Casual Ableism from Atheists
Atheists generally claim to be interested in creating an inclusive space where nonbelievers of every background can feel welcome. Just do a web search for “diversity in atheism” and you see posts from Daylight Atheism, American Atheists, and Friendly Atheist, among others, all about how to open up atheism to a more diverse crowd. Women, blacks, parents, the poor – these people are traditionally left out of atheist conversations, and there’s a growing push to include them. But there’s one crucial area which still is overlooked to an alarming degree: neurodiversity.
Not all people have the “standard model” brain, and a lot of those people are proud atheists and need the support of a freethinking community. But many atheists pride themselves on being “more intelligent” than religious people, and are quick to call fundamentalists “crazy”.
Here are a few comments I’ve read recently in atheist spaces:
“You are so literal as to be autistic. Are you really that stupid?”
“PETA is creating the next wave of young adults with scary personality disorders.”
“Instead of writing a new generation of software to circumvent our filters, maybe they should recruit social misfits with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and write software that amplifies their efforts.”
That last one was from none other than PZ Myers himself. The message is constantly being sent out by atheists everywhere: if your mind is configured differently than mine, you’re not welcome here. Which is a shame, because I can count many atheists with ADHD, autism, depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, etc, some of them as good friends and terrific contributors to the community.
If we really want atheism without barriers, we have to cut out the ableist language, now. This includes ending the crazy-bashing of Christians, because if an atheist with a mental disorder walks into a room where people are casually tossing around the words “crazy”, “retarded”, “idiotic”, etc, ze’s going to feel under attack.
Discussions which center around attacks or slander of people’s mental states aren’t only harmful, they’re lazy. The fact is, arguments from the supernatural aren’t wrong because they’re crazy, they’re wrong because they’re not supported by evidence. Dangerous people aren’t dangerous because they’re crazy, they’re dangerous because they’re threatening violence. It’s time we started taking pushing the bar higher in atheism. Let’s take ableism seriously.