It’s from Heather Mallick’s recent piece for the Toronto Star, discussing her atheism in tandem with her approach to journalism and human rights. She notes religion has never been a big blip on her radar but I think she’s wrong when she claims, “Religion sails past atheists like a paper airplane.” Many atheists have a decent handle on the nature of religion on account of growing up in one and then finding the way out. Those who spend their time blogging about injustice and misbehaviour on the part of followers (and atheists, too – we’re equal opportunity complainers) make a point of pointing out the parts of the belief systems that create and allow that behaviour to flourish. She may consider herself one of the many soft-spoken atheists who haven’t yet been encouraged to reach full volume, as it were, but others are well on their way and always prepared to encourage more to make their voices heard. Anyway, a story she shares:
Last summer I wrote a column about a Don Mills school where imams conduct Islamic prayers in the cafeteria, with the boys at the front, the girls behind them and menstruating girls at the back in a sad little huddle.
I genuinely believed that parents and education officials who read this would object to two things: females being treated as second-class compared to boys, and students missing class time that would not be made up later. To me, religion had nothing to do with it.
What a dolt I was. I fully expected little bands of parent-protestors to show up at Valley Park with signs: Girls + Boys=Canada! We are the 99% for Grammar! End Tampon Shame!
Of course I was wrong. I was called a “gender Nazi,” whatever that may be. I heard from Muslims, any number of religionists who didn’t happen to like Muslims, incensed parents who put obedience over literacy, racists (many of these) and Angry Pyjamas (but I always hear from them) but I heard almost nothing from feminists or teachers.
This was a grave disappointment.
I shall try not to write about religion again, even inadvertently. For I am an atheist and we atheists have to keep our stick on the ice. We have no faith. We are polite. We do not believe. We are not interested in belief.
The world would be a better place if we made more noise.
I don’t know what Angry Pyjamas are, presumably the folks who read news stories as they enjoy their breakfasts in front of their computers and are awake enough to give the world what-for via flaming anonymous comments.
We all should be interested in belief, atheist or not. When beliefs about the world and one’s status in it are ruled by strange laws gleaned from the religious writings of old instead of decided via rational thought processes, that’s where the bulk of the problems crop up. The treatment of women in Islamic culture is a big problem, one Muslims would have to want to fix. It doesn’t matter how much outsiders might protest and rally for the women who want to drive or dress Western or get educated
. Until the believers are willing to set aside the archaic beliefs and match pace with the rest of the world in terms of human rights, stories like these will continue to hit newspapers and blogs.
But I agree with her. The world would be better if we made more noise, atheist or otherwise. Why do we sit by and let that crap continue unprotested? What’s up with the apathy? What’s up with the topsy-turvy reactions to what should have been the real issue at stake there? Why weren’t more people irate for the reasons she thought they’d be? Do people really want to see girls kept second class? I doubt it.