January 09, 2013

Kyrsten Sinema, Rebecca Watson, Keith Ellison,Gnu Atheism and values

Kyrsten Sinema, sworn in on a US Constitution by Speaker John Boehner.
So, nonbeliever Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema wouldn't be sworn in with a bible but refuses to be identified as an atheist, or anything similar?
"Kyrsten believes the terms non-theist, atheist or nonbeliever are not befitting of her life's work or personal character," spokesman Justin Unga said in email. "She does not identify as any of the above."
First, Justin, and Kyrsten, that sounds pretty lame-o.

It sounds lame-o precisely because of your quite visible swearing-in "statement," first of all.

It also sounds like you're avoiding the Big A because you're afraid of a stereotype or two about atheism. But, as Chris Stedman points out, by so doing, you're perpetuating the stereotype.

That may not be that big of a deal. But, Ms. Sinema, you took principled stands on LGBT issues — hell, you're bisexual yourself — and more as a state legislator in a state as wingnut as Arizona.

So why not now, on this? If voters elected you anyway, and had some idea before the election that you were some sort of nontheist, which you didn't dispute, then why the worry?

Hemant Mehta, the "Friendly Atheist," agrees:
My only complaint so far about Sinema is that she appeared to let on that she was “one of us” during her campaign only to assert her “unaffiliation” after she had won. That statement by Sinema’s campaign that Chris alluded to didn’t come out until just after the election, even though the rumors about her supposed atheism were online for months prior to that and many atheists had donated money to her campaign.

Mehta then ties that, like me, to the sexuality issue:
The strange thing is that Sinema never backed away from the label of “bisexual.” It didn’t seem to hurt her at all, and that’s great news.  
Yep. That's why it looks like she has a "problem" with the label of "atheist" or anything close.

Related to that, people knew your background enough to ask what the book was in the swearing in, if it was NOT a bible. So, at least in the secularist world, whatever label each of us uses, you're "out." Intentional use of that word.

Stedman then anticipates those who would say "give her some space" with this:
“[Rep. Sinema] believes the term Muslim is not befitting of her life’s work or personal character.” Does that sound right? It shouldn’t.
I agree.

Let's take the first open Muslim Congressman:
“Keith Ellison believes the term Muslim is not befitting of his life’s work or personal character.”
And no, that does NOT sound right.

So, why not accept that this is America, people will hang some sort of religious/metaphysical label on you and already have, know that Pete Stark partially broke ground, and take it the next step.

Think of Stark as having a "civil union" with the term of "atheist" or "nontheist" as a Member of Congress. You can now "marry" it.

That said, if you're ambiguous enough about such identifications (as using any book rather than none at all instead of a bible would indicate), then how and why did basic information about your secularism come out in the first place?

With that in mind, Gnu Atheist types shouldn't expect to get much PR traction from Sinema. Which is what Gnu Atheists want. So, Stedman's right to critique her statement; Gnus are wrong for wanting her image on a bus somewhere. And, that's what they want, in my opinion.

So, in light of that, you know ... maybe we should sic Rebecca Watson on you. Maybe you're not a true feminist, either? Hell, maybe you're not a true bisexual, either.

Watson would surely do her damndest to get to the bottom of both.

More serious sidebar: See my thoughts on Stedman's book, "Faitheist."

And, to update this, per a friend of mine, atheist and feminist, who lives in Arizona, adn I think in Sinema's Congressional district, Sinema says she is not an atheist, but not a person of faith, either.

Ergo, she's a "None."

Deal with it, Gnu Atheists; no bus or billboard ad with Rep. Sinema's face on it.

Also via Facebook, I've asked a Gnu Atheist who claims she held herself out differently on the campaign trail for some specific evidence. I'm guessing there probably will be none. And, it wouldn't be the first time that Gnus have read more into a situation than is there.

(Like claiming the surge in "Nones" means there's a surge in atheists.)

Anyway, that invite extends to other Gnus: If you've got some specific evidence that Sinema held herself out as an atheist, and not just a "None," on the campaign trail, I'm all ears. If not, stop claiming what you can't support.

That said, per a commenter below, maybe the LGBT community asked her to "focus herself" on that, and she and/or the community thought that also self-identifying as an atheist would be distracting?


Rogue Medic said...

I don't like to identify myself as an atheist for the many reasons that have been described by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and others.

I am not superstitious.

Homeopathy, acupuncture, dowsing, Reiki, ghosts, goblins, ESP, Santa Claus, gods, and other supernatural ideas are all nonsense in the absence of valid evidence.

If somebody does provide valid evidence, I am willing to reevaluate my position.

I am patient.

While I wait for some valid evidence, I will not waste any time assuming that there is any legitimacy to any of these ideas.

I also feel free to criticize those who defend these ideas without evidence.

Since there is no evidence, I feel free to criticize all proponents of superstition.

I am, usually polite about it. If people ask me in a non-pushy way if I am religious, I state, "Not even a little bit." If they are pushy, I reply that I am not superstitious.

I identify with Not Superstitious as the most accurate description, but too many people get offended by this description of their beliefs as superstitions, even though it is accurate.


Gadfly said...

Rogue, I get where you're coming from. I don't always like the term, in large part due to "Gnu Atheists" and their stances on some issues ... including the two you name, especially Harris!

That said, per discussions I've had with others, Sinema may have "led on" secularist groups during her campaign, including monetary solicitations.

Rogue Medic said...

Contrariwise, atheist is a shortcut to explain one superstition that I do not have. For the others, there is no specific term. No term for not believing in Santa Claus. No term for not believing in homeopathy. No term for not believing in ESP. No term for not believing in ghosts, goblins, and other ghouls.

It is odd that she would be out about her non-mainstream sexual identity, but not about being an atheist, unless she does have beliefs that she feels are inconsistent with the term atheist.

Maybe she receives pressure from LGBT movers and shakers to distance herself from atheism, because they want to keep their issues separate in the eyes of the voters. Everybody seems to be aware of the polls that show that atheists are the least likely to be voted for. Many politicians are strongly influenced by polling data.

But I am shocked that a political candidate would ever lead on potential financial contributors and then fail to deliver, or not deliver in an obvious way that the contributors might have expected. ;-)


Gadfly said...

To follow up, the person on FB who made the claim she led on donors never responded in the thread when I asked for links to evidence.

You do raise an issue re the LGBT community.