Don’t Use Atheism To Cover Your Bigotry

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For some years there has been a faction of atheists who use their atheism to be bigots. When asked to take some action on social justice issues like feminism or racism, some of these atheists go out of their way to ‘prove’ why their lack of values causes them to either ignore social justice issues or to support the status quo. Activist and blogger James Croft calls out these bigots and makes some great points why atheists shouldn’t use their atheism a cover for their bigotry.

So why the double standard? It seems to be purely self-serving. These individuals wish to limit the purview of organized atheism to only the issues they personally feel comfortable about, and which they personally wish to support. They like science education and secularism, so support for those issues can be marshaled under the atheist banner. They don’t like being called on to fight for racial equality, so that’s an illegitimate expansion of the atheist cause. The pseudo-philosophical argumentation – “atheism requires no value positions! We must keep atheism pure (except for those issues I like)” – becomes a hypocritical cover for their own discomfort with some social causes.

Atheism’s Lack of Values is a Bug, Not a Feature

I agree that it is a self-serving double standard because many of these social justice issues are interconnected.

If we refuse to demand equality for others then how do we expect equality for atheists?

Some would argue that you can’t force someone to be outraged about every bad thing that happens or there isn’t enough time in the day to treat everything as a priority and that doesn’t mean that person is a bigot.

That can be true to a point and there is something you can say that would make your position quite clear. You either want to help solve the problem or you want to be part of the problem.

Let’s say that I think atheists should do something about the blatant racism like the police shooting in Ferguson, MO.

If you say to me that atheism is only a lack in belief in God so we shouldn’t take a position on the shooting, or you go at length about evidence and trials when that didn’t happen in real life, you might actually be a bigot.

If you truly care about the issue but lack time and energy to devote to the cause then you could respond to my call to action thusly:

“I agree that the incident was awful and something needs to be done but I am not able to do much if anything right now….”

Simple as that.

Express your support for the cause even if you can’t take personal action right now. If you dislike the cause then say so right off the top. Don’t waste our time with long winded pedantic metaphysical reasoning why atheists shouldn’t support the particular cause.

Do you believe in equality? Do you think racism is wrong? Should the government stop punishing poor people for being poor?

Just state your support or state you don’t support those things. It also says something if being thought of as a bigot makes you uncomfortable, then maybe you need to reevaluate your reasoning.

If you are an activist for social justice causes, be careful judging others who don’t share your level of commitment. Don’t assume they are a bigot. Question them on the issue and again if they avoid stating a position or they try to derail the discussion then you have your answer.

If you are an atheist and want to support the mirad of social justice issues that come up in the nation and world, think about joining Humanism. Most of us are not only atheist but Humanism creates additional space to deal with real human problems like racism.

The only “thought experiments” Humanists do about social justice issues is deciding what kind of action to take.

6 Replies to “Don’t Use Atheism To Cover Your Bigotry”

  1. It really depends on what the issue is. Everything should get skepticism applied to it. For example the shooting in Ferguson, if you view the video evidence you quickly come to the conclusion that it was not a race killing but a policeman defending himself while being assaulted by a thief. So race killing no! Killing yes! 

    Could it have been handeled beter? In a perfect world yes, but I dont know how it feels to get assaulted in this way, maybe I would have also gone for the kill shot.

    1. There are a couple of issues I have with your conclusions.

      First, there was no video evidence of Brown’s killing. Wilson didn’t wear a camera and there was no dashboard camera do there is no way “quickly come to the conclusion that it was not a race killing but a
      policeman defending himself while being assaulted by a thief.”

      Since there was no trial where actual evidence and rebuttal was presented we will never know the exact way the incident happened. The circumstantial evidence we do have leans toward the police officer murdering Brown. This is an Occam’s razor.

      Also I don’t think you are using “skepticism” in the right way. It just doesn’t mean to be contrary.

      Proper skepticism promotes scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims.

      1. Okay I will post some links so hopefully they come through.

        1:00 in this movie proves the assault happened, especially since the main witness (that everyone believes) admits this was happening.

        {link removed – dlb}

        Then maybe some other stuff

        [Links removed – dlb]

        Anyway, seems the eyewitnesses agree that Brown attacked Wilson. Seems like self defense to me.

        1. Just a quick note before I answer – I removed the links to the information you wrote. I try to the limit the links I allow in my comments section to reduce the chance of spamming.

          1. I looked at the links you provided and setting aside the suspect nature of the sources they didn’t add any information I didn’t know previously and still doesn’t refute my statement “The circumstantial evidence we do have leans toward the police officer murdering Brown.”

          The Daily Mail and NY Post isn’t objective reporting. It wasn’t a big deal this time because the stories had been reported more or less in other news media.

          2. If the events happened like that stated in the information you posted then the officer shot at Brown from the car and then got of out of the car as Brown was running away and shot him dead. According to the National Institute of Justice:

          “Police enforce social order through the legitimized use of force. Use of force describes the “amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject” [1]. The levels, or continuum, of force police use include basic verbal and physical restraint, less-lethal force and lethal force.” 

          Brown was unarmed and they weren’t fighting when Wilson got out of his car and shot Brown dead. Did he not have a taser or baton or couldn’t wait for backup. He was in the car after Brown left he could have rolled the window up and waited for help.

          Even if Brown had committed a crime he still deserved to be arrested and get his due process as any citizen should get. Execution by cop is not due process.

          1. Not to worry I understand about the links, I have a similar system in place.

            The point is people are calling this a murder or race crime.

            Yet the story has changed from Brown walking towards the officer with his hands up, to assaulting the officer.

            From someone completely innocent to finding out he had just assaulted a store worker and stolen from that store.

            So whats next? The evidence keeps changing in a very unfavorable way for Brown. Maybe we should listen to the police officer now that he has waited for due process (found not guilty) and broken his silence. A similar case like this happened in the UK a few years back, same story, same riots and same conclusion the person that died was anything but innocent.

          2. Sorry but Wilson had no trial – that is the whole problem. The Grand Jury decided not to indict that doesn’t mean that Wilson is innocent it just means they didn’t think it should go to trial. Of course that grand jury was led by a prosecutor who didn’t want to go to trial.

            It looks to be a crime based on race. I doubt Wilson would have shot a white guy under the same circumstances. Wilson prejudged Brown and was determined to shoot him.

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