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How not to build inclusive communities

I’m a software developer, as many of you know.  A few months ago, a friend of mine took me to lunch a few times to talk about a web-based game he was interested in producing.  It didn’t pan out, but it was interesting to have a design discussion with someone who has a lot of business experience but is something of a rookie where web games are concerned.

Ultimately the game idea has been tabled, but without getting into any detail, part of the design was intended to allow people to upload multiple pictures to be used as character avatars.  The assumption was that it would be clip art or cartoon doodles, stuff like that.

Being a practical type when it comes to gathering requirements, I asked him: “Have you thought about what safeguards you will put in place to keep people from uploading objectionable content?”

I can’t see any possible way that THIS could go wrong.


My friend was surprised that I thought this would happen.  So I told him about the sordid history of Chat Roulette.  Chat Roulette was envisioned as a randomized video chat.  You hit a button and get automatically matched with somebody else online, and have a conversation.

And apparently one in eight times, you would find yourself having a conversation with somebody’s ***k, because that’s what dudes point the camera at when there are no rules.

So eventually Chat Roulette wound up with a terrible reputation and became a huge joke.  For more details you can check out Wikipedia and The Daily Show.

Now, my friend considered this and said, “Well, I don’t want to CENSOR people. If they want to upload pictures of their ***ks, then they should be allowed to, because that’s just the free market at work.”

So I said, “Maybe you’re not understanding this from a business point of view.  If your game becomes known as ‘that game with all the ***ks’ then… first of all, kids can’t play it.”

He said “So we say the game is for mature audiences.”

I said, “Yeah right, that’s an ironic use of the word ‘mature.’  Because second of all, many people who are not kids may like the idea of your game, but they will be a bit put off when they log in and see a screen full of ***ks.  Ergo, you can EITHER let the ***k uploaders run wild and have their freedom… OR, you can have a game that is welcoming to kids and non-crotch obsessed adults.  But you can’t have both.  Now you tell me… which one is a bigger customer base?”

I am reminded of this conversation when I hear people complaining about the moderation policy in the chat room during the TV show.  The chat room used to be unmoderated, and a lot worse than it is now.  When we started moderating it, most weeks we would kick out dozens of people.  Afterwards, we would hear about it in email.  Some people say they were confused about the rules, and promise not to do it again.  Those people are usually allowed to return.  More often, they get angry at being kicked out for rules transgressions, curse us out, call us “big brother” or whatever, and then vow that they’ll never watch our dumb show again.

On the other hand, in recent times we’ve had some shows where almost nobody has been banned at all.  People follow the rules, and they have productive discussions, and they don’t miss the people who have been banned for bad behavior or left because of the impositions on their freedom.  In metaphorical terms, we’ve gotten rid of all the ***ks so that the chat room can be more inclusive for everyone else.

It may seem paradoxical, and it’s surely part of the growing pains for every social group that goes beyond a certain number of members.  But when you regulate people with destructive behavior, you become more inclusive. If you create social consequences for slurs against women, gays, and racial minorities, you anger a lot of misogynists, homophobes, and racists, and you invite claims that you’re oppressing them.  Or perhaps #FTBullying them.  But frankly, I’d rather have the people who stick around and welcome the more friendly environment that is left.

And that’s another reason I agree with Atheism+.


  1. piegasm says

    It works that way in a lot of areas. When I worked at Target as a department manager, we had a few part time employees who were useless. They knew what they were supposed to do but just didn’t. HR, however, thinks low turnover rates are achieved by never firing anyone. As a result, we had high turnover with the most reliable people because they’d get sick of having to pull the weight of the others and quit. If they’d gotten rid of the couple of bad apples, they’d have had a much stronger team.

    • crayzz says

      Had a similar problem working at Walmart. Almost the entire upper management was useless when it came to discipline. As a result, competent people get sick of it and leave, or just request easy, low responsibility positions after a while. Luckily, management holds a yearly survey on employee opinion of them, and `lack of accountability` was the biggest complaint. Still took them almost a year to react properly though. And even then it`s only on our side of the store.

  2. James says

    I had a discussion once on why YouTube doesn’t allow nudity even though it allows violence.

    I basically said, imagine youtube says ‘fine, upload your nudes.’ Now, how quickly do you think the entire sight is overwhelmed and turns into YouPorn?

    There would be nothing else left on the site.

    • brianpansky says

      my first thought is DeviantArt. There are consequences if you upload mature content only if you do not mark your picture as mature.

      People who don’t want to see it are able to avoid mature content this way.

      Most of Deviantart that is not pornographic. It hasn’t been overrrun.

      Yes, I know there may be more to the issue of youtube censorship. However, I thought your concern, that there would be nothing left of youtube except porn, was overblown.

      • says

        I’m not so sure it is overblown. For example, recently, I’ve been watching some gameplay footage of the beta for Planetside 2 (which looks pretty cool, by the way).
        Now, would they put that footage on a site that was filled with porn? Knowing that some parents would block the site and prevent their kids from viewing anything on it, would developers of serious projects want to use that site? Or would they prefer a site that parents were comfortable letting their kids browse?

        Once a site is known for X, anyone not interested in X is likely to move elsewhere and so the site become all about X (for some X, not necessarily all). It’s possible that you could find a middle road, but it’s a tricky business.

      • Rick Pikul says

        my first thought is DeviantArt. There are consequences if you upload mature content only if you do not mark your picture as mature.

        Or happen to be an artist who draws something that one of the mods doesn’t like. They also ban and remove what they define as pornographic content[1].

        Furthermore, it’s not that good of a counterexample: With dA, you mostly only see the kind of things you are looking for rather than fully random selections[2]. The one thing you can run into randomly, (avatars), do have fairly strict rules.

        [1] Their definition is not very consistent however.

        [2] In the past year, I have looked at the front page about three times and I never look at the cruft they stick at the bottom of pages.

    • microraptor says

      So, like Dailymotion*?

      *Dailymotion is an alternative video upload site to YouTube. It allows adult content to be loaded onto it, but filters it so that unless you’re logged in and have turned off the Family Friendly filter (which must be done every time you log in) you won’t see any of it. Unsurprisingly, a very large percentage of the videos on the site are advertisements for different porn sites.

    • says

      But who decides who is a jerk and should be shunned?

      If I agree with *most* of what the group stands for but disagree on some of the topics am I a misogynist bastard that should be shunned like a leper?

      *If* I only have the time and energy to focus on my Atheism and cannot fit all these plus’s into my life I’m a bastard and need to step out of the way of the *real* Atheists. (I thought atheism was simply a lack oh belief in a deity…..)

      I am focuses on the other issues at different times but it as nothing to do with being an atheist OR a skeptic.
      I can list all the positive things I do for each group but I also have views that others may disagree with. That may get me sent into the flames of the likes of Carrier.

      Richard carriers flamethrower technique has left a sour taste in the mouths of many people, myself included, yet he doesn’t see his mistakes and doesn’t see a need to backtrack very much. That makes him a prick but I’m not suppose to say that or off I go to the ban list….

      It makes me (and I can only assume others) not want to post or contribute in such a volatile atmosphere.

  3. says

    But when you regulate people with destructive behavior, you become more inclusive.


    I don’t whip out my body parts, but I’ve been accused within online and IRL atheist communities as exhibiting destructive behavior by virtue of being a gender traitor, being “not a good person”, being soft of religion, and a number of other negative attributes. I am intensely dedicated to community building, children, families, education, equal opportunity, raising awareness of privilege, Humanism, social justice, immigration reform, health care access, I could go on. I’m waiting to see where I fall on the inclusion/exclusion (regulation) line. I fear the worst–that some of us will be regulated out of a place and voice, for infractions far less intolerable than whipping out our ***ks. Help diminish my fears.

  4. says

    I like everything about atheism+ except for the name. It sounds awkward and it’s awkward to say. “hi I’m an atheist plus.” how weird is that?

  5. Leni says

    I agree Brian. Perhaps instead we should just call the naysayers “Atheism + **ck photos” and just keep atheism for ourselves >:D

    Then again pretty much everything is awkward until you get used to it. Who knows.

  6. callistacat says


    Who called you a gender traitor and not a good person?
    There are a lot of different atheist organizations, some focus on different things. Being regulated out of Atheism and not having a voice for whatever “infractions” seems rather unlikely.

    • says

      Callista, Becky is one of the hosts of the Ask an Atheist radio show, which is generally a pretty good show, but they unfortunately got into a bit of a dust-up with some of the bloggers here (particularly Ophelia and Stephanie) after making an episode discussing the sexual harassment/Elevatorgate nonsense. They took a somewhat “both sides”ish stance, which didn’t play well to much of the crowd over here (myself included) and a certain amount of acrimony ensued.

      I think this was the start of it, and if you check the AAA archive, as well as Ophelia’s and Stephanie’s archives from around then, you should be able to find the rest.

      It’s certainly an example of things not going well between people who ought to be allies, but why exactly things went wrong and how to fix it and avert such things in the future is probably a more complicated question.

      • says

        Being the person Becky decided was the poster child for dogmatic feminists, I have a pretty good recollection of that. Nowhere among my recollections is anyone calling her a gender traitor or “not a good person”. Care to get more specific about where this happened?

        • says

          I can’t, and didn’t mean to validate (or deny, for that matter, because I don’t remember all the details of everything that was said) Becky’s report of those particular slurs being applied to her. Sorry if it seemed like I was doing that. I was just trying to point Callista to what I suspect Becky was referring to, in order to let her evaluate the history for herself (and because I really really didn’t want to try to compose a detailed recap). Of course, if Becky is referring to a different incident, I assume she can chime in here and explain that herself.

          Anyway, again, I didn’t support AAA’s approach to that particular issue and do not mean to give aid and comfort to attacks on any bloggers here related to that incident. Sorry, Stephanie.

  7. The twelfth vote says

    IRC is particularly prone to abuse. I’ve been an #atheism channel moderator for years, and not a day goes past that someone needs to be kicked out, and usually banned. We have to keep channel bots active all the time to maintain the (extensive) permaban list going for those individuals who seem to be fundamentally unable to not be jerks.

    I’m usually on #the-atheist-experience every sunday, and imo you guys do an excellent job. With 800+ people chatting at once, it can devolve into chaos very quickly if the moderators don’t act quickly.

    As an aside, I can imagine the kinds of comments that the female moderators get when kicking or banning. Almost without fail, when I ban someone for disruptive behavior, I start getting private messages telling me what a whore I am, and what they’d like to do to me. Some of them have continued these messages for months after been banned from the channel. These are the kinds of people that are on the other side of The Deep Rift that Atheism+ is thankfully starting to leverage open.

  8. Hayden says

    For some reason, I’m bothered that I can’t determine whether the word ***k starts with a ‘c’ or a ‘d’.

    • Brett says

      Based on the one use that wasn’t anatomical about the chat room (“gotten rid of all the ***ks”) I’m thinking “d”, assuming we’re using the double meaning that includes “unpleasant person”, but it also could have been a metaphor and still been referring to anatomy. That ambiguity was distracting while I was reading ;)

  9. pipenta says

    Atheist Plus, or Atheism Plus might not roll off the tongue. But the logo works on all kinds of levels. So tweak it a bit when you say it aloud.

    Introduce yourself as an A plus atheist.

  10. Cylis B. says

    I’m really loath to say this, but I think it’s high-time we – and by “we” I mean atheists, atheists+, humanists, secularists, skeptics, agnostics of all sorts, and anyone else who values inclusionary open discussion, critical thinking, education, and liberty (amongst other things) as cornerstones of a high-functioning society – start taking cues from our most-common opponent… the religious-fundamentalist right, and others of similar dogmatic “black-or-white” ideology.
    We’re all well aware that if forced to do so, they would fall to almost insurmountable in-fighting if they actually had to decide amongst themselves who had the right concept of god, right rules and dogma, and proper vision of exactly which direction their “movement” should strive for in the future. They are not fully gripped by this in-fighting because currently they’re united against a common foe… us (and by “us” I mean the entirety of what I meant earlier with “we”).
    I really am hard presses to say that anyone within “our movement” is “doing it wrong.” The point is there are many roads and directions towards our common goal. What I see is simply certain similar-minded groups picking the direction best suited for them. To my mind, it comes down to a question of which path is best suited to an individual or group, not which path is “right or wrong.”
    Should there be discussion of inherent dangers to particular paths? Should we explore questions of “optimal functionality” over “simply functional?” Of course we should. But we need to recognize these are discussions and explorations, not hard and fast rules of engagement.
    Ultimately we need to stay aware that we ARE united in a common goal, and focus on that commonality as opposed to the differing opinions we have on how best to reach it.
    Sorry for the long rant. This has been on my mind for quite a while now.
    I’ll climb of my soap-box at this point.

    • says

      The point is there are many roads and directions towards our common goal

      Agreed. E.g. on the point of aggressive confrontation vs. conciliatory discussion with theists, I’m happy that we have representatives of both approaches. As long as you don’t throw the other angle under the bus, I think it’s a good thing to have both. Neither is the “one true method”.

      However, on the subject of A+, there seems to be some disagreement on whether the fight against sexism is actually part of our goals. I most definitely think it is. In fact, I’d go so far as saying that if we don’t have that as part of our goals, the rest of the fight hardly matters.
      What’s the point of “winning” if in doing so, we become oppressors ourselves?

      My point here is just to make a distinction: some things we can reasonably disagree on, others we cannot. In some areas, there’s room for multiple approaches, in others there’s one right way.
      It can sometimes get tricky to determine what’s what and we have to be careful. E.g. to the question of whether women should have social and political equality, there’s one right answer. However, to the question of how that equality is best achieved, there can be room for disagreement.
      It’s important not to mistake one thing for the other or we’ll either be opening the door to assholes, or alienating allies.

      Ok, I’ll stop ranting now.

      • Cylis B. says

        I agree totally. I was speaking to the more ‘general’ issue, and the tendency to devolve into shouting matches, name calling, and the like over what basically boils down to things like “how to best disprove god” or “what exactly does atheism mean.” Great topics for discussion, but in my opinion, not worth risking schisms within the community over.
        As to the A+ movement, I’m a huge fan. And I agree that the root issue it illustrates are not open for discussion. They are problems that need to be addressed. I’m sorry if my post made it seem otherwise.

  11. algi says

    Let everyone do whatever they want is the worst possible choice. The freedom to produce random shit won’t result in quality.

  12. josh says

    In france they have laws regulating free speech, you can be fined for saying something homophobic, discriminatory, for denying Holocaust, for trying to spread racial hatred, and for trying to make someone look bad by saying he said something he didnt say. Makes sense to me, if you’re a dick saying hurtful stuff there’s no reason why you shouldnt have to compensate the community for the harm you caused.

  13. jenny6833a says

    Pneumo, in #15 you say, more mildly than most, that we mustn’t have nudity. And, like almost everyone else, you don’t say why.

    The only ‘reasons’ I’ve seen in this thread were that nudity equals porn or inevitably leads to porn, where ‘porn’ wasn’t defined, and that nudity (which was assumed to be pornographic, whatever that means) would inhibit commercial success.

    I liken these ‘reasons’ to a story in another blog today that took a shot at knee-jerk conservatism: a father says he’d punish is son for coming home with a Mohawk haircut, because it’s crucially important to think and do as others do.

    Frankly, it seems to me that a whole lot of the group-think here in FtB is just like that. Many of us accept without a hint of skepticism or analysis the cultural baggage that comes from the types of Christianity that we all deplore. In short, atheists of the FtB variety implicitly accept the fundie contention that nudity equates to sex and will lead to horrors like dancing.

    In my world, we make a distinction between mere nudity (a legal term also known as simple nudity) and overtly sexual nudity. Mere nudity is encouraged whereas public, overtly sexual nudity is a no-no. There are at least 20 million of us in the United States, and we’re as likely as atheists to be good citizens.

    So, to you and the others who think pictures of ***ks are beyond the pale, I’d suggest that mere, simple nudity ought to be allowed in skeptical/atheist circles and treated with the shrug it deserves.

    And, as regards ***ks, I’m told that it’s rather easy to determine when a photo or video qualifies as mere nudity and when it doesn’t.

    Hey, since we’re now into social causes, we obviously need an Atheist++ movement that associates atheism with nudism.

    • pneumo says

      I said it was a bit much, not that we MUSTN’T have it. I’m pretty much OK with nudity, although I can understand why some people don’t want to have it everywhere all the time.

      In fact, a I think cock picture is instrumental in some cases, for example to illustrate people who speak of “group-think” in reference to FTB.

      I was just saying that I find the asterisking of words fucking stupid and annoying, much like I find people with an agenda agenda talking about “atheists of the FtB variety” and derailing the discussion.

      My point was that I understand that nudity can be unhelpful towards creating a relaxed atmosphere, I’m just so fucking tired of the american FEAR OF WORDS.

      Its spelled C-O-C-K and D-I-C-K, not ***K.

        • says

          Reminds me of those old “Bizarre” shows where up in Canada, the swear words would be censored out by funny sound effects.

          That totally made the show for me. Unedited, it wasn’t nearly as funny.

          • sqlrob says

            There’s a “Dirty” video series on youtube (probably more than one) where they take clean dialog and bleep out things. It’s not so clean after that.

      • jenny6833a says

        Pneumo says,

        My point was that I understand that nudity can be unhelpful towards creating a relaxed atmosphere.

        Gratuitous profanity can also be unhelpful towards creating a relaxed atmosphere. But, I suppose, we each have our own axe to grind.

        I’m just so fucking tired of the american FEAR OF WORDS.

        Maybe the best answer would be to leave all the various social causes out of atheism, and just let atheism be atheism.

        That way, I can promote women’s rights without tainting atheism, and promote nudism without tainting either, and you can swear your ***king head off.

      • Leni says

        @ pnuemo:

        I also used the asterisks because it was funnier that way to me. It was sarcastic, so you can go ahead and **ck off now :)

        • jenny6833a says

          Stephanie Zvan says:

          Several of us group-thinky, FtB types even post some occasionally on our blogs.

          As far as I can tell, every blogger on FtB has enthusiastically endorsed the addition of social justice causes to what is (sometimes sneeringly) called dictionary atheism. I regard that as group-think.

          We just make sure that the people who don’t want to see it don’t have to.

          Why do you allow people that option? Y’all are clearly setting out to change the anti-woman culture whether the anti-women contingent likes it or not. Why don’t you take the same approach to changing the anti-nudity culture? Why not force all anti-nudity people to see mere, simple nudity? It’s well known that familiarity breeds acceptance?

          Since indirection isn’t getting through, let me ask my basic question straight out: Precisely which of the very large number of ‘social justice’ causes are now, or will be, included in Atheism Plus by the ‘luminaries’ that Crommunist Edwin identifies as decision makers?

          Where does it all end?

          • says

            As far as I can tell, every blogger on FtB has enthusiastically endorsed the addition of social justice causes to what is (sometimes sneeringly) called dictionary atheism. I regard that as group-think.

            What do you call it when people agree with you?

          • says

            Y’all are clearly setting out to change the anti-woman culture whether the anti-women contingent likes it or not.

            You seem to be implying this is a bad thing. Why?

          • says

            As far as I can tell, every blogger on FtB has enthusiastically endorsed the addition of social justice causes to what is (sometimes sneeringly) called dictionary atheism. I regard that as group-think.

            Sounds like your definition of “group-think” is so loose it pretty much applies to any group of people who agree on a thing at all. Since we all agree there’s no god, aren’t we already groupthinking then? Or is it only group-think when it’s a topic you don’t think people should be addressing, like “sexism is bad”?

          • says

            Why do you allow people that option?

            Well, you see, I’m rather interested in people being able to read my blog at work without getting fired. Sadly, cultural mores are generally changed by people who have time to do something other than wonder where their next meal is coming from.

            Where does it all end?

            Are you really asking me, “When, oh, when do we stop making the world a better, more just place?”

          • Cylis says

            “…Precisely which of the very large number of ‘social justice’ causes are now, or will be, included in Atheism Plus by the ‘luminaries’ that Crommunist Edwin identifies as decision makers?”

            To be honest, I don’t know.
            Refreshing, huh? Null-hypothesis, and all that. What I do know is this:
            1) As of your post A+ had existed as a labeled thing for exactly seven days. As of this post, fourteen.
            2) The ‘luminaries’ have been inviting open discussion for that very answer within the larger community.
            3) Two weeks (let alone one) is not enough time to reach any sort of conclusion on the matter. Sorry to leave our communal desire for instant gratification unsatiated.
            4) Given that, people on both sides (Yeah, I said it) need to calm down, stop all the it will-be/won’t-be, must-be/mustn’t-be assertions, and engage in this open discourse.

            Here’s the thing: *IF,* when the dust settles, A+ is formatted to be the divisive, dogmatic, “our-way-or-a-pox-on-you-all” group it’s opponents have been so quick to already declare it to be, I will hang my head in shame and sorrow, take a deep breath, and then set about being in direct opposition to it.
            Until such time, I’m going to work hard to make it the great thing it could be, not stand in immovable opposition to what it might be… but perhaps more importantly, I’m also simply going to give it some time.

  14. A+ Hermit says

    This is the same argument I have with libertarians all the time; a free market is NOT synonymous with an unregulated market. IN an unregulated market you get a few unscrupulous actors who, through tactics like cheating and intimidation, are able to dominate and curtail the freedom of other actors in that market more effectively than any government could.

    Regulating participation in a way which makes it possible for all honest actors to participate doesn’t limit freedom, it increases freedom.

    • im says

      Yeah. Not to mention that giving people more choices is not always helping them. At least in the current world, libertarianism is the ENEMY of the super-high-agency state that libertarians want.

      That’s part of why I get so annoyed by ‘Capitalism Kills’. The problem is that market fundamentalism makes people have faith in the idea of the market even when it is obviously leading to bad decisions.

  15. Sonorus says

    People have odd ideas about first amendment rights. This is your website. You set the rules. You don’t get to set the rules on my website. For the same reason, I don’t have a right to preach a sermon at the local church and my hometown newspaper is not obligated to publish an editorial I have written.

    You can behave up to the standards of the administrator of the chatroom or be banned. It’s good if you set the rules, but that’s a courtesy rather than an obligation. Of course the people who will follow the rules probably wouldn’t need such rules in the first place.

  16. mildlymagnificent says

    Rather than looking at the churches for a parallel, I think the labour movement is more apt. There are lots of members of various unions who really, deeply, loathe the actions of public servants who enforce regulations, collect taxes or impose fines. And many members in some industries, say forestry or farming, loathe mining as an industry.

    But those people will stand shoulder to shoulder, and chip in plenty of money, with fellow unionists when issues like health and safety in mining or unfair dismissals in a particular public administration become an issue. When it matters, the core unifying issue is paramount, but it doesn’t usually impinge on the different focus or importance placed on other topics in various parts of the general union movement.

    And the same thing can work for Atheism+. Some people are much more interested in serious activism on social justice issues. Some just donate to a couple of favoured projects. Some are into atheist knitting or quilting groups. The important thing is that they don’t impede or negate the activities or values of others who concentrate on other things.

    • Onamission5 says


      I may not have the relevant life experiences which put combatting subtle racism, ableism or transphobia (for example) into my perview (overt I can do). My own strengths lie in identifying and combatting sexism and classism, whereas someone else’s strength may lie in speaking to another, equally pressing social issue or issues. That’s fine. Nobody should have to throw their back out trying to carry something they aren’t yet skilled or learned enough to carry; all I ask is that we support each other’s efforts by A)not actively getting in the way of someone who has it in them to tackle a certain social issue, B)getting out of the way of the work they’re doing, C)providing moral support when it’s called to our attention.

      I can handle people not understanding the issues I understand as well as I understand them. Well meaning but ignorant? I can work with that! Heck, that describes me most days so surely I can grant the same leeway on the learning curve to someone else that I wish for myself. What I cannot work with is saboteurs. People who, for whatever reason and by whatever means, put concerted effort into hampering social progress. They’ve got to go if we’re going to get any meaningful work done.

  17. Kaylakaze says

    Most of us who oppose A+ don’t oppose the stated goals of A+. In fact, they’re goals we’ve always supported, without having to label it. What we don’t support are the unstated, though very obvious goals of A+. A+ is about sowing an “us vs them” mentality, of building a cult of personality, and demonizing anyone that dares question what the holy leaders may say. If you think I’m being hyperbolic, I suggest you check out Richard Carrier’s blog post on the subject. A+ is about claiming that only you have virtue on your side and that if anyone ever disagrees with you about ANYTHING (or even just questions it) or even just doesn’t want to join your party, than they are a racist, homophobic, MRA (even if they happen to be a lesbian of color).

    So you have fun with your little “split.” It helps the rest of us know who the irrational, non-thinkers are.

    Of course, since you’ve sold your credibility to FtB, I suppose you HAVE to tow the line, otherwise you’ll get Suge Knighted.

    • says

      That’s an interesting world you live in inside your head. Isn’t it fascinating that no one who’s actually endorsing A+ is, in fact, saying any of the things you’re cataloguing in this paranoiac blather. It’s only the people opposed to it, who are straw-manning it in this way. No one who’s actually endorsing A+ has established an “us vs. them” scenario and shunted you into the “them” category. You’ve done this to yourself. No one who’s actually endorsing A+ has declared that it is never permissible to disagree with, or even question, any subject. Only you are saying this. You say these alleged goals are “unstated, though very obvious,” but you don’t explain what makes them so obvious if they’re unstated, other than your own prejudice against FtB and predilection to view anything said or done here as some sinister Borg plot. And you declare anyone who disagrees with you to be an irrational non-thinker.

      I haven’t heard so much irony, projection and lack of self-awareness packed into a single histrionic rant since the last time Ray Comfort opened his mouth.

      • says

        I guess you haven’t read Richard Carrier’s first blog on the subject. It’s very ‘agree with us or GTFO..”

        Might I suggest you read “The New Atheism +” by Richard and see if you still think your statement is accurate.

    • 'Tis Himself says

      If you don’t like Atheism+ then you don’t have to join. Incidentally, Richard Carrier was speaking for himself, not for anyone else.

      • says

        Oh bull….

        He uses the “we” too often for you to claim that.

        He MAY have been speaking for himself (in his mind) but he sure was *presuming* to speak for everyone in FTB’s on his pages.

        Read it again.

    • KG says

      Jen@Blag Hag, who originated the idea, has a tweet up at present on her blog, saying she has read Carrier’s post and finds his language “unnecessarily harsh, divisive and ableist”.

      • says

        I for one am happy to see her stand up and say it. Richards bullshit blog about The New Atheism + single handedly pushed many people to the ‘other’ side of this issue.

        I’m one of them. He made me feel that if I disagreed with parts of this new ” movement” and voice my opinion then off to the gulag with me….

        Heaven forbid that I might be a good moral minded Atheist and disagree on some topics or simply doesn’t have the time or energy to fight for all things at all times. Pushing positive Atheism my the community can be hard enough without the expectation that I am “also” a feminist, gay rights activist, freedom fighter and anything else FTB’s expects me to be.

        Makes one feel VERY non-included.

        • Cylis says

          1) A+ isn’t trying to redefine atheism as a whole. It is trying organize a smaller sub-set that is interested in actively promoting positive atheism. It won’t kick anyone out of “atheism” for not agreeing with it’s message. You are free to support or dissent to A+ as much as you like within the larger community. Just bear in mind we also reserve the right defend the idea.
          2) To the bigger issue, how are we supposed to actively promote positive atheism *without* supporting other causes and proclaiming ourselves as atheists while we do it?

          I think where largest confusion and bone of contention is arriving from is a lack of communication. People view the A+ group trying to “decide what issues they wish to focus on initially” as “defining what issues they will continue to focus on exclusively.”

  18. 'Tis Himself says

    I suppose you HAVE to tow the line

    Just because it’s a pet peeve of mine, I have to tell you that you “toe” the line, you don’t “tow” it.

  19. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    This. Totally this.
    People whining about how elitist A+ is or how we’re seeking to exclude people need to read this post.

  20. Brandi says

    The way I look at it is like this -
    Atheism+ can’t exactly keep anyone from calling themselves Atheist+ but can choose not to interact with people who say/do hurtful things that hinder social justice. I keep hearing the whole argument about how you can’t keep the haters out, which is true enough.
    The big thing to me is that Atheist+ wants me and people like me, where as Atheism wants anyone who doesn’t believe. Atheism might talk about diversity and how they really need more POC, women, and etc. but there is so stance on whether people need to treat us equally. If they don’t treat us equally then…maybe a moderator would take notice and kick them out but maybe they don’t because atheism is not a stance on social issues.
    Having a group that deals in disbelief while *also* striving to make me feel welcome and comfortable is a great option to have.

    Hopefully that made at least some sense.

  21. Tomasz R. says

    So in your analogy conservatives = porn? A+ being a believ that conservatives among atheists having similar effect on the movement like like porn had on Chat Roulette?

    • says

      I must have missed where anybody was talking about conservatives. Unless you’re implying that all conservatives are racist, misogynist homophobes?

      • Tomasz R. says

        These are atheist conservatives who are going excluded from A+. They are definitely against economic goals of communism/socialism (euphemistically called by “social justice” oxymoron), which seems to be mandatory in A+. Secondly they may not be willing to actively participate in activities like fighting for gay marriage, even though they TOLERATE gays and gay marriage. And activism seems to be a mandatory part of A+ (or they have some communication failures in informing others what they are).

        • says

          …communism/socialism (euphemistically called by “social justice” oxymoron), which seems to be mandatory in A+

          If you honestly think that, you’re either stupid, illiterate, dishonest, or all three. Absolutely no one in the A+ camp has even remotely suggested such a thing, and to commit such a blatant and contemptible distortion of the facts puts you on the same level of flat-out lying as David Barton or Ann Coulter.

          • Tomasz R. says

            Martin – it’s your movement, so it’s your task to clearly communicate what it is. If you go out and scream out code-words like “social justice”, “homophobia”, “racism”, “diversity” then expect to be identified with extreme left political movements.

            How is that NOT identifiable with political left-wing movements?

            Martin Wagner:

            “I agree with Jen and others that it’s a good thing to create an association is people’s minds between being atheist and being in favor of social justice.”,

            “As has been said many times, if the way A+ is being used in selling the whole social justice idea doesn’t work for you, find something that does work for you.”

            “we’re all fine with trading ideas about how to pursue social justice,”


            “I am intensely dedicated to community building, children, families, education, equal opportunity, raising awareness of privilege, Humanism, social justice, immigration reform, health care access, I could go on. I’m waiting to see where I fall on the inclusion/exclusion (regulation) line.”


            “My own strengths lie in identifying and combatting sexism and classism, whereas someone else’s strength may lie in speaking to another, equally pressing social issue or issues.”


            “Atheism+ can’t exactly keep anyone from calling themselves Atheist+ but can choose not to interact with people who say/do hurtful things that hinder social justice. [...] The big thing to me is that Atheist+ wants me and people like me, where as Atheism wants anyone who doesn’t believe.”

            John Philips FCD

            “Personally, my stance on social justice, my atheism and skepticism are inextricably linked and always have been. Since elevatorgate, I also see it as defining which side of the skeptic divide one is on with respect to social justice and the inclusion of minorities in the ‘movement’.”

            “This was after all a significant part of the reason behind Jen suggesting A+, i.e. separate us from atheists and skeptics who don’t truly believe in social justice.

            Again, you don’t have to opt in and you will, to me, and I know to many others anyway, only be ever regarded as ‘them’ if your words or actions align with those who have proved themselves opposed to social justice. ”

            Cyris B.

            “I think putting stress on social justice, and starting to clearly define our sense of morality, is more akin to finally putting our money where our mouth is.”

            Sally Strange: (answering to criticism) Now think real hard, dearie, and ask yourself what puts atheism in a positive light:

            “1. Reflexively insisting that atheism is nothing more than the lack of god-belief, and there’s no community, and mocking atheists who do try to organize around issues of social justice and inclusiveness



            3. Publicly identifying as atheists who care about economic, social, and environmental justice, who not only care but also organize around those issues and actively fight to create the conditions”

            Richard Carrier


            Considering “social justice” – whenever you encounter this word in practice it means socialism – redistribution, high taxes, large bureaucracy etc.


            “Social justice [...] involves a greater degree of economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or even property redistribution.”

            If you didn’t mean it – then you have a communication problems, you shouldn’t use code words of extreme left.

            Was mentioning of “women rights”, without “mens rights” a random omission, or is ignoring certain groups the direction of the movement?

            Additionally thanks for the insults – they are a good evidence to the members way of thinking.

          • says

            Martin – it’s your movement, so it’s your task to clearly communicate what it is. If you go out and scream out code-words like “social justice”, “homophobia”, “racism”, “diversity” then expect to be identified with extreme left political movements.

            We cannot help the associations made by stupid people who refuse to listen to the explanations that are clearly given.

            Find me something in the linked article that makes communism “mandatory” (your words), or admit you’re talking out your ass.

        • says

          These are atheist conservatives who are going excluded from A+

          Not true. There may well be conservatives who have decided to exclude themselves, but that’s a different matter.

          They are definitely against economic goals of communism/socialism (euphemistically called by “social justice” oxymoron), which seems to be mandatory in A+

          Please explain how we got from “don’t make rape jokes” to “the workers must take control of the means of production” because I don’t see it.
          Social justice does not equal communism. If you think it does, you don’t understand either. I haven’t heard anyone talking about economic goals of A+.

          Perhaps you could supply a quote and link to someone talking about this so we can evaluate it? That is, assuming you’re not simply talking out of your ass.

          • Tomasz R. says

            I’m against associating atheism with political or economic dogmas. It’s A+ guys who do it. And that’s bad and destructive.

            Especially in central and eastern Europe, where in the past we had a very simple division of ideology – you were either with communist party, non-religious or atheist, or were against it, wchich mostly ment a religious person. So an artificial associacion between atheism and communism was born. It’s a fact of life that such association exist in the minds of millions. Is fading away now, after time and after efforts of dissasociating these two. Unfortunately here comes the cancer of A+, which wants to destroy the positive trends, by associating atheism with left-wing political causes again :-(

          • says

            … the cancer of A+…

            Well, at least you’re keeping an open mind.

            Your objections are simply foolish. Nobody is trying to patent atheism or claim any exclusive rights to it. I would never claim that you weren’t a “real atheist” because we had different political views.

            Atheists aren’t ever just atheists. They’re also a lot of other things. They have to be because atheism in itself is such a narrow position.
            Are you saying that we’re not allowed to call ourselves atheists and also voice political opinions? We have to pick one or the other? If you are, then you’re insane and I’ll just disregard you.

            If not, I don’t see that you have much of a position. If I’m an atheist and a feminist and I’m allowed to say so, then what’s the problem with two people saying so?

            I think you’re overly concerned with the purity of the concept, to the point where you’re forgetting that we’re talking about actual human beings.
            It’s too bad that people in the past have tried to exclusively connect atheism with a certain political position, but since that’s not what we’re doing, I don’t see how it relates to this issue.
            In fact, the A+ label specifically does the opposite, by making clear that we’re a subset of atheists in general.

    • says

      If you support Republican policies, you cannot be an A+.

      I disagree. The Republican party has policies on a lot of issues. They have local and federal policies, which may disagree. They have different wings within the party that disagree on what should be the party’s policies. The party policies change over time.
      All this adds up to the fact that the term “Republican policies” is so vague that it’s nearly meaningless.

      Now, I’m sure you had something a bit more specific in mind when you wrote that, maybe something about women’s rights, or policies on economy or education. However, if you don’t make the points explicit, you’re just firing off a partisan slogan, not actually saying anything of substance.

      So, let’s not talk about “republican policies”. That’s just going to lead to a shouting match or a sickening round of mutual back-patting. Instead, let’s talk about specific policies in specific areas. Then we can actually discuss it and people who disagree can explain why.
      Finally, by phrasing this in terms of republican policies, you’re making it explicitly American. If instead we talk about certain policies, it becomes relevant for the whole world (insert mandatory joke about Americans thinking their country is the whole world) and opens up A+ to being an international movement.

  22. eleutheria says

    You compare people who don’t want to associate Atheism with full-on secular humanism with the masturbators on chatroulette.

    So, if you’re not a liberal atheist, if we let in those riff-raff non-liberal atheists, we’re destroying atheism.

    I happen to be a liberal, but I don’t happen to want to be associated with people who associate non-liberals with masturbators. It’s not polite to do so. It’s just a, uh, liberal value of mine.


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