Atheism as Cultural Imperialism

December 8, 2014 at 2:23 am Leave a comment

Something I’ve noticed among progressive or leftist atheist activists is that they tend to assume that atheism is culturally neutral and furthermore becoming an atheist* is necessary to achieving full liberation as an individual or for an entire oppressed group/nation etc. (*or humanism, Atheism+ or whatever positive form of atheism that they subscribe to)

There are many problematic assumptions behind these ideas. I think many of them are a reason why atheist/humanist movements tend to be heavily white and male. Though this is changing, I believe the tensions arising from increased diversity are related. A simple lack of belief in god(s) is perhaps somewhat culturally neutral (if such a thing is possible) Assuming that all forms of religion are necessarily oppressive and must be destroyed is just as cultural imperialist  as declaring one true religion for all people. Extremist atheism (or anti-theism) is just as bad as extremist monotheism- in fact it’s the flip side of it. Granted, anti-theists are typically just arguing against religion, and do not have the power (and hopefully don’t want it!) to outright suppress the practice of religion. However, we are starting to see some anti-theists argue against public religious accommodations in public schools, prisons, workplaces and other settings (adding to the arguments some Christians make against non-Christian religious) in the United States, and a ban against clothing that covers the face (targeting certain Muslims) has been made in France and upheld in E.U. human rights court.

I really think people who have de-converted from any sort of fundamentalist, extreme religion need to take some private chilling time before grabbing a banner to publicly march behind, writing books and giving speeches in the name of atheism, humanism or a new religion that they choose to adopt. Just as “rebound” romantic relationships are usually a bad idea so is choosing a “rebound” religion or secular ideology. Doing so right away is likely to result in bringing a fundamentalist attitude towards the new belief system.

However even moderate and liberal ideologies and religions can be culturally imperialist if they’re not careful.  As a Euro-American feminist, I’ve learned from listening to other folks that it’s best for us to step back and support rather than lead women’s reform movements in other countries, or even in my own country,  in the case of Black feminism/womanism, American Indian women, Latina mujeristas etc.  What works in one cultural context, may not in another.

New Atheism Has a Distinctly Neo-Colonial Aspect

New Atheism, Old Empire

Reason & Racism in the New Atheist Movement

For a different perspective check out Siviku Hutchinson’s book- Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics & the Values War

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Entry filed under: Ethics, Feminism/Gender, Race/Ethnicity. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Big White Lies How Folkish Heathenry Differs from Judaism & Native American tribes

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