I have reached a point where I am done with atheism. This is no longer a label that I choose to identify with. I have had it with the arrogant certainty that I see plastered across the internet and uttered in the words of people in real life. I am tired of the Islamophobia, sexism, and racism I see appear in atheist spaces, day after day. I am tired of the bigotry of anti-theism that goes unchallenged in atheist spheres. I have spoken of these problems to others in these very same spaces, and for the most part, no one seems to care. I have addressed these issues in person and have in turn, received rationalizations and denial.
For me, this has been building for some time. The sheer ignorance I’ve seen displayed toward women, people of color, and people of religions that are oppressed in my country (the US) is incredibly angering. The vehemence of my response is one that has accrued as a consequence of this widespread ignorance. For a group of people who have declared themselves to be rational and deep thinking, there should be no excuse for this, yes?
Unfortunately, the albatross around new atheist’s collective necks is one of demographics. Atheists are largely white, male, and from previously Christian backgrounds (especially in the US). Atheists, like so many others in the Eurocentric West, are the beneficiaries of centuries of colonialism. So too are they the beneficiaries of current-day Western imperialism. In spite of the absence of religious privilege that is endured by nonbelievers, the demographic composition of atheism accords large degrees of privilege and ignorance. This produces massive blind spots in the movement.
New atheists want others to stop discriminating against their kind, but they have little appreciation for the forms of oppression that others experience. They want others to let go of their hurtful attitudes toward atheists, and yet, they call for mockery, ridicule and contempt toward others. New atheists think that they understand the workings of the world and yet, they have little understanding of those who live outside of their small, white, male, non-believing corner of Western culture.
Nothing blinds like privilege.
And so, I am done. I have tired of the violence of your ignorance.
I am not a part of your “movement”. I do not support you. I am not your ally.
. . . .
I am trying to find a place of calm, now.
This contemplation is part of that process.
There is another reason why the label “atheist” chafes so. I do not live a life of certainty. My life is the product of myriad intertwining axes of oppression and privilege. As a product of this intermingling of power and want, I know that my understanding of the world is inevitably a mixture of bullshit and truth. I am responsible for the hurt of others as much as I am hurt by others. This realization is humbling, and so, I do not claim to know life’s answers. What I have within my grasp is partial knowledge, corrupted by my own power.
I am one small person, facing the inscrutable vastness of a universe that is beyond my full comprehension. What I see is nothing more than a window’s breadth of existence. I can not say with certainty that no aspect of this realm is aware in a way that is beyond human understanding. Nor can I claim with certainty that such an awareness exists.
And so, I assume the trappings of agnosticism.
I am tired of the arrogant certitude that infects those with power and authority. Let the unknown settle around my shoulders, as weightless and insubstantial as silk.
. . . .
For quite some time, I have viewed the deities of the world’s religions as artifacts of human reckoning. For quite some time, I have embraced the notion that the less detail one ascribes to a deity or spirit force, the more difficult it becomes to prove or disprove the existence of such an entity. Such things might exist or they might not. There is no way of knowing.
Consequently, I have called myself an atheist with respect to the world’s religions and an agnostic with respect to undefined ethereal forces. What I have not realized is that both perspectives arise from my own deeply embedded agnosticism. I do not believe in claims made by the world’s religions because I do not believe that human beings can make such claims with certainty. The certainty of the world’s faiths triggers suspicion and disbelief. The same arrogant certitude that so often surrounds atheism also infects the world’s religions. They are reflections of one another. They reek of power and conquest. The stench of empire rolls off of these specters of control.
And so, I prefer the unknown.
I walk through a land without boundaries.
I cast my destiny into the void of formlessness…
PS: Carl Sagan was an agnostic, and he’s way the hell cool. So there.