Specifically, Razim Khan, who writes at Gene Expression on Discover Magazine Blogs, thinks that the whole article was about a fairy-tale.
Let me summarize his post, and feel free to correct me at any point if I straw-man his arguments.
- Razim was a leader in a freethought group that also featured a Eurasian woman as a president, a treasurer with a Muslim Arab father (was the treasurer from an Arab country then?), and himself who is brown. Therefore, there are no race problems in general.
- “The most secular nations in the world are those of East Asia,” and therefore most atheists are non-whites.
- But East-Asians aren’t prominent atheists because their culture doesn’t feature as oppressive of religions as Christianity so there’s no counter-movement to religion there. Basically Asians are apathetic with regards to religion.
- South Asians are particularly religious so “all the Hemant Mehtas and Alorn Shahas will not change the structural parameters which make atheism.”
He uses world statistics to demonstrate number 2 and UK statistics for number 4.
Now to deconstruct.
Number 1 is simply an anecdote, and if anything potentially demonstrates how a few minorities in leadership positions can encourage more – thereby increasing diversity overall.
Number 2 is a statistic that doesn’t address the article in question at all, and actually demonstrates the need for further outreach.
His third argument is misguided because it doesn’t address Shaha’s article about the demographics of the organizations behind the atheist movement and further troubling because the rates of Christianity in Chinese and Korean cultures is skyrocketing due to aggressive proselytization. To not reach out to these cultures (which he admits would be largely sympathetic) is to abandon these people to dangerous Western superstitions.
With the latter half of his article he almost dips into a cultural-relativistic form of racism (yes, brown people can be racist too), by suggesting that people from certain cultures are too predisposed to religion or apathy to be involved in what ought to be a universal movement. He seems to argue that Asians are predisposed to certain beliefs (or at least are raised with them), so outreach is pointless and expectations that they care about Western atheist struggles are ill-placed.
Similarly, the comments on my last article brought up the issue of what the goal of increasing diversity is and what the objectives of the atheist movement even are (that’s a post of its own).
One would think that reaching out to atheists of all shapes, sizes, colours, backgrounds, income levels, (etc.) would be an obvious enough goal in an of itself, however there are other reasons to increase diversity.
First, people with similar backgrounds tend to think alike. We can easily fail to see or recognize the extent of the harm of Eastern religions including Hinduism and Buddhism. By increasing diversity in our ranks and leadership we expose ourselves to new ideas and points of view, and that’s something I think most freethinkers are in favour of.
Second, we will be taken less seriously if we’re seen as an Old White Men’s club (or even as a white men’s club since the younger movement is alive and well today). By including women and people of colour, we can defeat charges from religions that we are racist or otherwise.
Really, just watch Greta Christina and Debbie Goddard talk about this because they know where it’s at: