April 9, 2018

Atheists and the Alt-Right

Ctrl Alt-Right Delete (39791659622)I imagine that it must be awfully frustrating at times to be a humanist in a sea of atheists. You recognize that atheism is distinct from humanism, and you know that not all atheists are interested in being humanists. At the same time, you really think that humanism is where it's at, and you'd really like more atheists to be humanists. I don't think there's anything wrong with this. You have every right to try to persuade other atheists of the merits of humanism.

Unfortunately, these feelings of frustration over other atheists not wanting to be humanists sometimes boil over in potentially damaging ways. I think we saw an example of this recently in the form of a post by Chris Steadman (Vice). I thought that David McAfee (Friendly Atheist) did an effective job of rebutting much of it. I thought it was disappointing but not entirely surprising to see this sort of thing coming from Steadman. He certainly isn't the first to let his frustration with atheists who do not want to embrace his particular brand of humanism get to him, and he won't be the last.

What I'd like to say here in the principle of charity is that I don't think that Steadman sat down with the goal of writing an anti-atheist hit piece. I have a very hard time imagining him writing with the goal of throwing red meat to the anti-atheist bigots even if I think that is what he ended up doing. I suspect he's genuinely frustrated and disappointed by much of what he's seen, and I suspect that he thinks he's issued an effective call to action.

The one part of Steadman's post I thought was most worth highlighting was this one:
...I mostly stepped away from the online side of atheism a few years ago. One of the biggest reasons for this was my growing concern over its failure to adequately address some of its darker currents—such as overt sexism, racism, and anti-Muslim bias.
I believe him. I believe he has felt this way and that it was at least part of what led him to distance himself from online atheism. I also think he captures the crux of the issue here: he's been disappointed that other atheists do not share his priorities. Fair enough.

Speaking only for myself, I can honestly say that while I have written about sexism, racism, and anti-Muslim bigotry, these things are not my main focus and likely never will be. They aren't the reason I started this blog, and they aren't the reason I'm on social media. I continue to reject any notion that I somehow have an obligation to speak out against each and every instance of these things and that I am "part of the problem" if I do not do so. I am likely to continue to disappoint Steadman in this regard; however, the fact that I do not share his priorities does not somehow make me "alt-right."