Category Archives: activism
How I Met Your Mother is a brilliant show. It’s well-written, the acting’s great, and the comedy is exactly my kind of humor. Except for one teensy problem: Barney is a rapist.
Much is made of Barney’s “conquests.” His friends are always mildly disgusted, but never so much that they aren’t friends with him. The entire attitude is “Haha, silly Barney, getting a girl drunk so you can have sex with her is frowned upon. Oh well, boys will be boys!” It’s the exact bullshit that keeps rape culture alive and well. And I won’t watch a show that pushes that rape apologia.
“But it’s not rape!” you say. Bullshit. I’ve gone into this before, and I’m not going to write it again, because frankly, that post says it well enough. If you read it and you still think I’m completely wrong, congrats. You contribute to a world where rape is normal, where people are blamed for the crimes committed against them, where a football player who organized dog fights draws more ire from the public than a football player who rapes someone. You contribute to a world where 1 in 5 women are raped. You make that possible. And you make me sick.
There seems to be a strange misconception going around that the majority only needs to obey laws designed to protect minorities if it’s convenient for said majority. It happens on the grand scale with a huge shitstorm, like when Cranston West High School recently had its ass handed to it on a legal platter over an illegal prayer banner, and it happens in smaller scales without much noise, like when Portland Lindy Society and Stumptown Dance consistently refuse to enforce a flash-photography ban designed to keep epileptic dancers safe. The common denominator between the two is a majority ignoring the law at the expense of the minority.
Being in the majority comes with a shit-ton of privilege, whether it be Christian privilege or able-bodied privilege or whatever else. The majority is used to having a world that accommodates them, while the minority lives in a world where they are constantly reminded of how they don’t fit in. The minority gets used to having to give ground, and they often try to pass as much as possible to avoid trouble. The majority doesn’t even think about that stuff. The majority isn’t even aware that stuff exists. The majority has the privilege of ignorance – the privilege of not knowing how it feels to be treated as inferior.
So that’s why we have things like the ADA and separation of church and state. If unchecked, the majority will trample the minority – often without even realizing that they’re doing it. The majority will probably agree that it’s good to have laws that protect the minority (unless they’re for Ron Paul…). What they don’t seem to like, though, is having to change their behavior because of those laws. When someone points out the law and tells the majority to obey it, the majority howls about how their freedoms are being infringed. They whine that following the law would bankrupt their business. They demand that the minority ask more nicely, but when the minority does ask nicely, their requests are ignored.
But the fact is that laws are not optional. There is no inconvenience clause, no tradition clause. No amount of ignorant, self-righteous whining will make discrimination legal. But damn if the majority won’t try.
My best friend, who’s a Christian in the loosest, most progressive sense of the term, asked me that question last night. I didn’t have an answer, and it really threw me. Was the movement I’ve come to care so much about doing the same thing as the evangelicals I can’t stand?
After a lot of thought, I came to a conclusion: No, it’s not. Atheist activism is propelled (or should be propelled) by the desire to better the world. Just as the feminists, gay rights, and neurodiversity movements want equality for all, so do we. We see a culture that rejects and suppresses the rights of minorities, that rejects and suppresses science, and we want to change it. We want to changes the attitudes that create this culture of suppression and inequality, and in order to change those attitudes, we need to change the beliefs that support them.
If all religious people were like my friend – if they accepted and supported science, believed that women should have a right to decide what happens to their bodies, that marriage should be between whoever wants to get married, that church and state should be kept separate – in short, if they truly supported good science and equality for all – then I would have no issue with religion. If all religious people shifted over to the type of religiousity as my friend, I’d call it good enough and be done with it.
But the fact is that many religious people don’t believe those things, and those people are, by far, the most vocal of the religious. The progressive believers should stand up to them and tell them that religion isn’t an acceptable reason to deny people rights, but they aren’t. And since they won’t, atheists have to.
We want equal rights for all. We want people to be taught fact, not fiction, and be able to make informed choices. And if religion is the reason people give for not wanting the same, religion needs to go. If we loosed people from the bonds of religion, the majority of them would probably come to the conclusion that equality and information for all is a good thing. Sure, we’d still get some anti-science bigots, but they wouldn’t have the special exemption from criticism that religion affords, and we’d be able to improve the world. And that’s what I’m fighting for: a world where there will be no acceptable excuses to deny people their rights.