This is just an offhand, off-the-top-of-my-head list which hopefully more people will add to and use as a resource. I can’t stand atheists who use their atheism to make sure that the same voices that have always been the loudest stay the loudest (and then have the gall to claim they’re oppressed), but I also don’t like seeing people assume from the get-go that “atheist” automatically equals “white guy talking down to people while wearing a fedora.” Because if you ignore the fact that people from other backgrounds can be and are atheists and proud of it then you’re just keeping the shitty cycle going by erasing people who already get pushed aside enough both in and outside of atheist circles.
Rebecca Watson runs Skepchick and often writes about problems faced by women in atheist/skeptic communities, such as sexual harassment at conventions. You may remember her as the woman who was involved in last year’s “Elevatorgate” incident.
Zinnia Jones has been writing and making videos about atheism, skepticism, politics, homophobia, and many other subjects for years. She also writes frequently on her experiences as a transgender lesbian.
African Americans for Humanism are…well, African Americans for humanism! They recently ran a multimedia campaign, We Are AAH, dedicated to reaching out to atheists and the religiously skeptical in black communities, and to showcasing prominent African American skeptics from history.
Standard disclaimer that I’m sure all of the above people and groups have, at some point, said something that I don’t agree with or endorse. Still though if you’re interested in atheism and/or skepticism in general but are put off by the overwhelmingly cis/straight/white/male face that is often presented, well, here are some folks to start with. I would love to see more people added to this list!
If you are not willing to do the serious work, reading, re-education and organizing then don’t go there. Diversity in and of itself is a bromide. Anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-heterosexism and destroying white supremacy—that is what this work is about for many radical humanist/atheists. Trotting out “diversity” is guaranteed to make ears bleed rivers of pus when posed by the umpteenth clueless individual not willing to put the work into coalition building across issues with non-secularist organizations with a social justice, gender justice and/or LGBTQ orientation.
Here are the billboards:
Way to be super fucking alienating of cultures whose identities have been attacked throughout history, guys.
If you’d read the original article, you’d know it’s not trying to take away religion from anyone. They’re directed at atheists living in those communities who are too afraid to speak up. Within a religious community, even within just a religious family, being an atheist is a frightening thing. These signs aren’t trying to deprive people of their religion, but telling those without a religion that they it’s okay. They don’t have to have a religion.
This is the best comment I’ve read in the notes of this post and thank you for saying it.
I am a person of color and I grew up in an insular Muslim community and I would have appreciated seeing a billboard like the top one when I was growing up. Religion not only contributed to my abuse but religious teachings and principles made me feel like I was responsible for it, for many years. It also caused anxiety, doubt, alienation, and thoughts of suicide when I moved to the United States.
I am really grateful to atheist professors I had in college and atheist authors and thinkers that changed the way I thought about the world and myself. And if these billboards can help someone who is in the position that I was and guides them towards atheist resources, then it is a really, really good thing.
While there are objections that can be made to these billboards, what I don’t appreciate is white people jumping at the chance to toss around phrases like cultural imperialism and white saviorism to distance themselves from those other white people and award themselves white ally points.
For a bunch of atheists, the conversation was in some ways unsurprising. Gathered in a Bronzeville Starbucks, the group broached all the major talking points—evolution, the Bible, zealots. The inaugural meeting of the Black Nonbelievers of Chicago (BNOC) on also brushed with more intimate topics, such as the members’ personal trajectories towards atheism and issues with faith. But perhaps the most unusual thing about this meeting of black nonbelievers—a designation meant to cover atheists, agnostics and freethinkers—is simply that it happened.
- Being an atheist does not erase privilege.
- This includes white privilege.
- This also includes cis privilege, CNDP privilege, and het privilege.
- Seriously, being an atheist does not erase your white privilege.
- Criticizing exclusively (majority) non-white religions is racist.
- This includes Islam.
- The existence of white Muslims does not invalidate this point.
- Black Christianity is not always hetereosexist.
- Black people are not the most heterosexist heterosexists that ever heterosexisted.
- Black queer/gay/lesbian/non-straight/pansexual/asexual people exist too.
- Mestiz@s are not the root cause of sexism.
- Neither is Latin American Christianity.
- You do realize Christianity was imported, right?
- Atheists are not the only oppressed religious group.
- Muslims are oppressed too.
- Often by white atheists.
- Islam is not evil.
- Neither are hijabs or niqabs.
- Neither is Vodun/voodoo/hoodoo.
- Neither is any other religion…
- …unless it’s World Church of the Creator / The Creativity Movement…
- Which is white supremacist.
- …or the Westboro Baptist Church.
- Who even the KKK hates.
- Evolutionary psychology is sexist, racist, cissexist, ableist, and heterosexist.
- This includes evolutionary psychology that (supposedly) supports atheism.
- Supporting evo-psych means
- You have not done your homework, or
- You are prejudiced.
- Other people’s clothing is not your business.
- Including religious articles of clothing.
- Including hijabs, headwraps, niqabs, burkas, crosses, crucifixes, pentacles, and other symbols.
- Even if you really don’t like it.
- Even if it’s really religious.
- Acknowledge other people’s identities.
- Even if you’re uncomfortable with them.
- Especially if you’re uncomfortable,
- Because they have racial, sexual, cultural, or disabled identity
- Paganism is not ‘atheism-lite’.
- Neither is agnosticism.
- Neither are indigenous religions.
- There is no such thing as ‘ironic’ bigotry.
- Unless it’s atheists whining about Christmas.
- Seriously, I thought only evangelicals did that.
- Trans people are not your special little puzzles.
- Neither are autistic / disabled people.
- I don’t care if you’re a scientist. We’re still not your Rubik’s Cubes.
- Not everything should be about science.
- There. I said it.
- PoC are not the reason why a lot of people are wary of atheists.
- It’s because of white/het/cis/CND atheists.
- Yes, including you.
- Demanding people educate you is oppressive.
- Even if you’re ‘being really nice about it’.
- Nice =/= good.
- Religions are not inherently oppressive.
- Did you know that hijabs and niqabs are cultural?
- And that many women find them liberating?
- Using emotion in writing, reasoning, the internet, or decision-making does not mean one is stupid/dumb/monkey-like/less-evolved/other ableist, racist, eugenicist terms.
- It means one is a fucking human being.
- Disability is not a flaw in evolution.
- Disabled people will not die out with evolution.
- Fuck you.
- Being atheist does not mean you are automatically not allistic.
- If you don’t know what that means, look it up.
- You can use Google.
- Being a queer atheist does not make you white.
- Seriously, enough with this racist bullshit.
- Cultural appropriation is also done by atheists.
- Deal with it.
- There are no purple people.
- You should know this.
- Making fun of ‘them crazy darkies doin’ their ridick voodoo’ is racist, ableist, and the reason why a LOT of black atheists will not have anything to do with you.
- Satire is a tool that works when aimed upwards, at the most powerful people.
- Black people are not the most powerful people.
- Especially black people practicing voodoo.
- No religion is more ridiculous than any other.
- Including Mormonism.
- …but some have more power, and are therefore better to make fun of.
- Like Mormonism.
- Being colorblind is only okay if you literally cannot see or distinguish colors.
- Otherwise, it’s racist.
- Religions derive strength and power from the social power of their followers.
- Which is why evangelical Christianity is a better target than Black Christianity.
- Being an agnostic (or bisexual) is not ‘taking the easy way out’.
- Really, now?
- Monosexism is real.
- How do I know?
- You’re doing it right now.
- And yes, queer can be a term for polysexual.
- If you think black people are mean to you,
- You’re probably white,
- And won’t say you are
- Because white people never say they’re white.
- The terms ‘hermophradite’ ‘third sex’ and ‘biological gender’ are
- And not up for debate.
- If you refuse to identify your privileged identities,
- I’m going to assume you just think you’re ‘normal’
- And moderate you.
- Refusing to acknowledge the power of environment and social structure
- Is bigoted
- And means you’re a biological essentialist.
- Intersex people exist.
- Deal with it.
- And no, they are not ‘miracles of evolution’.
- I thought you didn’t believe in miracles.
- Freedom does not just mean ‘freedom to be an atheist and make the choices I would make’. It means freedom to make even choices I don’t like.
- Including religious choices.
- Social justice / social uprooting / anti-oppression is not about you and your feelings.
- Nobody cares about white guilt.
- Making everything about your feelings is oppressive.
- If you’re offended,
- Get over it.
- Realize that being offended is much better than being oppressed.
I have a quick question: People like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and other ex-Muslims are known exclusively to criticize Islam, so is that inherently prejudiced or something? They are PoC’s who have internalized racism, but I’m not quite sure how ex-Muslims criticizing Islam is racist…
Really good post with a lot of good points and Juthika brings up another good one. I look forward to her point being discussed more by other ex-Muslims who are now Atheists.
Why would that be inherently prejudiced? I’ve only been exposed to one religion and that’s the one I talk about. Islam is the religion I’ve studied, been exposed to at home, lived with for many years, and the one that has negatively affected my life - if I criticize it, it’s because I know about it.
There are some good points in this post, but for some reason it’s directed mostly at white atheists without saying that outright? It’s just a note “to atheists”, but they assume the audience will be white. Also “not everything should be about science” - what does that even mean?