Everyone’s talking about Atheism Plus, new-new-atheism, social justice atheism, whatever you feel like calling it. I already shared the thoughts I had been having along those lines, and now I want to really get in to where I stand on things.

I support Atheism Plus, at least in so far as I support atheists caring about social justice and equality. If I could be said that I have any reservations or concerns about this new “movement” it is that apathy will eventually lead to it being a bunch of relatively privileged people paying lip service to social justice and equality, but not really doing much about it. I called for action and I aim to act.

I think the value of being atheist-identified while doing this work is purely a benefit for atheism. By going and doing things in the world, our good works show a secular face connected with acts that benefit more than ourselves. Secularists have a long history of being involved in social justice (abolition, suffrage, etc) and I would like to see that continue and expand. It’s important that we don’t do this stuff to make atheists look good. That’s just a side effect of being an atheist-identified group or individual doing this work. We need to be doing it because it’s an important issue for us.

We also need to not colonize others’ issues. We need to act as allies, not directors. Contact the organizations doing the work you care about, even if they are theistic, and ask how you can help. Use your skepticism to know what’s true, your humanity to know what’s right, and let people know you’re doing this without supernatural inducement. Do all that, but listen to the real expects on these issues. As a white man I wouldn’t lecture women or people of color about what their priorities should be. I won’t fumble my way in and just do what I think should be done. Learn the nuance of an issue and give support.

And please do the work. The best response to the haters and the trolls and the bullies is to make the world a better place. To live our principles and by doing so show them for liars when they say we’re seeking attention, that all we do is complain about them. I am asking myself questions about what social justice issues matter to me most. I am currently researching who is working on those issues.

I will be making a call once I have the issue and group that’s best for me and my principles and I will say “I’m an atheist, how can I help?”

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3 Comments

KarenXAugust 30, 2012 1:34 pm

I like this post a lot, particularly about the urging of atheists interested in social justice to be allies first instead of directors. A few months ago I read a list of guidelines for men who want to be feminist allies, which I think can be easily adapted to any situation and I think might be useful here. It’s from the RadTransFem tumblr account.

Sasha August 30 2012 14:51 pm

Thanks for the link, and I'm glad you like the post. I really dig your site.

squirrelywrath2 September 02 2012 08:00 am

You know as a white cis male (Blond hair, blue eyes, 5'11'' to really rub it in) who aspires on his best days to be a positive atheist and feminist ally, who is also a developmental psychology research grad student, I find the points in Karenx's link to be interesting and challenging. The reason I bring up the psych thing is because the gender ratio there is a little more one sided than people realize. The last class I taught had 67 female students and 3 male students. So I have to be a lot more aware of gender than most guys.

It can be tough to follow some the kinds of rules Karenx lays out. Not because they are inherently unfair, but because I too am subject to a social script and have to be constantly aware of and resist my reflexes. It can be exhausting at times. Some days when we are having an academic discussion and a female colleague who knows more than any of us about a topic will not speak up, I have caught myself asking everyone to shut up for a moment and then ask why that colleague is not speaking up.

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