Yesterday, I quit the atheist group Freethought Dayton. As I often do with this sort of thing, I'm going to recap why.
Alas, none of it will have the . . . vigor of my debacles in Miami! No guy lying about how he had seventy bachelor's degrees and the government had to "bring him back" because of what was in his head. No stories of murder-suicide. It was much more pedestrian than that - plain old-fashioned racism.
I will admit I am quite intolerant of racism. Fairly normal, acceptable levels of racism leave me sick to my soul. I think no racism should be acceptable! Broadly speaking, I live up to this.
In particular, I was at an event and people were tossing out bullshit, racist comments about Muslims (which is the most acceptable form of racism allowed in the US, right now). One person said that Muslims were only interested in technology if it could be used to kill . . . this infuriated me. He was talking about people whose homes were invaded who have cobbled together a few bombs . . . fighting the most comprehensive and technologically advanced military that has ever existed. The US spends about half the world's military budget every year but it's Muslims who are in love with weapons technology! It was absurd.
Another dude said that Muslims stopped thinking after the year 1500 and all intellectual and moral virtues passed to the West (which they also asserted was somehow different than "the Christian world" . . . it made no sense to me, either). Again, infuriating. We think of Muslims as racist . . . but this dude is German. There are people who are still living who remember being locked in concentration camps. For Westerns, with our elaborate, multi-century history of genocide, conquest and colonization to believe that we are in some fashion morally superior to Muslims since 1500 is the intellectual position of a . . . well, racist. Indeed, I find it very hard to assert that we're morally superior now, given how many missiles we fire into whatever country we want and how often we get into wars based on thin lies.
That same guy had mentioned something nasty about Muslims every time I saw him. He seemed to be looking for the chance to talk shit about them.
When I mentioned that was racism, they asserted "Islam isn't a race!" Since one of the common definitions of race is a group of people united by culture, language and religion, I beg to differ. I mean, right then, I said, "It is common to refer to Islamophobia as a form of racism." I further said that I had no interest in arguing the semantics of bigotry - even if Islamophobia isn't according-to-Hoyle racism (hint: it is, this is particularly true because almost all Muslims aren't white), it's a vicious form of bigotry - which is the problem regardless of the name, that they were telling ignorant lies about a huge, diverse group of people in order to smear them and make it easier to hate them.
They also asserted that Richard Dawkins isn't racist, despite his support for guys like Geert Wilder and his numerous examples of hate speech against Muslims.
Taken together, the group is racist. Of course, they will deny that - "Islam isn't a race!" they will chant, covering their ears in case some information slips inside - but all racists deny it! The KKK denies it! Nazis deny it! While they're not as bad as the KKK, they're still pretty darn racist.
It is also somewhat ironic, as Islamophobia is derived and sustained primarily by reactionary Christians! Nietzsche said that god is dead but we will live for centuries in his shadow - this is what it looks like. It looks like atheists, without consideration, enacting the principles of the very people they claim to reject. (Pro tip: the reason why you want to acknowledge that the West is also the Christian world is that it helps you to see where your thinking is influenced by religious biases you consciously reject. It's the same reason you should acknowledge that advertising works on you, so you can better observe its action on you with a mind to preventing it.)
(I didn't stay in the group to see what I figure will be a pretty big splurge of racism this coming weekend. Freethought Dayton - which is run altogether by white people, which is almost entirely white - has a table at a local African-American cultural festival. A bunch of white dudes will be trying to convince black people to be more like them! As far as I could tell, none of them understood the cultural history of African-Americans and their relationship with churches - that from slave days, the church was the one place where they could go and NOT be watched by their overseers and masters. It was the one place in all the world they could go to be safely black. Lacking this kind of historical context - and it's not like I'm going to be there to tell it to them, now - I can only imagine that they'll come off as a bunch of patronizing crackers telling the Negroes how they're getting it all wrong. It is my understanding that black people in America have seen quite a lot of this.)
Additionally, man, atheists are assholes. I've noticed this whenever they get together - almost all of them seem bound and determined to prove they're the smartest person in the room. Since no one knows everything, they often come off as real tools, speaking about things about which they have no knowledge because they can't stand the idea that someone, somewhere knows something they don't. It's tedious.
It is also one of my bigger problems with a lot of religions - that show of utterly certainty, the inability to admit that maybe your book written in the Iron Age isn't 100% up to the challenges of the modern world, and the constant assertions that they're right and everyone else is wrong. It's another way atheists are living in the shadow of god. Until they learn to say "I dunno", they'll be perpetrating the same kinds of intellectual mummery as Christians. Admittedly, about somewhat fewer things, but it'll still be there, poisoning the well for people like me. I could have tolerated that if not for the racism, though.
Anyway, that's my review of Dayton Freethought. While there are some good people there, there are too many racists for my taste - a culture that tolerates xenophobia and Islamophobia, and many members who express both.