The Asexual Community & Veg*n Communities, Part 3

This is a submission to the February 2015 Carnival of Aces: Cross Community Connections, and a continuation of Part 1 and Part 2.

I think, in order to clarify the differences and similarities of the asexual community and veg*n communities, I think it would help to throw in a third group: New/Angry Atheists (henceforth referred to as ‘New Atheists’). I myself am an atheist, though I do not call myself a ‘New Atheist’ – if I misrepresent their position, please correct me.

The asexual community/movement bends itself backwards to point out that it is not trying to ‘recruit’ people or convince anyone to become ‘asexual’. Sometimes, ace-spectrum folk bend so far backwards that they fall down – which is too say, we sometimes expend much effort making ourselves seem ‘acceptable’ to non-asexuals than making ourselves, the ace-spectrum folk, comfortable. Examine how sex-repulsed aces sometimes feel, or this recent post about the lack of sexual content warnings.

Also, the asexual movement’s primary mission is to make things better for asexual-spectrum folk.

The New Atheists, however, are trying to persuade non-atheists to become atheists. They think theism is mistaken. Yet I, as an atheist, do not think theism is unethical, and I think the vast majority of New Atheists agree with me that theism is not unethical.

The mission of the New Atheists is two-fold – first, it is to make things better for atheists, such as atheists who get death threats (an in some societies, killed) because they publicly say they are atheists, and second, to improve the world by persuading more people to stop being mistaken and become atheist. The ‘make things better for atheists’ part itself is two-fold – first, it is to help each other, and second, the easier it is to be openly atheist, the more people will be willing to be openly atheist, which furthers the ‘improve the world by persuading more to become atheist’ part of the mission.

The organized veg*n movements are generally based on ethical positions and/or religion. I don’t want to go into the religiously based movements, but people in the movements based on ethical positions think that killing animals because ‘it tastes good’, torturing animals, sexually abusing animals, and otherwise abusing animals is unethical. This is very different from the asexual movement, which considers being non-asexual to be okay, and even the New Atheist movement, which generally does not consider theism to be unethical.

Veganism (as well as some other veg*n movements, but this is particularly true of veganism) are primarily focused on reducing harm to nonhuman animals. Given that all veg*ns are human (yes, many nonhuman animals are herbivores, but that’s not the same), veganism (and some other veg*n movements) are not about making better for people inside the movement. There is an element of ‘making things easier for vegans’ but the purpose behind that is to encourage more people to go vegan, and thus reduce the harm being done to animals. If it weren’t about reducing harm to animals, there wouldn’t be much point in being vegan, and thus there wouldn’t be much reason to make things easier for vegans.

However, that said, there are definitely things in common in these three movements beyond the fact that the membership of these movements overlap to some degree. Ironically, even though the positions of these three different (sets of) movements are so different, both in content and stance (not being asexual is OK, being a theist is mistaken but not unethical, abusing/harming nonhuman animals or paying others to abuse/harm nonhuman animals when there are alternatives is unethical), many of the ‘arguments’ used against them look a lot alike. And that will be the topic of Part 4.

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6 thoughts on “The Asexual Community & Veg*n Communities, Part 3

  1. Hey, so it’s been a few years since I’ve actively been part of “The New Atheist” community in most ways, but I’m still around it here and there. You said, “if I misrepresent their position, please correct me”, and I *think* you didn’t exactly misrepresent them… in fact I think pretty much everything you said about them is correct… but as I read, I couldn’t help but think…

    While yes, New Atheists don’t think being a theist is unethical… it’s an imperfect analogy but um… neither do vegans think being an animal is.

    You, as a vegan, believe that being non-vegan is what is unethical – that being non-vegan equals supporting animal abuse, or more simply, people living as non-vegans are actively harming animals.

    One of the biggest differences between a casual atheist who just doesn’t believe but doesn’t actively do anything about that lack of belief, doesn’t try to persuade anything out of believing, etc. and many of the “New Atheists” (or Angry Atheists) is that the New Atheists actually think religion is hurting fellow people, and sometimes themselves too. It’s hurting atheists, like in your “such as atheists who get death threats (and in some societies, killed)” example, but it’s also the fact that many of these New Atheists actively see religion, or sometimes more generally “believing in things on faith rather than for any logical reason”, as actively harming many believers themselves.

    Not doing things you could to prevent harm is what vegans think is unethical, and many of the New Atheists would agree with that, and for some of them, their mission is to prevent harm to everyone, both inside and outside their community. For vegans, it’s not about communties of people inside or outside, it’s about preventing harm to animals. For asexuals, it’s about preventing harm (among other things, but to extend the analogy bear with me) to asexual people themselves, the in-community itself, and that’s pretty much it.

    Since in part 4 you seem to reference Greta Christina, I will bring her up here. Her famous “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?” speech/book/blog post: http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/10/atheists-and-an.html

    would maybe help drive that point home. Atheists are angry BECAUSE religion harms, and yes you’re right that it includes harming atheists themselves so there is certainly a very important distinction to be made between how the vegan community isn’t at all about vegans themselves, but rather about the animals… but sometimes, the new atheist community, in certain segments of it, is all about trying to stop religion from harming those who are still believers themselves. It’s about preventing harm, in a way that is maybe *slightly* more similar than you suggest in the post above, to the “preventing harm” cause of the vegans.

    I think you made a ton of good points here and ultimately I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said. I just wanted to add to this because it crossed my mind as I was reading. I hope you don’t mind my comment.

    • Yes, thank you for the comment. I can see how it could be interpreted that many New Atheist activists think that religion is inherently harmful, therefore practicing religion does unnecessary harm, and thus is unethical.

      I do wonder though, if you took a survey of ‘New Atheists’, and asked a question like ‘Is being a theist unethical?’ what percentage would say ‘yes’. Do you know of any such survey?

      • I don’t know of any such surveys, but like I said I’ve been less involved in the New Atheist movement for the past few years, so I might not be the best person to ask… 😉

        It would be fascinating. Similar to how the 2014 Asexual Census asked some interesting questions like “Do you think society has too much sex?” or whatever. It would be nice to know for sure just how many atheists really do think simply being a theist is ethically “wrong”.

        However, I do think that’s not the right way to word the question/statement.

        It’s more complex than that. I think a lot of the New Atheists feel complex emotions toward even words like “Ethical” because for some of them who have recently left religion, something being right or wrong has lost all meaning, and it takes a lot of time before you even are ready to decide “oh yeah, I do have a set of ethics still, and this is what they are”. I think some people think the 10-year-old raised in a devout Christian household *of course* is not being unethical for believing in that version of Christianity, but the 35-year-old parent of said 10-year-old has an ethical responsibility to not scare that kid with threats of hell and that being that type of theist who thinks the ethical thing to do is warn your kid of the dangers of hell is, themselves, being unethical in the atheist’s eyes. Because suddenly “being a theist” has become “being a vessel for theism’s harm” and again, they’re anti- the harm. It’s just… it’s kind of a complex situation.

      • I think scaring kids with hellfire is unethical (though I can also understand why, from those parents’ perspectives, that it is the right thing to do), but that is a specific practice, not theism itself. Likewise, removing someone’s thyroid without their consent is unethical, persuading someone to let you remove their thyroid when you *know* it will do them more harm than good is unethical, but consentually removing the thyroid of someone who has thyroid cancer and is going to die much sooner with the cancerous thyroid than without it is ethical. Thus, taking out people’s thyroids is not inherently unethical, just as the fact that some theists frighten their children with hellfire doesn’t make theism itself unethical.

      • That was kind of confusingly worded. Whoops. Let me re-write part of that:

        I think most of the New Atheists think the 10-year-old raised in a devout Christian household *of course* is not being unethical for believing in that version of Christianity.

        However, I also think there are a non-insignificant number of New Atheists who think that the adult parent of said 10-year-old has an ethical responsibility to not scare that kid with threats of hell.

        This particular type of atheist thinks that being “the type of believer who thinks the ethical thing to do is warn your kid of the dangers of hell” is an unethical thing to be.

  2. I’m not even sure I agree that scaring kids with hellfire is unethical, because if they honestly believe the kid needs to act a certain way or else they’re going to hell, they’re doing the “right thing” by warning them. As an atheist I believe that they’re mistaken factually, but I might believe they ethically are doing the right thing… lol. It’s a complicated issue.

    I’m certainly of the stance that being a theist, or a religious believer of some kind, is never in and of itself unethical. What I think can be unethical are specific beliefs about how to treat other people, about how to behave, or about how to judge others, such as “homosexuals DESERVE that hellfire that I believe in”. Believing that hell exists isn’t the problem, though.

    I also am capable of enough empathy to understand how and why a theist might have come to a place of thinking that homosexuals deserve hell. I mean they didn’t just think that up on their own. But that one particular thought of theirs still happens to be an unethical one, to me.

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