Jen McCreight writes: "It's been five years now since I first became involved with the atheist and skeptic movements. And for most of those five years, I felt like I belonged... Until I started talking about feminism."
And then in this follow-up establishing "A+" atheism, Jen includes the following quote from danielmchugh that "perfectly" summarizes how she feels:
Religion is responsible for generating and sustaining most of the racism, sexism, anti-(insert minority human subgroup here)-isms... it gave a voice to the bigotry, established the privilege, and fed these things from the pulpit for thousands upon thousands of years. What sense does it make to throw out the garbage bag of religion yet keep all the garbage that it contained?
I can't help but see social justice as a logical consequence of atheism. I'm for getting rid of all the garbage.That social justice would be seen as a logical consequence of atheism is quite astounding. I certainly admire the social justice atheists for putting social justice and atheism together, as opposed to choosing only the latter. And yet, the very reason these posts were written is that sexism was discovered --- no! --- within the ranks of atheism!
This interesting argument follows from the claims being made:
- Religion is responsible for generating and sustaining "most" of the sexism (among other social injustices).
- A number of people involved in the atheist and skeptic movements have demonstrated sexism.
- Therefore: a number of people involved in the atheist and skeptic movements are either (a) religious, or they're (b) members of the tiny group of non-religious sexists.
#2 is the fact that has led to Jen's posts, and to the foundation of A+ atheism.
#3 is an interesting consequence that one really can draw, logically, from the claims Jen and danielmchugh have made here. If we go with (a), then it's not OK to admit that atheists can be just as bigoted as anyone else can be, and instead one must allege that the sexist ones aren't really atheists at all, or else they couldn't be sexist! Or if we go with (b), then they are accused only of logical inconsistency, in failing to notice that their atheism condemns their sexism.
There's a better explanation for the occurrence of sexism among atheists than either (a) or (b). People tend to think quite a lot of themselves, and this inherent human pride and selfishness is manifested in many ways. One of those manifestations is the kind of sexism that Jen and Natalie are right to criticize. Some sexist people are Christians, some of them are Hindu, some of them lived in ancient Athens, some of them drive imported automobiles, and some of them don't. Also, some of them are atheists.
No one group -- atheist, Christian, or otherwise -- has any claim whatsoever to a pristine historical record on social justice, or any exclusive claim to the grounds for social justice. Arguments for social justice can and have been made on Christian principles, on non-theistic principles, and on lots of other principles besides. To believe that "religion is responsible for generating and sustaining most of the ... bigotry" requires a highly selective reading of history. Here's how Terry Eagleton put it, in his review of Dawkin's The God Delusion:
Such is Dawkins's unruffled scientific impartiality that in a book of almost four hundred pages, he can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false. The countless millions who have devoted their lives selflessly to the service of others in the name of Christ or Buddha or Allah are wiped from human history -- and this by a self-appointed crusader against bigotry.
I hope they also take their skeptical principles even more deeply to heart. I, for one, am skeptical that "religion" is as bad as they think, and that the logical consequences of atheism reach so far as they think.