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.