I’m going to go out on a limb here: being an atheist demands that we work for social justice.
A lot of atheists will argue with this. They’ll say that atheism means one thing and one thing only: the lack of belief in any god. And in the most literal sense, they’re right. It’s different from secular humanism in that way. Secular humanism is more than just not believing in gods or the supernatural. It’s a positive, multifaceted philosophy that includes specific principles of ethical conduct. Atheism, technically, means only the conclusion that there are no gods.
But conclusions don’t stand in a vacuum. They have implications. That’s true for the conclusion that there are no gods as much as any other conclusion. When you conclude that there are no gods, I would argue that one of the implications is a demand that we work for social justice: an end to extreme poverty, political disempowerment, government corruption, gross inequality in economic opportunity, misogyny, racism, homophobia, and so on. For reasons that are high-minded and noble and altruistic… and also for reasons that are pragmatic and Machiavellian to the point of being crass.
Thus begins my first column for Free Inquiry magazine, Why Atheism Demands Social Justice. To read more about both the high-minded reasons that atheists should work for social justice, and the crass, Machiavellian reasons, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!