Here’s words you won’t see me write (or hear me say) very often: sign this online petition. Generally, I think that online petitions and surveys are naught but meaningless wankery, but this one I think can do some good. One of the problems I have with online petitions is that they seem to take on Grand, Important Problems by allowing you to do nothing more than click a link. Adam Lee’s petition, on the other hand, is very specific about who it’s talking to, and what it’s talking about:
We support making the atheist movement more diverse and inclusive. It’s long been clear that the skeptical movement has a preponderance of white men. While we don’t disdain their participation, we believe skepticism is valuable and important to people in all walks of life, and in accordance with that principle, we consider it vital to have a movement that reflects the demographics of the society we live in. If our community continues to be dominated by white men, it will become increasingly out-of-touch and irrelevant as Western society becomes increasingly multiracial and multicultural and as non-Western countries gain economic and cultural power.
To that end, we urge the atheist and skeptical organizations to make a conscious commitment to diversity: to intentionally reach out to people of all ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds to speak at our conventions, to serve on our boards of directors, and to be the public faces and representatives of skepticism. We believe that there are talented, dedicated and eminently qualified people of every gender and every race, and that seeking them out will strengthen our movement and broaden its appeal.
Time was, I really thought that all atheists should keep a portrait of Ayn Rand nailed to their wall, just to remind themselves of one thing: you can be an atheist and still be a douchebag. Unfortunately, that seems heartbreakingly naïve to me now; there is a preponderance of people who are only too willing to prove that atheism and douchebaggery are completely compatible. Some of the assholes prancing out there just make me start to hate the entire goddamned human race.
Even my misanthropy, though, is leavened somewhat by the response to the petition. As of this writing, it’s gotten 1,643 signatures in a matter of days. Adam Lee initially was aiming for a mere 1,000 signatures and upped the limit after the petition busted that limit easily. Just seeing that is invigorating to me. This is an issue that urgently needs to be dealt with, and people sticking their hands up to be counted like this is a really good start. It makes everyone feel like they’re not alone, and it shows the leaders of secular organizations that we’re not a bunch of lone crackpots, either.
The key phrase, though, is “first step.” One of the things that I really hate about online petitions—probably the main thing—is that it allows people to click a link and think that they’re done. More often than not, they are more effective as salves for our consciences than they are for useful action.
Bridget Gaudette has some excellent things to say about this last part: first of all, although we spend a lot of time and fury battling Thunderf__t or whatever other magnificent asshole is parading around at the moment, it’s not about them. It’s about building a movement with a diverse number of voices. It’s about how having those voices makes such a movement not only stronger, but more just. And if we’re just reacting to assholes like Thunderf__t, we’re not taking time to listen to and build connections to the people who are being shut out by the current status quo of atheism.
The best part of Bridget’s post is the list of resources she includes. Here’s the groups she recommends for people who want to go beyond the petition:
If you do, value diversity and feminism, I’d like to highlight some groups that are specifically focused on doing just that and at the end offer some suggestions for those who are truly committed to it.
The American Humanists Association has a Feminist Caucus. Blog about it. Donate to it. Spread the word. OFFER TO HELP.
Secular Woman. Blog about it. Donate to it. Spread the word. OFFER TO HELP.
Black Nonbelievers. Blog about it. Donate to it. Spread the word. OFFER TO HELP.
Hispanic American Freethinkers. Blog about it. Donate to it. Spread the word. OFFER TO HELP.
Filipino Freethinkers. Blog about it. Donate to it. Spread the word. OFFER TO HELP.
Black Freethinkers. Blog about it. Donate to it. Spread the word. OFFER TO HELP.
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