(no subject)
Mr Gruff

There's a lot there, and I only stumbled across it yesterday, but maybe you've seen this before. What do you think?

Atheist Yes We Can
Escher Snakes
via Friendly Atheist, an atheist version of will.i.am's Yes We Can remix:

The comment I left there:
Ergh. The appropriation of the Black civil rights movement in this video bothers me. Similarly, the implication in the screenshot (and elsewhere in the text of the video) that Barack Obama's election means that racism is over. It's not.

The mainstream LGBT civil rights movement (i.e., the white-dominated segment of the movement) has been trying to use this same strategy for years -- comparing the LGBT civil rights movement to the Black civil rights movement -- and it's created wedges between the two groups. All too often, we've implied in these comparisons that racism is over, or that our problems have been "just like" theirs. Additionally, such messages have had a way of reinforcing the stereotypes that gays are white and Blacks are straight, stereotypes that make things really difficult for Black queers. And, yo, if the LGBT movement is making life more difficult for some queers, then we're doing it wrong.

It disturbs me to see atheists repeating the same mistakes the LGBT rights movement has made. There are Black atheists; the discriminations against atheists and Blacks have had very different histories and consequences; racism is not over.

I would much rather that we be arguing atheist civil rights on its own merits.

Any thoughts?

Subverting Images of the "Dominant" Culture
Like others here I don't agree with the New Atheism's thorough-going religious intolerance. I think it's important to examine the intersectionality of oppression based on religion and oppression based on race.

But what should we say about attempts to subvert the use of the religious images of the dominant culture? To use a non-hypothetical example, is it okay to recast Satan/the Devil as the epitome of human desires that are vilified by the dominant culture? Does it make a difference that white academics are becoming increasingly less interested in talking about Satan, who is therefore more likely to be the concern of the Christian in the pew? And what should we make of the fact that it seems it is primarily white people who find this practice liberating? I'd appreciate any thoughts on this.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel
Escher Snakes
I just finished reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel. Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born, ex-Muslim atheist; she gained notoriety in Holland for her criticisms of Dutch tolerance for human rights abuses -- most specifically against women -- within Muslim immigrant communities. She was also the author of the concept and script for Theo Van Gogh's short film Submission, a film which kicked off the chain of events leading to Van Gogh's murder, as well as fire-bombings of Dutch mosques, schools, and churches.

Infidel is her autobiography. I briefly reviewed it in my own journal, but I expect that people in this community might be interested.

Hirsi Ali's critiques of IslamCollapse )

Bill Maher's Religulous
Escher Snakes
I went to see Religulous a week ago, and was disappointed (but not surprised) to see that it had race issues, most memorably around Islamophobia.

The main shtick of the film is Maher confronting religionists and trying to rope them into admitting that their religions are full of silly and ridiculous beliefs: "C'mon, how can you fail to admit that the business with the talking snake is ridiculous?" He does this repeatedly with Christians and Jews, and while he never manages to interview Mormons or Scientologists on film, he uses the same approach in his discussions of those religions: silly and ridiculous.

When he interviews Muslims, however, the line of questioning abruptly changes: "C'mon, how can you fail to admit that your religion is violent?"

I also had issues with the "commentary" footage he was interjecting into his interviews with Muslims, intended to provide a "how can s/he say that?" comeback to the interviewees' answers. I didn't recognize all of it, but at least some of it was footage of the intifadah, which isn't religious violence, but an uprising against a military occupation. Again, arghh.

And then there was the bit where he "interviewed" some self-identified Muslim gay activists. I use quotes, because it was mostly him mocking them for being both gay and Muslim while they sat there in silence. On Maher's part, it was the usual shmucky white behavior of assuming communities of color to be more homophobic than your own white community, and then demanding that queers of color choose sides between your community and their own cultural or familial communities. Never mind that siding with the white community tends to increase the racism that their cultural and familial communities experience -- and seeing that queers of color are part of those communities, the racism that queers of color experience, too.

There was probably more going on in that film that I didn't catch, but those were the examples that stuck in my memory.

I haven't seen much mention of any of these issues in reviews of the film, although I admit that I haven't dug into the comments fields on some of the blog posts. Has anyone else seen discussion of it?

Towards an Intersectionality of Atheism and Race
Escher Snakes
(unusualmusic asked me to cross-post this: the original version is in my journal. Oh, and if the preamble sounds weird, it's because I originally addressed the post to IBARW-at-large.)

I identify as an atheist and have my favorite atheist blogs, but I don't spend much time actively showing up for atheist/humanist events because when I show up for an event, it's -- surprise! -- nearly all white men. Not only do I find that kinda icky, but it says to me... major unaddressed intersectionality problems!

(As if I didn't already know this from reading some of the more popular blogs. Some stuff is blatant.)

Anyhow, so one of the basic principles of anti-racism is that you do your anti-racist work in your own communities. Another principle is that you work together -- solitary voices are easily dismissed as "that crazy woman who keeps harping about (blank)," but you also work together because it takes that sort of communal work to find the problems that we individually miss and to come up with solutions/alternatives that don't screw over someone else.

Unfortunately, I haven't had a whole lot of success yet in finding the other people who are discussing the intersectionality issues of the atheist movement. So I'm just going to start with what I see as some of the issues, and hopefully someone(s) will pitch in and help me improve the critique or point out stuff I'm missing. And maybe I'll luck out and someone will point me toward the people who are having this discussion. Because that would be wonderful.

Atheism, Race, and Racist AtheismsCollapse )

So, my questions for you: What did I get wrong (or not right enough)? What am I missing? Who else is talking about these issues? And how do we get these issues heard within mainstream atheism?

Some resources (please feel free to add more in the comments):

On "Proving" One's Religion
Escher Snakes
Via Racialicious and The Shameless Blog, an Apache five-year-old is blocked from attending his local kindergarten:
District policy clearly states student's hair needs to be kept out of the eyes. No hair can cover any part of the ear, a standard collar and no tufts or tails are allowed. The superintendent says exceptions are made for religion, but Adriel's parents have yet to provide proof of their beliefs.

"I was trying to find out what recognized religion they are that discusses they cannot cut their hair and the information I received then was basically it's their choice," said Needville ISD Superintendent Curtis Rhodes.

This story angers me eight ways from Sunday, but let's start with the atheist perspective: Mr. Superintendent, what "proof" do you have that your religion exists? How are we to know that your religion isn't "basically your choice"?

Coming at this from the race perspective, Mr. Superintendent, why are you making the very white/European assumption that religion is clearly separated from culture, and that membership in religion is "provable" on a basis that is independent from someone's cultural membership? What do you consider to be "proof" of a religion's existence? The Abrahamic norms of single-purpose dedicated-to-religion buildings, single-purpose dedicated-to-religion books, seminary institutions, tax-exempt status that makes the existence of single-purpose institutions possible? And aren't you yourself confusing your Christian religious biases for a strict gender dualism (and an imperative to enforce that dualism) with something that's religiously and culturally neutral?

In an earlier post, I made the statement that in terms of social justice, I think that atheists should be directing our energies against the oppressive cultural hegemonies (oo! I love that word!) of locally-dominant religions. Adriel Arocha's story is precisely the kind of issue that I think atheists can, and should, make common cause with. Arocha is facing an authority who is willing to make exceptions for religious beliefs that meet certain preconceived notions of his, but isn't willing to accommodate anything that he doesn't consider to be a Real Religion. It's another version of the idea that "it doesn't (much) matter what religion you practice, just so long as you have one." (But in Rhodes's case, it has to be more than just having a religion, it has to be the "right kind" of one.)

Another important aspect of this story is that it illustrates that religion is often considered an acceptable reason to maintain cultural practices, whereas simply having a separate culture is not acceptable. As long as that norm holds, the religions of minority cultures are non-symmetric to the religions of the dominant culture. This is one of the problems I have with the "white male atheist think" that all religions are stupid and should be eradicated ASAP: if one is white, one can give up one's religion without risking giving up one's culture (how many white atheists do you know who continue to celebrate Christmas?), but if one is of a non-Christian culture, the risks of atheism -- both to the individual and the community -- are very different.

Muslims Vs. Christians read Euro Vs. Arab
Naked Witch
 Muslims and Christians have been at it since the Crusades. The word "Jihad" was a direct translation of "Holy War", a term first used by Christians to describe and motivate the Crusades. Muslims began using Jihad to describe their fight against the Christian invaders. Christian Crusaders ransacked, pillaged, raped, and, yes, canibalized their way through Eastern Europe and Western Asia (now known as the Middle East) all the way to Jeruselum. 

But was it really *just* about religion? One factor worth noting is that the Midle East was multicultural at the time of the Crusades. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all lived in Jeruselum and all of them fell victim to the brutality of the undiscriminating Crusaders. Ofcourse, the Crusaders didn't know this. They thought they were there to kill Muslims and they assumed (as racists oftend do) that all Arabs were Muslims, an assumption that continues to this day. (How often have you heard "Muslim" used as though it were interchangeable with "Arab"?) In fact, one could argue that the current "war on terror" is driven by such an assumption intermixed with Christian zealotosity and President Bush's wish to relive the Crusades. (President Bush even reffered to this war as a "Crusade", a comment that, if there were any educated people watching, should have been greeted with absolute disgust.)

To top it all off Crusaders were only condemned for canibalisim when the children they ate were "christian", aka European. Eating "muslim" children was recognized as completely acceptable because such children were not human- a distinction that doesn't seem to apply to non-christian Europeans. 

"Race" wasn't recognized until long after the Crusades, but it seems likely to me that this was an early example of racism and that, having no other excuse to hate Arabs, religion was as good as race and very possibly a justifcation still used to this day no? *wink wink nudge nudge say no more!*

 Edit: A good refference is "The Crusades" by the History Channel hosted by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. The DVD is available for rent at my Library and you can probably find it on youtube. Try this: http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=crusades+history+channel+monty+python&oe=UTF-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wv&oi=property_suggestions&resnum=0&ct=property-revision&cd=1 

Don't Be Shy
So, do we have a community running here yet? I signed up for this community because it seemed like there must be differences in how atheism is experienced by POCs. But that experience is not mine, and I don't have a lot of knowledge about it secondhand, either. I'd like to hear about your experiences, or maybe some really good third party examples. I'd like to see what it is exactly that this community exists for. It seems like there's something there, but no one's being all that eager to open things up.

(no subject)
This Summer my (white) parents are going to Guatemala for a couple weeks on a (Christian) mission trip. Wikipedia seems to think that they've already gotten the word about Jesus, but whatever. This will be their first time doing this, though they converted to Christianity around the time they got married 30 years ago or so.

They're sincere about it, not that I think that counts for everything. I guess they feel like everyone just needs to love and forgive each other more, and not worry about politics or whatever, and then everyone will get along or something. Though I can't seem to shake the voice of Peter Griffin saying, "It doesn't matter what race we are as long as we're all the same religion".

I guess after your kids grow up and don't believe you anymore, all that there's left to do is to find some illiterate "third worlders" and try again.

I don't know. I'm pretty uncollected with my thoughts about this. I've just about totally removed myself from their whole world, emotionally. I guess I was hoping some of you might have a less defeatist take on how we're supposed to respond to "what the world needs is Jesus, that's all", with the fishing for men and making disciples of all nations and whatnot.


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