Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Atheism is My Privalage

I am an athiest, but that hasn't always been the case. I was brought up in a Salvation Army family, I played carols on my trombone for old folks at christmas and believed in a god. Specifically Mr Christian God, though Jesus Mary and all the rest of it didn't always ring true.

I regard my athiesm as a faith because I think the most logical approach to religion is agnostocism. I mean there could be a large rabbit in the sky that generates solar systems simply by wiggling its ears, our measly
galaxy have been shat out by a 10 ton parrot in another dimension - nobody really knows*.

The reason I am an atheist is partly because of feminism. Somewhere along the line it occoured that the people who suffer most in this world tend to be a combination of black, non western, women. It may seem simplistic, but I came to the conclusion that no God worth following would shit so consistently on those who aren't white male and rich.

I know there are ways in which the problem of evil can be explained, and that there are deeper philosophical arguments which I am completely ignoring. It's not that I think these arguments are irrelevant, but because I had a more important revalation today.

That my Athiesm is one of my privalages as a white western woman, and that it is vital that a discussion on faith and feminism should understand what religion means from a non western perspective.

In the white western world (and here I am specifically talking about the US and the UK though this counts for much of Europe too)
we veiw religion as a sort of personal faith. Religion is an individual thing, about what you believe more than what you actually do. This has not come out of nowhere, it is the product of hundreds of years of Protestant Christianity dominating politics and culture. No matter how secularised we feel as a nation, we live with this legacy.

This legacy dictates that we tend to veiw other religons in terms of protestant christianity. This is clearly flawed, as many non protestant religions define themselves by practice, rather than through faith alone. We cannot talk about other religions in terms of belief and ignore their important social functions.

Similarly we shouldn't misunderstand the connection between religion and identity. This is what I mean by athiesm being my privalage.

I am white and from the west, and my previous religious identity was protestant christian, therefore it is very easy for me to abandon.
I can say 'hey guess what, I'm an athiest now' and no one will say to me, 'but you're really jewish aren't you?' or 'I thought you were a sikh?'. That is one of the privalages connected to the colour of my skin and the country of my birth.

For the protestant christian, their religion need not be a part of their identity because for so many years it has been the norm. This is not the case for muslims, jews, sikhs, hindus, catholics etc. If you are born into one of these religions it is likely to be a part of your identity whether you want it to be or not. Even if you abandon all religous practice, you may still be identified with that particular religion. This is because these religions are the 'other' and protestant christianity is the norm - just as white skin and having a willy are also viewed as normative.

Abandoning your religion may not be an option, nor may it be desireable because it is so connected to an 'othered' identity. Religion may be a source of strength and community where a community is opressed,the practices of religion may serve an important social function which cannot be cast aside in the name of ideology.

This is why my athiesm is very much my privalage. I think one of the problems that could be connected to faith and feminism is the misunderstanding of religion, and of athiesm itself. It is important to understand that athiesm is actually an intrinsic part of protestant christianity.
Even though I can give up my christianity, I cannot give up my privalage which arises from that particular religion, and its history of political dominiance.

I am not saying that there are only white athiests, or that it is impossible to become an athiest if you were not previously protestant christian. Of course that is possible, but more of a previous religious identity is likely to be retained.
Nor do I wish to suggest that white protestants do not view their christianity as part of their identity. I know many that do, and I know it can be complex. The Salvation Army for example has an important social function and it does remain a part of my identity despite my lack of belief in god and copious consumption of alcohol.

Thus I guess what I am saying is that even athiests cannot seperate religion from culture, even if you abandon religion it is still a vital part of your cultural context.
This is a result of history which we cannot just ignore, but the fact that protestant christianity is so normative makes it harder to see. Particularly for the dawkins generation.

So then though I am an athiest I think this is my privalage as a resident of a protestant christian coountry. I don't think you have to be an athiest to be a feminist, (even though I think Mr Christian God, and indeed Mr Allah and any of the other male conceptions of a deity are patriachal**) because the social function of a religion may be seperate from actual belief. Nor am I saying that you can't be a feminist and believe in a god - but I think it probably makes it harder.


* Not even Douglas Adams
** I do not wish to imply that all conceptions of the deity are masculine. Having said that if there is a female god then she is a maschocist.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A silly song/poem/distraction

A song dedicated to the bad mood which is just not romantic in any way. And to the possible failing of impending exams.

Even Morrissey lets me down…….

When even Tuesday morning
Is silent and grey
And the working classes
Have got nothing good to say

When you are no-one’s fatty
Or even someone’s lass
And there’s nothing less poetic
Than being middle class

One thing I wonder
As I brood around this town
Is why continue to respire
Even Morrissey lets me down

I used to think you got me
That you really knew
But there’s more to life than books you know
And more to life than you

I tried hiding in my room
When I felt I was ignored
I did it for 10 minutes
and just got really bored

I mooched around a council block
And a factory floor
I didn’t find my muse
They were all just rather poor

I thought then I’d be celibate
You made it seem so great
But all I do is think of sex
And often masturbate ( am I doing it wrong Morissey?)

I hated my successful friends
I tried it once or twice
But that was also difficult
They’re all just really nice

I tried to hang the DJ
But they kicked me out the pub
They thought I was a mentalist
And hit me with a club

I gave up eating meat for you
I gave up eating fish
Now I’d swap my copy of ‘The queen is dead’
For a large bacon sandwich

One thing I wonder
As I brood around this town
Is why continue to respire
Even Morrissey lets me down

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


One of the wonderful things about the internet is how much it facilitates learning stuff, lots of stuff, stuff you never even thought about thinking about. This week I have been learning about asexuality through a fantastic website AVEN. Asexuality seems like one of those things that it seems obvious exists, like the stock market or electricity. And like the electricity and the international markets, I have no idea how asexuality works, or at least didn't until I became fascinated by this website (it didn't tell me anything about the nasdaq but that's ok, I'm not really interested)

I am not asexual, I have known I had a sex drive for a very long time, pretty much ever since I bought Pulp's, 'Different Class' .
Not only that, but I think sex is pretty much the most interesting thing ever. How ,when, why, with whom, how what we do is connected to and/or constructed by the world in which we live. I could talk about sex until the cows come (yup there it is, the worst joke I have ever made) I appreciate that some people like to keep these things private, which is probably why it is all so interesting.

So learning that there are a whole group of people out there who just don't have sexual attraction to anybody, seemed like a bit of an alien concept to me. Hard to get to grips with, what do they do in relationships? how come they don't want to have sex, I mean that's like not wanting to eat surely?
The more I read of this site the more I realised that asexuality is a perfectly valid thing, and the fact that the world we live in is so hyper-sexual (at least our western one) explains why few people understand asexuality. Part of me was like, 'huh, lucky them - never have to worry about going ages without sex'. This is a completely stupid reaction; in a world where everybody expects sexuality being asexual could be very isolating. It must be very difficult having people think that there is something wrong with you (probably more tough than extended dry periods)
Asexuality is probably less understood than homosexuality even though it is not a particularly difficult concept. You may be attracted to men, women , (trans men trans women queers tick as many boxes as you wish) or just nobody. There are people I am attracted to and people I am not, it is perfectly logical and valid that a person just might not be attracted to anybody.

The AVEN website is fascinating because people are so open about their relationships and sex lives, I guess because they frequently encounter so much curiosity. Where I do think that it would totally be within their rights to say - 'we are asexual, deal with it, and fuck right off with your patronising curiosity' I do find it fascinating hearing so many people talk about how their relationships work in a totally non-sexual context. (Even though again, it's not very difficult to understand, I have very emotionally involved friendships with people I am not sexual with.)
Most of the relationships people speak about, do seem very deep and worthwhile and there is even something appealing about the way that they are always looking for something which to me seems 'beyond sex'. Though thinking about it, it's not really 'beyond sex' it's just without it. An absence of something that has never been there anyway. For a sexual person, the mutual understanding and emotional connection may be 'beyond sex', because we tend to measure our relationships by the act of intercourse. Sex first, other stuff later. People we sleep with, people we don't. It's romanticising asexuality to assume that their relationships are automatically 'deep and meaningful', they may or may not be, asexuals are just not oriented toward sexuality so they just won't want sex, or at least they won't have sexual attraction. They are not choosing something very deep over something shallow, they just don't want sex. It's like if a person just doesn't like chocolate so they don't eat it. They may or may not be healthy ( they might stick to fruit and veg, or they might always eat fry ups for example)
Still I find myself admiring these relationships that don't have sex at their core, and can't help thinking that maybe sexuals have something to learn from asexuals in the way we value relationships.

Then again, I also can't help fancying the pants off the main spokesperson for asexuality David Jay....

This is a trailer for a documentary on asexuality which looks quite interesting.

I guess it's good to understand other people, and there are so many things in life that make us aware of the massive multiplicity of experiences, and allow us to step outside our own.
It does make me wonder where asexuality and feminism all fits together. if you believe sexuality to be socially constructed then that goes for asexuality too. We don't want to be hetero-normative, how does asexuality fit into that? How does one avoid being 'sexual-normative'? Perhaps this is all rather individualistic and there are plenty of much more pressing issues out there above and beyond the sexuality of individuals.
Anyway that's all for now, would be interested in the thoughts of others.