One of countless examples of a child being forced to wear something they don't want to wear due to social expectations. Unfortunately, for "Atheist Republic" that common social reality is framed as theism vs. atheism. As if atheist kids never have to wear stuff they don't like????? https://t.co/D9NSjneXw0
— Tentative Apologist (@RandalRauser) February 4, 2019
That tweet elicited a reply from Stephen Law and with that we were off on a debate. As usual, I found the exchange to be interesting, spirited, and illuminating, so I’ve decided to share it below.
SL: As an atheist, I force my daughters to go to school wearing hats with pictures of Richard Dawkins on saying ‘There’s Probably No God’. They don’t like it. But Christians send their kids to school wearing stuff they don’t like, right?
RR: So you’re insistent on ignoring my point? Got it.
SL: Hmm. I think maybe you’re missing mine.
RR: I pointed out that the proper framing issue is not theism vs atheism (or, for that matter, “religion” vs. “secularism”) but rather the imposition of particular cultural norms/social standards on legal minors. And to some degree, we all do that. What’s your point?
SL: My point is that sometimes atheism/religion IS appropriate framing. Atheists may force kids to wear stuff they don’t like, but not cos they’re atheist. Whereas religion does sometimes motivate imposing dress codes, etc on minors. That’s an asymmetry – one I don’t want airbrushed [sic]
RR: “Atheism” is simply belief in the non-existence of God (or, accorrding [sic] to some folk, absence of belief in God). As such, it’s too thin, content-wise, to determine dress. But atheists all adhere to richer socio-cultural frameworks that impose standards on children.
SL: So we agree – atheists don’t force an ‘atheist dress code on kids, whereas religions sometimes force religious dress codes on kids that may embody an oppressive religious ideology. Fair enough for
@AtheistRepublic to flag that.
RR: Atheists don’t impose dress codes qua atheism just as theists don’t impose dress codes qua theism because “atheism” and “theism” are not beliefs that map onto dress codes. See how that works?
SL: Obviously is no blanket theist dress code but there are many religious dress codes (whereas no atheist one) and some of those dress codes represent and embody oppression, as in the Iranian case.
RR: Look at how you shift, mid-tweet from “theism” dress code to “religious” dress code. Did you think I wouldn’t see that? And surely you know some religions are atheistic?
SL: Sure. There’s no problem with what I just said. To repeat, some use religion to justify misogyny and imposing oppressive dress codes on women. Iran does that. Atheists don’t. Atheists may legitimately point this out. You’re trying to teflon-coat religion suggesting that we are all just as bad as each other. Nope – some religions (historically, most) have religiously oppressed women, and sometimes imposed oppressive dress codes. Iran is an example. There’s no such atheist-justified oppressive dress code.
RR: There’s no such atheist-justified oppressive dress code.” Yeah, there’s also no aparentist-justified oppressive dress code. Imagine that…
SL: The bottom line is various religions (some of em, & not theism per se) have historically oppressed women on religious grounds & imposed dress codes. Those *religions* are to blame. Blame them. You won’t : ‘No no it’s just culture’ & we’re all just as bad as each other.’ Nope.
RR: Stephen, I know you’re more sophisticated than this. If you want to critique the dress code in Iran, then focus a critique on post-Revolution Iran. When you instead suggest we should target “Islam” simpliciter, or even “religion”, you dilute your target, undermine your message and all for the sake of riding your own ideological hobbyhorse.
SL: It’s fair enough for an atheist org. like
@AtheistRepublic to point out that *religions* like Islam are one root cause of this sort of thing. Atheism per se isn’t (neither is theism). You’re [sic] criticism is unjustified.
RR: I’m no fan of the hijab, but I wonder: are you opposed to the imposition of any dress code on children? If not, what dress code would you believe is proper for children and why?
That’s where the conversation ends. To debrief, I am concerned that Stephen’s analysis is focused on pitting “atheism” against “religion”. As I argued, this is spurious for several reasons, including the following: neither atheism nor theism stipulate a dress code for minors, all cultures do stipulate dress codes for minors (and indeed all citizens).
Yes, religion often can be among the factors that provide an ideological justification for various dress codes, but keep in mind that some religions are atheistic. Moreover, it is not the religion simpliciter that justifies the dress code but rather a particular interpretation of that religion within a particular culture.
Furthermore, we all do recognize the propriety of some imposition of a dress code on the minor population and the population generally. For example, I doubt Stephen Law would approve of men walking around bottomless in the streets of London.
Finally, Stephen’s ideological focus on “religion” as an oppressive force is far too blunt an analysis: if he wants to stop oppression in post-Revolution Iran, for example, he should focus on the culture and society of post-Revolution Iran, not “Islam” simpliciter, to say nothing of the absurdity in targeting “religion”.