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Abner Cadaver

Mmm, barbecue.

I think part of this might be a poorly (or not at all) thought out pragmatism: atheism is generally seen as less acceptable than being queer, still. By openly embracing the nontheist community, the LGBT community is associating with an unpopular group that discourages the (much larger) religious groups they gush over the support of. The benefits of uniting with nontheists are less than the costs of alienating the religious. But I doubt that's a calculated and considered view, but something that if brought to light - with posts like yours - can quickly fall apart.

Headbhang

Great piece, Greta. I've been submerged in the atheist community for quite a while already, and I can attest that it is about as LGBT-friendly as it can get without being queer itself. So much, that now that I've recently awakened to my own bisexuality I haven't really even felt any need to go anywhere else in need of acceptance.
Because of this, I didn't have a good idea of the attitude of the queer community to the atheist one until I started reading your blog. I must say I was rather surprised, since I expected a larger overlap and cohesiveness. How can queers still pander to religion when most major ones would have us sent to hell?

Iztok

As an atheist it was always perplexing to me how people would judge others not on their personal merit but based on who they were (as in group they've identified with - i.e. gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, atheist, Christian, Muslim etc...) for some reason their religious, sexual, political etc. orientation was defining them and others above and beyond it ever should.

Thanks Greta for this great article. As a human I feel I need to stand up for the minorities and those whose individual rights are being trampled upon (such as LGBT community) but as a member of atheist community I hardly feel any reciprocity from any in this regard. Not that it is required, I will continue to support other communities despite that there is no reciprocity. It doesn't change the fact that it is the right thing to do.

Larro

http://wordsofwrath.blogspot.com/2005/08/god-of-homophobes.html

Sparky

I’m going to make some guess work here (being British, non-religious tends to be the norm more than the more-than-a-little-scary overt religiosity America ‘enjoys’) I think part of it is that we court those we need to convince. At its base, and no matter what people claim to the contrary - homophobia is by far and away caused by or rooted in religion. As such, atheists are generally a lot less homophobic (in my experience) and any atheist organisations can be pretty much guaranteed to be allies on some level. It’s kind of like the way the Democrat party in America is accused of taking blacks and hispanics for granted - they know they are pretty much going top get the support automatically, so they don’t go out their way

So it goes with GBLT groups and atheist groups

Oh gods this is getting long

Sparky

I think a second front is that, sadly, the religious groups of America are much much more numerous and more powerful than the atheist ones. They’re also much more focused on gay issues (not say that atheist groups don’t pay attention to them - but it’s not one of their hugest priorities - naturally). The religious right seems to spend far more time thinking about hot gay sex than I do as a gay man, only abortion seems to throw the gay sexing into second place. In short - the religious groups are a major issue (and, much as I tend to avoid inflammatory language - a major enemy) of GBLT groups.

Which brings me to point 3. Praising a religious group for not being complete arseholes to us is not about the novelty value or praising an ally. Not really. It’s about proving a point and poking the other religious groups which still would much rather us all crawl under a hole and die somewhere. It’s about striking a blow and turning the tide against a very very large and powerful force that wants us gone (the varying degrees to which they want us gone - dead, ‘changed,’ second class citizens or deeply closeted are all depressing).


Sparky

Does that excuse the shoddy treatment GBLT movements give to atheist movements? No. It explains it, but it doesn’t excuse it. It’s all to easy to take an ally for granted - and it’s wrong. Allies are with us, allies fight for us, these allies help make our lives safe and liveable - they deserve praise and respect for that and failing to do so is an insult.


Last comment I promise. And I apologise for the spammage - damn I need to learn how not to ramble

Jennifurret

I'm a straight female atheist, and I've blogged about homosexually many times. Here's my favorite:

Natural Sexuality - A satire of the "homosexuality isn't natural" argument using bizarre sex examples from the animal kingdom.

People ask me if I'm pro-gay rights because I have so many gay friends. No, I have so many gay friends because I'm pro-gay rights.

penn

I love the parable, Greta, but I think it's actually a little worse than that. In the parable the father recognizes that the other son has always been there with him and says that everything he has is his. The other son isn't actually taken for granted by the father, which fits the analogy with god.

The atheist movement really is taken for granted by the LGBT community. After victories for LGBT rights, atheists aren't even on the radar of people to thank or credit. I think you make a good point that atheists don't require outreach, and that we're often looked over out of ignorance as well.

But, another major reason could be that leaders of the LGBT community feel that openly associating with atheists would hurt their long term goals. It makes it too easy for religious bigots to write off gays and lesbians as immoral heathens. Why else would they hang out with atheists? They buy the commonly held belief that religion is necessary for morality, therefore they point and shout every time a religious group validates them.

In the end it comes down to can the endorsement of atheists help the moral argument for gay rights?

Blake Stacey

"But, another major reason could be that leaders of the LGBT community feel that openly associating with atheists would hurt their long term goals."

Supposing they feel that way and it sounds plausible enough to consider as a hypothesis, I think then they're confusing short-term and long-term political goals. Glad-handing religious groups so that marriage-equality laws get passed in more stats? That's short-term. Medium at most. An effectively secularized nation in which people can practice religion freely but the State isn't wrapped around the Church's little finger? That's a long-term goal. And, guess what, that outcome sounds pretty queer-friendly to me. . . .

Blake Stacey

Hmmm, my comment lost a couple em-dashes. Eit!

Cliff O'Neill

Bravo! You've said what I've been thinking yet again!

miller

I'm curious about how the LGBT interaction with atheists compares with other groups. How atheist-friendly are feminists? Political liberals? Political libertarians? Science educators? Others I haven't thought of? Is this a general problem, that we're just too controversial to touch? Or is the problem particular to the LGBT group?

Unfortunately, I don't keep close track of any of these communities, except through the atheist community, or through bloggers who happen to be atheists. However, my ignorant guess is that the problem is not particular to the LGBT group. Most groups are leery about thanking atheists or the non-religious, no matter how supportive atheists may be.

Eclectic

Good point. But as a straight (if not particularly narrow) atheist with a closet full of gay pride parade staff t-shirts, I don't mind too much. I like LGBT people and culture, and that's quite enough reward for me.

As for building bridges... well, frankly, politically atheists aren't exactly a constituency to be worried about. The whole herding cats thing has prevented us from having a strong voice.

The LGBT community, on the other hand, is pretty good at political activism. Which is a somewhat cold-blooded but practical reason for currying favor with organized religions.

Andrew G

As a straight atheist, I'm pro LGBT, because in the final analysis, the LGBT community forces (enforces) diversity and tolerance that spills over into secular issues.

Unlike Greta I'm not really bothered by the lack of acknowledgment by the LGBT community since they are the ones doing the heavy lifting for many secular causes that affect us atheists as well. If the LGBT community needs to glad handle the religious groups to further achieve common goals, then thats fine by me.

Paul Lundgren

Please accept this atheist straight guy's solidarity:

http://cycleninja.blogspot.com/search/label/Gays

Hank

Hey Greta

I never realised how the GLBT crew could be so dismissive of the support the godless community give them, but now you mention it there is always a big show (even here in Oz) when some religious leader ordains a GLBT person or proclaims support for equality. Noone seems to give a shit when someone of a secular bent does it.

Over at http://dangerousintersection.org/ we're constantly posting about gay rights (before but especially since Prop H8), bigging up the states that choose to end their bigotry (http://dangerousintersection.org/2009/04/08/the-inevitable-march-toward-equality-continues/) and, bien sur, constantly battling deluded bigots in the comments thread. Drop over just about any time and you can see us duking it out with 'phobes, LFJs (liars for Jesus) and fundagelicals who haven't even read their own Bible.

Keep it up Greta, we're with ya (but you knew that)
---
Hank

Unrepentant

Overall, I think that atheists or secularists in general are disregard, but it isn't always deliberate. Only being a member of the agnostic end of the theistic/atheistic scale (due largely to apathy), I agree with Sparky:
Atheists in general, like the Democrats I grew up with, are expected to be supportive of diversity and to be opposed to prejudice and social injustice.

The GLBT community may feel the need to coddle the few theists who in public will stand up. I am sure the personal reasons are numerous. Some part of my mind wonders if there is also an acceptance-fantasy involved, with regard to being severed from family and attendant religious community (in some cases, society as a whole), and the hope that these wounds might heal someday. But I can't assume, it simply arose as a possibility in my thoughts on this subject.

Iztok

But most of you just tried to explain why GLBT is treating us this way. That doesn't make it the right thing to do. I don't know for other atheists but for me supporting GLBT is the right thing to do. I am not seeking their or anyone elses approval and in fact would support it even if it socially hurts me (and being in the Bible Belt it does). GLBT should be aware how damaging their persecution is so I don't understand why they do not step up and protect other people's rights the way atheists do? Unless they too agree that atheists should be shunned and in general treated the way we are?

Even if the later is true (and I suspect in many cases in GLBT community it is) it doesn't change my view. My support to GLBT rights does not depend on their support of atheists. I speak up for them because it is the right thing to do not because it is a popular thing to do. Perhaps one day they will return the favor, perhaps not, but it is the right thing to do.

jo

seems like a lot of national lgbt orgs are more after acceptance into the mainstream than changing the mainstream. makes sense then to overlook or even shy away from the even more extreme seeming groups like atheists.

I also think you're correct that most people don't have any sense of a unified atheist movement/community... i'm not even sure i do... (outside of the blogging world of course)

fatherdaddy

The only time in my life I've given money to a political organization was to the No On 8 campaign. I was very vocal about my stance on voting for discrimination. I didn't do it for the recognition. Like others have said before me, I do things like that because they're the moral thing to do.

I'm used to being shunned for my opinions. Be it my stance on gays, gods, guns, or grass, I find it hard to keep my mouth shut long enough to keep from being turned into some sort of pariah. I won't hold that against the LBGT community.

vel

it's worse than just "What good can we do them?" It's that the great majority of the LGBT movement still accepts that religious means "good" just like the rest of the world. It seems that they dont' want to be "tarnished" by the perception that atheists are "moralless" people.

Necronomikron

I've made a few blog posts, and forum posts in regard to it, and marched publicly against a law that ended up taking away the rights of gay couples to adopt, even private adoptions.

Valhar2000

Well, according to a previous post by Greta, the LGBT does not just ignore atheists; they actually hate us as much as the rest of the religious do, because we "beleive in nothing" and "cannot be good without God" and are "depressed and miserable individuals"...

Rather than non-prodigal sons, it seems to me we are good samaritans...

Greta Christina

When did I say that, Valhar2000?

Yes, there are a handful of LGBTs who repeat these anti- atheist canards -- more than I'd like. But it's hardly the prevailing sentiment, and I don't remember ever saying that it was. I'd say the prevailing sentiment is more "we can peacefully coexist, as long as atheists shut up." Combined with a general cluelessness about how to speak about religion in a way that's inclusive about atheists (i.e., a tendency to talk about "our creator," to exhort people to pray, etc.).

Leon

Well, you don't sound churlish and petty to me, Greta. You sound like you have a legitimate beef* and are tired of staying silent about it.

I've started to think that the main reason the LGBT community doesn't seem to want anything to do with the atheist community is that, while they're passionate about helping the minority they belong to, they don't actually think our minority deserves the same protection. I think many of them share the current thinking in this country that it's ok to have a different faith, as long as you do have a faith.

And I think a lot of them share the deep Christian conviction that it's ok to be different (race, gender, or whatever), but it's *not* ok be different religiously. I had a girlfriend long ago who was very PC--she got all upset if you used the wrong terms or gave any sign of insensitivity toward any minority, but she literally felt that the minority I belonged to didn't count. I think there's a lot of that out there.

That sort of compartmentalization is nothing new in civil rights groups: Stokely Carmichael basically declared that blacks should have rights, but not women.

Then again, in my more generous moments I like to think that the LGBT community shies away from the atheist one partly because it doesn't need to be associated with yet another stigma.

* Get it? Beef--barbecue? Ok, this would be the moment where my wife groans that she married a 12-year-old.

Joreth

Well, I run towards the cynical on my best days, so my assumption is that, as mentioned above, the GLBT community is as actively taken in by the god-hoax as the rest of the country AND that being associated with atheists hurts their political goals.

As a straight atheist, I have been a staunch supporter of civil rights for all since I was in elementary school and we had mock election during the presidential election that took place during that time frame. I've marched at pride and I am currently a community organizer for the poly community, which supports all genders and sexual/relationship orientations. I blog about my political and religious ideas at http://joreth.livejournal.com and you can add /tag/ followed by the specific tag to the end of that URL to follow specific tags, such as /tag/atheism, /tag/religion, /tag/gender issues, tag/freedom/politics (a complete list of my tags is located in the sidebar of the main journal page).

Meagen

I lost faith in God before I had experiences that made me think I may not be straight. So I never had to try and reconcile my beliefs with my nature. Non-atheist LGBT people would have had to grapple with this issue on top of the problems with coming out.

That could potentially cause some subconcious "you guys have it easier" resentment at least in some people.

Rebecca

In my Catholic upbringing, the sermon after the Prodigal son usually had the priest turn to the part where the father said, "but everything I have is yours" indicating that should the second son so have desired it, he could have had a party - he shouldn't expect that parties should fall from the sky but could just ask if he wanted one.

The idea of an atheist community does amuse me however. I certainly don't feel that there is one in Australia, although I do understand the need for one in the US, given how coming out as an atheist is a big deal.

I understand any group's joy in feeling more accepted by a group that was previously exclusionary. And support their right to point at that group as an example to all remaining groups who continue to exclude them.

Atheists and secular humanists (is there a difference) may have had their day in the sun as far as the LGBTIQ community goes, and maybe the best way to get further recognition is to ask or even demand it.

Mike Haubrich, FCD

I think it is fair to give credit where credit is due. John Townsend in Lavendar Magazine (Minneapolis/St. Paul) had this to say about the Minnesota Atheists:

Many radio programs broadcast locally are queer-inclusive. But aside from KFAI’s Fresh Fruit, which is total queer content, no program is as fully queer-supportive as Atheists Talk. Large time chunks have been devoted to Wayne Besen, the Fagbug, and Project 515. Plus, an organic queer sensitivity weaves throughout other segments, because of the atheist and democratic value that separates religion and state.

Lavendar issue #368.

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