Spot The White Savior


So there’s this person called Amy Dentata.

She thinks atheism is racist, and didn’t like my “God Does Not Love Trans People” post.

So she wrote a response. More or less same kind of argument Be Scofield made.

But Amy Dentata doesn’t play fair. In the exchange that followed in the comment thread, she deleted two of my responses to her criticisms.

I’m not keen on people playing the “thou must not speak ill of religion” game, and especially not keen when they decide to simply DIRECTLY silence discussion.

Unfortunately for Amy, I’m not an idiot. I saved my comments. And I have a blog of my own. This was the exchange that would have been:

Amy:

“my blog, where I wrote the piece, is MY space.”

Which has an effect outside of that space, especially when exerting privilege. Just like cis people saying “trans people wouldn’t need to transition if only we abandoned gender” has an effect outside of the blog it’s posted to.

“that suggest religion MUST be given special deference above other ideas”

I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about race.

“Mine was a discussion of religion within the trans community”

You explicitly call out ALL religion, which means you call out non-white religion. That isn’t “the trans community”. That’s PoC space.

“unsubstantiated ‘atheism is racist!’ attacks you’re making”

Atheism isn’t racist. White people who happen to be atheists are racist.

“I fail to see a single legitimate argument”

You certainly have failed.

From the comment I am not approving:

“the article WAS NOT ABOUT RACE AND RELIGION AT ALL.”

Yes it was. You made it about race and religion, by bringing up non-white religion as a white person.

“I am really, really tired of articles popping up all over the place where people are so spitting mad that I would DARE say something uncomfortable…”

If they’re popping up all over the place, it might be for a reason. Stop with the defensiveness, and listen. Step back, breathe, calm your anger, and listen.

Me:

Okay, this is the last comment I’m going to make in this conversation. Because this is CLEARLY far too emotionally laden, I do not believe you’re conversing / debating in good faith, and the extremely insulting (and, in my opinion, unsubstantiated and undeserved) accusations you’ve made towards me, as well as your at times highly condescending tone, make it very very hard for me to treat this calmly.

I’m going to make an effort here to put aside my anger. Not because you patronizingly told me to, but because I hold out hope that this may still have been an at least partly productive exchange. In exchange for that effort, I ask you to please please please try to read this carefully, with an open mind, without being poised to attack or insult, and without assumptions about what you *expect* me to be saying. Please lay aside your (apparently quite negative?) preconceptions about atheism or atheists- perhaps read this as though I’m the first atheist to ever have existed. Or as though my atheism is a completely different school of thought from all other atheists. In short, please just look at what I’m *actually* saying.

First of all, yes, my blog of course has influence outside the space in which it is posted. But you accused me of barging into someone else’s space. That is not the case.

Now let’s look at this:

“You explicitly call out ALL religion, which means you call out non-white religion. That isn’t “the trans community”. That’s PoC space.”

You’re apparently accusing that fact that my argument was divorced from race as a reason to suggest I had racially charged it?

That the presence of PoC within any given concept immediately renders it “their” space?

Let’s take this implication and run with it:

So, would capitalism be a PoC space because capitalists and corporate executives belong to a variety of ethnicities, and that there are such a thing as non-white business owners? So would it therefore be “barging in” to PoC space for me to criticize capitalism and describe it as dangerous?

Would criticizing sexism, as a the concept itself, as divorced from particulars, (sexism itself, ALL sexism, the way I critiqued faith itself, ALL religion), be similarly “barging in” to PoC space or similarly “imperialistic” because criticizing ALL sexism would mean also criticizing the sexism that exists in PoC communities, and other cultures? So it’s racist for me to talk about sexism, and critique it?

Or what about transphobia? Is it “barging in” to PoC space, and imperialistic and racist to challenge transphobia, and call transphobia dangerous, because transphobia also occurs amongst PoC?

And to reverse this, are *you* “barging in” to PoC space, and imperialistically, as a “white saviour”, “telling PoC what to think” by criticizing atheism, because many atheists are black, hispanic, asian, etc.? Because atheism occurs globally, in a variety of cultures, is it racist, imperialist and inappropriate for you to have written this post?

Or to take it to reductio ad absurdum:

Is it transphobic to challenge transphobia, because some transphobes are themselves trans?

Is it racist and imperialist to challenge racism, is it “barging in” and “telling people what to think” to say that racism is dangerous, because racism also occurs in PoC communities?

Do you see my point?

So if it is reasonable to criticize sexism itself (provided you aren’t, for example, specifically singling out muslim sexism while forgiving sexism that occurs in North America)…

If it is reasonable to crtique transphobia, and describe transphobia ITSELF as dangerous (but not making some ridiculous and racially-loaded statement like “black people are more transphobic than white people”)…

If it is reasonable for you to critique atheism and point out the issues the atheist movement has with being dominated by white straight cis men and how it often fails to give due consideration to differing socio-cultural experiences and needs (provided you aren’t saying something specifically racist like “science is a white thing” or “PoC need religion” … and by saying such statments would be racist I do NOT mean some bullshit privilege-denying “reverse racism”, I mean normal racism)…

If it is reasonable for us to talk about how racism itself is dangerous, and inhibits critical inquiry, thought and discourse, distorts perceptions, and can end up giving people justifications for cruelty…

Why is it suddenly NOT okay for me to critique religion and faith-based systems of belief? Why is it suddenly NOT okay for me to talk about faith itself is dangerous, and inhibits critical inquiry, thought and discourse, distorts perceptions, and can end up giving people justifications for cruelty?

Why are all the examples above acceptable areas of discourse, but you make a special case for religion and faith, as being specially exempt from critique?

This is the problem. You are using concepts that are positive when they’re about ENCOURAGING discourse and thought (like discussing how race, privilege and subject position factor into things) as a means of SHUTTING DOWN discourse and thought. You’re using the issue of race, which was unrelated to my point, as a cudgel with which to terminate the discourse about faith, and keep me from saying potentially uncomfortable things. But ultimately what you’re doing is not any different from the more traditional methods of shutting down discourse about faith, such as deeming it “blasphemy”.

My critique of religion and faith was, as I said, about ALL religion and faith. In regards to the point I was making, race was irrelevant. I wasn’t picking and choosing. I wasn’t appropriating wicca and native american religion as “good” or “harmless” religion and attacking Christianity and Islam as “bad” religion. In the context of my argument (that faith is by definition about halting critical inquiry and “just knowing”, which ends up cutting one’s intellectual and ethical brake lines), wicca, buddhism and native american belief systems are all equally dangerous. Even secular faith like “common sense” and “gut feelings” are dangerous.

Therefore it wasn’t like the admittedly racist / imperialist forms of feminism that specifically target middle eastern nations as being sexist but ignore the sexism at home. It was like critique of sexism itself as dangerous, regardless of where or when or in what cultural context it occurs.

So… if you’re to stand by your position that it is racist and imperialist for me to critique faith itself, as divorced from racial or cultural specificity, simply because faith is something that occurs within PoC spaces and communities, you must also support the idea that it is similarly racist and imperialist to critique sexism, transphobia, capitalism, atheism, and racism and imperialism themselves, because they also occur in a variety of cultural contexts, and in PoC spaces and communities.

Otherwise you are either being hypocritical, or are electing to give, as I said, “special deference” to religion and faith as being “above” critique.

And that is EXACTLY what makes faith dangerous in the first place.

Religious ideas are claims about the universe, how things are, and how things ought to be. As such, they need to be held to the same standards as ALL claims about the universe, how things are, and how things ought to be. The claim “God loves trans people” should be held to the exact same standard as a claim like “I am the Space Empress Miniza, Lizard-Queen Of The Lazered Smorlings”. What God? How do you know he’s there? How do you know he loves trans people? How do you know he’s a he? How do you know he loves? Why should I trust your claim over those who say God hates trans people? What are the consequences of this claim? What does it mean to say God loves trans people? What does it mean to say God hates trans people? Does the fact that the former agrees with the latter on the fact that God exists and apparently has an opinion on trans people potentially validate the latter’s belief and spur him on, perhaps towards acting on his belief that God hates trans people?

What if this would-be attacker happens to be a person of colour? Is it then imperialist and “barging in” for me to challenge his idea that God hates trans people? Does that take precedence over the importance of being able to challenge such ideas, ideally BEFORE someone acts on them?

Would it be imperialist of me to speak out against the injustices done towards trans people in Kuwait, using their equally valid interpretation of Islam as a justification?

(all interpretations, within faith, are equally valid)

Etc.

There is only ONE reason I included race in my post at all. And that’s because Stephen Ira and Ira Gray jumped to the conclusion when I mentioned on twitter that I was planning a post on the “God loves trans people” thing that I had racist motives. When I finally figured out why they thought this, it turned out they believed I was thinking all religions function the same way Abrahamic ones do. I included the points in the post about race to clarify that I wasn’t picking and choosing. My criticism was based on faith ITSELF, regardless of the racial or cultural context it’s in. I was addressing a specific misconception people had about my position.

I hope this all has mad a pretty good case here.

But to make one last point…

You accuse me of having a “white saviour” attitude. So far everyone who has made these attacks against me on the basis of how “racist” and “imperialist” it is for me to say faith is dangerous have been white people. Every person of colour I know has expressed being far far more annoyed by the notion that PoC need to be protected from things like atheism and science and critiques of religion. It’s your attitude that strikes me as “white saviour”. If you find this insulting, then please consider how I might have felt the same.

To the best of my knowledge, only one person of colour has expressed any anger towards my post, and that was Monica Roberts at Transadvocate. And that was based on the misunderstanding described above regarding the assumption that I was “picking and choosing” (i.e. thinking wicca or buddhism are “good religions” and christianity is a “bad religion”, when in fact I think they’re all equally dangerous).

I’m curious, btw, as to why you did not approve my previous comment. I’ve saved it for posterity, though, and I’m more than happy to stand by and post it elsewhere if anyone is interested. Basically I say “my post wasn’t about race and religion, it was about transgenderism and religion”, “the race stuff was a side point only included to address the accusations I’d received on twitter”,  “I’m annoyed at all these insulting articles popping up” and “you’re attacking a strawman”.

I really do hope you’ll approve this comment, Amy. It’s made in good faith, and it’s not meant or written as an attack, but as a thorough, and as-calm-as-possible defense of my position, which I am perfectly entitled to in a context like this. If you write a post criticizing me and insultingly describing me as having an imperialist and racist attitude, I am entitled to address that criticism and clarify my thinking. Approving my response demonstrates you’re engaged in this discourse in a sincere way, and are yourself open to listening, and open to critique. Silencing my responses suggests the opposite. I’m not trolling, spamming or making personal attacks (I think I haven’t made a single personal statement about you at all, actually)

By the way… about your argument-from-authority, the “experts agree with me” thing. Experts also agree that there is absolutely no evidence for God. And that available evidence has disproven an extremely substantial portion of claims made about the nature of our world and universe by various world religions.

Thank you for reading. You’re welcome to disagree, but please do think about what I’ve said, and do so in a fair way.

Sincerely,
Natalie Reed

P.S.

“Atheism isn’t racist. White people who happen to be atheists are racist.”

Really? So every white person who doesn’t believe in deities is racist? So every white infant is racist???

Amy, if you’re reading, I’d advise against deleting the comments that are already up at your blog. I’ve saved those too.

ETA: Important note. You may notice there are several typos and mis-constructions in the post. You may also notice that I went a bit silly and overstepped good taste in what should have been simply my point of saying that she, as well as everyone else who has written such critiques (Be Scofield, etc.), have all been white by saying “all my friends who are people of colour were okay with this!”. I would have simplified that point, as I feel it comes across as a bit of an “I have black friends” kind of argument, as well as removed the typos, but I felt it would have been unethical to edit the comment in any way from the form in which I initially left it (and Amy apparently chose not to approve). So I’d just like to apologize for that misstep in my argument. I should have left it at “you’re playing white saviour too”, not added a silly “people of colour like me!” thing.

And yes, I am keenly aware of how absurd it must look for two white women to be going “you’re acting like a ‘white saviour'”, “I know you are, but what am I?”, “well my non-white friends say what you’re doing is racist!”, “well MY non-white friends say what YOU’RE doing is racist!”. I apologize. Really. But as said, I had to show the comment as it was originally written, warts and all.

Comments

  1. StevoR says

    Go Natalie! :-)

    Saving your comments smart move and well answered. But then I expected that from you. Still well done and better argued.

  2. says

    wow. great response.

    *sigh*

    I wish someone someday would manage to produce good theory on separating cultural identity and practice from empirical claim-making. Not my place to do so unfortunately, but science (and medicine) are probably never going to be effectively de-whited as long as the two remain inextricably tangled

  3. says

    Non-believers exist in every country and as part of every culture of the world. It is the fucking height of imperialism for their rights – our rights, too – to continually be trumped over and over and over again by whichever fucking arbitrary religious majority happens to be in power and have interest in suppressing non-belief. Religion is a parasite within human culture, whereas some people are mistaking one for the other.

    • Anders says

      I LIKE you!

      Natalie, if you need a moderator to help lift the burden from your shoulder, or someone to guard the coop while you’re on vacation, I nominate Xanthe.

      • says

        I don’t know. It would be funny to see what would happen if I left the comment threads more or less unattended for a week.

        Only trouble is I need to manually approve all comments from first-time commenters, and periodically dig through the increasingly massive spam pile for anything that might have been mistakenly put there.

        • Anders says

          What would happen? I would feel lonely and summon some of SGU friends to come over and chat.

          Go ahead.. Make my day.

          • says

            Hmm. Now that you’ve said that, Anders, maybe I could step in to guard the coop while Natalie’s away…

            … by wielding the ban-hammer and smiting the SGU invaders so damn hard, only their disemvoweled remains would be left to install in the Pharyngula-style Dungeon page, that would be swiftly inaugurated as an essential instrument of my Reign of Terror!

            DIE SGU SCUM!!!

          • says

            Yeah… I’m not exactly super duper keen on the SGU forum peeps, as a general thing. There are several truly great people I met there, but all in all my memories are… you know… less than fond.

      • says

        That is sooooo impractical an idea, it would be perfectly insane to try.

        One of the other FtB bloggers is more likely to have the wherewithal to back up Natalie as a mod. I’m more than happy remaining a commenter.

        The topic: what a lackwit like Scofield doesn’t get (and I’m not sure Dentata holds to this too) is that the aggressive religions have already been aggressively ravaging and destroying the world’s micro-cultures in a far greater orgy of colonialism, missionary conversion, jihadism, or genocide or ethnic cleansing than any attempt to advocate “atheism”.

        I can see plenty of racism within atheism. The article by Windwater over at Black Skeptics, describing his experiences at the Richard Dawkins forums, is a clear delineation of this (and he’s an Aussie! Yay) which reminds me why I gave up reading the comments there, and rarely skim articles. The American Atheists (?) billboard in Pennsylvania is another clear example of some prominent white atheists not having the slightest clue and causing massive, unneeded and unhelpful offense. But no, apparently all white atheists are racist according to Amy.

        Meanwhile, in other news, apparently religions shit doesn’t stink. Must be a miracle.

  4. says

    So many problems with her piece: For one, she seems to think Jason Russel is an atheist. He’s an Evangelical Christian.

    It seems straw Natalie is a racist on top of all her other flaws. She apparently write an article called “Why are black people so religious. Can’t they see it’s bad for them?” I think she hates everyone who isn’t a white trans woman. Even those are only okay if they agree with her.

    And to reverse this, are *you* “barging in” to PoC space, and imperialistically, as a “white saviour”, “telling PoC what to think” by criticizing atheism, because many atheists are black, hispanic, asian, etc.? Because atheism occurs globally, in a variety of cultures, is it racist, imperialist and inappropriate for you to have written this post?

    This is a very good point. I’d actually take it further. She’s appropriating the oppression of black people to promote her own views about religion. She outright says “Let African atheists speak for themselves,” but doesn’t seem content to let black religious folks speak for themselves. The difference is that you were not presuming to speak for black atheists.

    I’m just pointing out her hypocrisy here. I think there are plenty of situations where it’s okay to call out prejudice against other groups. In fact, this is absolutely necessary as it shifts the narrative from minority group vs. everyone else to bigots vs. reasonable people. It’s just important to remember not to presume too much and not decide that your own views are more important than whoever you’re speaking up for.

    I actually wrote about something similar last night, so you’ve given me an excellent segue into writing about that stupid billboard as I’ve been putting off for a while.

    Finally, does Amy Dentata remind anyone else of these guys?

    • says

      Yeah, she’s a racist, arrogant, elitist, thought-and-word-policing, fascistic, atheist feminazi who hates everyone who isn’t a heterosexual white femme post-op transsexual woman, and she also hates sex workers, and thinks vaginas are disgusting and goes around shaming people for having them (except for the aforementioned post-op transsexual women), she doesn’t think trans men count as men, and she runs around telling people what to think in the name of “fixing” them.

      Straw Natalie is a bitch. I wish people would stop mixing us up. Remember: she’s the highly-flammable one who’s made out of straw, and walks with an uncanny shambling gait. I’m the cute fleshy one who’s all chipper, bouncy, energetic and talkative all the time.

  5. says

    You explicitly call out ALL religion, which means you call out non-white religion. That isn’t “the trans community”. That’s PoC space.

    Oh, what is that I don’t even.

    What exactly is she trying to communicate by invoking “non-white religion” in this argument, aside from, “Religious people of color are transphobic in racially specific ways, and you’re white, so you can’t possibly understand well enough to critique their transphobia”?

    No, seriously, I’m detecting about 4 levels of privilege bursting through that bit of word salad, and I want to know if there’s some more legitimate concern of hers that I’m missing.

  6. Sebor says

    Ok, prepare for brainsmelt.
    So saying that all claims involving the supernatural are equally wrong and inherently harmful is racist because those beliefs have to be a safe space for people of colour?
    But saying the supernatural beliefs of people of colour are somehow less wrong because of past imperialism or their beliefs are equally wrong but I should not point it out, how is that not racist?
    If her aim was to prove that there is no way not to be perceived as a racist then she succeeded, otherwise what the fuck?

  7. says

    I think that kind of critique/attack is one in which the best responses are as brief as possible. You only mentioned race and other beliefs in response to two people assuming your post would be racist before you even posted; you made an argument against faith in your own blogosphere, and let it apply where it will; people of color who comment here are listened to. It’s that simple, isn’t it?

    I’m not sure I can explain why I think conciseness is important. Partly because people will read better if you only make your main points, and you have the longer article to expand them in the first place. Maybe mostly it’s that to go on at length in answer to another white person about racism is to increase the white privilege getting slinged around in a probably-harmful way. It makes more sense to engage when the people actually affected by racism are talking.

    From the top of her post, it looks like Amy regrets the exchange too.

    • Sas says

      From the top of her post, it looks like Amy regrets the exchange too.

      I think you’re reading that part too charitably; she’s not claiming she was educated and corrected on this article, she’s claiming she was educated by PoC before this article and that’s why she has the credibility (despite being white) to preach to Natalie on the subject.

  8. Sinéad says

    I’m sorry for that rpderailment Nat, that was very unfair to you, what she did. Of course there’s room to talk about the ethnocentric tendencies of just about any ideology that exists in White cultures, as well as the passive racism, sexism, etc that often goes on without criticism. But, that just seemed like the biggest red herring I’ve seen outside of political elections.

  9. HumanisticJones says

    You explicitly call out ALL religion, which means you call out non-white religion.

    Possible white privilege confusion here… what in the name of the various Centauri household gods is a “non-white religion”? Last I checked I’ve met white members of pretty much every religion of which I’ve heard.

    • says

      I’m not quite sure which ones Amy had in mind, but “non-white religion” may include based on various criteria, but is not limited to, affiliations such as:

      Hinduism
      Shintoism
      Islam
      African-American Protestant churches
      Ethiopian Orthodox Church
      Armenian Orthodox Church
      Latino Roman Catholicism
      and probably many others which I have neglected.

      Notice I say “based on various criteria.” While white folks can theoretically join just about any religion they want, religious affiliation is not exactly colorblind, and practice varies by culture.

      • HumanisticJones says

        That clears it up, I was wondering if “non-white religion” should have more accurately been “religions for which the majority of members are non-white”. Thanks!

  10. Anders says

    Besides, if they’re Christians they should rejoice when they are persecuted, when people call them names and speak lies against them. Matt 5:11-12.

  11. Erin W says

    Well, how very nice of her to stand up for those poor, defenceless PoC.

    This was bad before I found out the writer is white. Adding that fact makes her response positively gobsmacking. How about we SHUT UP AND LISTEN and see what PoC have to say instead of white knighting for them, m’kay?

  12. donnamccrimmon says

    Damn. Just yesterday I was going to claim ‘Pirate Queen Donna’ as my title, and now you go with ‘Space Empress Miniza.’

    Alright, now I’m calling myself ‘Donna, Pirate Queen of the Multiverse.’ Beat that!

      • donnamccrimmon says

        Yes, but the multiverse contains the Many Diamond Norths. And I have a hyperdimensional ship, The Scarlet Lily, with which I can travel anywhere I want, to pillage, plunder, rifle and loot.

        I’ll have more fun doing that than ruling over one corner of existence ;p

        • says

          Oh, you think you have dominion over the Many Diamond Norths? That’s cute! Well just try to exercise it. I dare you. The Wolfborn Daughters Of The Thirsting Blood will have your Scarlet Lily as a souvenir ashtray (once they wipe it clean of the detritus of battle, of course).

          • donnamccrimmon says

            Oh no. How can I and my weathered crew on a ship containing some of the most advanced technology found in over a thousand universes possibly stand up against a group of local yokels who think they’re the baddest mofos just because they’ve won a few fights in one tiny, backwoods town? :p

  13. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    First time I’ve read the original piece.

    You suggest that “creating new variants of religion that are accepting of queer identities [is not] a beneficial and worthwhile thing to do.”

    Okay, it would be better still if we could dump fluoridated atheism into the water supply.

    But when I believed in God, I could not switch off that belief, no more than I could today start believing in God at will.

    I had two options: believe in God and believe that he disapproved of me being gay, or believe in God and believe that he approved of me being gay.

    For a long time I was stuck in the former. And the dissonance was not a gift for me. It was seriously dangerous to my health. It’s part of the reason I stayed in the closet.

    Well, I was strongly motivated to come to the other conclusion, that God made me gay because that’s what he wanted me to be, and eventually I did. Later I was able to be public about my sexuality, and toward such a goal, every little bit of confidence helps.

    My religious shift wasn’t the whole of it, by any means; but from what little I can learn by introspection and life narrative, the only evidence I have indicates that my religious shift did help.

    So “creating new variants of religion that are accepting of queer identities” is not a panacea.

    But, for individuals who cannot at this time stop believing in God, belonging to a group like the Metropolitan Community Church can be an improvement in their life situation — better than sticking with the doctrines of self-hatred they’ve been taught — and is therefore, relatively speaking, “a beneficial and worthwhile thing to do.”

    • Louis says

      Harm minimization, yes? That’s an idea I can get behind. Some religious beliefs cause more harm than others.

    • says

      You’re going to need to clarify and substantiate your statements, Amy.

      Whether it’s about me being racist / imperialist or my actions being as such, you need to back that up with actual arguments.

      So far all you’ve done is

      a) In your original post, do a guilt-by-association thing, saying that because other atheists had engaged in problematic behaviours, that means those of Greta and I are automatically problematic too.

      b) Made the absurd argument that it is imperalist to criticize faith because faith also occurs within the context of PoC communities. Which means it’s also imperialist to criticize capitalism, sexism, transphobia, atheism, racism and imperialism too.

      Before moving forward, you’ll need to actually address my response to that argument.

    • says

      Also…

      If I’m to engage you in discussion here on this blog, and you expect me to believe you are being in ANY WAY intellectually sincere and interested in a genuine exchange, you’re going to need to own up to the fact that you deleted my comment and attempted to forcibly shut down dialogue. Why should I trust your intentions at this point?

    • says

      If Natalie’s response had been “I’m not racist. I dated a black guy once and here’s Ian, my black best friend,” this might be a valid response, but she made arguments defending her actions. You’re going to need to be way more specific.

  14. says

    The part that gets me the most about the argument made by Amy, which as far as I understand it to be is:

    “PoC need religion in order to cope with being oppressed by white people” is just how absurdly racist that argument itself is.

    I mean, she is basically saying that since Religion is the Opiate of the masses, we should “let” them indulge. It is a step away from giving them actual opium!
    This is the same type of argument as if someone were to say that PoC need drugs to cope with their poverty and so they should be given drugs. IT is Just Wrong! or that since PoC don’t do well at school, we shouldn’t expect as much from them in academic settings. IT is ALL the SAME type of argument that implies that PoC are somehow less capable, less intelligent, and less able to cope than white people. It is so very very insulting.

    • sisu says

      IT is ALL the SAME type of argument that implies that PoC are somehow less capable, less intelligent, and less able to cope than white people. It is so very very insulting.

      the subtle racism of diminished expectations.

  15. SallyStrange: bottom-feeding, work-shy peasant says

    Wow. Well, props to you, Natalie, for engaging in the issue as deliberately and thoughtfully as you have. Warts and all.

    I am the Space Empress Miniza, Lizard-Queen Of The Lazered Smorlings

    Um… are you trying to say that you’re not?!? Shoot. I’m going to have to totally rethink my worldview, cuz I thought that was obvious.

  16. EthicistDan says

    I generally agree with all of your points, Natalie, but I think I’m missing something from the basic premise. I get how it would be logically dubious to single out a group of religions, like Abrahamic religions, can call them “bad” and others “good”, but I don’t see how that’s racist. Maybe I’m having an extra thick day, but it seems as though there are and have been numerous people of many races and ethnicities who have participated in those religions as well as Buddhism etc. (perhaps this is not as true of “Native American religions” but still). Plus, I think it’s still valid and not racist to claim (though it would take some evidence to substantiate) that certain religious beliefs or groups have caused or have the potential to cause more harm than others. The person who believes God wants them to blow people up is clearly harboring a more dangerous belief than the person who believes God wants them to sit around and read books all day, for example. One has to be specific to make this sort of argument without overreaching, but it’s still (potentially) valid.

    This is not, of course, to say that it doesn’t also make sense to encourage people not to harbor unsubstantiated beliefs. (Wow! That sentence has a lot of negatives.) I just think both are worthwhile arguments to make, depending on the goal and the context of the exchange, of course. Please let me know if I’m not making sense. Thanks!

    • says

      Well, the trouble is that specific religions all end up “raced” in specific ways, whether or not they contain members of a variety of ethnicities. Christianity, while superficially the religion of white North Americans, has also been a religion that plays a very important role in black communities, and in the movement for black civil rights. So therefore deciding that Wicca for instance (which is strongly connected to European roots and traditions) is a “good religion” while Christianity, Judaism and Islam are “bad religions” would have all kinds of racially loaded implications. Also, taking elements of Abrahamic religions as the particular basis on which you critique religion would effectively erase and marginalize those religions that don’t include those elements, and this erasure would reflect the overall ethnocentrism that often colours worldviews. However, discussing the process of faith itself…

  17. baal says

    Atheism isn’t racist. White people who happen to be atheists are racist.

    Sorry for the point snipe but this line of Amy’s is really awful. While racist white atheist clearly exist (and a ton of misogynist atheists exist, also atheists who like miso exist), it’s entirely unfair and empirically wrong to stereotype us this way.

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