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:
“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.
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)
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.
“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.