I do not know what the hullabaloo is about Atheism+, why all the hate and tantrums? I understand that people fear change, people with power fear anything that would or could threaten their power base, and because atheists are people, they are not exempted from this fear of change.
People who enjoy power hardly want their privileged positions questioned. They fight the change makers, they cast aspersion on the oppositions’ characters, they fight tooth and nail to discredit the change and this is mostly what the fight against Atheism+ is all about. The sad thing is, many of those fighting the Atheism+ concept would hardly agree that they fight because they are afraid of change, nope; they would hide under so many notions to justify their stance against atheism+.
People love to have power over others; the insignificant minorities are always the victims. Many so called progressives still use their residual patriarchal power, sometimes unconsciously, to lord it over others and they loathe it when they are confronted with this fact.
Why am I in support of Atheism+? I am a black African woman who also identify as atheist, bisexual, feminist, socialist and humanist. Sometimes I join groups that promote all my identities or at least acknowledge some of the things I identify as and with. For example, I identify with Black feminists groups, African labour groups, Labor women organizations, LGBT Atheists, African bisexuals, Black Atheists groups, Working class Atheists, Secular humanists and female workers groups. When attached to my birth identity, these self identity tags afford me the opportunity to understand at a glance, the demography of the groups.
I am conscious that not every organization that I identify with shares my values or identities, however when joining or identifying with a group, I consider it important that I network with groups and persons who do not only share a birth or self identity with me but also share core values.
While I might not think it is important to bring up my socialist notions in a black bisexual group or an African atheist group, I would definitely think it is important that whenever a discrimination is made in a group I identify with, it would be my duty and responsibility to point this out and if the group failed to change, those of us with same values can organize to change the group or form a better one. And yes, any group can be improved upon including Atheist groups. It is not about changing the meaning of Atheism, it is about using my Atheist identity to promote rational values.
For example, I identify as a member of many Nigerian progressive groups and some of these groups are unfortunately not in support of sexual minority rights. The homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Nigerian and African human rights communities would not stop me from identifying as a Nigerian or African human right activist, but it sure could stop me from identifying with a group that is continuously homophobic, it could also cause me to organise a revolution within the group to force it to acknowledge its defects and yes, also mobilize a subgroup to signal that we stand for much more than the default group.
I have identified as a freethinker and atheist for more than a decade and it is only natural that I seek out people who also identify as same. Of course, I am also eager to find people who not only share birth identities with me but who also share self identities with me. I would eagerly join an African Atheist group, a black women’s group, a women atheist group, LGBT atheist group, Nigerian atheists/ freethinkers groups, Nigerian LGBT groups and LGBT Nigerian Atheist groups. It is only natural that I try to bond along and across boundaries, however , experience have shown that while we might share birth identity and a few self identities, our self identities and values are not always all the same.
For example, I eagerly joined an African Atheists group on facebook and was happy to network with other Africans who share my disbelief in theism and are also ready to speak out about the reasons for their disbelief. In the process of networking, other issues common to our shared human race came up, especially in the mode of communication; language. Some of the group members’ posts were homophobic, racist and demeaning to women and of course when there are conscious feminists, lgbt advocates and humanists in the group, there is a sense of duty to call out such posts and comments and explain to the group at large why such language should not be encouraged.
However, as my experience in some Atheists groups have shown, most people, no matter how rational they claim to be, do not like to be called out . The African atheist group I joined on facebook was very homophobic and racist. There were posts and comments deriding mixed blood members as not African enough and slur words like ‘mulattos’ were often used. When I made a post on the group page about the role of religion in the persecution of sexual minorities in Africa, the homophobes, who happened to be in the majority in the group, let out the most horrible homophobic rants I ever encountered in a self identified rationalist group! Of course when the admin failed to bring the situation under control through tacit silence, I left the group, so did a few others.
My experience with the Nigerian Atheist group was worse, bigotry, sexism, and irrationality was the order of the day in the group. It got so bad that female members were threatened with rape and told that dicks would be rammed down their mothers’ throats. A gay group member who live in the sharia part of Nigeria had his home address posted online therefore seriously endangering his life since he could be killed not just for his sexual orientation but also for being an Atheist. All these irrational actions came from dear Atheists who love bashing religious believers for their lack of rationality. Would it be any wonder if I decided not to hang out online or wherever with such people under whatever label they come under?
Should I stop identifying as an African or Nigerian atheist because some members of a group with the name is homophobic, sexist and racist? Nope, I could very well organize another group named African Atheist+ and/or Nigerian Atheists, with the + tag signifying that this is an Atheist group of Africans / Nigerians whom along with their non belief in theism also share some rational values like equality for all, are anti- racism, pro-sexual minorities , gender positive and non-abliest.
Having a clear tag would aid my decision on which group to join and network with. It would save precious time I use online arguing with bigoted, racist homophobic atheists on why they have no rational reason to be racist, homophobic or a chauvinist. It would save me and many others the agony of joining atheists groups that do not care that some of their members are being subjected to degrading attitudes from other group members.
Atheism+ appeals to me because it promises a place to hang out with atheists, who just like me, believe that bigotry, racism or homophobia is irrational and are willing to critically examine social justice issues alongside our non belief in the existence of God. We want to network, talk about our atheism, social justice issues or just hang out in an environment free of isms schisms. Is it really that difficult to understand?
Some of the antagonist of atheists+ have asked, “We already have secular humanism, why Atheist+? Well, I could also ask, “Why LGBT humanists, African Humanists, Socialist humanists, Secular humanists, Female humanists or Nigerian Humanists? Is Atheism+ Label confusing? Why so many tags?
Well, it is because people can self identify and are free to self identify and create tags just same way people are free to create gods. So far they are not forcing their tags down other peoples’ throats and touting their tags as the only real thing or the truth, it is OK to self identify.
Why should I be required to identify as a secular humanist or be confined to secular humanist groups because I am an atheist who actively advocate for human rights? I should have the right to identify as a secular humanist and /or as an Atheist+, it is about choice. Secular Humanists have chosen not to prominently use the word Atheist, it is their choice. I am a member of a few secular humanists groups, it is my choice. I have chosen to use my Atheist tag to identify with the social justice causes I care about, it is my prerogative.
Why can’t I use my self identified atheist tag to also represent other things I stand for? Is the Atheist tag restricted? If yes, who made the restriction? When did we agree it should be restricted? Why is it OK to have Black Atheist, Eastern Atheist, American Atheist, LGBT Atheist but not OK to have Atheist+? Why and how is it OK to have Secular humanism, another tag over humanism but not OK to have Atheist+ or humanist atheists?
I think those fighting the Atheist+ tag should examine their real motive to understand what they are scared of. Are they scared that Atheism would be overrun by feminists, human rights activists, Atheists women demanding not to be called sluts in atheists groups, Africans demanding not to be given the second class treatment in international Atheist groups, atheists living with disabilities demanding not to be ignored in an atheist gathering or young atheists demanding that their voice be heard? What exactly are the anti-Atheist+ afraid of?
I care about social justice issues , my activist cap is not one I wear when I feel like it, it is an integral part of me, it is me. Even though I care so much about social justice issues, I do appreciate that going on and on about the abuse of social justice through language use in an atheist group, might just tick off some atheists. Yes, I understand that some atheists just wanna bash baby Jesus and have fun without caring about sexism, bigotry, racism or homophobia in their language used, I dampen the fun of those atheists by pointing out their parochial attitudes. I was actually told in a Nigerian atheist forum that I should go form a women atheist group and leave the group so that they can have their misogynist fun without any guilt.
I do not apologize for my social justice consciousness and cannot make excuses for anyone who wants to hide under whatever label, including an atheist label to spew parochial views. I do not even want to hang out with such persons, irrespective of our shared disbelief in God, It does not mean I am leaving the label Atheism for you, it only means I am also seeking cooler friends to hang out with, friends who happen to share same social justice consciousness with me, not too difficult to understand, is it?
I am not a Feminist with a BUT and I am certainly not an Atheist with a BUT, I am simply an Atheist with a PLUS and for me, the plus is the icing on the cake. Some like icing, some don’t, whatever float your boat. If you still do not understand why I want my Atheism to be with a plus, well it is not my problem, it is your problem, hope you get it solved soon. I am responsible for what I say, not what you understand. Cheers!
PUBLIC DISCLAIMER AND OBJECTION TO THE UNAPPROVED MINUTES OF NIGERIAN ATHEISTS GROUP MEETING HELD ON FEBRUARY 12, 2012
ANALYSIS OF COMMENTS MADE BY TWO FOUNDING MEMBERS OF THE GROUP 'NIGERIAN ATHEISTS' Nigerian Atheists Group: A story of Bigotry, Sexism and Patriarchy!