Archive for May, 2009

Some thoughts on anti-religious feeling and racism

For several years now I have had the concern that some anti-religious sentiments may be fuelled by underlying racist attitudes towards certain groups. A recent article in the New Statesman discussing struggles against racism in the context of the British Asian community included some thoughts on this theme from Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters.

Pragna Patel, a founding member of Southall Black Sisters, describes the Southall Story as a timely reminder of the need for a secular approach to fighting racism and oppression. “The state assumes that racism is no longer an issue, and that the real problem is the lack of cohesion brought about [by] the failure of migrant communities to integrate. Within our communities, anti-racist struggles have been reinvented as struggles for recognition of religious identity.”

In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks and the 7 July 2005 bombings, there has been a backlash against multiculturalism. Yet paradoxically, as Pragna Patel notes, the state, in the name of cohesion, has actually encouraged a “faith-based” approach to social relations. “We are fragmenting as a society into separate religious enclaves in which powerful and religious bodies hold sway. This is deeply anti-democratic, misogynistic and homophobic.”

As a society, I think we need to be very careful not to conflate the religious with the political whether through racist attitudes or through crass generalisation. Religion and belief may be a part of the individual’s identity but individuals and even groups are much more complex than that. If you target a group and discriminate against them, you force the creation of a political identity which stands outside of society. We need to concentrate on addressing issues of equality and justice in all sectors of society instead of pointing fingers accusingly and drawing lines in the sand. We need to work together instead of singling out a target group and casting blame.

Tomorrow, In a Year

Earlier today I stumbled across the news that Swedish pop group ‘The Knife‘ have been commissioned to write an opera about evolution in honour of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of the Species’. When I say that I can’t even imagine what this is going to be like, I really mean it. The Knife have earned a reputation with catchy but somewhat disturbing electro pop tunes (That’s probably the first and last time you’ll ever find me using the term ‘electro pop’; electronica, yes, electro, no, but I digress).The group garnered international attention after an arrangement of their song ‘Heartbeats‘ covered by fellow swede José González won over audiences as part of a charming cinema advert for the Sony Bravia television. The production, ‘Tomorrow, In a Year‘, will involve three singers from differing musical backgrounds (electronica pop, classical opera and performance) as well as six dancers performing choreography created by Hiroaki Umeda. It is certain to be a spectacle, whatever you make of it. Unfortunately, the production will not be touching these shores with shows taking place in Denmark, Switzerland and Germany only. Nevertheless, various online music media are highly excited.

Calling all UK feminists!

Catherine Redfern of the British online feminist community the F-Word and Dr Kristin Aune of Derby University are carrying out a survey of UK feminists and need your help. If you consider yourself feminist or pro-feminist and live in the UK then you are invited to take part. It doesn’t matter whether you are male, female, trans or anywhere in between or beyond. The aim of the survey is to get an idea of who UK feminists are, what they think, what they do, where they are and more. The more diverse and inclusive the sample is, the more informative it will be. I know that quite a lot of humanists identify as feminists or hold feminist views so I encourage you to go contribute. That goes for all the religious feminists too!

Catherine Redfern explains more about the survey, and the survey itself is found here.

The Ages of Your Atheism

Over at the Friendly Atheist there’s a meme about the Ages of Your Religious Transformation. I thought it sounded like an interesting meme but I’m changing the title because it assumes that you have come to your identity as an atheist from a prior religious belief which isn’t always the case. Without further ado I present my ages of atheism and invite any others to do the same.

Continue reading ‘The Ages of Your Atheism’