Monday, August 11, 2014

"Socially liberal" a disguise for white male privilege?

In regards to politics, there have been some atheists who describe themselves as "socially liberal, but economically conservative." I've had some concerns as to what that means. It seems there are a lot of atheists who are on board with LGBT rights, but other social issues (women's rights, racism, and income inequality, as some examples) seem to be less important. It has me a bit concerned, then, that these people have come to think that being on board with LGBT rights is all they need to be "socially liberal." Worse, they seem to be wearing this as though it were some sort of badge of honor. That is perhaps what bothers me most! They seem to flaunt being ahead of the curve on LGBT issues to show that atheists can be moral. But, I'm sorry, if one wants to show the morality of atheists, they're going to have to do better than that.

A recent post on Daylight Atheism about LGBT rights thriving while women's choice suffers got me thinking that this may be more about white male privilege than LGBT rights. In that post, Adam Lee had linked to a Daily Beast post on the same subject. There, the author points out that LGBT rights are not near as big of a threat to male privilege (no reference to skin color in that article) as women's rights. A commenter on the Daylight Atheism post went a step furhter, pointing out that the LGBT community includes white men. The thought here being that these men are privileged in nearly every way possible, particularly those who are wealthy. The one area holding them back is sexual orientation. Get rid of that as an area of privilege, and they'll have more of it.

Given that being "economically conservative" these days primarily translates* into "fuck the poor," I can't help but have the concern that the "socially liberal" aspect basically stops at white gay guys. (Women and people of color are then, sadly, only getting benefits here as a matter of consequence.) There are a lot of atheists who are misogynists, so that makes it hard to be optimistic, even though these atheists tend to be more reasonable about women's issues.

* For those not in the know, the claim is typically that being "economically conservative" means being against big government spending. However, few of the people who label themselves as such seem to have any problem with military spending. The spending items that get the biggest focus seem to be those that assist the poor, programs that are often referred to as "welfare."

Well...this is interesting. I had basically written this post by Friday when I attended the local atheist social. One person there used damn near those exact words. What timing!

I wasn't able to get in a word — I'm just not aggressive enough to cut off any other speakers — but where the conversation led interested me a bit. Actually, it seemed like more disappointment. A couple others, all white dudes, seemed to be in generally agreement, with one putting it that "[the Republicans] left us." I find that rather interesting. The religious right probably began gaining influence in that party way back in the 1950's with McCarthyism and the Red Scare. Democrats who didn't like civil rights for African Americans switched their party affiliation back in the 1960's. Regan was endorsing the Evangelicals back in 1980. A couple of these men can't be much older than me. So what are they talking about? That train left the station a looooong time ago. It's way past time to be thinking about getting on board.

Then again, that's what scares me. The attitude suggests that that train they're concerned about didn't leave all that long ago. So, if the GOP was just a bit more atheist and science friendly, they'd be back on board? But that would still leave a party that's racist.

I guess what I'm ultimately getting at is that there is a reason the Republican left these white dudes. It embraced the Evangelicals for a reason. I propose that reason to be that it is a tribalistic party. It doesn't care about people in general; it cares about only certain people that it considers its tribe. Now, since it doesn't have a mind of its own, that means the tribe itself gets to define who is in the tribe. And atheists have been kicked out almost entirely.

But when I hear these attitudes, I can't help but hear people who want to be admitted back into the club for their own benefit, and people who don't mind a club that is still going to be pretty exclusionary to other people. Fuck that. I want nothing to do with people like this.

What I want even less a part in is a community of atheists who put on a facade of being inclusive because they support the LGBT community.

Lastly, I saw last week an article about California libertarians. Not necessarily atheists, but these are again people who are claiming to be "socially liberal." A part of that article raised my eyebrows where it said, "Despite personal politics that might seem more in tune with Democrats...these millennials say they are more comfortable with Republicans’ emphasis on freedom than Democrats’ penchant for regulation." So...they don't like having environmental protections in place? (Maybe those aren't the regulations they mean, but this is a problem with painting with a broad brush.) Once again, this seems little more than a "fuck the poor" message. The areas discussed that could be considered socially liberal were pot legalization and LGBT rights; areas that benefit those who are already privileged. Once again, that these also benefit those of less privilege seems more of a consequence than the goal.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Why beliefs matter, quite simply.

I can't believe this didn't come to me sooner. I suppose, in my shock in the naivete of those who would promote the idea that it's not a big deal what people believe, my mind engaged in education mode. But I know many of these people I encounter don't really need an education. I know they're not actually as naive as they appear.

So, why do beliefs matter? Well, if one were to want to build a better airplane, beliefs about physics matter. The more accurately one understands physics, the more likely they will be able to build that better airplane. The same goes for other subject matters as well. In short, the better one understands reality, the more likely they will be able to build that better airplane.

What if instead we're trying to build is a better world? (Or a better society? Or however you wish to phrase this?) Why wouldn't the same rules apply? I see no reason why they would not. So, once again, the better understanding one has of reality, the more likely they will succeed at building that better world.

So if you still think that it's fine for people to believe what they want to believe, then I am left to assume one of two things:
a) You disagree with my assessment above that a better understanding of reality improves the odds of one being successful at engineering. If that's the case, I'd love to hear why.
b) You're not interested in building a better world. Well, that's your prerogative, not mine. That is probably all that needs to be said about this.