“Atheist Disillusionment” is an outstanding article by one of the “militant atheists” PZ Myers. For a change, PZ Myers expresses his frustration with … atheism.
…what I’m fast learning is that tolerance isn’t automatically a property of abandoning the false tribe of religion, but is more a reflection of the greater culture it is embedded in. Atheists can still hold a “kill the wogs” mentality while babbling about the wonders of science; people who regard women as servile appliances for their gratification don’t seem to become suddenly enlightened once the scales of faith fall from their eyes.
There is the great disappointment. The movement, whose whole premise demands a sweeping change of the culture, has discovered that it is far easier to defend the status quo than to change it. We’re willing to ask other people to think long and hard about their beliefs, to question and change, but all that other stuff that our culture planted in our heads, like beliefs about the sexes and races, like the rigid gender binary, like the suitability of women to thinking critically, like the automatic conferral of status by wealth, like the dehumanization of people who look like they might have had different great-grandparents than us, like the utility of simply killing people who disagree with us…oh, no, don’t ask us to change. We’re just here to promote atheism! One thing at a time! Once we’ve cleared away the deadwood of religion, then maybe we can think about encouraging a rational world that will have those nice things you’re talking about. Atheism is only about separation of church and state issues, or only about science and naturalism, or only about scholarly discussion of the accuracy of ancient texts, or only about fighting the barbarous customs of non-Western peoples…it’s only about the non-existence of gods, we can’t possibly consider side issues, like the harassment of women or the oppression of black communities or the diminishing educational opportunities of the poor, to be part of our brief!
The great disappointment, as usual, comes from unrealistic expectations. After all, atheism is only about disbelief in god. Atheism has to do with dislodging racist, sexist, and other social stereotypes as much as religion has to do with instilling them because these sterotypes seem to flourish in the absence of religion just as well as in the presence of it. This was the idea of my other post. To hear confirmation of my own thoughts from one of the champions of atheism is encouraging. Somehow, the teaching that one should remove the plank from his own eye before taking a speck out of the eye of his neibhbor did find its way home. Hallelujah.
Update 1/13/2015. Just came across this post http://nickbradbury.com/2015/01/13/atheism-is-not-a-silver-bullet/. Heartwarming.