Religion, Faitheists, and Racism… Three of My Least-Favorite Things


Not sure if you’ve been following the next little dust-up over at Ophelia Benson’s blog, but…

She posted a guest post by Bruce Gorton going on about why he hates Faitheists.

A faitheist is essentially an atheist who argues for “politeness”in atheist/ religious discourse, in which the polite path is essentially the atheists shut up.

In the civil rights movement these were the “Uncle Toms” and the exact same crew are present in the gay rights movement right now. Ever hear a woman proclaim how much of a feminist she isn’t? It is the same basic deal. If you watch politics, this is the reason why “bipartisan support” has such an ominous ring to it.

It is people who strive to appear reasonable by appealing to what you want to believe, rather than actual reason. We want to believe sexism is a thing of the past, so we are inclined to favour women authors who make that claim.

We want to believe racism is a thing of the past, so we are inclined to favour black intellectuals who talk about the need for the youth to pull themselves up by their boot straps. We want to believe that homophobia isn’t the serious problem it was in the past, so gay people who point out that isn’t the case get silenced.

So long as religious injustice exists, there will be a market for atheists prepared to claim the problem is those who speak up against it.


That.

That’s a Faitheist.

And this is what Bruce has to say about them, and why we shouldn’t respect them.

Now the thing of this is that the “New Atheist”community does have some problems, and being the same species from roughly the same culture atheists are not that much better than the religious and there are serious concerns within the atheist movement.

Concerns such as sexism, or racism, or incredibly inept economic views such as libertarianism exist right now. There is such a thing as an atheist right wing.

But that is never the focus of a faitheist, because if it was it would require acknowledging that sexism is wrong in and of itself, and that includes sexism in the holy teachings of various religions.

Racism, being wrong in and of itself, means we cannot in good conscience not oppose the teachings of the book of Mormon in which the following is said (2 Nephi 5:21-23);

“And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

Instead the faitheist position is one of constantly complaining about how atheists are being quite upfront in criticising religious ideas.

(emphasis mine)

“Yes I’m an atheist, but I’m not one of those atheists!”

The implication here is that they are distancing themselves from the idea that religion is wrong. After all, that is the logical implication of the atheist position; theism, and, by extension, religion, is wrong.

We atheists do not believe in God. We challenge perhaps the most important cultural idea to ever exist by not believing in God. Our statements to this effect range from “I really really want to believe in God, but I can’t” to “there is no god, so get over it” (and variations thereof). Oh… the “G” versus the “g” is deliberate, there; it’s not a mistake.

This is perhaps the biggest problem I have with Faitheists. For the religious conservative, what is most insulting is our very existence. You can whine and cry all you want about how you’re a good atheist who’d never challenge their faith, because you want to be like them and all that bullshit… they will not buy it. They will still consider you evil; a devil-worshiper. They will still hate you, because the very fabric of who you are… the very fact that you do not believe in God… is a threat to the very foundation upon which they build their lives. Their lives revolve around God. The tiniest bit of doubt can shatter their lives. So you can couch your atheism in as many “but I want to be like you!” platitudes as you want; it makes no difference. You are an atheist, and thus a threat.

Oh… and you can try as hard as you want to pretend like your atheism does not make you who you are. But that’s a lie, and everyone knows it. The idea of God is so engrained within society that it really does inform lives. Theists define themselves by their religion. Their faith… their theism… defines who they are. Even the ones who try to say otherwise… at the end of the day, they are defined by the fact that they believe in God.

And you don’t get to run away from this as an atheist. Rejecting the cultural ideas of a creator informs everything else you do, because society, throughout the ages, has defined life by belief in a higher power.

It’s a changeable condition, of course, but it would take a switch in the number of theists and atheists. It would take a cultural change such that atheists outnumber theists in the way theists outnumber atheists today. And, to be entirely honest, I’m not sure that will ever happen. So we have to deal with the society as it is today, and to recognize that by saying that we don’t believe in God, we are quite literally denying a fundamental tenet of the society in which we live.

This is why you Faitheists are so fucking annoying. You are trying to deny something that society itself will not let you deny. If you are an atheist, then you are one of those atheists… whether you like it or not.

But none of this is what angered people. Bruce Gorton wrote this:

Now I bring up Stedman for a simple reason – the man holds a degree of the basic unconscious racism that I find common in a lot of these arguments over religion.

And this was his justification:

“But how can we discount the role religious beliefs played in motivating the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi?”

Why do I say this is unconsciously racist? Gandhi and MLK Jnr were both fighting against social injustices they personally suffered – and they were fighting shoulder to shoulder with atheists to achieve it.

Religion, it appears, only motivates against oppression suffered by the specific religious group that is being oppressed.

History is full of religious figures that have used their religion to maintain oppression (such that Frederick Douglass remarked; “We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen, all for the glory of God and the good of souls. The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the relgious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave trade go hand in hand.”)

And what of figures like A Phillip Randolf or Jawaharlal Nehru? What of those who were not religious, yet still stood up?

I do not think religion was the motivating factor behind Martin Luther King Jnr, I think not wanting an America where the colour of his skin relegated him to third class status had a lot more to do with it. I do not think religion motivated Mahatma Gandhi, I think desiring an India free from colonial rule had a lot more to do with it.

Mr Stedman as an atheist, by definition believes religion to be factually incorrect. His question thus reveals that he also believes that in order for non-whites to stand up to injustice, they need to be fed factual inaccuracies.

I disagree with Bruce. I do not think Stedman shows any kind of unconscious racism. I do not think Stedman really does believe that non-whites need religion to stand up to injustice.

And what’s more, I think Stedman was right about King and Ghandi. The fact that the very same religion that inspired King also inspired the KKK means absolutely nothing. We can argue all we want about which one has the right interpretation… and I will tell you right now that I think the KKK had a better understanding of the Bible than King did; it’s why I hate the Bible… but that matters absolutely not at all when it comes to the inspiration.

For ever single bad tyrant you can find inspired by their religion, you can find a good, heroic person, of every race, also inspired by their religion… perhaps even the same religion. It’s not racist to note the facts: both Gandhi and King were inspired by their religion.

HOWEVER!

The KKK, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Army of God, Scott Roeder, Eric Robert Rudolph, Hutaree, Gush Emunim Underground, Brit HaKanaim, and Eden Natan-Zada were motivated by religion, too.

So if you Faitheists get to use King and Gandhi to show how epically awesome religion is, then I get to use all of them above (and the Crusades, and the Spanish Inquisition, and the Salem Witch Trials, and the Crisis in the Middle East, and the Catholic Pedophile Priest Scandal, and the Pro-Life Lobby) to show how evil, repulsive, and ultimately bad for society religion is.

In other words, I’m simply not going to let you have it both ways. You don’t get to use Gandhi and King to prop up religion and deny the religious influence of all those bad guys, groups, scandals, and eras at the same time. You get both, or neither.

Take your pick.

Honestly, I think you Faitheists should just give it up. Stop trying to appease the unappeasable. The conservative religious hate you. They hate all of us atheists.

Get over it.

About Nathan Hevenstone

I hate straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied men.
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