Sunday, July 31, 2016

Atheist Intersectionality: The Many Hats We Wear

I was just recently thinking about atheist intersectionality: how atheism intersects with my gender, race, place of origins, my politics, ethics, economic philosophy, and views on sexuality. Additionally, the question of whether my atheism should affect my views on these things is an open question. I was inspired by intersectional feminism, which a lot of people, mostly feminists, like talk about. The idea of applying intersectionality itself to other things is a wonderful philosophical venture and one I want to explore here.

We all 'wear many hats' so to speak, and some of these hats are more important to us than others for various reasons. Atheism is very important to me in how I identify myself overall, but depending on the situation, other hats I wear are more important. I want to explore the relationships between these various identities I have with atheism. So let me start by listing some of the many hats I wear as part of my identity. In no particular order:

Atheist: I am an atheist in that I do not believe any gods exist. An atheist is someone who lacks a belief in any gods existing. This is what I like to call bare minimum atheism. It is the minimum requirement for one to properly be called an atheist as I define it. One can go further and declare they know god doesn't exist, but it isn't necessary. I've been an atheist or agnostic all of my life, and I wear the identity proudly, although I'm not always wearing it on my sleeve. You could technically classify me as a moderate atheist on this scale.

Anti-theist: Not only am I an atheist, I go a step further and say I'm an anti-theist. An anti-theist is an atheist who opposes religious belief. Not all atheists are anti-theists. Most atheists are more or less indifferent to religion. I was inspired by the New Atheism movement to oppose religious belief and dedicate myself to decreasing religiosity in the world and increasing secularism and atheism. It is an extremely important motivating factor in my life.

Determinist: I am a determinist in the sense that I reject the notion of libertarian free will and I think that everything in the universe that happens is inevitable given the initial conditions in the big bang. In this view if you were to rewind the universe back to the big bang and play it again, you'd get the same exact results and events every time you did so, ad infinitum. This you can say is part of my metaphysical worldview.

Epiphenominalist: I am an epiphenominalist in that I think whatever the mind is, it is ultimately caused or explained by something going on in the brain. Understanding the brain will most likely unlock the mystery of consciousness, although it is certainly possible a full understanding of the brain will not resolve the hard problem of consciousness. As an epiphenominalist, I reject substance dualism in the sense of dualistic interactionism.

Eternalist: I am an eternalist whose ontology includes all moments of time existing at different areas of spacetime. In this metaphysical worldview the universe is basically a block that is composed of all of spacetime laid out.

Ethical Naturalism: I am an ethical naturalist in the sense that I do think at least some ethical sentences express propositions, some of which are true due to objective features of the world, which most likely (as I see it) are not fully reducible to non-moral features of the world but rather emerge from them. This means I accept that certain higher level functions emerge from, and supervene upon the lower, more fundamental ontologies. I do however reject moral realism in that I do not think moral values are things that exist independently of space and time.

Left leaning Independent Populist: I generally lean left politically and economically although I don't think liberals have all the right answers. On social issues I am generally progressive and liberal leaning. On economics I favor views aimed at reducing income inequality, and that seek the best interests of regular working people under a view called compassionate capitalism.

American: I am an American in the sense that I am a citizen of the US for one thing, but I agree with the basic principles of freedom that this country was founded on, regardless of the fact they weren't fully put to practice by the founders. America is based on a principle, not an ethnicity. I do think however that we as a species should evolve past the notion of having nationality as an important identifying hat we wear.

New Yorker: I am a born and raised New Yorker and in New York is where I feel at home. I grew up surrounded by people of all different cultures, national origins, religions, and backgrounds and it is what I'm used to. In some ways I live and breath New York. I love its culture, the people, the vibe, its atmosphere. I'm do wear my New York pride on my sleeve on occasion and New York is a big part of who I am.

Implementation Specialist: At my job I wear the title of an implementation specialist. What I do is basically set up all the technical needs my clients have when they join my company. It is a job I did not directly go to school for, but kind of landed on my lap. I personally enjoy my job. It is not my dream job, but it is relatively low stress, it comes with many awesome perks, and it allows me to do many of the things I'd do for free while I'm getting paid for it. What I do for a living in my view has a relatively low level of importance in terms of how it defines me.

Eurasian: I am half European and half Asian racially. Growing up in America has definitely lead me to identify with more strongly with the European side of my cultural complexion, however, I generally see myself as raceless. I do not strongly identify with any particular race and I think we as a species should evolve past the notion of having race as an important identifying hat we wear.

Male: I am a cis gendered heterosexual male. I identify as male, I feel comfortable being a male, I'd rather be a male than a female, but like race and nationality above, I think society should move towards a post-racial and post-gender society where we care little about race and gender and we're all seen as just people. I think that is the inevitable trajectory of humanity and I think the faster we can bring that about, the better.

So that is but a few of the many identifying hats I wear. Depending on the context, one may be more emphasized over the other. But how do they all intersect with atheism? And should they? Well I don't think they all do, nor should they. My atheism hardly effects, it seems to me, my economic views, and I think atheism itself makes no definitive claim on fiscal policy or the nature of markets. When it comes to my metaphysics like determinism or eternalism, I'd have to accept those things on the evidence regardless of whether there is a god or not. One area my atheism did effect is in my attitudes towards Islam and the issues we're having with it. I used to be a Michael Moore leftist about 12 years ago and I would have sided with leftists like him on issues related to Islamic terrorism, but the New Atheism phenomena changed my views on religion, and in particular, Islam, quite a lot. I began to see religion more as a menace to society and to progress, and not as some joke that could easily be dismissed. New Atheism turned me into an anti-theist.

My gender and race it seems to me are hardly effected by my atheism. Yes there are much more atheist males than females, so perhaps my maleness makes it easier for me to be an atheist. And yes, there are much more white atheists in the US than any other race, and so being half white I suppose makes it easier for me to be an open atheist, but I personally don't think this has a tremendous effect. My ethical views are definitely informed by my atheism. I reject divine command theory and natural law theory and my atheism plays a big part in that. My view is that ethics is something that exists or emerges naturally once you have sentient life just like rights do. No god required. So atheist intersectionality is something I'm only just now beginning to explore and I will most certainly be writing about it more in the future.

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