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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Are Atheists Racist?

I’m drowning in the middle of spring break here, unable to get a moment of silence to write anything. This morning, when my mom texted and asked if she could take my 6-year-old out for lunch, I almost called a miracle. I almost dropped to my knees and thanked God. Not that I don’t adore my 6-year-old, but starving me of time to write is like starving me of oxygen… or beer. Just life-threatening.

So, I have tripped into this tiny window of time to respond to another atheist blogger, Vlad Chituc, on Patheos and his piece about atheists, racism and Islam.

You figure because he’s an atheist, it should make sense.

Nup. Vlad dun made me mad.

He says,

People seem to believe that, so long as they don’t outright say “Arabs are bad people and I don’t like them because they are Arab” then nothing they might say about Muslims or Islam could possibly be racist.

I’m lost, Vlad. What do “Arabs” have to do with Islam? And no, that’s not what I believe. What I believe, instead, is that reading this passage in the Quran,

Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.

and then describing it, and the doctrine within which it is found, as something I dislike, is in fact criticizing an idea. How is it racist to say that the above surat is questionable? How is it racist to say that collectively, the above surat with many other Islamic teachings, makes the religion a bit of an issue for me? I mean, if you actually value human rights like I do, Vlad, well then, these writings should bother you. I’m not sure if you got the memo, but Islam is a little bit based on the Quran. Ergo, if you think these passages are not so cool, well, then you're more likely to think Islam is not super cool, too.

“Islam is not a race” they say—and “so what?” I say—because it doesn’t actually matter.

Actually, it kinda does matter. If you call someone racist, they must have a problem with a race of people. That’s the definition of the world, Vlad. I take great issue with Islam. I think it is a bad thing. That didn’t stop me from falling in love with my Muslim ex. I fell in love because a human being is not his religion, and he has the choice to cherry-pick and not follow the more violent passages in the Quran. He chose not to follow the majority of the Quran because he was a great person. He was never violent, he fought and suppressed the teachings he learned growing up about women and infidels. He was a respectful, smart, funny guy who had tons of compassion. In other words, Vlad, he ignored the horrible parts of the Quran. The parts with which I take issue. The parts which could have had a very different effect on my ex. The parts that collectively make the entire set of ideas kind of not cool.

You see, I didn’t like, and still don’t like the vast majority of the teachings of Islam, but I loved a Muslim. Do you know why, Vlad? Because they are clearly not one and the same.

Can you separate the value in a human from what he was raised to believe, Vlad? ‘Cause it kinda seems like you can’t. It kinda sounds like you’re saying we should never criticize the teachings of Islam because it defines all human beings who fall under the label “Muslim." It kinda sounds… what’s that word… ahem… racist.

It’s as if we imagine that racism isn’t racism so long as you’re careful about your words.

So, what you’re saying is that if I criticize this:

And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.

or this:

Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.

and express concern because blind belief in these words could potentially cause harm to the very people who worship them then I’m racist and being careful about my words? How can I be any more honest, any more clear: I do not like what this passage says. I think what this passage says is unacceptable. I think the fact that many passages like this one can be found in the Quran makes the entire book dreadful.

You’re asserting that I am not saying what I really feel; that I’m choosing my words carefully so as not to sound racist, right? So, Vlad, how would I write the above in a more honest way, without being careful of my words so that the racism was clear? Can you tell me? Feel free to leave the edited version in the comments.

You know what strikes me as odd, Vlad? Well, you insinuate that criticizing a bad idea is akin to criticizing all those who hold it dear. You say that it’s racist. I think you may have it backwards, Vlad. Caring about people and giving a shit about their human rights, means exiling bad ideas from our planet, not allowing them to stick around and continue to create strife in the lives of millions. It means having the balls to stand up and say, “I give enough of a shit about you, to criticize your bad ideas. I don’t want to see harm come to you or anyone else because of them."

I’ve used this example before, but it fits here. Your daughter comes to you in her early twenties and says that she met a man named Charles Manson, and he had all these wonderful teachings and she’s going to move in with him and follow his way of life. She says he demonstrated miracles for her, and she had personal experiences that cannot be denied. His way is the truth, it’s for real, it’s all there is. She hands you some of his writings, and you dive into his world of Helter Skelter and prescribed murder to try and understand what your daughter believes. Vlad, are you concerned at this point? Do you feel you must say something, or perhaps stop your daughter from moving in with Chuck? Should you try and snap her out of her blind faith in this man, and would you dare say out loud that this Manson Manifesto is questionable or even bad?

Would criticizing Manson's worldview to your daughter mean you hate her or somehow feel she is entitled to fewer rights than you?

We know how it turned out for the followers of Manson. We’ve seen it turn out similarly, and sometimes much worse for followers of Allah, Jesus, and Jim Jones. Expressing concern here is not only necessary, it’s the only truly human thing to do. It’s how someone who actually cares for human beings would react.

Failing to criticize these ideas, Vlad, seems far more racist to me. One of us gives enough of a shit about the people who are being brainwashed to believe this bullshit to speak out against it, and the other… well, the other clearly does not.

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