(Title from this song I can’t get out of my head. Thanks to those who pointed out I forgot to mention it.)
Apologies for the egregious break in blogging. August was a ridiculous month for about everyone I know, me included, what with moving and such. Now that I’m lacking in employment, though, I’m going to try and up the writing quotient considerably.
Earlier this year, I wrote about my experience at the Reason Rally in Washington, D.C., which was the largest gathering of American secularists in history, an event that I was intensely skeptical about leading into, but that I left with a positive feeling, largely thanks to many of the speakers insisting that just gathering together on the National Mall wasn’t enough, and that those of us there had to go back to our homes and start organizing. After spending most of my time in the atheist movement trying to call out my fellow nonbelievers to get out of their basements and actually start to make real change, I hoped that this would finally be the moment that it started to happen.
Well, frankly, my optimism, at this point in time, seems largely unfounded. First, there was the resounding failure of the atheist community to stand in solidarity with Alexander Aan, an Indonesian civil servant who was attacked and imprisoned for professing his nonbelief. The Center for Inquiry sent out a call around the internet for 25,000 people to sign a petition that would be seen by White House staff; while I know that probably would have done the square root of jack shit in terms of actual results or help for Aan, the fact that the petition attracted only 8,000 signatures is made even more awful when one looks at the comments section of the piece I just linked to; most did not sign it out of apathy or the website itself.
Frankly, though the petition would have likely done nothing, that attitude is part of a pervasive one within the atheist movement that I have noticed more or less since I entered it. I’ve written about it, yelled about it, typed any number of futile comments on Facebook about it. Now, something new has happened that I hope will give atheism the kick in the ass it so sorely deserves, but because we in the movement who actually care can never have nice things, I also want to raise some issues with it, too.
It illustrates that we’re more than just “dictionary” atheists who happen to not believe in gods and that we want to be a positive force in the world. Commenter dcortesi suggested how this gets atheists out of the “negativity trap” that we so often find ourselves in, when people ask stuff like “What do you atheists do, besides sitting around not-praying, eh?”
Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.
In essence, to quote my friend Danielle, rad as hell. I’m not entirely sure about the name and logo, but hey, I can deal with it if those who stand behind are actually going to walk the walk on it.
That latter bit I’m going to come to in a bit. First, I’m going to mention what happened after Jen set off the fuse on a version of atheism that, you know, actually has a point to it. Actually, there was quite a bit of positive. There was lots of support from the awesome likes of Greta Christina, Richard Carrier, and PZ Myers. There were some excellently reasoned critiques from Hemant Mehta and others. But, as ever, whenever anyone tries to accomplish something that might move the atheist movement forward, the trolls descended. Ed Clint, formerly of the University of Illinois, was a chief offender (You can look up his blog on your own. I’m not going to give him hits). There were accusations that those of us who are interested in social justice are all really Nazis, or wailing cries of “free speech, bro!” And, of course, the usual torrents of misogyny, sexism, homo/transphobia, and all that lovely jazz. Because, as we’ve all learned by now, being an atheist does not in any way engender rationalism.
Now, that’s gone too far. The threats and abuse have gotten so out of hand that Jen has taken an indefinite leave from blogging, and the trolls have even been hurling their nonsense at her family. Jen isn’t the only one who’s decided that enough is enough; Natalie Reed called time on talking about atheism a few weeks ago, and other female bloggers have left us besides. All you have to do is skim any FreethoughtBlogs or Skepchick contributor’s page to see it.
This is, frankly, appalling behavior, particularly from a crowd of animals that supposedly have beef with those of us who want an ethical, involved atheism because they think we’re restricting their free speech. Clint, Vacula, ERV, and all those other neckbeard, unevolved, shit-eating schmucks are at this point in time no better than Fox News pundits. All they seem capable of doing is to hurl baseless accusations and character assassinations, and it’s past time they slunk back into their holes.
Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. The haters shall always be with us, because hate is all they can do. What the rest of us can and should do is stand by our sisters who are in this struggle, who get the abuse firsthand. We need to let all of them know that we’re not going to let the thugs win. In fact, I know that they’re not going to, because we are better than them. We’ve got the rationality, the evidence, the eloquence that they claim to have but sorely lack. Our voices are our strongest assets, so let’s use them.