Daylight Atheism, American Atheists, and Friendly Atheist, among others, all about how to open up atheism to a more diverse crowd. Women, blacks, parents, the poor – these people are traditionally left out of atheist conversations, and there’s a much-needed movement to include them. But one crucial area is still overlooked to an alarming degree: disability.sts generally claim to support creating an inclusive space where people of every background can feel welcome. For example, a web search for “diversity in atheism” returns posts from
Unfortunately, the message many of us are sending out (even if unintentionally) is: if your mind or body is configured differently than mine, you’re not welcome here. Which is a shame, because I know many people with autism, hearing impairments, PTSD, reduced mobility, schizophrenia, etc, some of them as good friends and terrific contributors to the community. Here are a few comments I’ve read recently in atheist spaces. I’m not interested in mud-slinging, so I’m not linking to the sources, though Google probably renders my caution irrelevant:
We as humanists have the opportunity to show everyone that we can have superior ethics and morals without god or religion. One way we can do this is to stick up for the dignity and rights of all people, regardless of race, gender, class, sexuality, ability, etc. This includes people with disabilities, both physical and mental (which are really one and the same *glares at dualists*). It is a basic humanist value that all people, including people with disabilities, deserve dignity and respect. Not all people have the “standard model” brain, and a lot of those people are proud atheists and need the support of a freethinking community, so here are a few ways we can begin:
1. Recognize and discourage use of ableist slurs. These include “retarded”, “lame”, “idiot”, “crip”, “insane”, etc. Why? Because these words still are being used as slurs against the disabled, and have not been “reclaimed” by the disabled, so they are not our words to use. To use “idiot” [or any slur] as an insult is to say that this word can be used to degrade you, because being that identity is degrading.equate an identity with an insult.And in case you’re wondering which words to use instead for biting criticisms, I like to go with “wrong”. Or when I’m getting creative, “dangerously wrong” or “bogus” or “transparent” or any number of words which don’t
2. Understand that taking steps to include people with disabilities is good for everyone. Anyone who has mobility impairments will have a very difficult time feeling included. Meeting in a loud or crowded space can be difficult for those with hearing impairments or autism spectrum conditions. Meeting at an expensive or out-of-the way location can also exclude people with disabilities on a limited income (as they are more likely to be unable to find and keep a high-paying job). If we keep these things in mind, it improves meeting conditions for people without disabilities as well. Realistically, we’re all going to experience a disability at some point in our lives, excepting the small flat-out spontaneously dropping dead.
3. Be willing to stick your neck out for people with disabilities. Trying to create change isn’t always easy or comfortable to everyone – if it were, people would already be doing it! For example, I myself am not disabled and I don’t appear to be disabled. This means I have the privilege to chose to ignore ableist actions in the world around me without being negatively affected by them. But to me, humanism is about creating a better world for all of us, even if it involves more of a struggle to those of us with more resources.
Is this list complete? By no means, but hopefully it is the beginning of a more open and honest look at the inner workings of our communities, both online and in meatspace.