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Third wave atheism or the ‘new skepticism’? August 20, 2012

Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
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edit: I saw Jen’s follow-up post as well.  I like this image best:

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A couple of days ago (I’ve been moving and such), Jen wrote this post on her blog about how the atheist community has been a “boy’s club” and how we need to help progress towards a “third wave” of atheism.  The key part is this:

I don’t want good causes like secularism and skepticism to die because they’re infested with people who see issues of equality as mission drift. I want Deep Rifts. I want to be able to truthfully say that I feel safe in this movement. I want the misogynists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and downright trolls out of the movement for the same reason I wouldn’t invite them over for dinner or to play Mario Kart: because they’re not good people. We throw up billboards claiming we’re Good Without God, but how are we proving that as a movement? Litter clean-ups and blood drives can only say so much when you’re simultaneously threatening your fellow activists with rape and death.

It’s time for a new wave of atheism, just like there were different waves of feminism. I’d argue that it’s already happened before. The “first wave” of atheism were the traditional philosophers, freethinkers, and academics. Then came the second wave of “New Atheists” like Dawkins and Hitchens, whose trademark was their unabashed public criticism of religion. Now it’s time for a third wave – a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists. It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime. We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.

Yes, I agree.  We, in the blogosphere have been talking a lot about “new” (or “gnu”) atheism, but in the same way that a Jr. leads to a III, we can have the future of the skeptic/atheist movement be a third wave where we include all of the various effects that religion, theological thinking, and non-skepticism generally affects our lives.

In short, we need to transcend mere atheism and move onto application of skepticism to all aspects of culture, beliefs, and actions.  We need a new skepticism.

I have been trying to do just that for years at this blog.  I saw the kinds of arguments that people had about god, religion, and things like science, and saw parallels between how we think about monogamy and polyamory.  I saw unskeptical thinking leading people towards conservative views about sex and relationships, and I began to draw those lines using what I had seen in the skeptical community since I ran into it a decade ago.

In the years that I have run this blog (and after subsequently adding some new writers), I have broadened my focus to include questions of orientation, gender, and have even wrote about my own neuro-atypicality.  Yes, I still focus on atheism and polyamory most of the time, but that is because these are the subjects I know best.  I look to people like Ginny (my lovely wife) to write about gender, trans, sexology issues (when she’s not burdened by grad school work, that is).  And Wes and Gina do their things, whether controversy or convulsions of laughter.

In doing this, I have come to a fairly progressive perspective, which I suppose is no surprise to anyone who knows me.  I support LGBT rights, including the right to marry, raise children, etc.  I support people who are simply trying to live their lives with political and legal freedom afforded to them not according to theological concerns, but by rational and empirical arguments based on fairness and compassion.

But most importantly, I support the freedom of speech and thought, without which the freedom to act would be parochial and hindered.  As Keenan Malik recently said,

Whatever one’s beliefs, secular or religious, there should be complete freedom to express them, short of inciting violence or other forms of physical harm to others. Whatever one’s beliefs, secular or religious, there should be freedom to assemble to promote them. And whatever one’s beliefs, secular or religious, there should be freedom to act upon those beliefs, so long as in so doing one neither physically harms another individual without their consent nor transgresses that individual’s rights in the public sphere. These should be the fundamental principles by which we judge the permissibility of any belief or act, whether religious or secular.

(H/T Greg Mayer over at WEIT)

I support maintaining a skeptical community that fights for the truth, is aware of concepts like privilege and how it influences or worldviews, and which perpetually self-improves by allowing for criticism and dissent, when dissent is warranted.

To conclude, I agree with Jen that we need a third wave of atheism.  And whether we think of it as an atheist movement, a skeptical movement, or a social justice movement led by skeptics and atheists, the important thing is that we must keep challenging ourselves to understand more, listen better, and remember that religion and non-skeptical thinking has effects which may not be immediately obvious to us, with our perspective.  Religion effects different groups in different ways, and so we need to be inclusive in order to progress towards the goal.

The goal of making ourselves, as activists, obsolete.

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Kirk Cameron on marriage: The blind leading the blind August 10, 2011

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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*headdesk*

Ow, that hurt,  But not as much as reading this:

Woman with a Mancard: My Night at Kirk Cameron’s Marriage-Strengthening Event

Now, I’ve found Kirk Cameron’s Christian antics annoying for many years.  Since my friend Brian Sapient debated him and his Sith master Ray Comfort back in 2007, I have found him to be a pretty dense tool (almost as bad as Tof Friel, really), but this recent event just makes me want to scream with frustration.

Now, I want to write more substantially about the concept of marriage in the next day or so (mostly because I just got engaged to the lovely Ginny), but for now I want to say a few quick things about the idea of marriage, relationships in general, and the role of men and women in them.  I want to say these things because I think that the current model of marriage in the evangelical Christian community is poisonous for both men and women, advocates an immature way for men and women to communicate and interrelate, and just generally sucks giant troll balls.

And what’s worse, it informs many of our ‘traditional’ definitions of marriage.

Kirk Cameron advocates a model of marriage with the man (and there always will be a man, as marriage is defined as an institution between one man and one woman of course), is supposed to “play the role of Jesus Christ to your wife.”  There is no equality, no real sense of compromise, and certainly no meaningful feminism here.  The man is unambiguously in charge of his wife.  This is not a relationship of equals, but one of a power relationship.  Just as we are to obey God, the wife is to obey the husband.  Sure, if he has “crossed the line” (meaning, is emotionally/physically abusive) then he is not “protecting her” (because that is part of his job, of course) and is not doing his job well. But I doubt that divorce would be an option, as god ordained these marriages, and only we can fail in them;  not god.

This is but one of the many aspects of current Christian trends that makes me feel sick.  It promotes clearly obsolete gender roles, places people (specifically women) in a place of subservience (and not in the fun and kinky way that some women like, although I’m sure there is some overlap), and (again) it promotes vigorous suction on the balls of the troll which may or may not live under the bridge near your house.  His name is Ted.

The irony for me is that many people in our culture, even less batshit nutzoid people than Kirk Cameron, think that gay marriage or polyamorous marriage (not to be confused with the often harmful polygamous marriage) is unhealthy while finding this version of marriage proposed by evangelicals to be relatively healthy.  At least (they may say) they are really committed to each other.  Or they may say that at least it is the way god intended marriage to be.  This is an indication of a fundamental disease at the root of our culture when it comes to thinking about marriage and gender roles. There is no wonder that divorce and teen pregnancy rates are higher among so-called red states; it is these areas which are more prone to this unhealthy model of marriage.

I love my future wife.  I love her in a way that a man who sees himself as the master of his wife simply cannot.  I am genuinely interested in seeing her free, fulfilled, and treated as the equal that she is.  I cannot, not would I try, to “put my foot down” or to make a proclamation about what will be what.  It may be hard, we may disagree, but we will communicate openly about all of our desires, fears, and joys. Further, she loves me (this I know, for the Bible…wait, never mind…).  She desires me to be fulfilled, free, and will allow me to be who I am, genuinely, inside.  Neither of us has to pretend.  We don’t have to strive for some fantasy ideal or deny aspects of our selves in sacrifice for our relationship, because our relationship is about a celebration of our selves.

I will put my relationship against that between Kirk Cameron and his wife any day of the week.  Any man who sees his wife as subservient, who plays off of old cultural roles for each spouse without any hint of skepticism towards their ideological merit, or who gives men “man cards” which their wives are not even allowed to see is a weak and cowardly man.  His worldview is weak and cowardly, and it is a conservative worldview whose influence stretches beyond the evangelical Christian world, but surely dominates that world.

I know too many people, men and women (they are really boys and girls, even in their late 20’s or 30’s) who are inexperienced sexually, relationship-wise, and therefore emotionally stunted.  They see this ideal life and marriage set up before them and do not relent even as they fail over and over to find it’s reality.  They believe that Jesus will provide for them, and cannot see their own blindness.

And many of these “values” seep into mainstream culture, where (outside of the educated upper middle class generation I grew up around) these ideas are still held with reverence.  Heteronormative monogamous male-dominated marriage is more the norm than I think many of us educated and elitist types want to admit–and possibly more than we realize.  This idea of the traditional marriage, which is not even traditional if we want to be truly historical about it, is what is doing damage to real human relationships.  Not gay marriage.  Not polyamorous people who are married and who may want a legalized polyamorous marriage.

It is the closed-minded version of what god wants, what is right, what is ‘Merican even, that will destroy our relationships.

[/end rant]