Quantcast

«

»

Aug 24 2012

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.

14 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Anonymous Atheist

    Well-said. :)

  2. 2
    mikespeir

    We’ll see….

  3. 3
    hotshoe, now with more boltcutters

    Thanks for this post. You’ve phrased it perfectly:

    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.

    That’s the standard I’ll be proud to work for.

  4. 4
    pastasauceror

    Oh man, it’s like Fox News here at FtB everybody has the same talking points.
    Think I’ll unsub and just stick with your old blog DD.

    1. 4.1
      Deacon Duncan

      I think you should stick around (though of course you’re free to do as you please). If you’ve read this blog for any length of time at all, you’ll know I don’t do “talking points.” In this case, I happen to really like Jen’s post and some of the subsequent discussion about A+. It only makes sense—you can’t make a social movement out of antisocial tendencies. Plus if I’m going to contribute my time and energy and support to a social movement, it had better be worth it. I don’t want to waste my time on a movement that decries the flaws in one group of people only to manifest a different but equally harmful flaws of its own. I’d rather focus on a movement that is actively working to make the situation better for everyone. And that’s A+.

    2. 4.2
      Emptyell

      It’s odd that when a bunch of people who already have a lot in common happen to actively agree about something you compare it to a corporation where everyone has to toe the line as terms of their employment. Apparently it has escaped your attention that there are a wide range of opinions and degrees of support between the various bloggers here on FTB. The fact that the preponderance of opinion is favorable is unsurprising but it is hardly uniformly enthusiastic and I don’t see anyone getting drummed out for failing to be sufficiently “on board”.

  5. 5
    David Quinn

    Everything you’ve said is simply repackaged humanism, with a side order of exclusion and dogma. Because its been made very clear that it’s not simply that atheism+ includes values beyond atheism, but that some values are acceptable and some are not.

    1. 5.1
      Drew Hardies

      @David_Quinn: This is my feeling also. Most of the posts about ‘differences’ between this and Humanism are outright offensive. Take for instance, lousycaluk’s post were Humanism is shown to overlap with antifeminist, privilege-denying, anti-gay, scumbag bigots.

      Evidently, I have a more expansive idea of humanism than some bloggers on the network, as I’ve no idea how ‘anti-gay’ works with Humanist values.

      The big innovation might be regaining control of a label. Anyone can say that they’re Humanist. Even people whose morality doesn’t line up with actual Humanism.

      So, it might be, “Humanism plus we have the ability to kick out assholes.”

      There’s some value to that. But for all the talk about excluding people, I’ve seen very few specifics about who will get to maintain the movement’s ban

      1. Deacon Duncan

        Perhaps because there’s no ban to maintain?

    2. 5.2
      Deacon Duncan

      Given the number of deists and Christians who are humanists, I don’t think you can say that Atheism+ and humanism are really the same thing. A+ supporters may have things in common with both atheists and humanists, but that doesn’t mean you can or should reduce it to one or the other.

      As for the matter of unacceptable values, A+ itself is a set of values, centered on the “dogma” that people are more important than ideologies. Values have to come from people, and consequently if there’s ever a conflict between the well-being of a value and the well-being of a person, the person should win. That’s not exclusivism, that’s having principles.

      Besides if anyone wants to say that it’s unacceptable to declare certain values unacceptable, they’re in for a certain amount of cognitive dissonance when they declare A+ values unacceptable. Values conflict, and sooner or later we need to choose between them. If we have to reject certain values anyway, why not reject the ones that hurt people?

      Civilization is based on setting reasonable boundaries on behavior, such that no one individual group ends up unfairly privileged at the expense of, and to the detriment of, other groups and individuals. Granted, that’s an ideal that real-world societies only approach, at best, but it’s still the goal we should all be working towards in order to obtain the maximum benefit for everyone.

      I honestly don’t see anyone being excluded from the A+ movement. I see people rejecting it for whatever reason, and I see people objecting to the idea of setting boundaries on people’s behavior for whatever reason. So fine, they don’t want to be part of the movement, they don’t have to be. They’re still atheists, for whatever that’s worth. So are A+ atheists. The latter just happen to focus on values that will make life better for everyone. And if anyone is afraid of being left out of that movement, all they have to do is embrace the same values and adjust their social behavior accordingly. If they’re not willing to do that, why would they want to identify with the movement in the first place?

  6. 6
    sqlrob

    Have you been able to make any sense out of the opposition to this? It just confuses the heck out of me.

    1. 6.1
      Don Quijote

      No

  7. 7
    Brian Carnell

    The opposition is simple….if you define Atheism Plus as the subset of atheists who are decent people, you’re saying anyone who is disapproved of by Atheism Plus folks is, by definition, not a decent person.

    Which itself wouldn’t be a problem if the bar for labeling people misogynists and racists weren’t so low in this debate.

    For example..I don’t see much room in the definition Jen gave of Atheism Plus for a pro-life secularist like Nat Hentoff. But Nat Hentoff is certainly a decent person.

    To the extent Atheism Plus is simply a SIG of atheists who are also very interested in social justice no one objects. To the extent it is an attempt to label folks with different values as not being decent people, it is problematic.

    1. 7.1
      Deacon Duncan

      The best remedy for that is to point out that Atheism+ isn’t “the subset of atheists who are decent people.” Atheism+ is the subset of atheists who, by identifying with A+ ideals, also openly oppose bigotry, discrimination, and other forms of oppression, and who champion proactive approaches for reducing or eliminating entrenched ideologies that privilege some groups at the expense of, and to the detriment of, other groups and individuals.

      There’s no barrier to being a non-A+ atheist and still being a decent person. There might be some, though, who would intentionally establish themselves as non-A+ atheists by promoting various forms of bigotry, carnivorous privilege, and abuse. In that case, though, I don’t think they’d really have grounds for blaming A+ if they subsequently acquire a reputation as non-decent atheists.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

%d bloggers like this: