Home > atheism, racism, sexism > Red Team: The Cracked Article II

Red Team: The Cracked Article II

Since any perspective or way of life ought to be subject to criticism, any post I write with the title “Red Team” is one which looks at Atheism with a self-critical eye. I borrowed the term from the second season of HBO’s Newsroom. This continue my look at Mark Hill’s article from cracked.com, you can read the first post here.

4. It’s Becoming Tied to Awful Ideas

“You can’t claim to be a proponent of science and reasonable thinking, only to regress to hacky sitcom stereotypes about women being humorless harpies who bring sexual assault upon themselves.”

This sentence is the thesis of point 4 (if you’re unfamiliar with Cracked, they do list format) and it’s a tricky point. First off, this isn’t unique to the Atheism movement as the criticisms he’s alleging also belong to the skepticism movement as well. One of the examples that he gave, about the woman in the elevator occurred at a skeptic conference which is not necessarily an atheist group (although there is a large overlap between the two). In either case though he’s correct.

If Atheists are going to claim allegiance to evidence based belief systems then they must embrace equality among, not only the sexes, but also sexual orientation. If a couple of out of touch individuals make misogynistic remarks it is up to the movement itself to criticize them. Using a couple of examples though doesn’t represent an entire movement: and it’s quite important to note that without a specific doctrine wherein women are basically told they have second class status this is more of a problem with the people in the movement than the movement itself. Nearly all of the religious doctrines in the world have it built in to their tenets that women simply aren’t equal. Which is why there are no female Catholic priests, Imams, Rabbis, Yogis, etc. There is nothing in Atheism that can be pointed out as being expressly anti-woman any more than there is something that can be used to show an official doctrine of liberalism/conservatism.

This is a problem with the members of the group who feel that the boy’s club is being invaded. The movement has always had women involved, but as a distinct minority. Presently, that has been changing at an incredibly rapid pace and some people just don’t know how to adjust. It’s a sad reflection on society in general that it needs to “adjust” at all. How difficult should it be to just say, “if you don’t believe you’re one of us.”

The spat of Islamophobia though is a different story. Unlike the misogyny, atheism does have a natural hostility to Islam as much as it has against any other of the religions of the world (maybe not Unitarianism). Islam is a direct target for a couple of reasons: the first, and most important, is that followers of fundamentalist versions of the religion regularly target non-believers and any critic of the religion for death. Within the last couple months, three atheist bloggers have been brutally murdered in public in Indonesia, one received an official lashing by the Saudi Arabian government, and in many Muslim countries being an atheist is illegal under various penalties up to and including execution. This is a feature that, in the present day, is unique to these types of theocratic governments. It’s a behavior that used to exist in Christian governments, but that was in the Middle Ages so a particular hostility to Muslim countries is going to exist.

However, that does not excuse racism and the most difficult part is making it explicitly clear where the line is and where it gets crossed. If I want to accuse a religion of being inhospitable to non-believers or apostates that is one thing. If I say that the followers are nothing more than animals, that is clearly the other. However, somewhere in between those two obvious bench marks is that mysterious line. Can a person criticize a belief system and not criticize the believer? That’s the tricky question not because the answer is “yes” with an “if;” but because the answer for the most part is “no.” The followers of a religion tend to identify with that religion to a degree that it is inextricably tied to their personal identity.

The debate between Sam Harris and Ben Affleck is the literal argument over whether this is possible. I personally disagree with Affleck and his ultra-liberalism: a belief system can be utterly wrong and some cultures are better than others. Does that make me a racist or an Islamophobe (a term which I despise because it’s not an accurate representation of hatred)? I don’t think so. I’m calling out a culture, like Saudi Arabia’s, where women aren’t allowed to drive a car or leave their house without a male chaperon and where they are confined to wearing clothes which identify them as the weaker subservient half of the species. Objectively, I don’t see how you can make the cultural relativistic argument that it’s not worse, it’s just different.

While militant religion, of any kind, is a notion that worries me I wouldn’t go so far as for advocate penalties for believing in any of them. I don’t think that just because a person is a Muslim that it means they are worse than any other person. The charge of Islamophobia/racism seems a bit extreme. It’s like claiming that anyone who liked the movie “American Sniper” is racist because of the comments which were posted underneath reviews of the movie: it’s an incorrect generalization. Singling any one religion out as a particular target is unwise as the one thing that all Atheists are united about is that all religion is mere superstition. When one of the supposed leaders of Atheism does cross the line, it ought to be called out; but just because they are criticizing a culture doesn’t mean it’s a racist comment.

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Categories: atheism, racism, sexism Tags: ,
  1. Pandoralives
    June 2, 2015 at 12:59 am

    I am not an atheist. That said, I really enjoyed this article. Self reflection and critique is incredibly important and it good nourishment for any movement. It is essential to separate some of the things that are automatically associated with the movement from those who participate in the movement and the movement itself. I come from a very religious background but I am more curious than I ought to be. I want a better understanding of movements that are different from the ones that I grew up around and this gives me a good understanding of what it does and doesn’t mean to be an atheist. I’ve often been frustrated at how disrespectful atheists are towards theists and vice versa. This article was very refreshing.

    • rdxdave
      June 2, 2015 at 1:11 am

      Thank you for your comment, it’s very nice to hear from someone that doesn’t necessarily agree with me. I too come from a religious background, and I too was probably more curious than anyone wanted me to be. That’s how I got here. Since I’m responding to an article written by someone else, I’ll let you in on a spoiler: the next article is going to be about arrogance that I see among atheists.

      • Pandoralives
        June 2, 2015 at 1:20 am

        I’m not quite sure what I am, only what I am not. It is comforting to know that you have struggled with the same thing. I look forward to reading your next article.

  1. June 9, 2015 at 1:50 am

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