Naturalistic Neurodiversity

Exploring our differences through science.

Casual Ableism from Atheists

with 7 comments

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.


Written by The Nerd

August 24, 2011 at 8:18 am

7 Responses

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  1. I don’t get why some atheists resort to ableism when they interact with others. It saddens me to think that they’d say something like “you are so literal as to be autistic.”. They really need to stop using ableist slurs.


    August 25, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    • Yes, there are so many other words that people can use to describe their thoughts and feelings.

      The Nerd

      August 26, 2011 at 9:20 am

  2. […] Casual Ableism from Atheists ( […]

  3. TheNerd, I seriously shouldn’t have read that. That post was a train wreck. At least there were several people who pointed out just how bigoted it was. Ugh!

    bint alshamsa

    December 9, 2011 at 2:20 am

    • Yes, it is painful. I hope more and more people will come to learn a better way we can treat each other.

      The Nerd

      December 9, 2011 at 7:54 am

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