Atheism+: A legitimate concern


One thing that’s mystified me regarding the Atheism+ movement is why anyone would be against it. I’ve seen and heard about various forms of opposition and/or abuse aimed at trying to kill it off and silence those who speak up about it, but so far I haven’t seen anyone offer a thoughtful and reasonable argument about why Atheism+ should be opposed.

Until now. FtBlogger Edwin Kagin raises what I think is a valid concern.

Atheism means without a belief in a god. That’s it. Within that shell are many many different points of view. This became clear a few years ago when several life members quit the organization American Atheists because it’s then President was actively working for the defeat of President George Bush. The quitting life members liked Bush and thought the organization had no business being against him, or for or against anyone else for that matter. I know this because they told me.

I could not imagine any atheist being in favor of Bush. But these folks were. I have also met atheists who are members of American Atheists and who oppose a woman’s right to choose. And who are opposed to gay marriage. And all sorts of things like that. The only thing that they all have in common is being atheists. Start taking sides on social issues and learn what chaos is all about.

He gives the example of the National Rifle Association losing half its members over taking a stand on abortion, and fears that a similar fate might befall organizations such as American Atheists, severely crippling their ability to fight for the rights of atheists in society.

That’s a valid concern, but I believe it’s one that can be addressed.

Let’s get the obvious point out of the way first: American Atheists, as an organization, does not have to enlist in the Atheist+ movement. They can be the Atheist* movement, where “*” is a wildcard character that matches any atheist. That’s fine. Appeal to the broadest possible base to benefit the greatest number of atheists. I don’t think anyone has a problem with that (and certainly no one on the A+ side has said that all atheists need to be A+ atheists). It’s perfectly reasonable for AA to be A* and not A+.

That said, I can’t help but point out that AA is already an A+ organization, and always has been. Think about it: atheism means “without belief in God.” Atheism can be compared to not eating smoked oysters (tried ‘em once, can’t stand the things). I don’t need an Americans Who Don’t Eat Smoked Oysters organization. I can walk down the street any day of the week and be surrounded by people who are also not eating smoked oysters. My membership dues in such an organization would be wasted, because there’s no expense involved in not eating smoked oysters. And likewise if the American Atheists were about nothing more than not believing in God, there’d be no point in joining, because there’s no expense involved in mere lack of belief.

“Wait a minute,” you may say, “it can be very costly to be an atheist—people discriminate against you, and threaten you and sometime even literally attack you.” You’re right, all those thing are true, but they’re not the product of disbelief, they’re the product of social injustice. In a world where everyone was atheist, you wouldn’t suffer those consequences, because they’re not the product of disbelief on its own. The reason there’s a problem, and the reason we need organizations like American Atheists, is because we live in a world where you have to fight for social justice in order to get people not to harass and harm you simply for being what you are.

And that’s what A+ is all about: recognizing that social injustice is a problem that demands opposition from men and women of integrity and good will. I agree, AA will be most effective if they focus exclusively on their corner of the battleground, and address specifically the aspects of social injustice that adversely affect atheists. There is neither need nor benefit for them to try and become American Atheists, Feminists, LGBT, And See Footnote For Additional Causes Supported Organization. American Atheists, all by itself, is just fine. That’s a specific cause that needs to be specifically addressed.

And yet, underlying that focused approach to social justice, there’s a common principle here, because the foundation for atheist rights is the idea that everyone is entitled to certain fundamental human rights. We can’t say “Equal rights for me and not for thee,” because “equal rights” by definition means everybody has the same ones. How can any organization promote social justice without offending those antisocial individuals who want to deny the legitimacy of equal rights? (Answer: “unsuccessfully.”) Like it or not, atheists who want justice and tolerance for themselves have common ground with everyone else who is fighting the same fight.

Should American Atheists embrace the A+ ethos, and publicly declare that from now on they are a feminist, pro-gay, pro-choice organization? No. That would dilute both their focus and their base, and no one would benefit from that. And likewise, for the same reasons, they should not oppose the A+ movement, or go out of their way to alienate atheists who are feminists and/or pro-gay and/or pro-choice. A+ can’t become a schism unless people fight against it. And there’s no reason to fight it, because it’s all about the social justice that AA is fighting for and that we all need and want for ourselves.

Comments

  1. echidna says

    Religion has shaped our society in ways which are detrimental, particularly elevating notions of piety and obedience, and the superiority of certain classes of people above others. The lack of belief in god is not enough to free ourselves from the shackles of religion.

    It’s going to take reflection and thought before the bad concepts of religion disappear – original sin, holiness, subjugation of women, unclean people, abominations of all sorts.

    Atheists, as you say, are already bound to reflect on what else must change when religion is no longer a constraint to thought. For any individual, whether this involves A+ or not is optional, but those who are not interested have no business trying to stop other people from getting involved.

  2. says

    I agree with almost everything you have written here, but the problem comes not in identifying the problem (being discriminated against) but in the method of obtaining a solution (progressive liberal politics). This by definition excludes some of us. That is fine, but it is division that might cause the sort of NRA effect that you say A+ avoids. I am not sure what percentage of the atheist population (in the US) is some flavor of political view other than progressive liberal, but it is non-zero. If the number is high enough, a group like AA would be alienating potential members by deciding to be distinctly A+ as opposed to what it is now.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      I’m certainly open to alternative ways of securing equal rights for women, LGBTs, atheists, and other disadvantaged minorities. What approaches would you recommend that are not progressive liberal politics and that advance the causes mentioned?

      I do agree, I see neither need nor benefit for AA adopting an exclusivist progressive liberal political stand.

      • says

        I’m certainly open to alternative ways of securing equal rights for women, LGBTs, atheists, and other disadvantaged minorities. What approaches would you recommend that are not progressive liberal politics and that advance the causes mentioned?

        It would depend on what you mean by ‘secure.’ I have (as my post history at various FTB places shows) been trying to point out that libertarianism (of the philosophical bent) is inherently feminist, pro-LGBT rights, anti-racist simply out of not recognizing any of those categories as legal means to discriminate (with the law). What it does not do (or even claim to do) is force people to behave in ways you (or others) approve of when acting as individuals. That is not enough for A+, and that is fine by me, they are allowed to exclude me and I do not protest. I just think we should all be clear that I am not the only libertarian atheist (let along the only non-progressive liberal atheist) and that excluding all of us is probably not wise for an entity like AA.

        I do agree, I see neither need nor benefit for AA adopting an exclusivist progressive liberal political stand.

        If only more people around here felt this way.

      • Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

        I have (as my post history at various FTB places shows) been trying to point out that libertarianism (of the philosophical bent) is inherently feminist, pro-LGBT rights, anti-racist simply out of not recognizing any of those categories as legal means to discriminate (with the law).

        No, that does not make libertarianism any of those things you claim it is.

        What it does not do (or even claim to do) is force people to behave in ways you (or others) approve of when acting as individuals.

        Translation: what it does not do is defend the targets of systemic injustice in any effective way.

      • says

        This is an argument that will likely go nowhere, but here goes. Is the view that people (of any race, expressed gender, and sexual orientation) should all be treated equally in the eyes of the law racist, anti-feminist, anti-GLBT rights? I think the clear answer is no, it is not. Then we could have the argument of is it pro all those things (feminism, anti-racism, GLBT rights). I do not really care to have that argument here, but you are welcome to have it with me somewhere else. I do not think this is the correct venue. So, when you say:

        No, that does not make libertarianism any of those things you claim it is.

        In short, my answer is that it is in fact what I am claiming it is if you agree with the previous statements. If you do not, then there is no point arguing with each other, we have definitional conflicts.

        Translation: what it does not do is defend the targets of systemic injustice in any effective way.

        No, what it does is allow the same tactics to both the victim and the opressor (i.e. civil suit) while denying the force granted with a majority opinion to be used in oppressing the victim via the law. That this is not good enough for progressives is not news to me. I do not care that you are unsatisfied with my position, I did not ask you to adopt it (nor am I willing to try and force you to adopt my views). What I did was answer two questions raised by Deacon Duncan (one in his post, and one in his reply). Namely that A+ by definition excludes libertarian (and politically conservative) atheists through its stated political ideology, AA does not and does not need to (but A+ is free to). I have explained why I think libertarian atheists have few problems with many of the goals of A+ but many problems with the proposed solutions. Here is the point though, these things should have nothing to do with both groups being constituents of AA.

      • Forbidden Snowflake says

        I have (as my post history at various FTB places shows) been trying to point out that libertarianism (of the philosophical bent) is inherently feminist, pro-LGBT rights, anti-racist simply out of not recognizing any of those categories as legal means to discriminate (with the law).

        That’s bullshit. One can just as easily say that libertarianism is inherently anti-feminist, anti-GSM rights and pro-racist, because it is opposed to many of the methods that have been and are used to increase equality.
        The truth is that libertarianism, since it opposes to use of the law to actively reverse current social dynamics, is inherently precisely as feminist, pro-GSM and anti-racist as society itself. Which in most societies means not so much.

      • says

        I refer you to this statement.

        In short, my answer is that it is in fact what I am claiming it is if you agree with the previous statements. If you do not, then there is no point arguing with each other, we have definitional conflicts.

  3. says

    To me the issue he raises is only a problem for existing groups. As long as Atheism+ doesn’t pigeon hole itself to narrowly it shouldn’t be a problem for them because they don’t have the big numbers already that they might alienate.

    Also if you read their aims and principles webpage there’s some hints of A+ in there already. http://atheists.org/content/aims-and-principles

    ex: to engage in such social, educational, legal, and cultural activity as will be useful and beneficial to the members of American Atheists and to society as a whole.

    I agree they should stick to what they’ve been doing but if you scan around there’s hints of social justice in what they claim to value.

  4. says

    That said, I can’t help but point out that AA is already an A+ organization, and always has been.

    Boy is that meme getting tiresome. I think Edwin Kagin would strongly disagree with you.

    Should American Atheists embrace the A+ ethos, and publicly declare that from now on they are a feminist, pro-gay, pro-choice organization? No. That would dilute both their focus and their base, and no one would benefit from that.

    Except, you know, women, LGBTQ, and women.

    A+ isn’t about just slapping another label on any group that has extended their reach beyond Dictionary Atheism. A+ is pro-gay and pro-feminist, and if that’s inconvenient for AA then they are welcome to do their own thing. Nobody is trying to twist their arm.

    If you’re going worry about AA “diluting it’s focus and base”, please extend that courtesy to A+ as well. Claiming that an organization that Edwin Kagin speaks for has always been A+ is sure as hell a dilution of the focus od A+.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      A+ isn’t an organization, though. It’s a movement. It’s people who see common ground between atheists who are trying to win protection for their own rights, and everyone else who is fighting the same fight, against the same foes, for the same rights. It’s people who understand that it’s self-destructive for atheists to promote discrimination and harassment against other atheists who happen to be gay or trans or God forbid female. The focus is on equal rights—for atheists and everyone else, because that’s what “equal rights” means. An AA that had no interest in securing equal rights for atheists (meaning all atheists) would indeed be a non-A+ organization. I would hope, however, that no one would suggest that this is the kind of organization that AA ought to be.

      • says

        Ediwn, in a grand display of privilege, wrote:

        One can be an atheist and like chocolate chip ice cream. This does not mean that it is a good idea to form a club that excludes, and sees as enemies, anyone who does not like chocolate chip ice cream, or who actually prefer some other flavors.

        Do you not see how this is completely dismissive of the issues facing women, LGBTQ, and other marginalized groups? That’s not the kind of attitude with which I want to share the A+ label/movement/idea/whatever.

      • Benny Cemoli says

        Ediwn, in a grand display of privilege, wrote:

        One can be an atheist and like chocolate chip ice cream. This does not mean that it is a good idea to form a club that excludes, and sees as enemies, anyone who does not like chocolate chip ice cream, or who actually prefer some other flavors.

        Do you not see how this is completely dismissive of the issues facing women, LGBTQ, and other marginalized groups? That’s not the kind of attitude with which I want to share the A+ label/movement/idea/whatever.

        Uh, no I don’t but it is exactly this attitude that has driven many people who may have supported the A+theism philosophy into the opposing camp, or worse the camp where you don’t speak out at all about issues for fear of vilification+, and that Mr. Kagin is saying doesn’t/didn’t need to have happened.

        Richard Carrier defined A+’s philosophy best when he said, and I paraphrase, “You are either for us or against us. If you are against us then you are C.H.U.D. that must be marginalized, vilified and ignored. We will not tolerate you existence.”

        One has to at least admire his honesty if nothing else and believe me I don’t admire much else about the arrogant privileged person who could write such vile and evil ideas concerning the treatment of others that A+Theism disagrees with. Carrier’s post was the defining moment for me that persuaded me to get off the fence and unfortunately it didn’t convince me to join A+theism.

        I neither asked or want A+theism to speak on my behalf. So please don’t do it.

        And I speak as a member of one of those marginalized groups from which you so grandly assume the privilege to speak for.

      • trazan says

        Carrier doesn’t display the reasonableness or compassion he demands in others. He did a great disservice to the cause. There are other proponents of A+ that make more sense.

      • says

        I neither asked or want A+theism to speak on my behalf. So please don’t do it.

        How convenient that nobody in A+ cares about speaking for you. But do enjoy your smug self-importance.

      • Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

        How entirely predictable that you quote Carrier, who did not originate the idea of Atheism+, not Jen McCreight, who did originate the idea, who has repudiated Carrier’s view, and who has now been driven to give up blogging through real “vilification+”. But of course: he’s a man and she’s a woman, so as far as you are concerned, what he says is definitive, and what she says of no significance.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        I do not speak for any marginalized groups except to the extent that they are all equally members of the same human race as I am. A+ isn’t about seeking special privileges for any “worthy” subgroup—in fact, that’s kind of the whole point. A+ is about everybody treating each other with the same respect and dignity as we’d want for ourselves. It’s as much about defending the rights of old white straight males as it is about defending anyone else’s rights. It just happens that old white straight males are currently rather more privileged than oppressed, so it looks we’re only defending the rights of those suffering from discrimination and harassment.

        Now, I haven’t read Carrier’s statement (it’s on my to do list, sigh), but I agree that your paraphrase expresses an idea that is rather contrary to the spirit of A+. It’s not that we can’t or won’t tolerate certain people, because that’s exactly the kind of intolerance that A+ is against. But any society puts limits on behaviors that are harmful to others. When the government says “we won’t tolerate you going around stabbing people because you disapprove of their hairstyle,” nobody says that the government is causing schisms or behaving like Nazis. Atheism+ is about having the same sort of elementary, Golden Rule, don’t-hurt-your-fellow-atheists limits on the behaviors of those who want to join forces with each other and work together for the common good. It’s the harmful behaviors that are not to be tolerated, rather than the people themselves.

        Now, that said, there are certain people who, for whatever reason, take these sorts of common-sense constraints as a personal challenge, and go out of their way to defiantly inflict harm on their fellow atheists. As in any society, when you have people who remorselessly and relentlessly seek to harm others, it’s in everyone else’s best interests to remove them from the society. Even if in other ways they support the society, when they choose to be a deliberate malignancy, their presence is poisonous, disruptive, and—left untreated—eventually fatal to the society. They have to be kicked out, in self-defense. That’s regrettable, and should only be a last resort, but some people are just dicks and won’t respond to anything less. (And occasionally, you’ll find one or two who mend their antisocial ways when they realize they’re only isolating themselves.) And even then it’s not intolerance of the person. It’s a reasoned and impartial response to intolerable behavior.

  5. davidct says

    Since it is about social issues then why not drop the A from the A+ and just concentrate on the issues on the plus side. If you look at it this way atheism is just another social issue that should be added to the list of pluses. This gives a better idea of its relative importance.

    My concern about the A+ banner has to do with the agendas of people making the Plus list and what on the list is to be emphasized. For raising this question in my atheist group my ability to have an opinion in the group was effectively taken away. This is becoming more typical as people try to turn their position on one issue into a kind of dogma. I have no interest in cause that wants to create a dogma. I will now support the “plus” social issues that interest me. Atheism is just one on the list and no longer near the top.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Since it is about social issues then why not drop the A from the A+ and just concentrate on the issues on the plus side

      Now that’s a fair question, and one that deserves some discussion. I think it’s A+ because historically it arose among atheists who were concerned about how some (gay/trans/female) members of the atheist community were being harassed and effectively denied equal participation by other atheists. And that brings up a distinction that needs to be made.

      The chronologically first goal of the A+ movement is to give all atheists equal standing within atheism. This does not mean that all atheists need to become feminists, but it does mean that there should be a standard of behavior that precludes sexually molesting and harassing female atheists who participate in atheist communities, discussions, conferences, and so on. We’re not talking about forcing anyone to change their politics, we’re just talking about the kind of minimal, reasonable concessions that any individual must make in order to maximize the benefit to the entire membership of the society. If someone does not want to be a feminist, that’s fine, but when they are with women who are atheists, just observe some simple, common-sense social guidelines so that we can all benefit from what women bring to the atheist community. And likewise for gays, trans, race, whatever.

      It’s A+ because we want atheism to be better for all atheists. I agree wholeheartedly that we don’t want the atheist community to be schismed and conflicted. So what can we do to break down those barriers, and put all atheists on an equal footing?

      That’s what A+ is all about.

      • says

        I agree with the sentiment of this, but not so much the wording.

        It’s A+ because we want atheism to be better for all atheists. I agree wholeheartedly that we don’t want the atheist community to be schismed and conflicted. So what can we do to break down those barriers, and put all atheists on an equal footing?

        Expect that, due to the nature of this goal, A+ has to be divisive. There has to be a schism and a conflict. There is simply no way that women within the atheist movement will be on equal footing until a space exists where the harassers are not welcome.

        That is what A+ is about.

  6. says

    My read on the subject is that no atheist group (or any other political group) should try to spread itself equally over the full breadth of social justice issues; it would be impossible and would dilute our effort to the point of meaninglessness. But atheist groups can and should work to further social justice issues when those issues directly intersect with our goal of rolling back the pernicious influence of religion on society.

    For example: Say a religious right politician introduces a bill to ban all abortions because, he argues, God gives every single-celled embryo a soul at the moment of conception and that makes them equal in moral worth to adult human beings. Isn’t this view an example of unevidenced religious beliefs detrimentally affecting public policy, in exactly the same way as a bill to mandate the teaching of biblical creationism in science classes? And given that that’s true, why wouldn’t atheists want to fight both kinds of bills?

      • A Hermit says

        Atheist groups should focus on the pernicious effects of religious dogma, whether it manifests as special privileges for people of faith, or as discrimination against marginalized groups.

        And what about special privileges and discrimination within the atheist community itself? Should we pretend they don’t exist? Just go along with it to get along?

        Sorry, but from where I sit I see the people objecting to A+ as the ones creating division by trying to enforce some kind of atheist orthodoxy here. If I want to be an atheist AND a feminist AND anti-racist AND pro LGBT I will be all those things and I don’t need some self appointed atheist authority tut-tutting at me and telling me I’m doing it wrong.

      • says

        …and I don’t need some self appointed atheist authority tut-tutting at me and telling me I’m doing it wrong.

        Thank you! Whenever I see this used by the detractors of A+, it has bothered me, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why.

        This nails it!

        The fact is, A+ is VOLUNTARY. Nobody is telling you how to do atheism, they’re just saying, “If you agree with our position, come on over.” You are perfectly free to continue to keep doing it the way you always have.

        What these folks don’t like is the fact that this whole thing shows off their ugly underside, and that is what they can’t stand.

  7. Randomfactor says

    And likewise, for the same reasons, they should not oppose the A+ movement, or go out of their way to alienate atheists who are feminists and/or pro-gay and/or pro-choice.

    Which brings us round again to the factors which spawned A+ in the first place. Some major atheist gatherings seemed to value their members who practiced that alienation over their members who were complaining about it.

    Things like anti-harassment policies help the organization concentrate on the core issues, it seems to me. Sure, it may be a bother for those few who go to conferences as a hookup strategy, but aren’t THEY diluting the organization’s focus?

  8. McC2lhu saw what you did there. says

    Kagin’s argument doesn’t make sense to me. No one has copyrighted the usage of the word ‘atheism.’ It would be like a group of people who like river trout fishing deciding to get together and wanting to take their discussions a step deeper into a cerebral and activist tangent and add some content about environmentalism. They call their group Fishing+ and get together and talk about the issues important to their group. Should everyone involved in the global fishing industry fall all over themselves in an attempt to shut it down, harass the members, attempt to reveal their personal data on the interwebz and all the other inane vitriolic behaviour that has happened with A+? Would this behaviour not be even more questionable if it was discovered that the majority of Fishing+ were women and all of the fishing industry attacks decided to double down on the attacks by using misogynistic terminology?

    Yes, the word has a definition, but that definition is an umbrella over a LOT of differing attitudes and opinions. Adding a mathematical sign or other descriptive words and terminologies to a word doesn’t undo the definition of the original word OR attempt to label anyone else using the word alone. People searching for information about atheism online are still going to be presented with the basic premise. A+ doesn’t and won’t override any of that information or re-define people who are simply ‘atheist.’ The paranoia surrounding the ‘OHNOES! SOMEONE IS DICTATING WHAT WE SHOULD BE!’ sentiment would be expected, if it was some group that had a distinct imagined persecution complex, like Christians who get butthurt when someone says they can’t put a ten commandments sign in a state building. Seeing it come from people claiming superior rationality is a bit of a letdown, actually.

    There’s nothing wrong with a group wanting to throw a plus sign after a descriptive word, as it wouldn’t be wrong if someone did want to have a group called Atheists Hating Smoked Oysters (AHSO!). It describes the members of the group, but isn’t attempting to steal the main word and definition as its own or tell anyone but a member of that group what their main idea is. If the group seems unnecessary to you, don’t join it. Not joining would seem the rational action, rather than railing on like a toddler having a Toys’R’Us tantrum, like has happened (and to clinically OCD degrees). This also points out to me that there’s a WHOLE freakin’ mob of people under the atheist umbrella that have over-inflated opinions of themselves and think that everything is about them. Jen has tried to say this some exponential number of times and ad nauseum, and I say this to those people: this ISN’T ABOUT YOU nor does it DESCRIBE YOU. It’s for people, also under the atheist umbrella, hence the usage of the term ‘atheism’, which you don’t own, with an extra ‘+’ appellation to distinguish it AS UNIQUE AND SEPARATE FROM YOUR VIEWS!!! This concept shouldn’t be like rocket surgery to understand, yet you continue to log in the lacking-comprehension miles everytime there’s another rail against A+. Give it a rest already.

  9. says

    I think AA can’t legitimately be considered a social justice movement because as an organization it seems to have no concern for anyone except atheists. Any true social justice movement must be concerned with the liberation of ALL people, and not be willing to demean other groups to achieve its own aims – as AA has sometimes done to Muslims, religious individuals etc.

  10. Mina says

    I honestly don’t get it. My understanding is that A+ is the idea that, for some of us who identify as Atheists, we are raising the point that one of the logical results of our Atheism is an understanding that social justice will make the world better. That the continued discrimination and limits put on individuals for reasons that come from a lack of rational thought and internalized bigotry need to stop.

    It’s ‘PLUS’ because it’s the next step in our thinking about the issue. It’s ‘PLUS’ because it’s “I’m an Atheist, PLUS I’m active in social justice issues.” It’s ‘PLUS’ because it offers MORE than just the lack of religion.

    If all you want to talk about is the lack of religion, go for it. If you want to talk about the lack of religion and do it in a way that cuts down women, minorities and other marginalized people, go do that somewhere very far from me.

    Really, why is that such a big deal? It’s what we’ve been asking of Liberal Christians for years. “Want to believe your faith, great. Say that you aren’t like those people who use it to oppress people, great. Then go tell them they are doing it wrong.”

    • chewbacca-stylist says

      Absolutely! I was one of the earliest supportive commenters on Jen’s original manifesto, and well remember the excitement of discovery: oh yeah, this is what it could be, where we could go! Out of the in-groupy spats and petulance, out of the endless kicking at the creationists gnawing at our ankles, out of the self-righteous damning of the pederast priests, head out and do something. Start using a secular, reality-based view as a basis for positive change.

      It was that vision — admittedly inchoate and nearly detail-free, but still glowing — that Jen’s post fired in the minds of many. And it’s absolutely harmless to any other organization or interest. You don’t feel the glow, you don’t see it, great! Carry on as you were. But stay off the backs of those who do.

  11. says

    A point that people miss is that you can support A+, be “for social justice” and still have a specific area that you focus on. For instance Greta Christina is in favor of A+ and is still generally going to focus on “sexuality and sex-positivity, LGBT issues”. The only difference is that she’s now also explicitly saying that she’s supportive of other specific social justice movements. And, perhaps her involvement with A+ will expose her to groups and activities she didn’t know about that she can give quick plugs to on her blog. But that’s it. No one is saying that Greta’s got to comment on ever social issue in equal measure in order to prove her A+ status, let alone attend every rally, conference, and protest, or else be seen as an outcast.

    And if that excludes people who support regressive political parties or philosophies, I’m happy with it. Pleased as punch to see them as far away from me as possible.

  12. says

    I disagree this is legitimate at all.

    First of all, atheists have been taking social stands all the time. Believe it or not, Secularism is an ideology. Separation of church and state is a social concern. And supporting the teaching of evolution over creationism in class rooms is a policy opinion.

    Atheism may is only about not believing in god. And that’s exactly why we need a label for the subset that cares about more things. That’s the reason for atheism+. If it causes a reduction in the amount of atheists so be it. What is the point of having a large amount of atheists if it is not an inclusive group?

  13. says

    Should American Atheists embrace the A+ ethos, and publicly declare that from now on they are a feminist, pro-gay, pro-choice organization? No.

    Yes. AA should hold the position that women are people and not chattel or ambulatory incubation machines, should hold the position that consensual sexual activity is not immoral and that people who engage in consensual sexual activity with people of the same sex should have access to the same civil rights as those who don’t. It’s not like AA doesn’t hold other ideological positions (i.e. education, and especially science education is valuable; secularism in government is the ideal; religion is harmful etc.–these are not necessary conclusions of atheism). Does this mean that they should use their resources to launch lawsuits about pay equity instead of separation of church and state? Maybe not. But it gets somewhat more ambiguous when it is religious dogma that is driving the fight against marriage equality or women’s reproductive rights and the like. That’s the whole point of fighting for a secular government in the first place: so that we don’t end up with a theocracy where not only blasphemy is a capital crime, but sodomy and performing abortions and participation in non-marital sex by women are too.

    That would dilute both their focus and their base, and no one would benefit from that.

    Wrong. If they say “we stand for civil rights and as a civil rights organisation, we agree with the aims of feminism and lgbtq equality and racial equality and will speak out in favour of those things whenever the opportunity arises” they benefit from having women and queer people and people of colour feel like AA is an ally. They will join AA and feel comfortable attending AA events. Moreover, it shows the public that “Good Without God” isn’t just an empty slogan on the side of a bus.

    On the other hand if AA says “we only care about civil rights for atheists only as they pertain to not having a cross in a 9/11 memorial and we don’t give a shit if you can’t get married or the government is trying to take away your bodily autonomy even if that’s down to religious bullshit” well, I don’t think anyone benefits from that.

    • One Way Monkey says

      This!

      It’s like some atheists have thrown out the baby (god/religion), but they’re still splashing around in the bathwater of religiously inspired misogyny, homophobia, transphobia etc.

      I don’t even understand being an atheist, and then following biblically-mandated thought patterns about women and POC being inferior, LGBT people’s right to be treated equally, and so on.

      These are mores programmed into society by religion,, that cause far more harm than a crucifix in a saronj, yet they’re ignored. Why? Nobody seems able to answer that.

      From my POV, certain sections of atheist. movements are virtually identical to the christianity I fought so hard to break free from, and that’s really depressing.

      Women being shouted down, being poked at and belittled until they break. Pretending to be in favour of racial equality, then bringing out the m****r jokes. A lot of straight, white men trying to impose their will on everyone else. Everything I feared and hated, and I’m back to square one.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      I hear what you’re saying, and I pretty much agree. I think the point is that equal rights for anyone has to be predicated on equal rights for everyone. That is the default starting point for all social justice organizations like AA, even if their active focus is on a subset of the larger issue. What I’m saying with respect to AA is that it’s ok for them to pick their battles and try to appeal to a broad base of atheists and skeptics. If they can gain a more wider base of support by appealing to atheists who might not contribute to an explicitly feminist organization, then I see that as getting people to do more good than they might originally have intended. To me that’s a plus.

      • says

        You say you agree, but you demonstrate that you don’t.

        What I’m saying with respect to AA is that it’s ok for them to pick their battles and try to appeal to a broad base of atheists and skeptics. If they can gain a more wider base of support by appealing to atheists who might not contribute to an explicitly feminist organization, then I see that as getting people to do more good than they might originally have intended. To me that’s a plus.

        Yes, they can pick their battles. But if they can’t support the fact that women are people, then they will not appeal broadly to women. That’s a battle that they must pick–at the very least internally–if they want to thrive. Otherwise, the only appeal they’ll have is for sexist assholes.* What’s so difficult to understand?

        And you still haven’t explained how fighting against creationism in science classes (for example) is a valid political issue for atheists qua atheists or AA to adopt but fighting against Christian patriarchy in our doctors’ offices is not.

        *sub in PoC and racism or queer people and homophobia etc.

      • msironen says

        So basically the current members of AA are all sexist assholes since that’s the only kind they would’ve attracted so far without embracing A+ values?
        That’s nice.

      • Rodney Nelson says

        Do you accept that women should not be sexually harassed? Do you accept that women should not receive rape threats? Do you accept that women are humans and should be treated as such? If the answer to these questions is yes then you’re supportive of Atheism+ even if you’re not involved in the movement. If the answer is no, then you’re a misogynist.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        But if they can’t support the fact that women are people, then they will not appeal broadly to women. That’s a battle that they must pick-at the very least internally-if they want to thrive

        But I think they most definitely should support the fact that women are people. This is precisely the point of Atheism+ and why it’s specifically Atheism+ and not just Social Concerns+. You can’t build a social movement and fight for social justice by coddling antisocial behaviors, internally or externally. As a mission, AA can focus on specifically atheistic issues and tackle that portion of social injustice that deals with discrimination against atheists (or conversely, with special privilege for religion). But as far as policy and conduct and membership, it would be foolish for AA to create its own internal schisms by supporting second-class status for female atheists. The full equality of women has to be the foundational assumption of their day-to-day activities, or they’re shooting themselves in the foot. I don’t know how well they’re currently doing in that respect, but I would hope that respect for women was a notable part of their culture.

        I have to admit I’m not entirely clear on what you mean by Christian patriarchy in our doctors’ offices, but I’ll agree in principle that as an example of religious privilege being unjustly imposed on secular society, it’s no different from fighting creationism. If we’re talking about access to birth control and women’s health issues, then I definitely agree it’s no less suitable a target than any other offense against religious liberty.

  14. quantheory says

    It seems to me that some of the A+ issues have already been taken up by major atheist groups. Off the top of my head I know that marriage equality and some contraception and women’s health issues are officially supported by the SCA. I seem to recall that other organizations are actively pro-choice. So I don’t think those issues are likely to cause trouble for atheist groups. There are too few “social” conservatives among atheist groups to bother catering to, and those policies are held in such contempt by so many atheists that you could actually lose support by visibly catering to those conservatives.

    The real schism, I think, would come from one of these three areas:

    1) Economic policy: Progressivism treats class issues as moral issues. The major parties in the US treat economic policy as intrinsically amoral, aside from corruption and side effects. The property rights strain of liberalism that Americans call “libertarianism” frames economic issues as moral issues, but along a different dimension from progressives.

    2) Means of addressing discrimination: Affirmative action and, to a lesser extent, non-discrimination statutes can be controversial. Most progressives see these as necessary in at least some situations.

    3) Attitude: The alliance between libertarians and conservatives in the US strikes many of us as a sort of metaphorical “deal with the devil”. I’m going to be blunt about this for a moment. I think that libertarians who support women’s rights and LGBT rights, but have actively supported the GOP, are acting callously. The set of priorities that those actions reveal seem to me like an actual charcter flaw. I still do not understand, if libertarians felt they had to side with a party that did not fully represent them, how they could feel m

    • says

      First, I agree with what you have said. In answer to this:

      I still do not understand, if libertarians felt they had to side with a party that did not fully represent them, how they could feel more represented by the Republican party.

      This mostly has to do with the (false) notion that Republicans are more open to the idea of unregulated (or minimally regulated) capitalism and thus would be more welcoming of the libertarians in their coalition. The fact that libertarians tend to agree with Democrats social views is not a result of following the same reasoning, it is a result of not wanting to control other people. So, some Libertarians feel more at home with Republicans politically. I am not one of them, but some of my friends are and I understand where they are coming from (some times).

  15. quantheory says

    Oops, hit “submit” early. I was going to say “could feel more represented by the Republican party.” and then say something about how progressives have a tendency to go the other way, to see everything as a problem, maybe even when it really is trivial. I think I’ve really just lost the frame of mind to convey accurately what I meant, though.

  16. says

    I can’t agree that atheism is inherently a social justice issue for all atheists. While it is plainly true for some, myself included, it is not hard to find atheist who simply wish a change in the social pecking order moving them to the top as plainly superior. Most social movements begin with a mix of those that would change the system and those who really just want to change their position in it. When a particular social groups feels small and oppressed they Rely on each other for security, strength, often ignoring all differences. The enemy of my enemy ethic, but this can be a weakness in the long game.

    As a movement gains strength and successes not recognizing this situation is dangerous. The later type tends to try and step in and dominate as a movement gains power as that is primarily what they sought in the first place. They gain their goal first and settle in. Just look at the history of political movements and revolutions.

    I wasn’t really all that surprised to see the conflicts over misogyny etc. crop up. I see it as a sign of growing maturity in atheism as a position.

    Recognizing that while there is much to agree on among all atheist as concerns society today and their position in it, while also recognizing that not all atheist share the same definition of successful change in that situation is a strength I think.

    Organizing under a more specific agenda such as with A+ affords the opportunity to both stand together in agreement and stand apart as well without as much infighting for control. That of course depends on the strength, insight, and maturity of the movement and the moment.

    It is at the heart of democratic action to share support for shared goals without needing universal agreement on all things. It is the mixing of people with both shared and unshared positions that allows for the compromise and consensus needed to move forward. It is in the focusing of shared values that you find the clarity and strength to do the former intelligently and rationally.

    It seems a critical moment for atheism as a movement.

  17. says

    This became clear a few years ago when several life members quit the organization American Atheists because it’s then President was actively working for the defeat of President George Bush.

    AA didn’t lose much. Any fan of Bush II is obviously a little short in the skeptical-thinking area. What’s more, Bush injected religion even more deeply into government than it already had been, but apparently those atheists cared more about protecting their societal privilege, and MAH TAX DOLLAHZ, than about checking religious privilege.

  18. Nemo says

    I am curious as to what reason someone might have for opposing abortion or gay marriage without religion. I’ve heard attempts at secular arguments for these positions, but they were pretty silly.

  19. Phil Rimmer says

    For me, my Atheism (or at least my political endeavour for it) is little to do with social justice issues (I have the luxury of living in northern Europe) but it is about truth, the the threat to science and what is taught to our children as true….also how morals are kept moral and harms reduced.

    I am European left of centre, which makes me left of most Democrats; someone who loathes the libertarian fallacy of the universally competent individual and its denial of culture as the great inventor of our achievements. An old school hippy feminist, old, white male.

    The gender feminism promulgated by some in the Aplus movement seems deeply opposed to testing the nature and extent of local feminist concerns, preferring the use of highly charged anecdotes as all the license needed for analysis and action.

    “My Atheism” about mistreatment of science and lying to children, though no more within the strict definition of atheism than yours, focussed on social justice, is, nevertheless, corroded by any proximity. A strict prioritising of facts over feelings, an absolute desire to avoid any trace of dogmatic thinking are the tools (ok aspirational tools) of my atheist trade. Aplus is far from squeaky clean in this regard, often over-claiming what is known in a “noble” form of vigilantism to further honourable ends. Not for me and off putting for my clients.

    Were you to put atheism within your plus sign and call it Social Justice plus there would be no complaint from me, and much support in selected areas.

    • Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

      The implicit claim that there are no social justice issues in northern Europe (at least, if that’s not what you meant, I’ve no idea what you did mean), is bizarre (I live there too). The use of the term “gender feminism” is either ignorant or disingenuous, as it is purely a term invented by the enemies of those it is applied to in order to denigrate them. I guess it’s the latter, as you make complaints against the “gender feminists” of Atheism+ (but fail, of course, to give any specific examples). Finally, what on earth makes you think anyone involved in Atheism+ either does or should give a shit whether your “My Atheism” is corroded by its proximity?

      • Phil Rimmer says

        My Atheism has little to do with social justice issues because atheists are not discriminated against in northern Europe as they are in the USA. This latter was a key point of the OP which thereby didn’t persuade me.

        Seems I inadvertently used a toxic word. Your guessing on my intentions was also toxic and wrong, with this-

        “Finally, what on earth makes you think anyone involved in Atheism+ either does or should give a shit whether your “My Atheism” is corroded by its proximity?”

        sadly provoking my fears that you’ll throw any number of people out of your tent until the questioning stops. I really thought I was modest in what I had put in there. My attempts at questioning here on FTB mostly end up this way (feel free to go look). Chilling.

      • plutosdad says

        There are a lot of tents. You don’t have to enter every one of them. Neither do I. For instance, I dislike American Atheists and some of the things they do. But I like FFRF, MRFF, and SSA.

        And yes Richard Carrier issued a call to action and declare yourself one way or the other. He is not in charge of the Athiest+ movement, or decide things for everyone. I could issue a similar call to action.

        It is not “chilling”, because there is nothing to be kicked out of in the first place. No one’s life is affected in any way. THey can join in on the atheism + movement or not.

  20. A+ Hermit says

    For me, my Atheism (or at least my political endeavour for it) is little to do with social justice issues (I have the luxury of living in northern Europe)…

    I was in Vienna last month and witnessed a group of young men harassing young women in the Burggarten…let’s not pretend this isn’t a problem outside America…

    • Phil Rimmer says

      What has that got to do with atheism? Loutish and sexist behaviour is everywhere. The denial of atheist rights is the topic under discussion, and is far more patchy, being particularly bad in the US and Middle East and least bad in Northern Europe. Yoking disparate social injustices together is not as easy as the OP implied.

      Muddles are the result.

      • A+ Hermit says

        It has to do with the claim that there are no social justice issues in Northern Europe…

        Since the whole A+ thing has arisen in part because of the mistreatment of women not just in atheist circles but in society in general yes, there is a link there. The discussion is not just about atheist’s rights it’s about atheists standing up for everyone’s rights.

        I’m sorry if you find that “muddling” but you’re not obligated to do anything about it if you can’t understand it. But don’t tell me I can’t make that connection or shouldn’t try to do something about it when I do see it

  21. qbsmd says

    There’s probably already a word for this by I don’t know it so I’ll call it “fair weather support”. Fair weather supporters of feminism, for example, believe women deserve equal rights, and will do something about it when it’s convenient, like signing a petition or voting for\against an issue. However, they won’t donate money or volunteer time to a feminist organization. If an organization they do support starts working on feminist causes, they might respond “there are already organizations doing that; I supported this one to do activism for atheism (for example)”.

    Atheists+ seem to be divided on their attitude to the fair weather supporters of issues they care about. Some just seem to want to get away from the “I didn’t sign up for this” by creating a place where you do sign up for this. Others seem to want to treat the fair weather supporters as enemies, and think declaring “I didn’t sign up for this” is equivalent to saying women or minorities shouldn’t have equal rights.

    The latter are divisive because they try to erode support for organizations with missions they agree with if those organizations only provide fair weather support on other issues they agree with. They also take support away from social justice causes by alienating people. Naturally, those who think atheism+ is divisive have focused on the words of this group (most notably Dr. Carrier).

    Some atheists+ have also argued that many women and minorities are fair weather supporters of atheism, and are only likely to get involved in a movement like theirs that supports a wider range of issues. If true, this would make some atheist+ actions the opposite of divisive by increasing the size of the atheist-skeptic movement.

    • Besomyka says

      I’m reminded of the Republican primary debates in which Ron Paul was asked about someone with life threatening injuries but no health insurance or ability to pay. He was asked if they should just let the patient die.

      Ron looked like he was going to reply something along the lines of ‘of course not’, but the crowd shouted ‘YES!’. There was a look of shock on his face.

      I feel something like that is happening here. The leaders of Atheism groups have, by and large, accepted the Atheist+ goals. They all adopted anti-harassment policies. The one conference I was checking that only had 35%-ish percent female speakers in 2010, now is close to parity with the portion of the population that claims a faith of ‘none’.

      So, when the leaders are asked ‘shouldn’t women and LGBT people be treated humanely and be accepted into the movement?’ They say yes, but there’s a crowd of people shouting ‘no!’.

      They shout it by saying that there are more important issues, or by denying the problem exists, and all the other ways that people deny social justice issues EVERY SINGLE TIME. It’s the same arguments that were offered on race, on gender, on sexuality. each an effort at making it look like they aren’t really trying to silence debate… but it’s really the intended effect: stop talking and acting on this because .

      I’m honestly not worried about groups like AA, I think they get it. I’m worried about the demographics of the registrants. All the people shouting ‘no!’

  22. pheldespat says

    People are not necessarily against Atheism+. Many people just point out that A+ seems redundant, since its principles are virtually indistinguishable from Secular Humanism. If some folks want to create Atheism+, that’s fine, but redundant. Also, as I understand it, if one is not an Atheist+, then s/he is a rape apologist, misogynist, and should be demonized and actively opposed. It’s written in the foundational blog entries.

    • Besomyka says

      If the argument were a simple as you’re just relabeling secular humanism, then I don’t think there’s be much of an argument. The problem is that when I see that position, it’s followed up by an argument that we’re advocating things that the Atheists don’t agree with. They are upset with those values being associated with atheism. I’ve seen it put a few different ways, but Killerrat put is most memorably for me:

      I have had this thing called atheism for 35 years and you A+ folks can’t have it!

      What is it that is motivating them so strongly to push us away from the word Atheism to Secular Humanism? What is it that we’re advocating that’s so corrupting?

      It’s that we support reasonable and proportionate steps to reduce misogyny within the community. That we advocate that LGBT* people be treated as people and welcomed. What do we call people that want to disassociate themselves with those issues?

      • Phil Rimmer says

        What is it that we’re advocating that’s so corrupting?

        Dogma. Well intentioned but unquestionable dogma.

      • says

        What dogma? The desire for equal rights for other subgroups of humanity logically follows from our desire for equality. The only way it would be dogma is if you call a logical conclusion dogma.

      • Phil Rimmer says

        The only way it would be dogma is if you call a logical conclusion dogma.

        Atheism is first the promotion of the fact that there is no evidence for the existence of deities. In some parts of the world this is a social justice issue. In some, Northern European countries, not at all. It is dogma to attach a social injustice aspect to it. Not bad dogma. Humanism is full of nice dogma. But its priorities, its formulation of exactly what its problems are, how they are to be solved, who is in the tent and who outside it, all amount to dogma. Anything more than a sentence or so is dogma, prescriptive and arguable with. A lot of sentences are being written for Aplus and tent dwellers are being decided upon.

        Do I want your political efforts to fail? No, they are substantially what I want to see happen. Do I like the specific approaches being mooted in say the gender equality area? No, not really, but I think your heart is in the right place. (Not meant to sound as condescending as it does!)

        What I do want is for you simply not to use the term atheism in the tile. My reasons are down the page a little.

    • says

      There needs to be a distinction between people who do not want to be labeled “A+” and those who actively disagree with it’s agenda. I sincerely doubt that many people who do not like the label are rape apologists/misogynists, etc. I wish they didn’t have issues with the label because we could do with some solidarity, but it’s a free world, freedom of association blah blah blah.

      However, rape apologists and misogynists should not be the face people put on atheists. If they want to call themselves atheists, that’s perfectly fine. Even rape apologists and misogynists should have a right to be free from religion and they can call themselves whatever they want. However, socially, they should be marginalized. Their anti-social behavior should be labeled as such and decried. I hardly think labeling and marginalizing anti-social behavior is “divisive” or that it “dilutes our message”.

  23. plutosdad says

    I think what people don’t realize is you can belong to more than one organization, and fight for more than one thing, and donate to more than one cause.

    I work for an organization that both feeds people and has a DC office that lobbies Congress, but only on food issues like SNAP, WIC, TANF, etc. We don’t lobby for general poverty issues.

    Since as this article points out, doing so would dilute our message, and possibly affect donations. People may not want to donate if we became more progressive and spent more lobbying.

    But if there is another organization that does those things, it does not take away from us, or harm us in any way. We certainly want to compete for donation dollars, but our mission is not harmed.

    The idea that, oh “your organization is splitting the community of people who want to alleviate hunger because you do something else that we don’t” would be an utterly ridiculous claim to make.

  24. says

    Aren’t you working too hard to defend a made-up identity for Atheism+, when many atheists who have not heard of Atheism+ would agree “Yup that sounds good?”

    I know, I know, “It is worth it, and you prove my point”

    There is no reason to oppose Atheism+ just as there is no reason to demonize those who prefer being known as just atheists. I prefer being known as a liberal rather than a Democrat (or Republican).

    • Phil Rimmer says

      There is no reason to oppose Atheism+

      It muddles and muddies the utter simplicity of the concept of atheism. It plays into to the hands of the religious who say “See, Atheism IS just a religion, like we always said. You just want to swap your dogma for ours.”

      No. Atheists just wanted your dogma to cease being privileged because there was no evidence for it. Period.

      Its a simple marketing screw up in the making.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        That’s only an issue if we try to make Atheism+ the new definition of atheism, and nobody’s trying to do that.

      • Phil Rimmer says

        That’s only an issue if we try to make Atheism+ the new definition of atheism, and nobody’s trying to do that.

        Its not what WE do its what THEY (religious apologists) will do. They will use it mercilessly to muddy the waters. This is a gift.

        The grief that you are getting from atheist social justice “champions” like me is entirely about creating enough stink to be able to point to it in years to come when resurgent Atheism-is-just-another-religion-ism seeks to conceal the singular virtue of atheism from youngling godbots. Here, we will say, here in these threads, we railed against this inappropriate re-coinage of Atheism. See it is different. But the effect will be poor compensation. The feeding of young godbot minds is scrupulous. Our fight back will be mostly lost in the noise.

        And don’t be misled about your own troops wishing to show how naturally these particular social justice issues flow from atheism now relegated to this status of social justice issue. The dogma will be spun to bind it tightly. They will entirely wish to promote Aplus as the natural home of Atheism.

        On Aplus itself-

        Whether we like it or not, for all those with above average empathy, there are as many with below average empathy. This low fifty percent don’t hurt at the harms done others as much, don’t wince at each anecdote of individual misfortune, but they are moral and possibly better at it than the super empathic. They, at least, can prioritise harms based on evidence, to better use available resources. It is these people (me) who you wish to disengage from. You bundle us with the sociopaths you’ve had to suffer (and perhaps I bundle you with the hyper-pro-social, too empathic to think straight, when truly I shouldn’t) to exclude us and thus keep a particular subset of feminism (high-empath feminism) as the only dogma to gather around.

        (Thanks for the open tag fix!)

      • A+ Hermit says

        “Its not what WE do its what THEY (religious apologists) will do. They will use it mercilessly to muddy the waters. “

        They’ll do that no matter what; if we say atheism has nothing to do with social justice they accuse of lacking moral grounding…

        You’re clutching your pearls and worrying about stuff that’s going to happen no matter what. I say, so what? I’m an atheist PLUS I believe there is a need for social justice.

        I don’t need you or anyone else telling me how to define my own atheism, thank you very much.

  25. says

    I’m not an American.

    Well, yeah, I was born on US soil. To parents who were themselves born on US soil.

    But I have been informed by many that I am not a ‘real’ American.

    Because I believe differently than they do. I believe in things like social justice and equality. And because I am an Atheist.

    So now, I’m not a ‘real’ Atheist. Because the things that started me on my path to Atheism were social justice issues. So I’m ‘doing Atheism wrong’.

    Eh, that’s life. I put up with not being a ‘real American’ because I am Atheist. I guess I can put up with not being a ‘real Atheist’ because I am a feminist.

    But this particular post comes to mind – http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/07/23/mitt-romney-on-the-death-of-sally-ride/

    It’s fine that you don’t consider me a ‘real Atheist’. But frankly, I no longer want to hear jack shit from any of you on the ‘evils’ of religion and the ‘problems’ of religion, because you share those same ‘evils’ and ‘problems’. I don’t want to read about you criticizing the Pope for telling nuns what to do, or criticizing the Mormons for supporting prop 8, or even criticizing the Duggars for belonging to the Quiverful movement. And I certainly don’t want to read about you criticizing pseudo-scientists for using shitty studies to prove their particular agenda.

    Because, well, that would just make you a bunch of hypocrites, now wouldn’t it?

    • Phil Rimmer says

      So now, I’m not a ‘real’ Atheist.

      I can’t imagine why you might think this, unless, in fact, you are an anti-theist? If in fact you started out as pro social justice and came to see (in the US say) that religion caused a lot of the injustice then you might choose to become anti-religious and anti-theistic, whilst remaining, say, an agnostic. If, however, in your search for knowledge, you realised that there was in fact no evidence for deities, you might declare to be an atheist. You may then go on to realise the malign effects of theism and how religions exploit theism for patriarchal, sexist and political ends.

      To align a fantasy figure with social injustice though is to miss fingering the real culprits…religion and its profiting purveyors. These are the culprits who can actually be held to account.

      • says

        I can’t imagine why you might think this, unless, in fact, you are an anti-theist? If in fact you started out as pro social justice and came to see (in the US say) that religion caused a lot of the injustice then you might choose to become anti-religious and anti-theistic, whilst remaining, say, an agnostic. If, however, in your search for knowledge, you realised that there was in fact no evidence for deities, you might declare to be an atheist. You may then go on to realise the malign effects of theism and how religions exploit theism for patriarchal, sexist and political ends.

        To align a fantasy figure with social injustice though is to miss fingering the real culprits…religion and its profiting purveyors. These are the culprits who can actually be held to account.

        I saw no reason to believe in a god. I saw no proof a ‘god’ entity existed. I saw plenty of contradictions in particular ‘god’ entities. I concluded that this whole ‘god’ thing was just a myth. Useful perhaps once as a tool of explanation, but now to be discarded as we mature and learn more of there world around us. In short, just another imaginary friend.

        But I realized the malign effects of religion first. That was what caused me to realize the contradictions and question the nature of god in the first place.

        And apparently, paragraph two is what makes me ‘not a real atheist’. The simple fact that I think we can learn from the mistakes religion has made and thus stop perpetuating the social harm done in the ‘name of god’, means I’m not a ‘real atheist’.

        I see no reason to replace ‘god’ with ‘evo-psych’ and keep perpetuating the same cycles over and over and over again without actually maturing and learning anything. What’s that old saw? ‘it’s amazing how god hates all the same things you do?’ Same is true for the evo-psych crowd. But apparently, looking behind that particular curtain makes me ‘not a real atheist’.

        But thank you for your permission to call myself an atheist. It is so welcome and appreciated. I think you missed the point of my post entirely.

        I am an atheist. I am also an American. But a lot of shitheads think that just because I disagree with them, they have the right to tell me I’m not a ‘real’ either. So fuck um. They can go over there and dwell in their wrongness and be wrong all they want and be left behind as the rest of us grow and mature and move beyond the bullshit.

      • says

        To clarify further –

        I never ‘believed’. The social justice issues are what made me not want to just go along and humor the religious. The social justice issues are what makes religion something other than a harmless hobby. The social justice issue is why religious indoctrination is something that must actually be opposed. The social justice issue is why it is unacceptable to pressure someone into going to church just to ‘fit in’.

        If it was just a matter of ‘believing’ versus ‘not believing’, religion would be harmless and nobody on either side would have an issue with each other. The fact that this clearly isn’t the case should clue you in on why the social justice/culture aspects are so vitally important and worth fighting for.

      • Phil Rimmer says

        I certainly never removed or returned your right to label yourself any which way. My apologies if it ever seemed so. But your intentions rather than your tag are the issue.

        In your second paragraph of the first piece you do the essential switch from God to religion where the real baddies are and where all the political work needs to be done IMO. It is indeed religions, rightly identified in most of your two pieces, which are de facto political and economic institutions and the direct cause of much social injustice.

        It is not that you are not an Atheist, you have no belief in Gods, it is that you (like me) think religions and those who operate them are too often malign and should be stopped. There is the root.

        The proper footing for a social justice program I am suggesting is one perhaps based in secularism (un-privileging access for institutions and then likewise individuals) or something clearly anti-religious. (P- politics minus religion?? Maybe not.) Such an approach will find many more supporters I suggest.

        I must stop. It’s well passed troll o’clock.

      • says

        My intentions are simple – be an atheist. Fight for social justice. Try to keep the level of harassment I receive to a minimum.

        It’s that last one there that is the issue though, isn’t it?

        Please, tell me – why should I belong to your ‘club/program’, when a simple request of ‘don’t do that’ results in years of backlash and harassment?

        What assurance have I that the folks in your club/program aren’t going to harass me or treat me as a second class citizen, and that in the off chance they do, my complaint will be taken seriously?

        Ah. Right.

        And that’s why I’m going with Atheism +

  26. Phil Rimmer says

    @ A+Hermit
    I’m an atheist PLUS I believe there is a need for social justice.

    Me too. But for me these things are fully independent and the stronger and more versatile for it.

    I can’t actually stop anybody doing anything, so defensiveness isn’t needed. :)

    On demonstrating morality to the religious right there are far more persuasive arguments than simply proposing Atheism with a full set of liberal political programs.

    • A Hermit says

      ” for me these things are fully independent and the stronger and more versatile for it.”

      And for me there is no reason to compartmentalize them. My thinking about social justice is influenced by my unbelief in deities, What’s wrong with saying so?

      • Phil Rimmer says

        What’s wrong with saying so?

        You are fully entitled to say and do so, I just think it is selling Aplus and A short by risking this one apolitical ace up our collective sleeves. The fact of a lack of evidence for deities has no necessary political content or implications. It really hasn’t. It is safe for right wingers to climb down from their religious dogma without needing to climb up the left wingers hill of political dogma (just yet!) as they are so often taunted that they will have to do if they lose their faith.

        Nor are right wingers necessarily the enemy on some social justice issues. Much as I loathe the social, cultural and economic errors of libertarian thinking I think we all here are indebted to Ted Olson for the sheer correctness and effectiveness of his arguments. But you and the political right will equally crow the Aplus left liberal credentials. This is not the politically expedient thing to do.

        Argue from a secular position rather than an atheist one and everything gets fixed. The whole concept of privileged access is thrust to the front and builds on a firm constitutional base (this is an American project). Religions are now in the line of fire not their fantasy leader.

  27. Phil Rimmer says

    @Withinthismind

    What assurance have I that the folks in your club/program aren’t going to harass me or treat me as a second class citizen, and that in the off chance they do, my complaint will be taken seriously?

    I don’t understand where any of this has come from. Its just me. I’ve written for six or so years on the Richard Dawkins site, but I haven’t been there in the last month. I am truly flummoxed why this isn’t a simple rational debate about political strategies and how to maximise their effectiveness.

    To answer your hypothetical question about assurances. Why would it make any of us look any good (worrisome) to our common adversary? Agreeing or agreeing to disagree is the civilised thing to do.

    Its late where I am, half past troll, at least.

    • says

      I don’t understand where any of this has come from. Its just me. I’ve written for six or so years on the Richard Dawkins site, but I haven’t been there in the last month. I am truly flummoxed why this isn’t a simple rational debate about political strategies and how to maximise their effectiveness.

      To answer your hypothetical question about assurances. Why would it make any of us look any good (worrisome) to our common adversary? Agreeing or agreeing to disagree is the civilised thing to do.

      Its late where I am, half past troll, at least.

      Wow. You used an awful lot of words there to say absolutely nothing.

      I’m not going to ‘agree to disagree’ on the issue that sexual harassment is a bad thing that needs to be taken seriously. The fact that you think suggesting I do so is acceptable and ‘civilized’ is exactly WHY Atheism+ is a necessity.

      • Phil Rimmer says

        I’m not going to ‘agree to disagree’ on the issue that sexual harassment is a bad thing that needs to be taken seriously. The fact that you think suggesting I do so is acceptable and ‘civilized’ is exactly WHY Atheism+ is a necessity.

        You seemed to think I belonged to some harassing group. My response was about the fact that I am expressing a personal opinion only. My “complaint” was not what you wish to do but your chosen badge.

        As an aside, and for anyone, I find the levels of projection and mind intuiting in many of the FtB blogs exhaustingly time wasting. Why are words not taken at face value? If it means deliberately ignoring hints and innuendos then no biggy, it will simply force people to repeat their snide more clearly, bringing them and their intentions clearly into view, where they need to be.

      • says

        My “complaint” was not what you wish to do but your chosen badge.

        Ah, if only it were a badge I had an actual choice in. But alas, short of spontaneously becoming transgender and having an operation, I will always be female.

        And it has been made pathetically clear that females are not welcome in your circles.

        So, we made our own.

        Why are words not taken at face value?

        No no no, your problem is that I am taking your words at face value.

      • Phil Rimmer says

        All I wanted was that Atheism plus reconsider its name by, for instance, making it more about religion and its undue privilege, and not aligning it with atheism’s primary, non political meaning of lacking a faith in deities. Non political atheism serves a good purpose here, which will most definitely be muddied and devalued by both sides.

        This is my debate topic not any of the issues you have raised.

  28. says

    Deacon,

    I have a few reservations about your essay that keep me from agreeing with you completely. It seems to me that when we talk about atheism+ we are actually talking about two different things; or perhaps two different arms of the same thing. On one hand is the outward pointing arm, and on the other is the inward point arm.

    The outward pointing arm is the one that works with other areas in addition to areas where atheism have traditionally worked. This is the arm that opposes mistreatment of women especially where it intersects with atheism. This is the arm that condemns female genital mutilation not only because there is no justification for it other than provided by religion, but also because you just shouldn’t chop off pieces of other people without their consent. I will agree that not all organizations need to be atheist+ with respect to the outward pointing arm. In order to accomplish anything, there needs to be organizations that focus on specific goals. I believe your piece stated this rather nicely. This is the part of your essay I completely agree with.

    But that isn’t the only arm of atheism+. The other arm of atheism+ is the one that points back to the atheist community. This is the arm that says everyone is inherently equal and should be allowed equal participation in the atheist movement while at the same time realizing that equal participation isn’t always possible. As someone more brilliant that me said (sorry, I can’t remember who right now), you can’t be inclusive of both women and people that want to treat women inferior. You can’t be inclusive of members of the LGBT and also people that are extremely and blatantly homophobic. You can’t be inclusive of people of color and people that thrive on racism.

    So, me personally, I believe that all atheist organizations should be be atheist+ organizations with respect to the arm that is pointing inward. I think all atheist+ organizations should be welcoming to women, members of the LGBT, people of color, people with disabilities, and other marginalized people even if these organizations risk of loosing the homophobic people, the racist people, the misogynistic people, and others that can’t help but see their fellow members of society as somehow inferior.

    It’s a simple choice for each organization, but one that has to be made. If the organization isn’t atheist+ with respect to the arm pointing inward, then they won’t have all that many women, people of color, LGBT members, people with disabilities, etc. If they are atheist+, then that will more than likely keep away people that disapprove of women, the LGBT, people of color, etc., but you can’t have it both ways.

    American Atheists is obviously not an atheism+ organization with respect to the arm that is pointing outward. They are focused on specific issues, and that’s probably a good thing since they have specific goals they want to achieve. But they should be an atheism+ organization with respect to the arm pointing inward. If they aren’t concerned with whether women, the LGBT, people of color, the disabled, etc, feel welcome within their organization, then they aren’t really using all the resources available to them in their fight.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      An excellent contribution, thanks! To which I would add that, in my experience, the kind of people who value antisocial behaviors above the common cause are typically the sort that don’t provide a whole lot of tangible support (i.e. $$) in the first place, and certainly not enough to make up for the loss of support they engender by alienating whole classes of people. From a purely practical standpoint the advantages should be clear.

  29. says

    Why are words not taken at face value?

    No no no, your problem is that I am taking your words at face value.

    You stated, quite plainly, that I should just put up with the sexual harassment, rape threats, degradation, dismissiveness, etc…. so that we don’t ‘look bad to our ‘common’ adversary’.

    I know why religion is my ‘adversary’. It has a campaign of misogyny and other social injustice.

    What I’m failing to see is how it’s a ‘common’ adversary. How, exactly, are you, in any way, my ally, when you expect me to ‘agree to disagree’ and ‘be civilized’, which means not call out the social injustices?

    • Phil Rimmer says

      You stated, quite plainly, that I should just put up with the sexual harassment, rape threats, degradation, dismissiveness, etc…. so that we don’t ‘look bad to our ‘common’ adversary’.

      What!! You got that from me suggesting that I personally wouldn’t come after you and harass you (as you suggested I might) because I think we have a common enemy and that would look bad for both of us????? I neglected to say that I don’t do that stuff anyway, but I shouldn’t have to. You don’t know me and I know for a fact you won’t have any evidence against me.

      What other people do is entirely out of my control. Why aren’t I a person any longer? How did I lose my individuality?

  30. says

    I am truly flummoxed why this isn’t a simple rational debate about political strategies and how to maximise their effectiveness.

    When I show up to offer my opinion, I’m told to get back in the kitchen and make a sammich because the menz are talking, and they are willing to harass, assault, threaten, even rape me to ensure that I do so. I’m unable to join the conversation without being hit/creeped on. My choice is to be silent, or harassed and dismissed.

    This is a rational debate about ‘political strategies and how to maximize effectiveness’. The political strategy is – make the space welcoming for women/minorities. The reason it is effective? You stop alienating half your potential members gain a broader spectrum of ideas.

    I’d be truly flummoxed how you could miss this, but alas, privilege blindness is all too common.

    • Phil Rimmer says

      When I show up to offer my opinion, I’m told to get back in the kitchen

      But not here surely?

      The political strategy is – make the space welcoming for women/minorities.

      Fine. No problems there. This is your group, why wouldn’t you do that.

      Not questioning that part of the strategy here.

      Social injustice (surely our most pressing concern?) is caused by many things, religious, cultural, political. Putting theism in the group name is surely too many causal links away in the story to be truly effective? A Quaker is soooo much less bad than the Pope. Fantasy figures may be where evil people claim true responsibility for their actions lie….but they would if they could wouldn’t they? Political and cultural dogma can do almost as good a job of dissipating their guilt.

      Secular+

      • octopod says

        So is your main concern that the link between atheism and humanist ethics is too tenuous to support a coherent social movement? If so I think that’s a substantive objection and I have two things to say to it.

        First, I don’t agree that the two aren’t closely related, but Greta Christina states it better than me: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/08/22/what-atheism-plus-might-mean-for-atheist-organizations/.

        Second, interest groups sorting on two different unrelated traits is not uncommon either! — a biologists’ orchestra comes first to mind because I saw audition signs for it this morning, but that’s hardly the only such thing.

      • Phil Rimmer says

        No.

        My main concern is the association of the word atheism with a left/right axis political identity which inhibits that first step to godlessness by right wingers. (Aplus isn’t A but the propaganda damage is done. Especially because Aplus here insist that is an inevitable progression because it is a “social justice” issue….Well not in Sweden it isn’t. And also because the godbots will use it that way.)

        My secondary concern is that atheism for me is a shedding of dogma primarily. It is not taking anyone else’s word as the definitive guide to my behaviour. Left/right politics is dogma. These are pre-packaged solutions and modes of analysis that I think we should be trying to shake off and substituting with “pragma” and evidence of harms and outcomes reduced. My long political history is on the left but for the US the major political task is to rebuild the hollow centre and build a consensus politics with social justice at its very heart. This relates to the economic minority 99% ers as well as the 50% gender minority etc. etc. Aplus seems to be cultivating leftist apologia and neglecting the Ted Olsons of this world.

        My third concern is that I am unwelcome by many Aplussers due to a multiple accident of birth (old, white, male), and possessing medium low empathy. This is truly a sweet spot for atheist production, but it does mean that my favoured approach to my feminism (probably equity feminism best describes it….like Stephen Pinker anyway) is greatly unwelcome. My morality comes not from a visceral repugnance of harms done so much as an intellectual calculus of the evidence of harms. This doesn’t make us hard of feeling but it does make us slower to feel….but we get there and the emotion and commitment may be the stronger for it.

        In throwing out sociopaths you seem to be throwing out the sweet spot of atheism as well, and I would argue, you potentially impoverish your own internal debate. Dogma is the death of new solutions.

        I would wish you “high empath” feminists (*gesturing generally) would be less quick to dismiss the other end of the bell curve. I think it a social justice issue.

      • Phil Rimmer says

        Heh. To be clear….I am saying sociopaths are lower empathy than the sweet spot of atheism not the same empathy as….

        Also, to be clear, as Simon Baron Cohen points, out very low empathy types like the wonderful Temple Grandin (autist)are often fully moral in their behaviours by virtue of their intellectual efforts.

      • smhll says

        If you find you have similarities to some of the people in the atheism movement who have chosen to express themselves sometimes like sociopaths, then you may be a person who can truly contribute to understanding them and finding logical methods to persuade them.

      • No Light says

        So Phil – just how long do you expect it to take your “sweet spot” cohort (white, cisstraight, able-bodied men) to accept that women, POC, LGBT and disabled people are deserving of equal rights?

        Ten years? Twenty? Fifty?

        The thing is, while you lot can treat it as a purely intellectual exercise because it doesn’t affect you directly, we can’t. We have to live it.

        All of the above groups of marginalised people have been on earth as long as your “sweet spot ” cohort. That’s a really long time to get used to their existence and accept them as fully human. There is already real evidence of harm of sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and classism. How much more proof do you need to decide that oppression is harmful?

        Oh, and there’s no such thing as “equity feminism”. It’s used solely by MRAs, and relies entirely on using gender essentialism to denote “acceptable” male/female roles. It’s the opposite of feminism.

  31. Phil Rimmer says

    What makes you think I am not in your list of minorities also?
    What on earth makes you think I don’t believe in social justice and equal rights for all?

    Oppression is indeed harmful.

    The “sweet spot” is sweet only in so far as it produces a high proportion of atheists. There is no merit in there per se. It is not a “cohort” that I have any feelings of identity with. I repeat from before…Who stole my individuality? Why are you so keen to stereotype?

    No, “equity feminism” isn’t used exclusively by MRA’s (for which, incidentally I have no taste, can see no need and suspect often are mischief makers) . It was certainly not coined for that purpose. It essentially splits feminism into cultural and political endeavours. The political effort is achieved once the state, its institutions and laws are gender neutral and all gender “preventions” of choice eliminated. The cultural endeavours (changing a culture’s direction e.g. what men and women chose for themselves) can be freely pursued by any with a mind to but should never become the stuff of the state unless they overlap with the political endeavour of gender neutrality.

    It in no way relies upon gender essentialism. Its certainly not how Sommers intended it, nor I. It is about removing obstacles to choice.

    Well Aplus certainly has dogma. And it doesn’t like me. Or so it seems.

    • No Light says

      1) I’m not a member of A+

      2) If your name and avatar are anything to go by, then you are not a dyke*. Am I correct?

      You aren’t from my country, so you do not belong to a certain marginalised group I inhabit. (naming it would give away my location too precisely, and I’ve given too much identifying information for that to be safe for me)

      Are you a chair user, and do you also have visual impairment and a TBI?

      If none of those apply to you, then no, your issues do not intersect with mine. We’re both white. Given what you’re arguing, and how you’re arguing for it, I’m pretty sure that’s all we have in common.

      * warning for readers – this is an abusive term that has been reclaimed as an act of empowerment.

      It’s not for casual use of people who do not identify with the term. It is not applicable to all gay women. It’s a reclamation with a specific meaning, adopted only by certain women.

      • Phil Rimmer says

        Nolight

        your list-

        women, POC, LGBT and disabled people are deserving of equal rights?

        And how did cistraight and able-bodied get into the “sweet spot” of atheist generation, I would have thought quite the opposite was more likely?

        Not Aplus? Then my mistake. I just presumed that you were responding to my concerns rather than starting a separate discussion.

  32. Phil Rimmer says

    @smhll

    you may be a person who can truly contribute to understanding them and finding logical methods to persuade them.

    No, persuading sociopaths is not possible. The cortisol baths their brains have taken as (possibly) somewhat abused kids adds to the (possible) oxytocin depletion, genetic heritage or manufacturing spread that results in 50% of the population having lower empathy than the other half. No one has reformed a sociopath, only mitigated their harms through law and social ostracisation.

    The task at hand is yours to better distinguish low empaths from sociopaths. Low empaths can be fully moral, altruistic individuals, who simply sign up to the logic of the moral position of fairness or at least use that logic to supplement their gut feelings. These people, who may be passionate about the moral position, will feel cheated if the logic is deficient for them. They will see (I see) the lack of dependable facts when anecdote(s) become sufficient to prioritise harms-to-be-tackled and howl their dismay at that, as much as the high empaths howl their dismay at the lack of empathy in the demands for proof and justification of every last little thing.

    Just a reminder that high empaths can exhibit cognitive bias, particularly with regard to prioritising harms. Sometimes low empaths can make the more difficult, more moral choices that minimise net harms. Their exclusion from a moral debate does not favour morality especially in a world of average empathy.

    The Aplus commitment to dispassionate reason is absent or insufficiently supported.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Hi Phil,

      I apologize for not following this thread more closely (and in fact I’ve still only read bits and pieces of it). Apparently I’m missing something important, because you seem to be attracting a certain amount of hostility, and I cannot see why. I’ve seen one or two trigger words here and there, but your explanations seem too reasonable and thoughtful to be anything that A+ ought to be opposed to. I’m working from home today, trying to catch up on my day job, so I haven’t got time to really dig into things, but I have the impression you’re being treated badly, and I’d ordinarily come to your defense. From what I’ve seen, though, you’re managing quite well without me.

      An A+ movement that degenerated into a tribalistic Us vs Them conflict would end up being a mere re-expression of the original problem. It is vital that we listen to one another without prejudice, that we seek common ground and solidarity, and that we think reasonably and soundly about how we speak and act toward each other. So far you do not appear to have been the beneficiary of any such treatment, and I deeply regret that, because it sounds like you have a perspective that would be of great benefit to the movement. If we cannot learn to get along with those whose views on equality are so similar to our own, what hope do we have of achieving our goal of eliminating the barriers that divide us?

      • Phil Rimmer says

        No worries, Deacon. As you might imagine from my account (particularly latterly) I don’t get too distressed by others’ emotions, but I do get distressed by illogic. If I want to make a plea about behaviours here it is to have people try to respond less quickly and let emotion dissipate a little before responding. Tolerance can be hard work and I see it smothered at birth too often by individuals falsely intuiting the specific intention in the other person. Empathic readings of another’s mind is surely what distinguishes the social ape. But we know that evolution only ever bequeaths us a just good enough solution, it is fleet-footed cultural evolution that patches the gaps exposed by our rapidly changing circumstances.

        The Aplus community seem overly composed of “human cognitive idealists” which is odd for a group urging social justice and equality.

        What is sad for me is that Aplus is squarely positioning itself as political where I think it should follow the likes of the Equality Trust in the UK (formed by the writers of the Spirit Level)and be a pre-political pressure group providing the best evidence and reasoning to be used by any. (Ted Olson shows the right can be “on our side”)

        Cheers, Phil

      • No Light says

        Seriously?

        This guy’s using so many dog-whistles that I can’t hear myself think for all the barking.

        You’ve fallen for Fincke’s Law.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        Perhaps. Like I said, I haven’t kept up with the whole thread, so maybe I’m missing something. What I have read, however, seems to fit the pattern of people reacting to one another (and to perceived dog whistles and other tribal markers) without necessarily hearing one another. Does the fault lie with the person employing the dog whistle, or the person perceiving it? I can’t really make an objective judgment unless and until we move past simply tribal markers and into frank and open dialog. Personally I don’t necessarily agree with Phil, but I think he expresses a perspective that the rest of us should listen to and interact with. If we don’t, we risk falling into partisanship and polarization, which would be counter to both the goal and the tenor of A+.

      • No Light says

        Ah, so you are operating. according to Fincke’s Law then.

        Interesting and sad.

        You said yourself you didn’t follow the conversation, didn’t know what was going on, but jumped in anyway to apologise to the poor cisstraight, CAB, white man because the uppity minorities took exceptionalism to him oozing privilege everywhere.

        Why bother debating on A+ (again, I’m not a member) if you’re going to allow the same behaviour that necessitated A+ in the first place?

        You know, I wouldn’t mind if Rimmer was using vague, clouded references. I can see how that might confuse you, make you wonder what’s going on, but he isn’t. It’s blindingly obvious!

        The fact that he’s openly espousing Randroid nonsense like equity “feminism” should have been your first clue.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        You should read what I actually said, and then compare it to your description of what I said. From where I’m sitting, they’re very different things. I think you want me to understand what you are saying, and ideally would like for me to agree with you, based on a mutual understanding of the relevant issues. Can you see it the other way around? That I would like you to understand what I am saying, and ideally even agree with it?

        I can understand (on an emotional level) why some people would tend to think that “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” and lump everyone in together with the active abusers. From my perspective, that’s counterproductive: not only is it partisan and divisive, it shifts numbers away from one’s allies and into the enemy camp (without even the consent of those being shifted). That might not be a bad strategy if we wanted the disadvantaged to remain a persecuted minority, but somehow I don’t see that as being a worthy goal for Atheism+. I would prefer the kind of dialog where both sides listen to each other and share understanding so we can all make progress towards a more equitable and just society (meaning both the atheistic community and the larger society as a whole). Coalition-building, in other words.

        Not everyone will go along, and the abusers are going to actively oppose us in any case. Our goal should be to pursue coalition and dialog where possible, and to reserve ostracism for those whose behavior is actually and intentionally abusive.

      • No Light says

        actually and intentionally abusive

        OK, this was what I was getting at with Fincke’s Law. He holds that as long as there’s no swearing or name-calling, then there’s no active hostility or abuse. The likes of Rimmer exploit this, they JAQ-off, and they’re debating in bad faith.

        If privilege is blinding you, then certain key words or phrases may seem perfectly innocuous or harmless, when in fact, they’re being used abusively in order to provoke a reaction in marginalised people.

        Consider the following phrases:

        “I have no problems with homosexuals, I just don’t see why they deserve special rights”

        “Women are naturally more emotional than men. Men are more suited to STEM and women to nurturing roles or creative work”

        “That wheelchair girl is such an inspiration. She’s really turned something so negative into a positive You really can do anything if you put your mind to it.”

        “She’s your typical spicy Latina, so full of fire”

        “You’d never tell she used to be a man, she looks just like a normal woman!”

        No swearing, no insults, perfectly polite and considerate. Yes? However, if you used those loaded phrases in each of the target communities you’d make people incredibly upset.

        People do this deliberately. They push buttons using apparently innocuous words and phrases, then as a defense when their target becomes upset, they say “I was perfectly nice! What did I do? How do they expect rational, logical dialogue if they’re going to act like that?”.*

        Now re-read Rimmer’s comments through that lens. We already know he’s subscribed to MRA-adopted philosophies like equity “feminism” which explains a lot about his viewpoint. Equity “feminism” essentially boils down to “bitches ain’t shit” btw. Notice certain phrases like “high empath” popping up all over it?

        The other thing is, that when you hurt someone, it doesn’t matter how it happened. If I run you over in a car because I’m distracted by a warp, saying “OMG! I’m so sorry, it was an accident!” won’t un-break your bones, will it?

        When people are told over and over “That’s hurtful/offensive because of X, please don’t do it”, and they continue? Then they’re acting in bad faith.

        Do you know what microaggressions are? Like little, tiny paper-cuts. Not big stabs like “Queers should be fucking killed!” but “They’re just like a normal couple”, or “He doesn’t look gay”, or seeing a stereotypical portrayal of your gender/sexuality/race/class portrayed somewhere.

        A paper-cut won’t kill you like a stab wound might, but imagine getting a thousand a day, from all directions. Some intentional, some unintentional.

        Eventually, you bleed out and give up. You get sick of people saying that wanting to be treated like the default human (cisstraight, white, TAB, middle-class. male) is “dogmatic” or “divisive”. You can’t cope with self-appointed “allies” thinking they deserve cookies for reaching the minimum standard of human decency, and speaking on your behalf.

        Now imagine that you don’t belong to one marginalised group but two, or three, or more? That shit is exhausting. You lose all tolerance for bullshit, and code words, and bigotry – no matter where and how it hits.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        Thanks so much for sticking with the discussion and taking the time to write the above. It really helps put the discussion in perspective for me.

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