We Are Not Allies

Decided to move this post from my old blog to here. Been wanting to include it for a while…

I was 21 when I first realized I was an atheist, and the same age when I told my mom and brother. I told my dad only a few months later, but after I turned 22.

During this period, it was all I was. I was just an atheist. I wasn’t anything else. I lived and breathed atheism, searched for atheists and atheist stuff online, and my antitheism came screaming out like never before. Because I was an antitheist first. Bill Hicks indulged my antitheism long before I realized I didn’t even believe in a higher power or powers. I realized I was an antitheist when I was 16 and started hating authority. It was only natural that I’d abhor religion, while still believing in a living god who’d talk directly to you, without the aid of some pathetic book or middle-man (clergy).

But then I read The God Delusion, and then the Bible. And I was an atheist.

And for years, I was happy with anyone who was an atheist. I didn’t care if they were feminists or misogynists. I didn’t care if they tried to fight patriarchy and rape culture or denied their existence. But I would only fight alongside atheists and I would never fight alongside a theist, because theists were crazy/delusional and faith was a virus… and “The God Delusion” was my bible.

So it’s safe to say I did the whole “critical thinking” thing wrong.

Because the longer I’ve been part of the atheist and skeptic communities, the more I’ve realized how absolutely screwed up that way of thinking is.

In short: atheism is no longer enough. It’s not even essential, anymore. Just because you don’t believe in god doesn’t mean you and I will get along.

And that, right there, is the crux of the issue, now.

There is a phrase that popular atheists have been using that makes me cringe… even moreso because I’ve used it myself in the past:

“Atheists are the last minority it’s still okay to hate.”

The problem with this statement is simple: it’s a lie! Atheists are not the last minority it’s still okay to hate, because if you’re aware of society even a little bit, then you’ll realize that it’s still okay to hate all minorities!

I should probably note now that I’m talking about political minorities, not numbers minorities. I say that because if we go by numbers alone, then straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, Christian, wealthy males are clearly a minority. But when talking about the balance of power, that minority holds the balance of power almost completely in Western Society. So when I say “minority”, I mean political minority, not numbers minority.

It’s still okay to hate anyone on the LGBTQ spectrum, no matter where they might fall. It’s still okay to hate people of color. It’s still okay to hate women. And yes, it’s still okay to hate atheists, as well.

It’s also okay in this country to hate vegans, and Jews, and Muslims, and fat people, and skinny people, and Sikhs, and Hindus, and Buddhists, and people who are physically and/or mentally disabled… in short… bigoted intolerance is still acceptable in western society.

So when people say that atheists are the last minority it’s still okay to hate, it makes me wonder if they’re paying attention… at all.

You see… acceptance of atheists simply isn’t enough for me anymore. I want acceptance of all people, regardless of worldview, race, gender, sexuality, etc. This is why I’m a progressive.

This is why I’m a feminist.

And I’m no longer above working alongside religious people to achieve those goals. Malala Yousafzai is a Muslim. John Fugelsang believes in Jesus. Melissa Harris-Perry is a Unitarian Universalist. bell hooks is very spiritual. Kelly Barnhill is Catholic. Nelson Mandela was a Methodist.

And yet I would rather fight alongside all of them for social justice than Penn Jillette, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, etc for even just atheism.

I also no longer accept the idea that faith is a delusion. I’m still thinking about the idea that faith is a virus, but if that’s the case, then memes should be considered cultural viruses, as well… in fact, if we’re taking the basic definition of a virus minus the negative baggage, anything you’re taught through education qualifies as a cultural virus. Which sort of makes the term “virus” rather useless. Calling faith a disability of any kind is offensive, but Miri Mogilevsky has already covered this one wonderfully, and you should read what she has to say on it.

For the record, this isn’t “faitheism” or “accomodationism”. I still think religion is a net bad in society and that the entire world would be better off without it. I do think that the idea of a higher power is ridiculous on the face of it. And if they give me the chance (that is, they question my atheism), I will gladly question Malala’s, John’s, Melissa’s, bell hooks’s, and Kelly’s faith. I do not like Christianity (including Mormonism, Catholicism, Quaker, Methodist, Amish, and all other iterations of Jesus-believing faiths) at all. I like Islam even less. I love Judaism as a culture, but hate the religious aspects of it, and I am very critical of Zionism. I’m not even a fan of Hinduism and Buddhism!

And I still hate the bad thinking that can go along with faith, like pseudoscience, alternative medicine, using God as a stop-gap, etc.

I’m also still pretty sure I’d have trouble being married to (or otherwise in a long-term, committed relationship with) a theist… but that’s another blog post for another time (and is actually not as certain as it once was).

So this is not about accomodationism or faitheism in any way, shape, or form. It’s about what matters.

And so we get to the point of this post.

If you do not think bigotry is a problem…

If you are against shining a critical light onto atheist and skeptic communities…

If you think Ayn Rand was a great, or even good, thinker…

If you don’t think harassment of women is a problem…

If you are skeptical of privilege and patriarchy and rape culture…

If you’re first thought when you see a picture of a 15-year-old girl with her new book by Carl Sagan given to her by her deeply religious mom is “tears are nature’s lubricant”, or you would defend someone posting that on the picture with “it was just a joke!”…

If you think making fun of victims of rape because they were raped is even remotely funny…

If you think a woman saying “guys, don’t do that” is the worst thing to ever happen to men ever…

If you think that a lonely hotel elevator at 4:00am in a foreign country is the only possible setting for you to “pick up chicks”…

If you (as a white person) think it’s okay to call a woman of color out because she calls out very clear and very obvious racism, and then try to explain to her why she (someone who has experiences you will never have) is wrong…

If you think that getting a woman so drunk she can’t even consent is not rape…

If you wouldn’t believe a rape victim just because she was drunk…

If you really do think that false rape accusations are so prevalent that it’s helpful to even suggest that a victim is lying…

And in that vein… if you think “innocent until proven guilty” is a legitimate concept outside a court of law…

If you think the free speech clause in the first amendment is a “FREEDOM TO SAY WHATEVER I WANT TO WHOMEVER I WANT WITHOUT FACING THE CONSEQUENCES” clause that applies even to private spaces, such as private blogs (instead of a clause protecting you from government persecution if you happen to dislike the government and thus only protects you in government-owned spaces)…

If you think that men are an oppressed minority who need activists to fight for our rights…

If you’ve managed to replace God with “The Invisible Hand of the Market”, or if you’ve ever used that phrase non-ironically or uncritically…

If you think “no” is just a yes that needs coaxing…

If you think that mansplaining is not a thing…

If you think misandry is equivalent to misogyny…

Another note, here… I do in fact think misandry is a thing, but I think misandry is perpetuated far more by Men’s Rights Activists, Nice GuysTM, and as a side-effect of our patriarchal society, than by feminists… and it is clearly not an institutionalized bigotry like misogyny is…

If you use the term Social Justice Warrior as a derogatory term…

If you are Pro-Life…

If you think people of color can be racist like white people have been and are racist…

If you “don’t get” trans* people…

Then I really don’t care how much of an atheist you are. I really don’t care how much you hate religion. I really don’t care how badly you want to see atheists accepted in society.

I have no interest in fighting alongside you for anything… not even for atheism.

So yeah… simply being an atheist isn’t good enough any more. You need to be more than that. You need to be better than that. Or I’m simply not interested in forming an alliance with you.

It really is that simple. I don’t believe that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, because the enemy of my enemy may in fact be my enemy, as well, and may ultimately stab me in the back. Why should I extend that trust when I have no idea if you’ll extend the same trust to me? You have to prove yourself, first, and if we can’t even agree on basic social justice issues, then we aren’t allies.



  1. abear says

    If you really do think that false rape accusations are so prevalent that it’s helpful to even suggest that a victim is lying…

    And in that vein… if you think “innocent until proven guilty” is a legitimate concept outside a court of law…

    Right on Nate. I think PZ probably raped/sexually harassed that student too. Why else would he have to zoom over to the deans office and get there first?

  2. Edward Gemmer says

    I’m not wild about this sentiment. For example, Ted Olson is a conservative Republican who probably doesn’t check off all your boxes. However, you could make a solid case that he is one of the most important figures in the movement to legalize gay marriage. Is it worth throwing him out because he is pro-life or some other thing you aren’t interested in?

  3. abear says

    If you think that a lonely hotel elevator at 4:00am in a foreign country is the only possible setting for you to “pick up chicks”…

    You’d have to be pretty clueless to think that’s the only way. If you are a freelance historian and faux feminist I hear you can score big by speaking at atheist cons and then lurking at the after parties.

  4. abear says

    Can black folks be racist? I think this guy might be:
    He may not be “powerful” like a Trump or an Obama, but he has as much power as the run of the mill white trash hateful bigot does.
    He hates white people, check.
    He paints white people with a broad brush, check.
    He thinks white people are inferior to blacks, check.
    He believes white people are intrinsically violent savages, check.
    Sounds like a racist to me.

  5. says

    There are plenty of white people who are happy to assume a black person shot by the police must have done something wrong. They automatically assume guilt.

  6. says


    Can black folks be racist?


    He may not be “powerful” like a Trump or an Obama, but he has as much power as the run of the mill white trash hateful bigot does.

    No he does not.

    Sounds like a racist to me.

    Yes, I’m sure he does. That’s because you have no idea what you are talking about.

  7. abear says

    iris@9: Do you think there are any white people that aren’t powerful and privileged? If so, are they incapable of being racist?
    Also, in your opinion, are all non white people incapable of being racist or is it just folks of African descent?
    Is it possible for black people to be racist toward other black people or other non-whites?
    I find post modernist racialism theory confusing. 🙁

  8. says

    The sociological definition of racism is prejudice + power. The dictionary definition is useless here (unless you’re white and racist and want an excuse to be). Privilege is intersectional.

    People of color can be prejudiced, but they cannot be racist. I’m sure you don’t like that, but it’s fact.

  9. says

    So although my uncle (family is Mexican American) disowned his daughter for marrying a Mexican American with African heritage, he wasn’t racist? What if the family hadn’t left Mexico, and he was a member of the majority population and did the same thing? Does being one one side or the other of the Rio Grande determine whether his action was racist or not?

  10. Vivec says

    Does being one one side or the other of the Rio Grande determine whether his action was racist or not?

    Yes, absolutely.

    Prejudice + Power requires societal power, which differs based on context. An Irish person has far more power in contemporary America than they did in 1800’s America, for example.

    Nowadays, Irish are considered white, and no longer face the same marginalization as they used to -- and that Mexican and African Americans still continue to face. Thus, their social power has changed, and as has their ability to be racist.

    If it can vary based on time, why not geography?

  11. Vivec says

    If needed, I can provide plenty of examples from the time that either used phrenological thinking to try and explain that the Irish were a seperate race from whites, or examples of them being marginalized heavily in ways that they no longer are.

  12. says


    Abear has been banned!

    Not all bears… just abear. Every other bear will be allowed to prove themselves worthy of commenting. But abear, in particular, was someone I just have no desire to deal with, disingenuous little shit that they are…

  13. jimtp says

    So dictionary definitions are only useful for defining feminism?
    The Jimtp definition of racist is someone who wears a pirate hat and a leather jacket while sporting a neckbeard.
    People without pirate hats and neckbeards cannot be racist. I’m sure you don’t like that, but it’s fact.
    Why should we use (the very softest of ‘sciences’) definitions except within that discipline’s literature. I didn’t realise that when you refer to cis people you actually mean alkenes that lie on the same side of the double bond. TBH it still makes it no clearer.
    Colin Powell, Barack Obama, MLK etc all people with no power? It would be laughable if this weren’t gaining traction outside of humanities departments.

  14. Vivec says

    I’m sure you don’t like that, but it’s fact.

    Sure, now demonstrate why we should accept or care about your definition, compared to the one that actual explains systemic prejudice and reflects the wealth of studies about that very topic?

  15. Vivec says

    Also, the fact that you can point out specific African Americans that do have societal power doesn’t affect the societal lack of power African Americans as a demographic face, it speaks to the additional social power afforded to heads of state and political leaders.

  16. snuffcurry says


    Colin Powell, Barack Obama, MLK etc all people with no power? It would be laughable if this weren’t gaining traction outside of humanities departments.

    That’s funny, because this amateur hour sleight of hand is utterly risible. No, no one here defined Powell, Obama, or MLK, Jr. as “racism.” Dust yourself off and try again.

  17. jimtp says

    @vivec Even among sociologists the prejudice+power is not wholly accepted, and it certainly isn’t within wider society.
    @snuffcurry I haven’t claimed anywhere that any of the aforementioned people were ‘racism’ nor that anyone here has claimed as much. But nice try. If you perceive using solid examples from history and the current year as ‘sleight of hand’ then you appear to be seeking confirmation for your own biases.

  18. Vivec says

    My claim wasn’t that it was popular, my claim was that it explains systemic prejudice and reflects the data.

  19. says

    Vivec, I suppose it just seems to me we are being left off the hook.
    Also part of the racism in Mexican culture fits in nicely with American racism.
    Our categories are somewhat different, but whites still come out on top.

  20. snuffcurry says

    No dice, jimtp. The definition of racism (“prejudice + power”) says nothing about Colin Powell.

  21. says

    Also was my uncle’s bigotry against my cousin’s husband because of bigotry from his own culture, or because of white racism that he was adopting? Or a combination of both?
    I have read of how immigrants will adopt the majority culture’s view of other minorities.

Leave a Reply