Atheists demand online “safe spaces”

The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival - Day 2

On the 6th of February, mere days after being “no-platformed” by the Northeast Conference of Science and Secularism, esteemed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins suffered what has been described as a “minor stroke”. Upon learning of Dawkins’ condition, the Church of England sent out a tweet, which read: “prayers for Prof Dawkins and his family”. Given that Professor Dawkins has made no secret of his atheism, the COE was accused by many internet commentators of perpetrating a “micro-aggression” against the prolific science writer.

Unsurprisingly, communications director Reverend Arun Arora was unwilling to acknowledge any wrongdoing on behalf of the church, let alone express contrition for disrespecting Dawkins’ lack of belief. Rather, in a palpably hostile and defensive written statement, Arora claimed the tweet was “genuine”, before adding that “in the event of a personal tragedy, how is saying you’ll be praying for someone any different than ‘sending them your thoughts’?”

In response to Arora’s non-apology, a petition launched on Change.org is calling for social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to provide “atheist-only safe spaces”. The campaign, which has garnered the support of almost 60,000 people, is also demanding that harsh punishments be meted out to those whom violate the proposed cyber sanctuaries, with repeat offenders to be penalised by having their online accounts – and offline jobs – suspended indefinitely.

“Many of us have been self-diagnosed with PTSD as a result of the trauma we experienced growing up in religious households. So when some shitlord says, ‘Bless you’ when we sneeze, or that they’re ‘praying for us’, not only does it invalidate our feelings by forcing us to indulge them in their delusion, but it can also be triggering,” said Nick Fraser, one of the petition’s many signatories.

“It’s bad enough that we’re socially conditioned to accept street-preacher harassment as ‘complimentary’, but the fact that faith apologists expect us to just ‘grin and bear it’ when we’re violently assaulted with such deliberately offensive different opinions – in our own homes – is absolutely outrageous. Day after day, hordes of zealots ‘troll’ private exchanges on public forums like Twitter, for no other reason than to derail conversations about atheist issues. They’ll often dismiss our arguments against the existence of God as being too angry or bitter to take seriously, and when they find they can’t ‘put us in our place’ by tone-policing us, or Godsplaining, they’ll try to silence us with life-after-death threats,” he said.

“Specific words have specific meanings, and these meanings have real-world consequences. Idiomatic and platitudinous expressions derived from religious doctrine and custom carry a historical weight – a weight that perpetuates a sense of superiority amongst theists, particularly adherents of Christianity. Even the reclamation of the term ‘atheist’ remains a point of contention amongst us non-believers. While it’s a source of empowerment for some, for others, it’s a constant reminder of the metaphysical abuse they were subjected to as children.”

Conversely, Josh Feuerstein (known affectionately by his followers as “Feuerbrand”), has characterised the reaction of Dawkins’ “disciples” to the COE’s tweet as “political correctness gone mad”, and derided them, and the man himself, as “professional victims” and “cry-bullies”.

Not one to shy away from controversy, the prominent anti-atheist, CRA (Christian Rights Activist), and self-proclaimed provocateur has often been labelled a bigot by many Third Wave Atheists for ridiculing their apparent preoccupation with “First World problems”, and for neglecting to speak out against the “actual oppression” faced by secularists and apostates in theocratic countries, especially those in the Middle East.

“Sure, atheists might have been a persecuted and marginalised minority hundreds of years ago, but what atheist in the West today is being burned at the stake for heresy, or having his tongue cut out for blasphemy? Is it illegal for an atheist to register as a presidential candidate? Are non-profit secular organisations ineligible for tax-exempt status? Are our banknotes inscribed with ‘In The Christian God We Trust’? No, of course not. So, to be perfectly honest, I think that if this recent episode proves anything, it’s that they’ve run out of dragons to slay,” he remarked.

“They say they want to eliminate systemic oppression, but why then do they never talk about institutionalised atheism? Why, in the US, are theists 99.3% more likely to be incarcerated than atheists? Why are atheists 93% more likely than theists to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences? And why are atheists waging a war on theistic holidays? The truth is, they don’t really want equality. All they care about is atheist supremacy. I mean, #KillAllChristians is currently trending on Twitter. Need I say more?”

“I’ve actually seen some people try to justify [the hashtag] by saying, ‘Well, y’know, the oppressed have the right to hate their oppressors.’ But if atheists really do hate Christians, why then do they continue to exploit institutions that were founded by us, like the American Journal of Science, and The Templeton Foundation? Why do they continue to pursue careers in academic fields we pioneered, like calculus, and chemistry? And why do they continue to use instruments we invented, like the reflecting telescope, and the MRI?”


Editor’s note: Despite the fact that Professor Dawkins is a racist, a sexist, and an Islamophobe, we at The Hoc Post would like to wish him a full and speedy recovery.

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