According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

New Atheism's Rise on Christianity's Lack of Focus on Social Justice


Reasons an atheist would leave religion

Let me speak in generalities and impressions today as a Christianity looking at the "popular church of contemporary society"... and let us focus on why Christianity is loosing its faithful to the ranks of "bewilderment, disillusionment, and disappointment." It is my assumption that it is not Christianity itself that is the problem when focusing on Jesus but its lack of grace and mercy when unapplied to the world around itself by focusing on truth-claims, judgments, and criticisms. By ignoring the importance of social justice the church misdirects its dogmas causing its mission to suffer as well as its image. Now let me explain briefly what I mean....

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Why is new atheism on the rise? Its not simply over dissatisfaction with the Christian faith but because the Christian faith does not address the binding issues of social justice in a consistent manner. As such, the movement towards a new atheism is not so much a "mark of a disbelieving age" as it is the mark of an "unworthy religion" making itself irrelevant for a whole host of reasons not the least of which is the refusal to recognize its unloving and unethical treatment of people different from itself.

Hence, if a religion brings out the "ugly side of its people" than why would it be attractive except for its hate and prejudice? More simply, the rhetoric of religious injustice is its own expression of death and disillusionment. Not of unbelief! ... As many would have you believe. But the refusal of that religion to meaningfully address the many elements of needful social justice.

For example, when you have Republican politicians denouncing Muslims and Mexicans, women and transgenders, gays and minorities, beset in mob rallies of violence, punching, and angry shouts of hate, at which point has religious-based political agendas served to move the religiously faithful to a point of religious disillusionment as versus religious motivation to serve the poor, the oppressed, the needy, the lost and overlooked?

More simply, a faith that is bankrupt in its policies of justice to the oppressed is a faith not worth following. But for a religion that is to proceed in postmodern expectation and attraction, that faith must have within its core beliefs a works-based faith of justice, mercy, and compassion if it is to keep it's religious faithful while drawing disbelievers into its folds

Thus it is not so much an issue of disbelief (atheism) as it is an issue of a loveless, compassionless belief wrapped in oppression, discrimination, and hate. This then is where disillusionment sets in for the earnest participant of religion. Such a religion shows itself to be unworthy, inhuman, and ungodly. It is a religion worth leaving, denouncing, and abandoning.

R.E. Slater
May 29, 2016

*Reference - "New Atheism" [Wikipedia] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Atheism








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Atheist teen girl holding a banner (Shutterstock)

Rawstory
Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris are old news — a totally different Atheism is on the rise
http://www.rawstory.com/2016/05/hitchens-dawkins-and-harris-are-old-news-a-totally-different-atheism-is-on-the-rise/

by Chris Hall, Alternet
May 25, 2016

It’s surprising just how much media analysis, both mainstream and progressive, continues to take as given the notion that atheism can be defined and discussed solely by looking at the so-called “New Atheists” who emerged roughly between 2004 and 2007. It’s easy to understand the appeal: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens became prominent representatives of atheism because they were all erudite, entertaining and unafraid to say what they thought. A lot of people, myself included, were drawn to their works because they were forthright and articulated things we had kept locked away, or simply hadn’t found the words for.

But in 2016, Hitchens is dead, and using Dawkins or Harris to make a case for or against atheism is about as relevant as writing about how Nirvana and Public Enemy are going to change pop music forever.

More and more, the strongest atheist voices are talking about nonbelief less as an end in itself, but as part of a larger conversation about social justice. It could hardly be any other way: atheism is growing not only in numbers, but in diversity. When Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens were at their most prominent, a frequent (and credible) criticism was that the faces of atheism were all white, male and affluent. To make the same claim now is to deliberately ignore some of the most vital atheist and skeptic voices that have emerged in the last 10 years.

Greta Christina, the author of Coming Out Atheist describes the changes in organized atheism: “[T]he movement has become much more diverse — not just in the obvious ways of gender, race, and so on, but simply in terms of how many viewpoints are coming to the table. The sheer number of people who are seen in some way as leaders… has gone up significantly…. And the increasing diversity in gender, race, class, and so on are important. We have a long way to go in this regard, but we’re doing much, much better than we were. And that’s showing up in our leadership. It’s absurd to see Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris as representing all organized atheism — it always was a little absurd, but it’s seriously absurd now.”

Just as in any other group, there are scores of people in atheist and skeptic communities who don’t want to have discussions about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other bigotries, or say they’re irrelevant to the agenda at hand. The increase in diversity isn’t happening quietly or easily, and it’s often brought out the ugliest sides of people who base their entire identities on being rational and humane. Direct challenges to racism and sexism haven’t traditionally been the domain of the large organizations like American Atheists or the Secular Coalition for America. It’s been far more typical to fight incursions against separation of church and state or educate against pseudoscience like homeopathy.

It’s not that these aren’t important issues: separation of church and state is one of the linchpins of American democracy. As the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Town of Greece vs. Galloway shows, it’s also extremely fragile, and there is a very loud and insistent portion of America who would like to see it disappear entirely.

But such a narrow focus also means that atheist and skeptic groups have a history of looking at these issues in isolation, without considering how race, gender, or class play into them. That isolation has been one of the great limiting factors in the growth of movement atheism. Too many activists and groups trapped themselves in rhetorical Möbius strips, where their conferences and literature were dominated either by debunking the same pseudoscience over and over again, or fighting cases of church-state intrusion that were more relevant as abstract principles.

But the more people step forward and identify themselves as nonbelievers, the more it’s become obvious that this narrow focus is unsustainable. Although the top positions in many organizations are still dominated by white men, an increasing number of the most passionate voices bringing new people into the movement are people of color, women, transgendered, or queer.

Jamila Bey, the communications director of the Secular Student Alliance, summed up the concerns of many in a recent interview: “There are people who say, ‘Why are we talking about racism? We would rather argue that Chupacabra are fake.’ And fine, that is their right. On the other hand, I don’t get to divorce my critical thinking from my blackness, from my femaleness, from my position as a mother. So when I see the only affordable child care in my community being offered at churches, that’s an issue for me that makes me say ‘Wait a minute, there’s a problem here. Why am I not being afforded the opportunity for my child not to be indoctrinated just so my kid has somewhere to play and meet other children?’ I can’t divorce my whole life from my skepticism and for anybody who says, well , talking about female issues or talking about issues that impact black people, oh, that’s taking away from skepticism, I go, well that’s really easy for you to say. This is my life. I can’t divorce the issues. You can choose to not care about them or whatever, but don’t tell me I’m diminishing skepticism because I’m talking about the reality of what my life is.”

Those last few words speak directly to the very reason behind organized atheism: almost everyone who deconverts from religion and declares themselves a nonbeliever does so because of a compelling need to talk about reality. Whether it’s because we couldn’t reconcile the fossils in the earth with the story of creation we were told by our parents and clergy, or because of a need to lay claim to our sexuality without first checking for the approval or condemnation of a deity, the desire to discard what we perceive as falsehoods and speak honestly about the realities of our lives is one of the most commonly shared passions of atheists as a whole.

So, even for many of us who play life on the lowest difficulty setting, who get all the goodies that come along with white skin, cis-gender maleness and middle-class backgrounds, when old-school atheists attempt to dismiss social justice issues as “mission drift,” it seems like a betrayal of the very principle that was most attractive about standing up and identifying as an atheist in the first place. For those who don’t get those goodies, the betrayal is much more intimate.

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If Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris brought a single essential insight to modern atheism, it was the idea that atheists could and should be unapologetic about their disbelief. For Heina Dadhaboy, who blogs on Skepchick, that was critical as she moved away from the traditional Islamic beliefs of her family.

“I think the fact that [Dawkins] was so unapologetic is why a lot of us became quite taken with his writings. It wasn’t so much what he was saying or how he was saying it, it was just the fact that he never apologized or capitulated for being an atheist.” That shamelessness helped Dadhaboy to assert her own voice as an atheist. Like most of mainstream culture, her family expected that if she was going to be an atheist, she would at least have the good sense to pay lip service to religion’s superior worldview.

“They expected me to capitulate,” she says. “They expected me to follow their rules and even if I didn’t believe in their religion, to agree with them that it’s more moral and makes more sense. Reading Dawkins was like, ‘Hey, I don’t need to do that.'”

Heina Dadhaboy, Greta Christina, Jamila Bey, and scores of others found their own voices, rather than becoming mere echoes of the New Atheists who were anointed by the media all those years ago. James Croft, the research and education fellow at the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, says there are already generational differences in how they’re viewed. “Frankly, people like Richard Dawkins and even Sam Harris to some extent, are not viewed positively by young atheists now,” he says. “They actually don’t think that they’re that great. You still find people at the conventions who love them of course, but it does seem like they’re already a bit passé….They kind of pushed a door open, and that represents an opportunity, but the real task is to step through that door with some positive proposal of what life after religion has to look like.”

The first steps through that door have already been taken by atheist women, queers and people of color. Progress has not come easily, by any means. In some ways, it’s been outright nightmarish. The standard use of harassment and rape threats against women who make even relatively mild critiques of gender has put some of the ugliest, sickest parts of atheist communities on public display. It has even cost the movement voices; in 2012, blogger Jen McCreight proposed a new wave of secular activism called “Atheism Plus,” which would explicitly embrace social justice as part of its mission.

“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,” she wrote. “We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.” The campaign of harassment and abuse that followed, combined with stresses in her personal life, eventually drove her to stop blogging and speaking at atheist events. McCreight recently began writing again at a new blog, The Jenome, which does not focus on atheism.

But despite the organized hatefulness, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or just the malign neglect of old-school atheists, those who are demanding that atheism become more intersectional and diverse are not becoming silent or fading away into the background. It’s becoming more and more obvious that these critiques are essential if organized atheism is to transcend its stereotype as a refuge for privileged eccentrics.

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I can’t say when exactly I became an atheist. There was no flash of light, no road to Damascus moment where I suddenly dropped the Episcopalianism I was raised in. I stopped being a Christian sometime in early high school, but for years afterward, I tinkered with a wide range of mysticism and spiritualities, until I finally realized there was no “there” there.

What made me ultimately accept my atheism as an identity is that about the same time I began to fall away from Christianity, I began to be concerned about social justice. Atheism appealed not only as a logical conclusion, but as a more humane and just way of living. To make ethical decisions without the revelations from a deity means that the responsibility for those decisions ends with you, and no one else. Even more importantly, when you accept that there is no world beyond this one, you have to turn your eyes away from the sky and look at the people around you.

When Elliot Rodger went on his shooting spree in Isla Vista, the harm was not to the immortal souls of the people he shot and killed. His bullets tore into their bodies and devastated the lives of people in the real world. It was not a crime against god, or the spirit world, or Allah, or karma, but against fellow human beings who were alive and breathing and may have lived for decades more if he hadn’t pulled the trigger.

But those gunshots didn’t kill just because of chemistry and physics; the bullets were driven just as much by Rodger’s poisonous misogyny as by a sudden expansion of gases in the barrel of the gun. We are social creatures, and racism, misogyny, classism, and other prejudices affect our lives in ways that are just as solid as the earth orbiting the sun or our immune systems’ response to a vaccine. The activists who insist that atheism address matters of social justice are not distracting the movement from its purpose or being divisive; they are insisting it deliver on the promises that attracted so many of us to it in the first place.


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