For all the diversity of their philosophical inclinations, most prominent atheists seem to be middle-aged or older white men. Think about it: Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, Myers, Randi. (Big exception: Ayaan Hirsi Ali.) These renowned skeptics have led the charge in challenging religious authorities, but they haven't been nearly as successful in welcoming different ethnicities to their own club, argues Alom Shaha in the Guardian.
This oversight, which Shaha calls an "accidental exclusion," is a matter that should be of some concern to atheists of all stripes. In the column, he explains that minorities are more likely to face "greater pressure to adhere to the religion of the communities in which they live." As an Asian atheist, Shaha recounts his own conversations with others who felt that they must carry on the "pretense" of their religion because "coming out" would be an excruciating process.
Delicately pointing out that he doesn't want to appear as if he has a "chip on his shoulder," the columnist nevertheless insists that there needs to be greater effort made among the atheist community to welcome minorities who, perhaps, feel isolated in such gatherings. Simply "saying 'there isn't a big conspiracy to keep black and Asian people out', is tragically missing the point," he writes.
The scattered communities of atheists, as of now, do not appear to fully recognize this as a problem. "Even if there's no deliberate exclusion, there is accidental exclusion. Perhaps some people are genuinely unaware of this, but perhaps others are just hoping the problem does not really exist," concludes Shaha.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.