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What you are, not what you aren’t

I have to say, I’m tremendously encouraged by the emergence of a new “Atheism+” movement as the logical outgrowth of the New Atheist movement. The problem with atheism (if you’ll pardon me phrasing it in those terms) is that it’s a definition based on what you’re not, or in other words on the things you don’t do. That’s a negative beacon. Sure, it draws in people who have thought things over, and rejected superstition based on reason and evidence, but it also draws in people who disbelieve in God as part of a larger pattern of antisocial attitudes, as well as people who reject religion as a way of drawing attention to themselves.

Atheism+ is a much needed refinement of the original raw idea. It’s not enough just to disbelieve in God for whatever good or bad reasons you might have. To be part of this new movement, we need to be atheists PLUS we need to be decent people committed to making life better for ourselves and those around us. And that means breaking down all the pernicious vices by which we oppress and destroy one another: superstition, patriarchy, bigotry, sexism, racism—whatever penalizes the innocent in order to profit the privileged.

This, I think, is the heart of the animus that’s been driving the New Atheist movement and drawing the attention and interest of those around us. People aren’t really attracted to Atheism-, the simple, mean-spirited nay-saying that only seeks to take things away from others. Nor do they have much enthusiasm for Atheism0, the mere absence of belief that straddles fences and/or seeks at all costs to avoid rocking the boat. (I’m speaking about attitudes here, not about any individuals in particular.) What’s new and cool and exciting is the idea that we don’t have to resign ourselves to the limits and inequities and fossilized traditions of our ancestors. We can do better. We can be more.

Religion, long since subverted by the privileged few, isn’t going to lead us into a better place. Religion fights for the status quo, for keeping the walls thick and tall and well-maintained. But we don’t need to be herded and fenced in and farmed like cattle. We’ve outgrown that. We want liberty, and opportunity, and the empowerment to achieve our full potential. We want Atheism+. And what’s exciting is that it’s within our reach.