If you are an outsider whose only exposure to atheism is through non-atheist outlets, atheism looks a Mad Men-style group but with less actual style. In the view presented from without rather than within, Richard Dawkins’s Twitter feed is atheist gospel and no voices besides Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, or (shudder) Maher matter. Atheist-land is bleak indeed.
Or, if you prefer to be more formal… pic.twitter.com/H1g2c6Dk7A
— Heina Dadabhoy (@heinousdealings) February 11, 2015
If the outsider view were at all fair or comprehensive, that is.
This morning, I went on HuffPost Live to talk about the Chapel Hill shootings. The other guest was Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, a Christian leftist who wrote about the shootings at The New Republic. I had the chance to read her piece before we went on the air. While I agree with many of the points that she made, what struck me about her piece was the lack of representation for diverse atheist voices that is characteristic of many outsider critiques of atheism.
It’s old news to atheists that we have an across-the-board diversity problem. We know we are, as a whole, a little too educated, able (and ableist), middle-to-upper class, white, and male to claim that we are part of a truly inclusive movement. In the years since Dear Muslima, many people have been tirelessly working to make the movement better. If you take the excellent reactions on the part of many of the skepto-atheist-secular orgs into account, that work has not been in vain. If you rely on the Twitter feed of one of the down-to-three Four Horsemen to tell you what the “atheist id” might be, then the hard work of the non-white and/or non-male people and their white and/or male allies in the fight has been not only tireless, but utterly thankless.
I refuse to accept narratives that complain about the lack of diversity in atheism yet do nothing to promote those who are working to improve things. Such writing is complicit in furthering the damaging notion that atheism is the sole province of rich white men and erases those faces and voices within it who are struggling for recognition.
As D.I. MacDonald put it, “Media reporting on atheism needs to be converted from its Cult of Dawkins.” This non-atheist obsession with disregarding the voices of the alternatives in favor of elevating white upper-class male voices does nothing to help non-white and/or non-male people. Mentioning the issues with diversity within atheism without striving for inclusivity in representation makes for a rather empty and self-defeating sort of call-out.