November 2, 2007

Atheism and White Power

Believe it or not, some white nationalist groups are showing signs of opening their doors to atheist members. Given that these groups are often regarded as an arm of the right-wing Christian extremist movement, I was shocked to discover discussions of atheism on one prominent white supremacist website. I'm even more shocked to think that nonbelievers might consider joining such groups.

The Stormfront White Nationalist group first came to my attention when I received an e-mail from a former atheist blogger in North Mississippi (she's still an atheist but no longer blogging). She told me that there had been a Klan rally in her community and that she was visited the website listed on their literature to learn what she could about these extremists. This brought her to the Stormfront White Nationalist Community, where she discovered an atheism/agnosticism sub-forum in the theology forum. Could such hate groups actually have nonbelievers for members?

The Ku Klux Klan was historically tied to Protestant Christianity and is known to have refused to accept Catholic members until relatively recently. They continue to identify themselves as a Christian organization and are clear in their opposition to atheism. Thus, it is no surprise that many of their rituals (e.g., the crosses they burn, the Christian themes in their oaths, their cross-like salutes, etc.) reflect their Christian beliefs.

The Stormfront White Nationalist website was hard to stomach, but I had to know. Klan aside, could white supremacist groups actually accept godless members? And could some of my fellow nonbelievers be so deranged as to join such a group? I realize that godlessness is no antidote to other forms of idiocy and that one could reject religious delusion for reasons other than the application of reason and search for evidence. Still, I was horrified at such a possibility.

What I discovered was a sub-forum that was not particularly active. The number of posts in the "Christian Identity" sub-forum was far greater, but there was no denying that this "Agnosticism/Atheism" sub-forum existed. Some threads argued that "Whites Need a Religious Movement" or referenced "Aryan Religion," but others would look at home on any of the atheist forums I have visited. There were positive comments about the atheist bestsellers, discussions of rational atheism, disparaging comments about Christians, and the like.

The inescapable conclusion is that some nonbelievers are white supremacists and that white supremacists are at least tolerant enough of nonbelievers to provide a dedicated space to discussions of atheism and agnosticism. I suppose this can serve as a reminder that atheism entails nothing about morality and simply refers to a lack of acceptance of the theistic belief claim. Just because someone is an atheist doesn't mean that he or she will be any more (or less) moral than anyone else. Secular humanism, on the other hand, involves a system of morality that seems difficult to reconcile with racism. As we move beyond religious delusion, we need secular humanism and need to make it clear that hate is unacceptable.

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