About a month ago Rebecca Watson put into words something I’d been thinking myself. Women’s rights are not being taken as a series priority by the secular movement in this country. I’ll go further and say that LGBT rights and racial equality are also not being taken as seriously as they ought to be. Rebecca asked “Why aren’t more of the big secular organizations decrying what’s happening?” I have an idea why, and it has to do with privilege. Straight, white, male privilege. The skeptic movement is overwhelmingly straight, white, male, and economically comfortable - and that is a problem.
Some secularists claim that “politics” are outside the scope of our movement. That’s an easy out, but is plainly not true. The secular movement should and does insert itself into political debates on issues like creationism in school and climate change denial. (Though we all know that lots of secularists edge-toward and occasionally embrace climate change denial.) Why is the activism so tepid on these issues? Abortion right are being attacked with lies and pseudo-science. The fight for equal rights for homosexual men and women is being undercut by ridiculous counter-rational claims that influence public perceptions of the issue. Racist lies are spread to influence public sentiment for political ends. What’s more, all of these distortions of fact and science are being perpetrated by the same people who want to deny climate change and tear down the wall between church and state. Battering them on one side while ignoring their other assaults doesn’t sound like an effective strategy to me.
The secular movement picks and chooses it’s causes, just like any other movement. We ignore these issues at our peril. The war on women and gays is a clear and present danger to freedom in this country and is a major front in the campaign to turn our country (and you people outside the US, they’re coming for you next) into a theocratic cess-pit. We ignore it at our peril. What’s more, not defending our fellow human beings from lies, distortions, and attacks on their civil rights and dignity makes us unworthy of the “Humanist” label we wear so proudly.
Our movement is, with notable exceptions (some in prominent positions), a straight, white, and male movement. Many of us are blinded by the privilege given us by society. We fail to see the danger when it is not directed at us. We need to rise above our assumptions and social blindness and open this new front in our campaign against unreason. It is the moral thing to do, it uses the tactics skepticism is all about combating, and it is a battle against an enemy we are already fighting.
In coming months I plan to elaborate on all of this. I think this is an important fight and I think that the secular movement as a whole - not just the self identified progressives, liberals, and feminists - needs to needs to join it. Protecting people’s rights against irrational fear and confusion is more important than disproving the claims of fraudulent psychics.