Sunday, 19 December 2010

When is a bigot not a bigot? When he's a Black Squirrel?

So I've had a few decent conversations with some atheist friends on here and figured I'd see what FB could offer in the way of atheist interest groups to join.

Kushdi, I thought; a bit of enlightened debate about empiricism, freethinking, humanism etc will be intellectually stimulating and an excellent diversion from writing ever weirder comments on friends statuses to sate the boredom of being stuck indoors. I'm not kidding either, in the last one I wrote that Donald Sutherland has been entirely animatronic since Kelly's Heroes and was operated by Jim Henson until the whole dying of pneumonia thing in 1990 when Nick Park took over. It's OK. I know I need help.

Anyway, I stumbled across this (what is the collective noun for numb nuts anyway?) group called the Black Squirrel Society apparently run by a Californian who goes by the name of 'Steppin Wolf'.

Instead of discussions about philosophy, politics, science, history and all the stuff I associate with my own search for answers to 'The Biggies' I was confronted with the kind of views usually reserved for hardcore English Defence League and BNP supporters. The hatred was 80-90% directed at Islam, the rest Christianity and was the predictable, monocular hand-wringing about sexual oppression, conversion at gunpoint, the death penalty for apostasy and the notion that all of this is coming to a doorstep near you if we (or more specifically you) don't do something like, know, big... right?

After most of the exhaustingly dumb and vile nimbyisms was the inevitable suffix, "and when I say this to people they think I'm being racist"

Well, you are. So there. Or bigoted at the very least and xenophobic to boot.

And I want to make this absolutely clear for those not paying attention at the back: The rise in atheism, secularism, humanism and freethinking is a very, very good thing indeed. Just not the militant fundamentalist bullshit propagated by Steppin Wolf and his dribble-witted ilk.

I'm all for a sensible debate about how we can persuade countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Kingdom to fully devolve theism and state. Especially to ensure secular penal law is universal.

Of course I think it's wrong for anyone to be put to death for insulting Mohamed, or for a woman to be beaten because she doesn't wear 'modest enough' clothing, or for some wackafuck redneck preacher to go bragging about all the Qur'ans he's gonna burn, or for the leader of the most powerful country in the world to invade Iraq because 'God told him to'.

And when we devolve religion and state in every country on Earth we remove the power of religion to do this kind of harm. With a secular penal system in place you can't oppress, hurt, or kill anyone for any reason; faith or no faith without expecting to get nicked for it. (So look out Bush there's a war crimes tribunal with your name on it hombre).

I don't care if people believe in Jesus or Jedis. All that matters is that no-one else is harmed or hindered by your particular brand of crazy.

So please, if like me the supernatural ramblings of centuries old control freaks interest you less than scientific enquiry, empirical truth, logic and reason don't fall into the trap of thinking the Black Squirrel Society feel the same way you do. They don't.


  1. You have to admit though, their group name is super cool.

    I've always had a hard time with cultures. There are many cultures that I don't.. approve of, and we know that people are a product of their cultures. Simply talking probability, the chances of me liking someone who comes from a culture I don't think is "good" is pretty slim. What does that make me? Does it make me racist, a bigot, xenophobic, or do I simply dislike people who are sexist, ignorant and violent?

    As an example, my city when i was growing up was heavily french-speaking. Because of this, there were many immigrants from the french-speaking parts of africa. I didn't interact with them much (not speaking much french myself) but a coworker of mine would meet men from these areas in clubs and bars. She said she had yet to meet one that wasn't controlling and chauvinistic, a product of the culture they grew up in, and made a habit to avoid these men. Does that make her racist or bigoted, or does she has a right not to meet with people she is sure she won't get along with?

    I don't know the answer. I suspect that would be the definition of a bigot, and if so than I am bigoted too. :(

  2. Perhaps I am unusual in the sense that I make a concerted effort not to form preconceptions about a person because of what accent they speak with, what colour their skin is, what their political/cultural/religious background it.

    We are all guilty of stereotyping on some level, but in my experience it is never helpful. As for your coworker who was meeting these men in clubs and bars, in my experience guys in bars are controlling and chauvinistic wherever they're from! Perhaps if she's met some French speaking Africans at a poetry reading, or a philosophy lecture she might have encountered a different kind of person.

  3. You're right though - awesome group name!!! :)

  4. I just would like to clear this up. In no way is this "steppn wolf" character the founder of this society. It is run by a friend of mine, Randy, and I, Shea, am the co-founder. We do not speak in terms of blaming everything wrong in the world by culture or the color of your skin. We all are simply human shaped by society, etiquette, good and bad choices. In all humanity is just fairly predictable with these controlled influences. What we stand for is the right to live. Because that's all we have. No one can say for sure where we go when we die but does it matter right now? This is what's real. What's right in front of us and were discovering so much more in this world. Were here to live and learn and we stand for that and a whole lot more. I think, no, I know you got the wrong impression. Come to our group and well chat and debate like the civilized people we can be.

  5. I appreciate you clearing up the ownership issue Sydnyh, I am always more than happy to be corrected.

    In the interest of fairness I should have also pointed out that you can find such xenophobia, masquerading as atheism in a wide range of atheist discussions, not just on your site. I am glad to hear that it is not condoned by your organisation.

    On a busy page like yours I know it is not always possible to offer a rebuttal to each comment posted but there didn't seem to be much 'self-moderation' among fellow members who on the whole tended to support rather than refute these comments. Perhaps this is an issue that you as a founder of the society can step in and post some kind of condemnation of xenophobic or bigoted views that appear on your pages?

    I'd also like to thank you for your invitation to re-visit the Black Squirrel Society. I will certainly take you up on that.

  6. Would you consider San Harris Xenophobic?

  7. I hope Sam Harris is too smart to really be xenophobic, and I agree with a lot of what he says about universal secular ethics for example. But he definitely uses the undercurrent of Islamophobia in America (and the UK)to sell his message to a wider audience.

    This in my opinion is a cheap and dangerous tactic that is morally inexcusable because it just fuels hatred of all Muslims which is absolutely not what atheism is about. Which I'm sure you'd agree with right?

  8. I think Islam strikes a bit of Necrophobia in others. If you take the Koran literally (like most Muslims do) you must either convert or die. That religion is not compatible with secular law. IMO, any religion that gives rewards for killing others should be outlawed. I am not a bigot to a race - I am bigoted against ones that feel they can kill me at the will of their god. Sorry, Sam Harris may need to step it up a bit.

  9. But surely no more than Christianity?

    "Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged from Israel." (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)

    My point is not that Islam is good, just that it isn't any worse than any other religion. They are all equally shameful because (among other things) they stir up hatred and division between people. Atheists who spend more time focusing on Islam than religion as a whole are doing the same thing. An unwise move in my book and I'm sure not one you would be party to right arshag?