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New Yorkers Against Religion-Based Bigotry

What is NYARBB?

New Yorkers Against Religion-Based Bigotry aims to (1) oppose the religious right wing on many different fronts and (2) defend the rights of a wide range of groups that have been vilified by the religious right wing. Whatever the religious right wing is aganist, we are for!

We also oppose other kinds of religion-based bigotry, e.g. paranoia about Jews and Muslims. We especially oppose the more conspiracy-oriented Jew-hating ideologies -- and similar paranoia about "the Illuminati." The latter paranoia frequently vilifies gays, atheists, Satanists, occultists, Pagans, feminists, environmentalists, and indeed almost anyone who upholds the values of modern Western secular society, as well as Jews. All these groups are alleged to be part of an evil elite plot to enslave and kill off the majority of the world's population. (See NYARBB's position on "conspiracy theories" and our collection of Resources for debunking grand conspiracy claims.)

And we oppose the remnants and occasional resurgences of the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare of the 1980's and early 1990's. (See Against Satanic Panics.) Though Satanic panic does not currently have much mainstream institutional respectability, there are, alas, still plenty of people working to revive it.

It is in the best interests of all of us to live in a society which accepts people of many different religions and lifestyles -- and which resists real abuses by governments, but without jumping to paranoid conclusions about anyone.

What is religion-based bigotry?

By "religion-based bigotry," we mean both (1) bigotry against people because of their religion and (2) bigotry rooted in or excused by religion, e.g. bigotry against gays.

Religion-based bigotry is not the same thing as criticism of a religion. Given our opposition to forms of bigotry that have been justified by religion, we have many criticisms of varous religions, or at least the more fundamentalist/traditionalist forms thereof. But we oppose the demonizing or dehumanizing of people based on their religion. We oppose overgeneralizations about a religion and its believers, and we oppose causing people harm because of their religious beliefs.

And we oppose causing people harm because of their religious beliefs. For example, we reject the idea (promulgated by some gay Republicans) that, in order to oppose homophobia or defend women's rights, the U.S. government should wage aggressive war against Muslim countries. We do not consider criticism of the more intolerant traditions of Muslim societies to be anti-Muslim bigotry. But advocating aggressive war on such grounds would indeed be a severe form of anti-Muslim bigotry. (It also is utterly unlikely to work. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown, the chaos of war only enables the more intolerant forms of a religion to thrive all the more. In any case, the U.S. government is unlikely to defend secularism overseas, given its long history of doing the exact opposite; see the examples given in NYARBB's position against both Islamism and anti-Muslim bigotry.) There are more constructive ways for concerned Westerners to oppose homophobia and defend women's rights in Muslim countries, such as by publicizing and otherwise supporting the work of Muslim reformers.

Although NYARBB strongly opposes the religious right wing, of both the Christian and Muslim varieties -- and similar movements in other religions too -- we do not oppose religion per se. We defend the rights of minority religions; and we welcome Christians who agree with our opposition to the Christian religious right wing. Indeed, because Chrsitianity is the majority religion here, progressive Christians have an essential role in any successful movement against the Christian religious right wint.

Likewise, in any successful movement against totalitarian Islamism, progressive Muslim reformers and mainstream Muslims will play a key role. Hence it is in the best interests of all of us to support Muslim reformers and oppose blanket bigotry against Muslims, while also working to counteract totalitarian Islamism.

What kinds of religion-based bigotry does NYARBB make a point of opposing?

Relevant political causes which we plan eventually to champion may include, among others:

  1. Rights of people of nonmainstream religions, especially those seen as most "demonic" by the religious right wing (e.g. Pagans, occultists, and Satanists)
  2. Rights of atheists
  3. Church/state separation
  4. Rights of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people
  5. Women's rights, including reproductive rights
  6. Legalization of sex work, and other concerns of sex workers
  7. Rights of sexual minorities (e.g. BDSM) and people of nonmainstream relationship orientation (e.g. polyamory)
  8. Rights of people in various much-demonized nonmainstream subcultures (e.g. Goth, metal, Vampire)
  9. Defense of those aspects of science education and scientific research that are attacked by the religious right wing, e.g. evolution.
  10. Opposing the slanderous vilification of various groups, including progressive political movements (such as feminists, gay rights activists, and environmentalists) as well as atheists, various religious groups, and other subcultures, by the religious rightr wing and by grand conspiracy ideologists.
  11. Assistance to the falsely accused in "Satanic" panics, regardless of their actual religion. (See Against Satanic Panics.)

In short, almost everything the religious right wing is against, we are for!

We are not currently active on all these fronts, but we do plan eventually to get involved in all of the above causes, as needs and opportunities arise, and when we have enough volunteers interested in working on any given issue.

Our central over-arching concerns

These past several decades have seen a very dangerous rise in religious fanaticism worldwide. Our main concern is the Christian religous right wing, which has had its ups and downs, but is still a very well-organized movement and has been spreading into new venues. We are also concerned about militant movements in the name of the most retrograde forms of Islam. The latter movements have been supported, all too often, by the U.S. government, which, after 9/11, has also gone to the opposite extreme and unjustly imprisoned and tortured many probably-innocent Muslims in the name of fighting against terrorism. (See NYARBB position against both Islamism and anti-Muslim bigotry.)

To oppose both Christian and Islamic theocratic movements, and to defend religious freedom for all, broad coalitions will be needed, including (1) atheists, (2) the more progressive adherents of mainstream religions (including Christianity and Islam), and (3) adherents of various smaller religious (and other) minorities that are vilified by the religious right wing. Alas, there is quite a bit of animosity amongst various groups in that last category too, e.g. between many Pagans and Satanists. NYARBB aims to counteract such prejudices while also educating ourselves and other people about the larger threats.

We aim especially to defend the rights of those categories of people who are most vilified by the religious right wing.

One of our top long-range priorities is opposing anti-Satanist panics, which have harmed many other people besides just Satanists, in much the same way that the anti-Communist witchhunts of the 1950's harmed many other people besides just Communists. Many of the falsely accused in the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare of the 1980's and early 1990's were ordinary mainstream folks -- not Satanists of any kind, not even Wiccans either, and probably not even metal fans or Dungeons and Dragons players.

Fortunately we do not, at the present time, live in an era of full-blown Satanic panic, at least not here in the West. But there are people and groups that do aim to revive anti-Satanist paranoia, so the danger is far from completely gone. Therefore, while opposing Satanic panic itself is not our current short-term top prioerity, we do oppose the grand conspiracy ideologies of those who aim to revive it. Their ideology, featuring "the Illmunati," has a lot in common with anti-Jewish paranoia based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which paranoia we also oppose.

At the present time, we work to oppose religion-based bigotry on many other fronts. We support GLBT rights, women's rights -- including abortion rights -- and the rights of people in many different subcultures that have been vilified by the religious right wing.

What is NYARBB doing that's different from other anti-bigotry groups?

One of NYARBB's specialties is opposing grand conspiracy ideology, e.g. the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (which influenced the Nazis) and "Illuminati" claims. (See NYARBB's position against "Illuminati" claims.) Grand conspiracy ideology, which has long fueled hatred against Jews and against some other religious minorities, is not currently mainstream here in the U.S.A., but is definitely undergoing a revival these days. It apparently is mainstream in many parts of the Middle East, and it is advocated by major religious right wing leaders here in the U.S.A. Most "conspiracy theory debunkers" do not focus much on grand conspiracy ideology, though it's clearly the most dangerous kind of "conspiracy theory" - the kind that has actually resulted in the most people getting killed or otherwise harmed. (See NYARBB's position on "conspiracy theories".) "Illuminati" claims are a means by which religious right wing ideology has been spreading into otherwise unrelated political movements (such as the antiwar movement and, even more so, the 9/11 Truth movement), and into pop culture (e.g. some hip hop lyrics).

We aim to combine our opposition to grand-conspiracy ideology with activism against other, more ordinary kinds of religion-based bigotry. For example, we plan occasionally to work together with Muslims against local violations of the civil rights of Muslims here in NYC. While so doing, we aim to be prepared with well-researched responses to any anti-Jewish conspiracy claims that anyone we're working with might bring up.

NYARBB's most unique aspect, so far, is our interaction with the 9/11 Truth movement, which calls for a new investigation of 9/11 and is best known for the belief, held by most though not all 9/11 Truth activists, that "9/11 was an inside job." NYARBB does not advocate the claim that "9/11 was an inside job," but does actively support the call for a further investigation of those aspects of 9/11 that are still genuinely murky. Such investigation could likely shed some light on our foreign policy concerns such as the "war on terror" (with its gross violations of human rights by the U.S. government, including torture) and the history of U.S. support for totalitarian Islamist regimes and movements. (See NYARBB's position on 9/11 and NYARBB's position against both Islamism and anti-Muslim bigotry.) Alas, here in New York City, the 9/11 Truth movement's public face is currently dominated by proponents of grand conspiracy ideology, primarily of the "Illuminati" variety. Because NYARBB has actively supported the goal of further investigation of 9/11, we've been able to interact constructively with 9/11 Truth activists around the issue of "Illuminati" claims.

Another thing that sets NYARBB apart is that we aim to counteract not only bigotry against people of relatively mainstream minority religions (e.g. Jews and Muslims), but also bigotry against smaller religious minorities that have been especially vilified by the Christian religious right wing (e.g. Pagans, occultists, and Satanists), and we'll also be concerned about defending the rights of atheists. Eventually we plan to encompass other controversial human-rights causes that have been opposed mainly on religious grounds, e.g. the rights of sex workers.

NYARBB Projects and task forces

During late 2008 through early 2010, NYARBB's activities were focussed mainly on the following projects:

and on the following task forces:

We also had the following, largely dormant projects:

As of summer 2010, thanks to the "Ground Zero mosque" controversy, the project Against Local Bigotry is now a major focus, though we're way behind on updating the website.

Our general approach

Where possible, we aim to oppose religion-based bigotry on multiple fronts at once.

When attempting to counter bigotry of any kind, we will aim to begin with a rational, civil, conciliatory, educational approach, escalating to more confrontational approaches only after more conciliatory approaches have failed. At all times our approach will be strictly law-abiding.

In all that we do, we aim to encourage careful thought and research, as a necessary part of any antidote against blind prejudice. We will aim to avoid jumping to one-sided, simplistic conclusions on complex issues.

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