The opinion piece was posted in the Guardian. You can read it here.
It starts off in true hipster form, with the author, Jaya Saxena, self-proclaimed atheist, asserting how little she needs to belong to a group:
I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.
Most notably, the atheist community. No, Jaya is far too cool for school. She is clearly her own person, and she’ll wear the thick, black-rimmed non-prescription glasses to prove it. Don’t worry, her pair has a fleck of red in it, completely different from those of her squad of pseudo-intellectual, vegan, Mumford & Sons-listening (before they got big!) lady friends who all have matching boyfriends with beefy beards and lumberjack shirts named Evan… but they are not a group. Nope. They are all individuals. With the same hair… and make-up… and clothes… and favourite flavour of kombucha and boyfriends! Total. Individuals. Yeah-hum.
S’anyways, Jaya just really wants us to know: she doesn’t need community and she most definitely does not need to feel as though she belongs to any sort of movement. In fact, when she does hot yoga, she makes a point of doing it just outside the studio, with glove warmers down her pants.
Now that we’re clear about that, Jaya also wants us to know that part of the reason she feels no kinship with the atheist community is because it’s dominated by racist, misogynist white males.
I’ve never actually been tempted to join an atheist group. Partly, that’s because it’s hard to avoid the white men ruining it for the rest of us by using atheism as just another platform for a macho power struggle.
While I do agree that the outspoken atheist community is dominated by white old guys and we could stand to see a few ladies (harder to do when you insist on standing outside by yourself, Jaya) and perhaps a few people of different ethnic backgrounds, I disagree that this is a reason to stay away. Sure, some white men can be assholes (kinda sorta like any man – or woman for that matter – of any other colour, race, nationality, etc) but plenty of them are wonderful. Particularly those you find in the atheist community. I have a few examples for you:
Paul from Quranify Me Podcast – White (I think!). Dude. Awesome. Frequently found wearing a t-shirt that says, “Got Consent?”
Sticks of Kansas – This white fella-style engineer is one of the most intelligent, well-spoken atheist YouTubers out there who has never been anything other than perfectly respectable and gentle to everyone.
Mike from Forbidden Fruit – White. Man. So open-minded and unbiased, he’s dating and fully respects a Christian woman.
I could go on and on, but I’ll leave you with just one more: Godless Dad. You know that fucker does the dishes for me because I loathe it? He’s so white, he’s so male, he’s quite burly and beardy and bear-like, with thick forearms from years of playing drums in punk rock bands, but he’s the most soft-spoken, respectful, open-minded man I have ever met.
So, Jaya, what’s wrong with a community, group or movement filled with men like this? Sure, they’re white and male, but do you know why so many outspoken atheists are? Because women like you, Jaya, stay away. How do we fill a movement, a community, with more women, and more people of different ethnicities, when they simply refuse to be part of it?
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve met my fair share of white, male atheist douchebags. However, I would never, ever go so far as to say that the atheist community has a higher percentage of douchy men than any other group of people. In fact, I would say the group of people with the highest percentage of douchecanoes, would be Islam. But hey, saying that is Islamophobic, right?
and when white male atheist leaders and communities act racist, Islamophobic and misogynistic, I find myself wishing that there were another way to describe my non-beliefs.
I spend a good amount of time active within the online atheist community. I come across racist and misogynistic comments maybe once every two weeks. Usually, it’s coming from a theist trying to get under an atheist’s skin. Every once in a while, it’s a white, atheist man. It has never, ever been enough for me to cast a sweeping generalization over an entire group of people, though. You know, that’s exactly what racism is, right Jaya? You’ll be hard pressed to find an atheist, even a white male one, tell you that every Muslim is a terrorist, and yet the atheist community is Islamophobic. But you can paint all white, atheist males with the same brush and that’s what? Self-respect? Individualism? Would you ever admit, Jaya, thats it’s an unfounded prejudice? Atheophobia, perhaps?
And yet much of the mainstream atheist community still defines itself in relation to religion, as if you learn something about a person by knowing what they’re not. I understand the desire to feel like part of a community: that’s what most people turn to religion for in the first place.
You see, Jaya, we don’t seek out the atheist community to feel as though we are a part of a community. We don’t seek it out either, because we feel we can know a person by what they don’t believe. We seek out community because we want to spread reason so that some day, in the far off distant future, we can live in relative peace. And you know what, Jaya? We do spread reason. Just read my guest post from last Sunday.
Here’s the thing, Jaya. A few weeks ago in Nigeria, thousands of innocent people were slaughtered in the name of Allah. In Paris, almost an entire staff of cartoonists – people who wanted to make others laugh for a living – was slaughtered for portraying Mohammad (a child rapist). Recently, in Canada, a little girl died of a treatable cancer with 70% chance of recovery after she and her family refused treatment because she had a vision from Jesus. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of men and women have experienced rape at the hands of their trusted pastors, priests and nuns because their absurd religious doctrine forces an unhealthy view of sex. Women are stoned to death for being raped, atheists are slaughtered for apostasy, gay men and women are put to death for loving the wrong person, all in the name of that motherfucker supreme, God.
…and you don’t want to stand up and be part of the movement that will usher all of this bullshit to its demise because a couple guys hurt your fucking feelings once?
Jesus, Jaya. Grow a backbone.