2: What We Need To Do — And Why

And if, after reading those pieces — not skimming them or reading the titles, but actually reading them — you still think we don’t need to make a conscious effort to be more inclusive of people of color, then please make your arguments ON THOSE POSTS. Not here. Comments here arguing that we don’t need this list will be disemvoweled or deleted. This post is for people who will find this list useful and informative, and/or who want to make suggestions about keeping it accurate and up to date.

I do welcome some degree of debate here about whether a particular person should or should not be included: are they really an atheist, are they prominent enough (although I’ll tend to err on the side of inclusion there), etc. But I do not welcome debate here about whether this list should exist. Thank you.

Third: Please make your suggestions here, in comments on this blog. Please do not email them to me. I do want there to be an opportunity for public discussion about additions, deletions, or other changes. (And I’m somewhat concerned about assholes trying to troll the list: that’ll be less easy to do if there are eyes on the process other than mine.) Also, it’s easier for me to manage this if all the revisions are in one place. Thanks!

Note: I know that there are problems/ issues with the phrase “people of color” (among other things, it lumps together people from widely divergent cultural backgrounds as if not being white was the same experience for everyone). In general, I’m trying to step away from using it. In this case, though, I’m going to stick with the phrase, imperfect though it is: brevity is key here, and anyway this list has a lot of people linking to it and citing it and searching for it, and I don’t want to screw that up.

Oh, and in case you’re not already aware of it: here, in a similar vein, is a large list of awesome female atheists, compiled by Jen McCreight at BlagHag.)

Thanks for your help!

Why Atheism Plus Is Good for Atheism

Atheism Plus logoI’m going to lay this out there: I think Atheism Plus is good. And I don’t just mean “good” in the sense of “morally right.” I mean “good” as in “good for the health and future of atheism.”

As most readers here know, Jen McCreight recently proposed a new wave of atheism — an “atheist plus” wave that explicitly focuses, not just on atheism, but on the intersections between atheism and racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other social justice issues — externally in what issues we take on, and internally in how we deal with our own stuff. I’ve already chimed in briefly with a “Hell, yes, I’m on board.” I now want to start talking about why.

I don’t just think the principles of Atheism Plus are morally right. I do think that, and I think that’s the most important thing about it. But I also think it’s good for the future of atheism. And I think atheism will be stronger if more atheists support it.

Much of the pushback on the Atheism Plus idea has come from people saying that it’s divisive: that the atheist movement has to include everyone who calls themselves an atheist, and we can’t expect every atheist to line up around the same social justice issues.

There is no nice way to say this, so I’m just going to come out and say it:

There is no way for an atheist movement to be inclusive of everyone.

An atheist movement cannot be inclusive of atheist women… and also be inclusive of people who publicly call women ugly, fat, sluts, whores, cunts, and worse; who persistently harass them; who deliberately invade their privacy and make their personal information public; and/or who routinely threaten them with grisly violence, rape, and death.

An atheist movement cannot be inclusive of atheists of color… and also be inclusive of people who think people of color stay in religion because they’re just not good at critical thinking, who blame crime on dark-skinned immigrants, who think victims of racial profiling deserved it because they looked like thugs, and/or who tell people of color, “You’re pretty smart for a…”.

An atheist movement cannot be inclusive of trans atheists… and also be inclusive of people who think trans people are mentally ill or freaks of nature.

An atheist movement cannot be inclusive of atheists who are mentally ill… and also be inclusive of people who think mental illness is just a failure of willpower.

An atheist movement cannot be inclusive of poor atheists… and also be inclusive of people whose basic attitude to systematic poverty and economic injustice is, “Screw you, Jack, I’ve got mine.”

Repeat, for many more marginalized groups that I don’t have time to list here.

And an atheist movement cannot be inclusive of atheists and potential atheists who are women, people of color, trans people, poor people, mentally ill… and also be inclusive of people who think that welcoming these people into the movement just isn’t a very high priority. The movement cannot be inclusive of atheists and potential atheists who are women, people of color, trans people, poor people, mentally ill… and also be inclusive of people who think sexism, racism, misogyny, transphobia, poverty, mental illness, and other forms of marginalization are trivial or non-existent problems that we can’t be bothered with.

There is literally no way to make the atheist movement inclusive of all these people. So we have to ask: What are our priorities? [Read more…]

Race and Inclusivity — A To-Do List

Atheist A scarlet letter black backgroundIf we want the atheist/ skeptical communities to be more inclusive and more welcoming to people of color — what, specifically, can we do about it?

IMPORTANT NOTE: This post has a different comment policy than my standard one. It’s at the end of the post. Please read it and respect it. Thanks.

At the Secular Student Alliance conference earlier this month, the organizers did something really smart, something I’ve never seen before. At the lunch on Saturday, they had cards on the tables with discussion topics, topics that had been announced ahead of time in the conference packet — so you could pick which table to sit on, based on what you wanted to talk about. Not all the tables stuck to their topic… but ours did, and I’m really glad we did, and I want to report on the conversation.

I sat at the “Diversity — Minorities” table. And we had an excellent conversation. We talked about how, as difficult and painful as our community’s conversations about gender and sexism have been, at least we’ve been having them — in a way that we haven’t been, nearly as much, about race. The community has done a lot more work on gender diversity than we have on racial diversity, and we’re a lot further along in making practical progress. We talked at this lunch about some of the reasons this might be. (Some ideas floated: Our society is often racially segregated, and white people can ignore race in a way that men can’t ignore gender. Also, liberals and progressives often see race as a minefield, and are often scared to even talk about it for fear of starting a fight, opening old wounds, or saying something stupid.)

We talked about some of the obstacles to increasing racial diversity and making people of color feel more welcomed in the atheist movement. And we talked about what specific, practical action items people could take — individuals, local groups, national organizations, thought leaders, etc. — to improve this situation. I wanted to share that list, and talk about it, and solicit other ideas.

Here’s the list of action items we came up with:

* Speakers — invite more people of color as speakers, at conferences and for individual speaking events. (Here’s a list of prominent atheists of color, many of whom do public speaking. The list also includes organizations of atheists of color, some of whom have speaker’s bureaus or can put you in touch with speakers.)
* Don’t be afraid to talk about race. (This one is HUGE.)
* Do joint events with groups/ organizations of people of color. (Examples: speakers or discussions groups on the history of freethought among African-Americans, or the golden age of science in the Arab world.)
* Support appropriate events hosted by groups of people of color, such as service projects. Don’t just ask them to co-sponsor your events — ask them what events of theirs they’d like your support for.
* Don’t glom onto people of color when they show up at your group or event. (People of color sometimes say that, when they show up at all- or mostly-white atheist groups or events, they’re swarmed by overly friendly people who are SO DELIGHTED that a non-white person has shown up, in a way that’s overwhelming, and that’s clearly directed at their race. Don’t do this.)
* Don’t expect individual people of color to speak for their entire race.
* Listen to people of color — actively.
* Get your “Race and Racism 101″ on Google or at the library. Don’t expect people of color who come to your group or event to bring you up to speed.
* If someone calls you on your stuff — apologize.
* If someone calls you on your stuff, and you don’t agree — don’t immediately get defensive. Think about it, ask questions, take some time before you respond. “I’m not sure I agree, but I thank you for bringing it up, I need to think about this” can be your best friend.
* Don’t assume people of color are religious.
* Co-protesting – show up at protests about racism, and about issues that are strongly affected by race, such as economic justice or the drug war.

Thoughts?

COMMENT POLICY FOR THIS THREAD: This conversation is for people who already agree that increasing racial diversity is important to the atheist community and the atheist movement, and who think positive action should be taken to improve the situation, and who want to discuss how to go about that. If you want to debate this core proposition — if, for instance, you think the atheist movement should be entirely race-blind, and that paying any attention at all to race and racism is itself racist — this comment thread is not the place. Read these two pieces first: Getting It Right Early: Why Atheists Need to Act Now on Gender and Race, and Race, Gender, and Atheism, Part 2: What We Need To Do — And Why. Actually read them. If, after reading them, you still think we can and should ignore race and racial diversity, please feel free to debate that question on those posts. This is not the place for that debate. Attempts to derail this conversation, away from what the problems are and we can do about them and into whether this is even a problem and whether we should be doing anything, will be met with warnings, disemvoweling, banning, or any/all of the above. Thank you.

Atheists of Color – A List

Sikivu HutchinsonHemant MehtaDebbie Goddard

Ayaan Hirsi AliHector AvalosAnthony Pinn

Jamila BeySalman RushdieArundhati Roy

David SuzukiMaggie ArdienteSimon Singh

Charone PagettDan Barker Taslima Nasreen

Donald WrightMina AhadiSanal_Edamaruku

So here it is, as promised — a list of prominent atheists of color.

And, since it seemed relevant — here, also, is a list of organizations of atheists of color, and atheist organizations predominantly focused on/ participated in by people of color.

If you’re helping to organize an atheist conference, and you want your conference to be more diverse and more reflective of the makeup of the atheist community? If you’re an atheist writer or activist, and you want your quotations/ citations/ blogroll/ etc. to be more diverse and more reflective of the makeup of the atheist community? If you’re simply part of the atheist community/ movement, and you want to be more familiar with the work of a wider range of atheists, a range that’s more diverse and more reflective of the makeup of the atheist community? Hopefully, this list will help.

(Note: In case you’re not already aware of it, here, in a similar vein, is a large list of awesome female atheists, compiled by Jen McCreight at BlagHag.)

A couple of quick notes before the list itself. First, and very importantly: This is a work in progress, and I’ll be updating it regularly. So please feel free to make suggestions. If there are people who aren’t on this list who you think should be, or people who are on the list but you think shouldn’t be (because they’re not self-acknowledged atheists, for instance) — or if there’s information on the list that’s inaccurate or incomplete — please let me know, either in the comments, or by emailing me at greta (at) gretachristina (dot) com. And if you yourself are on this list and want me to either remove you or correct/ update your information, please let me know.

(Important note: If you make suggestions of people who should be included in this list, please don’t just tell me their name! I need their name, the URL for their blog/ website if they have one, and a SHORT list of credentials: books, blogs, publications they write for, achievements, etc. If you only give me their name, I have to do a bunch of Googling and editing, and it’ll take longer to get them in.)

Second: This is not intended to be a list of famous atheists of color throughout history. That would certainly be a useful project — but it’s not this project. This is meant to be a list af atheists of color who are alive and active now.

Third: I do not want to get into an argument here about why we need this list, or how we should just be color blind and ignore race altogether. In a perfect world, maybe we wouldn’t need it. We don’t live in a perfect world. Among other things, well- meaning people can unconsciously perpetuate racial bias without intending to… and we need to take conscious action to counter this unconscious tendency. If you think the atheist movement doesn’t need to make a conscious effort to be more inclusive, then please read these pieces:

Getting It Right Early: Why Atheists Need to Act Now on Gender and Race
Race, Gender, and Atheism, Part 2: What We Need To Do — And Why

And if, after reading those pieces — not skimming them or reading the titles, but actually reading them — you still think we don’t need to make a conscious effort to be more inclusive of people of color, then please make your arguments ON THOSE POSTS. Not here. Comments here arguing that we don’t need this list will be disemvoweled or deleted. This post is for people who will find this list useful and informative, and/or who want to make suggestions about keeping it accurate and up to date.

Finally: Yes, I’m aware of the ironies and potential pitfalls of a white person compiling and publishing this list. Most obviously and most seriously, I know that it’s problematic for a white person to be the “gatekeeper” of a list like this. Any time a list like this gets compiled, decisions have to be made about who to include and who not to include… and I get that it’s problematic for a white person to be the one making those decisions. If a list like this already existed, compiled by a person of color, I’d just link to it and publicize the hell out it. But I asked a whole bunch of people of all races if they knew of such a list, and nobody did… and the general response was, “Yeah, that’d be useful, someone should really do that, HINT HINT.” The general sentiment seemed to be that it would be really, really good for a list like this to exist on the ‘Net, and that I should just go ahead and do it already.

So I’m dealing with this potentiall pitfall in two ways. One: When in doubt, I’m erring on the side of inclusion. I did decide against some people whose names had been suggested (mostly bloggers who haven’t updated in months, plus some people who don’t seem to self-identify as atheist). But for the most part, if I was on the fence about including someone, I went ahead and included them.

Two, and much more importantly: For this post and this post only, I am relinquishing copyright. If you want to copy this list and re-publish it on your own blog or forum or website or whatever — and you want to add to/ subtract from/ make changes to it as you see fit — please do so. I’m not only okay with this: I actively encourage it. In fact, if you do so, please tell me about it, and I’ll link to your list here.

(Other lists, from people who have taken me up on this offer:
Lists of Atheist/Agnostic Contacts You May Not Have Considered, at The Word Of Me…)

So here it is, as promised — a list of prominent atheists of color.

INDIVIDUALS

Robert Affinis, founder of the freethought apparel line Affinis Apparel, creator of the “Revolution in Photography” project
Mina Ahadi, founder of the Central Council of Ex-Muslims (Zentralrat der Ex-Muslime) and the International Committee against Stoning
Jim Al-Khalili, professor of theoretical physics, science broadcaster, President of the British Humanist Association
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of Infidel and Nomad, activist, politician, founder of the AHA Foundation
Tariq Ali, historian, novelist, journalist, filmmaker, public intellectual, political campaigner, activist, commentator
Norm Allen, author of African American Humanism and Black Secular Humanist Thought, editor-in-chief of Human Prospect: A Neo-Humanist Perspective, secretary of Paul Kurtz’s Institute for Science and Human Values, former head of African Americans for Humanism, blogger at Black Skeptics
Anti-Intellect, blogger at Black Skeptics, Twitter personality (@Anti_Intellect), gay activist
Maggie Ardiente, director of development and communications, American Humanist Association; editor of Humanist Network News (AHA’s weekly e-zine)
Diane Arellano, blogger, Black Skeptics
Homa Arjomand, coordinator of the International Campaign Against Shari’a Court in Canada
Hector Avalos, Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Iowa State University, speaker/ debater, author of The End of Biblical Studies, Strangers in Our Own Land: Religion in U.S. Latina/o Literature, Se puede saber si Dios existe? [Can One Know if God Exists?], and more
Siana Bangura, blogger, The Heresy Club
Donald Barbera, author of Black But Not Baptist: Nonbelief and Freethought in the Black Community
Dan Barker, co-president of Freedom From Religion Foundation, author of several books, including Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists and The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God
Jamila Bey, atheist comedian and journalist
Reginald Bien-Aime, founder, Haitian FREE Thinkers, blogger at Haitian Atheist
Peach Braxton, videoblogger, The Peach
Naima Cabelle, atheist activist and member of Washington Area Secular Humanists
Ed Cara, blogger at The Heresy Club, comedian, actor
Ian Cromwell, musician and blogger, The Crommunist Manifesto
Bree Crutch, founder, Minority Atheists of Michigan (@MinorityAtheist)
Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, founder, Maharashta Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samitee (Superstition Eradication Committee)
Heina Dadabhoy, blogger at Skepchick, speaker
Sanal Edamaruku, author and paranormal investigator, founder-president of Rationalist International, president of the Indian Rationalist Association, creator of The Great Tantra Challenge
Afshin Ellian, columnist for Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad and Elsevier; blogger; poet; law professor at University of Leiden
Mike Estes, Atheist Coalition of San Diego; public speaker
Reginald Finley, founder of Infidel Guy radio show
Walter O. Garcia-Meza, board of directors, Hispanic American Freethinkers
Bridget Gaudette, director of development for Foundation Beyond Belief, blogger at Freethoughtify, co-founder of Secular Woman, speaker (@BridgetGaudette & @freethoughtify)
Hemley Gonzalez, founder, Responsible Charity
MercedesDiane Griffin, blogger/ activist, founder /president of the Mercedes Parra Foundation for Women and Girls
Debbie Goddard, director of outreach at the Center for Inquiry, speaker, head of African Americans for Humanism
Jacques L. Hamel, Scientific Affairs Officer with United Nations, international science and technology policy expert
Mark Hatcher, founder of Secular Students at Howard University
Heather Henderson, podcaster at Ardent Atheist podcast, podcaster at Skeptically Yours podcast, lead female singer in Penn Jillette’s NoGodBand
Sundas Hoorain, blogger, The Heresy Club, political activist, human rights lawyer
Stanley Huang, Taiwanese-American singer, known for the song/ album “Atheist Like Me”
Sabri Husibi, speaker, Tulsa Atheist Group
Sikivu Hutchinson, writer and editor, author of Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics and Secular America, editor of BlackFemLens.org, Senior Fellow for the Institute for Humanist Studies, blogger at Black Skeptics
Leo Igwe, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Nigeria
David Ince, a.k.a. Caribatheist, blogger, No Religion Know Reason
Sam Jackson, Assistant Campus Organizer and Group Starting Specialist, Secular Student Alliance
A.J. Johnson, writer, speaker (@HappiestAtheist)
McKinley Jones, president, Black American Free Thought Association (BAF/TA)
S.T. Joshi, literary critic, novelist; author of God’s Defenders: What They Believe and Why They Are Wrong and more; editor of Atheism: A Reader and more
Alix Jules, chair of diversity committee on the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition for Reason
Avicenna Last, blogger, A Million Gods
Naomi Love, Secretary, Black Nonbelievers
Kenan Malik, writer, lecturer, blogger, and BBC Radio broadcaster, author of Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy, Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides are Wrong in the Race Debate, and more
Hemant Mehta, blogger at Friendly Atheist, author of I Sold My Soul on eBay
Ian Andreas Miller, blogger, Diaphanitas
Jeffrey “Atheist Walking” Mitchell, atheist street philosopher and member of Black Skeptics
Maryam Namazie, rights activist, commentator and broadcaster on Iran, rights, cultural relativism, secularism, religion, political Islam and other related topics; spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; blogger
Meera Nanda, writer, historian and philosopher of science
Taslima Nasreen, author and activist; blogger at No Country for Women
Ramendra Nath, professor and author; head of Department of Philosophy, Patna College, Patna University; author of Why I Am Not a Hindu, Is God Dead?, The Myth of Unity of All Religions, and more
First Nation, blogger, Native Skeptic
Kwadwo Obeng, author, We Are All Africans
Adebowale Ojuro, author of Crisis of Religion
James Onen, radio broadcaster, blogger at Freethought Kampala
Charone Paget, producer/host of LAMBDA Radio Report, WRFG, Atlanta; on leadership team of Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta; founder of Queer and Atheist of Atlanta
Ernest Parker, leader of African Americans for Humanism DC
Anthony Pinn, author of numerous books on humanism, head of Institute for Humanist Studies, Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University
Robin Quivers, radio personality
Robert Reece, blogger, Still Furious and Still Brave: Who’s Afraid of Persistent Blackness? (@PhuzzieSlippers)
Lorena Rios, board of directors, Hispanic American Freethinkers
Bwambale Robert, founder, Kasese Humanist Primary School, Kasese United Humanist Association
Sid Rodrigues, scientist, researcher, organizer of Skeptics in the Pub
Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things and more, activist
Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, Midnight’s Children, Luka and the Fire of Life, Grimus, and more
Amartya Sen, Nobel-prize winning economist
Alom Shaha, science teacher, film-maker, and writer; author of The Young Atheist’s Handbook
Ariane Sherine, creator of the Atheist Bus Campaign
Labi Siffre, poet and songwriter
Simon Singh, author, journalist, TV producer, libel reform activist
Mano Singham, theoretical physicist, blogger
Darrel ‘Reasonheimer’ Smith, author/editor, You Are Not Alone: “BlackNones”
Felicia Smith, Vice-President, Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta
Frederick Sparks, blogger, Black Skeptics
Greydon Square, atheist rapper and spoken word artist
Wafa Sultan, author and critic of Islam and Islamic theocracy
David Suzuki, scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster; co-founder of the environmentalist David Suzuki Foundation
David Tamayo, board of directors, Hispanic American Freethinkers
Red Tani, Filipino Freethinkers
Nicome Taylor, blogger, Black Skeptics
Mandisa Lateefah Thomas, co-founder and President, Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta
Harriet Thugman, a.k.a. Donnie McTwerkin, Twitter personality (@HarrietThugman)
Andrew Ti, Tumblr blogger at Yo, Is This Racist?, comedian
Xavier Trapp, blogger at The Rev Speaks, co-host of the SERIOUSLY?! podcast (@Rev_Xavier)
Kim Veal, Blog Talk Radio, Black Freethinkers
Maria Walters, a.k.a. Masala Skeptic, blogger, Skepchick
Naima Washington, blogger, Black Skeptics
Ayanna Watson, founder of Black Atheists of America
Wrath James White, author, blogger at Godless and Black
Clarence Williams, author of Truth
Donald Wright, author of The Only Prayer I’ll Ever Pray: Let My People Go, blogger at Black Skeptics
Lauren Anderson Youngblood, Communications Manager, Secular Coalition for America
Zhiyah, writer/blogger, The Affirmative Atheist
Indra Zuno, stage/ film/ television actress, Mexico and USA, appeared in “The Virgin of Juarez” and “The Violent Kind”

A note about Neil DeGrasse Tyson: When I was solicitiing suggestions for this list, Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s name was brought up several times, by several different people. However, as I understand it, while Tyson calls himself an agnostic and a skeptic, he does not identify as an atheist, and does not want to be associated with the atheist movement. If anyone has current information showing that he does, in fact, identify as an atheist — and can provide a citation — I’ll happily put him on the list. Until then, I’ll respect his right to self-identify as he chooses. (Ditto with Ibn Warraq, who identifies as an agnostic but not an atheist.)

GROUPS/ ORGANIZATIONS/ GROUP BLOGS

African Americans for Humanism
African Americans for Humanism DC
Atheist Association of Uganda
Black American Free Thought Association (BAF/TA)
Black Atheists of America
Black Freethinkers Yahoo Group
Black FreeThinkers social network
Black Freethought discussion group, Atheist Nexus
Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta
Black Skeptics
Buddhiwadi Foundation/ Bihar Buddhiwadi Samaj (Bihar Rationalist Society)
Central Council of Ex-Muslims (Zentralrat der Ex-Muslime)
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Filipino Freethinkers
Freethought Kampala
The Grenada Free-thought Community
Harlem Community Center for Inquiry
Hispanic American Freethinkers
Hispanic Atheists of all Ethnic Groups
Indian Rationalist Association
Kasese United Humanist Association
Maharashta Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samitee (Superstition Eradication Committee)
Maharashtra Blind faith Eradication Committee, a.k.a. AntiSuperstition.org
Malaysian Atheists
Nirmukta
Secular Students at Howard University
South African Skeptics
Tarksheel Society (India)
Uganda Humanist Association

I hope people find this helpful. Again, if you have any suggestions for additions or corrections, please let me know: either in the comments, or by emailing me at greta (at) gretachristina (dot) com.

Atheists of Color?

I want to compile a list of prominent atheists of color. Not in history (I might do that sometime later), but people who are alive and active now. Can you help me?

I’m getting a bit tired of atheist conference organizers saying, “We’d like to be more diverse and have more speakers of color, but we just don’t know of any!” Ditto atheist writers/ bloggers, and the people they cite/ link to/ put in their blogrolls. I do not want anyone to be able to say, ever again, “I’d like to be more diverse and not so white-centric, but I just don’t know of that many atheists of color!” In the future, whenever anyone says this, I want to be able to point them to a list. And I want other atheists to be able to do the same.

Jen McCreight has already done this with her large list of awesome female atheists. We need one for awesome atheists of color.

And no, I don’t want to get into an argument about why we need this list, or how we should just be color blind and ignore race altogether. In a perfect world, maybe we wouldn’t need it. We don’t live in a perfect world. Among other things, well- meaning people can unconsciously perpetuate racial bias without intending to… and we need to take conscious action to counter this unconscious tendency. If you think the atheist movement doesn’t need to make a conscious effort to be more inclusive, then please read these pieces:

Getting It Right Early: Why Atheists Need to Act Now on Gender and Race
Race, Gender, and Atheism, Part 2: What We Need To Do — And Why

And if, after reading those pieces — not skimming them or reading the titles, but actually reading them — you still think we don’t need to make a conscious effort to be more inclusive of people of color, then please make your arguments ON THOSE POSTS. Not here. Comments here arguing that we don’t need this list will be disemvoweled or deleted. This post is for people who want to help compile the list. Period.

And yes, I’m aware of the irony/ pitfalls of a white person compiling this list. If a list like this already existed, compiled by a person of color, I’d just link to it and publicize the hell out it. But I asked a whole bunch of people of all races if they knew of such a list, and nobody did, and the general response was, “Yeah, that’d be useful, someone should really do that, HINT HINT.” So fuck it. I’m just going to do it.

Help, please? Let me know about any out atheists of color you know of and whose work you admire. They should be reasonably prominent, and they should be open about their atheism. I need name, URL for blog/ website if they have one, and a SHORT list of credentials: books, blogs, publications they write for, achievements, etc. Thanks!