PanelAtheism Is Not Enough (Blogged by Courtney/Kai)

Panelists: Yemisi Ilesanmi, Kim Rippere, Kimberley Veal, Debbie Goddard, Desiree Schell, James Croft, and Jason Thibeault

Description: As proven by the deep rifts that exist within movement atheism, a common acknowledgement that there is no god is often not enough ground on which to build a coherent, lasting community. Social justice movements often encounter tipping points where they either take into account the natural allies that are other movements, or they fail. This panel will discuss how movement atheism should not be the end-point of a journey into social justice, but the beginning.

10:05 – Introductions

Debbie Goddard: CFI Outreach director, Director African Americans for Humanism

Desiree Schell: Host of Canadian radio program ‘Skeptically Speaking

James Croft: Humanist/activist with the Humanist Community of Harvard, Patheos blogger at ‘Temple of the Future’, and currently training to become a leader in the Ethical Culture Movement

Jason Thibeault: FreethoughtBlogger ‘Lousy Canuck’ (moderating)

10:20 –  Coming in a bit late to this one guys – sorry! The panelists are discussing which came first for them – social justice activism or atheism. Some really diverse stories here, and now we’re going on to how there’s pushback to intersectionality.

“If there are people out there can’t agree that women and LGBTQ people are full human beings, they aren’t part of any movement I’m a part of. Humanism is inherently intersectional.” You tell ’em James Croft!

James Croft talks about how he’d rather work with a theist who shares their social justice values than an atheist who doesn’t think women being harassed on the street every day is a problem. As long as that theist (or interfaith/theist group) is willing to work alongside us too, I agree!

Jason Thibeault reminds us that just because atheism is a social justice issue in itself, doesn’t mean that’s the only issue we should talk about. We are only hurting ourselves when we do this.

10: 30 – Kim Rippere talks about how the atheist movement has grown so much and all those people have brought in their own values. Yemisi and Kim remind us that the privileged people in the group can claim all they want that underprivileged people asking for a voice is “discrimination” but it doesn’t take away the privilege and rights they’ve always enjoyed. We just want the same rights. I don’t understand how this is still a hard concept for people to grasp.

Jason Thibeault said feminazis! Is it too early for a shot?

Desire Schell says it is far more practical when trying to build allies to take their voices seriously. If people feel they can’t be involved fully, if there are barriers to entry for underprivileged people, it is our job as a movement to make it possible for people to participate. If atheists want the movement they say they so desperately want, we must break down these barriers.

10:40 – “We need to talk to one another instead of being talked at.” – Kay Vee of Black Freethinkers.

10:50 – Kim Rippere makes a phenomenal point about asking new members “What does atheism mean to you? What are your values?” We don’t TELL them what movement atheism is. This is so key!

Kay Vee is talking about how we have to understand what is happening in certain communities if we want to appeal to those groups. Things like daycare and food distribution actually get pushback in the community! It seems to me that religious groups have this nailed down pretty (and granted, they have the funds to do so). How do we go about getting on their level, when we don’t have their funding?

11:00 – I wish I was able to post everything Yemisi said about how atheism is not an American phenomenon and it is extremely privileged to think so.

11:10 – “Recognizing privilege is very difficult and people at the top of the social hierarchy find it much more difficult to see it than people who are excluded. We need to develop better ways to educate about privilege. Part of that process is including younger activists who are more interested in a broader movement.” – James Croft nailing it, as per usual.

Shout out from Kim Rippere to FtBCon for breaking down class barriers in a super tangible way. This is something I feel so strongly about, and it’s good to see others so passionate about it as well!

11:30 – Niki (from Skepchick!) wants to know the opinion of the panel on reaching out to people without a degree. Kim talks about simply making it OK to admit you don’t have a degree! (This portion of the liveblog brought to you by someone without a degree!)

Debbie Goddard mentions that conference speakers and organizers get slammed for being or bringing in speakers who don’t have degrees, as if these people don’t deserve a voice.

11:40 – Jason Thibeault “Creationists generally don’t have a clue about reality.”

“The only thing a degree proves is that you have taken the course and that you have the money to take the course. It doesn’t prove that you necessarily internalized it correctly.” – Jason Thibeault, again talking about the classism of demanding the voices of our movements have a degree.

11:50 – Kim Rippere: “It’s not just about understanding your audience, it’s about understanding your potential audience.” This is where accessibility and diversity come in. If we want to grow our numbers, we have to broaden our scope.

Debbie Goddard talking about all the great things people on the panel have said and how she just wanted to listen. I too found it difficult to get all my thoughts down here because this panel was so interesting and engaging. I definitely recommend watching the full thing when it’s posted. Thanks to the panelists for a great conversation!