We pride ourselves, here on Atheist Nexus (and in other atheist forums), on being intelligent, rational, educated human beings. We also, in the main, abhor those religious views which lead to racism, sexism, homophobia and other irrational prejudices.
But, as we move forward from being a 'philosophical stance' into a 'movement', should we, can we, and, if so, how can we, distinguish ourselves from atheists who have abandoned belief in God, but not irrationality and bigotry.
Over the past few months it has become increasingly clear to me that, while the majority of atheists in 'the movement' are wonderful, caring, rational, liberal thinking people (and I don't mean liberal in a political sense) - some are a complete embarrassment to our cause.
My question is, should we be looking at making a distinction between the generic term 'atheists' which applies to anybody, no matter how irrational, and 'atheist movement' which, it seems to me, must incorporate a secular humanist philosophy as well as a rejection of theism if it is to stand for something positive.
I will provide four cases in point:
The first is an Australian atheist, once the leader of a (now defunct) major atheist organisation, who proudly describes himself as a misogynist. His 'about me' page on his website describes his view as follows:
"Increasingly I realized the inseparability of reason and masculinity. At the same time I could not help noticing the increasing feminization of society. The only course open to me was to attack femininity at the root. My life's work, I decided, would focus on making people aware of the shortcomings of femininity and the great benefits of masculinity."
Then, of course, there is the delightful 'atheist hip hop' artist, Charlie Check'm (soon to be interviewed on The Infidel Guy). Charlie caused a ruckus on AN with his intransigently bigoted views on homosexuals who, he believes, 'have the wrong brains'. No amount of evidence and rational argument would convince Charlie that his views were firmly rooted in religious dogma and misinformation.
Recently, I received a friend request from a fellow Australian atheist on Myspace. He had obviously noticed I was a Australian and an atheist and decided we probably shared a great deal in common. (This is usually my assumption too!) Imagine my horror when I visited his page and discovered he was a white supremacist and a member of the neo-Nazi group, Stormfront! I was further discomfited when I read the comments on his page from another atheist. They are too disgusting to repeat here, but suffice to say they were 'jokes' which included the words Jews and ovens.
Just this week an American atheist (with a prominent atheist website) was banned from the Atheist Foundation of Australia forum after he revealed his sexual fetish for degrading young girls, and his 'fantasies' about having violent sex with children and infants. Even after being warned that this was inappropriate content for the site, he could not fathom that he had done anything wrong - which gave us all severe concern about his assurances that he understood his 'boundaries'.
I am passionately behind an atheist 'cause' which pursues freedom from religion, a secular state, human rights, non-discriminatory laws, civil rights, laws based on reason - not religious dogma, and an education curriculum based on facts, not fairytales. BUT I feel most uncomfortable being part of a 'cause' which includes the kind of bigots mentioned above.
We criticized liberal Christians for not speaking out enough against fundamentalists - for making it credible by tolerating it. Should we not do the same against atheists who hold irrational and bigoted ideas?
I have no answers to this problem, but I'm convinced that, as our movement grows, it is something that we will have to grapple with.
I'd love to know what others think.