Hi all. I’m back after a bit of a self-imposed break from the internet. I’m going to do my best to get back to regular posting quickly, but given the restart of school and today’s release of the last book in the Wheel of Time series, that may not happen for a bit. We shall see.
In any case, I wanted to take some time not just to talk about the last piece I wrote before going on break, wherein I said some, well, controversial things about two big atheist organizations, but also to give the new readers here something of a reintroduction to who I am and why I think what I do. This blog’s readership isn’t huge yet, but it has exploded over the past four months as I’ve started posting regularly.
So, given that, hello again. My name is Andrew, and I’m a senior studying philosophy and art history at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. My work focuses on ethics, political philosophy, feminism, critical race theory, aesthetics, and how all of them intersect. I’m also, as you might have noticed, an atheist, and furthermore, I’m one of those super evil nonreligious people who think that nonbelievers, and everyone, for a matter of fact, should concern themselves with social justice issues and work to make the world a more just place. i.e. I want to kill your freeze peaches, MRA’s and associated enablers of oppression. To that end, I do activism in not just atheist spaces, but also in the realms of feminism, trans* issues, and race issues.
Regarding that, I write a lot about how the atheist movement works and why I feel it is lacking, particularly in the case of the larger, more recognizable groups like American Atheists and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, who I criticized for what I believe is lackluster activism in regards to their activities during the holiday season. There was a lot of feedback, both positive and negative, from a lot of spaces, some surprising, some far less so. I’m not going to go through and respond to every critic in this post, because I just do not have the willpower. Rather, I want to try to explain, in a bit greater detail, why I hold the beliefs I do about those groups, and why I think AA in particular is not doing good activism.
Firstly, I have argued in the past that atheism alone does not engender goodness, or a ethical selfhood. We know this by simple observation of the movement as it exists today; by any decent standard, the people who constantly harass Amy Davis Roth, Rebecca Watson, Melody Hensley, Sarah Moglia, and other feminist atheists, are not good people. They sometimes even put their targets’ safety at risk as did Justin Vacula when he posted Amy’s address on the internet, or thunderf00t did when he hacked FreethoughtBlogs and stole personal information of Natalie Reed’s. The people who do such things are only too proud declare themselves atheists, free of the religious dogma they so love to lampoon, and yet they act like middle school bullies.
I am not lumping Dave Silverman or Annie Laurie Gaylor in with them; I don’t particularly care for the Silverman’s style, but he’s not anywhere near the category that Vacula or Ed Clint are. I merely use the example to illustrate that atheism does not equal goodness automatically, which is a belief that both Silverman and Gaylor seem to hold. At least, this is what seems, to me, to be indicated by their advertising campaigns. American Atheists put up big, flashy, if not particularly well designed or copy edited, PR stunts to drive membership and attempt to bring people to atheism. The FFRF fights for the separation of church and state first and foremost, but also uses billboards to indicate to the average passerby that atheists do exist, are good people, and aren’t baby-eating monsters.
This is all well and good. I would be rightly pilloried were I to say that I didn’t want there to be more people holding a secular worldview in our society, or that I did not want the influence of religion to decline in our government and those elsewhere. However, where it seems Silverman simply wants to get our numbers up, to the point where he seems to deliberately misread statistics to claim there are far more American nonbelievers than there are, I want people to become members of the atheist movement for the right reasons. I want people to be attracted to atheism because atheists are good people who do good works, not simply because we all don’t believe in any gods. I want atheism to be a proper movement, one that works together with our natural allies to end oppression, rather than what it still is now, a white boys’ club that is hostile to traditionally marginalized groups like women, people of color, people outside the gender binary, and people with disabilities. Right now, most of the big atheist organizations are not doing that; they are making PR stunts, looking for numbers, not for complications. We need to convince people to join the secular movement because it is a good thing, because the movement is an ethical, change-driven one, not just because, as AA endlessly points out, religion is dumb.
To that end, what you are going to find on this blog is going to vary widely. I will probably talk about the newest snafus in the movement and try to analyze what goes on. I will talk about feminism, particularly regarding chivalry, on which I plan to have a series of posts coming in the next weeks. I will talk about queer issues, about ableism, about violence, about racism. I will use my training as a budding historian of art and architecture to show how aesthetics and how we interact with our world intersect and work to hold up systemic oppressions. I will attempt to prove to you, using evidence, reason, skepticism, and rationality, backed by my knowledge of philosophy and radical activism, how all of these things intersect, and why we cannot just simply look at religion as the cause of everything that is bad, but how we as atheists can work to bring down the whole structure of injustice and violence that we exist in.
Ambitious, I know. But I’m going to do my damnedest to live up to it. I hope you’ll stick around and join the conversation with me, and with my new coblogger who I will be introducing tomorrow. I hope you’ll agree with me that it’s one worth having.