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.
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.