Have you ever felt like we need atheism more than ever?

I have, all the time. I remember when atheism was about idealism and anger at ignorant tribalism and superstition. Then I remember that the atheist movement imploded because it filled up with libertarians, misogynists, islamophobes, homophobes, transphobes, xenophobes, war mongers, racists, apologists for Nazis, and generic cowards who refused to think that secularists had any duty other than denying the existence of gods, and realize that atheism would have been just as criminal as the benighted belief systems we wanted to replace.

No, you don’t want to talk to me today. The only person I want to have a conversation with is me from 20 years ago, so I can rip all of the hope out of his skull.


  1. says

    Then I remember that the atheist movement imploded because it filled up with libertarians, misogynists, islamophobes, homophobes, transphobes, xenophobes, war mongers, racists, apologists for Nazis

    Bad people exist. They are members of every social group there is. They are part of every movement. It is naive to imagine that some group (like atheists) could be exempt from this rule. That’s impossible. Bad people exist and they are everywhere. This is why you shouldn’t get discouraged upon realizing that there is some racist or misogynist in the movement that you belong to. That’s normal. That happens. Just distance yourself from the bad person, clearly state that you disapprove of their behavior, and keep on working on promoting social change, focus on what your movement is about, namely promoting secularism and tolerance. Getting discouraged the first time you run into some bigoted asshole is counterproductive.

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    jack16 @2: A young woman, expecting to die, wrote this (in Polish) on the wall of a Gestapo cell;

    No, Mother, do not weep.
    Most chaste Queen of Heaven,
    Support me always.
    Hail Mary.
    Helena Wanda Błażusiakówna, aged 18, detained since 25 September, 1944.

    Too bad you weren’t there to explain truth and faith to her. She survived, and I’m sure we’d agree that Mary had nothing to do with it, but I suspect her faith was a source of comfort to her in her desperate circumstances.

  3. unclefrogy says

    faith is akin to magical thinking, when children do it we think of it as ignorant and childish something that will go away as they grow. When adults do it we call it religion, faith and a virtue.
    We are all susceptible to unwarranted beliefs from time to time and about different things. The catch is even when we try to objectively think clearly about things it is sometimes hard to tell in advance if we are going off the rails a bit because we are missing something.
    It would be OK if the senators just sat and prayed for real and really just believed, but I am afraid that for many it is just an act for the voters and they are mostly just self seeking assholes with about the same moral judgement and motivation of the operators of telephone boiler-rooms.
    uncle frogy

  4. mnb0 says

    “I remember when atheism was about idealism and anger at ignorant tribalism and superstition.”
    Which shows that your memory is selective too. That’s what you’re human for, naturally.
    What you really remember is the time when you thought all atheism was about idealism etc. Your atheism still is, but you now realize that there’s something like toxic atheism as well. You just don’t want to admit (yet?) that it always has been around. To name one infamous atheist (and finish with a Godwin): Martin Bormann. Atheist. Someone no sane person wants in his/her camp.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    A generation or two ago, the atheist movement really did reflect more positive values. Last night, the speaker at our local Humanist meeting resurrected a quotation from one of the most irascible atheist leaders ever, Madalyn Murray O’Hair:

    An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated.

    Standards, to quote every old-timer everywhere ever, really have deteriorated.

  6. mountainbob says

    I’m no longer religious. I’m pretty militant about it if someone gets in my face with sanctimony and prayer, or if a business claims to be founded on “Christian Principles.” Otherwise, I’m rather gruntled most of the time when folks key their comments to an understanding of history, the rights of others, and the readily observable and verifiable facts revealed through the application of reason and the scientific method.

  7. says

    Andreas @3 – This is extreeeeemely far from the first time. Maybe you’re new to the English language atheist areas of the internet, so I’ll let you know. A solid majority of atheist voices on the English-speaking internet have thrown their support behind misogyny and regressive values. If you look at any atheist on Youtube that was dunking on creationists ten years ago, almost every video they have now is trying to tear down feminism. Many are even open white nationalists.

    If you look at the most famous “intellectuals” in atheism – Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, etc – they’re more coy about it but they keep defending racist and sexist beliefs in skimpy pseudo-scientific disguises. Atheism’s vanguard has proven it a worthless rallying point for human progress.

    Martin Luther King Jr’s religion wasn’t great – people in the same churches sometimes promote shitty values – but it was a damn sight better than the atheism our one-time allies have been promoting. The only advantage atheism has is in being true. That truth is apparently void of utility in producing rational, compassionate thought.

  8. says

    Rob Grigjanis @#4

    Too bad you weren’t there to explain truth and faith to her. She survived, and I’m sure we’d agree that Mary had nothing to do with it, but I suspect her faith was a source of comfort to her in her desperate circumstances.

    I know that religion can be a source of comfort and it can make people happier and help them overcome hardships. But there’s a problem with religion being a source of comfort. Let’s assume some person experiences hardships and goes through something really awful. They survive and afterwards they even manage to lead a happy life and somehow cope with the PTSD. This person is a believer, so they imagine that they overcame the hard times thanks to God. In reality, they overcame the hardships only because of their own determination and inner strength. Nonetheless, they mistakenly assume themselves to be weak and helpless and give all the credit to God. By crediting God for helping them, they fail to acknowledge themselves as a strong and resourceful person. They may also fail to acknowledge other human beings, be it friends or family, who helped them overcome the hardships.

    If I was in desperate circumstances, I’d much rather rely on myself and believe that I’m a strong person. I’d also prefer to seek comfort from my friends and family, from those people who are there for me and who care about me; I wouldn’t want to seek comfort from a nonexistent imaginary sky fairy.

    Great American Satan @#9

    I’m vaguely familiar with American atheist movement. For me it’s a self-selected sample. There are some youtubers and bloggers who make interesting and educational content, and I follow those. Every now and then I run into somebody who instead just criticizes a strawman version of feminism or promotes racism or whatever. I just ignore all of those. I know that such people exist, but I mostly ignore them. I couldn’t attend an American atheist conference even if I wanted to (I live on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, and I’m not exactly rich). Thus it’s very easy for me to selectively follow the work of atheist activists whom I like. I have never been presented with somebody else’s selection of speakers in some atheist event.

    Pierce R. Butler @#7

    A generation or two ago, the atheist movement really did reflect more positive values.

    I suspect sampling bias here. We recall the nicer people who talked about values like human rights and equality, and we forget about all the racist and misogynistic atheists from past generations.

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    Andreas Avester @10:

    there’s a problem with religion being a source of comfort.

    There are multiple problems with it. But I’m not inclined to criticize people who are in much worse circumstances than I’ve ever been in for clutching at straws. Even imaginary ones.

  10. katiemarshall says

    I found the atheist movement of the late 90’s and early 2000’s really helpful for leaving my Mennonite background. I found this blog, and Dawkins, and Hitchens, and some of that anger that atheism had was so very helpful to someone with my background.

    That said, I feel like I grew out of it. I still come and read here (and I credit it with leading me towards my current job as a faculty member in a Zoology department). But now I’m involved with organized Humanism (the BC Humanists), and I’m really proud of the work we do. I think the American Humanists are doing great things too. Come join if you’re interested in nonreligious ways to help out society :)

  11. ikanreed says

    The right, by it’s nature, will cloak itself in the name of every good idea from human history, while attacking that same idea’s actual values unendingly.

    Christianity viewed as moral? Call yourself more christian than thou, make up a single issue that you’re vaguely christian on, then scream at the top of your lungs about the need to cut taxes on the rich, and fuck all that “eye of the needle” shit.

    Free speech viewed as a national value? Scream in absolute terror that your free speech is imperiled by others protesting against your ideas and behaviors.

    Skepticism a respected approach to non-scientific claims? Sure why not call yourself a fucking climate change skeptic.

  12. alixmo says

    Atheism is not identical with humanism. Generally speaking, atheism (even without the beneficial addendum of humanism) is always better than religion! Why? Because it has no dogmas and doctrines. Dogmas and doctrines are affecting real people, constantly.

    Take misogyny. It is bad and should be fought against when it comes from atheists. It is worse when it comes from religion. Why? Because it is sanctioned and sanctified by a higher power that cannot be questioned. This should be evident to everyone.

    Atheism will never attract as many fervent followers as religion. No martyrs, no crusaders. Because it promises nothing. It is nothing (without the addition of humanism) – and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Why? Because it is not an important question per se. It is important at the moment because of the wide prevalence and misuse of religion. Atheism is boring – but necessary.

    Religion is a bad thing. Religion hurts real life people. Religion kills.

    Still, people always take the “good” examples of people who were “helped” and comforted by religion. No mentioning ever of the many horrible things that happen to good people in the name of religion! No mentioning of the people, harmed bodily and mentally for life, or even killed!

    I wonder if this is because the bulk of the victims of religion are women and gay men – homophobia and misogyny are subliminally present even in people who think that they are against those horrible attitudes!

    Example: Women’ s rights are always neglectable, everything, literally everything, ranks higher. There is always the question: Should we really risk our relations with country x or religion x by supporting women’s rights in their country or the UN? Should we mention that group x has very grave and very real problems with women’s rights, or should we stay quiet about it because it may trigger racism against group x in some twisted group of xenophobes?

    Trust me, the answer is always: The women have to wait. Their problem is not that grave, right? Maybe in a few years – now, public peace or whatever is much more important.

    And this spiel goes on and on. Women’s rights can always be neglected, can wait forever. Women do not matter in the big picture. Religion does.

    Religion has more privileges than women – real life people, comprising 50% of the world’s population.

    That is why I get sick when I hear that religion is “comforting”. That is why I disagree with PZ, the @theGreatAmericanSatan and others on this point:

    The existence of misogynists, racists etc. amongst atheist is no reason to give up the fight for secularism (and, of course, the “recruitment” of more atheists…).

    Sorry, but it was naive in the first place to believe that atheists are better than other humans. (Leftists are also thinking that they are doing no harm – but trust me, there are many shitty ones amongst us, with shitty ideas and ideologies! That is just normal, statistically speaking.)

    The fight against religion has not even begun. Religion attempts a comeback in Europe, targeting women’s rights and LGBTQ-people (as always). In the developing world, it has never lost its grip on people. A grip, that is often a chokehold. Again, women and gay men are the main targets.

    All religions are problematic. In Christianity, it is the Catholic Church and the Evangelicals who are on the front lines against Universal Human Rights (remember: women are humans). (Islam is problematic, too – very much so. No fear of “Islamophobia” changes that simple truth.) Women, gays, apostates, atheists and even religious minorities are the main victims.

    We have to stop our navel gazing and face the facts:

    Religion is far from dead. Only from a Western-centered viewpoint it may have appeared like that (to some naive people who never listened up e.g. when an important cleric spoke, the Pope made a statement or issued a document). In the developing world, religion is a main reason why people (especially women) are in often oppressed positions (hardcore leftist ideologues will deny it, but Capitalism cannot be blamed for everything, I am afraid).

    Religions are intrinsically misogynistic and “patriarchial”.

    That alone is a reason for me to say: The fight against religion HAS TO BEGIN!

  13. Rob Grigjanis says

    alixmo @14:

    No mentioning ever of the many horrible things that happen to good people in the name of religion!

    Yeah, those things never get mentioned here! I take it you haven’t been reading many posts on FtB.

  14. alixmo says

    #15 @ Rob Grigjanis,

    Sure, I 1.) meant the general public, 2.) have a little exaggerated – because I am truly sick of it happening much too often, in quasi every show, discussion or article about religion outside this bubble.

    Also: There was nothing else worth commenting about in my post? Interesting, that defending apologetics was your first and only impulse.

  15. Rob Grigjanis says

    alixmo @16:

    Interesting, that defending apologetics was your first and only impulse.

    No, my impulse is to attack simplistic crap. Like the stuff you’re smearing all over the place. But this is another symptom of the blinkered ideologue; anyone not echoing your simple-minded nonsense is “defending apologetics”. If we’re not 100% with ya, we’re agin ya, amirite?

  16. PaulBC says

    I’m tired of hip atheism. I don’t understand why it has to be confrontational.

    I was raised Catholic by devout parents and attended parochial schools grades 1-8 and a private Christian Brothers prep school grades 9-12. I never wanted not to believe, and in fact tried very hard to believe. I was not mistreated particularly, and would be very content to find community in my church if I actually believed any of it.

    I won’t say I envy people who continue in their religion, though I am sure they get something out of it. I think we’re all human and we’re allowed to be wrong about stuff. So I don’t care. The question is whether you are doing harm. When atheism is about “I’m smarter than you because I don’t believe in those irrational things.” it turns into a pissing match. I know for a fact that many very intelligent people continue to be religious not because they are right about that but because humans are inconsistent. My father was such a person.

    I think that for many people it comes down to a question of whether they are willing to reject family and community just to be “rational”. If you look at the trade-off, it’s sort of understandable that for many people, for instance, having a big religious wedding with all the people they care about doing the things they were raised to believe matter beats making the observation that none of this has any validity in an absolute sense and is culturally determined.

    So my takeaway is let people have religion if they want it, just don’t tell me what to do. The PZ Myers of 20 years ago sounds like a great person. I wish there was as much good sense on the internet as a whole as I find in this blog (in the rare occasions these days that I actually check).

  17. says

    PaulBC @#18

    So my takeaway is let people have religion if they want it, just don’t tell me what to do.

    Sounds like you got lucky. It’s great for you, but not every child who is raised devout Catholic is as lucky. Straight cis boys usually are the lucky ones. Any child who is trans or gay has an entirely different experience. Being born a woman in a Catholic family also sucks, especially if at some point you need to secretly obtain contraceptives or an abortion without getting caught by your “supportive” community.

    Just letting people have their religion is problematic when the religious are actively harming entire groups of humanity. LGBTQIA discrimination, attempts to ban abortions, misogyny, even denying people contraceptives and recreational sex, all of that is fucking harmful. Sure, I know that some Christian churches are better than others, a few are pretty liberal and don’t discriminate women or LGBTQIA people. But there are still a lot of really awful religious groups who actively harm people.

  18. alixmo says

    @Andreas Avester, #19,

    I agree with you that the negative influence of religion and the power that it still has, is underestimated. And you are right, it is especially women and LGBTQIA-people who are suffering because of it.

    More secularism and therefore more criticism and activism against religion in politics and the educational system is needed.

  19. consciousness razor says

    alixmo, #14:

    Take misogyny. It is bad and should be fought against when it comes from atheists. It is worse when it comes from religion. Why? Because it is sanctioned and sanctified by a higher power that cannot be questioned. This should be evident to everyone.

    1) There is no need for some sanctioning or sanctifying entity to be “questioned” about misogyny. You understand that misogynistic atheists can be questioned. What purpose would it serve to ask them “why misogyny”? Asking them that does not make it any better, because any answer they could give will be terrible, so this wastes valuable time we could have spent flatly and unequivocally rejecting that garbage. Or doing literally anything else with our lives, other than listening to bullshitters “explain” why their misogyny is better than someone else’s misogyny.
    2) Something that comes from religion is not “sanctioned and sanctified by a higher power that cannot be questioned,” because there is no such higher power. You can’t give an explanation like this by appealing to something that doesn’t exist. (You’re not explaining why the Eagles didn’t carry Frodo all the way from Rivendell to Mt. Doom, for example.) This is a more technical point, I suppose, but if English is your second language, it may still be helpful to mention it.

    Atheism will never attract as many fervent followers as religion. No martyrs, no crusaders. Because it promises nothing.

    Just like atheism, the statement of theism that “god exists” promises nothing except to tell you about what’s true of our world, and of course whatever follows from it follows. Theism says the world has one or more gods, and atheism says the world has zero gods. You have to pay extra if you want to get martyrs or crusaders, in addition to theism.

    It is nothing (without the addition of humanism) – and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

    It’s not nothing. Atheism is a system of beliefs which tell you about the world we live in, just like countless other ordinary statements do. Those aren’t nothing, and they also don’t fail to have further implications. Many have been convinced somehow that this particular statement is a special one, but it’s not. It works like others do, and it matters like others do, and stuff follows logically from it like stuff always follows.
    If you don’t take it to be anything more than a ordinary statement that acts like other ordinary statements, then there’s no apparent reason to treat it any differently. But that puts it in the same category as all of the really interesting and important things you know and love, because it’s no different.

    Sorry, but it was naive in the first place to believe that atheists are better than other humans.

    Naive, yes, but also irrelevant. I think we might actually agree here…. The idea that atheism is supposed to be the sort of thing that causes any person to be better is just plain wacky. Despairing about how it it fails to do so, time and again, is equally wacky. Saying it’s “causing behavior” just isn’t like saying it’s relevant to how we should think or behave. That some people don’t understand its implications, accept them, put them into practice consistently, etc., is both irrelevant and ought to be totally unsurprising. I mean, how surprised are we supposed to be that people are sometimes bad at thinking or behaving? Don’t we see that every day?

  20. PaulBC says

    @Andreas Avester 19.

    Right, I was lucky. But prejudices don’t only come from religion. My family was always quite leftwing–on the Catholic side aligned with people like Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker. In principle at least, a group like Catholic Worker was open to all in need. In practice, I have no idea how they were on LGBT issues. They were more focused on poverty and peace issues. They’re still around and have evolved with the times as much as any group.

    Christian Brothers, by contrast, strike me as a fairly conservative order and my high school felt like Reagan central compared to my family. We did have some liberal teachers. Arguably the preppy students were more conservative on average than the teachers.

    This was the 80s and believe it or not, I didn’t notice a great deal of overt homophobia. But it was probably there. I am nerdy, white, cis, and mostly kept to myself. The moderate-level bullying directed at me had its source in jock culture and free-floating assholery. You are right, I’m sure that I would have experienced something different and much worse if I were gay, but would that only be in a Catholic school?

    What I see as the main issue here is not religion, but a failure to let others live their lives as they see fit as long as they’re not harming other people. That’s a core principle I was raised with, definitely within my family, less so in my education, but it did not really come in conflict with that either.

    My problem with religion is simply that the articles of faith I was raised with are unsupported and certainly contradict other people’s articles of faith throughout the world. So I don’t really feel antagonism towards religion, but I do boggle at the intelligent people I have meet in my career, practicing Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and othe faiths, who seem to be able to compartmentalize enough to continue doing so. What explains that? (Well, I already said, people aren’t keen on rejecting their culture.)

    So yeah, I was lucky. But I’m not convinced that the abolishing religion is the key to providing a safe place for LGBTQ or others who fail to conform to societal norms. Conformism and intolerance need to be attacked and weeded out on an ongoing basis. They will always be a human impulse, and taking away religion will only change the form, not the reality.

  21. PaulBC says

    To get to the point of the above, I believe religious beliefs like any other beliefs must be condemned to the extent that they cause harm. The recent Alabama abortion restrictions are so far off anything explicable by Enlightenment principles of governance that they amount to the institution of a theocracy. There is no non-religious rationale for extending legal protection to a fetus. Zero. Such laws cause direct harm and also undermine democracy. Likewise, religious beliefs that deny rights based on sexual orientation are wrong because they harm people.

    But it someone tells me that they want to wake up before sunrise to celebrate Easter, fast for Ramadan, or atone on Yom Kippur, it does not make me smarter or better to laugh at them or call them irrational, even though it is clear to me that at most one religion could literally be “true” and there is no reason to believe any of them are. As I said, I mostly marvel at the compartmentalization going on. If their beliefs lead them to violate human rights, I address this as a violation of human rights. We all believe things that are wrong. Not all of these beliefs are religious. We are entitled to believe things that are not true.

  22. alixmo says

    @22, 23 # PaulBC,

    I like your post very much and I agree with a lot of it. Especially with the core idea that religious believes and customs do not bother as long as they do not harm others. I am with you! Absolutely right, a certain amount of irrationality is in all of us, and a bit of religious customs could make life more interesting and colorful.

    Let people have their fun, even if it is not perfectly rational, as long as they do not harm others and/or meddle with politics and education. That is my opinion.

    But unfortunately, in the real world, a good part (gladly far from all, maybe even far from the majority) of believers is not content with my idea of religious freedom. They are against keeping their religion as part of their private lives, they want everyone to live like them and follow their path. Even that would be relatively harmless (albeit boring) if it e.g. would consist of having to go to church each Sunday or the like.

    But (you can look it up in the press, e.g. in the archives of the Guardian and its section on Global Development, but also when you study the programs of far-right Christian parties or documents by religious institutions) that is not what they want.

    Modern religious fundamentalism is intrinsically linked with women’s and, by extension I assume, LGBTQ-persons issues. I cannot tell for all religions, but most of them are misogynistic by nature, because they have patriarchal roots, meaning that men are worth more than women, which is codified, sanctified by a higher power.

    Granted, I am not knowing everything there is to know about every religion; I have concentrated on certain issues and certain religions and even there I cannot claim to know it all.

    But the “big ones”, Catholicism and Islam (I am aware of the diversity in Islam, but on the women’s question there is little difference between most groups; also, there is little dispute among most Islamic groups/branches of the importance of quar’an and Sunna) are very strict and what we would call reactionary in their teachings on women and their place in society.

    Modern day fundamentalism is always centering around the idea of women getting back to their “natural”, ” Godgiven” place in society as seen by religion. It is about the idea to reinstall patriarchy. “Family values”, “traditional family” and “morals” are often code for nothing but a return to the old hierarchical family structure that was only recently overcome (well, at least in some countries).

    Those abortion-laws in Alabama are in keeping with ideas about women in many religions, especially official Catholicism.

    And that is why I am for less religion in education and the strict separation of religion and politics. I want true secularism,

    I never called for religion to be taken away or abolished. That would be impossible. But a retreat of religion from the public realm and the state into privacy has to be attempted!

    Secularism is a necessity, in order to protect e.g. minority rights of other religions, the rights of children, the rights of LGBTQ- people and first and foremost (since they are the main victims of religion, I am afraid to say) women.

    Also, I am for a reform of the educational system, in all Western countries. Which likely will never happen, but I say it here anyway:

    No gender separation in schools or even kindergartens; no religious pre-school teachings; no faith schools; no home schooling; no religious symbols neither in school, on the teachers or as garment on the students; ethics lessons, lessons about sociology and ethnology/human anthropology and comparative religion which include “dead religions” that are compulsory; proper sex education.

    The education system should be a space where children should learn real facts. A space where they do not get indoctrinated (a harsh word, I know) but learn to think critically and independently. A space where they get an alternative to the strict teachings of religion – which they still may get exposed to e.g. by their family in their spare time.

    That is especially important for little girls who live in strictly orthodox or fundamentalist families. They need this breathing space where they learn that they are equal to boys. Kindergartens and schools are therefore of utmost importance for the free development of children, of girls in particular.

    Only through those measure can we offer children real choice: if they still chose to believe, moderately or orthodox, as an adult is up to them (in their private sphere, away from politics). I would never take that away from them.

    That is their religious freedom that I would of course grant them.

    After all, I am for Universal Human Rights – unlike many fundamentalist religious people who want to make exemptions for women or rank religious freedom higher than the rights of women and LGBTQ-people.

    (P.s.: Many Catholics – not all of course – are quite interested in working for the poor or migrants. I never denied that. But that never was the core problem of that religion, women’s rights are (and by extension LGBTQ-rights).

    That problem cannot be ignored just because the Church is okay on other issues. A grave problem is a grave problem.

    Women had to wait until a few decades to gain equal rights and freedom, it would be a shame to deny them that progress, that freedom. And modern contraceptives played a major part in that – arguably the reason why the Vatican is strictly against contraceptives.

    As long as this ban exists, the Church is clearly anti-women, clearly patriarchal and misogynistic.

    Women’s and LGBTQ – rights are non-negotiable!)

  23. PaulBC says


    Thanks for the long reply. To be clear, there are plenty of legitimate grounds for criticizing specific religious beliefs, and religion is never an all-purpose defense against charges of rights violations. Church and state should be kept separate to the maximum extent possible (i.e., up to the point where the state needs to intervene to protect rights). Prayers definitely don’t belong in public schools. I was raised by devout Catholics and this was a point on which there was no disagreement at home.

    What annoys me, I think, is a kind of atheist oneupmanship, as if the whole point (the point of anything at all) is to prove that you’re better than other people. It gets tiresome fast. That’s what I perceive in a lot of “new atheism.” I don’t see it PZ Myers at all, by the way. I can tell he genuinely would like the world to be a better place, and also has nothing in particular to prove about himself. I might not see eye to eye on exactly what it takes to get there, but it’s an honest effort and it’ll be a sad day if he ever gives up the fight.

    In my view, the real source of injustice tends to be the in-group/out-group distinction. Removing religion would eliminate particular distinctions of this kind, but it would be far from all-encompassing. And then it’s just a matter of human nature. People will by default identify some in-group, treat it preferentially to an out-group, and often engage in human rights abuses as a result. That is the attitude that needs to be addressed by upbringing and education. Sadly, it’s one religions are usually bad at, but it’s missing the point to blame religion.

  24. alixmo says


    Maybe my post was too long and not well enough written. Maybe I said it in another of my recent comments better. But:

    Religion (generally speaking) is having a huge problem with WOMEN and their rights (reproductive rights in particular, but not only).

    The in-group/out-group problem is real, granted, and not only valid for religion. But it is not the main point here, by far.

    Women in the own in-group are oppressed. Women in the own in-group are not equal, are third class people in many religions.

    The big religions are all patriarchal by nature and some of them (Catholicism is an example) are adamant on not changing in that point. Islamic fundamentalism is intrinsically linked with the notion of women’s “morally correct behavior”, like covering up and accepting a gender separated society.

    The ban on contraceptives plus the fight against legal abortions of the official Catholic Church is undeniable proof that their stance on women in society is not only on paper bad, but inhumane in real life. To put it bluntly:

    What will happen when women are not able to neither access contraceptives nor legal and safe abortions? They are out of the public space, hardly ever get higher paid, interesting jobs, they are bound to their homes and are (using a harsh word) slaves to their biology.

    The main problem (even if it exists) is not in-group/out-group, but the patriarchal, unequal and quite inhumane treatment of women.

    That is why activism for secularism and harsh criticism of religion is necessary. No, that has nothing to do with arrogance – I do not even care, if all religious people would start believing in the “flat earth theory”! The implications of a believe matter.

    Religions have to give up on their patriarchal, male-supremacist, stance and finally accept that modern society freed women from being nothing but mothers. That women now should have, can have, freedom, rights and choice.

    If religions do not reform by themselves, activism has to force their hands.

    That should be the MORAL DUTY of religious and non-religious people alike.

    Human rights are universal, there can be no exceptions. And a concept like religion, even if it is shared by many people, cannot stand even above the life and freedom of one single real human being!

    Women – little girls – should not be restricted in life choices, not be treated worse than men, just because they can give birth. That is the reason to take on religion, not “arrogance”.

  25. says

    PaulBC @#25

    In my view, the real source of injustice tends to be the in-group/out-group distinction. Removing religion would eliminate particular distinctions of this kind, but it would be far from all-encompassing.

    Sure, nobody is denying that homophobia, misogyny, racism, nationalism, etc. bad ideas exist also among secular people. Thus getting rid of religions would not solve all the problems. But some religious leaders do support all of these bad ideas. Thus making the worst religious groups change their dogmas and accept things like female equality or LGBTQIA rights would make things at least a bit better. In my opinion, some improvement is better than nothing. And, yes, of course we have to fight against discrimination also when it comes from secular groups of people.

  26. PaulBC says


    I had intended to write a quick summary in the previous post and move on, but since you mention women’s rights, I’ll go off on a little tangent I had in my head but did not write. I don’t expect to convince you, but maybe it at least illustrates my thinking.

    Let’s start with religious practices that clearly violate women’s rights. Female genital mutilation and requiring women to wear burka in public would qualify. (Sorry, there is plenty I could come up with for Christians and Catholics in particularly–the Magdalene laundries in Ireland for instance–but these work better for illustration. I’m not targeting Islam in particular).

    Now consider the case of women wearing hijab, which some European nations have considered banning. It’s basically a head scarf of the sort that has been worn for many reasons historically, not all religious. I live in the Bay Area and see women wearing hijab frequently. I can’t read minds, but it appears they are following a practice they grew up with, and for the most part are not oppressed (again, I cannot read minds). I would go as far as to say that the reasoning behind banning hijab is not to protect women, but to eliminate a visible display that stirs up fear in xenophobic people. In fact, the same people against hijab wearing never (as far as I know) show the same concern towards Catholic nuns in habit, a less common sight these days, but certainly not impossible. In each case, these are people carrying out practices that they are most comfortable with, whether these are women who grew up Muslim, or women who chose to join a religious community. There are no “perfectly free” choices in life because we all grow up being taught what to think from the day we’re born, but to an approximation, these are people with lives they are satisfied with and continue to pursue voluntarily.

    Now consider restrictions on female attire that are not religiously based. It’s true that we’ve come long way since “Mad Men”, but there are still certain expectations of acceptable business attire that apply more strictly to women than men. As a software engineer, I can literally dress like a slob (I usually don’t). I would probably need half a plate of spaghetti stuck to my shirt on a daily basis before it would seriously endanger my viability. Women in identical jobs as a rule dress much better than I do. Partly, it is because on average they are just better dressers, but I assume some of it is due to social pressure. This is not a conclusion but a “thought experiment”. If a woman dressed as badly as I did, all other things equal, and pursued the same career as a software engineer, would the outcome be comparable? I suspect not, but you can come to different conclusions. Anyway, there are observable differences in patterns of dress between men and women (I mean in terms of formality, not anatomy) and it is not based in religion.

    Now take high heels. If women like them and choose to wear them, that is none of my business. But there is still a tendency to see them as part of acceptable women’s business attire (generally not within tech jobs, but in some supporting roles in tech companies). It is not necessarily enforced by rules. It may just be a matter of social pressure. Unlike wearing a hijab, high heels actually cause lasting damage to feet. It’s a personal choice if anyone wants to do this, but it’s an outrage if they are doing so out of social pressure or explicit, enforced rules.

    This is not religiously driven. It is largely driven by a secular anti-women belief that women must always be seen in terms of their sexual attractiveness primarily, with all other traits secondary. This view is promoted by news and entertainment media and indeed so deeply saturated in culture that many people don’t even see it.

    Sorry, long rambling post. But to summarize, eliminating religion will not eliminate xenophobia. Eliminating religion will not eliminate the treatment of women as sex objects. There are other cultural trends that lead to these outcomes.

    I would very much like to see the day when an atheist can openly run for office at a national level and win an election, but that is a different issue. I want to see more choices, not fewer choices. Government should neither promote nor suppress religion. Some people are also going to continue to follow religions whether I understand it or like it. Let them. I do not believe that religion is the primary cause of injustice. I do not believe that many of the people working against religion are primarily interested in justice, rationality, or increased choices. I think many are just another interest group with their own agenda.

  27. PaulBC says


    One last thought. In summary, my view is that attacking religion is putting the cart before the horse. If you promote justice, critical thinking, choice, and equality–if you promote women’s rights in particular–in these cases, all the elements of religion that go against these values will be undermined. Conceivably, religious belief itself could be undermined, and it is surely and steadily eroding in Western nations at least. Promoting an antireligious view without providing the cognitive tools to get there will only establish another form of bias.

  28. alixmo says


    You obviously are a nice person and you always make some good points, which I appreciate. But I have difficulties to make myself clear: I already said in my post #24 that I would not abolish religion. In that post I laid out in detail what I would like to do (add school uniforms, which should neither be too sexy nor modest to my list).

    As you already assumed, I am still in favor of activism for more and real secularism, the retreat of religion from the education system and a reform of patriarchal religions. Religion has to be a private matter, cannot meddle with politics.

    I agree with you that women face many problems even without the obvious patriarchal-religious restrictions (I like your opinion on high heels!). But it does not change the facts:

    In patriarchal traditionalist religions little girls and boys are already getting a very uneven start into life. Boys are usually allowed much freedom, girls are restricted. Boys are told that they can become everything, girls are raised to be good, well-behaved mothers and wives. Boys are told that they are made in the image of God, and meant to rule over women. Women are told that their sexuality is a temptation and possibly a sin and that they should obey and behave. Modesty is supposed to be their ideal, including their dress code. Boys can usually wear what they want.

    Of course, it varies from religion and denomination and community and family if and which of those restrictions apply. But all of them and worse (you mentioned FGM) are possible and sanctified by religion.

    This is a huge disadvantage for little girls. Self-respect, believe in oneself and one’s abilities is learned in early age. Religion can crush the spirit of a little girl. Early learning, acculturation, socialization can warp a mind.

    I am against little girls wearing the hijab – they are children! (And by the way, I am not okay with any modest dress code, not even for nuns. But nuns are at least usually adults when they make their hopefully free-ish decision.) At kindergarten and school, till the age of 18, no girl should wear a headscarf or modest dresses. That is a decision that they can make when they come off age.

    Families have anyway a huge influence and power over their children. That power can be used to support and encourage or to crush, cripple and hamper.

    Knowing how nice it is to feel sunshine and wind on your skin on a warm day, or to swim, run etc. without a huge amount of garment around you, I dare to doubt that many of this girls are really free in their decisions. Maybe they want to please their loved ones, maybe they fear rejection, maybe they want to be accepted, part of the family and community, without fear to lose the love and friendship they crave? And later on, will they really question their family, who, they assume, had their best in mind? Or will they honor their decision and continue wearing what they are used to from childhood on?

    We should be careful when we use the words “free will” or “agency”. (You illustrated it well on the example of high heels. Humans are easily influenced, even when they are taught to be free.)

    If advertisements are already doing so much damage, how much worse is early repression and conditioning by one’s loved ones in the name of a patriarchal religion that teaches that women are not equal to men?

    Anyway, if religion is so fragile that it will not survive if parents do not have the “freedom” to indoctrinate their children 24/7, that they cannot allow the equalizing influence of school, maybe it is not meant to continue on in the 21 century. Our society needs free and critical thinking. Religion has to cope with that and adapt.

  29. PaulBC says


    It’s not that I don’t follow your points. I don’t agree fully, though I respect your views and wasn’t planning an itemized rebuttal. I agree on some things. Actually, I rarely if ever see minor girls wearing a hijab. More commonly, I see women, e.g. on hikes or shopping at Costco. I also see boys who are Sikh wearing the little knotted caps in place of the dastar on men. I honestly enjoy living in a diverse society, and nobody is prohibited from wearing a yarmulke or a cross pendant either. How do you feel about boys in yarmulkes? I’ll assume you’re consistent anyway.

    As a Catholic school kid growing up in the 70s, I remember the annual May procession where all the kids were dressed in formal clothes and we carried flowers and said prayers in honor of Mary. It was a common belief that some kid would always faint in the East Coast heat and humidity during such an event though I never saw it happen. Child abuse? Should we have been out playing? I mean, I went out in shorts other times, dug in mud, and stared at insects. There is time for all of these things. I think childhood and the pressures of school, family, and religion all contribute to potential problems in later life, but I also am not really sure what the fix is going to be.

    By the way, I have kids and avoid as much as possible being prescriptive about their behavior except hopefully preparing them to take care of themselves as adults. I don’t raise them in any particular religion or insist that they believe or don’t believe. We’ll see how it turns out. Sometimes I envy families with a little more structure. (Mormons in particular, but I won’t go there.)

    So I can’t really summarize my view any better: start with critical thinking and see where it takes us. I believe it will certainly take us away from religion, but if I’m wrong about that, then I really need to go back and question my own assumptions.

  30. alixmo says


    you sound like a great father. Sure, that is a fine way of educating children.

    As I pointed out in #24 (and then again in my last post), the education/school system has to do the work to prepare children to become free, aware, critical, independent etc. It has to show children (especially from traditionalist/orthodox religions) an alternative, show them (that is crucial) that girls and boys are equal and have equal opportunities.

    But it is often religious parents who fight against curricula that should lead to critical, independent and free thinking. It is the religious parents who want to reinforce teachings of gender inequality, who fight against sex education, evolution etc. in schools.

    The gender equality point is crucial. I cannot stress it hard enough!

    E.g.: Although I am not a fan of religious attire in general (and therefore consistent), there is in my opinion a fundamental difference between e.g. the yarmulke or the Sikh turban and so called female “modesty” dress codes, best exemplified by the hijab (which of course is not the worst form – that is the burqa, a top-to-toe covering with only a mesh “screen” to look through!).

    I think, the word “modesty” is giving it away: We are talking about a sexual dress code. Girls and women are seen as sexual creatures, “belonging” to and protected by her father/brothers and later her husband who all do not want other men to see them (as can be argued according to qur`an 24:31).

    The qur`an says in verse 33:59 (translated:”O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”) a good Muslim woman hides her body in order to be “recognized” as a good Muslim woman and therefore should go “unmolested”.

    Yes, I am absolutely against any modesty-clothes for women (whilst I am not getting as concerned about the turban or the yarmulke since the implications of the garments are different!).

    But if an adult woman, with no no obvious force pushing her, is wearing one, I reluctantly accept that her decision was “free”(ish). She than has the right to wear a hijab (I am for a ban on burqa and niqab though; I consider them inhumane).

    BUT I heard the argument (and I agree): The ONLY woman who can say with some right that it was her own free decision to wear a hijab is a convert to Islam. Because they were not trained, socialized by their family and community from birth on into accepting the sexual dress code and all its (patriarchal) implications.

    “Children”, up to 18 years of age, should not wear a hijab. Only by knowing an alternative can they learn to make the free(ish) decision to wear one as adults.

    And yes, the hijab for (sometimes very) young girls is becoming more and more of an issue. It is a sign of our times; traditionalist religiosity tries to make a comeback.

    When I went to school (in Germany), my Turkish school mates wore no hijabs, were dressed like anybody else, not even after puberty. They did not talk about religion (neither did the nominally/Christian-“born” children); nobody cared about religion. The only “symbol” a few of them wore was a pendent of the sickle moon, symbolising the Turkish state; accordingly, the only ideology they displayed was a bit of Turkish nationalism, which was relatively easily countered in open debate.

    (By the way: If Muslim women would wear a pendant symbolizing their faith, I would be okay with it. But we are taking about a sexual dress code, which is closer related to patriarchal male “jealousy” than spirituality.)

    Things changed because of the strong and open influence of the religious right (in Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism etc.)

    It is our moral duty to fight against that trend towards fundamentalism in all religions – in order TO PROTECT free, critical and independent thinking against religious “traditionalists” who want to suppress it!

  31. John Morales says


    Yes, I am absolutely against any modesty-clothes for women

    Not even bikinis?

    (Bit of a perv, are you?)

  32. PaulBC says


    I’m not sure we even disagree all that much. Sure, it’s wrong and should be illegal to make children wear particularly restrictive clothing, I have no objection to that. The point is that you would be restricting a behavior because it’s abusive, not because it’s an outward symbol of religious belief.

    You identify two problems with the US education system, I think. First, it doesn’t succeed in teaching critical thinking, or at least its successes in that area (and others) is unevenly distributed. I’m fairly happy with my public schools, but I live in an area that is unaffordable to most Americans (sadly, including many who have jobs here). Second, many families will pull their kids out of schools, not because the schools are failing, but because they are threatened by the potential success of the schools at turning their children into independent thinkers.

    I don’t really know what to do, because there are limits to how much you can reasonably interfere with families, just as there are limits to what you can do about abuses carried out in sovereign nations (done for traditional or some other reasons).

    This opens up a whole new can of worms. But to repeat my point ad nauseam I don’t see religious belief as the primary factor here.

    Digression: up to college, I had an education in Catholic schools that was sound on many levels. I think the best Catholic education is posed with a peculiar dilemma of “up to here but no further” because you have to develop education and thinking skills to understand subtleties of doctrine (most practicing Catholics do not, by the way) but there is obviously a big stop sign if you want to question key beliefs such as the trinity, the transubstantiation, or the resurrection. However it is totally possible in a Catholic school to have a lively debate about ethics and “what if” (trolley problems and the like) as long as it is not stepping on doctrine.

    In the past, this was probably less of a dilemma, because the default in society was to practice a religion. Who knows then or historically what people actually believed? There may have at least been enough unexplained phenomena that you would have to make some jumps to reject the supernatural as Lucretius did without really presenting a plausible alternative. Someone like Pascal seems to have left himself with thinnest thread on which to hang religion (Pascal’s wager). So the point is that in the past you could teach critical thinking skills at least to some people, without any threat to religion. It is also true in some countries including parts of the US that people can develop the deep analytical skills it may take to innovate, say, in biomedical devices, and not apply these skills to questioning belief. Gotta love the multilayered human brain.

    I still think the key is to somehow expose children to critical thinking skills and see where it goes from there. We really can’t kidnap babies and tell others their culture is harmful or stupid. It is wrong, first off, and it’s not as if it has not been tried with indigenous people. I think it is possible to define abuse in a way that would prevent parents from making their kids wear particularly restrictive clothing. It just wouldn’t be a religious definition. It would also be very problematic to implement.

    To be blunt, parents making minor daughters wear hijab is kind of a made up threat in the US (might happen, but rarely). Parents pulling their kids out of decent schools to force them to learn only religious doctrine (usually Christian) is a real problem and unfortunately much more difficult to address in the current political climate.

  33. PaulBC says

    Also, to be a bit glib here, my view is: teach critical thinking. If God is the truth, then critical thinking will inevitably lead back to God. If no God is the truth, then it will lead to no God.

    Obviously, I have my preconceptions of where it will lead. But if religious people are threatened by the idea of teaching their children to question, aren’t they really admitting that their faith is “built on sand”?

  34. says

    PaulBC @#28

    As a software engineer, I can literally dress like a slob (I usually don’t). I would probably need half a plate of spaghetti stuck to my shirt on a daily basis before it would seriously endanger my viability. Women in identical jobs as a rule dress much better than I do.

    Yes, I agree that there are secular reasons why women are pressured to behave in certain ways. A while ago I wrote https://andreasavester.com/history-of-the-always-changing-female-beauty-standards/ about how beauty standards severely limit their “free” choices and force them to make decisions that go against their best interests and harm their bodies.

    So, yes, I agree with your points.

    I think that fashion magazines telling women to wear high heels is just as bad as religions telling women to cover up their faces with fabric. I dislike both; I oppose both.

    PaulBC @#29

    One last thought. In summary, my view is that attacking religion is putting the cart before the horse. If you promote justice, critical thinking, choice, and equality–if you promote women’s rights in particular–in these cases, all the elements of religion that go against these values will be undermined.

    It might be simpler to convince an individual woman to abandon her religion than it is to convince some religious authority to treat women equally. It’s going to take decades to convince the Pope that women are equal human beings. While we wait for that to happen, we might be able to improve the lives of at least a few women by convincing them to abandon their religions or at least to switch to some more liberal church.

    alixmo @#30

    In that post I laid out in detail what I would like to do (add school uniforms, which should neither be too sexy nor modest to my list).

    Please don’t. I’m female assigned at birth, but I identify as genderqueer. School uniforms were the bane of my life for almost a decade. I hated being forced to wear pink (of course my school’s uniform for girls had to feature pink blouses), I hated having to put on skirts or dresses. Yet my school with their dress requirements forced me to do exactly that. Fuck, they even forced me to wear high heels for various celebrations where students were expected to dress up, which meant a dress and high heels for the ladies.

    alixmo @#32

    “Children”, up to 18 years of age, should not wear a hijab. Only by knowing an alternative can they learn to make the free(ish) decision to wear one as adults.

    Yes, I can confirm this from personal experience. My problem was that as a child I was forced to dress like a girl/woman. Once I finally admitted to myself that I’m queer, it wasn’t that simple to switch. The first time I entered a menswear store, I felt extremely uncomfortable and self-conscious. After switching to menswear, it took me about a month until I got used to it and became comfortable. As a child, I was indoctrinated that I had to behave like a girl. I was informed that there’s an immense social stigma associated with being a transvestite. Hell, it took me several years until I was comfortable wearing shorts in summers without worrying about how people might react to, gasp, hairy legs. I wrote about that experience here – https://andreasavester.com/body-hair-hairy-female-legs/

    John Morales @#33

    Yes, I am absolutely against any modesty-clothes for women

    Not even bikinis?

    (Bit of a perv, are you?)

    Bikinis are a real problem for queer people who were female assigned at birth. Personally, I would prefer to wear male swimwear (which means simply shorts). Unfortunately, I am legally forbidden from having a naked chest while relaxing in public beaches, because I still haven’t had a top surgery. The end result is that the only places where I can go swimming are nudist beaches. I don’t want to wear a bikini, because that’s female attire and I’m not a woman. I’m OK with swimming while entirely naked, because I have no problem with nudity. Thus I’m pretty much forced to avoid traditional beaches or swimming pools and search for nudist beaches instead. Unfortunately, there are only a few nudist beaches in the entire country.

  35. alixmo says


    I would say we agree on most points. Just on that one crucial question, how problematic religion is in our times, we have differences. You seem to understand the problem, as shown in post #36 (where you worded so elegantly what I clumsily tried to say before), still we come to different conclusions.

    Your last line was (quote): "But if religious people are threatened by the idea of teaching their children to question, aren’t they really admitting that their faith is “built on sand”?

    I conclude: Since we both agree that many religious people are far from dumb (as you said, there are very learned and clever people among them) enough of them know that they can only perpetuate religion through early (allow me the polemic term) “indoctrination”.

    It seems the fact that their religion may be make-believe does not bother them as much as the idea that it may cease to exist. We should ask ourselves: Why? Which psychological mechanism are at play? Or should we better ask: Cui bono, if traditional patriarchal religions continue to hold power?

    You are right, extremist religious people will continue to fight for their right to indoctrinate their own children full time (not only out of school hours). But the even bigger problem is that they do not stop there – ideally, they want to indoctrinate all children.

    The same goes for any of their ideological tenets that they call (and the media unfortunately repeats their terms, giving them the advantage in influencing public opinion in a subtle way) “family values”.

    It is not that they fight just for their right, e.g. not to get an abortion (which they have, nobody forces them) or to be stay-at-home mothers (they can, nobody forces them not to) or not to engage in “homosexual activities”. No, they cannot accept that society is in disagreement with them and what they perceive as their sacred convictions. And why would they? The crux about religion is that it is eternal, that it is a mandate from a higher power. There cannot be a compromise with God`s will. If “He” said that women are to be submissive to men, that is an unchanging truth. Therefore, they conclude, our society is wrong and has to change.

    And religious fundamentalists are working towards this change, even if the odds seem against them.

    Majorities can be overcome; Hitler`s supporters were a tiny, minuscule group in the 1920s, even when he became Chancellor he did not have a majority behind him, maybe even (we cannot tell) during WWII (afterwards, of course everyone was strongly against him…); I doubt that a majority of Russians even knew what Bolsheviks where and what they stood for, still they came to power etc. And “conservative revolutions” can happen, as proven 1979 in Iran.

    The religious right is fighting without a pause for decades, akin e.g. to libertarian “activist” Charles Koch, who uses his money and influence to create a society according to his own principles and believes. We see that the fringe “free market fundamentalists” did gain great influence and we all have to live with the consequences.

    Yet, we are willing to take libertarians on and criticize them harshly. As we should.

    We cannot make exceptions for religious people who want to meddle in politics – and we cannot be blind to the ideological – religious! – roots of their political program. Extremist religious people can do great harm to people and our society. Giving them a free pass because of “religious privilege” is undermining our society as a whole.

    Yes, you are right, the conflict between rights of e.g. children versus their parents in education or women and religious freedom is not easily solved. It WILL be “solved”, though, if we do not address it and start a real discussion: the religious right will get their way – and women`s and LGBTQ rights will be dismantled.

    Why? The silence of the majority helps the fringe radicals to get their way.

    From childhood on we learn a “pro-religion-bias”, are taught all the great things attributed to faith, like generosity, compassion etc. It is hard for us to fathom that e.g charitable people could do “bad”, harmful things. But not only history, but reality, proves otherwise. Here is a link to a must-read Guardian article from today:

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/22/european-elections-sex-and-religion-dominate-campaigning-in-poland Quotes: Kaczyński [the leader of Poland’s ruling rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS)] told a conference organised by Catholic Action, a lay group that promotes Catholic values, that LGBT rights and “gender theory” were an existential threat. (…) “They are a threat to Polish identity, to our nation, to its existence and thus to the Polish state.” (…) Kaczyński told supporters at a “patriotic picnic” (…) “he who raises his hand against the church raises his hand against Poland.” (End of quotes.)

    The rhetoric from far right religious political parties against gay men (conflating them with pedophiles), “feminism”, the equality of women and the utmost importance to fight those “destructive” tendencies – I know it well from (anecdotal “evidence”) a staunch Catholic in-law who is “religiously” following on a daily basis outlets of the Vatican and other “authorized” affiliated sources. And he has many like minded friends…

    This anti-women, anti-LGBTQ animus is justified as a conclusion drawn from reading the religious sources (Bible, Church Fathers, some Christian philosophers). Therefore, we cannot ignore the fact that the “sources” themselves are highly problematic.

    Those radical people are very vocal in promoting their ideology. And they do have an “apparatus” behind them – religion still holds real power! (What ever happened to “speaking truth to power”?) Political religious fundamentalism and its “anti-modern” stance e.g. on women have to be fought (I dare say) just as hard as white nationalism (not to forget that there are overlaps).

    We cannot counter well-organised, internationally operating fundamentalism gagged and with both hands tied to our backs. We have to be more outspoken against religion – especially the mainstream patriarchal tenets that the religious right wants to force on society.

    We will not reach our goal of having more well-informed, critically and independent thinking citizens if we do not pick up the fight right now and start the difficult conversation about the “hierarchy” of rights (I argue that women`s rights rank before religious freedom, since the former is a trait one is born with, the latter is acquired through learning/”indoctrination” and can be changed or dismissed).

  36. alixmo says

    @Andreas Avester #37

    I was not aware of that problem, thanks for mentioning it! That proves to me how necessary a discussion about this topic is.

    I never was a fan of school uniforms myself; I never had to wear one (I am German).
    But recently the problem of e.g. the hijab for underage girls and modesty clothes in general, made me think of school uniforms as a solution to avoid those oppressive garments without singling out or discriminating against religious groups. Now you pointed out a problem that I have not considered. I appreciate that greatly.

    Of course, I never thought about school uniforms to be “gendered”. I never fathomed using pink for girls or forcing them to wear high heals. In fact, I thought that school uniforms could be a solution for too much gendering! A counterweight against parents who force gender stereotypes on their children quasi from birth on.

    (I personally like all colors, including pink, and I think all of them are suitable for anybody. But I am so sick of the “assignment” of colors to signify e.g. “femininity”. Children should be allowed to experiment and find out what they like and want to do in life. Instead, even colors are not seen as free to choose, but as a statement to the world about one’s role in society. It is quite tiresome; I hope things will change for the better soon.)

    Maybe school uniforms in more “neutral” colors and several options (e.g. trousers, shorts and skirts are all possible for everyone) are more suited for all children, including genderqueer kids?

    As for the bikini problem: Germany and other European countries have many nudist beaches. Even on smaller lakes one can see many nudists, and nobody complains. I never thought about it from a genderqueer perspective, but now I see that as a great plus for our society!

    @John Morales, @chigau,

    I liked the jokes – even if I take the topic of modesty clothes very seriously and now also see Andreas Avester’s very valid points.

    To turn things around a bit: If my religion would prescribe nudity for all, would I get away with it? Probably not. But wrapping up women and even little girls is not only seen as permissible but often as laudable. Unfair (not only against Ferengi culture).