Racial diversity in the atheist community IS our problem

The Guardian has an interesting article up by Alom Shaha on “The accidental exclusion of non-white atheists.” I’m not sure if this was intentional, but it’s a timely follow up for the recent kerfuffle about the apparent lack of women in the atheist movement. One of his main points is that the atheist movement needs to actively try to fix its diversity problem. I think he’s spot on, and the same applies to women:

While black and Asian people may not be actively excluded from atheist and sceptic gatherings, the lack of black and Asian people as speakers or audience members might be one reason why many black or Asian people feel such events are not “for them”. So, even if there’s no deliberate exclusion, there is accidental exclusion. Perhaps some people are genuinely unaware of this, but perhaps others are just hoping the problem does not really exist.

We’re not saying we need to go knocking on doors of religious minorities and target them for atheist evangelizing. We’re saying we want minorities who are already atheists to feel comfortable within our movement. One way to promote inclusivity is to invite minority speakers to conferences or local events, or to encourage current minority members to consider more active leadership positions.

Shaha repeatedly states that he does not think the atheist movement is inherently racist or purposefully excluding minorities. I thought he was being overly polite until I started reading the comments at The Guardian. They’re almost unanimously oblivious, stating there’s no such thing as an atheist movement or community. Look, just because you’re an atheist who doesn’t feel the need to be outspoken or talk to like-minded people doesn’t mean we don’t exist. Is this a British thing, since atheism is so much more common and accepted there?

But my main beef is with the comments that deal with race, which have no excuse. For example:

“This article is a disgrace. Why is it that anything that happens to be white must become more diverse to become a “community”? What a crock of poo. Very expensive deficit causing poo, I might add. You fools would be better off worrying about the genocide of Iraq’s Christians, and the general bad feeling towards minorities in the mulsim world, than worrying about atheists being too white.”

“If people really are so simple-minded as to prefer the company of people of their own colour, then that’s their problem, and neither atheists (nor Christans nor Hindus nor Muslims nor Jews nor anyone else) are under any obligation to go out of their way to accommodate them.”

“oh god … AGAIN! what is wrong with these awful “white men”?? Why are we so bad? just out of pure contrarianism, i am going to campaign for the atheist movement to be a ‘white males only’ movement. i want it to have clubs, and bars and so on, where we are allowed to keep females and other races out. just so so bored of “minority” bleating on the subject of “white men” – gone far too far.”

“What, practically, do you think white atheists should do to encourage black and asian involvement? It’s hardly their fault that asian people (for example) feel a cultural pressure not to get involved, and it is not their fault that asian people feel more comfortable with their own kind (as you suggest). You seem to be blaming whate atheists for a problems which are not of their making. The onus is on minorities, not the audience to which your article is addressed.”

Those are facepalm worthy to say the least. But maybe that sort of stupidity and insensitivity is only from people who think the atheist movement doesn’t exist?

Then I read this comment at the Richard Dawkins Foundation website, presumably from someone within the community:

“We (like there is a ‘we’ in the atheist community) should have second best speakers at events, choose them solely on the colour of their skin, otherwise we might appear racist.

We should have second best speakers at events, choose them solely on the colour of their gender, otherwise we might appear sexist.”


The assumption that minority speakers are inherently second best? Now that is racist and sexist.

This is identical to atheism’s so called “women problem.” It’s not that we lack worthy non-white atheists: It’s that we have plenty of wonderful non-white atheists who we forget about. If you think people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Maryam Namazie, Hemant Mehta, Ariane Sherine, Salman Rushdie, and Debbie Goddard are “second rate,” you are part of the problem.

Where it really needs to be improved is at conferences. Events like TAM seem to be improving its representation of women, and it’s not just tokenism – I thought all of the female speakers were brilliant. But you know who some of the most disappointing speakers were? People who keep getting re-invited because of their fame, but just re-hashed old talks, gave crappy Q&A sessions, or bored everyone to tears. When all of those people happen to be old white men, it certainly doesn’t look good. Even if it’s the unintentional effect of attempting to sell tickets, it makes it seem like someone is choosing second-rate old white male speakers over first-rate minority speakers.

I’m sure it’s not deliberate, but if we don’t fix our diversity problem now, we’re going to have oodles of problems down the road (check out Greta Christina’s talks about the parallels between our movement and the GLBT movement, and you’ll know why). We need to start being more inclusive if we want the atheist movement to be successful. This is already starting to happen, with groups like the African Americans for Humanism and L.A. Black Skeptics becoming more and more active.

But denying we have the problem and that it’s our job to fix it? Not helping, people.


  1. says

    That’s one thing I’ve started to notice. The most boring people at atheist get togethers? The older white men who seem determined to turn everything into a combat zone in order to prove their POV. It looks to me like a holdover from years back when that was about all you could do. But it doesn’t function as well in a setting where you’re either with a whole bunch of other atheists and are thus, ah, preaching to the choir, or in a tolerant setting where people aren’t going to grab the nearest pitchfork if you say that there’s no god.These people go on and on, and it’s boring.

  2. says

    This is one of those phenomena that is distressing to me. Mainly because I don’t believe that atheists ever really de-convert people, at least not in statistically significant numbers. People stop believing no their own and then join the ‘alleged’ atheist movement because it is a comfortable place to meet people with similar worldviews.Personally I think there are large numbers of people who are functional atheists but who don’t join us because they view us as being overly white (and possibly also because they think we eat babies). Anyone who thinks that athiests do not have a serious image problem hasn’t taken a look at any of those surveys that talk about how much people hate us. The only way we can possibly fix this problem is by looking and feeling as inclusive as we actually are.

  3. says

    I definitely sense a movement in transition, as it were. Many aren’t used to acceptance at all, let alone large numbers of like-minded people in the same room together.If anything, I think it’s healthy to have the mindset of non-theism-as-default-state, and thus reject the need for an atheism community (since by that mindset, any community would become an “atheist” community). But it’s premature. While the conferences and major blog sites are welcome islands of refuge, as it were, it’s premature to say that the very idea of non-theism isn’t being fought tooth and nail by better organized “communities.” Until society at large accepts a person’s non-theism as being something uninteresting and non-threatening, there is a purpose for communities to serve.

  4. says

    No, I actually agree with you. However, IN an atheist-friendly space, it’s nice to lay down your battleaxe for a few. You don’t have to fight ME :-). I join the local atheist groups precisely to meet people who aren’t going to go all theistic on me, who are more likely to have an intelligent grasp on the sorts of subjects I do and so on… but not to rehash the same fights I get elsewhere.

  5. LadyAtheist says

    Perhaps it’s time for a women’s atheism conference. I think women are excluded because men got there first and we don’t necessarily speak the language of the “founders.” I’m not a philosopher, astrophysicist, recovering pastor or geneticist so I don’t have the “creds.” Would anyone pay to see an everyday woman like me say “I don’t believe in fairy tales and you can too”?

  6. Mick Green says

    “The assumption that minority speakers are inherently second best? Now that is racist and sexist.”I actually don’t see that assumption being made. Rather the assumption seems to be that if you go out of your way to select minority speakers because they are minorities (rather than for their qualities as speakers) then they will be second-rate. This presumes that “first-rate” skeptics and atheists such as Tyson and Ali who are from ethnic minorities or are women already have no problem getting invited to events. I don’t really agree, but I also don’t see the comment as racist or sexist.

  7. LadyAtheist says

    p.s. didn’t mean to ignore the non-white problem. I have spent a lot of time in black communities and the power of the black church is downright scary. I can imagine that closeted atheists are probably going along and don’t want to risk ostracization or continuous prosletizing just to hobnob with other nonbelievers.

  8. DES says

    Wait a minute!”While black and Asian people may not be actively excluded from atheist and sceptic gatherings, the lack of black and Asian people as speakers or audience members might be one reason why many black or Asian people feel such events are not for them.”So what Shaha is saying is that black and Asian people are only interested in meeting people of their own skin color? Isn’t *that* racist?

  9. Mick Green says

    Maybe not, but I doubt that they’ll pay to see me, the everyday male first-year undergraduate arts student, to say it either. But if we substitute for ourselves Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or Taslima Nasreen, Eugenie Scott or any of a number of not-so-everyday women, I’m sure it’s a different matter.

  10. Tony says

    I’m pretty sure any skeptical/atheist event organizer would give their left foot to get Tyson or Ali involved. They’re both rockstars of the atheist world and it’s somewhat silly to act as if they’re not. Still, point taken.

  11. says

    Sexism and racism and other “isms” are most potent and intractable when they are deeply institutional (and, they are). It makes them more insidious, harder to see. And with our over-the-top myth of individual achievement, we have a harder time taking responsibility for an institutional problem, thinking that the solution is to become lest bigoted in our own minds. That’s like trying to kill a dandelion by cutting off the flower.I don’t have any reason to think this would be any different among atheists than among anybody else.

  12. Katy says

    I agree that there’s absolutely no reason to give any kind of preferential position to anyone in terms of speaking engagements, etc. The people who are booked to speak at conferences should be the ones who have the most interesting and relevant things to say. I’m really torn on the “we need racial diversity” thing because it gives credence to the idea that people of different races are actually somehow different. I want race to be irrelevant, and I think it is irrelevant in the modern world, but the longer we insist of classifying people by race, the more we perpetuate the problem. I also think it’s disingenuous to seek out non-“white” people to participate in the atheist movement (which, I agree with Jen, may be more relevant in the US since in many other parts of the world, atheism isn’t really all that revolutionary). Culture is real, but making minority status a deciding factor on anything is really counter to the skeptical or humanist perspective, I think. No one should be made to feel unwelcome, and sexism or racism in any event is wrong. But to me, the point of being a skeptic is that I judge things for myself instead of accepting the preconceived notions that society would have me consume. I apply that particularly to race. I don’t know – what do others think?

  13. n0b0dy says

    Um. No. I really can’t speak for minorities. I can only speak as a woman who’s taken way too many courses in which I was the only woman. And who has gone to way too many conferences in which I was the only woman. And I can speak as someone who is disabled and has had way too many conversations about able-bodied privilege.Here’s the thing. If you go places where you’re the odd one out, sometimes they’re really accepting. But sometimes they’re not. And when they’re not, it gets fatiguing. A person can only have the same conversations so many times before they get sick of it. I put up with quite a lot professionally, and it’s fucking exhausting. I wouldn’t want to do it on my day off. I chose my graduate school based purely on their amazing record for dealing well with disability issues. It’s not that I’m not interested in meeting people who aren’t disabled women. This may shock you, but most people I encounter aren’t disabled women. It’s just that if I’m fucking tired of explaining my issues over and over when they arise. I’m going to view a group favorably if it already has someone disabled in it. Because at the very least they’ve passed the test of having not driven them out yet through extreme insensitivity. And maybe I won’t get the nth degree about my disability because they’ve already worked out some of these issues with the disabled people already in their midst.

  14. Uncle Bob says

    I was going to comment on this as well. I would bet the people that made this point were conservative….this is a very loud and common argument on the right that believe forced diversity is (reverse) racism. I don’t think there is much logic involved to the argument, but on a very unthinking level, it isn’t necessarily a racist comment, its more of a “I got mine jack” argument.

  15. says

    “Is this a British thing, since atheism is so much more common and accepted there?”No, it’s a commenter-on-the-Grauniad thing, I think. Despite being generally liberal, they tend to be quite contrarian, I find.I’m also not sure that this is about atheism not being revolutionary in the UK. Racism in the UK is probably about as prevalent in the UK as it is in the US, but takes a different form because of the UK’s history as an Imperial power and the kind of enforced multiculturalism of the past forty years or so. Pretty much everyone except the neo nazi’s is nominally against racial discrimination, but there’s a really strong backlash against the idea that it’s our responsibility to make things better, whether you’re talking about atheism or not.The issue about giving preference to speakers from minorities is something that makes me uncomfortable, but I’m aware that it’s an antifeminist trope, and since I’m a (mostly) cisgendered white male and up to my nipples in privelege, I tend to bite my tongue about it.That said, the names that I most clearly remember out from Robin Ince’s nine lessons and carols for godless people last year are Simon Singh and Shappi Khorsandi. And hey, Simon Singh wasn’t even talking about race! (Shappi might have done, I don’t remember)

  16. Mick Green says

    I’ve got to disagree. That’s not what he’s saying at all.What’s Shaha is saying is that being the odd one in a crowd out is always going to be uncomfortable for some. This seems like common sense to me, and it’s definitely a problem worth investigating.

  17. says

    I’ve actually been thinking on this subject a bit as of late. Mainly because I’ve been reading a lot of the issue of class for an essay on class and the composition classroom, but a lot of it applies to race in that the two tend to be linked. A lot of the sources are actually about race to start with. At any rate, the atheist movement has a lot of similarities with early feminist movements in that they’re largely being propped up by the middle-class and middle-class concerns. Just look at how many of the big name speakers have the letters “Dr.” in front of their name. Even more so, how many of those are in the sciences. Even Jen is a grad student in the sciences. Heck, even I’m a grad student. Simply put, the discourse of the community doesn’t tend to address minority concerns. Even if there are minorities in the movement, they’re much more likely to be middle class, which would indicate their concerns are more likely to mirror their class rather than race–there’s quite a few differences in ideology between middle and lower class, check out Ruby Payne’s book if you’re interested. Now, I recognize I’m linking minority and class status, but the two do tend to be linked. Then there’s the issue of access. We’re talking about this issue on a blog. P.Z. has his blog and Dawkins his site. It’s a highly technological movement, which sadly, minorities have less access to. It’s not as pronounced as it should be with the hero worship going on about social networking–see CNN’s inability to function as a news network–that there is a large group in this country that’s on the wrong side of the digital divide. You’re not going to reach them when your discourse takes place primarily online. Even sticking up some fliers in the local coffee house isn’t going to cut it for recruitment. They’re not in the coffee shop. Now, I’m not a bastion of answers on how to address this problem, but I think the first step is realizing that religion functions differently in minority cultures from that of the educated (or even the highly educated in some circles) middle class. There’s a different approach there, and until we as a group recognize that and be open to discussing those issues, I can’t really see minorities finding themselves all that welcome in the discourse.

  18. says

    And your point is…? If all the chinese are supposedly atheists, why are none of them coming to our meetings? It’s noteworthy that I didn’t spot a single speaker in Jen’s non-white atheist list who was of east asian descent.If I remember correctly, atheism was effectively state enforced for a generation in china. I’m venturing into speculation here, but I’d suspect that the “atheist community” in China would have to fight pretty hard to be a distinct entity from the communist party itself. It’s also worth pointing out that people of chinese descent are not a racial minority in China. It’s an interesting point that the article is slightly western-centric in using “white males” to describe the leaders of the atheist movement (which, imho, is probably a fair assumption in a newspaper aimed at the British public – feel free to discuss). If you swap “white males” for “men belonging to the ethnic majority”, I really suspect you’ll find exactly the same problems in China as you do here. From what little I hear about religious violence in China, religion seems to run along ethnic lines there too.Finally, because China was recently a nation of state-enforced atheism, one might expect that the Chinese expat community in places like the UK and US have a larger demographic of non-atheists. (Also speculation, if anyone knows anything about this particularily, please let me know).

  19. mcbender says

    That was how I interpreted that comment as well, rather than as racist or sexist. I think it’s possible to go too far in trying to compensate for “isms” to the point where you become what you’re trying to fight (I think it’s just as racist to *include* somebody you’d not have otherwise solely because of their race as it is to exclude them; it’s disrespectful to them as a person to view them in such terms irrespective of whether they’re qualified or not).I’m not sure if I’m articulating this well, but it’s difficult to say this in such a way that it isn’t misconstrued as racism or sexism.

  20. says

    I think your point on class issues is spot on. I’d even go further that middle middle class people (as against to upper middle class) feel alienated in the movement.

  21. says

    But you’re not going to feel like the odd one out in a crowd unless you’re blinded by your own race issues. If you’re an atheist in a room full of fellow atheists you should feel at home. If instead of focussing on their shared beliefs someone’s thoughts instead get stuck on “I’m the only black person here” then that is entirely their own issue.

  22. Katsuhiro says

    That idea was actually bandied about at TAM, if memory serves. The biggest problem I see is that having a conference specifically aimed at women or people of color gives white dudes some unintentional cover. They don’t have to go to such a conference and hear differing points of view because “it’s not for them” and it can also act as an excuse for “oh they already have their own conference” type exclusion.

  23. says

    Yeah, it’s as bit of a UK thing. Things that might help understand the UK issues involved: * ‘soft’ atheism is pretty much what’s assumed about people here, unless they’re visibly arabic, persian, subcontinental, etc. By soft I mean not actually taking it as a logical position, but simply not having a position and therefore saying there’s no god as a default. * There’s usually a bit of back-and-forth on even vaguely political stories. Right-wing blogs with pick up left-wing stories (and vice-versa), and storms of people will head on over to comment… I bet most of the people whose posts you highlight would never actually *buy* a copy of the Grauniad

  24. Katsuhiro says

    Yes, because someone in an underrepresented group would NEVER have a reason to feel uncomfortable outside of their own race/gender issues. Goodness knows a woman shouldn’t feel in the least bit uncomfortable when she’s the only female in a gathering, because no woman alone in a group of men has ever had a negative experience where she was harassed, dismissed, or rendered invisible because of the differences in her experiences.

  25. says

    Have you ever been the only guy with your own skin color in the room/building/suburb?I had this experience frequently during a trip to Malaysia. For the most part I was the only white person around. Despite the fact that I only experienced positive discrimination while I was there, it still weirded me the hell out.Take that feeling of exclusion and couple it with a history of systemic negative discrimination, and things would get worse. Fast.I have a new appreciation for anyone who’s ever been the token black/asian/woman/whatever.

  26. Alex says

    This is silly. Let people come into the community if they want to. Last I checked, atheism didn’t need a marketing department.At any rate, it’s just as racist or sexist to use race or sex as a primary criterion for anything. A truly colorblind society doesn’t try to include people from every color because by doing so, they’ve shown the same kind of racial preference that people rightfully decry.

  27. says

    You’ve missed the point, I’m afraid. It’s not about “not letting people into the community,” it’s about having faces and voices in the community that aren’t all one color. If you’ve been marginalized by a group for centuries, it’s pretty understandable why you wouldn’t feel comfortable joining a group headed by that very same marginalizing group. The past doesn’t just disappear.And to your second point: no one is advocating the use of a quota system (or any similar variant). The issue there wouldn’t be racial preference, though: it would be trying to actually promote a diverse atmosphere, not “oh I’m going to hire you because I think I’m superior to (X Group) people.” They’re not the same thing because one is trying to rectify the hatred inherent in the other.

  28. says

    Most Chinese immigrants do not know about atheist meetings, and their English isn’t good enough. It takes years of living in the USA or Canada for them to have the guts to talk to native speakers. The problem is that after years of living in the US or Canada, they will be brainwashed by native religious people to think that they need religion or it is not good idea to talk about religion with other people, so you get a very small number of committed Chinese atheists at the end.The older generations of Asian immigrants, which are more assimilated are more religious. They immigrated to the US and Canada in the time when China did not allow traveling to foreign countries. So, the majority of them won’t go to your atheist meeting.I don’t know too much about China, but I know there is no atheist meeting there because there is no need to have one. Atheism is too dominant in China to have the need to promote atheism.The Chinese expats in USA, Canada, and UK are not always from the mainland China. A lot of them are from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and a lot of them are not Chinese. They are Koreans and Japanese. In Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and Japan, most people practice some sort of religion and believe something mystical such as ghosts, gods, and Fengsui.I wouldn’t say China is state-enforced atheism. I know religion is highly regulated in China because the government doesn’t want people to use religion to start a rebellion.I don’t know too much about ethnic minorities and their religion to tell whether you are right or not about your theory on theism and men belonging to the ethnic majority.If you want more minorities in your atheist meetings, you should target those who are interested in sciences. The strategy is to get them to think how religion and the tradition from their home land is incompatible with science and reason, which isn’t too hard, since most scientists are rational.And forget about immigrants that go to ethnic churches. They are not curable. I have tried. ;-)

  29. says

    “Is this a British thing, since atheism is so much more common and accepted there?”Yeah, to an extent. It’s pretty rare to see someone with strong religious beliefs under the age of 50 in the UK any more except, as Sam mentioned above, in the case of ethnic minorities where traditions tend to be clung to more strongly as a means of solidarity within the group. It never struck me just how much this was the case until spending the last year in Thailand where, for the first time, I suddenly found myself in the company of many Americans, the vast majority of whom were either religious or strongly sympathetic towards religion. Just different cultures I guess, we don’t see an atheist community as such because our society is becoming a de facto atheist community.As for the main point of racial diversity, I do agree that it is important, especially in the US, to make these events as inclusive as possible. However it may simply be a fact that there are a lower percentage of atheists and atheist speakers from non-white than white backgrounds. If that is the case then so be it, I’d love to see a panel consisting of Ali, Rushdie and Tyson but not if it was purely for the sake of having non-white speakers.

  30. KnottyNiki says

    Hey all,I’m a long-ish time lurker (does Boobquake count as a “long time ago” yet?) who loves your posts, Jen, and I think this one is spot on. I am a black, “undereducated” (one and a half years at an engineering school), lower class female who has been an atheist since I was way young and a skeptic for nearly six years. I can only speak for myself, as I make a horrible token. It was my lack of belief that made me feel alienated from my family and once I got to college, I was pretty much the darkest thing in my D&D group, anime nights, porn and chicken nights, etc. if you don’t count the Guinness that I love to drink. It got to the point that I felt the most free being the “only one”, and comments about my race would just turn me off i.e. “Is that ALL you notice about me?” I can only speak for myself here, but I don’t need to see a face that looks like mine to believe as I do. I don’t need bodily features that resemble my own to know which side is right.Since I know that doesn’t work in everyone’s case, I really don’t know what can be done to bring in more minorities into the fold. I understand that the conferences and such cost mega monies to put on, so asking for reduced costs to attend something like TAM (which I would love to go to in a few years) isn’t very reasonable, especially as they get bigger. And that of course requires people knowing about it, which means outreach. Given the tight grip that religion has on the black community, that’s a stretch. “We” have a ways to go in even acknowledging that it is possible to even be good people without religious belief, or that anything outside the norm (like atheism or even being gay) is some sort of corruption from white folks. I swear to you I have relatives who truly believe this.I think it’s a problem that is two-fold in solving: on one side, atheists/skeptics who happen to be associated with a minority stepping up and speaking out, and on the other side, our brethren in belief supporting the ones who manage to break the spell and join us in nonbelief. By support, I think I mean, don’t put that person, be they black, Asian, disabled, female on the spot.I really wish I had something more productive to add, other than adding my voice to “amen chorus” of agreeing with your post.

  31. JAFisher44 says

    These recent uproar’s about “isms” in the atheist community have me at a loss. I have to say that I was completely unaware of them. I am not involved in any “in person” atheist gatherings, but the web seems to have a decent men/women ratio. As for skin color, I guess I am just not sensitive enough to the subject. I just don’t think in terms of race. Humans, to me, are just humans. Most of the atheists I know of are represented by a screen name, which, usually, does not indicate skin color. In retrospect it does occur to me that most of the videos I see are white people.Well, if atheism is a big ol’ white men’s club I do not endorse it. I for one am happy to see any person embrace skeptical and rational thinking. Consider this my statement of acceptance of any person regardless of sex of skin color. I welcome you all!

  32. says

    Yes, everyone please check me out. My thoughts are second-rate, but I’m black so if you don’t like them it means you’re racist :PThanks for the plug, Daniel.

  33. Morningstar says

    This. Also, it’s a sort of silly idea. Us blacks who’ve managed to escape the all encompassing reach of the black church can handle being the only bit of color amongst a few white nerds. That’s probably how we spent most of our school years, after all.There’s a lack of black people at these conferences because there’s a lack of black atheists. Free blacks from the black church, worry about your little conventions later.

  34. Morningstar says

    I’ve been in that situation more times than I could possibly count. It’s not difficult when you have self-confidence.

  35. LadyAtheist says

    I’m white but in some of my past jobs I was the only white person in my workplace, and some meetings etc. Some of the other offices in my organization were very narrow-minded and thought all their expressions of fundyism were fine at work. Taking “diversity” classes with fundy African-Americans is a hoot! They really couldn’t see their own religious bigotry when we came to religion. “Diversity” has been synonymous with racial acceptance for so long that prejudice against atheists just doesn’t register even with people who have worked on racial issues

  36. LadyAtheist says

    I think the grass roots would really be the place to start. Atheists of every stripe feel isolated, especially the newly-deconverted. The first place I met real life flesh & blood atheists was at a meet-up. Out of about 20 people there was usually only one or two other women and there was one black guy who was a regular. Race & sex never came up that I recall. We were all just eager to know others of “our kind.”

  37. asonge says

    Late comment is late, but let me put in my 0.02USD.There is yet another argument about “2nd-rate speakers” that fails to get mentioned over and over again. While the speakers you named there are all first-rate, a “second-rate” speaker could still have a competitive advantage in a specific field or different point of view. When someone gives something like an atheist status quo, that’s fine. When someone repeats it, it’s just emphasis. If you’ve got speakers with the same background discussing the same subjects, it’s boring and unproductive. New ideas come from all areas, and for each person that is the same, you’re losing out on the opportunity to branch out into new territory. This is where diversity shines. We should be interested in having a robust field of ideas…and that doesn’t preclude women and minorities from speaking only on “women and minority topics”. In the “many models” approach, someone from a different background may shed new light on an issue not easily conceivable from a more common background. We can’t lose unåique perspectives.

  38. says

    I beg to differ. I’m Asian, and young (28 years old), and I share the same sentiments that these “Old White People” say that, “Religion must disappear in society”. Looking deeply into the idea, I understand why.

  39. says

    It’s also sad that most theist and some Atheist alike view atheism as a “movement”, a “community”, or even a “religion”.Why can’t they understand that Atheism is a mindset? A thought process? A way of thinking?

  40. Nasir says

    All we can do is put out the welcoming mat. We can’t control who walks (or doesn’t walk) through the door.

  41. says

    “Agnostic, though widely claimed by Atheists” is the facebook religion of Dr. Tyson he seems reluctant to be a part of the atheist community.

  42. JediBear says

    The thing is that I think your solution to the problem highlights the problem’s essential non-existence. Some of our minorities are already our most popular speakers.And if we have a few old white men speaking at events, that’s cool too. There are a lot of very smart, very articulate, old white men in this movement.The problem is that this isn’t atheism’s problem. This is society’s problem.

  43. says

    As a woman who regularly goes to my local humanist meetings, I don’t give a crap about the gender of the speaker or the people involved as long as I’m interested in what they have to say.Speakers at atheist events should be chosen based on what they have to say and not paraded around on stage as tokens of diversity. It’s offensively patronising to suggest that’s what the absent people want.

  44. Watchout5 says

    I have a pretty atheist social group, that also happens to not be all that white. Ironically, the only religious people in my social circle are white, and Christian. I find much more coincidence with that then I do the atheist bit. I’m not sure what atheists these ‘journalists/bloggers’ have been studying but they should come hang out with us, and I promise we’ll leave the white robes at home.

  45. says

    They’re not in an ‘unrepresented group’ unless they insist on dividing themselves from others on racial grounds. They are, in fact, a member in a group of atheists, and given the general culture in atheist groups, they’re almost certainly a completely equal member.If someone racially discriminates against the minority person that would be a bad thing, and I’ve no doubt it would be treated as such, but if race isn’t an issue for everyone else, it shouldn’t be one for them either.

  46. Alex says

    But by drawing attention to gender and racial differences, we cause people to mentally separate their fellow humans into groups based upon those differences. Creating categories does not do anything but cause us to categorize people. The sooner everyone stops thinking in terms of “white atheists,” “black atheists,” or “female atheists,” or whatever, the sooner we can start thinking of people in terms of simply being “atheists.” Yes it’s difficult to do so for groups whose grandparents were marginalized, but the past *does* go away, if we choose to let it do so.I guess what I’m trying to say is that the best way to rectify one group’s hatred of a different group is to eliminate the idea that the difference between them is in any way meaningful. As long as anyone of any race or gender continues to believe that such differences are meaningful, we will never be able to have an egalitarian society.

  47. Pepijn says

    Jen, I usually agree with everything you say (sorry to sound like a sycophant!), but I think you missed the point here:””We should have second best speakers at events, choose them solely on the colour of their gender, otherwise we might appear sexist.”Whoooooooosh.The assumption that minority speakers are inherently second best? Now that is racist and sexist.”I don’t think the commenter was saying that at all. Their point is that if you choose speakers based *solely* on irrelevant attributes like skin colour or gender, then you won’t get the best speakers (at least not on average). Which is true.Of course nobody is proposing to choose speakers that way, so the commenter’s point is irrelevant. But it isn’t racist or sexist either, quite the contrary.So that “wooosh” was a little ironic, I think… ;-)

  48. Greg23 says

    “But you know who some of the most disappointing speakers were? People who keep getting re-invited because of their fame, but just re-hashed old talks, gave crappy Q&A sessions, or bored everyone to tears.”…and that’s the main reason, after having attended 5 of the first 6 T.A.M.s, we don’t go anymore.

  49. Svlad Cjelli says

    Of course it’s a problem if people are too shy to join when they want to. On the other hand, you’d be pretty disturbed to invite NEIL deGRASSE TYSON for his “Excellence in Blackness”, as it were.”Ooo, look at the darky, doing arithmetic like a person! Come here, negroes; there’s another of your kind! Don’t you feel included now?”Sure that’s harsh, but it’s how it fucking sounds when one is asked if one wouldn’t rather hang out with another “svartskalle”.

  50. says

    I don’t really disagree with your statement that groups cause more separation, but the problem here is that the groups have existed for upwards of 300 years (in the US) and can be traced back even farther, obviously. Yes, it’s true that a lot of the animosity stems from the past, but the things in the past have affected the present in a number of remarkable ways, and it’s not right to say that it’s a group’s choice to hold on to a conflict of that magnitude. Because of these things, it’s not like we can realistically expect everyone to suddenly become colorblind. Honestly, a move toward a colorblind society would be incredibly dangerous right now, because people of color are *still* marginalized in profound ways. Equality has to be achieved before we can ever move past race, and I don’t think it can plausibly happen the other way around.

  51. says

    A lot of people don’t consider skin color and gender to be “irrelevant attributes,” as they fundamentally shape your view of the world. Just sayin’.

  52. Nameit Nameji says

    I am Asian Indian ex-hindu, now an atheist. I don’t demand diversity for the sake of diversity. If the ideas come from ex-christen; I am not going to reject those ideas, just because they came from ex-christen. I am not going to reject a platform just because it is dominated by a particular race. And there is a fairly sized atheist movement in India. So no, I don’t buy it. I am thankful for all the atheist philosophers for doing the trail blazing for me.

  53. zuche says

    Race is more an issue for everyone else than most of us like to admit. It’s amazing what we assume and take for granted about “everybody” that can really be off-putting to people who do come from a different background. To whatever degree the problem is, “There’s no one like me here,” or, “This group can’t be very welcoming to people like me if there’s no one like me here,” or, “How likely is it that anyone here will understand me?” doesn’t change the fact that there is a problem, and an opportunity being missed.Earlier, it was claimed that seeking out speakers from a broader range of backgrounds was a disservice to everyone, because it meant choosing diversity over quality. People don’t equate that with racism or sexism, despite the fact that most people unconsciously demonstrate preference for one gender or certain races when it comes to such selection processes. There is something great about the fact that a woman speaking before a crowd can be five times better at it than any of the other candidate speakers. What’s not great is how often she’s had to be five times better than the others to even be considered for that candidate’s list. That sort of thing is still a problem. Risk comes with diversity, as it does with any opportunity. It’s not enough to offer people a place where they can be “just like you.” People need a place they can feel at home on some level, even when they can’t actually feel that way at home itself.

  54. zuche says

    No, it’s not how it sounds at all. We’re capable of recognizing and prejudging people based on appearance within hours of birth. Acknowledging that difference is human. Showing that difference is welcome takes effort.

  55. says

    As a Filipino American I know all to well the lack of Asians in the skeptical and atheist movements. There is hope though. In the Philippines there are several blogs and freethinker groups, and the Islands is soooo totally all about Catholicism. Here in the states the Catholic male dominated household of Filipino’s is, how should I say it, certainly not a breeding ground for atheist. I guess all “we” can do is keep doing what we do and, slowly, in the future our numbers will grow. Awesome Jenn, hope school is going well for ya. I still think ya should ave come to super awesome Nor-Cal. Awesomeness.Kriss

  56. says

    it’s not right to say that it’s a group’s choice to hold on to a conflict of that magnitudeIt’s not about the group, it’s about each individual. If you’re an ethnic minority atheist and you join an atheist group and they’re welcoming and friendly but you choose to react badly to them because they’re also all white then that is your choice. You are not bound by your background – I’d have thought people in the atheist community, especially in the US, would get that.

  57. says

    The people who are booked to speak at conferences should be the ones who have the most interesting and relevant things to say.Sure. And when people look at speaker lists where almost everyone is a white man, it would be nice if they noticed this and thought, “Wait a second. Do I really believe that only white men have interesting and relevant things to say? Where’s everyone else?”I want race to be irrelevant, and I think it is irrelevant in the modern worldIt isn’t irrelevant to people whose lives are affected by racism.

  58. says

    I don’t agree. When faced with the issue of having more women and people of color as speakers, the person didn’t say “we need to figure out why first-rate women and people of color don’t get invited to speak as often as white men.” S/he assumed that to get more minority speakers, people would have to be invited to speak *solely* on the basis of skin color or gender — which nobody is asking for.

  59. says

    I disagree with the idea that choosing speakers based, in part, on race is “racist.”Under what criteria are you deciding who is the “best” speaker, exactly? It seems pretty damn subjective to me. You want someone who is going to be able to give an interesting and unique talk. I’d guess that because someone of a non-white background has a different experience in life, their experience as an atheist is also going to be different. Wouldn’t that different experience be something interest and unique to talk about?

  60. says

    It’s not that they’re bound by their background; many people actually choose to embrace their background, even while simultaneously questioning certain aspects of it. If someone is afraid their voice will be marginalized, they’re not “choosing to react badly;” they’re aware that even purportedly accepting groups have done the same thing to them over and over again. It’s about experience, and whose gets painted as the “face of the movement,” and — not surprisingly — it’s never people of color unless it’s a group designed specifically for them. Please stop painting this issue as “it’s all a choice” because, quite frankly, it’s pretty offensive and reductive.

  61. says

    I seem to recall demographic studies that claim non-whites are far more likely to be devoutly religious – for what ever the reason may be. Taking that into consideration, it would stand to reason that a) the incidence of atheism amoungst non-whites is much smaller than whites, and b) even those atheists in the non-white demographic are far less likely to express their sentiments out of fear/respect for their cultural mores.Remember, atheists are the most untrusted religious classification in the united states, so I think it’s more likely they stay away because they don’t want to explain to their families why they are hanging around with ‘baby eaters’. But those are just my opinions and I could be wrong.

  62. says

    “It’s not difficult when you have self-confidence ” unless the environment is hostile. I lived in hawaii for two years – 5th and 6th grade. The last day of school there is called ‘kill the haole’ day – Haole is the hawaiian word for ‘foreigner’, which has become subverted to mean ‘white’.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K… The school administration actually excused people from the last day of school, provided a parent came to pick up the report card. I didn’t go, since I was a runt of a white blonde irish kid, but my neighbor ended up in the emergency room from a nun-chuck to the head. I was attacked at a playground during the summer recess by a gang, but was fortunate to only end up with a few bruises.Self confidence is no protection when a gang attacks you.

  63. says

    From my understanding, you’re in that frustrating situation where you’re partly right and partly wrong.The problem as I see it is that the problem you’re describing is mutually reinforced from both directions.Yes, there are cultural effects in place within minority communities that make them more statistically probable to be religious in outlook. This in turn makes it less likely that members of that minority will attempt to engage with atheistic or secular groups.But at the exact same time, the relative absence of minority membership in atheist/secular groups means that those groups have a hard time appealing to the interests of those minority groups. This then provides an additional barrier to entry for any members of non-middleclass, non-white social groupings.Each side reinforces the division between the groups.The trick here is that if anyone is going to affect change to this particular status quo, it’s going to have to be us. Minority groups with a strong sense of a religious group-identity aren’t going to be particularly motivated to send out their members to mingle with atheist groups. People within those minority groups that might be inclined to join up anyway will then be up against the sense of exclusion that comes from being a member of a group that doesn’t address that individual’s specific issues.It’s a bugger of a problem, and whatever else the answer is, it isn’t going to be a magic fix.But actually making an attempt, however clumsy, must surely be better than sitting back and doing nothing at all.

  64. Gus Snarp says

    What you’re actually saying is, it’s not difficult for me, so the countless people for whom it is difficult must have something wrong with them. Bullshit. Your experience is not everyone else’s, and not because of a perceived lack of self-confidence.

  65. Svlad Cjelli says

    It’s very human. And it still feels q u i t e patronising. But I suppose that feeling is highly individual, so your way might work in many cases.

  66. MarcusBailius says

    I actually think the commenter on the Richard Dawkins Foundation site was being typically British and lampooning the racist idea. And being British, the humour is understated, but still we over here can all see that he is making the very idea look incredibly stupid.Sometimes we Brits will say something, and you have to look carefully to see the twinkle in the eye. So I am sorry if the humour was not seen. I can see it, and recognise the very heavy irony that commenter used.Two nations, divided by a common language…!I would also say that, yes, over here there are people who identify themselves as being part of an atheist movement. And there are others who, perhaps like me, identify as atheists, but don’t necessarily wear the uniform. And this is perhaps because we’re more comfortable being known as such, knowing we won’t be disadvantaged in any way as a result of our lack of a faith. Our current deputy Prime Minister is atheist – try getting a similar position in the USA with that stamp! His wife is Catholic. Although, boot on the other foot, yes, we understand that in the USA and other places, it feels much more comfortable to be part of the movement – safety in numbers, especially where the religious right is wielding political power, and especially where this is causing problems, putting dogma before evidence.I have friends and relatives who are atheists; I have friends and relatives who are Catholics, friends and relatives who are Protestant/Church of England, friends who are more evangelical than that; friends who are Hindu, colleagues who are Muslim; I know others who are Jewish, or who are Buddhist. I have an aunt who is a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, although she has Alzheimers now. We each perhaps view each other’s beliefs or lack thereof as something which characterises that person, sometimes with some slight amusement, but not (usually) as a threat. Sometimes we have long conversations about it, sometimes we just don’t go there.I guess ultimately that’s where we need to get more people in the world. Anything’s better than lobbing bombs at each other!

  67. jamrifis says

    This is all a massive diversion from the really important question: how do we involve more arts graduates?

  68. says

    For this story to make sense: I used to work as a barman. After finishing my BSc (CompSci) I decided to take six months off to bum around and relax before entering into the grind of a ‘real job’. At the time this story takes place I was about two months into my six-month holiday.Melissa was one of my managers at the bar. She stormed into the bar in a huff one night. The bar was closing, no customers around.I asked her what was wrong. It turns out that Dave (one of the other managers) had been condescending at her.Melissa had made some entirely forgivable errors when calculating the previous night’s take. She came up a few thousand short of the actual revenue because she’d omitted a few large customer tabs. Dave spotted the error and told her off for ‘being stupid’.She took her intellect seriously, so she was pissed off. So she had a bit of a vent. Her monologue ended on the following sentence:”Seriously Dan – I have a double major in History and English! Dave doesn’t have any degree at all! How can he think I am stupid?”My (unwise) response?”Well… It is only a BA…”I then received the worst (only?) double purple-nurple of my life.It was still totally worth it. ^_^Melissa and Dave are, of course, not their real names.Also: Before anyone rages at me, I do actually value the education provided in an arts course. I was just winding Melissa up on “because it’s damn funny” grounds.

  69. Morningstar says

    So you’re saying I can expect gang attacks at atheist conferences? Is there usually a “Kill Niggers Day” on the agenda? Because otherwise your post is pretty irrelevant.

  70. Morningstar says

    I think most people DO have something wrong with them when it comes to race and stepping outside their social construct racial group. Do you think that’s right to immediately feel uncomfortable even when gathered with a bunch of people with specific common interests, there for the same reason? People like that certainly don’t have as much self-confidence as I do, as I’m more than willing to be in that situation. Do you think I don’t have more self-confidence them?

  71. says

    Well – okay. Fine. Good for you. Huzzah for you. You’re just peachy.Well done! Have a virtual chocolate fish. Et cetera and so on and so forth.Now that that’s out of the way: What about everyone else we’re yet to reach, hmm?What’s your plan for them? Scold them for not having enough self-confidence?Nah. I’ll save the act of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face to those with more confidence in their abilities than I.

  72. Julie says

    I was just about to say exactly this. I need to organize a porn and chicken night soon. Or, or! Oooh, porn, chicken and waffles!

  73. Morningstar says

    I pointed out the plan should be to create more black atheists, not try to get more black atheists to come to little conventions. What percentage of atheists will ever attend, or even here about, those things, regardless of color?Freeing blacks from the black church is what matters.

  74. says

    As a graduate student in literature with a sub-concentration in feminism, I’m thoroughly offended on behalf of all students of the humanities….lulz just kidding. You know us notoriously humorless feminists!

  75. A-M says

    I’m an arts graduate! Do I get to be a guest speaker somewhere? Would it help if I mentioned I’m female and mixed nationality (although not quite mixed race)?

  76. A-M says

    I do feel the need to point out, my degree is in modern foreign languages. That is at least a proper subject. I’m such a hypocrite lol. :P

  77. Crgasbarro says

    Apparently some people have a hard time distinguishing sarcasm when reading comments.FYI it IS the accepted practice for many establishments to take the “second best” people in order to better integrate. For example, it is the NY courts decision that the FDNY must “dumb” down their entry exam tests in order to fix its diversity problem. That is why some people take exception to articles like this. Isn’t it perhaps possible that there just so happen to be statistically more white atheists then black? Is it always someone (in this case caucasions) fault? And this case is special because articles like this are just the types of things you read just before a movement does start preaching. Atheism is something that you have to just allow people to find for themselves.

  78. says

    If someone is afraid their voice will be marginalizedAnd they’re basing that fear on what, exactly? If they’re experiencing actual racism in atheist groups then that racism is what should be tackled. If they fear racism that isn’t actually happening then that fear is irrational. it’s never people of color unless it’s a group designed specifically for themThat’s simply not true. There have been several examples of high profile athiests and skeptics cited already on this thread, and the white majority seem to be perfectly accepting of them. Does anyone here really devalue the contributions of Hemant, or Simon Singh, or the others mentioned because they’re non-white?

  79. Svlad Cjelli says

    No, there can’t be more white atheists. Comic justice magic keeps the numbers balanced.:PActually, it’s also possible that other atheists are simply better at staying “in the closet”.

  80. says

    So where do you see my comment as ‘partly wrong’? I don’t quite see how an atheist organization by virtue of it’s ethnic make doesn’t “appeal the the interests of minority groups”. Atheist organizations are established to appeal to atheist sensibilities, and make no consideration of race or ethnic sensibilities in that such issues are considered _non_ issues. That said, if a young black lesbian walks into an atheist meeting composed entirely of white middle class men, one could certainly understand her discomfort, but I struggle to understand how the white middle class men would be complicit in that discomfort. As another poster commented somewhere else in this thread, a little self confidence is all that’s necessary to over come social discomfort in a non-hostile environment

  81. says

    You’re a fucking idiot, morning star. The context of schaellers comment was the feeling a person has when being the only person of another color in a different environment. Your comment dismissed the fact that he wasn’t discussing benevolent environments like an atheist gathering, but how he felt being a foreign person in a foreign land. It’s your comment that was shortsighted, because it implied that a persons self-confidence is valid compensation for unknown or hostile environments. My point was, if an islamic fundamentalist group in malaysia decided danial was a conveneint target, self confidence wouldn’t have helped him.Get a fucking clue.

  82. danielm says

    Well there’s an elephant in the room here, and it’s that banging the drum of “multiculturalism at any cost!” sidelines the issue of “finding and advancing the cause of atheists” into “make sure we’re being fair to everybody in a big ol’ circle-jerking kumbayaa session of love”.It’s not my fault I’m white any more than it’s Jen’s fault she’s female nor is it Hemant’s fault he’s not.I don’t see the problem – is there a sign on the door saying “white’s only, no yids, kikes, gooks, nips, chinks, wogs, japs, beaners or wetbacks” ? No? Oh, good, I see we are letting in people like Jen (a woman! hiss! she has a vagina! fear it!) and Salman Rushdie, we’re listening to atheist comedians of many colours, for god’s sake (hah, I’m aware of the irony) we just had a whole slew of “Country X has atheists!” and not once did the thought of “oh, noes, those heathen big-lipped drum-beating savages are trying to come over here and steal our godlessness!” even cross my mind.If anything, it’s more racist when groups called “African Americans for Humanism” start up than over here in Finland where it’s “Skepsis Ry” instead of “valko-ihoiset skeptikkit ry”.No, it takes some inflammatory assholes commenting bullshit about a wank-rags dumbass publication to bring the subject up.bah, I say. Bah.

  83. says

    They’re basing that fear on personal experiences because in many “colorless” movements, their experiences have been completely discounted while other voices have dominated the discussion. No one here is saying that Hermant and Singh don’t exist, because we know they do, or that they’re not as valuable, but they’re not the people who are envisioned as the face of the atheist movement. Getting back to what Jen said, a lot of the problem stems from visibility rather than an actual lack of atheists of color, and that’s a problem that *can* be rectified. People are so quick to make diversity into a problem stemming solely from racism, but they’re not necessarily the same thing. But after reading a lot of the comments on the original article and the shitstorm that has ensued, I suppose I can see why, because it brings out a lot of racist sentiments. (Not you specifically.)

  84. quantheory says

    I think is somewhat tied into what Greta Christina called proving “a safe place to land”. I’d like for people not to fall into the cracks where they leave their inherited religion, but can’t find a welcoming atheist/freethinking/humanist environment after losing their religious social support. If people come from a community where atheism is not as acceptable, they need that more, not less.

  85. Jeric_synergy says

    I see this topic has flushed the douchebags out of the woodwork. The laughable sight of supposed rationalists refusing to accept that people of color might feel a teensy bit uncomfortable in a sea of white faces is quite educational.

  86. says

    The ability to self flagellate appears to be more widespread than I previously thought. I thought I had hit my worst nightmare. Here I am a survivor of sexual abuse by clergy who has no belief in the godly spin of the church and politics and for a moment there I thought I was plunged back into those endless rounds of guilt tripping, blame, diversion, digression at every step of the way when I came here looking for a view of what is more sane to me. My mind kept racing and screaming through countless comparable instances and then it would flash that big beautiful question mark and that slow steady voice that knowingly and confidently says ‘I thought it was about a life of living without the influence of some fools god’. I thought the complexes I had developed as a result of living in an environment that managed in the main by deranged sociopathic, self deluding men prepared to take you and me to hell here on this earth and I get to the seeming fact that women appear not to like me and Asians also and perhaps Aboriginal people also if you take the time to think about it although somehow I don’t think that is the real issue. Take me to your politically active leaders where they are planning the development of open source software to operate whole countries in an open and transparent manner and building open voting and organizing systems and implementing social systems for the betterment of humankind by building social and political movements rather than being concerned over fears of who might or might not like you or be liked by you. Is my bubble about to be burst?

  87. Svlad Cjelli says

    True, Schealler mentioned a hostile environment. And Morningstar mentioned some difference to atheist gatherings. What’s the big problem? It was perfectly civil until you happened.

  88. Svlad Cjelli says

    Except of course that nobody in this comment section has said that there’s no discomfort.

  89. says

    It struck me as partly wrong by omission.My interpretation of your original point was: “The reason there aren’t any [ethnic group of choice] involved in atheist groups is because they don’t want to join. It’s not our job to fix that.”This omits two relevant points:1) That the exclusive force can work in both directions.2) That of the two groups, we can’t rely on [insert ethnic group here] to overcome that exclusive force. If anyone’s going to fix it, it’s up to us.If that interpretation was incorrect, or if the two omitted points were omitted simply because you felt they were obvious – then I apologize for reading you wrong.

  90. Svlad Cjelli says

    I noticed a trend here that people who mention their minorityness tend, though not exclusively, to either feel condescended or just not care.This could be because those with such opinions are more likely to use their minorityness as a bargaining chip for whatever reason. It could be that people with a decent amount of minorityness are more likely to feel condescended and/or not care.I think I had one or two more possibilities in mind, but I forgot them on the way here. Feel free to fill in the blanks.

  91. Morningstar says

    Real classy comment, guy.This is what Schaeller said, since you didn’t read it:”I had this experience frequently during a trip to Malaysia. For the most part I was the only white person around. Despite the fact that I only experienced positive discrimination while I was there, it still weirded me the hell out.”He didn’t mentioned anything about roving gangs of Islamic fundies threatening him. If he had anything like that in mind, I think he would have found a stronger word than “uncomfortable.” That’s just your own fears and insecurity peeking through.Moreover, if he did, then my comment stands. Atheist conventions aren’t hostile, dangerous environments. There’s no rational reason to feel uncomfortable just because people have a different skin color.

  92. b.g. says

    So, Daniel, do you work, or do you just live off the royalties from having your photo next to the dictionary entry for “obnoxious white-privileged fuckstain”?

  93. danielm says

    I bet it took training to be as big an asshole as you, right? five hard years at the school of assholery to learn just how to shit over an argument like that, yeah?Oh noes, I dared to suggest that perhaps skin colour isn’t only something that should be left behind with baggage like the colour of the hat that the big beard in the sky wears, but that it largely *is* – quick, let’s make sure we’re being P.C. by complaining that we’re not filling our brown quota, or latino quota, or “differently abled” quota, because that earns extra brownie-points. Don’t ask me who from because I don’t know either, and hey, I’m not the one looking for brownie points.Bullshit and fuck you.All it takes to be an atheist is to say “hey, I don’t think there’s some big beard in the sky watching my every move, and I am responsible for my own life.”I don’t see anywhere where it says “and my skin colour”. I don’t care if you’re black, brown, red, green or yellow, I care so little that I don’t see a need to molly-coddle *any* particular shade, model of sexual organ or any mixture of the above.It’s telling that you do, why is that?I’m all for activism, but I rather thought we’d left the whole racial purity bullshit behind us. It’s sad to see there’s people like you who don’t agree.

  94. says

    I think one of the big problems here is that there is a first world bias going on in the arguments around atheism – where in fact a third world perspective may be more valuable.It is why I tend to promote Kamphala Atheism at every opportunity – we need to put a bit of an emphasis that the movement is in fact an international one, not an American one.I would also suggest we develop a new set of horsemen, only this time have four different religious backgrounds. Finally, we need to reform the press. The major figures who have moved the atheist movement have very often been women – yet the main figures portrayed as leaders have been men. The same problem will persist with race unless we find a way to bring attention to non-white atheist leaders.

  95. says

    Yes, I wasn’t commenting on the need for mutual engagement, but that there are multiple reasons for the non-involvement of non-whites in atheist organizations.

  96. says

    Um there have been a lot of comments on this already, so am not entirely sure whether the ‘British thing’ you mentioned has been already discussed. I’m British, I’m atheist (adamantly so, but only recently very vocal about it) and I was only today having a conversation about secularism in Britain! I think Jen’s point that atheism is more accepted over here is spot on. Yes, we have religious nuts and believe me, we have bigoted, mis/uninformed and ignorant people by the bucketload… but no one has EVER told me I’m a bad person for being atheist. If I meet someone, I’m more surprised to discover that they DO have a religious background than that they don’t. Having said that, we still get a huge amount of religious/superstitious crap on our television screens and some politicians occasionally mention a god of some description if they think it will improve their public appearance. However, The Guardian is one of the most secular, liberal papers we have and I find is one of the best platforms for discovering new opinions that haven’t been tampered with by Murdoch or anyone else. So, I was a little surprised to see that some of its readers were so ridiculous. And disappointed too.On another, similar note, my university (Lancaster) doesn’t have an atheist or secular society. I guess the feeling is that we just don’t need one, because there is no religious pressure on us. It only occurred to me very recently that this was the case. I think seeing how many people in Britain are still behaving like reactionary, knee-jerk idiots demonstrates the need for younger people like me (I’m 20) to speak up about humanism etc, to educate others that sexist, racist or any other kind of behaviour of that kind is unnecessary and damaging.

  97. says

    “I want race to be irrelevant, and I think it is irrelevant in the modern world”That is what most white people want. It doesn’t make it the truth.

  98. nobody2 says

    @nobody:disqus  Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!SO WELL SAID!


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