Getting out of the Basement and Treehouse – By Kim Rippere

Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Featured, Guest Post, Thoughts | 4 comments

Guest post by Kim Rippere.

 I am on a blogging hiatus for a couple of weeks so I can concentrate on a larger project, which I’m sure you all will enjoy. In the meantime, I have invited a bunch super-smart authors, bloggers, vloggers, writers, clowns, and people with other interests to submit work here, just so the blog doesn’t stagnate. I hope you enjoy them. This piece was submitted by Kim Rippere, atheist, feminist and secularist. She runs a blog over at Kim’s Twitter account is @ActivistAtheist. Go look her up!

Martin S Pribble

What do those not in the atheist or secular “movement” think of it?

“They are just guys who are still in their mother’s basement.”

“They are boys protecting their treehouse.”

Whether this is reality or not; this *is* the perception. While I don’t agree to the blanket statement that perception is reality; it is true, in my experience, regarding human interaction and communication. If our goal is to make change, we must face up to how we are perceived and work to become more professional, effective, and mature. Nonsecular organizations have no desire to partner or collaborate with organizations and people that are immature and act without considering, without talking with partners, and without a plan.

To get a place at the table, we have to be perceived a worthy partners. If we are not at the table we cannot create change. Without change, theocracies and dominionism looms throughout the world. We cannot rise up from our collective disenfranchisement and shed religious apartheid without strong organizations that are viewed favorably both from the atheist/secular community and from the wider communities in which we live.

Consternation over what it means to be an atheist activist remains at the forefront of the movement’s internal debates(i). How can this be? This is a burning question? Honestly, it could not matter less to me. Not knowing about this searing debate; remarkably, I choose @ActivistAtheist as my twitter name! I am an activist and an atheist; I manifest these through work in secularism. End of discussion. Does any answer to this question help with making the political and cultural landscape into something more accepting of atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, secularists, and our ideals? No? Move on to something that does.

What does Paul Fidalgo think? “The atheist blogosphere, once perhaps the movement’s sharpest and most agile tool for spreading its message, has, in this writer’s opinion, largely turned inward, submerging itself in a morass of internal squabbles over academic questions and perceived slights.”(ii) Can we get out of the basement and the treehouse and focus on making change? I hope so.

One of my first reactions to atheist and secular community activism was that we have an expectation of intellectual rigor and honesty from religious folks; but have no such expectation for our own community.

I wrote a blog about an event and remarked that it was impossible to get anyone on the phone and that it look literally weeks to get a return call. A friend suggested that I not post the blog as it might be taken poorly and that I might be ostracized from the organization! Of course, just like the “bad speaker list” many in the community know about the problem with this organization. We just are unwilling to talk about it.

As for the “bad speaker list;” it is a list that is shared between women speakers. It is a list of male speakers that sexually harass women speakers! How can it be that virtually all the women speakers at Women in Secularism knew about this list and yet felt like they couldn’t say something aloud? Where is the rigor, where is the accountability?

“Someone was hurt before you, wronged before you, hungry before you, frightened before you, beaten before you, humiliated before you, raped before you… yet, someone survived… You can do anything you choose to do.” – Maya Angelou

What do you choose? What should atheist and secular organizations choose?

i Fidalgo, Paul (2012-01-28). Under the Stained Glass Ceiling: Atheists’ Precarious Place in Modern American Politics (Kindle Location 15). . Kindle Edition.

ii Fidalgo, Paul (2012-01-28). Under the Stained Glass Ceiling: Atheists’ Precarious Place in Modern American Politics (Kindle Locations 42-44). . Kindle Edition.

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  1. For all their inward-looking critiques, I’d argue the focus of activist bloggers (let’s namedrop Greta Christina and Edwina Rogers) remains primarily on advocating changes to state laws, not their group’s bylaws etc.
    Presumably any lack of momentum with affecting change has something to do with our current circle-of-concern being far wider than our current circle-of-influence. Lobbying for law-changes without a bankroll (nor friends in high places) seems not to be particularly conducive to regular updates. Yet don’t expect any blogosphere to fall silent whilst bloggers still have concerns…

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  2. Interesting post Kim.  I too have thought long and hard on the topic of atheist activist, as I consider myself as such.  I have come to the conclusion (though admit it is open to revision) that there is a place for all types of activists.  I think the work of groups like the Secular Coalition for America and the FFRF has done and is doing some great work.  I think that many bloggers who are calm and rational do some great work.  I also think that there is a place for the more strident activist.  There are some activists out there, say Tim Minchin, who push the envelope in a different way.  In short, there is probably a place for everyone and there are probably many methods that will be effective. 
    To me the key is knowing who the audience is and what type of activism will accomplish the intended goal.  Some activists may be better with certain groups and some with others.  (Think Minchin’s tactics would not be effective while lobbying a politician, but may be effective on a college campus).  At my site I find that often wear all sorts of different hats but try to live by one rule.  I respect people, but not necessarily ideas.  The exceptions I make to this rule are for public figures and leaders.  If people like Cardinal Dolan, Pope Benedict, Rick Santorum, etc are going to make their many offensive statements in public I do not feel that they are entitled to my respect.  Perhaps I am wrong to make that distinction but I have no hesitation to call Santorum a moron, but would most likely not use that term if a neighbor said the same thing.  I would certainly disagree with my neighbor and we could have a chat, but I realize calling him a moron will most likely not get me anywhere.  Different hats for different people.
    As far as the male speakers list…I do not see how any convention could knowingly invite someone like that to speak.  It is wrong and should be stopped.  I do not know how to make that happen as the only atheist conventions I hold involve me, my wife, and our dog and one of our cats (the other is a theist)…
    Great post.  It really gives us something to think about.

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    •  @reasonbeingblog You are so right…
      Though wrt those “morons”, I think those politico-religious leaders often get let off far too easily when we focus on their intelligence. We mustn’t forget that they ought to be ousted form their post because of their self-righteous, one-eyed, hardhearted, lack of compassion. Not their modest academic abilities.

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  3. Like many other criticisms from the faithful, it is difficult to prove or disprove their claims. They believe that hammering claims which may have no basis in reality are more likely to be true if they keep asserting them; that’s faith for you — it promotes people to commit actions without justified cause.

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