There is absolutely nothing on the internet about intersectionality within atheism/skepticism. I checked. The entirety of what’s out there is about atheism as part of the Matrix of Oppression in society as a whole, but nothing about the how the Matrix of Oppression works on and within atheism or the skeptical movement.
Which is why I’m writing this post despite the fact that I’m just about the last person who should, since I have a small audience, and one that’s made up to a very large degree of white, straight(-ish), guys. Someone has to make this post, and at least once it’s written, it’ll be out there on google for more relevant people to pick up on it. Plus, maybe some good ideas will come of it even here.
So, for starters, intersectionality means looking at oppression and discrimination not from the POV of identity-politics, but from the POV of the three main dimensions of oppression: the institutional, the symbolic, and the personal. We don’t think much about this in atheism/skepticism, especially as it relates to the skeptical/atheist movements themselves. We just take for granted that certain aspects of being or becoming an atheist and being/becoming a part of the atheist movement, are universal because they apply to most of the atheists we know. “most atheists we know” most often happens to be other white/straight(-ish)/male atheists (and the occasional white/straight(-ish)/female atheist who happens to live a life that closely resembles that of the male equivalent). These non-intersectional, most likely unconscious, assumptions are very likely what explains the abysmal lack of diversity in the atheist/skeptical movement.
If the goal of the atheist/skeptical movements is really to broaden the base and make atheism, and especially skepticism, attractive, acceptable, and attainable by as many people as possible, then solving the lack of diversity is essential, because white, straight, cis, middle class or higher, ex-christian(or cultural christian), anglophone guys make up a minority of the population even in Western Europe and the USA, where they’re most common. Hence the need for intersectional atheism: if we can’t figure out how the perspectives, issues, and problems of people from completely different backgrounds differ from ours, we will never be able to make our ideas acceptable to them, even if they’d otherwise already agree with us. Because people aren’t going to accept a worldview/contribute to a movement that behaves as if they didn’t exist, creates an environment in which they feel unwelcome, unneeded, or even threatened, and expects them to give up more than just their attachment to irrational ideas and/or superstitions.
So, here’s a list of stuff that needs analyzing and possibly changing, and that most importantly could really need the input of atheists/skeptics from these backgrounds:
1)Most prominent atheists are deconverts from the mainstream religion within their cultures, specifically Christianity. This creates issues and perspectives quite different from those who would be deconverting from a minority-religion, and especially from a religion closely tied to a discriminated against ethnic community. The problems WASP-y future ex-christians face are completely and utterly different from the issues facing Native Americans thinking skeptically about their tribal religions, or members of Middle Eastern diasporas thinking about leaving Islam. To them, the perspectives of secular diasporic Jews would probably be far more valuable than the perspectives of millions of cultural Christians living in cultures that are Christian or even secular-but-formerly/predominantly-Christian.
2)Related to the former is the assumption that secularization equals Westernization. Meaning, it seems to me that too many atheists assume that deconversion from a non-Christian religion automatically means also becoming part of the mainstream western culture (and on a larger scale, that secularization of a country means abandoning traditions derived from their cultures in favor of Western culture), which, in case no one noticed, is to a large degree de-religioned Christian/Euro-pagan culture. Secularism won’t ever win in non-Western countries if the choices are traditional religion vs. neo-colonialist secularism. The secularism of non-Western cultures must be a home-grown secularism that manages to separate the harmful and supernatural aspects of their culture without destroying the culture as a whole. And since the West managed that, there’s absolutely no reason to assume this cannot be accomplished with non-Western cultures.
3)Simply talking about how well feminism (and anti-racism or LGBT-activism for that matter) and atheism/skepticism go together won’t do any good if this is not something the atheist/skeptic movement actually acts on. Skeptifem said that she started her blog specifically to fill the niche of analyzing things critically from a skeptical feminist perspective. This perspective is still extremely rare within the skeptic movement, which is idiotic, because the Matrix of Oppression, and especially the symbolic dimension of oppression, lends itself spectacularly to skeptical analysis. So why isn’t there any of that?
4)Going from theory to praxis, atheist/skeptic events are also never intersectional. Part of the problem is that they’re lecture-based. The grass-roots, interactive level happens after the events, in the evenings over beers. This perpetuates already established hierarchies. And while one way to fix this is to invite more speakers from different backgrounds, another is to make grassroots participation an inherent part of the events. Interactive workshops, children’s events, and safe-rooms have been some of the things mentioned as possibilities to attract a more diverse crowd and faciliate more diverse conversation. I’d add that these sort of things need to be also part of the smaller interactive events. People with small children, people who work non-traditional hours, etc. may not be able to participate in the standard atheism/skepticism in a pub format.
5)Women who grew up within and still live in very conservative, religious, rural communities, especially if they’re also poor, depend on their church communities for social networking, influence, help etc. While internet communities help, physical rural support networks for people who think of leaving a religion are absolutely essential, because people are never likely to cut themselves off from their social safety network if there isn’t an alternative network. (this has worked somewhat on Pharyngula’s TET, both in terms of financial help and personal support. It’s still extremely spotty though)
Well, that’s all I can think of right now, and I’d definitely welcome other ideas or issues that might need to be addressed. It’s not muc right now, because there simply isn’t much to go on right now. That fact alone means that what atheism needs is something like Womanist Musings but for atheism instead of feminism, just so different perspectives can be shared between diverse writers and a wide audience. Obviously, I and my blog are entirely unsuited for that endeavor for the aforementioned reasons and because I suck at organizing people (I wouldn’t be able to convince a starving person to buy a sandwich from me, nevermind convince a bunch of diverse people I don’t know to start blogging together on the issue of intersectional atheism). But I’m curious if anyone has any ideas about which bloggers would make a good contribution to such a collective?