“We Are Atheism” and Amanda Brown by Kile Jones


Kile Jones, atheistSo far, as a regular contributor to Feminism and Religion, I have interviewed a “pro-science” woman and one who started an online community for grieving unbelievers.  In this post, I will interview Amanda Brown, an atheist activist who co-founded a project called We Are Atheism.  Amanda grew up in Independence, MO, in the Assemblies of God and the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Since then, she has been involved in helping atheists “come out” and share their experiences.  So without further ado, here is the interview:

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Why did you start “We Are Atheism”?

I started We Are Atheism because I saw a gap in the age of atheists coming out of the closet.  I also wanted a way for people to see for themselves that atheists are real people.  We Are Atheism is focused on the fact that atheists are mothers, fathers, teachers, brothers, friends, and so much more. When I was at the 2011 Secular Student Alliance Conference in Columbus, OH, I heard most of the leaders tell stories about their groups and how many of them didn’t know other atheists. I thought this was horrible, and being a person who was in the same position, I wanted to start something that would bring our community together.  Those who met on the internet could take their community from online to the neighborhood.

Can you say a few words on the need for atheist activism.

The need for atheist activism is still in high demand.  But what needs to be focused on, and where I think we (atheists) can make the most difference, is in our cities.  Then our States.  Once things are good there, then I recommend joining organizations like Secular Coalition for America, Planned Parenthood, American Atheists, and other national lobbying arms. There are many of us who are fighting at the federal or national level (and that’s fantastic) but the real change that we need is at the city and state level.

Atheists, or non-believers, need to unite in the fight for separation of church and state, women’s rights, and LGBTQIAA rights. You can have your quarrels on the economy, socialism, and the military/defense spending.  That is fine. But there shouldn’t be any secular reason that we cannot all come together to support the 3 measures I’ve said above. If you want to live in a country where everyone truly has equal rights under the law, then you need to pay attention to what is going on in your city and in your State. Stand up at your city hall meeting and tell the city another church is a waste of time and real estate.  That space could bring in tax revenue for the city if they used that land for something else like a restaurant or shopping center.  Don’t let your city officials do what they want and think no one is paying attention.  There are 46 million (and counting) non-believers, if we come together we really can change the country.

What would you say to feminist who are religious?

I would say you aren’t a feminist who wants equality or equity in your life AND the law.  How would anyone take a person seriously if they say they are a feminist then go ahead with the patriarchal structure that religion perpetuates. I’m not just saying this, I did my senior thesis (one you have to write at Kansas University in order to graduate) on this exact subject. I acknowledge that there are many different types of feminists in this world, but a religious one would be a hypocrite in my mind.

How do you see your work fitting into the broader secular movement?

Since I run We Are Atheism, a non-profit organization, and now its new sister organization Atheists Giving Aid, I know that the work I do fits into the broader secular movement by giving atheists and non-believers a place to come out of the closet safely and amongst people who have been in the same place.  By giving a safe place to come out and grow, we have fueled others to join the movement, encourage their friends to come out, as well as help others be able to come out to their family and friends with solid information on what they may face.

Atheists Giving Aid is our new organization that is funded completely by We Are Atheism so 100% of the donations that come in to support AGA goes right to the place we are raising money for.  In the news lately there have been a lot of journalists targeting atheists and secularists saying we don’t organize and help people when disaster strikes.  Since Sandy Hook in Newtown, CT, where we raised 25k, we have also helped to raise money for the Boston Bombing (29k), for the fertilizer plant eruption in Texas (1k), and the Tornado disaster in Moore, OK (18k), we have been trying to figure out the best way to organize efforts to be on the ground and help more directly. Soon AGA and volunteers will be going out to Moore, OK, and donating not only money but hands-on-help.  Cleaning up their yards, helping to rebuild their homes, and finding clothes, furniture, etc. for the people to resume their lives again.

In which ways can atheists and religious persons work together?

I think religious persons and atheists can work together in a variety of ways.  We can come together to make changes in the community through education and service. This education can happen at debates, panels, seminars, and casual dining/activity together (like bowling, billiards, etc).  Service is also a great way to get past the barrier of the “Evil Atheist” vs. “Goody Two Shoes Christian.” When you walk in and think OMG I can’t say a cuss word or blaspheme at all or they’ll think I eat dead babies, then you will be treated that way. Both parties need to remember we are all here for the same reason and neither side needs to proselytize. We are there helping the animals at the humane society, the elderly, or the VFW. There are many opportunities to do things in the world where religion doesn’t need to be brought up.  Then afterwards you can have a discourse with someone if they want to.  I think finding an approach between accomodationalist and confrontationalist will make life easier for the parties working together. Use tact and know when to talk about religion and when not to. Be open-minded and know there are always going to be some that NEED religion in order to survive day to day. Those are usually people who have their religion as a part of their identity and make it almost impossible for you to question. Leave them be, live by example, and show them that it doesn’t matter if you are religious or not, the same shit is going to happen to you regardless of all the prayers you say.

Brief Biography of Amanda Brown: I am truly a therapist at heart.  I want to help people in any way I can, which is why I not only made this website (We Are Atheism) but am involved in many different secular organizations.  I truly believe atheists are normal people who are “good without god.”  We all want to help each other in times of need, we all want to make a difference.  I know the best way to make a difference in this world is to always first lead by example.  By doing this one simple thing others will see that atheists are not untrustworthy people, but normal everyday people.  It’s ok to be an Atheist and it’s ok to say so. Check out Amanda’s Blog.  Her blog, “The Sexy Atheist,” focuses on different aspects related to sex therapy and education.

Kile Jones holds a Bachelors of Theology (B.Th.) from Faith Seminary, a Masters of Theological Studies (M.T.S.) and a Masters of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) from Boston University, and is a current Ph.D. in Religion student at Claremont Lincoln University.  He also holds a Certificate in Science and Religion from the Boston Theological Institute. He is the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Claremont Journal of Religion (www.claremontjournal.com). His interests include religion and science, atheism, secularism, and philosophy of religion.  He also reviews books for Reviews in Religion and Theology (RRT) and is a Contributing Scholar for State of Formation (http://www.stateofformation.org/author/kile-jones), an academic blog for emerging religious and ethical leaders.



Categories: Abuse of Power, Activism, Belief, civil rights, Human Rights, LGBTQ, Women for Peace

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11 replies

  1. I certainly appreciate what Amanda is doing and agree with much of what she said. However, atheists would find more support from progressive religious folks (especially women) if they didn’t group all religious people into the typical caricature of judgmental, close-minded hypocrites. She could listen to her own advice– “use tact…be open-minded”– and search out those people who love questions and dialogue.

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    • My thoughts exactly. In the interim, I’ll stick with my progressive Episcopal church where we champion LGBT rights, gender equality, nonviolent social protest, death penalty & torture abolition, social change to create a truly just society etc. etc. as well as so good works (food pantry, shelter & women’s drop-in center for homeless, tutoring & mentoring, etc.). Hypocrite? I don’t think so.

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  2. Very interesting. Yes, of course nonbelievers have rights, and Amanda is right to stand up for herself. What does the end of LGBTQIAA stand for? The IAA?

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  3. So many women want to change the patriarchal system from within their religion. It may work eventually as they raise their children to be critical thinkers and on over a few generations…but it hard to make that shift within one’s own patriarchal religion. But we kind of have to work within patriarchy always. Capitalism is very patriarchal. It’s a mess. So I wouldn’t say religious feminists are being hypocritical.

    I’m so glad that you interviewed her. She’s doing great work and allowing other atheists and non-believers to come out and be counted.

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  4. I find the level of intolerance in this post very disturbing, and I don’t think it is unique to this particular advocate of the “new Atheism.” The First Amendment says nothing about “the separation of church and state.” The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” Trying to cut religion out of the public sphere is an abrogation of this amendment. Likewise with establishing Atheism as a national (stance toward) religion. I fail to see why speaking out for your own views somehow necessitates silencing others. How is this a “feminist” stance?

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  5. My husband Mark is a life-long atheist, but he’s 66 years old, as opposed to Amanda, who is a twenty-something. He is very tolerant of my religious perspective, because he knows that Wicca is empowering to me as a feminist woman, and he as a feminist man wants to support me in whatever way that works for me. I’ve had many conversations with him about atheism and support his non-religious perspective.

    However, some of the organizations he belongs to go over the line in terms of intolerance from my point of view, just as Amanda has gone over the line in this blog post. When this happens, we’ve talked about why. Mark believes that it’s because of the suppression that atheists in this country have experienced. For example, it’s almost impossible to be elected to any office if you’re an out atheist. There are many places in the country where demanding separation of church and state gets you into very hot water (e.g. getting rid of “10 Commandment” plaques, or protesting prayer in schools or in state legislatures or county board meetings, etc.). For a large and growing part of the population, atheism is a civil rights issue.

    Atheists have a lot of reason to be hot under the collar. BUT I believe in Amanda’s case it may also be a result of her recent public outing, what with her blogsite and her leadership of an activist atheist organization. Amanda, I bet you must be getting a lot of hate mail, etc. Is that true? That may help us feminists — and we are ALL feminists here at FAR — understand your outrageous claim that you can’t be a feminist and try to change religion from the inside. I stand in solidarity with my sister feminists here, who are Christian, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, and Buddhist, etc., who are doing the hard work of changing well-established patriarchal institutions from the inside. Without them, we who are on the outside — whether because we are atheists or members of feminist-inspired religions like the part of Wicca that I practice — would have a much harder time going it alone. Name-calling of potential allies (“hypocrites”) is off-putting to say the least, and certainly will not help your cause, Amanda.

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  6. What a refreshing post, and I like Amanda’s audacity in calling women who attend churches hypocrites, because organized religion is inherently patriarchal and anti-feminist to the core. So good for you Amanda. I like the brashness of atheists today, and all their challenges to state sanctioned religious patriarchy. Women of course are free to attend any church, but just stop calling this feminist. Careerist, or hetero-sexual familiest yes, but it is not a feminist act to do malestream stuff. This is where feminism gets co-opted, and most women want to go along to get along, especially women married to men.

    I do a lot of work with small businesses, and this is how I get paid, but it is not feminist. It is paid work, that I try to bring a certain sensibility to. But signing a contract with a plumbing contractor is NOT feminist. I think we confuse feminism with what women do. If a woman does it, it must be feminist. If a woman becomes a pastor of a male centric church, this is feminist… well no, it’s a job in a male dominated profession run by male rules (the guys who wrote the Bible). Hypocracy is a strong word, but I get sick of this watered down feminism when all it is is jobs, degrees, getting to teach academic classes, and still being mired in male supremacy, only women are playing the token roles of reading the Bible, but it still is the male document that is the sine quo non of patriarchy. Go get ’em Amanda!!!

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  7. I am in full support of Amanda, the main reason being, that at least in regards to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, religion is based off of an original text that is anti-woman. If you really believe in those texts, you couldn’t possibly believe that reform is a possibility.

    For more on this subject, I recently wrote a post on ‘The Power Of Belief’:
    http://laurenjbarnhart.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/the-power-of-belief/

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  8. Thank you for all of your comments. I very much appreciate them. The “I” stands for “intersex,” the first “A” stands for “ambiguous,” and the second “A” stands for “asexual.” I will try and get Amanda to respond to some of your comments. Best!

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