The Christian Dog-Walkers' Club: Christian and atheist separatism and exclusivity - blog by Gurdur


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The Christian Dog-Walkers' Club: Christian and atheist separatism and exclusivity
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Posted 07-Mar-2010 at 04:57 AM (04:57) by Gurdur
Updated 10-Nov-2010 at 11:11 AM (11:11) by Gurdur

I have a relative in Australia who once announced her desire to form a Christian dog-walkers' club, and that in a city which is majority Christian, in a country which is majority Christian. I'm not quite sure on which side dogs count. When you hear of such intentions as forming such a club in a place which the huge majority are Christians, if you are like me, you look bug-eyed and wonder, "What the hell? Just why?"

There are atheists and there are atheists, and there are Christians and Christians. In my very last blog post, I wrote, "Why I am an atheist is possibly the same reason why you are a Christian or a person of faith of whatever kind", but of course that only works for a segment of Christians, just as it only works for a segment of atheists. So onwards to look at another segment, one again common to many sides, the separatists who dreadfully emphasize differences and deny all commonalities.

My relative comes from a very hardliner Presbyterian/Plymouth Brethren background. The only people she wants to talk to are "Christians", but apparently wishy-washy Anglicans don't count as Christians, Methodists don't count, Catholics don't count, Uniting Church folks don't count, Orthodox really don't count, let alone some hardliner atheist like me. We are all the Great Unwashed and Unwanted, all of us who are the tolerant and inclusive. There, for her, inclusivity itself is a moral crime, though I have never yet recieved a satisfactorily comprehensive theological or ethical answer as to just why it is a moral crime in that particular aspect. Possibly suchlike believers have a fear that God won't go into Final Judgment Doom-Killer-Mode in the end after all, and they want to give God a helping hand and a little Stalinist reminder of the Correct Party Line to follow in the necessary purges.

When I was very young, around 14 years of age, if I remember rightly, I was sent away on a Christian camp (you begin to see why I am an atheist, yes? ) for the good of my body and soul, and I got into a conversation with a very gung-ho, very silly-macho camp counselor. I say silly-macho because at his age of I guess around 25 years of age, he was mildly beating us 14-year-olds up to show how macho he was, which is rather setting the bar low. Anyway, we got onto books, and me, with my wild air of always being able to very enthusiastically say the wrong thing at the wrong time (a bad habit of mine still), I just had to ask, "And have you read any science fiction? SF by say C.S. Lewis for example?"

The counselor fixed me with a rather suddenly glaring gimlet eye, and roared at me, "Is that Christian SF? I only read Christian books!".

At 14 years of age, I didn't know enough to be able to roar back that Wikipedia link for C.S. Lewis C.S. Lewis, who wrote the famous Wikipedia link for Narnia Narnia books, as well as the SF/fantasy, Out Of The Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength, and so on, was one of the foremost and most famous Christian apologists of modern times. Possibly even poor old C.S. Lewis would not have been Christian enough to have satisfied the camp counselor or my relative, since I once asked an Anglican clergyman (again when I was 14 or so) whether he liked the quasi-Universalist idea of possible salvation pushed in C.S, Lewis' The Great Divorce, and the pastor looked at me and heavily growled, "No".

In both cases, with the camp counselor and seperately with the clergyman, I felt at the time that the conversation had reached a natural end, and I did not try pursuing any matters further.

Well, not too long after that, I became consciously an atheist, and I have been an atheist ever since. But not a separatist one; bigotry and separatism are things I dislike intensely. I do try to get along with almost anyone; after all, my relative, the camp counselor and the clergyman are or were all humans too, and, "Live and let live", is a motto I really do live by. But some folks really don't see it that way, and for them, "Let Live", is a moral crime.

I would have to say that forming an exclusivist True Christian® Dog-Walkers' Club in a city composed mainly of Christians, even if not all True Christians®, in a country where the huge majority are Christians, even if not all True Christians®, shows a high level of artificial paranoia.

A friend of mine had a similar experience; my friend is a Christian, and was riding in a train, and overheard three girls talking in the seats foward; one girl said to the other two, "I don't trust anyone now unless they are a Christian". My friend, despite being a Christian, was rather horrifed and put off by such sentiments. And indeed, it seemed quite a fashion in the late 1970's and 1980's for various people to go to prison for fraud or similar, and suddenly rehabilitate themselves and really boost their post-prison careers by declaring themselves born again, True Christians®, ready to be forgiven and taken into the True Christian® Dog-Walkers' Club, manipulating that naïve exclusivity to enrich themselves and only needing to merely mouthing shibboleths to do so.

Now, one reason, though not the main one, that I became an atheist was to get away from all that bigoted, exclusivist, artificially paranoid jive.

So it is always bitterly disappointing to see some atheists get exactly so artificially paranoid and exclusivist. When I first came across big atheist boards on the net, it was ugly to see the perpetual flame-wars denouncing agnostics as being too cowardly, or denouncing liberal Christians as being too, well, nice, or denouncing Pagans for being into magic. Look, I'll take the company of any decent, tolerant Pagan, witch or Christian over the company of a scornful, witch-hunting bigot any day, even if an atheist bigot. I've had to learn the truth of that; people often get trapped into manning static front lines obsessively and gleefully on big bulletin boards and in the blogosphere, and speaking to the person behind the slogan can be quite difficult to achieve.
So it's disappointing to see Ophelia Benson raise a very valid point about unconscious sexism in the proportion of speakers at the Atheist Alliance International 2009 Convention in LA, USA, October 2009, only to be put down twice by another atheist.

Concerns were also raised over the very low comparative number of women authors in a new anthology of modern science writing edited by Richard Dawkins, concerns raised by DrHGG, and Sheril Kirshenbaum, and Tara C. Smith. It's disappointing to see such concerns about unconscious, exclusivist sexism dismissed by Richard Dawkins himself and summarily dismissed by Dave24.

It was also bitterly disillusioning to see atheists denouncing hundreds of loyal, hardworking and polite board members as on the same level as some abusive trolls who weren't even posting on that board, and have other well-known atheists patronisingly dumping on those selfsame innocent board members, and then express nothing but more clueless dismissal afterwards. All that coming from someone who not only can't be bothered running a board himself - and who threw two seperate drama-queen fits, one each on two seperate atheist boards, walking out in open hissy fits not because of any ill-treatment but only for not getting his own way on rather trivial questions.

Then there's the question of P.Z. Myers' abusive obsession with Chris Mooney, another atheist. Or how about Jerry Coyne's own rather weird obsession with Chris Mooney, or Jerry Coyne's actual competition for more empty, abusive, childish name-calling? When will Russell Blackford tackle that question then of his imputation of acrimony? Or of course where this kind of behaviour always ends, as when Michael Turton on the old IIDB personally abused Dylan Evans, a fellow atheist, with nothing more than "yammerhead", and when it was pointed out that "This is nothing more than mere personal abuse", to have Janice Rael acting as a board moderator not to stop the abuse, but actually to edit out the quoted line about it being mere empty personal abuse, and to get the banning of the poster who posted that objection, which was quite incredible. Janice Rael went onto bigger things, through her actions and through the actions of owners who cared nothing about the IIDB board, finally to bring about an implosion of the whole IIDB board - enabled by the same kind of exclusivist and non-caring owners.

So, to bring this all to a conclusion, when I became an atheist, I did not become an atheist to join some exclusivist, artificially paranoid and xenophobic True Christian® True Atheist® Dog-Walkers' Club. I did not sign up to be abused or exploited, and no-one else becomes an atheist to be abused or exploited either. Members who actually responded to official calls and requests to donate money and volunteer years of hours of work on an atheist board did not do so in order to be summarily dismissed and falsely accused by someone with a sense of entitlement about ordering the proletariat around.

We are all individual atheists. There is no standard Atheism 101, there is no standard Correct Party Line for atheism, there is no True Atheist® Dog-Walkers' Club, there are no Divinely Appointed Atheist Leaders. Some of us prefer to push science instead of atheism, and they point out that science is not necessarily incompatible with religion. That's their right to do so. Some assert science is incompatible with all religion. That's their right to do so. But no-one has the right to try bullying into silence those who would rather push public acceptance of science in the USA than push atheism. No-one has the right to mount public campaigns of harrassment and false accusations, as Joshua Rosenau has pointed out. No-one has the right to bully the CFI over whom it can pick for hosts of its "Point of Inquiry" podcast. No-one has the right to ban people from boards merely for pointing out mere empty personal abuse is only mere empty personal abuse.

You don't need to be black or white to be an atheist. You don't need to be male or female to be an atheist. Everyone deserves to be represented in the overall atheist movement, and steps should always be taken to implement that, steps against racism, classism and sexism within the atheist movement. You don't need to be smart to be an atheist. Don't let others put you down for allegedly not being smart. Don't let putting down others for allegedly not being smart become a standard practice on boards. Don't let mere personal abuse of targeted persons become practice on boards. Don't let some self-appointed bigot tell you when and where to stand in line. Don't let self-appointed bigwigs put you down as lowly, unimportant peons. Without you, the bigwigs are useless and incapable. Without you, atheism is non-existent.

You are the grass-roots atheists. You are the people to make atheism become acceptable to the public. You are the people who buy the atheist books, who promote science, who promote atheism, who promote ethics, who promote humanism, who promote your own individual voices.

Don't let anyone take your voice away. Don't let anyone take someone else's voice away, whether through campaigns of abuse or however.

Your opinion of atheism and all else is important and deserves to be said by you. You are yourself. Be that, vocally.

Atheism is not a True Atheist® Dog-Walkers' Club. Either atheism is for everyone, or it is worthless.


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  1. Old Comment
    Makbawehuh's Avatar
    Amen, brotha! Or whatever the Atheist equivalent is. :P
    Posted 07-Mar-2010 at 05:45 AM (05:45) by Makbawehuh Makbawehuh is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Originally Posted by Makbawehuh View Comment
    Amen, brotha! Or whatever the Atheist equivalent is. :P
    Many thanks!
    Posted 07-Mar-2010 at 05:49 AM (05:49) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  3. Old Comment
    It reminds me of something my ex-wife says. She is an atheist, brought up in the States on a steady diet of Jerry Falwell and Pat Roberston. She left religion after he time at a liberal Mennonite college: she suddenly realised she just did not believe in God at all.

    That is where her involvement with atheism starts and end though. She si not anti-theist - well she probably would not have married me, a Christian if she was. She just wants ot be able to live happily without any religious nonsense. She will tell anyone who asks she is an atheist, and will support (as do I) Humanist causes - because of the humanism.

    She always resisted though my attempts to make her join Dawkin's forum. It struck her as irrelevant- as she said, all she has in common with other atheist was NOT believing in god/s/ess/es. Not much of a platform really! She will happily support persecuted secularist, will fight for the freedom to not believe or believe - liberty of conscience is very important to her - but she feels no desire to be involved wit institutions, religious or atheist. Grass roots, local level action - absolutely - but NOT what she derides as a "cult of personality".

    I disagree - I think that those who resist religion, indoctrination, and bullying should band together to be strong - my TRade Union impulses - but she is quite vehement about caring not jot what people believe or don't belive, as long as they act reasonably. It's actions not beliefs which bother her, and it is hard to argue with that..

    cj x
    Posted 07-Mar-2010 at 12:10 PM (12:10) by Unregistered
  4. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Originally Posted by Unregistered View Comment
    .... - my Trade Union impulses - but she is quite vehement about caring not jot what people believe or don't belive, as long as they act reasonably. It's actions not beliefs which bother her, and it is hard to argue with that.. ....
    I agree with her to a large extent. I myself was a trade union shopfloor (well, factory floor) organizer for a while and a strike. It shows in how I think and plan and act.

    Thanks for your comments!
    Posted 07-Mar-2010 at 12:39 PM (12:39) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Makbawehuh's Avatar
    I hope you register, CJ. :P It would be nice to see you in the main forums, too.
    Posted 07-Mar-2010 at 06:12 PM (18:12) by Makbawehuh Makbawehuh is offline
  6. Old Comment
    You are completely obsessed with Janice Rael.
    Posted 07-Mar-2010 at 10:05 PM (22:05) by Unregistered
  7. Old Comment
    Never's Avatar
    You are completely obsessed with Janice Rael.
    Good of you to keep up with our blogs Janice, though anonymous comments are not necessary since your IP gives you away. really isn't all about you Janice. Call it an itty bitty part in the blogosphere.
    Posted 07-Mar-2010 at 11:55 PM (23:55) by Never Never is offline
  8. Old Comment
    Makbawehuh's Avatar
    Who is Janice Real and why is he trolling here?
    Posted 08-Mar-2010 at 12:59 AM (00:59) by Makbawehuh Makbawehuh is offline
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