Atheism Plus

Hi all, I am going to be out of town until next Monday night.  I plan to post on Tues.  I spent some time tonight catching up on blogs and dug into the new Atheism+ movement that is being created by some of the FTBers.

The basic idea of it, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is, according to Jen McCreight of blag hag:

We are…
Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I am all for that.  One hundred percent.  I am proud to be a feminist.  I am proud to fight racism.  I am proud to fight for equal rights for the LGBTQ community.  I do it regularly.  Social Justice is important to me.  I blog about it, and donate time and money to many social justice causes.

I think that much of the vulgar misogyny that seemed to run rampant this past summer in reference to Surly Amy, Rebecca Watson, and others was disgusting.

I also think the entire situation grew out of control and many people who were just asking questions and offering some comments were mistakenly labelled as misogynists.  In short, I did not have time to comment on it while it was happening (my regular readers know that I did have time to blog much at all this summer).  My opinion of the matter is that there were a lot of nasty things said and done on both sides of the issue.  It is a shame that it played out the way it did.

All that aside, the various threats, rape jokes, misogyny and the blatant sexism that was hurled towards some female bloggers is unacceptable.  The Atheism+ movement seems to have grown out of that.  In fact, a key aspect of the Atheism+ movement is to marginalize those people.  I have no problem with marginalizing misogynists and racists.  None.  My wife deals with misogyny and sexism on a daily basis at work.  It is a common topic at our dinner table.  I have close friends and family who are homosexual.  LGBT rights of paramount importance to me.  I feel that racism is simply not excusable under any circumstance.

As much as I want to support this movement, I am having a lot trouble with Richard Carrier’s blog on the topic, particularly his treatment of people in the comments section.  I greatly respect Richard as a scholar and have read a decent amount of his work on history/the bible.  I find that I always come away from his writings having learned something about history.

I am all for ignoring blatant assholes, but I am not for reacting in the manner that Carrier has.  That rhetoric and language goes way to far for me.  As things stand now, I can’t sign on to Atheism+ for that reason alone.  Which is sad in a way, because I support all of the social justice causes that they want to support and the result of my not signing on is that Carrier thinks I am douchebag, C.H.U.D.(Canibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller), part of the problem, illogical, the enemy, retarded (really classy with that one), and I don’t recall what other descriptive words he used for people who didn’t immediately sign on.  One thing is clear though, I should apparently Get The Fuck Out of the atheism or Atheism+ movement or something.

That is not going to happen.  I do not know where all of this will land.  I don’t know if my opinion will change (though it won’t if Carrier’s attitude stays the same).  I suppose I will see when I get back in town and to a computer.  Let me make one thing clear.  Carrier is wrong to assume all of those adjectives apply to people who do not join the Atheism+ movement.  Not one of those words applies to me, I know that, my regular readers know that, and I don’t give a shit what Richard Carrier thinks of me.  I will continue my push for social justice either way.

Thanks for Reading.  I look forward to your comments.

—-RB

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27 thoughts on “Atheism Plus

    1. Dogly from Brandon, FL, United States

      Hi Jack,

      I, too, feel that attempting to link other causes under the 'atheist' banner is unwise and unnecessary. Humanism covers all of Jen McCreight's favored causes – but not all of mine.

      I have avoided making any attempt to organize fellow atheists to my other causes. Recently though, my local group held a demonstration of a sort at Chik-fi-lay. They wore cow costumes and signs that said "eat more chicken". This was the company's OWN promotion – Get Free Chicken Meal if you wear the costume and sign into the the restaurant. The organizer suggested going in and ordering a free meal even if you were not going to eat it, because you could give it to the homeless. This caused a conflict in my activism. Because you have said (somewhere?) that you separate your animal rights activism from your atheist activism, I ask you what would you do in this situation?

      I, too, would happily protest "chik-fi-lay", for giving millions to support an amendment to prevent gay marriiage, AND for torturing and killing millions of birds. I responded before anyone else to the organizers suggestion for the protest. I asked that a different type of demo be used outside a store, one that did not include mocking cows and killing, "more chicken'". The response was angry, and immediate, and I was accused of trying to turn the organizer into a vegan.

      I tried to explain that this was not just a benign expression of support for gay rights, but was a call to support one justice movement over another justice movement. It was calling on us all to support the victims of one injustice, by killing lots of the victims of another injustice.

      It was, in fact, calling for the deaths of beneficiaries of another justice movement.. Calling on atheists to order the deaths of hens whom they themselves didn't even want to eat, and who would otherwise not be raised and killed, seemed especially unkind.
      My attempt to explain this fell on deaf ears. The usual mocking and cruel remarks by others followed, including the inevitable, "Yum, throw that bloody cow on my plate." charmer.

      We are atheists, and as such have nothing in common except a disbelief in gods. On the other hand, most other causes fall nicely into the Humanist mission statement. Animal Liberation and veganism do not, unfortunately. God did give us dominion over all the other animals, and that is one tasty and convenient christian dogma that most atheists are not about to refute.

      How would you have handled this conflict. (I am NOT asking for comments from those for whom this is not a conflict of principle.) Thanks

      Reply
      1. Gary Clemans-Gibbon from Kelowna, BC, Canada

        I also feel that by attaching preconditions to atheism, that of liberal social doctrine we will undermine the main goals of atheists today which is to get the religious to examine their beliefs and specifically to encourage the fence-sitters to take the brave step to discarding their religious baggage.

        I am in fully in support of all social justice and equality but I am dismayed at this group who are so quick to disingenuously label any dissenter to their own particular brand of groupthink as a misogynistic and then use that as a reason to marginalize that person. We saw the viciousness of the response to a single tweet by Michael Brayton. I was utterly disgusted.

        Real misogynists are not welcome in the mainstream atheist community and I have never met a single one at any atheist or secular conference or rally that I've attended.

        Here are my thoughts on this new group and the harm that I feel it has done and will continue to do to our cause.
        http://www.facebook.com/notes/gary-clemans-gibbon

        Reply
  1. Cephus from Redlands, CA, United States

    The problem is one that I've brought up many times in the past, it's an inability to separate their various beliefs and positions, instead insisting on grouping them all into a single all-encompassing label. Whether they like it or not, atheism is the lack of belief in god(s). Full stop. It is not about social justice. It is not about science. It is not about driving a car or collecting bottle caps. It has a single definition and no other.

    But these people would rather create a super-secret special club that encompasses all of their interests in one and they're desperately trying to co-opt a label that already exists and already has a meaning to do it. What's worse, they're using "activism through terrorism", attacking and insulting anyone who would dare to disagree with their holy quest.

    That said, I'm not at all interested in joining their club, even though I would be amendable in general terms to a lot of their goals, I detest their methods and their utter irrationality. They've already demonstrated they're incapable of using critical thinking and skepticism in these goals, they're just reacting emotionally, without bothering to examine any of the evidence and following where it leads. Like theists, we've seen conclusively that they start with a conclusion and then forge evidence to support it.

    Unfortunately, the longer this goes on, the more people are going to say "fuck organized atheism" and just walk away. They are killing the organized atheist movement and they just don't care.

    Reply
      1. Cephus from Redlands, CA, United States

        Yes, but those social justice causes have nothing whatsoever to do with atheism! That's the problem. They want to co-opt the term to mean a bunch of unrelated things forced together by insanity. If you don't embrace every one of their pet causes, you can't be an atheist? How absurd is that? What happens when they start adding tenets to Atheism+? If they demand that you have to be a vegetarian to be an atheist? If they demand you're not allowed to have religious friends or family members to be an atheist?

        Just how much koolade are people going to drink?

        Reply
  2. pneumo from Skärholmen, Stockholms Län, Sweden

    Hey Cephus, If you guys just had been nicer to them to begin with we wouldn't have this problem.

    Reply
    1. Cephus from Redlands, CA, United States

      If, by nicer, you mean "if we had just given in and let them run rampant all over everyone", then sure. However, we had plenty of legitimate concerns and even when those concerns were expressed nicely and politely, we were attacked, called misogynists and supporters of rape culture.

      Fanatics don't want a healthy discussion. Fanatics want obedience.

      Reply
  3. Jacques from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

    +1. Also expressed similar thoughts here: http://synapses.co.za/atheism-missioncreep-potent… . There are legitimate aspects of A+ to debate, and folk should be able to do so without being verbally abused. Even endorsing all your disclaimers above – anti-racism, misogyny, etc., *how* we choose to be anti- those things allows for different strategies. Even if the standing-ground for moderate approaches is small, I think it exists, and that Carrier has offered a false dichotomy. (Ironically, in light of all the precipitating events, Rebecca Watson's post on this seems to avoid that false dichotomy).

    Reply
  4. Sarah from Elyria, OH, United States

    I have never read this blog before nor Richard Carrier's blog so I don't know if there are any subtleties that I may be missing, but I can see your point concerning Carrier's post on A+. His tone is abrasive and it seems as if he is trying to chase people away. Yet, I fully endorse Jennifer McCreight's (not bothering to check the spelling) Atheism+. Carrier does not own this idea despite his attempt to portray it so. This group can do some good, give them a chance.

    Reply
    1. reasonbeing from United States Post author

      I hear what you are saying Sarah. I will wait and see how things shake out, but I am not going to condone rhetoric and division on a scale that Carrier is calling for. He did more than get rid of "undesirables", he alienated a bunch of people, like me, that see many positive things to A+

      Reply
  5. Brian Carnell from Ann Arbor, MI, United States

    "Yet, I fully endorse Jennifer McCreight's (not bothering to check the spelling) Atheism+. Carrier does not own this idea despite his attempt to portray it so. This group can do some good, give them a chance."

    Note that a) so far none of the other folks involved in launching A+ have said "yeah, we think Carrier's going too far too." and b) at least one, Greta Christine, has weighed in to say that Carrier's views largely reflect her vision of A+: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/08/23/huma

    Reply
  6. Sergio from Mogi-guaçu, São Paulo, Brazil

    Amen.

    Most atheists don't mind new groups popping out, and most of us fully embrace those points.
    What Carrier doesn't seem to understand is that we are in shock with that binary mentality of us x them (us=pure, them=douchebags,etc), embrace it or die mentality.

    Reply
    1. The Secular Thinker from West Lebanon, NH, United States

      This is part of my concern as well. There certainly are many issues that go hand in hand with atheism, but this is simply because the only "legitimate" arguments opposing said issues are rooted in religion (e.g. gay marriage). In generally, the atheist community tends to be liberal, seeming to indicate that an overall attitude of scepticism and rational thought leads to this position (although I am weary to make such broad generalizations). However, the most important point here is that atheists discuss these issues, and perhaps, over time, a clearly set of beliefs may come out of it.

      Reply
      1. Cephus from Redlands, CA, United States

        The problem is, not all atheists are liberals. I'm certainly not. The whole stated point of Atheism+ is to forcibly eject anyone who doesn't fall into a very narrow, very liberal mindset from atheism entirely. It's one thing to want these issues to be discussed, it's another to boot out anyone who doesn't fit into a particular mold from the movement entirely.

        Reply
  7. Infidel753 from Longview, WA, United States

    If they're trying to start a movement for which atheism is a necessary but not sufficient condition, fine. If they're trying to establish criteria for who is and isn't a "proper" atheist, no. That's what religions do.

    Yes, the sexism and sexual harassment at conventions needed to be squelched, and I gather there are already concrete steps being taken to do that in at least some cases.

    I wish we would get past the infighting and go back to attacking religion. There's still plenty of it out there to attack — including sexism.

    Reply
  8. Floridaatheist from Hobe Sound, FL, United States

    Atheism + is no more than humanism. The + bothers the shit out of me. I suppose those that do not fall under the + criteria you are atheist -. I am an atheist and consider myself a humanist. Shunning people may well remove them from the atheist movement altogether. Would it not be better to reason with them about the wrongs of theirs views that take away from what the atheist movement want to portray to the public ? I can see some of the religious jumping for joy if they would witness the infighting going on. I would like to think most atheist have humanistic values. Am I delusional on this point ?

    Reply
  9. Cephus from Redlands, CA, United States

    I don't disagree with any of them, I just recognize that none of them, even #5, have anything to do with atheism. Words have meanings for a reason. Atheism is the lack of belief in god(s), full stop. Absolutely nothing else. Atheism doesn't mean pro-equality, anti-harassment, it doesn't even mean rationality and critical thinking. It's just the lack of belief.

    There's already a term that's used to encompass most of those, that's "secular humanism". It's been around forever, it's well understood and people can easily be both atheists and secular humanists. People can also be religious and secular humanists. You can no more combine atheism and secular humanism than you can combine religion and secular humanism. What, should people start calling it Religion+? That's idiotic.

    However, what's happening here is an attempt to force people who are one thing (atheists) into also being something else (secular humanists). You have to remember, the stated purpose of this move is to eject anyone who doesn't buy into secular humanism or who simply reject the idea that atheism ought to be Krazy Glued to anything else by fiat.

    It's exclusionary and frankly, yet another dick move from people who have made far too many dick moves already.

    Reply

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