I do not know what the hullabaloo is about Atheism+, why all the hate and tantrums? I understand that people fear change, people with power fear anything that would or could threaten their power base, and because atheists are people, they are not exempted from this fear of change.
People who enjoy power hardly want their privileged positions questioned. They fight the change makers, they cast aspersion on the oppositions’ characters, they fight tooth and nail to discredit the change and this is mostly what the fight against Atheism+ is all about. The sad thing is, many of those fighting the Atheism+ concept would hardly agree that they fight because they are afraid of change, nope; they would hide under so many notions to justify their stance against atheism+.
People love to have power over others; the ‘insignificant’ minorities are always the victims. Many so called progressives still use their residual patriarchal power, sometimes unconsciously, to lord it over others but they loathe it when they are confronted with this fact.
Why am I in support of Atheism+? I am a black African woman who also identify as atheist, bisexual, feminist, socialist and humanist. Sometimes I join groups that promote all my identities or at least acknowledge some of the things I identify as and with. For example, I identify with Black feminists groups, African labour groups, Labor women organizations, LGBT Atheists, African bisexuals, Black Atheists groups, Working class Atheists, Secular humanists and female workers groups. When attached to my birth identity, these self-identity tags afford me the opportunity to understand at a glance, the demography of the groups.
I am conscious that not every organization that I identify with, shares my values or all my identities, however when joining or identifying with a group, I consider it important that I network with groups and persons who do not only share a birth or self-identity with me but who also share core values.
While I might not think it is important to bring up my socialist notions in a black bisexual group or an African atheist group, I would definitely think it is important that whenever a discrimination is made in a group I identify with, it would be my duty and responsibility to point this out and if the group failed to change, those of us with same values can organize to change the group or form a better one. And yes, any group can be improved upon including Atheist groups.
It is not about changing the meaning of Atheism, it is about using my Atheist identity to promote rational values that impact on my daily existence.
For example, I am a member of some Nigerian progressive groups, unfortunately, some of these groups are not in support of sexual minority rights. The homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Nigerian and African human rights communities cannot stop me from identifying as a Nigerian or African human right activist, but it sure could stop me from identifying with a group that is continuously homophobic, it could also cause me to organise a revolution within the group to force it to acknowledge its defects and yes, also mobilize a subgroup to signal that we stand for much more than the default group.
I have identified as a freethinker and atheist for more than a decade and it is only natural that I seek out people who also identify as same. Of course, I am also eager to find people who not only share birth identities with me but who also share self-identities with me. I would eagerly join an African Atheist group, a black women’s group, a women atheist group, LGBT atheist group, Nigerian atheists/ freethinkers groups, Nigerian LGBTs groups and LGBT Nigerian Atheist groups. It is only natural that I try to bond along and across boundaries, however, experience have shown that while we might share birth identity and a few self-identities, our self-identities and values are not always all the same.
For example, I eagerly joined an African Atheists group on facebook and was happy to network with other Africans who share my disbelief in theism who were also ready to speak out about the reasons for their disbelief. In the process of networking, other issues common to our shared human race came up, especially in the mode of communication; language. Some of the group members’ posts were homophobic, racist and demeaning to women. And of course as a conscious feminist, lgbt advocate and humanist, there is a sense of duty to call out such posts and comments and explain to the group at large why such language should not be encouraged.
However, as my experience in some Atheists groups have shown, most people, no matter how rational they claim to be, do not like to be called out . The African atheist group I joined on facebook was very homophobic and racist. There were posts and comments deriding Bi-Racial members as not African enough and slur words like ‘mulattos’ were often used. When I made a post on the group page about the role of religion in the persecution of sexual minorities in Africa, the homophobes, who happened to be in the majority in the group, let out the most horrible, homophobic rants I ever encountered in a self-identified rationalist group! Of course when the admin failed to bring the situation under control through tacit silence, I left the group, so did a few others.
My experience with the Nigerian Atheist group was worse, bigotry, sexism, and irrationality was the order of the day in the group. It got so bad that female members were threatened with rape and told that dicks would be rammed down their mothers’ throats. A gay group member who live in the sharia part of Nigeria had his home address posted online thereby seriously endangering his life since he could be killed not just for his sexual orientation but also for being an Atheist. All these irrational actions came from dear Atheists who love bashing religious believers for their lack of rationality. Would it be any wonder if I decided not to hang out online or wherever with such people under whatever label they come under?
Should I stop identifying as an African or Nigerian atheist because some people who identify as same, are homophobic, sexist and racist? Nope, I could very well organize another group named African Atheist+ (which i already have) and/or Nigerian Atheists, with the + tag signifying that this is an Atheist group of Africans / Nigerians who with their non belief in theism also share some rational values like equality for all, are anti- racism, pro-sexual minorities, gender positive and non-ableist.
Having a clear tag would aid my decision on which group to join and network with. It would save precious time I use online arguing with bigoted, racist homophobic atheists on why they have no rational reason to be racist, homophobic or a chauvinist. It would save me and many others the agony of joining atheists groups that do not care that some of their members are being subjected to degrading attitudes from other group members.
Atheism+ appeals to me because it promises a place to hang out with atheists, who just like me, believe that bigotry, racism or homophobia is irrational and are willing to critically examine social justice issues alongside our non belief in the existence of God. We want to network, talk about our atheism, social justice issues or just hang out in an environment free of isms schisms. Is it really that difficult to understand?
Some of the antagonist of atheists+ have asked, “We already have secular humanism, why Atheist+? Well, I could also ask, “Why LGBT humanists, African Humanists, Socialist humanists, Secular humanists, Female humanists or Nigerian Humanists? Is the Atheism+ tag the one tag that confuses you and makes you wanna blow the roof off?
Why so many tags? Well, it is because people can self identify and are free to self identify and create tags that suits them, just same way people are free to create gods. So far they are not forcing their tags down other peoples’ throats and touting their tags as the only real thing, it is OK to self identify.
Why should I be required to identify as a secular humanist or be confined to secular humanist groups because I am an atheist who actively advocate for human rights? I should have the right to identify as a secular humanist and /or as an Atheist+, it is about choice. Secular Humanists have chosen not to prominently use the word Atheist, it is their choice. I am a member of a few secular humanists groups, it is my choice. I have chosen to use my Atheist tag to identify with the social justice causes I care about, it is my prerogative.
Why can’t I use my self identified atheist tag to also represent other things I stand for? Is the Atheist tag restricted? If yes, who made the restriction? When did we agree it should be restricted? Why is it OK to have Black Atheist, Eastern Atheist, American Atheist, LGBT Atheist but not OK to have Atheist+? Why and how is it OK to have Secular humanism, another tag over humanism but not OK to have Atheist+ or humanist atheists?
I think those fighting the Atheist+ tag should examine their real motive to understand what they are scared of.
Are they terrified that Atheism would be overrun by feminists, human rights activists or Atheists women demanding not to be called sluts in atheists groups and gatherings?
Are they frightened that Africans and persons of colour would demand not to be given the second class treatment in international Atheist groups and gatherings?
Are they troubled that Atheists living with disabilities would demand not to be ignored in atheist gatherings?
Are they scared that young atheists would start demanding that their voice be heard within the atheist movement?
What exactly are the anti-Atheist+ afraid of?
I care about social justice issues , my activist cap is not one I wear when I feel like it, it is an integral part of me, it is me. Even though I care so much about social justice issues, I do appreciate that going on and on in an atheist group about the abuse of social justice especially through the choice of words that entrenches stereotypes, might just tick off some atheists. Yes, I understand that some atheists just wanna bash baby Jesus and have fun without caring about sexism, bigotry, racism or homophobia in their language choice and I dampen the fun of those atheists by pointing out their parochial attitudes. I was actually told in a Nigerian atheist forum that I should go form a women atheist group and leave the group so that they can have their misogynist fun without any guilt.
I do not apologize for my social justice consciousness and cannot make excuses for anyone who wants to hide under whatever label, including an atheist label, to spew parochial views. I do not even want to hang out with such persons, irrespective of our shared disbelief in God, It does not mean I am leaving the label Atheism for you, it only means I am also seeking cooler friends to hang out with, friends who happen to share same social justice consciousness with me. This is not too difficult to understand, is it?
I am not a Feminist with a BUT and I am certainly not an Atheist with a BUT, I am simply an Atheist with a PLUS and for me, the plus is the icing on the cake. Some like icing, some don’t, whatever float your boat. If you still do not understand why I want my Atheism to be with a plus, well it is not my problem, it is your problem, hope you get it solved soon. I am responsible for what I say, not what you understand. Cheers!