Twitter Rant

So I had a bit of a twitter rant today, i thought I’d tell you all about it. I don’t remember what prompted it but it was about anti-theism. Now as you might already know, I am an atheist. I had my anti-theist phase when I hated all religions and wanted to destroy them. It’s an understandable impulse. You feel like you have some knowledge that people don’t have and you want them to see the truth. It comes from a good place I guess, or at least it for me. The impulse wasn’t against religious people but against the institutions of religion which have caused so much pain and suffering in the world.

However, it’s very easy to fall into a very totalitarian view of the world. It’s very easy to elevate yourself onto a pedestal of self-satisfaction and smugness and actually be hurtful to people who didn’t do anything to hurt anyone. I thankfully got over that phase some time ago. I don’t really care what anyone believes as long as they leave me alone and don’t try to force their beliefs onto me. Even then if someone is nice about it, in that patronising way that some religious people have, then I’ll just simply decline the offer. But if they’re rude then I’ll be rude right back.

The point that I made in my twitter rant though was that my problem with anti-theism is that it sometimes felt very cultish. The figureheads of the movement were often raised to the level of idols. So that Hitchen’s sexism, islamophobia, warmongering, and general arseholiness was excused and even defended by anti-theists. The same goes for Dawkins, who’s response to Rebecca Watson of Skepchick, about her experience feeling threatened when propositioned at four in the morning in an elevator, exposed his sexism and also his islamophobia, as his response was filled with misinformation about muslim women.

You see anti-theists present themselves as champions of rationalism and critical thinking and use those tools to dismantle religious myths. However, they’re very often not ready to turn those tools onto themselves and look rationally and critically at their own attitudes and actions. The anti-theist movement is composed mainly of rich or at least not poor white men, that’s not to say that it is composed exclusively of that group. Which means that for many of them, their lives were filled with privilege, be it male privilege or white privilege or both. That position of privilege means that they, for the most part, do not understand the perspectives of women or minorities.

Richard Dawkins’ response to Rebecca Watson was a clear illustration of that. He wrote a mock letter to a fictional muslim woman, Here it is:

“Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Richard”

I hope you all see how terrible that is. Not only is it wrong to attribute all of these terrible practices to islam, as FGM for example is not a muslim practice, rather than to specific regimes that use islam in order to crush women, like Saudi, but also it is making that fallacious argument that because things are worse somewhere else we shouldn’t deal with problems closer to home. Let’s not finally forget the most important point which is that the woman is being blamed for saying that she felt threatened by someone propositioning her in an elevator in the middle of the night.

Anyway, I don’t want to go through the whole controversy, but Richard Dawkins then went on to say that the annoyance she felt was comparable to someone chewing gum in the elevator with him. That’s right, Dawkins thinks that the threat of physical/sexual assault felt by a woman (as most women she probably had to deal with some form of harassment at some point in her life being physical or verbal) to the annoyance of someone chewing gum next to him.  The clarity of the privileged place from which he speaks couldn’t be made clearer. Of course most of the anti-theist crowd stood by him and decided to send Rebecca Watson threats of physical and sexual violence. As most, if not all, women who write on the internet would tell you that’s not an exception.

The other example is of course Hitchens and his sexism and islamophobia. He became in the last part of his life a horrible human being. He championed the wars on iraq and afghanistan which led to over a million and a half deaths, taken together. He saw islam as the enemy of the west and was generally an arsehole. He was good at sticking it to religious people though, and this meant that the anti-theist crowds loved him. All of his disgusting behaviour was excused because he made a religious person look like a fool.

These attitudes just don’t fit within my understanding of critical thinking. I cannot and will not be associated with people who think that women aren’t funny and shouldn’t complain about feeling threatened, or that islam is a uniquely evil religion (I don’t like all religions equally and islam is just as bad and just as good as every other religion), or who promote the illegal invasion and subsequent plundering of resources and murder and maiming of countries. These people are arseholes and should be called out as arseholes. There is no justification for that.

More importantly this type of attitude just doesn’t fit within my political project. I’m looking to fight privilege and dismantle the structures of racial, gender, sexuality, and economic privileges and help construct fairer ones. That’s my main project. I find that being an atheist is the logical position for me within this struggle but I accept that it might not be for others. More importantly, I will never idolise someone to the point where I would not call them out for being a complete arse. Anyway, sorry about the ranty post, and I’m sure not very coherent, but I needed to get it off my chest. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.

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2 Responses to “Twitter Rant”

  1. Wonderful post.

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