A Quick Question re The Lack of Diversity in Atheism

According to an article entitled Atheists' diversity woes have no clear answers, atheism has a rather clear white base.

Last year, Jules helped launch a local initiative to address what atheists regard as an international problem for their movement: a lack of racial and gender diversity.

From the smallest local meetings to the largest conferences, the vast majority of speakers and attendees are almost always white men. Leading figures of the atheist movement -- Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett -- are all white men.

But making atheism more diverse is proving to be no easy task.

Surveys suggest most atheists are white men. A recent survey of 4,000 members of the Freedom from Religion Foundation found that 95 percent were white, and men comprised a majority.

Among U.S. nonbelievers, 72 percent are white and 60 percent are men, according to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey; the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that Hispanics make up 11 percent, and African-Americans just 8 percent, of "unaffiliated" Americans.

"Anytime you go to an atheist meeting, it tends to be predominantly male and white. We know that," said Blair Scott, national affiliate director for American Atheists, which has 131 affiliate groups. "We go out of our way to encourage participation by females and minorities. The problem is getting those people out (of the closet as atheists) in the first place."

So, atheists are having trouble appealing to minorities? Atheist gatherings are gatherings dominated by white males? They have to try to reach out to minority communities which appear to largely be rejecting their message?

Okay, if the Republican Party is often assumed to be racist because of its racial make-up (it is majority white}, when are we going to see the news stories with the underlying assumption that atheism is racist?


Jon said…
It's true that atheists are white and male. I don't think the Republican party thing compares though. Arabs make for a disproportionately high number of Muslims and low number of Christians, but does this suggest some sort of Christian racism against Arabs? Culturally Arabs have Muslim traditions. Blacks culturally have stronger Christian traditions than whites. Like see here for instance.

BK said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
BK said…
Oh, I think it compares well. I don't think that the Republicans are racist simply because their message appeals more to white people. Likewise, I don't think that the atheists are racist either simply because their message appeals more to white people. However, if the argument is accepted (as if often is) that Republicans are racist because they largely appeal to whites, then the same has to hold true for atheism.
Jon said…
Yeah, but I think Republicans actually have policies that do induce suffering amongst poor and minorities.

For instance there's a lot of suffering right now economically. Tea partyers know why. Illegal immigrants. No, no, it's not the economic policies of the last 30 years which have cut taxes for the wealthiest and increased them for the poorest. It's not the fact that corporations (the stock of which is mostly owned by wealthy white people) now have free reign in Washington to enact policies to their benefit. It's illegal immigrants.

When a Muslim kills a dozen people who belong to a military that is waging war in Muslim territories at Ft. Hood we're informed repeatedly by the right wing that this is some sort of evidence of the nefarious nature of Islamic culture. When in a single drone attack our government hits a school in Pakistan killing even more children, nobody notices. The violent actions of brown skinned people are very prominently discussed by the right wing. The far more extensive violence of light skinned people isn't noticed.

OBL killed 3,000 on 9/11. Pretty bad. But in the 10 years prior our government had starved about a million children in Iraq. Michael Moore noticed. Nobody on the right did. Since 9/11 another million or so have been killed in Iraq, a state that didn't attack us and had nothing to do with 9/11. The right wing knows precisely how many died on 9/11, but has no clue how many are dead in Iraq. Probably not even worth doing a body count. Maybe the real # is a few hundred thousand. Maybe it's 2 million. Who cares? We know precisely how many Americans have died in Iraq due to the US invasion. 4287. Iraqi's? 2 million or 400,000. Somewhere in that range. Doesn't really matter. These are Iraqis.

So in the case of the right wing we can point to policies and behavior that does reveal an underlying racism. Not so with atheism.
Jason Pratt said…
{{Yeah, but I think Republicans actually have policies that do induce suffering amongst poor and minorities.}}

Survival of the fittest? Natural superiority == manifest destiny? Might makes right? Majority opinion makes right?

Jason Pratt said…
(Also, I should point out that the starving of Iraq through sanctions that barely touched its leaders against whom the sanctions were aimed, continued through an 8-year Democrat regime with direct approval of the United Nations--typically understood to be a politically liberal group in US terms.)
Jon said…
Yeah, you're right, Jason. I think the Democratic rank and file has a problem with it. At least they voice opposition. The Republican rank and file is fine with it. The Democrats successfully put Democrats in power in 2006 and of course Obama in 2008 in hopes of scaling back all the suffering being imposed on people of other races. Republicans resisted, running on platforms of the continuation of the racist policies.

So Republican's openly advocate racist policies and get elected on that basis. Democrats disavow racist policies in rhetoric, but implement the same racist policies in practice.
Jason Pratt said…
I think it's a stretch to say the Republican Party "openly advocates racist policies"; that isn't quite the same thing as advocating policies that inadvertently lead to racism. It isn't like Republican candidates get elected by stating things like, "Mexican people, who are only half-white at best, are naturally inferior; so if you elect me I will promote an agenda of shooting them in the head, enslaving them, or forcibly deporting them as soon as possible to improve our nation."

And so we're back to Bill's comparison. Atheists as atheists end up having to advocate doctrines (and occasionally policies from those doctrines) that will certainly involve racism--but does that mean atheists, as people, are inherently racist, or mean to be promoting racist policies? No, absolutely not.

It might mean atheism (as an ideology group) necessarily leads to racism, though, if its necessarily related precepts are coherently followed through on.

This can be illustrated again from critiquing the Republicans, if you wish. Supposing for purposes of argument everything you say about the party is true. (I'm not registered as a voter for either party, and haven't been able to muster enough confidence in any candidate to vote for them in an election since... gosh, was it Ross Perot?? Anyway...)

I can easily see how to critique them on grounds that they aren't, in effect, being Christian enough. But what atheistic grounds can we find to critique them on? The list I gave in my first comment is pretty exhaustive as grounds for (or more often only explanations for) morality if atheism is true. But the list also sounds like the kinds of things you're attributing to the Republican Party already--and critting against them for!

So again we're back to Bill's comparison, at a somewhat deeper level than the surface observation that atheists (in Western societies anyway) tend to be white males more often than not. If the goose escapes, so does the gander; whereas sauce is sauce for both just as well.

BK said…

I read your comments, but since I don't mean to turn this into a political blog I will not respond specifically despite disagreeing with what you state as fact regarding what Republicans are doing. However, I do want to respond to one aspect of what you are saying, specifically, you are saying that there is more to the accusation of racism than just the make-up of the Republicans as being majority white.

That is a good point. After all, we need to look to what the people are actually doing or saying as the means to deciding whether a group is racist. But that is not what happens. I think of Matt Taibi (Rolling Stone writer) on Anderson Cooper whose argument against Glen Beck's rally in Washington included the comeback that the crowd was "all white." So? The make up of the organization shouldn't matter. What should matter is what the organization believes. And (as JRP correctly points out) the basis of atheism is what has led to many anti-minority actions (most notably, a great argument can be made that the Holocaust was based on atheistic notions).

Regardless, my point was that too many people believe that the majority white nature of the Republican party proves its racist. However, if that's true than we need to also agree that the majority white nature of atheism means it is racist, too.
ADude said…
Look, you have objective facts and interpretation. Makeup percentages are an objective fact. Jon seems to be saying that construing from makeup is okay against the Tea Party because he interprets them to be racist, where it's not okay against atheists because he interprets them not to be racists.

But completely ignores the what the objective fact entails, and simply bathes us in the benefit of the World-According-to-Jon.

Instead a more-or-less objective fact is used to slather on ideological interpretation.

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