Following my big rant on queer-positive Christianity, I have a much shorter rant on queer-positive atheism. There are fewer things to unpack, but even the smaller issues are important to me, because I interact more frequently with atheists than I do with religious people.
So you’re not a fundamentalist Christian
The number one criticism I have about atheist attitudes towards queer people is that they’re very self-satisfied about it. Yes, we all know you’re way ahead of fundamentalist Christians. We all know you were in favor of same-sex marriage (or opposed to all marriage) before it was cool. Good for you?
As I previously said, one of my major issues with queer-positive Christianity is that they’re starting from very low standards, the standards of Christianity. Atheists have the advantage of being able to scrap Christian standards entirely and build something better. But you’re tossing out your advantage if you’re always comparing your attitudes to those of very religious people.
And I’m not even saying that we as atheists need to be more ashamed of [insert prominent anti-SJ atheist here]. Shame is not what I’m going for at all. It’s just that, even when we’re all on the same page about social justice, social justice is still a thing that takes work and not just lip service.
Queer people aren’t your tools
It has been true, as long as I’ve ever interacted with atheist groups, that they bring up queer issues quite frequently. However, the most common context for this is when listing harms caused by religion. It’s on the list somewhere between science education and reproductive rights.
It’s fine to talk about how religion harms people, but when that’s the only context where atheists ever mention queer people, it seems like queer people are just being used as a political tool. And when atheists are only interested in queer people as political tools, that tends to constrain the kind of queer issues they are aware of.
This is a sticking point for me as an ace activist, because there’s no obvious way to weaponize asexuality against religion. So every time I encounter lack of awareness of asexuality among atheist groups, I think to myself, “It’s because they’re only interested queer people as tools.” I also note that atheist groups have started paying more attention to trans issues lately, and this seems to coincide with the religious right trying to create trans-exclusive bathroom policies.
Stop being weird about queer religious people
Another common context where queer people are brought up in atheist discussion is in reference to queer people within religions. Many atheists express incredulity that queer people would ever participate in the groups that oppress them, or express incredulity that such people even exist. Often this is done in a joking manner.
Since queer people have all sorts of backgrounds, of course there religious queer people. If you think about it statistically, do you really think that 100% of them would leave? Surely the correlation isn’t perfect because, as you may know, queerness doesn’t define the whole person. And even every last queer person left their religion, they wouldn’t do it instantly. Not to mention that there are plenty of churches that at least market themselves as queer friendly.
I just have a hard time grappling with this idea that queer religious people are so strange a phenomena that they are funny. Many of the queer atheists around you were, at one point, part of a religion. You’re laughing at our pain.
This has been a short rant with just a few scattered points. Perhaps I’ll think of more later, or my readers could add their own thoughts.
I should add, I’m fairly happy with how the atheist community has improved over the years. For some atheist communities such as the one here on FTB, social justice has become more and more of an emphasis, and I am pleased. However, I’m frequently reminded that mainstream atheism has changed much more incrementally.