The Crazy [Atheist] Card

I have been reading comment sections about atheists, and I have noticed something both surprising and unsurprising. Male atheists are less likely to be called “crazy” than a variety of other derogatory adjectives. For instance, Richard Dawkins is much more likely to be “stupid” rather than “crazy.” On one secular blog, a writer contrasted a prominent male atheist with a female atheist to examine the differences between a new atheist and an apologist atheist. When I searched for the word “crazy,” it was used seven times in the 26 comments, not appearing once in the actual body of the article, and the word was used in reference only to the female atheist.

Crazy is a word commonly associated with emotion. Since women are stereotyped as being more emotional and emotion is considered irrational, the opposite of what atheists strive to be, and irrationality is lethargic, incorrect, crazy, this makes crazy a convenient word to keep handy in one’s rhetoric. For some women, crazy is one the worst things you can be, like bitchy, slutty, or my personal favorite—bossy.

We need to figure out how to argue against the crazy card, especially when it is used by theists but also when talking among fellow atheists.

mustbebecrazy

The crazy accusation is a form of gaslighting. Telling someone that their feelings or thoughts are incorrect, that they don’t have the right to feel or think a certain way, is a form of manipulation. Minimizing another person’s thoughts is an attempted method to control that person. If that person is no longer able to rely on their own mind, then that person must rely on someone else to determine how they are supposed to feel or think.

Calling someone crazy is a direct attempt to control that person—the way that person thinks or the way that person feels.

I suspect many people do not know what they are implying when calling a woman crazy. It’s an easy card to play. Reflexive, even. People also accept the crazy explanation as adequate without much question. Sometimes, calling a woman crazy is how a person communicates one of the following: “She felt a certain way, and I did not want her to think that way.” or “She was upset about something, and I did not want to deal with it.”

It’s more difficult to use introspection and specific language to communicate the issues at hand. Let’s look at some examples.

Instead of: “Person X is crazy!”
Try: “Person X is a born-again Christian who opposes gay marriage and the study of evolution in the public school system.”

Instead of: “Person Y is crazy!”
Try: “I cut off Person Y in traffic, and Person Y followed me home and shit on my porch.”

Instead of: “Person Z is crazy!”
Try: “I am not voting for Donald Trump.”

What communicates the issue better? What creates a more productive dialogue? The speaker loses nothing by thinking critically about the words used. Furthermore, the speaker’s friends, who might be mentally ill or bipolar or autistic, are less likely to be hurt by the use of specific language. As advocates of rational thinking and skepticism, should we not always attempt to create more productive dialogues?

Crazy is also a highly effective way to argue with a person, because it completely changes the topic at hand. The topic is no longer about what the person is saying. It’s about how the person is saying it. The crazy card redirects the conversation.

To bring this home,

If you want to call someone crazy, don’t. Use introspection and specific language instead.

If you hear another person call someone crazy, be skeptical, and ask them for specific language. Card denied.

If you are called crazy, recognize the speaker’s attempt to control you and redirect the conversation. Do not be persuaded.

I am jealous of these male atheists who are called so many creative derogatory names. I want something of my own. Call me godless. Call me shortsighted, wicked, a hell-bound harlot, Satan’s spokesperson, an arrogant cocksucking heathen, anything but crazy.

Support Women, Drink Coffee

grounds

Happy International Women’s Day, readers! Earlier today, I tweeted about a charity called Grounds for Health, an organization that provides women’s healthcare in Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Peru, and elsewhere. Their program centers on reducing cervical cancer among women in developing, coffee-growing companies.

For awhile, I struggled to promote or donate to charities of any sort. After learning the ins and outs of a powerful and politicizing “charity,” I became more skeptical about the not-for-profit sector. I now meticulously research charities before donating or serving them. Admittedly, my research often leaves me feeling rather bruised. I am particular about which charities I choose to support. (It makes me uncomfortable to support any charity with a religious message or tone, for instance.) I used to have a difficult time convincing myself to support programs that didn’t seem like long-term solutions to certain societal problems or infrastructures, but I have come a long way from that line of thinking.

By focusing only on endgame prescriptivism, I realized I was neglecting the humane core of altruism. Particularly, my thought process was challenged by Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams. We absolutely do need long-term solutions to poverty and global healthcare for women. However, when I choose not to support a charity that is a “short-term” solution rather than a long-term solution, I am forgetting the people who are still trying to live in the short term. I am forgetting the people who are dying from cervical cancer, the people who need to eat, drink clean water, wear shoes, receive medical treatment in the short term. Ignoring the short term while talking about long-term solutions is a conversation one can have from the too comfortable vantage point of privilege. Keep the conversation about the long term alive, but I more often advocate that we leave our leftism at the door and think about people too.