Last November (in 2015), I tried to nail down a definition of atheism. Tried. Only during the following months and across some arguments over the internet did I come to a more applicable conclusion:
Atheist is an identity group, and like a lot of large identity groups, there is no specific trait or qualifier that applies to all of them, even ones that seemingly should apply to all of them by axiom. This applies to an awful lot of commonly used groups, such as conservative, Christian, feminist, gamer, Muslim, Texan, Law Enforcement Officer, and so on.
At first, this may seem problematic, because the purpose of naming these identities is to make it easier to discuss them, and discuss (that is describe and compare and contrast) those who share these identities.
But discussing groups and how they collectively feel is a dangerous thing to do, because they’re often not so collective.
To quote Jon Stewart (yes, him)
In the liberal community, you hate this idea of creating people as a monolith. Don’t look as Muslims as a monolith. They are the individuals and it would be ignorance. But everybody who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist. That hypocrisy is also real in our country.
We do like to look at groups as a monolith. To be fair, it works for many other elements of our universe. Pricariously-perched boulders, tiger sharks, timber rattlesnakes, supercells and Novembers on Lake Superior all behave consistently with each other. But people are a bit more sophisticated than that.
Some Christian Evangelists will say some terrible, spiteful things, but that isn’t representative of all Evangelical Christians.
Some feminists have been known to say very silly stuff. But these feminists and their silly thoughts are not representative of what other feminists feel or believe, or the feminist movement as a group entity.
A few Muslims have engaged in horrific violence and have killed a number of people. But these guys do not represent Islam. They may not even adequately represent the group from whom we get claims of responsibility.
A few more Muslims have advocated for the enforcement of Sharia Law, and some leaders of some nations still mandate women stay enshrouded and uneducated. But these guys represent Islam about as much as Mike Pence represents Christianity, which is to say to an infinitesimally tiny degree.
Right now some Trump supporters have interpreted his election victory as license to harass or otherwise attack others. But there are many, many more Trump supporters who don’t.
And from my position, my awareness of this has to come not from direct observation, but from lensing much the way we observe black holes in space. Trump supporters who make news are the ones that engage in violence or vandalism. Just like the Evangelists who make news are the ones who refuse to serve gays (as if they were blacks in the 1950s) or who are trying to pass laws to chase gays out of their county. Muslims who make news are usually ones who blow up a mosque, or who gang rape women, or murder victims of such gang-rapes in so-called honor killings.
For a long time, I had to speculate there were non-crazy Muslims on the premise that I personally knew non-crazy Christians, even though I only saw crazy Christians on the news or commenting on the internet.* (I’ve since been able to confirm my prediction through direct contact.)
And right now, all I hear about Trump Supporters is how they’re engaging in crazy, antisocial and sometimes violent actions in the name of Donald Trump. I assume there’s a Trump supporter or two out there that didn’t vote to watch the world burn (in nuclear fire), and doesn’t hate everyone else whose culture is not their own, and will be surprised and distressed once the Republican party is gutted from within, and the Trump hats and Trump salutes are mandated and essential Muslims are required by law to wear yellow crescent-moons on their shoulders.
I have Trump supporters in my family and they do not represent Trump supporters favorably. Neither does Kanyé West, for that matter.
Right now the voices of these rational, non-hateful Trump supporters who do not foresee (and would take offense to) a coming Trump-led holocaust cannot be heard from here.
* As a warning to the Christian communities out there, Mike Pence’s position of power is going to put him, and all his anti-gay bigotry and evolution-denialism on the front page, and it will be easy for people to start presuming that he represents all of Christendom (including yourselves) so long as you stay silent. During the George W. Bush administration, conservative Christians got a lot of time at the mic and said both stupid and awful things, and laws were passed in the favor of their churches, which propelled antagonistic Christian stereotypes, popular departures from churches, common sentiments against religion as a subset of ideology, and bolstered the New Atheist movement that has spawned us a whole new crop of internet trolls.
Without more voices countering Pence and big religion, it’s going to happen again.