Author Topic: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies  (Read 7254 times)

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Offline SkeptiQueer

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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2018, 05:30:42 PM »
I could go through a timeline, but I'd say it's because the identity of skeptic and atheist was promoted largely by angry white men being condescending to people outside the movement. This attracted people who like to tell other they're wrong. This trend continued and at various points the communities alienated women and minority groups while attracting people who already opposed feminism and found a new way to condescend to people by saying "reason" and "logic" a bunch.
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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2018, 05:44:06 PM »
I could go through a timeline, but I'd say it's because the identity of skeptic and atheist was promoted largely by angry white men being condescending to people outside the movement. This attracted people who like to tell other they're wrong. This trend continued and at various points the communities alienated women and minority groups while attracting people who already opposed feminism and found a new way to condescend to people by saying "reason" and "logic" a bunch.

I put these as questions since it is more an attempt to see if we are on the same page as what we mean by atheism as a sub-culture; but I do believe these statements.

American atheism became mainstream again with the "Four Horsemen of the Atheist Apocalypse": Dennett, Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens? All straight white men, so it looks like there is a representation problem from the beginning. Ironically Hitches was the angriest among them, but he is the skeptical favorite? Harris is a great counterexample to this angry atheist trope and/or actual problem;  (BTW, Waking Up is good read/listen if you are interested want something secular/atheist that actually is Zen and has basically no anger in it). Harris gets pretty close to arguing that spirituality is literally real, although still by neurochemical reductionist explanation.

In other words, it kinda sounds like you are generically angry at atheists. Not for their atheism, but with hate ideology that it correlates with. Can you give us an example of atheists doing it right? Given how organized religion contributes to sexism, maybe an example of a feminist atheist that brings a new perspective?

Offline SkeptiQueer

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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2018, 05:50:12 PM »
I could go through a timeline, but I'd say it's because the identity of skeptic and atheist was promoted largely by angry white men being condescending to people outside the movement. This attracted people who like to tell other they're wrong. This trend continued and at various points the communities alienated women and minority groups while attracting people who already opposed feminism and found a new way to condescend to people by saying "reason" and "logic" a bunch.

I put these as questions since it is more an attempt to see if we are on the same page as what we mean by atheism as a sub-culture; but I do believe these statements.

American atheism became mainstream again with the "Four Horsemen of the Atheist Apocalypse": Dennett, Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens? All straight white men, so it looks like there is a representation problem from the beginning. Ironically Hitches was the angriest among them, but he is the skeptical favorite? Harris is a great counterexample to this angry atheist trope and/or actual problem;  (BTW, Waking Up is good read/listen if you are interested want something secular/atheist that actually is Zen and has basically no anger in it). Harris gets pretty close to arguing that spirituality is literally real, although still by neurochemical reductionist explanation.

In other words, it kinda sounds like you are generically angry at atheists. Not for their atheism, but with hate ideology that it correlates with. Can you give us an example of atheists doing it right? Given how organized religion contributes to sexism, maybe an example of a feminist atheist that brings a new perspective?

How do you read what i wrote and come to the conclusion that I'm angry at atheists?
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Offline daniel1948

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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #18 on: October 18, 2018, 07:36:05 PM »
With the caveat that I've mostly avoided the politics forum since the election (I mostly avoid political news now) I will say that I'm aware, because of reporting on the SGU and this forum, that there's a lot of horrible treatment of women in the skeptics community (e.g. the elevator incident and the backlash from some men against Rebecca) I have not noticed alt-right or misogynist views expressed here on the SGU forums except by one or maybe two posters who get severely criticized by everyone else.

I don't get the impression that these forums are hotbeds of misogyny or right-wing voices.

I'd think it's less likely that atheism and skepticism are gateways to the right wing than that some right-wingers are attracted to atheism and skepticism as an expression of their rejection of the mainstream. When I was active in the peace movement we sometimes had overtures from right-wing wackos who felt that our protests against war made us anti-government and therefore potential allies. (We were, and I am, not opposed to government; we were, and I am, opposed to government policies that kill people and that oppress others.)
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Online Sawyer

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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #19 on: October 18, 2018, 08:17:10 PM »
I was reading an article, recently, about the path various people took to pretty extremist, white national, and misogynist ideologies, and I was shocked how many mentioned atheism and skepticism as part of that process. It made me sad, not because I thought it was a pack of lies, but by how often I've seen this, personally. It's been disheartening to see it here, too, and in other skeptical places on-line and in the real world. There's a pretty wide swath of some very regressive and reactionary ideas about women, racialized people, queer people, and the primacy of the straight, white, cis male out there (and in here).

In retrospect, it seems inevitable, and there were definitely events and movements which for years allowed the widening of anti-minority ideas under the guise of free speech. It's hard to walk away, because I do actually believe in things like critical thinking, but in places like this there is always such a focused hatred of women by some. It's too exhausting.

I might be some SJW snowflake, but I was attracted to skepticism as a chance to question the structures which shape us, and which are demonstrably deleterious to some groups. But instead there has been an aggressive, angry pushback at women who ask for equality, even from men who call themselves feminists. Instead there has been an unquestioning repetition of talking points by those who exploit the status quo. Instead it's helped some people distill and isolate their hate into mathematical proofs. And we're probably worse off for it: Now we have angry republican uncles on-line yelling "straw man!" at any reasonable question of their president, who is clearly a criminal. 

You don't seem to have many women here, so I'll say this: Your moderation system doesn't work. It empowers people who already have power. Some of you are pretty cool, and I appreciate the words you've put in here.

Later, gaters...

I had a long rant planned out, but I'll cut it down to bare bones.

Steve has said on the podcast many times that being a skeptic is not about holding specific beliefs, values, or knowledge, but instead is about a process of critical thinking.

But that's not how you build successful communities.  Communities ARE built on common beliefs and values. When you try to build a community without those features, people with questionable values systems will quickly weasel their way in, and now you are caught trying to remove those people based on amoral/valueless standards.  It doesn't work.  You are stuck with them.  I'll also cynically note that online communities tend to attract ... well ... losers.  They put a lot of effort into aggressively forcing their viewpoints onto any community that will accept them, because they have a very hard time doing this in real life.  Again, if you don't have a clear set of behaviors, values, and philosophy that your community is built upon, you have no way to kick someone out just for being a loser.



I won't try to convince you to stick around since I offered zero solutions to your problem, but feel free to duck your head in every once in a while, even if it's just to tell someone they are being a huge asshole.   ;)

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #20 on: October 19, 2018, 12:44:22 PM »
First, skepticism and atheism are not the same thing. Most skeptics are atheists, but the reverse is certainly not true.

I don't understand this. It is "certainly not true that most atheists are skeptics"? I mean, theism is a form of magical thinking, so there is some kind of skepticism going on. BTW, how do we measure the number [scientific] skeptics? I don't believe there is any survey that counts skpetics like the Pew Religion Poll we would use for atheists/agnostic. I am not convinced that the relative size of the two groups is that different.

However, this thread does highlight the popularity of "none" label. It seems skeptics are now endorsing the narrative that atheists are cynical/mean people (the bad kind of "skeptic")? So, the literal word for "no belief in a personal God" is a bad word again—and then there were "Nones".

There is a lot of data showing that atheists are also prone to holding pseudoscientific or paranormal beliefs. Not much different from religious people in fact. It's simply not true that non-religious people are automatically scientifically inclined critical thinkers.

And I don't think that atheism is a bad word at all. I am happy to call myself an atheist. I just ackowledge the limitation of that word.
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #21 on: October 19, 2018, 12:44:56 PM »
I could go through a timeline, but I'd say it's because the identity of skeptic and atheist was promoted largely by angry white men being condescending to people outside the movement. This attracted people who like to tell other they're wrong. This trend continued and at various points the communities alienated women and minority groups while attracting people who already opposed feminism and found a new way to condescend to people by saying "reason" and "logic" a bunch.

This sounds more like a Youtube phenomenon than anything else.
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

Offline SkeptiQueer

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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #22 on: October 19, 2018, 01:00:49 PM »
I could go through a timeline, but I'd say it's because the identity of skeptic and atheist was promoted largely by angry white men being condescending to people outside the movement. This attracted people who like to tell other they're wrong. This trend continued and at various points the communities alienated women and minority groups while attracting people who already opposed feminism and found a new way to condescend to people by saying "reason" and "logic" a bunch.

This sounds more like a Youtube phenomenon than anything else.

Youtube was a big money driver, and now we've seen skeptic magazine and Peter Boghossian selling out science in favor of the hacky culture war stuff. "Youtube stuff" is where the money and the audience is.
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #23 on: October 19, 2018, 01:05:14 PM »
I was reading an article, recently, about the path various people took to pretty extremist, white national, and misogynist ideologies, and I was shocked how many mentioned atheism and skepticism as part of that process. It made me sad, not because I thought it was a pack of lies, but by how often I've seen this, personally. It's been disheartening to see it here, too, and in other skeptical places on-line and in the real world. There's a pretty wide swath of some very regressive and reactionary ideas about women, racialized people, queer people, and the primacy of the straight, white, cis male out there (and in here).

In retrospect, it seems inevitable, and there were definitely events and movements which for years allowed the widening of anti-minority ideas under the guise of free speech. It's hard to walk away, because I do actually believe in things like critical thinking, but in places like this there is always such a focused hatred of women by some. It's too exhausting.

I might be some SJW snowflake, but I was attracted to skepticism as a chance to question the structures which shape us, and which are demonstrably deleterious to some groups. But instead there has been an aggressive, angry pushback at women who ask for equality, even from men who call themselves feminists. Instead there has been an unquestioning repetition of talking points by those who exploit the status quo. Instead it's helped some people distill and isolate their hate into mathematical proofs. And we're probably worse off for it: Now we have angry republican uncles on-line yelling "straw man!" at any reasonable question of their president, who is clearly a criminal. 

You don't seem to have many women here, so I'll say this: Your moderation system doesn't work. It empowers people who already have power. Some of you are pretty cool, and I appreciate the words you've put in here.

Later, gaters...

I had a long rant planned out, but I'll cut it down to bare bones.

Steve has said on the podcast many times that being a skeptic is not about holding specific beliefs, values, or knowledge, but instead is about a process of critical thinking.

But that's not how you build successful communities.  Communities ARE built on common beliefs and values. When you try to build a community without those features, people with questionable values systems will quickly weasel their way in, and now you are caught trying to remove those people based on amoral/valueless standards.  It doesn't work.  You are stuck with them.  I'll also cynically note that online communities tend to attract ... well ... losers.  They put a lot of effort into aggressively forcing their viewpoints onto any community that will accept them, because they have a very hard time doing this in real life.  Again, if you don't have a clear set of behaviors, values, and philosophy that your community is built upon, you have no way to kick someone out just for being a loser.



I won't try to convince you to stick around since I offered zero solutions to your problem, but feel free to duck your head in every once in a while, even if it's just to tell someone they are being a huge asshole.   ;)

Says who? IMO, skepticism's unique selling point is that it is a method, not a belief-system. We don't hold beliefs dogmatically, and all our beliefs are up for questioning. Homeopathy could be shown to work. Young Earth creationism could be supported by the data. It's just that in the world we live it, it turns out not to be the case so far (and these two are incredibly unlikely to ever be so). And we should not hold political beliefs dogmatically either, or ascribe to a political party line as a whole, but rather judge each issue individually.

If you read at info pages of various Skeptics in the Pub meetings, like this, we find:

Quote
All upcoming events are listed below and the meetings are open to all whatever your beliefs and views so please, come along.

Or this:

Quote
Anyone can be a skeptic - we have atheists, agnostics, christians and a muslim in our membership list. If you are on our email database, you should get notifications of our events. The Skeptics motto is, Respect People, Challenge Ideas.

Also, I don't think skepticism is completley empty of values. Or what I mean is, skepticism is dependent on certain values, like an open democratic society in order to function properly. We know from around the world that authoritarian regimes past and present tend to suppress free inquiry, and often want to shape the worldview of their citizens in line with their ideology.

Steve, in his facets of skepticism, included:

Quote from: Steven Novella
Ideological Freedom/Free Inquiry – Science and reason can only flourish in a secular society in which no ideology (religious or otherwise) is imposed upon individuals or the process of science or free inquiry.

Carl Sagan wrote:

Quote from: Carl Sagan
Russia is an instructive case. Under the Tsars, religious superstition was encouraged, but scientific and sceptical thinking - except by a few tame scientists - was ruthlessly expunged. Under Communism, both religion and pseudoscience were systematically suppressed - except for the superstition of the state ideological religion. It was advertised as scientific, but fell as far short of this ideal as the most unself-critical mystery cult. Critical thinking - except by scientists in hermetically sealed compartments of knowledge - was recognized as dangerous, was not taught in the schools, and was punished where expressed.

Quote from: Carl Sagan
The values of science and the values of democracy are concordant, in many cases indistinguishable. Science and democracy began - in their civilized incarnations - in the same time and place, Greece in the seventh and sixth centuries BC. Science confers power on anyone who takes the trouble to learn it (although too many have been systematically prevented from doing so). Science thrives on, indeed requires, the free exchange of ideas; its values are antithetical to secrecy. Science holds to no special vantage points or privileged positions. Both science and democracy encourage unconventional opinions and vigorous debate. Both demand adequate reason, coherent argument, rigorous standards of evidence and honesty. Science is a way to call the bluff of those who only pretend to knowledge. It is a bulwark against mysticism, against superstition, against religion misapplied to where it has no business being. If we're true to its values, it can tell us when we're being lied to. It provides a mid-course correction to our mistakes. The more widespread its language, rules and methods, the better chance we have of preserving what Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues had in mind. But democracy can also be subverted more thoroughly through the products of science than any pre-industrial demagogue ever dreamed.
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

Offline SkeptiQueer

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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #24 on: October 19, 2018, 01:10:50 PM »
"These beliefs I hold are the ones compatible with skepticism" is what everyone thinks.
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #25 on: October 19, 2018, 01:12:57 PM »
With the caveat that I've mostly avoided the politics forum since the election (I mostly avoid political news now) I will say that I'm aware, because of reporting on the SGU and this forum, that there's a lot of horrible treatment of women in the skeptics community (e.g. the elevator incident and the backlash from some men against Rebecca) I have not noticed alt-right or misogynist views expressed here on the SGU forums except by one or maybe two posters who get severely criticized by everyone else.

Am I included in there? It was implied a few months back that I was being bigotted to Muslims for disputing the claim that Morocco is super-tolerant of atheists, with human rights sources verifying my view. This is why I am somewhat dubious of the claim of the OP. Even criticizing an authoritarian regime gets you branded as a bigot on this forum. Talk about inflation of the meaning of words.
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #26 on: October 19, 2018, 01:15:48 PM »
"These beliefs I hold are the ones compatible with skepticism" is what everyone thinks.

That's part of the point of being part of a community. Individually we are prone to biases and quirks. In groups, we have a much better chance of detecting errors in our thinking. This is partially why science is a collaborative effort.
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

Offline moj

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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #27 on: October 19, 2018, 01:33:41 PM »
With the caveat that I've mostly avoided the politics forum since the election (I mostly avoid political news now) I will say that I'm aware, because of reporting on the SGU and this forum, that there's a lot of horrible treatment of women in the skeptics community (e.g. the elevator incident and the backlash from some men against Rebecca) I have not noticed alt-right or misogynist views expressed here on the SGU forums except by one or maybe two posters who get severely criticized by everyone else.

Am I included in there? It was implied a few months back that I was being bigotted to Muslims for disputing the claim that Morocco is super-tolerant of atheists, with human rights sources verifying my view. This is why I am somewhat dubious of the claim of the OP. Even criticizing an authoritarian regime gets you branded as a bigot on this forum. Talk about inflation of the meaning of words.

What claims are you dubious about? It took 6 post in this thread for alt-righter to start making fun of her. You don't have to look hard or far here to find exactly what she is talking about.

Offline SkeptiQueer

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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #28 on: October 19, 2018, 07:21:00 PM »
"These beliefs I hold are the ones compatible with skepticism" is what everyone thinks.

That's part of the point of being part of a community. Individually we are prone to biases and quirks. In groups, we have a much better chance of detecting errors in our thinking. This is partially why science is a collaborative effort.
But that assumes the community is actually formed around and populated by people interested in first examining their own beliefs and then also the ideas of the world around them. If that's not the case and instead the community is attracting people who are attracted by the idea of being smart and special and telling people they're wrong, then you don't get that.
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Re: Atheism and skepticism as gateways to alt-right ideologies
« Reply #29 on: October 19, 2018, 07:45:09 PM »
"These beliefs I hold are the ones compatible with skepticism" is what everyone thinks.

Where applicable, the self-awareness what one is thinking is unskeptical can actually be a great relief.