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Atheism+: We are the 99%? August 29, 2012

Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Religion, Skepticism and atheism.
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OK, first off the bat, it’s quite obvious that atheists are not the 99%.  While atheist/nonreligious numbers are growing, we have yet to break even 15% (The Crommunist has a break down of some numbers here).  But does this mean that our atheist+ values are not similar to the values of the 99%?

What seems pretty clear to me is that the focus on social justice in the atheist/skeptic/secular community cannot be an accident of history.  The Occupy movement of last year,  which continues in a transformed state, has obviously had ripple effects throughout the political and social world.  The 99% meme is now a part of our language and culture, and it has created an ideological watershed that will likely become part of our legacy as a set of generations active today.

So, to what extent are the values and goals similar to those of the Occupy movement? Well, I’m not sure, but people who are concerned with social justice will recognize the real divide between the economic elite and those below them.  The haves and the have-nots.

Control of the levers of political, and thus to a large extent social and cultural, power are in the hands of extremely wealthy people.  Most of the rest of us get to vote, but forgive my cynicism in pointing out that many people are frankly uninformed and thus have an oversimplified view of policy and thus support idiots.

Hence the current Republican party.  Is it a surprise that science, education, and social equality are not on the list of things-to-do for people who have done such a good job of swaying an electorate with propaganda and emotional appeal in the place of news and public policy? It shouldn’t be.

The Republican party is in serious need for a takeover by people who, while I disagree with them philosophically in most cases, have some important contributions to make to political thought.  You know, the old style intellectual conservatives a la Barry Goldwater.

Clearly Atheism+ is heavily progressive.  My guess is that atheists who lean conservative in this political climate will tend to not support the cause, and if they do so they will do so weakly.  And I don’t mind that it is progressive, because I am largely progressive myself, as are the other people here at PolySkeptic.  Hell, as I said yesterday, I am in favor of being radical, and perhaps I could be described as radical politically, to some extent.

So, do we try and overtly tie the messages and goals of the Occupy movement with Atheism+, or do we think that many of the Occupy people might resent that and leave their meme to their use, and simply help where we can?  Can we call ourselves part of this larger social movement? Because while people in the 1% are probably both atheist and theist, nonreligious and religious, clearly most of the atheists are part of the 99%, and the values of atheism+ contribute t0 the values of Occupy.

The Occupy movement is not about religion or god-belief, although certainly the levers of power have historically been tied to institutions such as the Catholic church and other theocratic forces.  But today the most wealthy don’t, as a rule, sit near an altar, a throne, or in the metaphorical clouds as gods or demigods.  Their power is levered by money, political maneuvers, and ideology.  All tools utilized by religion, sure, but we cannot directly tie the atheist movement to the 99% Occupy movement.

What we can do is point out that many atheists share the popular values of equality, social justice, and the existence of fair opportunity for all people.  Our culture, political institutions, and approach to problem-solving is in dire need of adjustment, and in some cases demolition and rebuilding.  Too much innate privilege is further privileged, too little room for proper application of skepticism is allowed, and too many people are uneducated about how to fix it or even think about it.

As Thomas Jefferson said to William S. Smith Paris in a letter written in 1787;

God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.

We have been too long without a real change in political and social atmosphere.  We, as a culture, are stagnating.  I don’t know what the best solution is, but I know the direction we are going as a culture cannot be it.

To get to a world of social justice and reason and to not continue on this path which empowers so few and keeps ignorant, distracted, and stupid so many, we need drastic change.  While we debate such easy questions as gay marriage, “legitimate rape,” and the place of religion in public policy, the vast majority of us are being swindled without full realization.  The classic misdirection of the pickpocket, except the pickpocket lives in a massive estate and pick-pockets millions of people every day.

We are not powerless, but we are not utilizing our powers.  We need more things like Occupy and Atheism+.  We need education, information, and a set of values to follow towards cultural and political transformation.

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Comments»

1. Michael Hawkins - September 5, 2012

I just can’t get behind this Atheist+ movement. I think it’s more important to nurture the still young Gnu Atheist movement; it’s more important to me that religion is criticized with a strong tongue than to move on to other things. Social justice and all that is important, of course, but there are other groups out there, other ways of supporting all those causes. We don’t need atheists promoting gay rights or better labor laws. Aside from the fact that support for those things is entirely independent of atheism*, it makes us unfocused. We aren’t a political party that has to cover a wide array of issues and positions. We’re a small group of people who think religion is harmful.

*Atheism, as opposed to Gnu Atheism or Atheism+, is descriptive rather than normative. That means value laden positions do not emerge as a result of atheism, no more than they could possibly emerge as a result of accepting the fact that rocks are hard.

2. shaunphilly - September 5, 2012

@Michael

Well, nobody will force you to join the atheism+ movement. And I am aware that these things do not logically grow from mere atheism, only that I recognize that many of the struggles I, as an atheist in this culture, deal with are related to other struggles.

These struggles are social justice. And so while that lack of belief in gods does not necessarily lead to social justice purely logically, caring about the place of religion and lack of belief in this cultural context should lead you to the sympathy and empathy with and for other people struggling against the tide. It unifies those struggling against a harmful culture, and gives atheists who care about such a thing a label and a banner to gather around.

3. Poly demographic survey in the UK « atheist, polyamorous, skeptics - September 5, 2012

[…] privilege and race often co-mingle.  It’s part of why I care about social justice, and thus support the whole atheism+ […]


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