Posts tagged ‘fundamentalism’

Atheism as Cultural Imperialism

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

Reconstructionism and American Culture

Sometimes I feel as if the Internet is more of a curse to our communit(ies) health and vitality than a blessing, but I do thing one huge benefit to it is being able make friends from other countries and learn from their points of view. I was reminded of this again reading Naomi’s blog today-

Sli na Firinne (The Way of Truth)

“Imbas is not the same as UPG. It is ‘inspiration’ – it’s closer in meaning to ‘awen’ in the Welsh. However, UPG is not a term that I recognise anymore. I didn’t come up with it, nor did my community. It’s not Gaelic or Brythonic. It’s also a very American phrase – I’ve never heard a British Pagan use it. And also, I’m starting to doubt that our ancestors would have needed a term like that. I suspect they went where the inspiration flowed, rather than forcing themselves to live by ‘lore’. They were not fundamentalists.”

UPG (Unverified or sometimes Unique Personal Gnosis) comes from the American Heathen/Asatru communit(ies)- some factions of which seem to have problem with the influence of Biblical literalism and fundamentalism. I hear a lot about Heathens who are “lore-thumpers” and argue about textual citations in a similar way to Christians. There are similar problems in other recon traditions. Some of us come from conservative Christian upbringings, and in general, our country was in part founded by religious dissidents who were very concerned with finding the One True Way of following God/Jesus- the Puritans were trying to “purify” the Church of England, but were persecuted as heretics so they came here. Then they persecuted other people but that’s another story…

I’ve noticed British and European Druids & Pagans tend to more relaxed about “going with the flow” (like awen/imbas) in following where their spirits lead them. Whereas I think reconstructionism has become a bigger thing in the U.S. because we feel lack a sense of legitimacy, because we don’t live in the lands of our traditions, and we feel disconnected. And then some of us think we know the “right” way and tell our fellows across the pond how to do things. We need to cut that out 🙂 Here is another post also by Leithin Cluan the gap in perspective of British and American style Druidry

Related Links (I don’t necessarily with everything said here, just more food for thought) 

A Caution Against Pagan Fundamentalism by Lupa

What Constitutes Pagan Fundamentalism? by Sarenth Odinsson

I’d like to highlight one of the commenters on the second piece (Myriad) was German and mentioned a difference in understanding of racism/sexism/homophobia etc. from a German vs. American view. 

July 10, 2014 at 1:25 am 7 comments


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