I intend this to be a semi-short post, as it is just something that has been on my mind lately, but nothing that I will pretend to be original. It really annoys me that some atheists feel comfortable with using the language and ideas of social justice movements to point out that there is pronounced Religious–specifically Christian–privilege in the US, but then failing to use the same reasoning to point out male or straight or white or cis, etc, privilege in the US as well. Even worse is that when you point such things out those atheists often get dismissive and/or hostile. Male privilege in the US, or Dawkins-forbid, Atheism? No way–especially in Atheism. We are the enlightened bunch, right?
Of course, the idea that women have full equality in the US, much less in Atheism, is just silly, and I am not going to waste time or space here attempting to demonstrate why I say that. Those who deny the existence of male privilege will deny any facts I bring up, and those who accept the idea don’t need me to produce more facts. What I will say is that atheism is really missing out when they do not accept feminism and related movements(let’s call it “Intersectional Feminism” or IF. I did not think of this name myself). The reason they are missing out is because they are right in pointing out religious privilege in the US, but they could craft a much more powerful, effective, and true message if they tied religious privilege into the IF thinking.
For instance, merely pointing out the religious oppression aspect of anti-abortion movements misses out on all the other aspects of what motivates it. It is more than just the privilege of fundamentalist religion, it is oppression of women, of people of color, of poor people, etc. If you want to fight against anti-abortion movements, why only attack it from one angle when you can attack from many? You not only craft a much more effective message, but you tap into the vast literature surrounding the issue, and into the vast resources of people who are already fighting that fight. Even other more narrowly atheist issues like church-state separation, or creationism being taught in public schools, have other social justice aspects of it that one can tap into.
Now, to be clear, the most important thing about atheist denial of other social justice realities is that it does real harm, by propagating those forms of oppression, and by neglecting to fight against them. That said, I think that another important point to bring up is that not only is it intellectually inconsistent to use social justice tools and thinking in atheism and deny other forms of privilege and oppression, but that Atheism is really missing out on stuff that can advance their own goals much further. I am glad to see that there are many who do get this, but I wish it were more.