The Art of the Insult & The Sin of the Slur »« Proving History Now on Kindle

The New Atheism +

There is a new atheism brewing, and it’s the rift we need, to cut free the dead weight so we can kick the C.H.U.D.’s back into the sewers and finally disown them, once and for all (I mean people like these and these). I was already mulling a way to do this back in June when discussion in the comments on my post On Sexual Harassment generated an idea (inspired by Anne C. Hanna) to start a blog series building a system of shared values that separates the light side of the force from the dark side within the atheism movement, so we could start marginalizing the evil in our midst, and grooming the next generation more consistently and clearly into a system of more enlightened humanist values. Then I just got overwhelmed with work and kept putting it off on my calendar for when I had a good half a day or so to get started on that project.

Since then I blogged On Sexual Harassment Policies and Why I Am a Feminist (which smoked out a few of the dregs who attempted to defend their anti-humanist atheism), but closer to my growing thoughts on what separates us, and ought to separate us, within the movement was my post on (Not) Our Kind of People, which wasn’t really about any moral divide (since lots of people who aren’t my kind of people are nevertheless my people as far as basic values go, and I know they would agree; we just enjoy different company), but it paralleled my more private thinking about the evil among us. Then I read Lousy Canuck’s account of the whole abuse of Surly Amy at TAM and elsewhere, which enraged me (I had previously only known parts of that story). It shows the dregs will now publicly mock humanist values, and abusively disregard the happiness of their own people. Well, that starts drawing the battle lines pretty clearly then.

So I was chomping at the bit to find time to write something on this, but still not sure what to say or how to say it. It especially bugged me because I couldn’t get to it for lack of available time (which reminds me to mention, be warned, I am AFK most of this week and so comment moderation here will be unusually slow).

Then Jen McCreight said it for me, more eloquently and clearly than I could have. This weekend she wrote How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism, which was so well received (and quite rightly) that she wrote a brief follow-up: Atheism +. And Greta Christina and others have taken up the banner: Atheism Plus: The New Wave of Atheism. I am fully on board. I will provide any intellectual artillery they need to expand this cause and make it successful.

Its basic values (and the reason for its moniker) Jen stated thus:

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

Amen to all that. But I should add to this a contribution by a reader of my blog, Christine Reece, who back in June sent me a suggestion for my planned post about positive atheism’s values, which I filed away for when I finally posted something essentially declaring battle lines the way Jen did. This in turn will lead to what I’d like to add to our discussion of underlying values.

Christine framed her points as rhetorical questions, which I had planned to blog about one at a time to open discussion on each, and I might do that if it’s needed, but I’m starting to think it’s not. We humanists already know where we stand, and that it’s not with the atheists who denounce or reject these values. So I now frame them as declarations (freely adapting and expanding on her own words, I hope she won’t mind–she might not agree with all of this):

A. Atheism and skepticism should embrace diversity (and not just be a bunch of white guys reading a bunch of white guys). In fact, we should be really keen on expanding our experience and horizons in that regard, aiming to learn as much as possible, and provide resources to help all our comrades in arms.

B. Atheist and skeptic communities should encourage everyone to apply skeptical analysis not just to religion, pseudoscience, and woo, but to social, moral, and political policies, theories and activists.

C. Considering the history of religion and how it has even warped secular life and thought in countries around the world, atheists and skeptics should spend as much time and energy deconstructing illogical and/or inhumane secular policies and claims as they do actively fighting religiously-based interference. We have to be as critical of ourselves and each other as we would expect anyone to be of religion, so we can be sure we don’t make the same mistakes. We must police the rot within, if we are to stand strong against our foes without.

D. In the field of education, atheists and skeptics should help promote courses and curricula that include logic and abstract thought rather than focusing all efforts on science. We need to train kids with a universal toolkit of skeptical and critical thinking about all issues in their lives, not just the scientific, but the social, political, and ideological as well. And we need to take seriously the effort to push for that and make it happen at the fundamental and national level.

As Christine said, “Teaching people how to think for themselves in all areas seems much more practical than providing a first-class science education that they’ll wind up ignoring.”

Of course they need the first-class science education, too. And a model for promoting that is Will.i.am’s STEM center project–if you ever thought Will.i.am was lame, think again: see him talk about this on the Graham Norton Show, and note that when the actress beside him says he’s amazing, she’s reacting to the fact that he had previously on that show talked about how he had also given all his UK profits to a royal educational charity (The Prince’s Trust, which he later mentions in the video clip; the dude really is awesome, just read what he’s up to as far as promoting STEM education).

But that’s not enough. The skill to think critically, skeptically, and rationally in all areas of life must also be promoted and cultivated. In fact, I think it’s time we push for communication studies to become one of the standard (and tested) fields in primary and secondary education, right alongside language, literacy, history, math, art, athletics, and science. How communications manipulate people is so fundamental to our lives now, it is a scandal we aren’t fully equipping kids for how to approach and deal with it. That field would include logic (especially identifying fallacies and being able to diagram and analyze real-world claims and arguments), defensive rhetoric (how to identify methods of manipulation in communication), and a basic understanding of how advertising, filtering, framing, and statistics can be abused to mislead and misinform in all media.

I mention this last point, even though it is the least controversial thing about Atheism+, because it really does underlie how many atheists lack this understanding in themselves and instead even denigrate its importance to policing racism, sexism, and irrationality in the movement itself. The idea that we should not be criticizing each other when we say illogical or ignorant things is self-defeating and self-destructive, and the very first corrupt value we need to kick to the curb.

Which leads me to the first value we must lay as the foundation of Atheism+:

– : –

1. We believe in being reasonable. This means, first, that we believe in being logical and rational in forming beliefs and opinions. Which means anyone who makes a fallacious argument on any matter of real importance and, when shown that they have, does not admit it (when given the chance), might not be one of us, and if they persist in doing that, is definitely not one of us, and is to be marginalized and disowned, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with. This does not mean we must disavow anyone who happens to hold an irrational belief or have reached a conclusion irrationally, but only those atheists who explicitly oppose or reject the very idea of rationality. In other words, any atheist with whom we cannot even have a rational discussion.

Being reasonable also means we believe it is right and good to politely negotiate to find mutually acceptable compromises in matters of policy and coexistence, which includes agreements on the use of resources. But that does not mean capitulation: compromises must be mutually acceptable, and both parties must genuinely aim at that; if there is no such compromise to be had (not even one of mutual acceptance of our differences), then we are in one form or another enemies, and we must admit that.

I do not think it is in our interests any longer to cooperate in silence with irrational people, when it is irrationality that is the fundamental root cause of all human evil. Anyone who disagrees with that is simply not someone we can work with. We need to make the requirement of rationality in all our dealings with anyone fundamental. Even if we cooperate on limited projects with people who will be rational only in that limited sphere of cooperation (for example, interfaith projects for the common good), we still cannot hold our tongue and not continue to denounce their irrationality in any other sphere if we feel we need to, because to do so would be to become a traitor to our own values. Because being rational and reasonable is what we stand for. And it will always be what we stand for. Openly and passionately, and without compromise.

Although we must still give leave to people in political situations who have to hold their tongue, simply for pragmatic reasons and not because they are actively denying or undermining our values in this regard. For example, the NCSE is and has to remain religion-neutral and thus cannot “affiliate” with Atheism at all, much less Atheism+, even if many who work there are atheists or even Atheist+ enthusiasts. As with many other businesses and enterprises, it simply would not be appropriate to their mission. But we aren’t all working for the NCSE.

Reasonableness is not enough, however. In my book Sense and Goodness without God, and in my formal demonstration in chapter 14 of The End of Christianity, I lay out the empirical and logical foundations of objective moral facts on atheism. And the three principle values I discover to be fundamental truths about how all humans ought to govern themselves are reasonableness, compassion, and integrity, generally in that order.

So the second value we must lay as the foundation of Atheism+ is:

– : –

2. We believe in being compassionate. That means we believe it is important to have empathy for other people (men, women, white people, black people, rich people, poor people, and anyone suffering illness or misfortune or unfair treatment, and so on) and to act in the best interests of human happiness (rather than in the interests of our own vanity, greed, or self-righteousness, for example).

This does not mean we can’t be angry or mean or harsh, when it is for the overall good (as when we mock or vilify the town neonazi); ridiculing the ridiculous is often morally appropriate, and insults are also appropriate when they are genuinely appropriate (because, in short, human happiness would be destroyed if we didn’t marginalize that which can destroy it). It also doesn’t mean that we won’t act against evil, ignorance, and all the sins of vanity, greed, or self-righteousness. To the contrary, it is our compassion that compels us to do so. Our compassion entails we will and must always be the enemies of the uncompassionate.

And this is where the biggest divide exists in our movement today. Everyone who attacks feminism, or promotes or defends racism or sexism, or denigrates or maliciously undermines any effort to look after the rights and welfare and happiness of others, is simply not one of us (and if you think it’s divisive of me to say that, you simply must read Greta Christina’s Atheism Plus, and Some Thoughts on Divisiveness). They have rejected compassion as a fundamental value. Regardless of what they say, that is in actual fact what they have done.

Indeed, as the Surly Amy story shows, there are clearly many of us who disregard the happiness of others just to hurt them, mocking or insulting (or even threatening) them merely to please one’s own vanity or self-righteousness, in complete disregard of the pointless misery it causes another human being. That is fucking cruel. And if you are complicit in that, or don’t even see what’s wrong with it, or worse, plan to engage in Christian-style apologetics for it, defending it with the same bullshit fallacies and tactics the Christians use to defend their own immorality or that of their fictional god, then I don’t want anything to do with you. You are despicable. You are an awful person. You disgust me. You are not my people. [And BTW, I no longer include Dr. Harriet Hall in these remarks in any way, as she has made quite clear she had no idea how her own actions in this matter were misconstrued.]

Even the most rudimentary application of The Golden Rule would have caused any of the people who treated Amy as they did, or Rebecca Watson, or any of the many women and men who have been targeted by this shit, to stop themselves well beforehand. “Wait. Would I want people to treat me this way?” No, you fucking wouldn’t. So alas, you are a hypocrite.

In Sense and Goodness without God (V.1.1.1, pp. 295-96) I made the point that all biblical religion is fundamentally fucked because at its root it fails a most fundamental moral test: it valorizes Abraham, who is willing to murder his own son to prove his faith–which means he placed faith above compassion, above even basic human decency. Almost every evil perpetrated by religion today can be traced to that diseased debasement of humanity, in the fundamentally corrupt values represented in that story. Many atheists are building the same corrupt edifice, and instead of “faith in god” trumping human decency, they are placing their own vanity, privilege, and self-righteousness above human decency. Basically, it makes them feel good to hurt people. And that’s what makes them evil.

Indeed, “I don’t like you, so I am going to make you personally miserable” is their value system, rather than “I don’t like you, so I am going to have nothing to do with you” or “I don’t like something you said or did, so I will still respect you as a person and look after your basic welfare, but I am also going to explain in a logical and empirical way why I think you are wrong, and what I say might be harsh, but I will take the greatest care to ensure it is, to the best of my knowledge, relevant and true. But I’ll hear you out if you think I’m wrong about that.” No, that would be reasonable, and reasonably compassionate, behavior. Which these atheists know not of.

(I am by no means talking about respecting actual criminals, however. Their punishment is due. But even them we won’t needlessly torment. Their punishment must be productive, and deserved.)

And so I am declaring here and now, that anyone who acts like this, is not one of us, and should be marginalized and disowned, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with. In fact it is especially important on this point that we prove that these vile pissants are a minority in our movement, by making sure our condemnation of them is vocalized and our numbers seen. We must downvote their bullshit, call it out in comments, blog our outrage.

Don’t assume that because someone else did that, that it’s covered and you can give it a miss. No, we need to show numbers. So speak out wherever you see these two sides at loggerheads, and voice your affiliation, so it’s clear how many of us there are, against them. And this very much is an us vs. them situation. The compassionate vs. the vile. You can’t sit on the fence on this one. In a free society, apathy is an endorsement of villainy.

This also applies to the sexists and racists and other dirtbags who try to make themselves seem reasonable through the specious tactic of merely not using curse words or insults, as if that is all that it takes to be a reasonable person. No, when you see apologists for sexism and racism and other anti-humanistic views of the world, views that have at their core a fundamental lack of empathy for other human beings and a pathological disinterest in seeing how things look from perspectives not their own, views that place narcissistic self-interest above genuine concern for how other people are doing, even when they try to mimic what they think “sounding reasonable” looks like, you needn’t resort to invective or insults, but on the same even keel they are pretending at, simply declare that they are not one of you, but are one of them. The people we want nothing more to do with. Until and unless they realize their own sins and repent of them. Feel free to calmly explain why.

(But be empathic enough to assume at first that someone being an ignorant dufus is really just ignorant and misinformed, and not a douchebag; give them at least one shot at being educable, before kicking them into the sewers to wallow with their peeps.)

And of course the third value we must lay as the foundation of Atheism+ is:

– : –

3. We believe in personal integrity. That means we believe in being honest and forthright, and consistent in our values. Hypocrisy to us is among the greatest sins, and we will denounce it everywhere, and purge it whenever we discover it in ourselves.

This may seem uncontroversial, a no brainer, but it really needs special emphasis, it needs to be something we consciously define ourselves by, so that it is ever on our minds when we decide who to be and what to praise or denounce or fight for or against. It must actually shame us when we are discovered to be hypocritical or dishonest in any significant way, and our integrity ought always drive us to correct ourselves when that happens. Our integrity ought to be important to us.

We must integrate this ideal of personal integrity into our very self-identity. Those who don’t, those who aren’t shamed by being exposed as liars or hypocrits, those who persist in being dishonest or inconsistent even when their dishonesty or inconsistency has been soundly proven, is not one of us, and is to be marginalized and disowned, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with.

– : –

The nexus of these three values does entail there can be such things as unreasonable compassion (like destroying your own happiness through excessive giving, or not giving babies vaccinations because needles hurt) or unreasonable honesty (like aiding a murderer by telling them where their target is hiding) or dishonest compassion (like tricking someone into losing a lot, by being generous to them now) or uncompassionate honesty (like being unnecessarily frank about someone’s appearance), or even dishonest reasonableness (like merely pretending to be reasonable). These are all moral failures. But there can be honest debate about where the boundaries are drawn when values come into conflict, as long as that debate is always governed by the most fundamental value of being reasonable (as defined above).

There can also be many other uncertainties and disagreements over whether someone or something really fulfills these values, and good people can fall short of their own values from time to time. The only issue at hand is whether we are at least on board with the idea that these are the values we should hold ourselves to, and with doing our best to hold ourselves to them. That is the question of what sort of atheist we are: an atheist who embraces these values, or an atheist who does not. The rest is open to honest and reasonable discussion, disagreement and debate. But we have to draw this line, so we are no longer mixed in with the atheists who refuse either to embrace these values or sincerely work toward embodying them, so we no longer give tacit endorsement to them or their toxic contributions to the atheism movement.

In a future post I might explore further what I think the values of Atheism+ could be, beyond the general principles I have laid out here, unless others cover it better. And I will consider these posts a living document. If from sincere and constructive criticism in comments I am led to alter or revise what I’ve said above in any way (beyond clarifications that can be well-enough addressed in comments themselves), I will do so, and announce the changes in the comments, so there is a record of them. Because I think the values of Atheism+ are to be built collaboratively, and don’t have to be dictated by me alone.

In the meantime, are you an atheist? Do you identify as an atheist? Then I can’t insist, but I do ask that you to defend these goals and values (not in comments here, but publicly, via Facebook or other social media): are you with us, or with them; are you with the Atheism+ movement, or do you at least cheer and approve it’s values and aims (since you don’t have to label yourself), or are you going to stick with Atheism Less and its sexism and cruelty and irrationality?

Then at least we’ll know who to work with. And who to avoid.

And on what exactly I mean by that, see Being with or against Atheism+.

Comments

  1. says

    Ah, now you’re exactly the person who can give me a thorough response: what, if anything, is the significant point of difference between the “plus” and humanism?

    • says

      I should clarify (having read similar questions elsewhere) that I am not attacking the concept itself, and am excited as all heck to join in no matter what it’s called. I have never been more proud of this movement than now.

    • says

      Christian humanists. Woo humanists. Humanists who deny the label atheist (agnostic humanists, deistic humanists, irrational humanists). And humanists who don’t believe we should be insulting religion or advocating in-your-face atheism (“coexist” and accommodationist humanists).

      [See also downthread]

    • says

      I am against organized religion.

      And I am against organize anti-religion.

      When you organize, you politicize.

      And politics is the death of freethought.

      It is hypocrisy to fight organized religion while simultaneously supporting ORGANIZED anti-religion.

      The separation of church and state SHOULD keep religion out of the public sphere.

      But not if ORGANIZED anti-religion (Atheism+) rears its ugly head.

    • says

      Your comment doesn’t make any sense.

      Atheism+ isn’t “organized” (there is no organization), it’s simply a term for atheism + values. Whereas “organized atheism” has existed for decades: American Atheists, Atheists United, Atheist Alliance International, The National Atheist Party, and so on.

      Did you speak out against those when they formed, and reject them as being as bad as organized religion? Do you condemn people who join those organizations as being religionists?

      Somehow I doubt it.

      Organized atheism long preceded Atheism+ and will remain long after. Atheism+ is, by contrast, not an organization at all. It’s just a zeitgeist among atheists who are sick of immoral and amoral atheists representing atheism as a civic and social movement.

  2. Mark Erickson says

    These principles are very close to the seven of Unitarian Universalism: http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/. That’s a good thing for me. My own church’s motto is about living with integrity, service and joy. It’s pretty hard to beat that in three words, although it would be fun to see people try.

    • Rieux says

      Unitarian Universalism is unquestionably very good (for a group dominated by upper-class whites) on many of the issues regarding intersectionality that have given rise to A+.

      I’m afraid that my seven years as a UU taught me, however, that a large number of UUs badly fail Richard’s Principle #1, by believing in some solidly nonsensical woo. Perhaps more troubling, the level of religious privilege and outright atheophobia among the UU clergy and UU Association administration are seriously alarming—and the silence and ignorance about that problem in the UU laity may be even worse.

      I’ve written at length online about UUism’s privilege and atheist-bashing problems, for example here, and Adam “Daylight Atheism” Lee, an atheist UU, has added his two cents here.

      UUs have substantial justification to feel smug about the manner in which your denomination has dealt with problems of misogyny, homophobia, and similar kinds of inhumanity—with considerably greater success, it’s now clear, than the atheist movement has achieved to date. But the religiolatrous bias that still suffuses the national UU community, and the severe mistreatment of nonbelievers (and then blinkered denial that any such mistreatment exists) that results from that bias, counsels a considerably humbler approach, especially on an atheist blog.

      Looking at the religious aspects of many intergroup conflicts, at the violence carried out by zealots in the name of religion, some people conclude that the world would be safer “religion-free.” They may even try living this way themselves. But too often they only practice a form of self-delusion. Nature abhors a vacuum and so does the human spirit. As C.S. Lewis said, the opposite of a belief in God is not a belief in nothing; it is a belief in anything. Sweep the demon of religion out the door and, like the story in the Gospels, you may only succeed in making room for an evil spirit worse than the first—this one accompanied by seven friends (Luke 11:24-26; Matt. 12:43-45). Zealous atheism can perform this role of demonic pseudoreligion.

      [….]

      One cost of avoiding religion altogether may be spiritual isolation. Too often today couples are already socially isolated. … Having raised their children in a spiritual vacuum, apart from any religious discussion or community, committed secularists are sometimes shocked when their offspring suddenly join a high-demand cult or follow a seductive guru. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does the human spirit. The lure of the various isms, though hardly unknown to religious people, may be even more intense for those who avoid religion.

      – UU Rev. and national UU Association President (1993-2001) John A. Buehrens, in A Chosen Faith, published by the UUA’s Beacon Press and billed by the publisher as “the classic introduction to Unitarian Universalism”

      Life is a miracle that can’t be explained without explaining it away. Our most profound encounters lead inexorably from the rational to the transrational realm.

      Many leading scientists are far ahead of us in this regard. Some recent discoveries in physics and cosmology make no apparent sense according to known canons of rationality. Probing the mysteries of the universe and the mind, researchers on the cutting edge of knowledge find themselves moving freely between the rational and transrational realms. Where does that leave the poor camp followers, who believe in science but don’t embrace mystery? Having traded God for truth, they are left with neither.

      – Rev. Forrest Church, “Universalism: A Theology for the 21st Century,” UU World national magazine, November/December 2001)

      Who are these people who still think that it’s special and unique to reject traditional images of the Deity? Are they the same guys who sit with me at weddings and let drop the bomb that they respect what I do [as a UU minster] but, rilly, they’re “spiritual but not religious??” “That’s fascinating and special, dear,” I tell them. “But I’d love it so much if we could conclude this conversation right this minute and you’d go fetch me another cocktail.”

      […]

      For an atheist to expect CHURCHES to pander to the a-theistic search for truth and meaning is like hiring a dental hygenist with no arms to do your cleaning, and expecting her to do a good job of it.

      – UU Rev. Victoria “Peacebang” Weinstein, nationally published and prize-winning UU minister

    • Paul Murray says

      People forget that Unitarian Universalism is still christian. It still has original sin, it’s just that Jesus has saved everyone, so there’s no us/them or need to evangelise. But at the root is still the anti-human idea that God is good, people are bad, and only an act of God (the atonement) has made it possible – by some sort of legal fiction – for people to not be roasted in hell for all eternity.

    • Mark Erickson says

      Rieux! How you doing? I think I read you had a baby, congrats. I must have scrolled past this comment too fast to see your reply. I’ll give you a full answer by tomorrow. Take care.

    • Mark Erickson says

      Rieux, no one said UU’s don’t believe in woo. There are plenty of people in the atheist, humanist and yes, even the skeptical community that believe in woo. Pigliucci goes over many here: http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-community-of-reason-self-assessment.html. What is important in all communities is striving for integrity. And there are more meaningful versions of integrity than intellectual.

      I’ve been through the anti-atheist UU thing on Daylight Atheism, and yes, Buehrens was wrong to say those things but you and Adam are making much too big deal about it. It’s not like Buehrens or anybody else prominent in UUism is like a Catholic bishop or anything. Each congregation is independent and makes its own culture. I’m sorry that you felt unwelcomed at one congregation. Try another or just go out to brunch instead.

      Paul, no, UUism came out of Christianity, but it is not a Christian denomination. And you are talking about straight Universalists. There are Universalists in the UUA (-tarians and -versalists merged in 1961 to make the UUA), as there are Christians, Zen practitioners, Wiccans and atheists, but I would think that their conception of original sin is very metaphorical and I sincerely (pun intended) doubt they believe in eternal hell. As for anti-human idea that people are bad, the first of the seven principles linked above is “The inherent worth and dignity of every person”.

    • Mark Erickson says

      Rieux, I read some of your Livejournal stuff. It’s tragic that you were compelled to leave your congregation. (I’m in the same community, btw). You obviously gave and got much from being an UU church member. What I don’t understand is why you wouldn’t try another church in our community.

      As for your beef with Buehrens and Church, I see why you’re pissed at them. I don’t understand why it would serve as an indictment of UUism. Sure they are very prominent UU’s, but in a non-creedal, non-dogmatic, non-hierarchical denomination like the UUA, I don’t see the vast importance you give their book, A Chosen Faith. Protest and call for it to be stop being published, fine. But use it as a whipping horse for the entire movement when you see UUism mentioned in a blog thread? Not necessary.

      And as for counter-argument, in another prominent UUA publication, “The UU Pocket Guide,” edited by said Buehrens, I’ve found the opposite sentiments, and from another UUA President, 1985 to 1993, William F. Schultz.

      It is true that we set up no formal religious test for legal membership, that we welcome the devout atheist as readily as the ardent Christian.”

      Some of us would understand God in very personal ways, as the source of love or hopefulness; some would see God in nature or as Ultimate Reality; some would take the Goddess as a model; and still others would have no truck with the whole notion at all.

  3. A+ Hermit says

    Jen’s post was a rallying cry and this is an excellent extension of that post. The principles of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity as outlined here are a solid foundation not just for an approach to atheism but for life in general.

    Thank you for articulating so clearly what I (like so many of us, I believe) have been feeling.

  4. says

    I like the direction this is going. Like Natalie Reed I am cautious about the results of this step, but I’m hopeful that it will be a good step foward and will build momentum. I want a Atheist Movement that cares not just about the harm religion does but the harm people do because of their religion and because of their social norms. It’s not acceptable to me to treat trans* people, people of color, women, poor people and all the hundreds of minorities out there as less than or not worth the time.

    And I’m so very sick of people complaining about mission drift. I don’t care if it -is- mission drift. This is what I want to see and it’s a comfort to know that others want to see the same thing.

    Thank you for supporting this Richard. Now let’s get more minorities to give their input on what we need to do to ensure this is an inclusive step forward.

  5. says

    Brother… I made this case to you a long time ago. :)

    I made the case that Atheism is an improper banner to unite under, and that only people with shared values should be united under a common cause – not people who merely share a common disbelief.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/337/

    Sir, I accept your apology (spoken in my best Stephen Colbert impression).

    Seriously though… you appear to have revised your position since that conversion, and you appear to be making the same argument I made back then. The only difference is that you have taken it a step further than even I did – not only are you repudiating entire swaths of atheists, but you are clearly stating the terms on which you are willing to be intellectually allied with them or anyone else.

    I agree with the lines as you have drawn them. I have long identified myself primarily as an “Advocate of Reason”, which is consistent with your first criteria. I’d submit that your 2nd and 3rd criteria are corollary to the first.

  6. Goldstein Squad Member says

    Richard, you sound like some kind of Leninist…in tactics, not philosophy…wanting to purge the movement.

    Next would be show trials.

    Then executions!

    I can just imagine the Hell On Earth that would arise if atheists had full control…one giant Gulag.

    Moderate that, “freethinker”.

    • says

      Right. I defend compassion, integrity, and reasonableness, and that makes me sound exactly like a Leninist. I mean exactly. Wow. It’s unbelievable how exactly like a Leninist that is.

      Besides your factual fail (I don’t think “Leninist” means what you think it means), you then go on a classically massive logic fail, with a textbook slippery slope fallacy!

      Nonviolently denouncing people who reject compassion, integrity, and reasonableness will, like, totes lead to gulags and executions. I mean, isn’t it obvious that’s where this is going? Wonk! Wonk!

    • garthogle says

      Remember, all of the Leninist mock trials, executions, secret police and death camps – were in the name of LOVE! of HUMANITY! of PEACE! of COMPASSION!

      Just let’s not forget history, dawgs.

      Peace.

      PS to be fair – you could argue that making people suffer is pro-compassion, after all, how can you suffer with them if they’re not suffering?

    • F says

      Wow. Take bad assertions, liberally add pushbutton buzzwords, mix and spew onto the internet. Fantastic!

  7. morgan says

    Yes. Absolutely. All of this. It is unfortunate that we live in a time and culture which has devolved to extreme polarization in most things, particularly those of political or moral nature. So be it. We will choose sides and slay them with reasonableness.

    • Justan A says

      “another vote for douchery” I’m glad to see A+ and Richard already leveraging the Right Wing Conservative radio Orwellian tactic of demonizing an alternate position. Lends a bit of substance, and provides onlookers a bit of evidence as to the tone and direction of the movement. Bravo.

      I’m just an Atheist. One of the things I despise about modern Christianity is the constant browbeating by it’s leaders to adhere to proscribed social positions such as those on abortion and homosexuality in order to cement political will.

      I’ll not have my atheism hijacked by your social movement. I agree with every one of your tenents: feminism, support of gay rights, etc. I have daughters and I want to ensure they have equal pay, every opportunity, and feel safe wherever they go. But I don’t agree with your methods. I don’t agree that the struggle for freedom of church and state needs to involve global warming, gun control, or feminism. In America the work toward providing a secular environment for our children is a difficult enough task as it is.

      I don’t believe in your approach to the problem. And you calling people douchebags who disagree with you simply highlights why.

    • says

      Demonizing the vile is fully right and correct (in fact, socially necessary: it’s how we defeated the Nazis, the KKK, and southern slavery) when you are honest and reasonable.

      The difference with right wing media is that they demonize their opponents by (a) lying and (b) using illogical arguments (fallacies). That is immoral. You have thus focused on the wrong component of the analogy. It is not demonizing that is wrong (or insulting or ridiculing or any other marginalization tactic, all forms of nonviolent protest), it’s lying and using fallacious arguments to manipulate people that is wrong. But stay honest and rationally correct and you are doing right by yourself and the world.

      We cannot make progress on anything good if we do not distance ourselves from liars and douchebags. We cannot defeat sexism if we remain allied to sexists. We cannot defeat racism if we remain allied to racists. We cannot defeat homophobia and transphobia if we remain allied with homophobes and transphobes. We cannot defeat cruelty if we remain allied to the uncaring. We cannot defeat hypocrisy and lies if we remain allied to liars and hypocrites. We cannot defeat irrationality if we remain allied with the irrational.

      If you do not realize this, then there is something seriously wrong with your ability to reason logically.

      Don’t you agree?

    • Jeff Hansen says

      “P.S. And yes, really. It is us vs. them: the new New Atheists vs. the sexists, racists, and uncaring and irrational douchebags.”

      Seems like you’ve just declared anyone not on board with your new group as sexists, racists, or uncaring, irrational douchebags. You’re dead wrong, & in a particularly ignorant & arrogant way at that. Why don’t you just go full-stop & call them counterrevolutionary while you’re at it, comrade? This is Christian Right-level pomposity. You’re already applying slander labels to folks resisting being dragooned into this months-old cause. There’s just no way I’d want to be associated with this sort of insulting, narrow-minded conformist bullshit.

      Maybe in the cozy little academia bubble-world you live in atheism looks like a cause in triumph & you feel it’s time to link all of your other pet causes to it. But for people like me living outside of that bubble(a factory worker trying to raise three freethinkers in freaking Stephenville,Texas)it’s a far different story.

      I’ve been a fan of yours & supported your works since you showed up on my radar five or so years ago. But any time I hear anyone screaming “us or them” & insulting me for not joining the gang I’m done with them.

    • Proxer says

      Richard, you’re totally off base here. All Tom said was that he chooses not to take on the Atheism+ title. There are any number of legitimate, non-misogynistic, non-douchebag reasons that someone might take that position, and if Atheism+ really stands for what you are posting about, then you need to apologize and withhold judgement until you have some valid reason for calling someone a douchebag.

    • Justan A says

      “Demonizing the vile is fully right and correct (in fact, socially necessary: it’s how we defeated the Nazis, the KKK,”

      Right and what you are implying by insulting Tom, who (I thought) rather politely stated he prefers the original movement is that he is automatically the equivalent of every mysogynist troll. You don’t account that people out there may want to fight for church and state separation in their communities without having to fly the LGBT and Feminism flags. You imply people need to wear a rainbow shirts as they come out as an Atheist to their parents and friends–lest they be labeled douchebags by the very community they seek support from. You and your fellow FTB Atheism+ers have called for every Free Thought group (some of which are struggling to find members) to declare allegiances and splinter. And sorry… Yeah, you sound a little like George W Bush when he talked about “Evil Doers” and “Axis of Evil.”

      “We cannot defeat irrationality if we remain allied with the irrational.”

      From your logic, either one agrees completely with the Atheism+ methods, leadership, and charter or one explicitly supports racist homophobes. By implying that you are promoting a false dichotomy. find it a little ironic that a group of prominent skeptics are using a logical fallacy in order to establish sectarianism.

      “We cannot defeat hypocrisy and lies if we remain allied to liars and hypocrites”

      Your issue here is the assumption that everyone who comments on FTB is an ally. They are not. They may not even be Free Thinkers. You also assume that people wo ally themselves with Atheism + are not hypocrital or liars. Human nature suggests at some level we all are.

      I posit that there must exist a pool of general Atheist and freethinkers that are defined simply by their skepticsm and lack of belief. This is the pool one first enters, and for which it should be no shame to remain. You may assert that you’re new ‘supergroup’ is morally superior. It may well be, but you will not demonstrate so by leveraging logical fallacies to drive a wedge, or by name calling.

    • Bringerofmorning says

      I think I will stick with my lifelong sub-plus atheism and the not liking injustice, if that’s all the same to you. It’s quite possible to disagree with a person effectively without ‘shaming’ them, nor am I seeing it as a particularly compassionate or useful approach. One of my favourite things about atheism is the blissful absence of the missionary position. If you model it sufficiently well, other people may be attracted to it. Or not.*shrugs* I’m not a bloke, as it goes, in case you were thinking of calling ‘douche’ on me.

    • says

      Bringerofmorning: I think I will stick with my lifelong sub-plus atheism and the not liking injustice, if that’s all the same to you.

      Why?

      Do you reject any of the values stated in my article? If so, which ones, and why?

      If not, in what way aren’t you a part of Atheism+ movement?

      Either you reject some basic human values here, or you are irrationally denying what you are, like someone who said they were sure there was no god but aren’t an atheist. As if they didn’t understand how words work.

      So which is it? Are you simultaneously admitting to being A and not being A (and thus violating the basic logical law of identity that A = A), or are you rejecting one or more of the values that define Atheism+?

      Be honest and say.

    • Msx says

      There are so many problems with A+ as it is currently conscievved that is hard to know where to begin. But probably the most problematic point is the designation of an orthodoxy, a line that must-at all costs- be towed if one is to be respected, heard and engaged with.

      I think most atheists are generally progressive, care about social issues of all sorts, and want people to feel welcome in our nunced world of freethinking, skepticism and reason. The problem though is that being rational and freethinking doesn’t mean everyone will necessarily reach the same conlusions. Sometimes disagreements are unavoidable. The navigation of some of these problems does actually admit of several utterly rational approaches that all seek to maximize the same goal. The problem is often compounded by the fact we don’t have recourse to empirical tools to settle the questions with ease, and we are left with the difficult task of balancing different values against one another in way that attempts to make every one feel safe, and welcome. It isn’t easy, and there is no reason to believe that everyone will reason their way to exactly the same conclusion.

      Who decides when a real and legitmate difference of opinion arises whether or not it is time to demonize and marginalize a person? The people of A+? Why should that be the case? People who disagree with you clearly cannot win. If they are insulting they are just trolls (most of the time this is true, but even trolls can make a good point now and again), and when the disagreement is framed in more academic tones, bereft of insult, that is simply a disguise for a troll. What possiblity is there for dialogue with A+ unders such conditions? I will submit the chances aren’t very good. And why should anyone trust your judgement on what is offensive, abusive and sexist when you flout these rules of common courtesy all the time. I’ve seen Steph justify the use of the word bitch (it was about Abbie so the the fact that it was a gendered slur is okay). You have freely used the term douche, douchebag, retard etc and then tried to justify this name calling in increasingly laughable ways. If you cannot be trusted to live up to your own standards then why should anyone pay any attention to you at all? The authoritarian mode of A+ bears a striking resemblance to tendency found in Bolshevism. Is that really the atmosphere you want to create?

      Here is a humble suggestion though, ff you would not call someone a douchebag, or a dick, or a retard, in meatspace, then maybe, just maybe you should refrain from doing it webspace. In the face of a reasonable difference of opinion be polite until the other party gives you reason hurl insults. And specific to you Richard, it may really be time to examine the logic of what you are saying, and the deep inconsistencies with freethought your new orthodoxy presents. Most of us are for whay you say you are for, but that isn’t always an easily navigable space.

    • says

      This is the sequence of events:

      I explain Atheism+ means being an atheist who is against sexism and racism and endorses the values of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity.

      I conclude by asking “are you now a part of the Atheism+ movement, or are you going to stick with Atheism Less and its sexism and cruelty and irrationality?”

      Tom states they pick option B.

      I point out that this makes them a douchebag.

      Identify where at any point I am wrong.

    • says

      Note: There was a comment in this subthread that I tried to approve but some glitch occurred and it has disappeared. I cannot find it. I don’t know what happened but I apologize for the loss. My comment above was to be in reply to it, as well as to the one that did make it through (which now appears immediately before it).

    • silent_observer says

      Yes, this isn’t the first time I have seen this. It is called false dichotomy. You either agree with all of what is said here or accept that you are a douchebag. Now sweeping aside the fact that there is no need to insult a douche, which is quite a handy thing, it is the sweeping generalization that bothers me. I have to accept everything that has been said here if I am to be classified as someone who isn’t a douchebag or an asshole? Why? Why can’t I have a differing opinion?

      For a more elaborate answer, I am not a white guy reading other white guys. I am a brown guy. But I don’t have any issues reading or listening to what a white guy says or what a black guy says. Frankly, I don’t classify people based on the color of their skin, I classify them as worth listening to or worth avoiding. I don’t see any reason to go out of our way to accommodate more colored people. It should purely be based on merit, be that of argument or intellectual capabilities.

      Secondly, skeptical analysis to issues like social, moral and political policies do not lead to the same conclusions. For example, there are people who think that Americans should be completely prevented from owning semi-automatic handguns unless there is a compelling reason and there are those who want the right to protect themselves when faced with a dire situation. I wouldn’t want to be unarmed if I am accosted in a dark alley or if armed thugs tried to rob my house. If someone doesn’t agree with me then so be it. But here the author wants everyone to agree with his views or else they are assholes, which doesn’t allow for healthy debate in any topic of consideration.

      Thirdly, I don’t consider all religious people as “foes from without”. I have childhood friends who are deeply religious. When did they become my foes? When did the people you disagree with become “the rot”? What kind of thought policing is this? To think that on the one hand we demand free press and the freedom of speech, and on the other hand you go labeling people who think differently from you as douchebags, what kind of hypocrisy are you spewing?

      So, I agree with you Tom. I’ll stick with atheism and choose which other political policy or financial policy that I want to support without the atheists telling me that I am a douchebag.

      I guess all that is left now is for Richard Carrier to tell me that he has incremented the counter for douchery. Let me make a stupid counter claim. Anyone who opposes this post is an asshole. There, I felt better :-|

  8. says

    Thank you Richard Carrier for speaking out on this, and also for providing some loose guidelines to consider as I continue to try to improve myself as a humanist. One thing, I think this point should perhaps be emphasized a little more:

    “But be empathic enough to assume at first that someone being an ignorant dufus is really just ignorant and misinformed, and not a douchebag; give them at least one shot at being educable, before kicking them into the sewers to wallow with their peeps.”

    Perhaps we should give such people more than one shot. I would advocate for unlimited shots. That is the burden we carry. It’s not acceptable just to write people off because of their ignorance; we must always summon up the patience and energy to discuss with them and attempt to make some headway.

    I’m a perfect example of why this is necessary, as I (a former christian) have believed all kinds of crazy bullshit that just took a lot of time to get to the bottom of. I used to wish a lot of ill will upon you and many others because I genuinely thought atheists and liberals (btw, I now self identify as “liberal”) were destroying all of the goodness in the world. The hatred this inspires takes time to overcome. Outcasting people may help some of them to come around, but most of the time they will retreat to the woods and breed a colony of nutbags.

    So I thank you for the sentiments, and also for much of your previous work (and that of several others) that challenged me so deeply to prove you all wrong that I ended up having to drop the whole thing and climb onboard. Your work has been quite inspiring, but let’s not give up on the doophuses; most of them actually mean well. This is difficult to see, but if we keep punching holes in their bullshit, their own desire to be in tune with truth and goodness will eventually prevail. For those who don’t and just refuse– and continue to get more and more negative and destructive– sure, count them out and send them away, but always keep the door ajar. Perhaps I’m too hopeful, but I believe nearly everybody on some fundamental level wants to get things right and “do the right thing.”

    Cheers and thanks again!

    • says

      Bad people, douchebags, and persistent deniers of rationality need to be shamed and marginalized. That’s how we get rid of them nonviolently. By punishing their behavior proportionally, thus creating direct disincentive to be them or emulate them or defend them or listen to them.

      Indeed, it is this very thing that will force many to examine themselves and ask why they are so loathed and ridiculed, what’s wrong with their thinking. Treating bad behavior as if it isn’t reprehensible, by contrast, does nothing but allow it to persist and grow.

      But there is a difference between someone who actually listens and shows signs of trying, despite their erroneous beliefs and conclusions, and someone who persistently denies facts, invents facts, or leans on fallacies even after they’ve been called out.

      The former is someone you can work with. The latter is someone you cannot. Until, like a drug addict, they admit to themselves they have a problem (as only then will they ever evolve in response to anything we say); until then, our only valid recourse is to marginalize them.

    • says

      “I would advocate for unlimited shots.”

      There is also the issue that within certain spaces (sometimes known as “safe spaces”) the focus should be on servicing the needs of the members of the community, not on playing google to those on the outside who demand increasing amounts of our time at their personal beck and call. Like the toddler who won’t stop asking “why” till the parents pull their hair out, sometimes it’s just not the time to deal with unending challenges. People who are good at outreach can devise their strategies for winning people over, and people who are good at “inreach” should be allowed to cut toxic members out of their community without retribution.

    • says

      Point taken, but I guess the problem I have is that we are a minority. It is on us to win people over. If we are the minority, and we outcast people, doesn’t that in essence mean that we are outcasting ourselves? At what point are we the ones retreating to the woods to breed a colony?

    • says

      I really like the distinction made by The Nerd, which totally irons out my concern there, so long as the threshold for in-reach isn’t set too strictly or too low. PR is increasingly becoming a more and more effective art; if we don’t compete on that front, I believe we will lose ground.

    • says

      We cannot make any progress toward human good if we don’t “outcast ourselves” from people who reject compassion, integrity, and reasonableness. We have to cut them loose. They are dead weight. We have to denounce them and divest ourselves of them. That is the only way forward.

    • Smhll says

      @CoreyRobey

      I think the movement definitely needs patient people who can type and post faster than the impatient people. (As a person who is a bit inclined to snippiness, I would be personally willing to put a 10 or 20 minutes time delay on my posts, if I could automate this, rather than relying on self control.)

  9. F says

    I’m so glad to see your (and Christine’s) thinking added to what has already been said here.

    I really don’t do any social media at all, but wherever I am, I’ll continue to speak up. Not just in FTB territory.

  10. Aaron says

    If seems to me that we already have a term for a system of thought like this- Secular Humanism. I’m sympathetic to these views, but I can’t help but to get hung up on the terminology. Wouldn’t it make sense to use the words we have rather than re-scope, re-define, co-opt words like atheism? I imagine most folks on FtB disagree with me on this, but I feel that it’s worth pointing out.

    • says

      The problem with “Secular Humanism” is that it is an umbrella term that includes more than just “Atheists” in the Atheism+ sense: it also includes humanists of other varieties, whom we do not identify with (see related comment). And Secular Humanism as such does not specifically endorse all the elements of Atheism+ but rather a more vague and ambiguous set of values, which we might all agree with, but we happen to embrace more than that, and are less vague about it. Hence, we are Atheists plus. And we are atheists above all because we are principally (just not only) combating religious belief, identifying it (along with secular irrationality as well) as the primary threat to human happiness the world over. This is something that people who self-identify as “Secular Humanist” often don’t endorse or agree with; and even when they do, as many don’t, the label is unclear when adopted, as to which you are. Atheism+ is clear.

  11. says

    “…anyone who makes a fallacious argument and, when shown that they have, does not admit it, is not one of us, and is to be marginalized and kicked out, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with.”

    So the Logic Police will be maintaining a database of all Scarlet Fs issued by the Central Committee?

    • says

      If you mean “rational people will be making mental notes of who is irrational, then documenting it, and publicly informing their colleagues of it,” then yes. There is no other way to promote a rational society than to call out those who are irrational and denounce and marginalize them as such. No longer will we treat them as one of us. Because they are not.

      There won’t be any central committee for this. Just the internet and the evidence.

      Accept it or GTFO.

  12. says

    I’m an atheist. I’ll let my opinions on various issues stand for themselves when the time to discuss them arises. I don’t need to latch on to a bunch of bandwagon platitudes so that I’m easily pigeonholed before someone even asks me anything. I don’t need to be associated with any movements or maxims. Call me crazy, but I thought we’d been doing a good job avoiding that kind of thing.

    • says

      Which is foolish. Individuals are all but powerless. Movements make change. Cultures transmit values and norms.

      Anyone who thinks it isn’t important how our culture evolves and defines itself going forward, that it isn’t important to distinguish between people destructive to our goals and those beneficial to them, that we can succeed at our goals in any other way, doesn’t know how the world works.

    • oolon says

      @Mike D, so on the one hand you say on your blog that the declarations made by RC are hard to disagree with? But then having them will encourage ‘group think’ and marginalise and punish dissent… What exactly is wrong with that?

      We already marginalise and punish dissent from the rational-atheist world view. We engage in massive group think around topics such as creationists are daft, alternative medicine is woo and bigfoot doesn’t exist.

      But when someone says – to be part of this club we think you should treat others as equals…. Won’t someone think of the poor freethinkers! They need to be allowed to think the unthinkable when it some to these issues… Groupthink! Groupthink! FTBullies!!! etc…

      Sorry but I find your argument to be completely lacking.

  13. Jay says

    very well said

    I think I’ll have to print this one out and think about it for a while. There’s lot for me to take from this.

  14. gaytality says

    Really? Us V. Them.

    Plus, I don’t see a lot of non-white people represented by your blog. Seems a bit odd.

    • says

      How do you know what color of skin the people commenting on my blog have?

      Or are you referring to FtB as a whole and not “my blog”? In that case, we have Crommunist, Mano Singham, Taslima Nasrin, and several bloggers at Black Skeptics. (And Maryam Namazie is white but of course actually Iranian; and a woman, another element of diversity we are pushing for here at FtB.)

      We also have a search committee actively hunting for more good bloggers of diverse races, genders, and backgrounds. That’s Atheism+ for you.

      P.S. And yes, really. It is us vs. them: the new New Atheists vs. the sexists, racists, and uncaring and irrational douchebags.

  15. Chuck says

    I only read half way through and the impression I am getting is that his is like the First Council of Nicaea. I thought Atheism was just that…Atheism. I think a splinter group with a set of dogmatic sound rules just doesn’t sound right to me.

    • says

      First of all, it’s not dogma if it’s open to discussion and evidence-based revision. So: fallacy of false analogy. Own it, correct it, or GTFO.

      Secondly, a culture has to define what’s destructive to its own ends and what is beneficial or even necessary to its own ends, otherwise it will self-destruct, and never make progress toward greater human happiness.

      So either you endorse the values and aims I have laid out, or you do not. If you do, just join the cause and stop fretting over being part of a culture whose values you embrace. But if you don’t endorse these values, then you are our enemy, in one fashion or another–because you will be endorsing, supporting (even if only through apathy and inaction), values that will ultimately destroy or undermine the human good. You are then in our way, the same way Neonazis and anarchists and UFO cults and churches and right wing think tanks and so on, are in our way, and what we will denounce and disown. You can be among them, or among us. It’s that simple.

      [The only qualification I would add is that obviously some people are a lot more against us than others; hence I discuss the prospect of limited cooperation in my article.]

    • xtog says

      Given the evidence free hysteria and closed discussion of the FTB lot on the recent sexism issues, why should anyone believe that there will be a “open… discussion and evidence-based revision”?

      The evidence I have seen shows this is not what will happen,…therefore the ‘+’ simply means dogmatic atheism — you did say IF.

      And as for the GTFO bit,…atheism does not have the luxury of kicking people out of its movement, nor could it if it wanted to. The idea that FTB determines who is in or out, or any other group of pretentious malcontents determines this is simply the delusional ramblings of power-drunk arrogant provocateurs — one might suggest they are merely ‘hit-count whores’ trying to fund their next literary adventure that will do nothing but preach to the choir on the backs of their own friends and fellow free-thinkers.

      And can an FTB person simply for once ever make a strident point without referring to the f-word? What we need is atheism -, and that is atheism without the sanctimonious and self-destructive self-immolation of allies – and I am fully aware that this comment might seem self-contradictory, nevertheless sometimes atheists do need a good correction, but not necessarily an expulsion as this an others ignorantly suggest would be good for the movement.

    • IfICantDanceAtYourRevolution says

      “it’s not dogma if it’s open to discussion and evidence-based revision”

      “So either you endorse the values and aims I have laid out, or you do not…if you don’t endorse these values, then you are our enemy,”

      In other words, it’s dogma.

    • says

      XTOG said: Given the evidence free hysteria and closed discussion of the FTB lot on the recent sexism issues, why should anyone believe that there will be a “open… discussion and evidence-based revision”?

      When have I ever exhibited any “evidence-free hysteria” or “closed discussion” on this subject?

      You are now fabricating a non-existent claim about my blog, as another childish excuse to deny its values without having the courage to actually say so. Nice.

      XTOG said: Atheism does not have the luxury of kicking people out of its movement…

      Yes, it does. Atheism+ is our movement. We will not consider you a part of it, we will not work with you, we will not befriend you. We will heretofore denounce you as the irrational or immoral scum you are (if such you are). If you reject these values, then you are no longer one of us. And we will now say so, publicly and repeatedly. You are hereby disowned.

      That’s all she wrote.

      Goodbye.

    • says

      IfICantDanceAtYourRevolution says: In other words, it’s dogma.

      Unless you can make a logically valid and sound argument that my values are bad and I should change them. Then I will change them. As my article says.

      So…do you have such an argument?

    • F says

      Atheism is just atheism. If you aren’t interested in anything further, why come to read about it? Not for you? Fine. Have a nice day.

      If you really have a problem with the social justice aspects of what some atheists are about, then you suck.

      How is this difficult?

    • Pete says

      I’ll make a note here that you appear to be against bullying.

      Mr. Carrier, the mistake you are making that many of us take issue with is that you assume, by your with us or against us mantra, that if we do not side with you, that we do not endorse the myriad movements you gather together.

      Personally, I do side with most of the things put forward by the newborn A+ group. The issue I have is that you give atheism a capital A. The subtlety of this distinction should not be lost on you.

      We, atheists, pride ourselves on our individuality; our ability to make decisions on our own. We do not need a capital A atheism to guide us or pigeon-hole us. Nor do we have to bear your divisive absolutes or your play at moral superiority.

      I might be against you, but in no way does that make me a bigot, misogynist, or whatever other random attribute you wish to paint me (or anyone who disagrees with you) with. You attempt to bully those who might be on the fence into fearing being called such horrible names, and stepping off onto your side. Sir, that is downright wrong, and goes against your purported values.

    • Pete says

      So you don’t even defend against my accusation that you are a bully? I’ll make a note of that in my “win” column. Thanks for playing.

    • Pete says

      No, by bully, I mean call people unwarranted names based on assumptions and false dichotomies. You can’t base an opinion on facts you haven’t actually learned about people, therefore, it is not an opinion. You challenge people to accept A+ or be named a collection of belittling terms, without proof of said behavior. Its not very compassionate. In fact, it is the opposite; it is bullying. It also lacks good critical thinking skills.

    • says

      Those actually all precede Christ. So if you are looking for the origins of those values, you are looking for pagans: Aristotle, Epicurus, Diogenes, and Zeno.

      Christ, by contrast, endorsed the corrupt Abrahamic principle of placing faith before compassion (e.g. Luke 14:26; Mark 3:29; etc.) and generally sucked as a philosopher.

    • Tim says

      Not the way you put them forth, Richard. You pose them in a thoroughly Christian manner.

      The pagan virtues were those of the nobles and “our people”, and were derived from the culture of the nobles, right came from them not all people equally merely by virtue of being human. Pagans didn’t care about the happiness of barbarians.

      That grew out of the Christian mythology of equal and infinitely valuable souls that partake in the divine. Which slowly became hidden under the regime of liberal/human rights based on assertions, not of souls, but of “personhood”, etc. All men are created equal and, as “persons” possess dignity. -Hmm, sound oddly familiar???

    • says

      Tim: You pose them in a thoroughly Christian manner.

      No I don’t. There is nothing uniquely Christian about my descriptions or defenses of these virtues.

      The pagan virtues were those of the nobles and “our people”, and were derived from the culture of the nobles, right came from them not all people equally merely by virtue of being human. Pagans didn’t care about the happiness of barbarians.

      That’s all false. False not only in general, but false of ancient pagan philosophers in particular.

      That grew out of the Christian mythology of equal and infinitely valuable souls that partake in the divine.

      Sorry, but no. The Stoics invented that. (Not the unintelligible nonsense about “infinitely valuable souls,” but the notion that all men [and women!] shared common human rights and intellect by virtue of partaking in the divine, as well as the the concept of equality under the law. See Christianity Did Not Invent Modern Democracy.)

  16. Matt Gerrans says

    I strongly agree on all counts. I haven’t had time to follow every link, but I did read Jen’s. It seems silly that so many people can’t apply logic, rationality, empathy and compassion consistently. Wake up people.

    I have long thought that critical (and compassionate/considerate) thinking has been a huge deficit in American society (among others), especially when it comes to political debate. The candidates debates are a complete farce, with milquetoast moderators and no enforcement of logic or honest means of disquisition. When I’ve asked my children’s teachers what they teach regarding logic or rational evaluation of argumentation, I mostly get blank stares or brush-offs. This should be one of the most central aspects of early education. It is much more important to know how to examine claims and avoid fallacies than to know how many spots of a particular color some particular frog has.

  17. Rational Anarchist says

    Congratulations! FTB has become a cult, complete with self-contradicting articles of faith, dishonest leaders and blind followers.

    • Rational Anarchist says

      Dismissed so easily?

      Just a few quotes from your articles of faith above:

      “if there is no such compromise to be had, then we are in one form or another enemies, and we must admit that.”

      “anyone who acts like this, is not one of us, and is to be marginalized and kicked out, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with”

      “are you with us, or with them…?”

      Anyone of which could have been written by L. Ron, the Watch Tower, or Joseph Smith. It’s not that your proposed values are bad, rather you are creating an “us versus them” mentality; You know a cult doesn’t have to be based on a religious belief, any strongly held conviction can be turned into fanaticism and contorted by a few to control the in-group. FTB has several of the elements of a cult i.e. the in-group mentality; a wise and infallible leader (PZ); teachings that are beyond criticism; shun and denigrate those that leave or are kicked out (excommunicated). Perhaps it is too early to call FTB a cult…I think I will modify that just a bit FTB is a “cult in embryo” and it’s time for an abortion.

    • noen says

      “it’s time for an abortion.”

      I’m in. Forceps!

      Rational anarchism is starting to look more appealing. At least you’ve got your head about you. I think though that we can console ourselves in knowing that the half-life of such efforts is rather small with a history of ending badly. Might want to stand back a bit and give ‘em room. Likely to be a bit messy.

  18. Goldstein Squad Member says

    Atheists have many times told me that atheism is simply lack of belief in God.

    AS such, you could be a liberal, conservative, anarchist, commumist, nazi, philanthropist, child abuser, dictator, followr of Ayn Rand, a feminist or a woman hater and still be an atheist.

    No particular view is derived from atheism per se.

    AS you point out, you need a PLUS…you need to get your values from somewhere else.

    I always knew atheism could not stand on its own and sustain a movement.

  19. Goldstein Squad Member says

    And I like that “living document” line. A document that can be interpreted to fit whatever line you want to take on a particular day.

    • says

      I basically agree with everything there, except he is totally wrong about metaethics. This statement of his is false:

      Science can answer moral questions. No, science can inform moral questions, but moral reasoning is a form of philosophical reasoning. The is/ought divide may not be absolute, but it is there nonetheless.

      This is a fallacy, which I demonstrate in my chapter on moral theory in The End of Christianity (the very idea that there is an is/ought dichotomy is unsustainable in light of the evidence and analysis I present there, as is the idea that philosophy is in any relevant way different from science: philosophy is just science with less data).

    • says

      “Philosophy is just science with less data.”

      Would it be possible for you to elaborate a bit more on this, either through a comment here or even a dedicated blog post? I find this statement intriguing. I’ve been reflecting a lot on that exact point myself lately, due in large measure to some of your writings, in particular the chapter in TEC which provides a deductive demonstration that the is/ought duality is a false dichotomy.

      To me, philosophy was born in ancient Greece (apparently also to some extent in ancient China and India) when intellectuals stopped to wonder what they could know, how they could know it, and what they ought to do without recourse to religious or spiritual entities or revelations. But if philosophy really is just science with ‘less data,’ as you say, doesn’t that make philosophy obsolescent as science discovers more and more facts about the world?

      Thanks,

      Richard Martin

    • says

      To get an idea of what I mean by “philosophy is science with less data” you can read my book Sense and Goodness without God, where I discuss the ladder of methods and how philosophy (e.g. metaphysics, ethics, politics) relates to science, and then show by example what doing that looks like.

      But in short, to take up the example of ancient philosophy, science was a part of philosophy (one of the three standard branches of study, which were science, ethics, and logic, and ethics was based on science and science on logic). As we started figuring out how to answer questions in “science” better by getting better data and more controlled data, “science” started exploding with successes and became distinguished from the remainder (all the questions scientists as of yet had not figured out how to get such good data to answer) which was left to philosophy. (The history of the philosophy of mind and its slow hand-off to psychology and cognitive science illustrates a recent example of this, having begun only in the 20th century, very late in the game.)

      There are really only two kinds of things philosophers do: analysis and hypothesis. Analysis consists of just analyzing what words and statements mean and what logical possibilities are available, which as such tells us nothing about the world (thus, zero data; except insofar as this dovetails with the sciences of linguistics, logics, and mathematics). Hypothesis consists of trying to infer what most likely is the case (do we have free will? does god exist? is the mind separable from the body? is democracy the best form of government? do we need compassion to optimize our pursuit of happiness?). Which is only a credible enterprise if you actually gather what data there is and draw a conclusion therefrom.

      Which brings us to your specific question:


      But if philosophy really is just science with ‘less data,’ as you say, doesn’t that make philosophy obsolescent as science discovers more and more facts about the world?

      Insofar as you mean to describe the process of handing-off, yes. As sufficient data becomes available to answer a question in philosophy (as by new developments in methods, resources, instruments, etc.), it becomes a science (e.g. psychology and cog sci have taken over much of what used to be philosophy of mind).

      But science simply lacks the methods, resources, or instruments to answer most questions that need answers (like: do we have free will? does god exist? is the mind separable from the body? is democracy the best form of government? do we need compassion to optimize our pursuit of happiness?). Science can give us a treasure trove of data that pertain to the answer, but the answer itself often cannot be established by peer reviewed scientific protocols (yet). Thus, philosophy takes over where the data is insufficient to grant us scientific certainty.

      There is a huge continuum between “we know absolutely nothing about x” and “we can achieve scientific certainty about x.” Scientists make the mistake of thinking it’s either/or, when in fact there is a big excluded middle there. History is in that middle space. So is journalism; and trials at law; and politics; and daily life. And so is philosophy. Which differs from the others only in that philosophy concerns itself with asking fundamental questions about the nature of our existence, while those other fields focus on narrow particulars.

    • says

      Richard,

      Thanks for the answer. I understand better where you’re coming from. The idea that philosophy ‘hands off’ to science, or that science is corrosive of philosophy is limiting on the side of philosophy. Now that I understand your point about philosophy better, I can see that they are really in symbiosis and can be synergetic. As science discovers new things and new applications, philosophy could analyse these to find applications in real life, to educate people so they can make their lives and their societies better. That way philosophy can get back to its original purpose, to reduce suffering, to increase awareness, and to help people thrive. But philosophy can also put forward hypotheses to frame further scientific investigation, as a kind of feedback loop from philosophy to science.

      Richard Martin

  20. markelamb says

    A stirring piece of writing.

    Here here!

    Tolerance and acceptance of unethical and prejudicial views, and those that hold them, should be an embarrassment.
    We can’t let it go unchallenged – and these Ideas are exciting and possibly revolutionary.

    I’ve been a lurker – That’s clearly not going to cut it anymore…

    Expose all the non A+ er’s! (at least those that could be referred to as A- er’s… like bigots or hypocrites).

    Thank you, and It’s a pleasure to join FTB!

  21. SayNoMore says

    Yeah! Are you part of the Moral Majority or are you part of the Moral Less!

    We don’t just have standards, we have requirements! And if you don’t stand with us, you stand against us! Would you do any different for Child Abusers? Why then is it ok if it’s only Minority or Women Abusers?

    Exactly!

    There is no excuse. There is no compromise! We are right and we will enforce that right, as we need to!

    The time for silence is over. The time for co-existence with scum, co-operation with those who do not value us, value justice, is over. We will remake this movement, or leave the neanderthals in the dust!

  22. Branjo says

    It should read;
    We care about social justice,
    We support women’s rights,
    We protest racism,
    We fight homophobia and transphobia,
    We use critical thinking and skepticism.

    Its like saying “Logic +”, or “Human Rights +”. There doesn’t need to any little embarrassing gimmick added, people just need to understand the fundamental basics.

    What’s next “Atheism light” or maybe “I can’t believe its not Atheism”?

    I think the idea is not only embarrassing, but very counter productive and I want nothing to do with it.

    I’m done, the milk has gone sour here.

  23. Biohazard says

    Loyalty oaths? Shunning? With us or against us? Sins?

    Wow, just wow.

    “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.”

    • says

      A proper dichotomy does not become a false dichotomy just because you say so. You have to actually demonstrate it’s a fallacy by identifying an excluded middle. So why don’t you try doing that (you know, actually try to make an argument).

  24. says

    Hi Richard,

    I’d be interested in what other atheists say to comfort others when they find out they are dealing with illness or death in their family. I personally feel hypocritical if I say I’m praying for them, because I’m not. I also don’t just want to say ‘hand in there’ or ‘I’m sending you my positive energy.’

    What the thoughts on this?

    Rich

  25. Darth Sidious says

    This is excellent news. It is as I have foreseen. We on the darkside are cooler. Like way cooler dude. I, for one, was the best thing about the prequels, was I not? Not bad for an aged, privileged white dude such as myself.

    Darkside for the win, indeed.

  26. gimpy says

    I assume this is a spoof, but just in case it’s not…

    Bit odd for a skeptic to cite the Prince’s Trust approvingly given it’s founder is notorious for campaigning for complementary medicine, even to the extent of trying to get academics sacks because they disagree with him.

    And the rest is, umm, reminiscent of the schisms in the Free Church of Scotland.

    • gimpy says

      Hi Richard,

      Nice.

      Diss Will.i.am’s amazingly generous giving to an educational charity that helps kids, because its founder is weird in a completely unrelated area. Then illogically compare what I wrote to a completely unrelated and dis-analogous incident in religious history.

      You are clearly in Atheism Less. You can’t make even a single rational point.

      Perhaps you’ve misunderstood me slightly. It was probably unfair to cite an obscure Scottish denomination that you’ve probably never previously heard of – I just wanted to make the point that they are infamous for a series of schisms over the centuries over obscure doctrinal disagreements each whittling down each set of true believers into increasingly smaller and irrelevant groupuscules. I see similarities with Atheism Plus.

      And, by the logic of your entire post, merely consorting with people who you disagree with casts you as Atheism Less, then William must be treated as such for consorting with an enemy of enlightenment values like Prince Charles – who not only supports quackery, but abuses his hereditary privileges (astonishing that they still exist) to silence scientists and other critics.

      I’m still not convinced this isn’t an elaborate satire by the way.

    • says

      Repudiating sexism and racism and calling for endorsement of the values of compassion, integrity, and reasonableness is in no plausible way analogous to “obscure doctrinal disagreements.”

      And your attempt to fabricate an implausible guilt-by-association fallacy doesn’t even make prima facie sense. Not least because you haven’t even established Will.i.am is an atheist (and thus even relevant to demarcating the morals of atheists), much less an atheist who rejects any of the values of Atheism+.

      So, fail.

      Try again.

  27. pboyfloyd says

    [Deleted completely lame, childish, mildly sexist and unintelligent hater comment by PBoyFloyd that was attempting at humor but contained no argument whatever and thus violated my comments policy. — RC]

  28. Sergio Sider says

    WIth all due respect, it looks like a lot of atheists really miss the Church and all “my group is purer than thou” feeling.

    I am afraid it just looks like the start of the Church of Atheism, a dissent from the old and archaic four-dirty-white-male horsemen of “New Atheism”.

    Now, theists will get what they always wanted to be true: The confirmation that this “atheism” is a religion.

    Only the pure will enter Hell.

    What’s next ? Atheism 3.1 , Atheism 2013, iAtheism ?

    • GodlessForeigner says

      Yes, the tone of this post really sounds like a religious manifesto more than anything else.

      Maybe you should hurry to England and nail a copy of this post to RD’s door?

      To be fair there isn’t anything overtly religious in this post, in fact just by replacing a few nouns and adjectives it would make a nice speech even Stalin wouldn’t have had anything against.

      Ok, maybe the Stalin thing was a bit over the top since I doubt you would go as far as killing nonplussies, maybe just put them in a fenced off camp and air drop them supplies. Serves them right for being ‘again it’. The it beeing your Atheism with a cross… oops a plus.

    • says

      I’m actually curious. Where did Stalin advocate against sexism and racism, and promote the values of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity?

      No, seriously. Where? I’m genuinely interested in knowing.

  29. hkdharmon says

    “Atheism Less”. That’s actually pretty good.

    OK, I’m in. I just hope it’s not a flash in the pan.

    • F says

      Flash in the pan? We have always been here. It just seems a good time to identify with our positions as groups or a group. It wouldn’t even matter if everyone using the A+ identifier disappeared. There would still be people who have come to the same place with or without a label like “atheism plus”.

      I’m not entirely sure why there seem to be these currents of thinking whereby people imagine that this thing has been invented from whole cloth as a completely new idea. The new idea is just a clarification of positions and a label.

      Similarly, I can’t grasp why anyone imagines we are “re-branding” others who aren’t interested (we aren’t interested in you, either), or “kicking people out from atheism at large”. These things don’t even make sense. (Never mind the crap projections of authoritarianism onto atheism plus.)

  30. andreschuiteman says

    Like you, I believe in personal integrity, in being reasonable and compassionate. I really do. But the way you phrase your creed makes the hairs in my neck stand on end.

    Which means anyone who makes a fallacious argument and, when shown that they have, does not admit it, is not one of us, and is to be marginalized and kicked out, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with.

    The people we want nothing more to do with. Until and unless they realize their own sins and repent of them.

    But be empathic enough to assume at first that someone being an ignorant dufus is really just ignorant and misinformed, and not a douchebag; give them at least one shot at being educable, before kicking them into the sewers to wallow with their peeps.

    We must integrate this ideal of personal integrity into our very self-identity. Those who don’t, those who aren’t shamed by being exposed as liars or hypocrits, those who persist in being dishonest or inconsistent even when their dishonesty or inconsistency has been soundly proven, is not one of us, and is to be marginalized and kicked out, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with.

    You may not realize it, but this stuff makes you sound creepy, like some religious or maoist maniac. What a simple world you must live in — a world inhabited by ‘us’ and ‘them’ (true believers and heretics, the proletariat and enemies of the people), where black and white are the only available nuances, where being inconsistent leads to excommunication (unless you repent [sic] from your sins [sic]). Surely, there must be a more reasonable and compassionate way to state that you aim for reason and compassion. That would at least shield you against the accusation of inconsistency, which would by your own standards force yourself to kick yourself out of The Movement.

    • says

      I’m sorry. Was there an argument in there somewhere? I must have missed it.

      It sounds like you are only annoyed by the fact that I don’t want to have anything to do anymore with people who make irrational arguments and refuse to admit it when it’s demonstrated to them. But that can’t be. Because who would disagree with a sentiment like that?

      Oh, right. An irrational person.

    • andreschuiteman says

      Okay, let me try again. These are my main arguments:

      1. Using words like ‘sin’ and ‘repent’ provides ammunition to theists who claim that atheism is just another form of religion. Maybe you’re fine with that. I am not.

      2. Using language like ‘kicking people in the sewers’ is incompatible with being reasonable and compassionate.

      3. You may believe that certain social and ethical positions are irrefutable, and that therefore anyone who disagrees must be using fallacious arguments or is being a dishonest douchebag. But even in mathematics not all true statements are provable. Statements about social or ethical issues are rarely provably right or wrong. It’s irrational to pretend otherwise. Therefore it’s irrational to divide the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’ based on people’s positions on social and ethical issues.

      To illustrate how difficult it is to escape hypocrisy and inconsistency, consider this recent statement from Greta Christina on Atheism Plus (a post which you approvingly linked to): Now it’s time for a third wave — a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists.

      Let’s see: class prejudice (check), racism (check), gender bias (check), sexism (check), ableism (check). I’ll overlook the dismissive attitude towards fighting homeopathy and creationism. Now, would you agree that this statement is provably inconsistent with the aims of Atheism Plus and therefore hypocritical? Are you going to shame its author?

      And are you going to admit that calling me irrational was based on a straw man fallacy?

    • andreschuiteman says

      That was actually Greta Christina approvingly citing Jen McCreight. Apologies for the confusion.

    • says

      1. Using words like ‘sin’ and ‘repent’ provides ammunition to theists who claim that atheism is just another form of religion. Maybe you’re fine with that. I am not.

      I see. Religious people use an irrational, fallacious argument. Therefore I’m wrong.

      That’s logical.

      2. Using language like ‘kicking people in the sewers’ is incompatible with being reasonable and compassionate.

      No, it’s not. As I explained in a whole paragraph in the article itself, and now in even greater detail.

      But that’s moot, since either you are on board with those values or not. How particular individuals live up to them is irrelevant to whether you do.

      So are you on board with the values of Atheism+ or not?

      It’s really a very simple question.

      3. You may believe that certain social and ethical positions are irrefutable, and that therefore anyone who disagrees must be using fallacious arguments or is being a dishonest douchebag.

      That’s a slippery slope fallacy. You are assuming that I will ignore whether an actual fallacy is present and demonstrated, and just declare one is there without being able to demonstrate it. Then, you use that fallacious assumption to reject Atheism+, even though it makes no sense to say you are against the values of X because you don’t like the behavior of one member of X.

      Your approach here is dripping with demonstrable fallacies.

      Don’t you agree?

      But even in mathematics not all true statements are provable. Statements about social or ethical issues are rarely provably right or wrong. It’s irrational to pretend otherwise. Therefore it’s irrational to divide the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’ based on people’s positions on social and ethical issues.

      So, it’s irrational to distance ourselves from, let’s say, terrorists, pedophiles, thieves, homophobes, racists, and sexists, because we can’t mathematically prove to absolute certainty that being a terrorist, pedophile, thief, homophobe, racist, or sexist is bad?

      Really. Think that through for a minute.

      Not only have you committed the skeptic’s fallacy of “nothing can be proved absolutely true, therefore nothing can be believed,” you have even used this fallacy to reject the very idea of moral standards, and then, having declared moral standards impossible, you declare it irrational of us to want to separate ourselves from immoral atheists.

      If this is a train of thought you actually find convincing or even remotely plausible, I want you to stay the hell away from me from now on.

      To illustrate how difficult it is to escape hypocrisy and inconsistency, consider this recent statement from Greta Christina on Atheism Plus (a post which you approvingly linked to): Now it’s time for a third wave — a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists.

      Let’s see: class prejudice (check), racism (check), gender bias (check), sexism (check), ableism (check). I’ll overlook the dismissive attitude towards fighting homeopathy and creationism. Now, would you agree that this statement is provably inconsistent with the aims of Atheism Plus and therefore hypocritical? Are you going to shame its author?

      You are having a reading comprehension fail here. She does not dismiss fighting homeopathy and creationism, she dismisses people who use the fact that they fight fighting homeopathy and creationism as evidence that they have nothing more to do.

      You are also not making a rational argument.

      Greta is talking about a huge and problematic excess of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” in atheist meetings, conferences, and organization leadership. I’ve been all over the country for well over five years, and I can confirm from first-hand experience she’s right (although thanks to her and others like her, that has been slowly changing over the past year or two).

      Stating a fact is not inconsistent with the values of Atheism+. There is no hypocrisy here. At best you can accuse her of using the rhetorical device of hyperbole, but even that would not be fallacious but simply rhetorical, since her argument does not depend on the hyperbole but still follows from the actual nuanced facts that it refers to (by far, this movement has been hugely overgoverned and overfilled with people of the very sort she describes…again, only recently has there been any notable change, and even that is still far from parity).

      And are you going to admit that calling me irrational was based on a straw man fallacy?

      If you can demonstrate that I straw manned an argument you made, certainly. You haven’t done that yet.

      Indeed, your second comment looks nothing like your first. Instead of identify how I straw manned what you said originally, you responded by providing a litany of completely different arguments. Which were even more fallacious, as I again demonstrated.

      You aren’t doing very well here.

    • andreschuiteman says

      So, it’s irrational to distance ourselves from, let’s say, terrorists, pedophiles, thieves, homophobes, racists, and sexists, because we can’t mathematically prove to absolute certainty that being a terrorist, pedophile, thief, homophobe, racist, or sexist is bad?

      That’s why I said that statements about social or ethical issues are rarely provably right or wrong. I didn’t say never. So no, it’s not irrational to distance ourselves from terrorists, pedophiles, thieves, homophobes, racists, and sexists.

      The problem lies in establishing which individual person is to be considered part of ‘them’. It may not be at all easy to prove that someone actually is a racist, sexist, or whatever. We do need some evidence, don’t we? So who is going to decide? The commentariat at Pharyngula? Or will there be a charismatic leader whose word will be law? Mob rule or dictatorship? Or a voting system?

      See, this is why you (and not just you) have painted yourself in a corner: by resorting to ugly rhetoric. If you had just said, this is what A+ stands for, are you on board?, there would have been no controversy. I would indeed have been on board. But no, you had to write this mock-maoist manifesto and landed yourself and the A+ movement in a PR disaster.

      In your most recent post, you still don’t admit that the abrasive rhetoric was wrong. You seem to stand by what you wrote here. Count me out.

  31. says

    Avoiding hypocrisy – that’s the fulcrum, right there. Because if you’re thinking consistently you have to look at everything from both (or all) sides which inherently forces you to ask in every situation whether you’d feel the same way if roles were reversed. You have to be a real asshole to be able to argue inequality is acceptable if the coin-toss had come up wrong for you.* Religion is one of the tools of political control that props up and encourages oppression; if you reject religion it’s a good next step to start looking at the whole system it’s part of. That’s why, years ago, I concluded that anarchism is a logical outcome from being an atheist and an egalitarian. Anarchism, or much much much more democratic forms of government than currently exist anywhere in this world. I don’t think that’s fixable (there are huge problems with avoiding totalitarian takeover) so I think egalitarianism is the best and only possible interim step – i.e.: we can’t live without governments until the inequality that governments tend to promote has been addressed, otherwise “being a goverment” is going to attract the kind of people who desire to profit from the inequality and thereby maintain and maximize government.

    Atheism+ is a good idea! It’ll be interesting to see if now that we can agree generally that gods don’t exist and worshipping them is a bad idea, whether we can agree on enough of the important next steps going forward. Or even what “forward” means.

    (*A somewhat false analogy because generally inequality isn’t 50/50, it’s more like 1/100 so the chances you’ll come up on the unequal side are nowhere near break even. This is also an important point for people to understand.)

    • says

      That’s okay. But hopefully one day you’ll realize why anarchism is an unlivable concept. Governments are always going to be necessary. Thus the solution is to fix the governments, not to get rid of them. That will take a few centuries, but as long as we focus on the longue durée we can get it done. We just need a realistic and achievable plan to get from A to B, recognizing that there are a lot of steps in between. Because otherwise, the alternative is always worse. You want to see what anarchy looks like? Move to Somalia.

  32. Eric says

    So, In short, you want to exclude people from the Atheist(+ ?) movement because they don’t share the same values and principles as you… just like religion does ? That’s totally logical !

    • says

      Actually, it is. Just as we want to exclude child molesters, neonazis, and UFO cultists, we want to exclude lunatics, racists, sexists, and douchebags.

      The one is just as logical as the other. Which is to say, entirely logical. For the very reasons I lay out in my article.

  33. woo_monster says

    In the meantime, I call everyone now to pick sides (not in comments here, but publicly, via Facebook or other social media): are you with us, or with them; are you now a part of the Atheism+ movement, or are you going to stick with Atheism Less?

    Already spread the word to a friend. This all has an exciting feel to it.

  34. woo_monster says

    I love so many things about A+.

    First, it is a great symbol in that it begs people to ask what the “+” represents, opening up new conversations.

    Second, I like this being conceived of as a “new wave” of atheism. This sends the message that A+ atheists, atheists who care about social justice, are not a small subset of the atheist community, but are a powerful, impact-full, vocal majority.

    Third, it is the perfect time for the “A+” movement. In the face of a vicious year-long backlash of sexism against women skeptics and atheists who dared to speak out against problems in the community, this new, positive “A+” atheism lets the haters know loud and clear that we will not shut up. The community belongs to people who DO give a shit about social justice.

  35. says

    Your sentiments about compassion are right on, Richard Carrier. Uncaring people should not be tolerated. However, I’m uncomfortable with your notion of dividing the world into rational people and irrational people. In a free society, irrational people are to be tolerated, not marginalized. This is a “free thought” blog after all.

    • says

      I disagree. Perhaps you are confusing “not associating with someone” and “denouncing someone” with intolerance. I “tolerate” irrational people the same way I “tolerate” fundamentalists and neonazis and UFO cults and members of the KKK: I treat them as human beings with basic rights and liberties, so long as they don’t infringe on the rights and liberties of others. But I don’t invite them to my conferences, I don’t treat them as colleagues or friends, I don’t consider them reliable allies, and I don’t give them a pass when they say and do irrational things. They are simply not one of us. And all I am doing is saying so.

      Which I must do so we can get them out of our way. We need to make it clear what we stand for. So we can get to work on that, without the dead weight holding us back.

  36. qbsmd says

    I think most atheists are also secularists, skeptics, and humanists. On most issues, these 4 philosophies correlate well, but there are sometimes conflicts. I think most of the divisions in the atheists’ community come from differences in which of those 4 issues people give priority when a conflict arises.

    People who prioritize secularism have political and tactical attitude, basically the most important thing for the movement is making the law more secular or enforcing existing laws better. This requires lots of compromise and working with sympathetic interest groups and trying not to offend anyone who might be an ally. People with different priorities call them accomodationists.

    People who prioritize atheism think that the most important thing for the movement to do is try to spread atheism, convince people that religions are wrong, and in general weaken religion and that in the long term, this will result in many of our current societal problems going away naturally. Secularists find this goal too long term and impractical, while skeptics point to examples of atheists who hold unscientific beliefs on other issues as evidence that spreading atheism won’t necessarily have the desired effect.

    People who prioritize skepticism value truth above all else, and believe that teaching more people to be skeptical will result in them having more accurate beliefs, making more rational decisions, and therefore making the world a better place. They’ll sometimes refer to atheism as skepticism applied to religion or claim that skepticism is the keystone of the movement because it will lead people to atheism, secularism and humanism. People with different priorities accuse them of only caring about Bigfoot.

    People who prioritize humanism value social justice first, and think that the other philosophies are mainly useful for countering the injustice caused by religion. They think that the movement should be fighting for women and minorities as well as against religion. People with different priorities might accuse them of mission creep.

    I think that determining the order of priority an individual places on these philosophies will determine which side that individual will take on any conflict the atheist-skeptic movement has had: atheists and skeptics calling secularists accomodationists after secularists accused them of alienating allies and being counterproductive, secularist skeptics accusing atheist skeptics of being dicks by chasing theists out of the skeptics movement, or now skeptics accusing humanists of being dogmatic and trying to redefine skepticism while humanists accuse skeptics of being racists, misogynists, and generally douche-bags. I don’t think these conflicts are doing anything useful, but only splitting apart and generating ill will between groups that should be working together on most issues.

    • says

      Right. The very idea that we have to choose one of those four to the exclusion of others is unreasonable (except for specific organizations like the NCSE, which define their missions narrowly to achieve very narrow and specific objectives).

      I am an atheist, a secularist, a skeptic, and a humanist. None of these warrants not advocating for any of the others, not evangelizing any of the others, not declaring any of the others publicly. And there simply isn’t any reason to “prioritize” them in such a way. We can decide where to distribute our own personal resources, and different individuals may like or be better positioned to put a lot more in one than the others, but that in no way means we must distribute all resources to only one.

      An Atheist+ member can devote 90% of their time, effort, and resources into the mission goals of humanism alone, and still be in full agreement with Atheism+ and its values and aims (devoting the remaining 10% to the rest), and be totally fine with the fact that, for example, another member devotes 90% of their time, effort, and resources into the mission goals of atheism alone. That’s called division of labor, the most fundamental principle on which all civilization is based.

    • qbsmd says

      I think you misunderstood. I in no way meant to imply that someone can’t be an atheist, a secularist, a skeptic, and a humanist, in fact I said the opposite: that most atheists are all of the above. I in no way meant to imply that someone can’t support all of these causes; people can support whatever combination of causes they feel like. And the 4 I mentioned are quite consistent on most issues. I in no way meant to imply that anyone’s choice in resource allocation limits what they actually believe.

      What I said (or what I meant if I communicated badly) was that there are occasional topics that produce conflicts in the atheist community, and I am hypothesizing that these conflicts map to conflicts between the 4 philosophies I listed. For example, accomodationists think it’s better to make tactical alliances with theists to accomplish political goals like promoting the teaching of evolution, and New Atheists think it’s better to consistently criticize religion as irrational and dangerous, and I claim that this conflict maps to individuals who are both atheists and secularists prioritizing either atheism or secularism.

      I also hypothesize that everyone in the atheist movement will associate with one of the four paragraphs I wrote describing members of one of the four philosophies (assuming I didn’t straw-man them too badly in my attempt to reduce them to a few sentences). I don’t think I did because I’ve read\heard all of them in some form or another.

      Finally, thank you for taking the time to read and respond to so many of your reader’s comments. I don’t think I’ve seen any other bloggers get this involved in their comments threads.

    • F says

      I think most atheists are also secularists, skeptics, and humanists.

      Could be. Excepting those who have been making it abundantly clear that they are not really all these things. Which would be the impetus for declaring that there is an atheism plus which really is about all those things.

  37. says

    Wow! I don’t think I’ve seen GTFO used so many times to describe this new open and inclusive club. Frankly I’m not on any side and I won’t be forced to take a side because the fact that “You’re on our side or GTFO” unfortunately sums up the entire fiasco rather perfectly. A better use of the phrase “Divide & Conquer” I can’t imagine.

    • says

      Then you are an irrational member of Atheism Less. But too scared to admit it. So you come up with this bullshit rationalization, which makes no sense on even the slightest reflection.

  38. says

    “Those actually all precede Christ. So if you are looking for the origins of those values, you are looking for pagans: Aristotle, Epicurus, Diogenes, and Zeno.

    Christ, by contrast, endorsed the corrupt Abrahamic principle of placing faith before compassion (e.g. Luke 14:26; Mark 3:29; etc.) and generally sucked as a philosopher.”

    Sure, those values precede Christ, but I don’t think that makes them any less Christian. Christ was the first to endorse those values as part of a divine plan.

    As for the Abrahamic principle, I think it’s more complicated than you make it out to be. It does not pit faith against human compassion. It illustrates that God’s ways are above man’s. Sure, God forced Abraham to make faith more important than his son’s life, but God stopped Abraham. And I don’t think Abraham’s actions can be summed up as simply lacking in compassion. It’s more complicated than that.

    I think the Abrahamic principle has to be interpreted in light of the rest of the Bible. Jesus said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…and Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27). Like any document, the Bible has to be understood as a whole. So a blanket statement that Christ places faith before human compassion distorts the truth.

    • says

      Joe Hennell said: Sure, those values precede Christ, but I don’t think that makes them any less Christian. Christ was the first to endorse those values as part of a divine plan.

      I don’t see how that has anything to do with anything. Pagan philosophers articulated and defended these values first. Christ just endorsed them, and gave no sound philosophical defense of them or even a coherent or livable articulation of them. That he used the irrational argument “they are right because God said so” is not to his credit. To the contrary, it’s another example of what a shit philosopher he was.

      Joe Hennell said: As for the Abrahamic principle, I think it’s more complicated than you make it out to be. It does not pit faith against human compassion. It illustrates that God’s ways are above man’s.

      That’s the same thing. You are thus violating basic logic.

      A compassionate man would not obey an evil command. And a compassionate god would reward him for refusing. Abraham thus failed that test. And the Bible presents that failure as a success. It’s values are thus exactly upside down.

      Likewise, if Jesus thought compassion and faith were identical, he wouldn’t have declared blasphemy an unforgivable sin or commanded people to hate their friends and family, or endorsed slavery (Luke 12:47-48; Matthew 5:17 w. Leviticus 25:44-46 and Exodus 21) or invented thought crimes or condemned divorce (Matthew 5:27-32), or ever thought eternal hellfire was in any way a moral idea. Indeed, Jesus is so blatantly anti-compassion that he even denounces the most rudimentary mercy (Luke 16:19-31).

      Of course, Jesus is just a fictional character. But even as such he’s an awful person.

  39. says

    Richard, you are, yourself, deeply into the “If you are not with us, you are against us” fallacy. I do not know if you have some history with Tom in comment 7 above, but you “douchebagged” him for simply not jumping on the band wagon. Then in comment 17 you make it even more explicit.

    I like many of the ideas you are putting forth. I want to encourage people to be good without the crutch of religion. I think it is fine for people to form groups around such ideas, but I do not think it is okay to demonize people for not agreeing to be in such. Please live up to your own professed standards.

    • says

      It is not okay to demonize people who refuse to endorse the values of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity?

      Sorry. That is not only okay, it’s morally obligatory. We must denounce those who reject such basic humanist values as those.

      People who reject those values are douchebags.

    • SayNoMore says

      That’s not what he said. He said he didn’t want to endorse you. But it is clear that in your eyes refusing to endorse A+ is refusing to endorse “the values of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity”. And that’s the “with us or against us” he was worried about.

      I’m not bothered. I like A+. But I’m not going to endorse you, I don’t like your attitude to Quine, I will endorse “the values of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity” though, and the other positive values of A+.

      If you don’t believe that *you alone* are the be all and end all of “reasonableness, compassion and integrity” that will be good enough for you. If you are reasonable and compassionate you will understand that A+ is not for everyone and rejection of your club is *not* a rejection of the values of your club.

      To be frank, your reaction to Quine and people who share your values but do not share your club will demonstrate whether you will actually live up to the values you profess, or like everyone else will simply claim high-falutin concepts as your own, things that no-one in their right mind could disagree with, then fail to live up to your grandiose claims whilst wasting your time demonising anyone who is not entirely on board with everything you believe.

    • B-Lar says

      You can be for us,

      You can be against us,

      Or you can be neither, and get the hell out of our way.

    • says

      That’s all fine, except you can’t be “inclusive” of people who reject the very value of inclusivity–nor can you be inclusive of people who reject reasonableness, compassion, and integrity as values. Because those people will hinder and destroy everything you hope to accomplish.

      The point of Atheism+ is to create an in-group/out-group shibboleth that forces people to declare which they are: someone who embraces reasonableness, compassion, and integrity as values, or someone who rejects them; someone who opposes racism, sexism, injustice, and cruelty, or someone who is okay with racism, sexism, injustice, and cruelty.

      We have had a growing problem of “atheists” infesting conferences, blogs, boards, and other venues and endorsing racism, sexism, injustice, and cruelty, and even defending irrationality, unreasonableness, and hypocrisy. No more. We are smoking them out, and telling the world we want nothing to do with them.

      That’s what Atheism+ is for. It does not exclude any other label consistent with it, whether humanist or skeptic or American or trekkie or footballer or Pacific Islander.

    • says

      What she says there is that she’s not convinced yet that Atheism+ advocates are sincere. Not that she wouldn’t be one. To the contrary, she states she fully agrees with the values of Atheism+. That’s that pesky little thing called context.

    • F says

      Natalie Reed cares about all those things, and has her specific focus(es). Lowest on her list of priorities is atheism, so I can imagine why she might not bother with atheism plus. Further, she has had it with the jerks of atheism, which are exactly the atheism non-plus sorts.

      So yeah, I’m sure everyone who identifies with A+ will be denouncing Natalie Reed real soon. It’s on our calendars or something.

      So, what kind of logical fallacy was that pseudo-argument?

    • Still me says

      “…Becoming a genuine force for social justice takes a LOT of CONSTANT effort and attention and willingness to own your mistakes and ask for outside input and so on. It’s not easy. It’s not a brand. It’s not a logo.

      And new waves are FOUGHT FOR, not just declared.

      Also, frankly, a lot of the most dangerous, destructive forces ever have been a result of big groups of relatively privileged folks getting together, declaring themselves enlightened, and setting out to help The Other. Is there any reason for me to believe A+ has the necessary understanding of these complex issues Jen mentioned, and the necessary humility in relation to them, to NOT be such a destructive force?

      Personally, I’m not in. Not now, anyway.”

      “What she says there is that she’s not convinced yet that Atheism+ advocates are sincere. Not that she wouldn’t be one.”

      She seems more concerned that you aren’t able than that you aren’t sincere. Sincerity is a necessary component of the “effort and attention” she says is needed, but so are other things, such as steadfastness and competence. Why did you single out sincerity? Was it a mental slip caused by her blog name?

      The objection articulated in the “destructive forces” paragraph can’t be solved with organizers’ sincerity, and the specific things she says she’s concerned might be lacking are understanding and humility. Though this isn’t much of a window into her mind, I took as her main worry the absence of those traits that could potentially cause both of the “constant effort” and “declaring themselves enlightened” issues.

      Sincerity is perhaps the last thing I would question from people trying to start an offshoot movement. It’s typically something I can preserve as a possible trait of almost anyone when judging them charitably; from homeopaths to pro-life protesters to workaholics, people’s actions are often consistent with honest sincerity. Because it’s such an easy part of charity to apply, I’ll consider Natalie Reed to be doing so in this situation.

    • GordonWillis says

      @F
      Lowest on her list of priorities is atheism

      Well, that doesn’t matter, does it? We’re talking about common values, and we will naturally differ as to the priority of specific expressions of those values.
      .
      she has had it with the jerks of atheism, which are exactly the atheism non-plus sorts.

      This statement is true, and is completely contradicted by your next sentence

      (I’m sure everyone who identifies with A+ will be denouncing Natalie Reed real soon.)

      because she’s saying the same thing as A-plussers are saying. Why should A-plussers denounce a person who shares their values and denounces the same people that A-plussers denounce for the same reasons? Your thinking is confused. Try to understand that the labels we personally prefer and our moral principles are different things. Reason is central to the idea of A+.

      You are talking as if whatever we actually say can be simply ignored. I suspect that you are influenced more by tone than by substance.

  40. says

    “So either you endorse the values and aims I have laid out, or you do not. If you do, just join the cause and stop fretting over being part of a culture whose values you embrace.”

    It is entirely possible to endorse ALL of those values while rejecting the value of making them a litmus test for membership. I’ve met quite a few atheists who realized gods are fictions first, before coming around to accept the entire caboodle of progressive values and scientific skepticism. Most often, this coming around was facilitated in large part by accepting them into the local atheist club unreconstructed, and giving them a chance to seriously interact with progressive and skeptical people for the first time.

    • says

      D4M10N: It is entirely possible to endorse ALL of those values while rejecting the value of making them a litmus test for membership.

      That’s illogical. “I endorse reasonableness, compassion, and integrity, but I’m okay with people who are unreasonable, uncompassionate, and dishonest or hypocritical.” That’s a self-destructive position. It is another example of apathy becoming the glove into which evil slips its hand. We cannot let such people represent us, or hinder our work by polluting and derailing our venues and conferences.

      If some new atheist is not on board with those values, we want them to fuck off. Plain and simple. Until they come around to basic human decency.

    • says

      “I endorse reasonableness, compassion, and integrity, but I’m okay with people who are unreasonable, uncompassionate, and dishonest or hypocritical.”

      You assume that there is a stark dichotomy between those who are reasonable or unreasonable, between those who are compassionate or uncompassionate, between those who are honest or dishonest, and so forth. In reality, these and all other admirable qualities admit of degrees and variations, and some people are capable of being quite reasonable and compassionate in certain situations and vastly less so in others.

      “If some new atheist is not on board with those values, we want them to fuck off.”

      I suppose that I have to agree, if someone is so profoundly unreasonable and uncompassionate that they are either unable or unwilling to improve, but I must say that such folk are quite exceedingly rare among self-identified atheists. Everyone is unreasonable, uncompassionate, dishonest, or hypocritical some of the time, but most atheists I’ve met are self-aware enough to be ashamed when they catch themselves doing so.

      You’ve written books dedicated to helping people become more reasonable, more compassionate, more ethical, which means you must believe that people are capable of improvement along all these axes. I generally prefer that approach (education) to the approach you lay forth here (excommunication) but maybe we only differ about where exactly the lines should be drawn.

    • says


      You assume that there is a stark dichotomy between those who are reasonable or unreasonable, between those who are compassionate or uncompassionate, between those who are honest or dishonest, and so forth.

      Not at all. I assume there is a stark dichotomy between those who affirm they support those values, and those who explicitly deny they do. Beyond that, I allow all manner of ambiguity, and call shots only when they are clear cut, and make arguments for any conclusion I may have in cases less certain.

      But I can see how someone who is blinded by emotionalism would not get that. So I have made this clearer in the revised text.


      In reality, these and all other admirable qualities admit of degrees and variations, and some people are capable of being quite reasonable and compassionate in certain situations and vastly less so in others.

      A possibility I explicitly addressed in the article.


      Everyone is unreasonable, uncompassionate, dishonest, or hypocritical some of the time, but most atheists I’ve met are self-aware enough to be ashamed when they catch themselves doing so.

      Right. That’s what I am talking about: not whether people fail from time to time, but whether they are sincerely committed to getting it right (and thus correcting themselves even when they are shown to have failed).

      But persistent failure is a much deeper character flaw (and explicitly disavowing moral virtue even deeper still), and if someone cannot even be shamed into seeing that, then they are a lost cause to us. Like a drug addict, their recovery cannot begin until they themselves realize and admit they have a problem and need to do something about it. We cannot persuade them. All we can do is punish the bad things they do (even if only socially) until the message gets through that we will not approve of them.

    • Still me says

      “‘I endorse reasonableness, compassion, and integrity, but I’m okay with people who are unreasonable, uncompassionate, and dishonest or hypocritical.’ That’s a self-destructive position.”

      Why did you only discuss one meta-level?

      What of those who endorse reasonableness, compassion, and integrity, and are not okay with those who are unreasonable, uncompassionate, and dishonest or hypocritical, but are okay with those who endorse reasonableness, compassion, and integrity but are okay with people who are unreasonable, uncompassionate, and dishonest or hypocritical?

      It’s not logically self-evident that, in practice, these are self-destructive positions. It would have to be shown sociologically for each meta-level, including the first.

      http://lesswrong.com/lw/42/tolerate_tolerance/

  41. Trotsky's Ghost says

    Richard, you sound like Lenin dictating terms to his associates.

    And we all know how that turned out.

    • says

      Right. Because Lenin dictated that everyone embrace the values of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity and that they combat sexism, racism, and cruelty. And he did this in a peaceful, nonviolent way. Oh, wait. No he didn’t.

      This is a fallacy called “false analogy.” Own it or renounce it. Be rational or GTFO.

  42. Lssm says

    If only it were all this simple. Unfortunately, people are more complex than just compassionate or not compassionate, rational or irrational. A person who is exemplary in one setting can be hopelessly lacking in integrity in another. Individually, people make their own judgments about how to balance such relationships, but in my experience the organizations driving the culture of the secular movement are more concerned with the bottom line. They’ll happily trade a bit of gender safety for a great TV interview, or sacrifice fair play to please a new donor. Are you going to get these groups to change first, or just move on to revolutionize atheism without them? And how will you keep the new movement from becoming just as humanly flawed as the one you left behind?

    • says

      Lssm said: A person who is exemplary in one setting can be hopelessly lacking in integrity in another.

      Which means they do not embrace or embody the value of integrity. It really is that simple. This is not a “complexity.” It’s simply a demonstration of the simple fact of a deep moral failure, which they can only sometimes disguise.

      Lssm said: In my experience the organizations driving the culture of the secular movement are more concerned with the bottom line. They’ll happily trade a bit of gender safety for a great TV interview, or sacrifice fair play to please a new donor.

      What experience? Give me a single example of any evidence of any “organization driving the culture of the secular movement” trading “gender safety” for a “TV interview” or “sacrificing fair play” to “please a new donor.” Any real evidence. Not bullshit. Actual evidence. Or GTFO.

      Otherwise, when you prove any org actually does that, we will disown it.

  43. Jim in AZ says

    Very interesting post Dr. Carrier. Very thought provoking. I don’t know however, if I see us as a “movement” currently, unlike the Civil Rights movement specifically in the 1950’s – ’60’s or even of anti-war movement of the ’60’s.

    Mainly what I see is a lot of people, on the web or at conferences, or on YouTube, talking amongst one another. Not really a “movement” in the classical sense.

    I do know more and more people that are slowly, and surely, coming over to the side of reason, and yees, compassion. Right now, however, I wouldn’t actually refer to thisas a movement.

    • says

      This has been evolving into an actual movement by every classical definition over the past ten years (and especially the last five). If you haven’t noticed, you need to get out more.

  44. dave says

    As a humanist, atheist, socialist, but only-mostly-feminist, I wholeheartedly endorse this Atheism+ plan. It’s like a quarantine for the sanctimonious kvetch-fest that’s consumed the online atheist community for this last year.

    Love that name, by the way. It really says something about you guys that you chose something so smug and unoriginal. Please keep calling yourselves that. Maybe you won’t get the social justice you want so badly (buy only after you’re finished with the inquisition, natch!), but you’ve brought a little laughter into the world. For that, I salute you.

  45. norbury says

    “You’re with us or you’re against us.”
    That might be a paraphrase, but it seems to some up some parts of the article and subsequent comments. This is what shows the post to be a spoof. Nobody can seriously hold these kind of black and white views can they? It’s a truly simple minded way of viewing the world, and fallacious as well, so by definition anybody agreeing with it is making fallacious arguments and therefore is excluded. Neat.

    • says

      This is a good example of engaging childish rationalization in an attempt to avoid admitting what you are.

      You are either on board with reasonableness, compassion, and integrity, or you are not.

      Evidently, you are not.

      Now we know what sort of person you are.

      Mission accomplished.

    • Steve Schuler says

      Richard Carrier said:

      “Mission Accomplished.”

      You know, Richard, George W. Bush used that same expression, albeit somewhat prematurely, on May 1, 2003 in reference to our ‘victory’ in Irag as we plunged into the long night of a war that is still not fully resolved.

      Likewise President George W. Bush, in an address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001 said, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”, which I think norbury alludes to in his comment above. I think that norbury may have been giving you the benefit of a doubt that your OP was somewhat satirical in nature.

      You have jumped the shark mightily and clearly it’s time for me to GTFO.

      Like they say down along the southern border, “Adios, Motherfucker!”

    • norbury says

      I’m on board with reasonableness, but I don’t consider drawing lines in the sand and stating banalities like “you’re with us or against us” to be reasonable. Mind you I’ve never seen atheism as a movement either. If the nastiest mass murderer you can imagine doesn’t believe in god then he is an atheist. Being an atheist says nothing about me and my values, which is the main reason why I view attempts to define values for atheists as daft.

      Also I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a rational human being, we’re deeply irrational beings, so excluding irrationality is self-defeating.

      Sorry about the homophone in my original post btw. #sum

  46. Yannis says

    Hello. First time reader, coming from “outside” of the conversation, mostly as somebody that didn’t care much about any of this until I got my own kids and realized that there is something bigger than my own person.

    A couple of observations/questions mostly orthogonal to your post(I have not yet read enough of the background history to comment on it, besides the fact that I found your post amusing and well structured).

    1- How are you going to deal with the issue of interest conjunction? There are people that are passionate for one of the parts of the spectrum of your view (the skeptic theist, the feminist muslim that believes in UFOs) but the number of people that will be passionate about all of them by definition has to be smaller. I fear that you are cutting the supporter baseline fairly early. This is not the same issue as mission drift, which in my mind has nothing to do with what you are doing (you still have the same ideals, but you are making some of them more visible, so there is no drift at all)

    2- How are you going to deal with cognitive dissonance? By making it an us vs them issue you are triggering the dissonance in a lot of people. I am sure you know (probably better than me) about the literature showing that this usually forces the people to choose between their self image and a change in position, and most people will choose their self image. It seems that the approach of making you better and “them” worse would trigger this more than an approach of simply marketing you as “better” (so you could catch the “aspirationally” minded people). Again, this is more an issue of marketing than of the basal philosophy of the movement, but history is filled with plenty of failed movements with great philosophy and poor marketing.

    3- The last paragraph…Again, from a marketing perspective, it is too similar in structure to the Patriot Act “either you are with us or you are a terrorist” propaganda. This is probably the only section that I didn’t enjoy personally. I do have to qualify that I come from a third world country where I saw our particular dictator use a similar argument to silence political opposition (Not a noble endeavor as your post). I recognize that triggered my irrational fears, so I had to reread the top part of your essay to placate them. The problem is that it is a great soundbite. And as a soundbite people will NOT read the rest of your argument (the reasonable/compasionate/integrity part). And you will see both opponents/friends (http://synapses.co.za/atheism-missioncreep-potential-confusion/ as an example) use it as soundbites are usually used. To construct straw man that divert the attention from the real argument.

    I am interested in seeing how this goes.

    • says

      1. Atheism+ is inclusive of all interest groups who share its guiding values and principles. So there will be no difficulty with interest conjunction. People who want to devote 90% of their energy to UFO skepticism can still be members of the Atheist+ movement. All they have to do is agree with its values and say so, and act accordingly (e.g. vote or donate or speak out in favor of its goals and not against them–in short, give us at least some of the other 10% of their energy).

      2. We want cognitive dissonance. The lines are drawn. We are saying to everyone: you are either on board with these core values (reasonableness, compassion, and integrity) or you are not; and if this creates cognitive dissonance for you, then you are not. And that means we don’t want you. Unless you can resolve your cognitive dissonance by choosing these values and dumping whatever prejudices or dogmas or irrationalities were dissonant with them. Then you are with us. Either way, cognitive dissonance has done its job of smoking out our enemies, and identifying our allies. Mission accomplished.

      3. We are not pointing guns at anyone, nor spying on people or stealing their property. So analogies to dictators and Patriot Acts is a fallacy of false analogy. Anyone who actually uses that fallacy against our statement of values is exactly the sort of irrational douchebag we want nothing to do with. Likewise, people who construct straw men or quote anything I say out of context: we want people to do that, so we can identify them and cut them loose. Because anyone who does that is an irrational douchebag (or an outright liar). We want to know who those people are so we know never to work with them or trust them or ever mistake them for an ally. So forcing them to declare a position is exactly what we want: either they are on board with reasonableness, compassion, and integrity, or they are not. No waffling, no fence sitting, no hiding behind fallacies and excuses. Time to pick sides.

  47. UncleMarvin says

    >So either you endorse the values and aims I have laid out,
    >or you do not.
    >…
    >But if you don’t endorse these values, then you are our enemy,
    >in one fashion or another–because you will be endorsing,
    >supporting (even if only through apathy and inaction),
    >values that will ultimately destroy or undermine the human good.

    You appear to be claiming that your list of values and aims is complete, perfect, and invariant. Quite an achievement. Who peer-reviewed that list? Only I wouldn’t like to think that this is just some guy with a soapbox who’s decided that he’s got the solution to every problem in the world, or anything like that.

    • says

      “Either you endorse X or you do not” in no logical way entails you can’t endorse Y as long as Y is compatible with X. Therefore, in no way have I anywhere, ever, claimed my list of values is complete. Thus, you are making up this bullshit as a childish rationalization to reject the stated values without actually having the courage to say so.

      Likewise, there are two sentences in my article that explicitly reject the notion that I am claiming my list of values is “perfect” or “invariant.” So claiming I said either makes you either a liar or a shit reader. Only one of those errors is honestly correctable. The other squarely identifies you as a douchebag.

      So shape up or ship out. Either join us, or admit you are our enemy. Stop hiding behind lame rhetoric.

      Face it. Either you embrace the values of reasonableness, compassion, or integrity, or you do not.

      Stop being a fraidy cat and admit which it is.

  48. Jonas says

    All of your proposals are, to my mind, good.

    The problem I see is that the more criteria you add for membership, the more people get excluded. This can then lead the remaining group to tighten the criteria further (wanting to advocate more specific tenets of one branch of feminism, for example), which excludes more people.

    In the end, you can end up with a small group that is going to be much less effective at fighting atheist issues than a larger group that was together to only advocate for atheism would be.

    The Nerd asks how the “plus” differed from humanism, and you responded that you can have Christian humanists, etc. That may not be a bad thing. If atheists, Christians, and others share some humanist values, they can advocate for them more effectively together, just as the combined group of humanist and non-humanist atheists could more effectively advocate for atheist issues.

    So for reasons of effectiveness, I think leaving atheism and humanism as separate concerns would be better than creating a union branded as a type of atheism.

    If you want to only/primarily associate with people who believe in atheism plus humanism, that is of course your decision, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

    Others may choose to march with the Catholic priest who has been a strong, effective advocate of social justice in one scenario, even if they’d be on the opposite sides of another. Would that make them disloyal to “Atheism Plus”?

    • says

      This is a non-problem. “When” we do any of that micro-dividing, then you can point out the “problem” with it. What we are doing now is finding the sine qua non of a rational non-douchebag, so we can divide atheism into two groups: irrational douchebags, and rational non-douchebags. All the details are just what define that difference.

      As for cooperating with irrational humanists (like Christian humanists), I already addressed that in the article: they are simply not members of the Atheism+ movement (so that’s a non-issue as far as defining Atheism+), and we will cooperate with them on those limited projects in which they will be rational, but we will still call out and condemn their irrationality in every other sphere, in all due proportion.

      We are moving forward with our label and its definition, and we will use it from now on to smoke out our enemies in the atheist community and distinguish us from everyone else who aren’t really atheists. That’s its utility. And its going to be a powerful one. It’s already working, and it’s only been a couple of days since we started!

  49. says

    Richard, is it too late to add concerns for the environment and our fellow animals to the list of things we care about as part of the Atheism + movement?

    These are concerns that are present in my worldview, and I know some others share them, though perhaps not all.

    I see this trending to the point where someone is going to write an Atheist + manifesto (similar to the Humanist Manifesto) and it will be signed by you and Greta and PZ and Jen and a half-million other proud Atheist +ers.

    I would love to see that. But I think it would be lacking if we do not look further than just humans.

    • says

      Those specific concerns need not be essential of Atheism+. Those are derivative values: they are already entailed by the values that are essential (like compassion and social justice), unless someone can prove otherwise.

      We do not need Atheism+ to be defined by such specific litanies of conclusions. Atheism+ can incorporate them as conclusions that follow from the facts we discover in conjunction with what are the core values of Atheism+, and it’s those core values that are what my post seeks to identify. Note, for example, that Jen’s latest post (Atheism+: It’s Time to Walk the Walk), lists those two, and several other issues, as the kind of topics Atheism Plussers will talk about, but not as what defines an Atheism Plusser.

      It is important to keep our core values simple, so we can easily demarcate our friends from our enemies. Everything else is debatable–as long as those debates adhere to the core values of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity as laid out above. Atheism Plussers can even disagree on many specific issues, as long as those disagreements remain reasonable, as here defined.

      Similarly, you can endorse both Atheism+ and, for example, Humanist Manifesto III. They are not mutually exclusive (as anyone who examines the two can tell). Likewise, many other causes and mission statements, which might not be shared by all Atheist Plussers, can be shared by some Atheist Plussers and not others. As long as they do not contradict the core values of Atheism+…because when they do, you are no longer a part of Atheism+ (whatever else you may be).

  50. says

    I guess I also have a concern that the Atheist + movement might start off on a foot that upsets its potential new members.

    There is already a growing animosity between Atheist + spokespeople and those who have yet to proudly waive the Atheist + banner.

    Many people, myself included, are proud (Secular) Humanists, freethinkers, skeptics, atheists, and agnostics. And as defined by your essay, I’m also a proud Atheist +.

    But some of the comments I have read are so dismissive of Humanists and athiests, the movement has the potential to create a “better than you” rift. And maybe they’re right, but is that the most constructive approach?

    Yes, people who don’t understand feminism clearly have issues. But do we need to call them CHUDs and tell them to GTFO? If I call a Christian a CHUD, they are never going to accept that atheists can be good, moral people, or sympathize with our movement, or crack open a book on evolution.

    I think we should be insulting their ideas, but not them.

    • says

      Point me to the comments you consider “dismissive of humanists and atheists” which are not calling out so-called humanists and atheists who reject Atheism+.

      The CHUDs are the douchebags who reject the values of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity. That’s it.

      And those are indeed CHUDs: mutant sewer scum who are cannibalistically devouring humanism from within. I have no interest in having an interfaith dialogue with self-avowed sexists, racists, and assholes. We’re done with them.

      Everyone else is fine.

  51. Brian says

    I haven’t had time to read all this, but I support what I’ve read. I still need to finish sense and sensibility, especially how you argue the empirical and logical foundations of objective moral facts on atheism

    I’ve yet to see someone argue object moral facts without invoking something like idealism, or just arguing something that pertains to morality, but isn’t an objective moral fact a la Sam Harris. So, that’ll be good. I just get caught up reading this and that, and hardly finish anything.

    Anyway, that’s all beside the point. Good read, A+. ;)

    • says

      Just FYI, it sounds like you will prefer to read my chapter in The End of Christianity, which contains the formal peer-reviewed demonstrations and discussion of the issues you might be concerned with (that is also available on kindle and nook). Sense and Goodness is less formal and more broadly argued, so it might not answer all your questions. The chapter in TEC also collects more examples of other major philosophers who have argued for objective moral facts without gods (I am not novel in doing that; Harris was a late comer to this argument) and in many other ways substantially updates the argument in SaG.

  52. Phil Rimmer says

    RC: “And yes, really. It is us vs. them: the new New Atheists vs. the sexists, racists, and uncaring and irrational douchebags.”

    So how come I get thrown out from polite discussions here (FtB)? I have all those caring desires you listed up top. I disagree in quite a number of ways on the means proposed by the A+ team to get to those ends. I am disappointed in some of the dogma building up around how the issues are to be tackled. I am disappointed by the curtailing of the sceptical process to find (say) more profound solutions.

    There is a schism you are forcing between we nerdier medium-low empathy scepto-pedants who want to do stuff as right as possible and the hyper pro-social, po-mo, feelings-are-evidence A+ teamsters who want to do stuff NOW and screw the fine details (or so it seems to me).

    Trust always the evidence to lead you the right way. Your dogma may be going in the broad general direction needed, but I believe we can get somewhere better if we are braver and more thorough.

    • says

      Phil Rimmer says: So how come I get thrown out from polite discussions here (FtB)?

      Give me an example. Then I’ll answer your question. Otherwise what you are saying here is hopelessly vague and thus completely unproductive commentary.

    • F says

      I’ll tell you why, assuming it is true you get kicked out of discussions: Read your own post right here. Your “we” wanys to “do everything right” and you know what right is, while everyone else is some post-modern (in the pejorative sense for the incredible failures of post modernism in certain areas, and prove the connection or fuck off) evidence-free bitchez.

      That’s why.

      If you ever thought anyone claimed that “feelings are evidence”, you have near-zero comprehension.

    • Smhll says

      Phil, I would also find it beneficial to see an example. I read a lot of Pharyngula and do see some hot interchanges, but I usually see some provocation first. When I hear “mean”‘ I get an itch to see what happened. Sometimes it may be context, e.g. A homophobic troll visited the thread yesterday so one careless use of the word “prance” may trigger a shitstorm. (Imaginary example just to have an example.)

      In the abstract, we might need translators, or better communication protocols, or buffers, or something to develop mutual understanding between the more skeptical skeptics and more political skeptics. (I know that my adjectives are imperfect here.)

  53. David Quinn says

    I truly don’t get the vitriol of this article…. It seems to say that if you arent committed to ridiculing religion, you don’t belong. What if you’re a secular humanist who strongly believes in separation of church and state, but doesn’t really care to convert theists? Then you’re not welcome? Seems like it feeds in to all of the criticisms about atheists.

    • says

      “It seems to say that if you arent committed to ridiculing religion, you don’t belong.”

      Right. Because that’s exactly what the article said. All 3400 words were about that.

      Not.

      Dude. That’s not even stated once in my article!

  54. epitome says

    Tom says:
    “I’ll stick with the original atheism, thanks.”

    Richard Carrier says:
    “So, one vote for douchery. Got it.”

    |

    As I was reading I couldn’t help see parallels to other ideologies that made me uncomfortable and this response was the realization of my fear.

    I am uncomfortable with a movement that demonizes those who don’t fully agree with their values. You refer to these people as “the dark side” and “the evil in our midst.”

    And then in the “reasonable” section its says that if a fallacious argument is pointed out and the individual doesn’t recognize this then he’s out.

    Considering that people see fallacious arguments where their values are being challenged this is ultimately an excuse to reject an individual with even slightly different values.

    I agree we atheist have a variety of opinions and some of those are polar opposites of each other and I love the idea of a movement to move us out of stagnation but this looks too much like every other dogmatic and divide et impera ideology out there~

    |

    I don’t like the current state of atheism but this alternative is terrifying.

    • says

      I am uncomfortable with a movement that demonizes those who don’t fully agree with their values.

      So, you are uncomfortable with demonizing liars, hypocrites, abusers, sexists, racists, and irrational douchebags?

      You are okay with people who reject compassion, integrity, and reasonableness?

      This isn’t about “slightly different values.” This is about people who have no problem with sexism, racism, wanton irrationality, and cruelty to other human beings. And those of us who want nothing to do with them.

      To claim that our finally rejecting these people makes us the ones who are terrifying, simply makes no sense.

  55. N_J says

    Jeebus Carrier, you’ve gone completely off your twig. Wow… just wow. Way to underscore the ever-growing impression that more and more people in the larger atheist community have of you FTBers – that you are a completely irrational bunch of screaming hysterical wackos. Enjoy your little incestuous hate cult, Rev. Phelps.

    • says

      Because advocating compassion, integrity, and reasonableness, and denouncing those who reject compassion, integrity and reasonableness, makes us a hate cult a la Reverend Phelps.

      Uhuh.

      Talk about irrational. You are fucking off your nut.

  56. Tanya2 says

    You obviously have a totalitarian mindset, Dr. Carrier. With your arrogant dicatorial attitude, I think that this country would be hell on earth if your kind got control

    There are a number of us dedicated to opposing that, however.

    And I think its amusing that you let people think you aren’t blocking and deleting comments.

    Like all bullys, you are scared.

    • says

      Right. Because by nonviolently promoting compassion, integrity, and reasonableness, the world will go to hell in a handbasket. Uhuh. That makes sense.

      Let’s move on from your logic-challenged bullshit and discuss your fact-challenged bullshit:

      What comments am I blocking or deleting? In this thread I have only deleted one spam by David Mabus which didn’t say anything pertaining to this topic (because Mabus is insane) and one remark that was childish humor devoid of any actual argument, which I noted openly upthread as being in violation of my comments policy.

      So…you are basically making shit up, and then using the bullshit you just made up as evidence for us being scared…of…something, I don’t know what…your remark didn’t really make sense.

      It really boggles the mind that you think you wouldn’t look like a total fucking fool when you posted this comment. I mean really.

    • Tanya2 says

      You foul mouthed little Dick.

      You are a liar, too. You have blocked comments, you and I both know it.

      Like the one about you being delusional…do you really think atheists will unite behind an arrogant dork like yourself?

    • Tanya2 says

      I also have noticed that more than one woman has noticed that your repeated refences to “douchebags” is a backhanded demeaning remark about women.

      You ignorant fuck, didn’t you catch that?

      Do you really think you are promoting compassion?

      Gawd Damn you are stupid.

    • says

      Douchebags (the product) are universally bad for women. So how does calling a person who is bad for women a douchebag a demeaning remark about women?

      I can’t fathom your thinking here.

    • says

      What comment about me being delusional? Are you confusing the delay in moderation with blocking? My article explicitly warned you not to assume that. Did you not read it?

    • tigzy says

      It’s good to see our enemies are so retarded.

      Well so much for compassion and inclusiveness, if you’re going to use an ableist insult like that, Carrier.

      Hypocrite.

    • Tanya2 says

      You fucking tool.

      You have blocked comments, I am not talking about delay in posting due to moderation.

      You. Are. A. Liar. Get it?

      And all that “douchebag” stuff in just ignorant.

      A little tin pot dictator like you is never going to lead a movement unless you lead it into marginality or outright self destruction.

      [Note to all: I allowed this comment past moderation because it’s fucking funny — RC]

    • Ray Staroof says

      I am completely on board with the values you laid out for the Atheism plus movement and for calling out the douchebags for their douchebaggery. But, man, I cringe every time you call someone a retard or retarded. IMO, that does not show compassion to people who have developmental disabilities.

    • says

      There are people with neurological differences who are tired of being equated with those who lack skeptical thought, especially those with mental disabilities who are managing their mental illness with skepticism, and doing it better than people with neurotypical brains, even!

      Look above. Look at the people asking you to please have some compassion for people with mental disorders. Compassion means listening. Compassion means “maybe I think I’m in the right, but this one tiny word isn’t worth clinging to, if using a different word means showing an entire oppressed group that I care”. There are plenty of words like “unfounded”, “without evidence”, “lacking proof”, “wrong”, “dangerous”, etc (I’m sure you have both imagination and a thesaurus) that get the message across without an appeal to a pariah – an entire class of people who cannot help the accident of their birth.

      I’ve left my share of comments and you don’t have to approve this one if you think I’m hogging the conversation.

    • says

      Ray and Nerd, I’m not in agreement on all the points you make, but I’m persuaded to agree the word is inappropriate, and I am renouncing the use of the word, deleting gratuitous uses of it, and will write a blog post correcting what I said above.

      (And by no means are you hogging the conversation–these are reasoned arguments on a relevant subject in the thread. That’s exactly what comment threads are for.)

    • Ray Staroof says

      Thanks for the prompt response, I know you’re busy, I’m mulling over what you said.

  57. enkidu says

    Seems to me you (and others at FTB of course) are articulating a left, or progressive if you like, political philosophy

    By me that’s great, I was left before I was atheist, but is it your intention? The next logical step to my mind is a political party or movement, though you probably know better than I how difficult this would be in the US political system.

    If A+ gets off the ground, how do you envision the next steps organisationally?

    • says

      As to whether any organization will arise, we’ll see (Jen McCreight has made proposals on her blog, so visit there to follow that). Right now, it’s only about which organizations embrace us or reject us. Then we’ll know who our friends and our enemies are. (But a political party is unrealistic. Third party politics is impossible in the U.S. system.)

      As far as politics, don’t stumble into a baggage fallacy. “We care about social justice, therefore we support specific policy x” is a non sequitur. The problem with labels (like “left” or “progressive”) is that they are fodder for baggage fallacies, tempting you to fall for the bogus argument that “A supports B, B is a leftist idea, therefore A supports all leftist ideas,” which is an example of the fallacy of affirming the consequent: “a leftist cares about social justice [if A, then B]; an Atheist Plusser cares about social justice [B]; therefore an Atheist Plusser is a leftist [therefore A].” That’s a fallacy, just as “Marxists care about their moms [if A, then B]; Atheist Plussers care about their moms [B]; therefore Atheist Plussers are Marxists [therefore A].”

      For example, I endorse everything stated here as the Atheist+ platform, but I am a passionate moderate, and have elaborately defended and articulated a moderate political platform (see Sense and Goodness without God, Part VII), which incorporates liberal and conservative ideas.

    • Tim says

      YES!

      Richard, you should go into politics.

      The youtube clips you would generate would be amazing. You responding to every single criticism with absurd pomposity, calling people idiots, your a genius and people just can’t see it, it’s your way or the highway… – it would be amazing!

  58. Donovan says

    I agree with these. I get the idea of not wanting to be pigeon holed, but not here. I don’t mind having people come into a discussion with me with the preconceived notion that I’m a decent human being; that I strive to put the health and happiness of my fellow humans at the top of my priorities. I think this list covers basic human needs. If you’re not an atheist activist to make the world a better place, than you are a douche (in fairness, I am willing to hear the argument Richard and the others are wrong and are making the world worse, but I don’t think it’ll be made successfully).

  59. Tim says

    Yummy, another list of things we can’t laugh at. Jeez, starting to sound like a church around here…

    >>and to act in the best interests of human happiness

    …with some lame utilitarianism hidden inside.

    What does any of this moralistic preaching have to do with there not being a god???

    -social justice,
    -women’s rights,
    -protest racism,
    -fight homophobia and transphobia,
    >>Amen to all that. ???!!!
    -reasonable
    -compassionate
    -integrity
    -cleanliness
    -chastity
    -humility
    -in bed by 9:30
    >>And so I am declaring here and now, that anyone who acts like this, is not one of us, and is to be marginalized and kicked out, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with.

    These absurd “Atheist faith tests”, complete with hellfire damnation for violators, themselves rest on Christian mythology of equality and the infinite worth of souls. (And no, Richard, you haven’t proven our equality and value using “personhood” or anything else, despite your claims.) Recent Western cultural values are simply Christian mythology transmogrified, not displaced. Read the genealogy of them! Kant even admitted he needed god to maintain such claims.

    Why are so many “atheists” in the US so incredibly moralistic and desperate to replace religion rather than simply laugh at it?

    *************

    From time to time this instinct, which is at work equally in the highest and the basest men—the instinct for the preservation of the species—erupts as reason and as passion of the spirit. Then it is surrounded by a resplendent retinue of reasons and tries with all the force at its command to make us forget that at bottom it is instinct, drive, folly, lack of reasons. Life shall be loved, because—! Man shall advance himself and his neighbor, because—! What names all these Shalls and Becauses receive and may yet receive in the future! In order that what happens necessarily and always, spontaneously and without any purpose, may henceforth appear to be done for some purpose and strike man as rational and an ultimate commandment, the ethical teacher comes on stage, as the teacher of the purpose of existence; and to this end he invents a second, different existence and unhinges by means of his new mechanics the old, ordinary existence. Indeed, he wants to make sure that we do not laugh at existence, or at ourselves—or at him: for him, one is always one, something first and last and tremendous; for him there are no species, sums, or zeroes. His inventions and valuations may be utterly foolish and overenthusiastic; he may badly misjudge the course of nature and deny its conditions—and all ethical systems hitherto have been so foolish and anti-natural that humanity would have perished of every one of them if it had gained power over humanity—and yet, whenever “the hero” appeared on the stage, something new was attained: the gruesome counterpart of laughter, that profound emotional shock felt by many individuals at the thought: “Yes, I am worthy of living!” Life and I and you and all of us became interesting to ourselves once again and for a little while.

    ***************

  60. says

    Hello,

    I don’t like the overall tone of all of this, because it sounds way to much like “If you’re not with us, then you’re against us”. And I think atheists and skeptics should be inclusive, and not exclusive.

    Anyway, we had Bright a few years back, now we have Atheist+ for atheist with a strong feminist bend. I predict this will have the success Bright had (wich mean some will use it, but most won’t) and in a few year you’ll have a new word for those who want to increase tribalism in the atheist/skeptic community.

    Maybe a good description of Atheist+ is someone who is fan of the freethoughtblogs/skepchick ideological stance (the + representing that ideological stance, added to atheism). Well, I’ll stick with atheism, because what I learned from all this, is that we’re divided and that lots of unpleasant people (on all sides of the issue) are in our midst.

    At the end of the day, I recognise myself more in the Jamy Ian Swiss speach “Overlapping Magisteria” (at TAM 2012):

    http://youtu.be/JFF_jlCTR1U

    If for that reason you think I’m the ennemy (that I belong to the dark side within the atheism movement), so be it.

    Skeptically Yours,

    • says

      The problem is that if you define a movement by who you exclude, then excluding more people feels like progress. From what I’ve seen of other social justice groups, you say you exclude sexists. It starts reasonable. First, you exclude the people who think it’s acceptable to go up to women and grab their boobs. Then, you exclude the people who think you shouldn’t do that, but women should also not make a public issue out of it. That’s also sexist. Then, you exclude people who like a comedian who made a joke that some people took as implying women shouldn’t make a big deal out of it because. Then, you exclude people who didn’t think you should have excluded the first group. Then, some of those people that you excluded say you only thought the comedian was sexist because you were interpreting him through a sexist lens and they are the real social justice movement and they’re excluding you.

      I know a lot of people have been quoting the life of Brian, but the reason that scene resonates with people so well is it’s true. Sometime you have to exclude people to keep a group productive, but it’s a terrible way to define yourself.

    • says

      You just articulated the slippery slope fallacy.

      That it can happen, does not mean it always happens. Particularly when you are keen on not making it happen. Therefore the possibility that such a thing can happen is not a logical reason to oppose endorsing the values of Atheism+.

      And even when it does happen, it doesn’t matter, and thus ceases again to be any reason not to affirm where you are. Like the divisions in the feminist community: divided between many different camps, yet none of that provides any reason not to be a feminist sine qua non. That there are radical manhating feminists is not a reason not to be an ordinary mainstream feminist. And most feminists are. The micro-breakoff sects are simply insignificant to that decision.

      Moreover, we are not defining ourselves by what we exclude, but by what we stand for (that was the whole point of my article): hence What You Are, Not What You Are Not describes distinguishing Atheism+ from atheism generally in just such a way.

      It’s a logically inevitable consequence of standing for something, that you exclude what contradicts it. It doesn’t work the other way around. Which is precisely the problem: being against god, does not establish that you are for anything, like minimal moral standards.

  61. Michael says

    So is Atheism+ the Bolsheviks or the Mensheviks ? I just want to be sure as I don’t want to end up in the dustbin of history.

    Michael

    • says

      No relevant analogy exists for either. You might as well ask if Atheism+ is bananna or bicycle. Because you don’t want to end up in the dustbin of history! (whatever that is)

    • Michael says

      No analogy ? Let me it explain it for you:

      The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party was a political social movement. Atheism is a political social movement. The RSDLP split into Bolsheviks (majority) and Mensheviks (minority). You are proposing a split of Atheism into Atheism + and Atheism douch-bags. When the Bolsheviks seized power Trotsky taunted the Mensheviks with “You are pitiful isolated individuals; you are bankrupts; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on — into the dustbin of history!”

      I’m sure you know all this.

  62. says

    I like what you said about the importance of learning logic and understanding rhetorical devices and the way the media function. I feel that more attention to critical thinking and sound evaluation of evidence would constitute a major improvement to education.

    A short while ago, I was making a drive to market a course in statistics and scientific method for young scientists (PhD students etc.). I called up one of many university HR people responsible for arranging training courses, who told me my course in statistics would not be useful, as they only provide courses covering skills. I was dumbstruck – even at a university, being able to quantify the world and evaluate evidence is not considered a skill. From my experience, this seems to be the prevailing attitude.

    I’ve outlined some simple considerations that can contribute to critical thinking in a short article, How to read a newspaper.

  63. sc_c965d145386a1bf1cebdf8d3d2481c77 says

    Jesus could not have sucked as a Philosopher because he wasn’t one (and no Christian should try to make him into one, as I don’t think that Jesus would accept that label).

    Jesus did not try to discover moral ideals, or to weigh this idea versus that idea. He (as the Gospels say, I mean) came to tell people what was right, what was wrong and what’s what. No moral discovery, only moral commands. And further, if he were the Son of God, he would know everything that’s worth knowing.

    (I notice that my name is not displayed – I’ll have to see what I can do about that).

    • says

      True. But that all depends on how you define “philosopher,” of course. I have actually discussed this before, and I find that in one sense, Jesus would qualify; but in another sense, indeed the one I think you have in mind, he does not. A Christian tried to challenge me on this, so then I had to make the same point you do in ridiculously thorough fashion. So here I’m just operating within the Christian’s delusional assumptions about what Jesus was and did.

      [As to the technical difficulties, I’m sorry about that; there have been some other wonky things going on in my comments queue. I have reported those to the webmaster. But notify me if this particular thing happens again and explain what name you entered and how etc. so I have something to tell them regarding where the problem might be occurring.]

  64. James Howde says

    No join Atheist++ we care about social justice, women’s rights, racism, homophobia, transphobia, critical thinking, skepticism AND not smoking around young children – Won’t somebody think of the children.

    Seriously I think you’re better off tying to fight for those things under their own banners, as somebody who also happens to be an atheist, rather than bring them under the atheist brand. At the core level atheists are about as homogenous as people who like the colour blue.

    • says

      This is not an argument for anything.

      Either you endorse the values of Atheism+ and thus are a part of that movement (whether you claim to be or not), or you don’t, and aren’t.

      So which is it?

      Don’t dodge the question with non sequiturs like the one you just gave. Own up. Are you in, or are you out? And if out, why? Which values defining Atheism+ do you reject?

    • Tim says

      >>This is not an argument for anything.

      Why do you keep saying that? You come across as someone who refuses to follow your own precepts and be reasonable? I’d vote you out of your own group. I understood his argument just fine.

      He, like others here, is saying your idea is stupid for various obvious reasons. You can take that to mean these people are NOT with you.

    • says

      >>This is not an argument for anything.

      Why do you keep saying that?

      Because it’s true.

      Case in point: you ignored the actual issue, just like he did. And then complained about the fact that I keep pointing this out.

      I feel like I’m in a Phillip K. Dick novel at this point.

    • Azrael Seraphin says

      “Either you endorse the values of Atheism+ and thus are a part of that movement (whether you claim to be or not), or you don’t, and aren’t.”

      False dichotomy. I endorse the values; I reject your cult.

  65. Michael says

    “So, one vote for douchery. Got it.”

    Atheism+ is only a nascant movement, barely a few days old, and you are already taking the position that anyone who doesn’t fully embrace the label is a “douche?” Isn’t it possible to embrace the values of atheism+ but decide, for perfectly legitimate, non-douche reasons to continue describing oneself as just an atheist at this point?

    • says

      Someone who reads the article, in which I define a douchebag as someone who rejects the core values of compassion, integrity, and reasonableness, and then says they reject those values, is indeed a douchebag. By their own declaration.

      It would be a different matter if they said they thought those were bad values and then gave an actual, logically sound argument for why they are bad or what they should be replaced with.

      But no, they just up and rejected them.

      That’s a douchebag by definition.

    • F says

      Atheism+ is only a nascant movement

      No it isn’t. Jen just gave it a name, and huge honking swaths of the community thought it was a good idea. Everything that people who identify with atheism plus care about, they cared about before.

      What is it about this that some people regard as analogous to a new political party with a low-recognition platform, or a brand new magazine with no subscribers?

  66. ... says

    Seen it before. Yawn.

    1. We believe in being reasonable.

    Therefore any point of view that disagrees with ours is irrational and doesn’t even need to be considered, much less debated.

    2. We believe in being compassionate.

    Which we will demonstrate by pouring large buckets of slime over anyone who thinks differently.

    Indeed, as the Surly Amy story shows, there are clearly many of us who disregard the happiness of others just to hurt them

    By wearing mean ol’ t-shirts, say.

    A. Atheism and skepticism should embrace diversity

    Diversity, noun: Much desired state of physical heterogeneity while maintaining mental homogeneity.

    nd not just be a bunch of white guys reading a bunch of white guys)

    Some of examples of these would be Salman Rushdie, Ibn Warraq, Ali Sina, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, V.S. Naipaul etc. Remember, any claim that skin colour isn’t the most important thing is the sign of deep and profound racism. If someone goes so far as to suggest that original and well thought out ideas are the most important thing, then you probably have your local Grand Kleagle (or whatever the hell they’re called) at hand.

    and provide resources to help all our comrades in arms.

    A “comrade in arms” is defined as “anyone who is 100% within the party line”.

    but to social, moral, and political policies, theories and activists.

    But not our social, moral, and political policies, theories, and activists.

    We have to be as critical of ourselves and each other as we would expect anyone to be of religion

    And by “ourselves” we mean “you”. We will be critical of you. Don’t you dare try that the other way around. Know your place.

    3. We believe in personal integrity

    Integrity is holding true to the party line handed down from On High. What part of that is difficult?

    There is a new atheism brewing, and it’s the rift we need

    Soon we will have reached our goal, and no one will ever have to feel inferior or put down in our movement again, because we will have driven out anyone with any originality, independence, intelligence or achievement.

    • says

      Carrier: We believe in being reasonable.

      Dracon: Therefore any point of view that disagrees with ours is irrational and doesn’t even need to be considered, much less debated.

      Nice slippery slope fallacy. I never said or indicated any such thing. Try addressing what I am actually saying and doing (and present evidence, not assertions). Dishonestly converting what I said into something else, and then using that something else as a reason to disagree with me, is not reasonable discourse, don’t you agree?

      Carrier: We believe in being compassionate.

      Dracon: Which we will demonstrate by pouring large buckets of slime over anyone who thinks differently.

      You mean, anyone who declares they side with “sexism and cruelty and irrationality.” Yes (although not buckets, but pointed insults…you are committing the fallacy of hyperbole). I even explained the distinction in the article itself. This is not just anyone who thinks differently. This is people who explicitly declare themselves on the side of “sexism and cruelty and irrationality.” They deserve to be called out for what they are. That’s not slime, it’s judgment.

      Dracon: Indeed, as the Surly Amy story shows, there are clearly many of us who disregard the happiness of others just to hurt them. By wearing mean ol’ t-shirts, say.

      Did you read the account? There was a lot more to it than that.

      And yes, persistently and willfully and deliberately making an individual uncomfortable at an event that is supposed to be fun for all is the very definition of disregarding the happiness of others just to hurt them.

      If you don’t see that, you are an asshole, and I am here and now asking you to stay the hell away from me. I want nothing to do with you.

      Carrier: A. Atheism and skepticism should embrace diversity

      Dracon: Diversity, noun: Much desired state of physical heterogeneity while maintaining mental homogeneity.

      This is just a veiled way of mocking the values of compassion, reasonableness, and integrity. By calling our desire for it “mental homogeneity.”

      Dracon: And not just be a bunch of white guys reading a bunch of white guys.

      Dracon: Some of examples of these would be Salman Rushdie, Ibn Warraq, Ali Sina, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, V.S. Naipaul etc.

      Which if you regard with pride, should inspire you to want more. But instead you mock the desire for more. Which leads me to suspect you are being insincere.

      Dracon: Remember, any claim that skin colour isn’t the most important thing is the sign of deep and profound racism. If someone goes so far as to suggest that original and well thought out ideas are the most important thing, then you probably have your local Grand Kleagle (or whatever the hell they’re called) at hand.

      Right. Because wanting to bring more women and people of other races into our discussions and meetups and conferences and movement as a whole is exactly like the KKK.

      Carrier: and provide resources to help all our comrades in arms.

      Dracon: A “comrade in arms” is defined as “anyone who is 100% within the party line”.

      You mean like in WWII, when our “comrades in arms” were defined as “anyone who is 100% within the party line,” or when atheists battling for their rights have called each other “comrades in arms” for decades because they all were “100% within the party line”? Oh, wait, no. That isn’t what they meant, is it?

      Nice try using the fallacy of equivocation to build a straw man fallacy.

      Carrier: but to social, moral, and political policies, theories and activists.

      Dracon: But not our social, moral, and political policies, theories, and activists.

      Yes, ours to. I even explicitly said so in the article. More than once.

      Nice reading-comprehension fail.

      Carrier: We have to be as critical of ourselves and each other as we would expect anyone to be of religion

      Dracon: And by “ourselves” we mean “you”. We will be critical of you. Don’t you dare try that the other way around. Know your place.

      Not at all. If you actually had reasonable criticism, it’s welcome. Instead, you throw up a vomit of fallacies and falsehoods. Do you not know the difference?

      Carrier: 3. We believe in personal integrity

      Dracon: Integrity is holding true to the party line handed down from On High.

      No it’s not. It’s what I said it was.

      Nice try once again substituting for what I actually said something completely different, and then using that completely different thing as a reason to reject what I said.

      Carrier: There is a new atheism brewing, and it’s the rift we need

      Dracon: Soon we will have reached our goal, and no one will ever have to feel inferior or put down in our movement again, because we will have driven out anyone with any originality, independence, intelligence or achievement.

      Ah, classic slippery slope fallacy.

  67. ArtooDeebag says

    I find it ironic (I suppose that’s the right word here) that you are trying re-define atheism. This is exactly what prominent atheists in the past have fought so vehemently against. Dawkins, Hitchens and the like (though perhaps not Sam Harris or Dan Dennett) have continuously said ‘atheist’ only means non-belief in a deity. Associating atheism with other philosophies is what Christians have always done; i.e., atheism is Stalinism, Marxism, Socialism, Darwinism, and what-not. Now atheists are the ones associating their philosophy with others? This is a small step from atheism is humanism, feminism, anti-racism, etc.

    It’s no longer fair to say Christians in the past have committed atrocious crimes, I hope you realize that (not that this was exactly a fair practice, but it was repeated nonetheless). Before, many atheists pointed to the inquisition, atrocities committed against Jews, and people like Socrates and Galileo and say these things were merely and expression of Christian ideals. Christian apologists would respond with “those aren’t true Christians, Christians make mistakes, those aren’t the Christian values we hold today, blahblahblah” and atheists would scoff at them. Now, when a Christian says “look at what Stalin the Atheist did!”, atheists will respond “he wasn’t a true atheist, we hold different philosophies, atheists make mistakes, we hold different values than past atheists”. Is it really wise to move from “atheist only means non-belief” to “atheists should believe in humanism” (regardless if this is true or agreed on)?

    You could reply with something like “not re-defining the term itself, just adding good philosophies to and already good philosophy”. But unless you make it more clear, there’s going to be confusion. Please clarify at least one thing for me: should atheism mean humanism/rationalism/skepticism? Or are you only trying to persuade atheists to be more humanistic/rational/skeptic?

    I just want to add that I don’t disagree with anything you said concerning these other philosophies, I just don’t think is necessary to associate atheism with any other belief or philosophy. Though I remain to be persuaded.

    • says

      I find it ironic (I suppose that’s the right word here) that you are trying re-define atheism.

      No, I’m not. I’m defining a subset of atheism and saying I want nothing to do with atheists who aren’t in it (whether they adopt the label or not: all that matters is that they affirm support for its basic values).

      All I am asking is that people make it known which camp they are in: atheists who are against sexism and racism and endorse the values of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity, or atheists who are not and do not.

      There is nothing even remotely like Marxism in this. It’s simply a rudimentary moral standard. Atheists who reject even that rudimentary moral standard I want to leave me alone.

      That’s all that Atheism+ is about. Plain and simple.

  68. says

    What do you say to Hitchens: “Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others” and his take down of Mother Theresa. I’d say some compassion is given and received well, but not all compassion is. Conservative Christians think they are being compassionate to recommend ex-gay therapy for example.

    • says

      Right. Hence my point that moral compassion is reasonable and honest compassion.

      Hitchens was denouncing what I called in my article dishonest compassion, for example.

      The matter of whether it is compassionate to advocate “de-gayifying therapy” is a red herring, however, since that is a question of fact, not value. Presumably, if conservatives really advocate that out of compassion (I doubt it; in reality, I suspect it’s motivated by hatred and fear of gays and gayness, not any actual concern for gay people, but there could be some rare dude out there who does it because he genuinely cares), then they agree with us on core values. We just disagree on the facts (the scientific and social facts of homosexuality). Which then makes this about the value of reasonableness: are conservatives acting irrationally? Yes. Because it’s not like all the relevant data is not available to them from which to draw a rationally correct conclusion. They just don’t want to draw a rationally correct conclusion.

    • Mark Erickson says

      The point is that compassion is self-defined. I could call an act compassionate and you could disagree. Especially the person on the receiving end of a putative compassionate act could say that it wasn’t compassionate. That’s why dignity for yourself and others, or my choice service, which has to be accepted by the receiver, are better choices. Also compassion can easily become pity. I applaud your effort to state your principles, and trust your compassionate acts would be beneficial, but I think one can do better in choosing a guiding principle.

  69. joachim says

    Richard, you really believe you are exhibiting compassion and reasonableness?

    The you are delusion.

    Possibly even ill, and in need of counseling.

    That you are “with us or with them” jive reminds be of the lying Donald Rumsfeld.

    • says

      Yeah. Because defending compassion, reasonableness, and integrity, and continually denouncing people who reject those values, is just like something Donald Rumsfeld did.

      Oh wait, no it’s not. You’re just being a douchebag.

  70. Soli Deo Gloria says

    You are making an irrational leap of faith.

    Your worldview cannot underwrite the list of values you are trying to tack on to atheism, even though they have nothing to do with atheism. You are simply suffering from a Christian hangover. If you lived in the 19th century before the holocaust, you’d be cheerfully promoting eugenics instead. There is nothing intrinsic to atheism that demands the values you list.

    I predict that either this silliness you are trying to instigate will fizzle in a few weeks and you in your blindness will just shake your head in a bewildered fashion wondering what went wrong.

    Or if it does catch on, it will mutate. It will run into all sorts of bizarre directions like a chicken with its head cut off, and soon it will be justifying atrocities such as Stalin committed in the name of “social justice” or whatever. It will become something you yourself would disown if you could peer into the future and see what it would mutate into.

    You are living proof of the pagan saying “Whom the gods would destroy, they first drive insane”. May the majority of people catch on to and reject your insanity, before it’s too late.

    • Soli Deo Gloria says

      #49 beat me to it with the comparison to Lenin. Sorry I didn’t read the whole thread before posting. I implore you to stick your head in a bucket of ice water, cool down, and take into account that perhaps the Calvinist doctrine of man coincides with how humans actually are. They are all depraved, thus any simple noble sounding formula is doomed to failure.

    • says

      I see, so we shouldn’t have any moral standards at all. And we should be totally fine hanging out with sexists and racists and cruel and irrational assholes and not tell them to go away. And that’s totes logical because of Calvinists. Got it.

  71. Jimmy Steinbeck says

    Let’s see how far shunning and dismissing anyone that disagrees with you gets this movement. Calling people douchebags and labelling them as “Atheist Less” in these comments just makes you look like a fundamentalist nut. Please ease up on the rhetoric before you completely destroy what dignity the skeptic/atheist blogging community has left.

    • says

      Right. Because calling sexists and racists and people who mock and openly reject the values of compassion, integrity, and reasonableness douchebags makes me look like a fundamentalist. Funny. Then atheists have been looking like fundamentalists since the invention of the anti-religion tirade.

      No, I do not look like a fundamentalist. I look like someone with moral standards. But for you, however: to say that advocating for the values of compassion, integrity, and reasonableness will “destroy the dignity” of atheists really does make you look thoroughly amoral.

  72. Ben says

    It’s difficult to see what A+ hopes to achieve with the policies of marginalisation and ostracisation that you espouse Richard. Is not the basis of discrimination the devaluation of groups of persons based on perceived characteristics that differ from some sort of supposed norm within a culture or community – whether they be of gender, race, religion or whatever, and the accumulation of priviliges that conformity to the norm brings?

    Certainly the use of such aggressive language such as ‘well you can just fuck off’ , ‘you’re either with us or against us’, is hardly likely to endear this nascent organisation, (or whatever it turns out to be), to many people who might have some worthwhile viewpoints to offer. You speak as though the issues were cut n dried, black n white and as though you have some sort of certainty or clarity about who the people with integrity and compassion and reasonableness are. How do you do that?

    Are sex positive feminists or sex negative femanists reasonable? What about conservative feminists that embrace and adopt a male model of success and achievment. What about those who maintain that gender role is a social construnct in which biology plays little or minimal part? Is that reasonable? What about post-structuralist feminism? Is it ok to be a Marxist but not a Capitalist?

    You can shun or try to silence as many people as you want. It won’t make anyone go away, it won’t make anyone shut up. It won’t help anyone on the path to A plusness get there any the faster.

    • says

      Discrimination against immoral people is not bad. Wanting to separate ourselves from racists and sexists is not at all analogous to racism and sexism.

      This should be so obvious a point I shouldn’t even have to make it. So I am stuck having to decide between concluding you are deeply amoral, weirdly irrational, or being completely insincere.

      Racists and sexists and people who explicitly reject the values of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity do not have worthwhile viewpoints to offer. That’s the point. We want nothing to do with them. We want them to leave us alone. (They don’t have to shut up. They should just go talk elsewhere, in their own venues, not ours.)

      As to whether someone is reasonable, the issue is whether they will admit they have made a fallacious argument when it has been demonstrated that an argument is fallacious. It can take some time to test that out for all the arguments they have to all the conclusions they have. Thus, the issue is not whether people have made fallacious arguments or reached conclusions fallaciously. All people do that. The issue is whether they will deny it once demonstrated.

      For this reason (plus the fact that many particular questions are not entirely decidable), plenty of disagreements are compatible with Atheism+. The only things we won’t compromise on, because they define what we are and the company we want to keep, are the values I delineated. Everything else is open to reasonable debate.

      Thus, read more about what it really means to be with or against Atheism+.

  73. Joe says

    I think we should give Dr. Carrier’s post some credit for the substance instead of focusing on a few instances of rhetoric (e.g., “GTFO”).

    But let’s be clear and identify the problem with this post. Dr. Carrier not only excludes bad people; he excludes dumb people who are not bad.

    First Dr. Carrier includes persistent idiots as those to be marginalized (shunned, given up on): “Bad people, douchebags, and persistent idiots need to be shamed and marginalized…But there is a difference between someone who actually listens and shows signs of trying, despite their erroneous beliefs and conclusions, and someone who persistently denies facts, invents facts, or leans on fallacies even after they’ve been called out.” And then Dr. Carrier writes: “I ‘tolerate’ irrational people the same way I ‘tolerate’ fundamentalists and neonazis and UFO cults and members of the KKK: I treat them as human beings with basic rights and liberties, so long as they don’t infringe on the rights and liberties of others. But I don’t invite them to my conferences, I don’t treat them as colleagues or friends, I don’t consider them reliable allies, and I don’t give them a pass when they say and do stupid things. They are simply not one of us. And all I am doing is saying so.” Here Dr. Carrier blurs the distinction between bad people and irrational people by placing all ‘fundamentalists'(people who don’t think like you do) in the same category as neonazis. All bad people are irrational but not all irrational people are bad. If your stance is that irrational people who are not bad should be excluded from your group, then that’s a problem.

    • says

      You’re right, I should not have said “persistent idiots,” since (apart from being collaterally insensitive) that can easily be misconstrued as saying the disabled are included in the sphere of deniers of rationality, and only the latter is what I actually meant. I have emended the comment accordingly.

      (And that was only in a comment, not “the post,” so this can’t have been a problem with “the post” itself. The post itself is very clear on what I mean: people who are persistently unreasonable.)

      But I disagree with your second argument. When I put fundamentalists in the same category as neonazis, the shared element is not hatred or racism, but persistent irrationality. That’s why I included other items (UFO cults) to indicate what shared element I was going for. And being stubbornly irrational is indeed bad. It’s not bad in the same sense as being malicious is bad (except when that irrationality is used to justify being malicious), but it’s still bad.

      We do not want persistently and unrepentantly irrational people in our movement. I do indeed want them to go away. We will work with them only in domains where they will be rational (exactly as I explained in the article).

      (And in the exceptional case where someone is actually mentally disabled and thus unable to make or understand rational arguments, they are by definition incapable of the informed consent to be in any movement, much less ours. That’s tragic. And when I speak of irrational people, I am not talking about them.)

  74. Joe says

    Dr. Carrier: First off, I’m sorry for continuing to clog up your blog. I am going to respond here to the Bible verses you cited above but we can continue this conversation by e-mail if you prefer.

    You might be the first person I know (or I should say, know of) to describe Jesus as an awful person. You have this impression because the mercy you find in the Gospels only extends to those who choose to believe in the Gospels. But that’s the case because God respects our desires. If we want to be with God, we’ll be with God. If we don’t, God respects that choice. I think the thing to remember is that hell is not a place to which you are condemned. If you end up there, you want to be there. It was your choice. In that sense, hell IS a moral idea. Notice the rich man in Luke 16:24 says “send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” The rich man says nothing of his soul, he only wants his body quenched with water. Just like during the rich man’s life, his concerns are physical, not spiritual. Likewise, the unforgivable sin is unforgivable because that person has chosen to place himself beyond forgiveness. There are no thought crimes. People think crazy things all the time. But we do make choices, and God respects those choices.

  75. says

    Thanks for this, Dr. Carrier. If it means anything, I’ve been an atheist since the early 2000s, before “New Atheism”. Back then, the place for me was infidels.org. Reading this blogpost reminded me of your writings.

    For me personally, my biggest “this group doesn’t represent me” moment was when Sam Harris published his “The Moral Landscape”. Although it was panned by moral philosophers, it got Richard Dawkins approval, and within the atheist community I felt overwhelmed by the sea of yeas when I wanted to say nay.

    From there, it seemed to only get worse. The demonization of Islam and Muslims (as opposed to rational, objective criticism), the adoption of archaic notions such that Jesus was a good moral philospher, or a good person at all, or that he said things that his contemporaries weren’t saying (uh… Apollonius of Tyana anyone??). There was all this talk about how Christianity doesn’t have a problem with women, while Islam does. I’m a layman but at least I would have admitted that I have not studied Christian history rather than conclude that Christians didn’t have a problem with women. I’ve written a bit about misogyny in the Bible, and in Christian leaders from Paul himself to Origen to Augustine to Aquinas to Luther to the present… if you’re interested you can follow my link and read the replies I got for talking about Christian misogyny (Episcopal Church alert…)

    Particularly when it comes to Islam, I had a hard time delineating “okay is this person criticizing from a rational standpoint, or from an irrational standpoint”? But then I saw Geert Wilders saying that he’d ban the Quran but not the Bible (even though by the measures I’ve seen there is no reason to exclude one while including the other…),there was obviously some cultural chauvinism at play there.

    When I saw Ayaan Hirsi Ali essentially saying that she’d be okay with Muslims converting to Christianity, I was absolutely shocked. How can someone recommend Christianity when it’s responsible for denying millions of people today who cannot marry their loved ones because Christians don’t approve of the genders/sexes involved??? How can a person from Africa, a continent that was abused and exploited by men carrying a cross, say that it’s okay to be a Christian or that it’s preferable to be a Christian than a Muslim??? To me, that’s like saying I’d prefer drinking a bottle of alkaline over a bottle of acid. Why are so many of these atheists turning their backs to atrocities by Christians or perfectly okay with sweeping them under the rug via “okay but that’s what Christians do, not what Jesus actually said, who preached love and tolerance”. I see this and I think, WHAT??? Where did Jesus teach love and tolerance when he condemned entire cities and people to hell (Matthew 10:14, 11:21, Mark 6:11, 16:16, Luke 10:10, etc.) And that’s just those three gospels. Have these people actually read the Gospel of John? Have they read John 3? Yeah, Christians love John 3:16, but how about the next few verses that talk about how anyone who disbelieves is condemned? Or how about John 8:24, or John 12:48, or John 14:6, or John 15:6??? Or what to make of Paul’s writings in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10? And the absolute worst part is that it’s not Christians that are defending Christianity and Jesus, it’s my “fellow” atheists. That’s when I realized that I badly needed a new community.

    I could go on about other things I’ve experienced, but I think that what I’ve said already speaks enough.

    If what I’ve just expressed, my distaste for the lack of rational inquiry in parts of the atheist community, can be sated by Atheism Plus, I’m all for it. It’s long overdue. I’ll absolutely put my intellectual rigor behind it. All these detractors, on what grounds exactly are they disagreeing with you on? That we SHOULD associate ourselves with racists, sexists, and other bigots??? No, we absolutely do not. It’s time we open the doors to people of all backgrounds, shapes, and sizes. If that means saying goodbye to bigots, so be it. They can dwindle with Thunderf00t and The Amazing Atheist and so on. I want Atheism Plus. Thanks again for this Dr. Carrier.

    -Jason Macker

  76. GodlessForeigner says

    Ok, I made a comment above (still awaiting moderation) in which I made some comparisons to your post that might or might not be correct. Doesn’t matter.
    The fact is that your post really infuriated me, perhaps more than it should have. I cooled down a bit now so I’ll try to clarify my stand on the issue a bit better.
    Well, the thing is that I agree completely on all of the issues you mentioned in the post (reasonableness, compassion, and integrity), but I still refuse to support your Atheism+ and here are my reasons for doing so.
    The first reason is your wording, its too much off the rails for me. I mean, what kind of an atheist movement are you trying to promote by calling people to repent their sins? And that’s just the most obvious one, to list all the crazy you put in this post would take too long.
    The second problem I see is the whole ‘you are either with us or against us’ mentality. “And if you are against us, we’ll kick you out, stab you while you are down and proudly display your corpse at our gates as a warning to others like you” Its all just too…My blood pressure is rising again so I’ll finish this quickly.
    After reading your manifesto, I don’t really care if your Atheism+ is about saving kittens or killing babies, it just doesn’t matter and I have to say NO! I don’t want anything to do with you or others that endorse a document like this.
    And now I’ll gladly GTFO (as you eloquently put it).

    So long and thanks for all the fish (as rotten as it was),

    GodlessForeigner

    • says

      Let’s hope you will someday agree with these facts:

      It’s not rational to reject an argument simply because it metaphorically uses familiar religious language.

      I never mentioned stabbing et al. so your trying to introduce that notion here is absurd, and it is particularly ironic that, after I wrote about a very obviously nonviolent way to exclude reprehensibly amoral people from our company, you just here turned it into a call for violence, and then after doing that ridiculous thing, used the ridiculous thing you just did as a reason to reject my call for excluding reprehensibly amoral people from our company. And you did all that nonsense in just two sentences.

      So…now that I have demonstrated your fallacies, will you retract them?

  77. dougal445 says

    Sounds like the perfect recipe. . . . . . . .
    For an orwellian nightmare, hubris in the finest tradition of greek tragedy.

    • says

      Because advocating compassion, integrity and reasonableness is the ticket to an Orwellian nightmare and is sure to lead to a Greek tragedy.

      Who believes that!?

      Oh, right, douchebags.

    • dougal445 says

      @Richard carrier
      No.
      The Orwellian nightmare is when a group sets itself as above other people and gets to ban / silence / dismiss / neutralise disenting views.
      The Hubris comes after someone thinks that they are above others and gets to dictate what is right, what views are “acceptable” and what can be dismissed out of hand.

      For example, dismissing someone as a ‘douchbag’ because they have reservations about your self rightous, grandious scheme.

    • peter sales says

      No!
      The Orwellian nightmare is when a body of people sets itself up to ban / silence / dismiss / neutralise any dissenters, sets itself up to dictate to others, sets itself up as being above others and therefore worthy to dictate.
      The Hubris comes after the fall, when humilty prevails and the folly is apparent.
      Your dismisal of anybody with reservations, anybody who see’s this very problem with what you aspire too, as “douchebags” demonstrates how blindly you are falling into this error.
      I am appalled that you, with your apparent scholary background are heading for this greek tragedy.

    • says

      You do realize that you just called the call for repudiating sexism and racism and embracing compassion, integrity and reasonableness “a self-righteous, grandiose scheme.” Right?

      Maybe someday you will realize why that makes you a douchebag.

    • says

      I am having a hard time believing you actually read my chapter in TEC. Because it already explicitly rebuts arguments like yours, yet you make no mention of those rebuttals. Why?

      For example, you write:

      But ought you want your car to go well? Only if you value that, which is not something science can tell us.

      I include more than a page on why in fact science can tell us what you value. Not only can it tell us what you actually value, it can tell us what you would value if given certain factually true and relevant information. And I discuss the importance of such subjunctives (what people “would” believe if informed and rational) as factually falsifiable scientific statements. I also discuss, even quote, Hume on the subject of the is/ought distinction. And he does not say what you claim…to the contrary, for him, human sentiments (emotions/desires) are scientific facts, and he himself reduced all ought statements to them. That was in fact Hume’s entire program: to reduce all of morality to scientific facts about mankind.

      The fact that you value x is an empirical fact (it “is” the case that you value x; so is the fact that you would value x if rational and informed: it “is” the case that you would). That the prescribed action will produce x is likewise an empirical fact (it “is” the case that doing it will produce or tend to produce x). Those two empirical, falsifiable facts exhaust the entire meaning of any ought statement.

      Therefore every “ought” reduces to an “is.”

    • says

      No. Sorry, I won’t do that.

      I disagree with the notion of avoiding “ableist slurs” in this sense because they aren’t slurs. When I call someone lame, I am not saying they are physically lame, nor am I insulting people who are physically lame, since I am using the word in the connotation relating to quality of thought or argument, not physical ability (thus, I am not even referring to the disability; a lame thought is not a lame leg).

      Likewise words like “retarded”: when I call someone or something retarded, I am not referring to actual mental disability or the actually mentally disabled. I am therefore not commenting on them. Therefore I cannot be slurring them. If I called a mentally disabled person a “retard!” then I’d be using a slur. [However, I am persuaded that this word is nevertheless needlessly shocking and therefore unnecessary–I shall blog about this soon.]

      Context changes the meaning of words. This is a basic fact of language.

      For a contrasting example, I am more careful with statements of insanity, reserving them for things (“that’s insane!”) or for people I genuinely do suspect of actually being (in one degree or another) insane (in which case it’s simply a statement of fact or hypothesis). Whereas I now try to completely avoid false genderized language like “pussy” (for coward) or “having the balls” (for courage), after realizing (thanks to Cristina Rad) that it perpetuates a factually false sexist notion that women are cowards or you need balls to have courage (so there is no context in which these terms would be correct).

    • mordacious1 says

      So you’d call your white friends nigger because they obviously aren’t, so it’s not the same as if he was a black guy right? Nothing wrong with that? OK to use that word in casual conversation? Are you retarded? And I mean that in the least offensive manner.

      When I was 12 I called some kid retarded. A friend of mine walked up to me and told me that his brother was mentally retarded and it was hurtful to him to hear that word used to demean someone. I learned my lesson that day and haven’t used it since (until this post). I hope my friend Ron will forgive me this one time.

    • John Greg says

      Hypocrite.

      Sophist.

      I await, with great anticipation, the day when sophists and hypocrites like you, Carrier, finally spend enough time educating yourselves on language, rhetoric, and linguistic history to understand that words like pussy, cunt, history et al., are not in any way, shape, or form, explicitly or inherently, outside of context and intent, sexist or genderized.

      Carrier, you’re not an intellect, nor a skeptic, nor a critical thinker. You’re an ignorant reactionary hysteric who, it would seem, is now, jointly with that intellectual Fraud, Myers, sucking on the faux Skepchick tit.

      What the fuck is it with you FfTB hystercal fundamentalist ersatz-religious freaks that while trumpeting the critical and essential importance of such things as critical thought and skepticism, you all spend so much time and effort avoiding them?

      Jeebles wept.

    • Tim says

      Richard, is it OK to call people “fags” because you don’t mean homosexual, you mean lame, errr, stupid?

      How about “bitches” if you don’t mean a women is actually a female dog you just mean angry like a uhh, oh,… how does your argument go again? As long as you don’t mean it literally it is OK?

    • says

      Richard:

      Likewise words like “retarded”: when I call someone or something retarded, I am not referring to actual mental disability or the actually mentally disabled. I am therefore not commenting on them. Therefore I cannot be slurring them. If I called a mentally disabled person a “retard!” then I’d be using a slur.

      Context changes the meaning of words. This is a basic fact of language.

      Maybe you can give a little more context to clarify this. Standing alone as it is, what I see is you claiming that calling someone retarded isn’t referring to mental disability or the mentally disabled.

      What, precisely, is it referring to?

      “You are retarded” standing alone seems, to me at least, to be by fucking necessity making a comparison between the person you are speaking to and the mentally disabled – and doing so with the implicit intention to disparage them by comparison.

      I’d be nice if you’d elaborate. Because as you’ve put it I see no difference from:

      “Likewise words like ‘nigger': when I call someone or something nigger, I am not referring to actual black skin or the actually black-skinned. I am therefore not commenting on them. Therefore I cannot be slurring them. If I called a black person a “nigger!” then I’d be using a slur.

      Context changes the meaning of words. This is a basic fact of language.”

      I suppose you could qualify and say that you simply mean that the person you are calling retarded is “delayed or held back in terms of progress or development” in some general way that isn’t quite, you know, the whole “actually retar… err, mentally disabled” kind of way.

      But then, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone say “I don’t mean ningger in a racist way… I just mean, ya’ know, ‘ignorant’ – even white people can be niggers, see.”

      Because, context and all that.

      So, maybe you can help disabuse me of my misunderstanding concerning your argument.

    • Robert B. says

      Hm. Richard, you have a problem here.

      Consider the use of the term “gay” as a generic condemnation, as in “that’s so gay.” In my experience, many people who use this language will, if called on it, defend themselves by giving your exact argument: they are not talking about any actual gay people, they did not mean to attribute homosexuality to anything. In context, they did not intend, and their audience did not understand them, to refer to any actual sexual minorities, and so there’s no reason gay people ought to be offended.

      What this defense misses is that, by using the label for a group of people to mean “bad,” one is implicitly insulting that entire group. The context here is larger than the single statement in which the word appears. The context also includes the larger society, in which gay people face moral condemnation, economic and social second-class status, and in some cases violence. To say of something one dislikes “that’s so gay” is to do more than express disapproval. It is to declare a side in this moral battle, to say “yes, being gay is bad” and thereby wave a verbal flag in support of oppression. And so all decent people, once their attention is brought to the problem, abandon this usage of the word “gay.”

      Your usage of “lame” suffers from the same problem. Fundamentally, the problem lies in your failure to challenge the assumption that it is bad to be lame. As you say, context influences the meaning of language. In this case, the reason why the word “lame” can be understood to mean “wrong,” “stupid,” or “not worthy of serious attention” is exactly because it’s being used in the context of a society which is hostile toward people with disabilities. We might consider that having reduced mobility is unfortunate in a practical sense, but you weren’t using “lame” to mean “unfortunate in a practical sense.” You were using it as a brusque dismissal. Since I’m sure you wouldn’t think that a person deserved a brusque dismissal on account of using a wheelchair to get around, your usage of “lame” is factually false and ethically uncompassionate in the same way as using “gay” to mean “bad,” “gyp” to mean “defraud,” or “pussy” to mean “coward.”

      In essence, you are by your choice of words waving the oppressors’ flag, which is why Setar and I ask you to stop.

    • emburii says

      Er…context changes words, which is why you’re careful on some of them, but this other one that has the exact same arguments and baggage behind it is okay just because you say ‘well, I don’t mean it like that’?

      That’s not very convincing. It’s not logical and it’s not compassionate to take into account, say, the feelings of women or non-neurotypical people, but then refuse to examine your use of one particular slur because it means something different when you say it, dammit.

    • says

      Erm, but Richard. Given your obvious insight to why terms such as “pussy” or “having the balls” are incorrect, can you see why using terms such as “lame” for something bad or “retarded” for something that’s stupid also perpetuates some ableist notions?

    • Orion3T says

      I think Setar has a fair point, and I think a quick Google search makes this clear:

      http://disabledfeminists.com/2009/10/12/ableist-word-profile-lame/

      http://www.womanist-musings.com/2009/06/using-lame-as-descriptor-is-always.html

      By my understanding, it’s precisely because the term is being used outside of its original meaning (which refers to a person or animal which has trouble walking) that makes it ableist. If you were referring to an animal with an actual limp as ‘lame’ then that would be correct usage and shouldn’t cause offense.

      But you’re actually using it as synonymous with ‘ineffective’ or perhaps ‘useless’, which is a more recent derived meaning because people associated ‘having trouble walking’ with ‘useless and/or ineffective’.

      I think if you look closely you will see that this use of the word has resulted from much the same stereotyping that resulted in misuse of the terms ‘pussy’ and ‘having balls’ which you cite as being sexist – because it stereotypes genuine lameness as ‘useless, feeble and/or ineffective’. And I’m sure we agree that people with mobility problems should not be stereotyped in that way.

      Now if nobody had a problem with this, and the etymological baggage were truly forgotten, maybe it would be OK. But it seems to me that the disabiled community are the ones who get to decide whether it is or not, and it seems a significant number to consider it ableist. So to me, that means it is.

      I’m sure nobody thinks you were actually being ableist – indeed the term is so widely (mis?)used that it wouldn’t have occurred to me either.

      But now it’s been pointed out, I will personally be avoiding it in future (not that it was ever a term I used much anyway).

      Finally, I’d like to thank Setar for hilighting the issue and educating me in the process.

    • Tanya2 says

      Get that, Gimp? Dick Carrier does not care if you are denigrated.

      Get over it.

      Dick has spoken.

      [I allowed this comment through moderation to illustrate what an ableist slur actually looks like: Tanya here calls whom she believes to be an actually disabled person a Gimp, which is not only a slur by itself, but is here explicitly directed as an insult to disabled people. Which is precisely what I did not do. Ironically, she evidently thinks this makes her better than me. Which is a bit humorous really. — RC]

    • Orion3T says

      Sorry for double post, but I should have picked up on this before:

      Likewise words like “retarded”: when I call someone or something retarded, I am not referring to actual mental disability or the actually mentally disabled. I am therefore not commenting on them. Therefore I cannot be slurring them.

      I’m actually quite shocked you would think calling someone or something ‘retarded’ is OK providing you’re not actually referring to their mental state.?!

      The problem is you are associating something negative with people who are actually diagnosed as ‘mentally retarded’ or have similar learning and/or developmental problems.

      The same site has a page on this word also. Notably:

      using a word that not only describes but is the actual medical diagnosis of a mental disability to mean “bad and ignorable.” Using the term reinforces the implicit assumption that mental disabilities are bad and that people with mental disabilities should be excluded and ignored because of their disabilities. And that affects all people with mental disabilities, not just those diagnosed with mental retardation or another developmental disability. (Although it is especially difficult for family members of people with developmental disabilities.)

    • Ray Staroof says

      When you call someone a retard, you are referring to their mental capabilities and comparing them with a someone who actually has mental disabilities. You say that calling a person with mental disabilities a retard would be a slur. Would you call someone else a retard in the presence of a person with mental disabilities?

      I agree with your argument about the use of the word “lame”, but I don’t think “retard” falls in the same category.

    • says

      Richard, may I suggest you not use the word “lame” as previously noted simply because there are other equally good words that don’t put up other people’s hackles in quite the same way? If you can explain to me a real loss to you by giving up use of the word, I’d be interested to hear it. It may feel like an unnecessary and really trivial concession, but if it is trivial then why not cede the point?

    • Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

      Richard Carrier,

      Likewise words like “retarded”: when I call someone or something retarded, I am not referring to actual mental disability or the actually mentally disabled. I am therefore not commenting on them. Therefore I cannot be slurring them. If I called a mentally disabled person a “retard!” then I’d be using a slur.

      And your intent is magic? This argument also seems to justify many other slurs, that I’m sure you don’t think you are attempting to justify.

      Your rationalizing the use of dangerous and hurtful slurs is ironic as fuck considering the content of your post on Atheism +. I think you would benefit from doing more research on the topic of how slurs effect culture and the actions of people that they oppress. I’ve read you discuss your use of language in regards to slurs before, and think you have an ugly blind-spot on the issue.

      I know you have heard these complaints before so I will shut up now. I just can’t read a post about being inclusive to all people* and then read you rationalizing slurs like “retard” without protesting. This is 101-level shit here.

      *all people, excluding the bigot-asshats

    • says

      Improbable Joe: May I suggest you not use the word “lame” as previously noted simply because there are other equally good words that don’t put up other people’s hackles in quite the same way?

      Getting your hackles up over that word is not reasonable. So no. I don’t have to accommodate unreasonable expectations in people.

      I have explained above why there is no valid reason to be bothered by my use of that word (any more than saying “you must be blind!” is an insult to the blind, for example), and I also explained above what it does take to be a valid reason to abandon a word (I even gave examples of the latter).

    • says

      Ray Staroof said: When you call someone a retard, you are referring to their mental capabilities and comparing them with a someone who actually has mental disabilities.

      Just as we do when we say “what you said is lame” or “you are blind to the damage you are causing.” That’s the normal metaphorical use of language. It in no way insults the lame or the blind.

      Likewise, calling something retarded refers to the lack of intelligence behind it, and is meaningful because the mentally retarded actually do lack intelligence, just as the lame are actually lame, and the blind are actually blind. But as in those other cases, there is no reference actually being made to blind people, lame people, or mentally retarded people. Just as when Shakespeare says “Juliet is the sun,” he is not referring to nuclear fission.

      Ray Staroof said: Would you call someone else a retard in the presence of a person with mental disabilities?

      No.

      I try to avoid the word retard at all. I use the proper word retarded (hence: retarded progress; retarded development; retarded ideas). Since that is simply an actual word, like lame or blind, that doesn’t aim to insult the lame or blind (whereas “retard” is specifically used by the cruel to insult the retarded). The words “idiot” and “moron” are no different than “retarded” in this regard. We use them all the time. And people understand their proper contextual meaning. They don’t think people who are actual mentally challenged are being insulted, or even referred to, when those words are used.

      So rephrasing the question: would I call someone else retarded in the presence of a person with mental disabilities? Maybe. [Not any more: see below–RC] Just as I would (just as metaphorically) call someone lame or blind in the presence of the lame or blind. Or call someone an idiot in the presence of an actual “idiot” (by the antiquated scientific definition of that word).

      However, this is not a venue where mentally handicapped people frequent, so it would be very unusual for them to be “in the presence” of anything I say here. In actual practice, I would curb a whole lot of speech “in the presence” of a mentally retarded person, for example I would try to avoid big words or complex metaphors or easily misunderstood terms, and I would not assume they understand context or nuance.

      But obviously, I can’t act like that normally. This is a venue for normal grown ups. Here I expect readers to have at least a basic level mental competence, so I use big words and complex metaphors and terms I can expect them to understand, and I expect readers to understand the basic principles of context and nuance as in any written language.

      [I have developed some reservations about my thinking here, which I will blog about soon (that post will correct and thus supersede anything I said here); and I am now persuaded that “retarded” is, unlike “lame,” needlessly shocking in contexts like this and thus should be done without.]

    • says

      There’s a lot of things I agree with you on, Richard, but this one I don’t understand.

      You know that “retard” is used to harass people, so you must understand that “retarded” also is used so. I understand your want to use the term, as there is no good term in English for something that lacks intellectual fortitude that isn’t ableist (stupid, retarded, dumb, idiotic, etc, have all been used to oppress people with different intellectual capabilities). Further, you cannot assume people who are not regarded as ‘retarded’ somewhere in the real world that won’t show up here. I’m regarded as ‘retarded’ by some people because of my Autism. There are other people in the world that aren’t vocal or are of limited physical capability due to mental health but are perfectly capable of interacting with the internet. You might not know if they’re ‘retarded’ here, in this space, because you never interact with their actual limitations.

      It’s not quite like lame or blind as it’s not a binary state in the same sense. There’s a whole gamut of people who are fully capable of understanding what you’re saying when you’re trying to apologize away the use of the word ‘retarded’.

    • says

      While you may have many readers with cognitive disabilities, you have plenty of readers who know people who do. If you were trying to belittle some third party by comparing him to my little brother, it wouldn’t go over well. For those who don’t take offense, it just legitimizes the use of the slur in general, including in other spaces where people with actual cognitive disabilities will hear it. Your argument sound about like a middle-schooler arguing that it’s OK to call a stranger “fag” when he gets killed in Halo or call it “gay” when the school runs out of pizza before he goes through the line because it’s not like he means it literally. It suffers from the same problems.

    • says

      There’s merit to your argument. It doesn’t hold generally (“Are you blind!” and “That’s lame!” don’t fit your analysis). But you and others are persuading me it does fit “retarded.” (I have appended editorial remarks to that effect in the comments above.)

    • fivupmushrume says

      For the record, I am totally down with Atheism +. I have been arguing with bigots since the Chick-Fil-A disaster on exactly this platform and I think it’s awesome. Calling a bigot a bigot and shaming them for having bigoted views is necessary to move the needle of social justice in the right direction.

      That being said, your use of “Retard” isn’t just unnecessarily shocking, it is hurtful to the mentally handicapped and their loved ones. Retard is a slur used toward the mentally handicap just as cunt is a slur used toward women. To call a man a “cunt” isn’t just shocking, it’s hurtful to women. It suggests that they are inferior and to be called on, even in a slurred form, is to be taken as an insult.

      I have no doubt that you have taken this to heart as your amended comments suggest. Keep up the good fight against the bigots and douches of the world (whether they are Atheist, Humanist or other)!

    • says

      I don’t believe Tim’s questions are sincere, but for those who might want to ask something like them more sincerely:

      Richard, is it OK to call people “fags” because you don’t mean homosexual, you mean lame, errr, stupid?

      That would mean you believe “fags” are stupid.

      So, no.

      How about “bitches” if you don’t mean a women is actually a female dog you just mean angry like a uhh, oh,… how does your argument go again? As long as you don’t mean it literally it is OK?

      Not at all. Words often operate by metaphor (e.g. “I was blind to the harm I was causing the environment” is a direct one-step example; “things at work are crazy right now” is many more steps removed).

      For example, “asshole” does not, obviously, mean someone is literally an anal sphincter muscle. Nor does “shithead” mean someone’s cranium is literally made of feces. These have gone through several stages of metaphor to mean someone who is appallingly mean, unjust, etc. But they still work because they evoke the fact that shit and anuses are disagreeable, which is often enough true.

      Hence the metaphor has to be true, and not implicitly bigoted. “Bitch,” as a metaphor for a biting female dog, can be true in specific cases (in the metaphorical use now employed: it has undergone a lot of changes, having originally been an insult directed at a man, and then when directed at a woman, meaning something quite different than what it means now; and now, it is freely used of men and women, to mean “unjustifiably biting and inconsiderate”). But “bitch” is not true of all cases. Thus, calling a woman (or even a man) who is unjustifiably biting and inconsiderate “a bitch” may be appropriate in certain circumstances (my wife, for example, will call out someone who behaves this way with that word). But calling women in general “bitches” is false (it says something is true of all women that is not) and therefore wrong.

      Meditate on this until you actually understand the distinction.

  78. noelmcgivern says

    Hi Richard.

    I just read Why I Am Not a Christian. It puts great arguments. You make a formidable contribution to the Atheist case. I don’t object to the aims of this site but it has stirred up controversy and that needs to be addressed.

    Many of us have come from backgrounds where religion, and often a deeply dogmatic or doctrinal religion, was forced on us, so having escaped that we resent the idea of having to conform to a party line. I’m sure that is not your intention but the perception has unfortunately arisen that this site is seeking to define a party line for Atheism. This is a resolvable problem.

    The problem seems to lie with a lack of clarification between two ideas. The first is Atheism, a non belief; the second we could call Humanism or secularism. Whatever we call it, it encapsulates a set of ideas widely shared by Atheist. I am in sympathy with the promotion of those ideas but concerned they may be seen to compromise the idea of Atheism as simply not believing in God.

    There is an interesting and a deeply surprising reaction in all this. Some of us Atheists feel something akin to a threat to our identity. This surprises me because religious identity is an area of interest to me, and in truth, this is a conclusion I come to with a great deal of reluctance. My refusal to conform to religious identity had a major effect on my life. So, the idea that there might be a fragment of it in my Atheism is not an easy admission.

    My impression is you have been surprised by some of the reactions you have had. This could be an important learning experience all round. We could all retreat into camps which support or oppose this site or we could do something which religion is lamentably poor at: find a way forward that unifies.

    I’m not going to suggest a solution yet. I’d rather we approached that together. I’m @Good_Beard on twitter, if you want to check me out.

    Richard let’s show that we are new in our approach and resolve misunderstandings. That would be a powerful symbol of the strength of a rational approach.

    Yours

    Noel

    • says

      Indeed. It looks like I flushed a lot of emotional irrationality out of the closet.

      I ask whether fellow atheists are with the atheists who reject sexism and racism and endorse reasonableness, compassion, and integrity, or with atheists who accept sexism and racism and/or reject reasonableness, compassion, and integrity. And people then somehow (?) assume I am trying to define “atheism” when obviously I am defining “atheism+” (note the +) and defining it as against atheism- (and thus I am not trying to define “atheism” but simply demarcating moral from immoral atheists).

      This was an irrational reaction: to take an article that very clearly says one thing, and then take it as saying completely the opposite, and then using that irrational inference as grounds for mocking and rejecting a call for moral standards.

      If atheists are going to treat all calls for moral standards as “bad religion,” then we have a serious problem in atheism: we have an atheism that is inoculated against moral standards, because of an irrational conflation of “moral standards” with “religious dogma.” That serious problem needs fixing. And right bloody quick.

      Admitting it’s irrational is step number one. Failing to admit it’s irrational, pegs one on the side of Atheism-. So until they come around to rationality again, we want them to leave us alone. They can go have their own clubs and forums.

  79. Jim says

    “Either join us, or admit you are our enemy.”

    It’s nice to know you’re dealing with issues of sufficient simplicity that they can be accurately represented in a binary state. I usually know I’m on to a subtle and nuanced philosophy when everyone in the world can fit into one of two categories.

    I think I’d rather be an enemy than swallow some culty nonsense like that.

    Care to list some of the people who’ve paraded the “With us or against us mantra” over the years? You certainly have some esteemed companions in that regard.

    • says

      It is not culty nonsense to ask people to repudiate sexism and racism and thumbs-up the values of compassion, integrity, and reasonableness.

      So either you are replacing reason with emotion and in result experiencing a huge reading-comprehension fail, or you are on board with “sexism and cruelty and irrationality.”

      Take your pick.

  80. trinioler says

    Likewise words like “retarded”: when I call someone or something retarded, I am not referring to actual mental disability or the actually mentally disabled. I am therefore not commenting on them. Therefore I cannot be slurring them. If I called a mentally disabled person a “retard!” then I’d be using a slur.

    How about “that’s so gay” or “don’t be a faggot” then? The exact same logic you just used there is used to defend the usage of those words.

    Just because you aren’t commenting on the things those words refer to doesn’t mean they don’t refer to those words.

    Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but, “Intent is not magic.”

    The logic you gave is not a sufficient reason to avoid using those words.

    We see more and more that people on the autism spectrum, and other non-neurotypical people are not “dumb”, they merely think differently. They see the world in a different way.

    When you go ahead and use “retarded” and “lame”, all you’re doing is perpetuating this idea of looking down on the different. This is punching down, not up.

    In short, your logic is wrong. Please retract your statements and apologize for them.

    • says

      As continuing discussions up and down thread will reveal, I have been persuaded by arguments like yours and have retracted my argument and expunged my abuses of the term “retarded.” But the same logic doesn’t hold for “lame.” I will soon publish an article on this.

  81. Jack says

    The smug attitude of the author exhibits in both the column as well as the comments would be hilarious if this were some sort of a parody. Sadly, it’s not. The values being put forth are certainly laudable. However, this “you’re with us or against us” posturing is an absolutist mindset which doesn’t lend itself well to the “reasonableness” being preached.

    Mr. Carrier, I think Lt. Sulu put it best when he said, “You…are a douchebag.”

    • says

      Because it’s unreasonable to ask whether someone is with us or against us on the matter of repudiating sexism and racism and endorsing the values of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity.

  82. Tim says

    Do you really not see how simplistic and unintelligent your ideas here are?

    You’re either for compassion or against it??? Compassion = what??? Sharing your french fries? One’s entire life sacrificed to serving the sick? Somewhere in between? There is no line there to cross and be “with us” or “against us”.

    And responding to every criticism by calling people “douchebags”, well, did you not read your own club’s rules?

    Or at least have a PR meeting with some others first? Anyone else in your group – are there actually others??? – who is not embarrassed by your behavior to the point of apostasy is… well, no, not that word you use, but, shall we say, misguided.

    • says

      “I don’t know exactly what compassion is, therefore I do not believe in it and do not endorse it as a moral value.”

      That’s your argument.

      Right?

      (And my article explicitly stated that behavior like calling douchebags douchebags is not against our principles and why. I have since been even more specific on that point.)

  83. Jim says

    “It sounds like you are only annoyed by the fact that I don’t want to have anything to do anymore with people who make irrational arguments and refuse to admit it when it’s demonstrated to them. ”

    So you don’t want to have anything to do with anyone then?

    Or are you so mind blowingly arrogant that you think you and your friends are perfectly rational?

    • says

      You do know the difference between being “someone who is perfectly rational” and being someone “who makes a fallacious argument and, when shown that they have, does not admit it” (quote-unquote)?

      Right?

  84. JackOCat says

    Dude cool your jets. It was how the ladies were being treated that started this whole A+ thing up. Just take a step back and let them sort and organize this stuff for a while.

    This manifesto sized post that you have dropped here is very specific and exclusive in its tone. When taken along with your story about how you would have written it before anyone else if not for how busy you were… it comes across to me as heavy handed.

    I agree with this A+ split idea and like your enthusiasm, but lets not forget that to some degree assertive, confrontational and lets face it male (I’ll a guy as well) antics got us into this whole mess in the first place.

    • says

      I’m not sure I fathom your point.

      Are you saying A+ is run by women and men should leave them to it?

      And are you calling those women “the ladies” to be all ironical and shit, or to be petty and demeaning?

  85. gimpy says

    Oh and Richard, can you lay off the mental health insults. It’s really not cool to use disability as a negative term to label people you disagree with.

  86. says

    I embrace the values you speak of in this post. However, your approach to those who differ with you is offensive and does little to advance the cause you are championing. Calling people names and demeaning any and all who differ with you reminds me of what I saw and experienced in fundamentalist Christianity.

    Truth is, I don’t need you and your movement in order to demonstrate the values you mention in your article. Your conduct is what has turned me away not your values.

    Unlike you, I don’t need purity from others in order to cooperate with them. The humanist tent suits me well, even with religious humanists under the tent. The pressing needs of our world are too great for me to be drawn away into a sectarian, creedal form of atheism.

    Feel free to add whatever invectives you think appropriate, Richard. in doing so, you are showing who the real douche bag is. (to use your favorite word, not a word I would use)

    Note in your replies, Richard, that you refuse to knowledge even one challenge to what you have written. In a verbal style akin to Fred Phelps, you refuse any and all who dare challenge your orthodoxy or orthopraxy.

    You have provided no compelling reason why I should join your cause. Your values are not enough. If I wouldn’t eat a meal with you because of your ill treatment of others who differ with you, I certainly wouldn’t join a group you are a central part of. Simply put, you are not my kind of atheist, not the kind of person I would want to be around.

    • says

      Right. Because your dislike of the behavior of one person in a movement is a rational reason to reject that movement.

      Major rationality fail.

      And I have responded to every single actual argument posted in this thread. Of which there have been very few. So your attempt to redefine reality on that score looks like dishonesty to me.

      But one things is clear: you are indeed a very unlikable person. Stay away from me in future.

  87. sc_c965d145386a1bf1cebdf8d3d2481c77 says

    Well I tried again to log in under my Google username (kdghantous) and all I got was this lousy character string. :-) I even tried a different browser.

    A Christian tried to challenge me on this, so then I had to make the same point you do in ridiculously thorough fashion.

    Well I’m always up for a good debate so I will definitely be reading that one. I have learned much through listening to debates and I encourage anyone reading this to at least try it.

    I also will have to read this entry again because some of the criticisms of Atheism+ seem justified. Perhaps Atheism+ is redundant (e.g. why not be a humanist?). And I’ll have to read the comments again, too. A+ is either the result of bored, first-world bourgeoisie or it’s only possible because the first-world is advanced enough to allow it to bloom. (Lucky me, I’m not an atheist – nor religious – so I don’t have to make a choice! Phew!).

    Below is probably off-topic…

    You said above that philosophy is science with less data. I suppose I’m on dangerous ground here because I am accomplished in neither field, although I have enthusiasm for them both: I provisionally object to that statement on two grounds:

    1. Philosophy (or at least practical philosophy) is concerned with decision making about how we should live our lives.

    Almost every choice we make is philosophical. Or maybe it’s the case that all decisions require philosophy, unless all we do is react when choices are offered, and some people do nothing but react.

    2. Science is the study of nature.

    Perhaps my definition of science is old-school but, for example, I refuse to accept computer science as science because, really, it’s engineering. Just because you’re analysing something doesn’t make you a scientist. That does not degrade CS in any way, and neither does it degrade history, medicine, mathematics(!), law etc.

    A further point, linking atheism with philosophy: a small minority of eggheads at Pharyngula (I don’t currently read it, partly because I’m not an atheist) used to comment that philosophy should be done away with, now that we have science. I could say some snarky things, but I wish that I had thought to ask these folks to expand on their rather unusual form of philosophy. I wonder how angry they would get if I told them that they’re also theologians (atheism being a major class of theology, in case anyone is wondering what I’m talking about).

    • says

      On philosophy being science with less data:

      1. The claim that philosophy is concerned with decision making and is therefore unlike science is false. For three reasons:

      (1a) Philosophy concerns theoretical questions of fact (does god exist? are humans just clumps of atoms? how do we know what we know? is science itself empirically valid? what is beauty? are values substances that inhere in things, or always and only subjective attitudes in people? do numbers exist, and if so, in what sense? etc.).

      (1b) Science is concerned with decision making (what is the best surgical procedure? what is the safest way to build a bridge? what actions will be good or bad for the environment? how do we prevent disease? what diet should we eat? what are the most productive ways to grow corn? what should we do to maximize our available water supply?).

      (1c) And moral decisions are science-dependent (does abortion kill an actual person? does abortion cause cancer? does purely punitive justice reduce crime? does a certain kind of animal husbandry torment the animals in its care? is pollution bad? what military tactics reduce civilian casualties without compromising victory? once we decide on the outcomes we want, what political and economic systems will best achieve those outcomes?).

      2. The claim that science is the study of nature and philosophy is not is false. Not only for the same three reasons above (e.g. even in epistemology, brain science and the science of cognitive biases and heuristics are essential data to philosophical conclusions; etc.) but for the more obvious reason that decisions about what to do purely and entirely depend on conclusions about human nature and the nature of the social and physical world. Thus even moral philosophy is the study of nature: the nature of humankind, the nature of the world humankind inhabits, and the nature of what actions will benefit or harm humankind.

      That morality is indeed a science (that is, that it categorically is one and in practical terms could be and should be one) see: Richard Carrier, “Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them),” in The End of Christianity, pp. 333-64.

      As for the claim that computer science, that indeed all of engineering (!), isn’t science, there is no good basis for that exclusion. Science is (at minimum) any use of the scientific method on rigorously obtained empirical data sufficient to establish a conclusion to a very high probability. And computers, and computer systems, are as much a part of nature as humans, human minds, economies, and societies are.

  88. Michael Kingsford Gray says

    Oh dear.
    Richard, I am concerned for your sanity, as diplayed by your naked hypocrisy.
    You call for respect, but refer to those who question the dogma as “douchebags”, and suggest that are metnally ill, and must be shunned because they do not subscribe to the FTB cult that labels itself as ‘feminist’, but is nothing of the kind.
    I used to think that you were a smart and careful thinker, but any longer.
    You have revealed that you are a dishonest irrational anti-skeptical wannabe demagogue.

    Your intellectual rating is now well into the negative with me, and I expect many other rational adults. (As indicated by the immaturity of those who support you, versus the maturity those who think that you have gone quite insane)

    (I doubt that you will allow this cogent observation past censorship, so am copying it to other blogs, as an indication of the kind of comments that you disallow)

    • says

      I didn’t call for respect for sexists, racists, and people who endorse them. Nor did I call for respect for people who mock and reject compassion, integrity, and reasonableness.

      As to the rest, you can catch up on current events here.

  89. KarlVonMox says

    You’re a deranged fool Carrier. The fundamental mistake you and the rest of the clowns on this pathetic blogging network is that you cant simply equate disagreement on NON-issues, like how bad it is to get hit on in an elevator or being exposed to “mean t-shirts”, among many others, with misogyny, bigotry, racism, or whatever other marginalizing label you can come up with. Atheism + is simply another smokescreen to shove this ridiculous narrative down the throats of the rest of the community, by people with huge egos who cant tolerate any criticism or dissent and would simply like to surround themselves with mindless worshipping fans.

    And you know what? It’s not going to work. Atheism does not and cannot come pre-packaged with a set of required beliefs, political positions, or ideologies – especially those that come from a self-interested cabal of dishonest and corrupt leaders. It will fail just like all the other attempts. What this take-no-prisoners attitude will do is alienate the majority of secularists and leave you sad, alone, and isolated. So go ahead and continue on your religious crusade, I will be here laughing from the sidelines all the way.

    • says

      You are the one creating those false equivalences. I never did.

      It’s curious that you use your own delusion as if it were my delusion and then accuse me of having that delusion, when in fact you are the one mired in it.

      You are thus actually arguing against yourself.

      And Freud is smiling in his grave.

  90. says

    There is no other way to promote a rational society than to call out those who are irrational and denounce and marginalize them as such. No longer will we treat them as one of us. Because they are not.

    No other way? No sense in dialogue or education? I once participated actively in religious life. I received acupuncture treatments. I avoided certain foods for their supposed cancer-inducing properties. I’m almost sure I’d still be there had I been denounced and marginalized and treated as “not one of us.” I’m sure glad that not all of us are as dogmatically attached to marginalization as you, for we’d have no Jerry DeWitts, Teresa MacBains, or countless other adults whose journeys of doubt have been supported in a compassionate way…the countless others who enrich our community and movement.

    If your above dictum is indicative of the requirements to work in solidarity with you, or with those identified as Atheist+, I’ll happily abide by your GTFO directive.

    • says

      Read what I actually said:

      …anyone who makes a fallacious argument and, when shown that they have, does not admit it, is not one of us, and is to be marginalized and kicked out, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with.

      In other words, I am not talking about people who happen to have reached conclusions irrationally. I’m talking about people who reject the very concept of rationality, who explicitly refuse to be rational.

      So no, your slippery slope fallacy does not work here. We are not interested in the kind of marginalization you are worried about.

  91. says

    “There is a new atheism brewing, and it’s the rift we need, to cut free the dead weight so we can kick the C.H.U.D.’s back into the sewers and finally disown them, once and for all.”

    Sounds like a cult to me. I’ll stick with the likes of Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, Hirsi Ali etc every time. Very sad time indeed.

    Now what to do with the 30 or so Surly Amys I own?

  92. says

    when I call someone or something retarded, I am not referring to actual mental disability or the actually mentally disabled. I am therefore not commenting on them. Therefore I cannot be slurring them. If I called a mentally disabled person a “retard!” then I’d be using a slur.

    This would seem to indicate that as long as you call someone straight “gay,” it isn’t a slur, but calling a gay person “gay” for the purpose of insult would be a slur. Surely that can’t be what you mean? As far as I can determine from social experience, linguistic experience, and from various dictionaries, a slur is a slur if it uses some differentiating factor or characteristic as a means of insult or character attack.

  93. emburii says

    While I agree with your overall thesis, I am very uneasy about the hard line dichotomy here and I think it may discourage education and forward progress among people this movement otherwise could have reached. The journey to empathy always isn’t done in even ten steps, or fifty. Sometimes it’s years of remembering examples and conversations, and I’m not really fond of writing off people who are willing to have those conversations for as long as it takes, even if it takes them a long and painful time to get it right.

    I understand that you might not have the time or patience to have those conversations yourself, and I don’t want to make you or others humor that sort of problem yourself if you don’t want to, but it seems a little far to encourage shunning and call-outs by every single other person across the movement to those who can’t yet keep up. They may not share our values now, they may never get there, but to say ‘not now (and thus never)’ is too much of an attack on people rather than their ideas for me.

    • says

      It’s not “never” if they come around to agreeing with the idea of repudiating sexism and racism and embracing reasonableness, compassion, and integrity.

      Until they do, we are not going to be inviting them to hang out with us. We are not going to tolerate their bigotry and irrationality in our own forums. And we are not going to call them one of us.

  94. says

    Holy comment fail, Batman! You can toss that one, and let’s try that again…

    The problem is the context. You’re not using “retarded” as a compliment, you’re using it to degrade and dismiss another human being. Nobody reasonably believes saying “that’s gay” isn’t a reference to the common belief that gay is sub-human. Nobody reasonably thinks that saying isn’t “that’s mighty white of you” isn’t a reference to beliefs in white supremacy. And nobody is buying it when you say “that’s retarded” and then turn around and claim no offense meant to people with developmental or cognitive disorders.

    • says

      I don’t agree with all of your reasoning, but I am coming to agree with your conclusion. I have emended the comments in question to indicate this (and removed gratuitously offending remarks). I will blog about this soon.

  95. Darryl says

    There have been numerous awareness campaigns from advocates for people with Down’s Syndrome making the case that the casual use of the word ‘retarded’ is hurtful, even (or especially) when it’s not being used to identify a mental illness. (Much as using “that’s so gay” has the effect of equating gay with stupid, calling a bad person or idea retarded can have the effect of making someone with Down’s syndrome feel they are being belittled or called bad.) I’ll admit to finding your use of this term jarring, based on that understanding.

  96. John says

    “This means, first, that we believe in being logical and rational in forming beliefs and opinions. Which means anyone who makes a fallacious argument and, when shown that they have, does not admit it, is not one of us, and is to be marginalized and kicked out, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with.”

    This is a fucking joke, right? So if I point out that you yourself have committed fallacies and you refuse to admit I’m right, will you quit the movement?

    • says

      If you actually demonstrate that I have committed a fallacy, I will own the error and correct it.

      If I go against my own principles in that regard, I will either have to be fully insane (no longer being able to comprehend reality) or I will indeed have repudiated and abandoned Atheism+.

  97. says

    Richard,

    You speak at length about throwing people out of this new movement. Apparently, you expect this to happen rather often.

    I would like to know who exactly gets to throw people out. Is there already a committee, or some other form of body within the organization, with the power to do that? If so, who is sitting on the committee?

    Also, I would be very interested to learn the names of, oh, 10 people who are already Atheist+’ers (or whatever your preferred moniker will be).

    Thanks in advance.

    • says

      How we exclude people will simply be by collective action within the movement. An example of one of many ways that will be done is by not associating with people who repudiate our values, as I explain in the intro here.

      As far as naming at least ten people who have affirmed Atheism+ (apart from myself):

      Jen McCreight
      Greta Christina
      PZ Myers
      Daniel Fincke
      Ophelia Benson
      Stephanie Zvan
      Deacon Duncan
      Dana Hunter
      Jason Thibeault
      Brian Lynchehaun

      I stopped counting at ten. There are scores more in comments under Jen’s original post. See also the survey of Adam Lee.

    • says

      Richard,

      Thank you for your reply.

      “Collective action” is not very precise. Does it mean one member one vote and a majority needed, or will there be groups and individuals within Atheist+ who can not associate with the expelled, while others can?

      Will Atheist+ associate with the Richard Dawkins Foundation, and/or Richard Dawkins himself?

      Also, thank you for the list of people who have affirmed Atheism+.

      All people on the list are bloggers on FTB. How does that correspond with Stephanie saying, in this video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-3JkhuOQ7A) that Atheist+ is not at all associated with FTB?

    • says

      The movement will evolve according to the independent decisions of its members. I can only tell you what I will do, and argue for what you and others should do. What will actually happen depends on the liberty of individual members and the collective effect of their decisions. Which should be based on listening to arguments like mine and reasonably debating them until we come to greater agreement, or mutually acceptable disagreement, or part ways.

      So if Richard Dawkins repudiates the values of Atheism+, then I will not associate with him, and will exercise my liberty to argue no one else should. But so far I have no reason to believe he has done so. Merely not adopting the label does not suffice.

      (And all the people I named are not FTB bloggers. The people affirming affiliation in Jen’s thread are not bloggers here, and neither is Adam Lee. My first ten names were just the first ten I knew had thrown in. We’ll see in coming months how far it spreads, but you can already find examples by googling. It’s growing before your eyes.)

    • says

      Richard,

      That may be the greatest problem this new movement faces: This seemingly inherent need to tell others what they should do, which strangely always seem to coincide with what you will do. That speaks against what you promise here, namely that it will be up to everyone to find common ground.

      That you will argue that no one else should associate with Dawkins, should he not accept the values of Atheism+, is further evidence of that this new movement is nothing but an exercise in expulsion of those you don’t like. It does not bode well for this movement, as I can see others also agree on.

      As for the names, I asked you for 10 names, and you responded with 10 names. All are FTB bloggers. I checked. How Stephanie can claim that Atheist+ is not associated with FTB is beyond me. Clearly, Atheist+ was started by bloggers on FTB, and will be controlled by the same people.

      All in all, Atheism+ may take off as a movement, but it will not be a movement that other people, groups or organisations would want to associate themselves with. How on Earth do you expect people to want to collaborate with Atheism+ on projects, if they can expect to be denounced the very next moment?

      Atheism+ was clearly born out of spite and malice. It is merely a tool for a few disgruntled bloggers with a desire to get back at those whom they feel have slighted them, even resorting to calls for boycotts. It has nothing to do with either atheism, skepticism, humanism or feminism, or any combination of these. You are seriously overestimating your own importance, if any of you think this movement will become a force to be reckoned with. You cannot bully your way to influence, respect or acceptance.

      Atheism+ is ill conceived, and wretchedly executed.

  98. CES says

    I and most people agree with most of the overarching, generalized principles you espouse. But, the Devil is in the details.

    I am, for example, against harassment, but I am not against offending people. The mere fact that people are offended by words, whether it be a t-shirt that says “Mary was a slut [with a Jesus fish underneath it]” or a t-shirt that says “I am not a Skepchick” — those will definitely “offend” some people, but not others. I would strenuously object to “harassment” policies that would include those things, and it doesn’t matter if they are “intentionally” worn to offend or not.

    That is one example, for the sake of brevity.

    The point is, it is not enough to say “are you against harassment” and for social justice and equality, etc. Everyone, just about, wants those things. The key is, what do those things mean when applied to given situations.

    In many cases – many, many cases – not just the one example I cited, I disagree with the way the people starting the atheist plus movement handle things. They may say that all they’re trying to do is stop harassment, but when they apply their principles to a given situation, they seek to stop jewelry sales, t-shirt wearing, and a host of other things.

    So, this is another point — it is not fair to say to people who say “look, I disagree that the elevator incident was harassment,” or “I disagree that the t-shirt was harassment,” or whatever, and say to them that they don’t give a crap about harassment. They may very well care about harassment, but they are disagreeing that particular incidents rise to the level of harassment.

    They may care about harassment, but disagree about the extent of the problem, or disagree about the proposed remedy. That does not make them “less” — that does not make them “misogynists” and that does not make them sexist or enablers or mansplainers, etc.

    Anyway, that’s my view of it. I won’t join Atheist Plus, not because I am pro-harassment. Rather, I am against most of what the people forming Atheist Plus are doing by way of specifics.

    I also don’t like their methods. I don’t like how mean spirited and divisive those forming the Atheist Plus movement are. I don’t like how they act, and I don’t like how they portray atheism in general.

    I also don’t like how they claim to speak for atheism in general, and claim to be able to decide who gets to be “in the movement” and who does not. Given the disparate nature of the socio-political attitudes and views of atheists, I think you may find that if you adopt a “you’re with us, or against us” mentality, you may be surprised at how few members you’ll actually have.

    • says

      This is almost the first post that actually presents an argument for its position. Hallelujah!

      I and most people agree with most of the overarching, generalized principles you espouse. But, the Devil is in the details.

      Not when it comes to whether you endorse the values of Atheism+ or not. If you are on board with them, you are thumbs-up on Atheism+. The details are all open to reasonable debate within the movement, as has always been for atheism as a whole (indeed, even Atheism+: as I explicitly said in my article, any of my conclusions are open to challenge and revision…just so far, no one has identified a single thing that needs revision, nor made any argument to that effect, they just reject it all outright, for what appear to be irrational emotional reasons, without any sound argument).

      See my discussion in Being with or against Atheism+.

      I am, for example, against harassment, but I am not against offending people.

      Since my article above essentially said the very same thing, I do not perceive this as a relevant objection to anything I have said.

      I would strenuously object to “harassment” policies that would include those things, and it doesn’t matter if they are “intentionally” worn to offend or not.

      Nowhere in my delineation of what Atheism+ means did I mention harassment policies at all, much less their use in respect to Atheism+. My views on harassment policies are delineated in other articles, and I do not see anything in them you might likely disagree with.

      My concern is with people who are persistently cruel to other people, even at events that are supposed to be fun. I do not expect them to be kicked out of conventions, but if those people ever run one, I will not attend, and if we are simply attending the same event, I will expect them to stay the hell away from me, and will tell them so if I have to. I find those people to be despicable. So should you.

      The point is, it is not enough to say “are you against harassment” and for social justice and equality, etc. Everyone, just about, wants those things. The key is, what do those things mean when applied to given situations.

      It really isn’t as complicated as you think. Many atheists have mocked the idea of being “against harassment.” And have defended doing that. So there is no confusion about where they stand on the matter of Atheism+ and its values. Everyone else is welcome in and we can have reasonable debates about the particulars.

      In many cases – many, many cases – not just the one example I cited, I disagree with the way the people starting the atheist plus movement handle things. They may say that all they’re trying to do is stop harassment, but when they apply their principles to a given situation, they seek to stop jewelry sales, t-shirt wearing, and a host of other things.

      So join the movement and advocate for your views with reason and evidence.

      Although I am not aware of any actual attempt “to stop jewelry sales and t-shirt wearing” by policy; that is a confusion spawned by the haters. All that was said by the actual victims and their sympathizers was that people were being unbelievably cruel and we should condemn them for it. And they are right. To confuse this with calling for an actual policy-based ban of some kind is the kind of slippery slope nonsense the douchebags make up to discredit what only began as, and would otherwise have remained, a legitimate moral condemnation of awful behavior.

      Case in point:

      So, this is another point — it is not fair to say to people who say “look, I disagree that the elevator incident was harassment,” or “I disagree that the t-shirt was harassment,” or whatever, and say to them that they don’t give a crap about harassment.

      Rebecca Watson never once called the elevator incident harassment. It was the haters who made that up to discredit her, to paint her as calling it harassment, “gosh isn’t that ridiculous!” So don’t buy into the rhetoric of the sexist wing of atheism. In actual fact all she did was tell guys not to do that and why. And there is no sexual harassment policy I know of that prohibits what happened–since the man in question was not vulgar and accepted her refusal and no harassment ensued.

      As to whether a t-shirt qualifies as harassment is a wholly separate question from whether it was very mean and indifferent to the feelings of someone trying to enjoy an event. In the case I assume you mean, it was simply a douchy thing to do. That she persisted in doing it only demonstrates her callous disregard for others’ feelings and her persistent desire to hurt her peers for no good reason whatever. And that’s all that has been claimed by those actually concerned about it that I am aware of (at most some have suggested considering whether the sustained behavior targeting a single individual at an event could be harassment, but not any single instance of it alone). The notion that just wearing that t-shirt should definitely fall under harassment policies seems an invention of people who are against harassment policies.

      But if anyone is actually (sincerely) arguing it should, you can certainly argue against them and still be in the Atheism+ movement. I would even back you. Because it would be a legitimate question to debate.

      They may care about harassment, but disagree about the extent of the problem, or disagree about the proposed remedy. That does not make them “less” — that does not make them “misogynists” and that does not make them sexist or enablers or mansplainers, etc.

      It’s irrational to say “I will not announce that I am against sexism, in fact I will declare myself on the side of sexism, even though I am not, simply because I have some disagreements about the specifics of how to go about combating sexism.” And I have consistently taken people to task for exactly that kind of irrationality.

      Anyway, that’s my view of it. I won’t join Atheist Plus, not because I am pro-harassment. Rather, I am against most of what the people forming Atheist Plus are doing by way of specifics.

      So far you have not stated a single actual factual case of anything anyone in the Atheist Plus movement is doing that you object to. You have stated two myths started by their haters. And something I didn’t say.

      I don’t like how mean spirited and divisive those forming the Atheist Plus movement are. I don’t like how they act, and I don’t like how they portray atheism in general.

      It’s mean spirited and divisive to denounce people who mock opposition to sexism and racism and mock the promotion of the values of compassion, integrity, and reasonableness? Opposing sexism and racism and promoting the values of compassion, integrity, and reasonableness is not “portraying atheism” in general in a good light?

      I also don’t like how they claim to speak for atheism in general, and claim to be able to decide who gets to be “in the movement” and who does not.

      This is not a rational sentiment, since we are saying exactly the opposite: we are distinguishing our atheism from the atheism of others, not defining “the atheism movement” as a whole, but dividing it, between people who are willing to repudiate sexism and racism and embrace compassion, integrity, and reasonableness, and people who refuse to do that and even mock the idea of it.

    • Smhll says

      I think the question of whether t-shirts repudiating groups (“I am not a Skepchick”) and sarcastic copycat jewelry should be covered by a harassment policy comes from a podcast Surly Amy participated in after this year’s TAM. I didn’t watch the podcast or know where it’s hosted, so I’m not sure if what I’ve read is quoting accurately. I’m pretty sure these policy suggestions were not made prior to TAM when this topic was generating a lot of posts.

  99. says

    I’m sorry, but I just can’t get on board with this elitist old boys club of “real” athesists.

    I know who I am and what I stand for. And none of it includes calling people douchebags or telling them to GTFO.

    It’s a living embodiment of the “no true scotsman” fallacy, and it reeks of Luke 19:27.

    Feel free to call me a douchebag, exlude me from your little band and cast me aside, your sole evidence for my exile being that I refuse to label myself to your satisfaction. But I will *not* call myself an “Atheist+”, for it smacks of elitism without regard for personal opinion or freedom of speech.

    I’m afraid you have lost my respect entirely.

    Sincerely,

    @FictionFaith

  100. Fred says

    Hi,

    I wouldn’t describe myself as an atheist, I don’t think I believe in God, as religion would have it, more as a sort of universal consciousness beyond our present understanding. There are certainly many things that science cannot explain, such as where morality comes from or the existence of free will.

    I do agree with the social values of Atheism Plus though, but I’m concerned that defining first as Atheism excludes people like me.

    Fred x

    • says

      I would not describe you as an atheist. But that does not prevent you from being on the side of Atheism+ (the same way a conscientious Christian or Muslim could be). As my revised conclusion makes clear:

      In the meantime, are you an atheist? Do you identify as an atheist? Then I call upon you to pick sides within our movement (not in comments here, but publicly, via Facebook or other social media): are you with us, or with them; are you now a part of the Atheism+ movement, or do you at least cheer and approve it’s values and aims (since you don’t have to label yourself), or are you going to stick with Atheism Less and its sexism and cruelty and irrationality? Then at least we’ll know who to work with. And who to avoid.

      And see my related follow-up which elaborates.

  101. VD says

    Atheism+ is an interesting concept, Richard. Irrationality has indeed plagued the New Atheist movement, as I can testify, being the author of a book that chronicled a considerable number of past atheist irrationalities. So, in the interest of determining your commitment to fact, reason, and rationality, will you and this new movement be publicly rejecting the assertion that various New Atheists, including Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, have repeatedly made concerning religion being the primary historical cause of war and military conflict?

    Or do you still harbor a belief in that connection?

    • says

      Let’s find out.

      First, present me with quotes from Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins (with page numbers or appropriate citation so I can check the context) that religion is “the primary” historical cause of war and military conflict.

      Then let’s see if they merely assert it or argue for it, and if argue for it, if there are any fallacies in their arguments.

      Then we’ll present them with what we found (if we found anything conclusive) and see what happens.

      Just be aware, it is not incorrect to say that religion has been a major contributing cause of war and military conflict (read Hector Avalos, Fighting Words). But that’s a slightly different claim than you are alleging. And Harris and Dawkins might concede to it.

    • says

      Right. Because repudiating sexism and racism in our midst, and advocating for the values of integrity, compassion, and reasonableness, is just like Scientology and will totally make atheists even more despised by Americans.

  102. Tanya2 says

    By the way, Dick, only a fool like you would make enemies unnecesarily.

    So call people what you want…insult those who disagree, call them vile names, discriminatory names, sexist names (like Doucebag) and whatever else.

    I bet you have a short dick.

    Post that, Dick.

    • Dark Lord of the Sith says

      Um, Richard? Why did you feel the need to specify ‘caucasian’ in this context?

    • says

      It’s a dick joke.

      (Because Tanya is clearly obsessed with dicks.)

      But lest you worry someone will be misled, I’ll state for the record that it’s a scientific fact that penis size does not vary significantly by race. Nor by philosophical position.

    • Dark Lord of the Sith says

      Well indeed, Richard. Which does make me wonder why someone so apparently well-versed in context and nuance as yourself should feel the need to include the kind of redundancy that makes it appear as if you accept a crude racial myth.

      Still, as you said – it’s a dick joke.

    • DrVanNostrand says

      “Nor by philosophical position.” – Citation needed… Not because I don’t believe you, but because I think a journal article where they measure the dicks of a bunch of philosophers would be hilarious.

      Also, count me in for Atheism+. Lots of good comments too.

  103. TheTruePooka says

    “A. Atheism and skepticism should embrace diversity”

    Is this what you actually meant to say? Because it strikes me as nonsensical. I suspect you meant; “Atheists and skeptics should embrace diversity”.

    While I can sympathize with Part I of this post your section on compassion for the most part comes across as you saying;

    “ridiculing and insulting others is okay only when we A+ people determine it is fine.”

    If that is not how you meant it to come across then you may want to review that section and revisit the topic.

    This sort of thing is possibly why people are going from a 6 to a 10 on the reaction scale (when frankly a 2 would be the appropriate response).

    • says

      1. Atheism and skepticism as movements should embrace diversity. Just as hospitals should embrace cleanliness, the republican party should embrace compromise, and modern Christianity should embrace church-state separation.

      2. The statement “ridiculing and insulting others is okay only when we A+ people determine it is fine” is false because that entails the assumption that it is arbitrary (and thus acceptable targets are decided on a whim or for personal reasons), which is very clearly not what I said. I very clearly said something quite different: that people who are genuinely toxic and harmful to the progress of good human values ought to be marginalized. They have to be, otherwise they proliferate and drag society down. And it is compassion that compels us to do this. We cannot endorse or associate with them or passively or apathetically say nothing about their destructiveness. And one valid way to marginalize is through insults and ridicule–which is moral as long as the insults and ridicule are honest (i.e. (1) what you say is factually true, in the verbal context of the way a word is used, and (2) serves the aim of marginalizing what actually ought to be marginalized: again, that which is toxic and harmful to society, as the willful rejection of compassion, integrity, and reasonableness factually are). But this doesn’t justify gratuitous or excessive insults or ridicule (something I am now inspired to blog about soon).

      3. What people are instead saying is that nonviolent protest (honest and factual insults and ridicule, in other words, just words, and, in context, true ones at that, spoken on my own property, this blog) is equivalent to the use of violent force and oppression (“Stalinism!”), which is not a “mis-reaction” to what I said, but a completely illogical rationalization for denying the values of compassion, integrity, and reasonableness without having to actually say that’s what they are doing. They know they are villains, but can’t even admit it to themselves. So they come up with dumb bullshit like that.

      4. People I insult and ridicule here are people who of their own free will walked into my house (my blog) and willfully chose to say really irrational things and to tell me to my face that they reject the values of compassion, integrity, and reasonableness. They have no right to be “shocked” that I then tell them the truth of what they are and why it disgusts me. They are disgusting, and I say in each case why. They should be ashamed of themselves. But clearly they have no shame. In all this, however, I was on occasion excessive, which I have now corrected. But what I have left in place, is wholly appropriate and deserved.

  104. someone says

    Thanks for the insult. I was talking about all the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” hoopla. Do people have to take on your Atheism + label or can they just keep calling themselves atheist humanists, like I’ve been doing for years. Or is that not good enough to be in your club?

  105. DanniHouse says

    Hey Richard

    Using the word re*****d then being called out for it then responding by saying since you didn’t intend it to be a slur therefore its not a slur does not magically make it not a slur.

    Context might change what YOU mean by the word but that doesn’t change that is still ableist and should not be used. Basically that doesn’t change what it has meant to PWDs.

    After advocating for A+ then using a word that PWDs have told people not to use is not listening to these minorities that A+ is supposed to be advocating for (I am pretty sure that Atheism plus anti-ableism was added to this atheism).

    Please apologise and if you want a list of insults you can use I can gladly give you the ones that are not ableist.

    • clydey2times says

      I look forward to that post, as you have dug a hole for yourself. You have absolutely no comeback when people use gendered slurs and the like, based on your reasoning for using ableist terms.

    • Orion3T says

      Richard, I appreciate that you are stepping up to the plate and reassessing your position in this regard. I already wrote a post above which you didn’t yet allow, and if you just didn’t get around to it yet that’s fine. But I wanted to re-link this section of a website for your perusal before you make your next blog post on the issue:

      http://disabledfeminists.com/2009/10/12/ableist-word-profile-lame/

      There are other words there such as ‘moron’ and ‘idiot’ which you may also want to check out before you write your next post.

      I’ve written this post to try and help you write your next post. I don’t mind if you just delete it once read and acknowledged, because I’m not trying to make a point. That said, I put quite a lot of time and effort into my above un-moderated post, and even if you decide not to publish it for some reason, I’d appreciate it if you could address the points I made, if not here then in your upcoming blog post on the issue.

      Thanks.

    • says

      Oh no, don’t worry, I haven’t disallowed your post. I’ve just been working long days (as I warned in the article itself) and haven’t had time to get to all the hundreds of comments waiting in the queue (and now with the weekend–I don’t work on weekends, I spend those days with my wife–there will be even longer delay).

      But I got both your posts up just now.

      My article on this will soon go up (just a few minutes from now).

      But the argument you linked to is not valid. When lame is used metaphorically, it is used correctly (a lame leg can’t walk well, and a lame idea can’t do what it’s supposed to do either; and so on for all other uses). It is not an aspersion on the character of a physically disabled person, but simply a metaphor from the actual fact of the disability. It is thus just like “blind” in “they are blind to the harm they are causing” and similar metaphors.

      This is not ableist.

      But you are correct about “moron” and “idiot” (as my next article will explain).

    • says

      Note to All: Latest update is above. For some reason WordPress is publishing it out of chrono order, so it isn’t appearing at the current end of the page. I had to reply to the last comment to force this comment to end the page tonight. I’ll resume working through the moderation queue tomorrow morning.

    • Rrr says

      So, with all that shovelling you’ve done so far and so much more still remaining, there’s bound to be a pony somewhere in there. Right?

      Mine mailbox runneth over with update notes, four-score-plus so far, and I am getting weary fending and finding them all so for my part Imma start quittin. Not enough straw.

      But boy, did you ever dig yourself up some work load there.

    • John says

      Let’s see. If you do not identify with your A+ you are a naughty person or whatever name calling you are engaging in.I condemn your judging others by your supposed, dare I say, holier than thou attitude. Maybe someone will take this one step further and we can have a A ++ community.Do you think you will cut it in a A++ community.

  106. Southern gun lover says

    Richard, I guess you didn’t learn anything from the atrocious way you conducted yourself with Bart Ehrman. You made an idiot of yourself then, and you’re making an idiot of yourself now. Have fun organizing your cult.

    • says

      Which requirements?

      Do you mean, how do we know if someone embraces the enumerated values? Their self-report will do (unless we have evidence they are lying).

      If you mean to ask the more philosophical question of how we know someone really embraces those values–as in actually lives by them and corrects any of their deviations from them that are pointed out to them–the answer is the same as you would give to the question of how you know anyone is morally admirable and trustworthy, in any sense at all: you have to assess the matter in light of the evidence available to you, using valid and sound reasoning, and revising as new information becomes available to you. Just like always.

  107. TheTruePooka says

    Your statement on point 1 I accept as your explanation provides clarity.

    This however;

    “because that entails the assumption that it is arbitrary”

    Is flawed. You are attempting to characterize my statement as an accusation to infer that I’m suggesting you are making decisions based on a whim when nothing in my language would suggest that.

    You state clearly that you will use what you consider the dictates of your new movement to determine what is acceptable.

    However; your humanist beliefs as well as what you interpret as offensive do not necessarily match my humanist beliefs on what is offensive and thus worthy of a belittling, marginalizing response.

    If as you say, you wish to keep this to; “your own house” then that is absolutely your right and I wish you well in your trouncing of trolls.

    But if you use terminology that would make us appear to the rest of the world as if you are some sort of leader in my movement and I find your actions in the name of that movement objectionable?

    Then that could be a problem.

  108. St David says

    “I include more than a page on why in fact science can tell us what you value. Not only can it tell us what you actually value, it can tell us what you would value if given certain factually true and relevant information.”

    If science were to tell us what we value, that would be in the form of a descriptive statement (“a values x”). There would then still be no way to derive a normative statement from that observation.

    Because of your original essay’s strong language, I assume that you want to derive some form of objective validity for the normative claims you make. If this is the case, no amount of scientific description can help you.

    Whether I know what I value (a psychological and, possibly, neuroscientific question) has nothing to do with what I or anyone else ought to value or whether I or anyone else should value anything at all (ethical questions both). I might, as a matter of fact, value all kinds of stuff – so what? Nothing normative follows.

    You think that honest compassion is a valuable human trait (translation: “Humans should be honestly compassionate”)? Fine. Just don’t pretend that you somehow know this. You don’t. Even if you are honestly compassionate, it doesn’t follow that you or anyone should be honestly compassionate.

    “The fact that you value x is an empirical fact (it “is” the case that you value x[.]”

    Naturally.

    “[S]o is the fact that you would value x if rational and informed: it “is” the case that you would).”

    Firstly, the only way by which you can substitute values (or normative statements) into this formula is by implicitly putting them into the respective definitions of ‘being rational’ or ‘being informed’. In itself, no value judgement or normative statement follows from ‘being rational’ other than the acceptance of certain minimal criteria of whatever you define as ‘rationality’ – none of them having anything to do with the demanding normative claims (honest compassion etc) you invoke in your essay or try to “demonstrate” in the chapter of your book. ‘Being informed’, too, doesn’t entail any such judgement or statement.

    Secondly, the matter of fact that you, indeed, value honest compassion doesn’t answer the question whether you or anyone should value honest compassion. Thus, even if one accepts your formula (including the respective definitions of ‘being rational’ and ‘being informed’), it doesn’t follow anything pertaining the values you advocate for in your essay or your book.

    What you do, is deciding which judgements you prefer and what you value. This, of course, is perfectly fine.
    But don’t be intellectually dishonest by trying to invoke magical powers of normativity that somehow allow you to derive from the mere fact of your (or anyone’s) values the values you or anyone should have. You can’t.

    • St David says

      “All your concerns are already answered in the book chapter I directed you to.”

      In fact, they are not.

    • says

      Yes they are. For example, pp. 340-43.

      And the entire conclusion at issue is proved by deductive syllogism on p. 364 (which builds on the proofs of the preceding pages, pp. 359-64).

      Your comment shows no acquaintance with the arguments and evidence presented in that chapter (on these pages or elsewhere).

  109. says

    Mr. Carrier, I have some questions:

    This means, first, that we believe in being logical and rational in forming beliefs and opinions. Which means anyone who makes a fallacious argument and, when shown that they have, does not admit it, is not one of us, and is to be marginalized and kicked out, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with.

    What exactly are you suggesting here, and who is the arbiter? Say I’m a faithful member of “A+” and I make some argument X. Then say that you and some other people think my argument is fallacious, but I don’t, and some others agree with me. What happens then? Do we resort to who can make the funnier insults? I guess I’m just failing to see how this would play out in reality.

    Also,

    …irrationality [is] the fundamental root cause of all human evil.

    How are you defining “irrationality” there? Would you accept “beliefs held without empirical evidence or logical cogency” as a fair definition of “irrationality?”

    • says

      I mean by irrationality (as a character defect) holding beliefs for logically fallacious reasons even after this has been pointed out to you.

      And in the situation you describe, assuming the most likely realizations of it, there is no consensus, and so the case is unresolved. No action. We should all agree the case is ambiguous. And all rational observers will, even if they have lingering suspicions one way or the other.

      The problem arises when the evidence is clear cut and not ambiguous. Thus, imagine this scenario:

      Say I’m a faithful atheist (of any generic variety) and I claim the moon has disappeared. I and some other people point out that that’s false, the moon is there, we can see it, and even send you photos. But you don’t agree, and claim the photos are faked and we are lying, and some others agree with you. What happens then?

      The answer to that question, is the answer to your question.

  110. St David says

    After having read your extensive interviews (which were an interesting read), I want to add, that your reduction of demanding values (or demanding normative claims) to universal subjective desires is at once a cop-out and a logical impossibility. Even if all humans (as well as aliens) were to share certain basic desires and therefore value judgements, nothing at all would follow about the normativity of these judgements. Any and all claims about their validity or objectivity would still fail.

    Every living being wants to procreate because of universal subjective desires? Fine. It doesn’t follow that every living being should procreate or even want to procreate. Maybe antinatalism is right after all. But wait, then we would have to accept the antinatalists’ value judgements about good and suffering… O, what a mess! ;)

    • says

      I actually address this very point (about aliens, for example) in my Richard Carrier, “Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them),” in The End of Christianity, pp. 333-64.

      You are simply not using a relevant or appropriate definition of “objectivity.” As that chapter explains, from start to finish.

  111. F says

    We are in a club full of skaters, and some of us skaters decided that it was really important to be courteous and non-destructive, because some of us were being real asshats, or just ignorant of other people’s rights and safety. And maybe we were looking at future plans to push for a public skate park or crowd fund a private one. So we split off from the larger community of skaters. We aren’t interested in hanging with those who don’t care about our values – not inside the skate club, anyway. But we are interested in anyone else who shares the same goals and values.

    So, now the Concerned Skaters are ReaganStalinNixonHitler, bent on rounding up and killing the skaters who aren’t interested, or who are truly delinquent fucks who enjoy property destruction, or who don’t care if they smash into old ladies with groceries?

    Get real.

  112. Possum says

    “Bad people, douchebags, and persistent idiots need to be shamed and marginalized.”

    Unfortunately for your new ‘movement’, some of us see Watson and her ilk as being the douchebags and persistent idiots in need of shaming and marginalizing.

    You don’t get to be the voice of authority that proclaims who is, and is not, the douchebag.

  113. clydey2times says

    @Richard Carrier

    These irrational douchebags who lack compassion would include the likes of Dawkins, Harris and Kirby, yes?

    You have gone off the deep end, Richard. I know the adrenaline is probably flowing and you think you’re whipping your supporters into a frenzy, but you are embarrassing yourself with your attempts to vilify any opposition to your beliefs.

    • says

      I suspect Harris, Dawkins and Kirby would agree with repudiating sexism, racism, and homophobia and endorsing compassion, integrity, and reasonableness.

      So, if they explicitly say so, will you join them?

  114. says

    Note to All: In my annoyance, outrage and frustration I went overboard in my use of insults in a few cases here in comments above. After calming down, I reexamined every instance and deleted every insult I deemed inappropriate (there were only two or three), and I have apologized to each offended party (wherever possible–some commentators did not leave a real email address). I’m sorry. I’ll do better to reign in my emotions in future.

    • DanniHouse says

      NO No NO NO!!!

      A. You shouldn’t delete it. Its something that others can see so they know not to do that shit.

      B. You just fauxpologized. You focused on your intent rather then the fact that you fucked up (which took away from the fact that you fucked up). You may not have intended this but we PWDs are not affected by your intent we are effected by the consequences of your actions.

      C: Here is a greater problem that you did. After you were called out for the second time for using ableist terms you went beyond using ableist language to perpetuating ableist myths in your reaction. Here is your comment.

      “However, this is not a venue where mentally handicapped people frequent, so it would be very unusual for them to be “in the presence” of anything I say here.” In actual practice, I would curb a whole lot of speech “in the presence” of a mentally retarded person, for example I would try to avoid big words or complex metaphors or easily misunderstood terms, and I would not assume they understand context or nuance.

      You just called us “mentally retarded” while justifying your behaviour and claiming the myth that we are unintelligent beings that couldn’t possibly comprehend nuance, different contexts, big words and complex metaphors. This is a myth that PWDs having been fighting against for a long time. As a person with Aspergers I have had to constantly disprove this myth to so many people who correlated my slower learning process with the term “stupidity” (as if AS stopped me from actually learning at all).

      This feels like shit when you are constantly faced with this myth your whole life. I have been called retarded, stupid, idiot and every other ableist term in the book but most of all even when I have not been explicitly called it I constantly have to fight this stereotype because its generally assumed. This is the baggage that “retard”, “idiot”, and “stupid” carry.

      These words have been used against us PWDs to make us feel dumb, to make us feel worthless, and to make us feel like second class citizens. DONT FUCKING USE THEM!!!! Especially when we have told you not to and then you call us it in your reaction to our call out?!?!?!?!? It doesn’t matter that it is in the DSM its a word that PWDs have constantly told others not to use because it has been used as an attack against us to perpetuate the ableist myths that you just so eloquently supported.

      Now for the last part of your comment.

      “But obviously, I can’t act like that normally. This is a venue for normal grown ups. Here I expect readers to have at least a basic level mental competence, so I use big words and complex metaphors and terms I can expect them to understand, and I expect readers to understand the basic principles of context and nuance as in any written language.”

      FOR NORMAL GROWNUPS?!?!?!?!? Because we aren’t normal?!?!?!? Are you even listening to yourself. Same reaction as above.

      You know your comment about there being no PWDs frequinting your blog?…well besides that being an assumption if that is true THIS IS WHY!!!!

      What makes this all even more horrible is that it all happened on a FTB blog with a post supporting A+. If you support A+ don’t just go part of the way because anti-ableism is part of Social Justice in case you forgot.
      Your comments have been incredibly hurtful and insensitive and I suggest you make a blog post apologizing to the entire PWD community for them without making it about your intentions. Then I suggest YOU EDUCATE YOURSELF about these issues so that they never happen again!!!

      But just so you don’t have to deal with me calling out your ableism in the future I will now take leave of your blog because it clearly isn’t supportive of my community.

    • DanniHouse says

      One other thing I just noticed that your apology was not so much about your intentions rather it was about the pressure on you. I understand that you have pressure but when apologies include these pressures, your annoyance, outrage and frustration, it makes the apology about you and this takes away from it being about your mistake.

    • says

      I owned the mistake, explained it, apologized for it, and promised to police such mistakes better in future. In contrast, you are the one trying to diminish the apology by making it all about the causes and not the actual apology.

    • DanniHouse says

      How did I even know you were apologizing about the ableist comments when you didn’t even say what you were apologizing for (it was quite vague). Plus you said that you had sent each offended party an email but you seem to have neglected myself who explained why I was offended in a comment posted before you apologized (the whole point being I didn’t know what you were apologizing about).

      Also you clearly don’t grasp the situation. In the future you will try harder??? ya right, by your actions its clear to me how serious you take this.

    • says

      As to all the rest, in your own emotional pique, you are not reading what I said with suitable care. People with Asperger’s aren’t retarded. So calling you retarded would be an immoral insult, for the very reasons I explained: it’s false. An actually mentally retarded person is suffering a severe deficiency in intelligence. I took the question as being about that, and my remarks relate to that (not just any PWD, which I did not take to be the context of discussion).

      I denounced the use of false slurs to hurt. I only defended the use of words that, in the context and connotation in which they are actually used, are not slurs against mentally disabled people (any more than the words “lame” or “blind” are), but are in that context and connotation true and apt. However, as I have noted in an appended note to my comment in question, I am changing my mind on some of these issues, more to your side of things, and will blog about it soon.

    • says

      Apologies are not worth shit unless they are sincere, and it is impossible to judge sincerity online. However, your apology did come conveniently after Greta emailed you about your comments.

      For future reference, before you post a blog about educating people, you should maybe educate yourself first. If ever trying to promote a cause then the best way to garner support is with reason and logic, as soon as you begin to use offensive language to those who simply question you, then you will lose their support. You have pushed a good number of people away from atheism+ with your comments above. Including the many which remain.

    • DanniHouse says

      I realized my mistake about taking what you said out of context and assuming it was about AS. I’m very sorry for misconstruing your words. I will try my absolute hardest not to do it again. Sorry Richard

    • says

      First, I was already writing my apology (and apologizing privately) before I received any communication from Greta. Not that that should matter, I respect her opinion in these matters and would have heard her out on it if I needed to. But commentators here (Nerd and others) had already done a fine enough job of educating and persuading me.

      You should avoid trying to create narratives out of your imagination.

      Second, if we were never to declare conclusions until we were educated on all knowledge, we would never declare conclusions on anything. To the contrary, we need to take positions and then be open to being educated and changing our minds. That’s the very point of my saying this very thing in the article itself: we have to start somewhere. And we have to be open to being persuaded to change our minds or adopt new ideas through reasonable argument and debate.

      That’s what Atheism+ is all about.

      Third, I seriously doubt I’ve driven anyone away from Atheism+. For someone to abandon the movement for such a petty and trivial reason as you allege would peg them as massively irrational. Which would mean they were never one of us to begin with. And if that’s the case, it’s good riddens to them.

    • says

      “We need to take positions and then be open to being educated and changing our minds. That’s the very point of my saying this very thing in the article itself: we have to start somewhere. And we have to be open to being persuaded to change our minds or adopt new ideas through reasonable argument and debate.”

      Agreed, but childish name-calling is never a part of a rational discourse. It does not matter how right you are, if you start calling people silly names then you immediately exclude them and are unlikely to ever change their minds. To me a major aspect of atheism and Humanism is to educate people. And the people who need the most enlightenment on such topics are those who disagree with us.

      So although I agree with atheism+ values, as I have been propagating these values for years as a Humanist. I disagree with the ‘with us or against us’ aspect. If and when I encounter ignorance and bigotry I will approach the topic in a rational and reasonable manner and try to educate the person in the Humanist point of view rather than just verbally attack that person as this will achieve nothing.

      “Third, I seriously doubt I’ve driven anyone away from Atheism+. For someone to abandon the movement for such a petty and trivial reason as you allege would peg them as massively irrational. Which would mean they were never one of us to begin with. And if that’s the case, it’s good riddens to them.”

      You should probably have a look on the interwebs, plenty of people are extremely skeptical, and your exclusionary rhetoric is one of the issues. This may not have been your intention but there seems to be the connotation that if people don’t sign up to atheism+ then somehow we are the ‘enemy’ as you put it.

    • says

      DanniHouse, I did not say I emailed people I offended, I said I emailed people I insulted. I did not insult you.

      That you were offended, and your explanation of why, is part of what has convinced me to study the matter further and reconsider my arguments upthread, which I emended to indicate my corrected thinking.

      You seem to be confusing my discussion of whether it would ever be appropriate to call someone retarded, with actually having done so. I called an idea retarded, and my opponents collectively retarded, and then retracted and apologized for that. While that was doing on, after people like yourself brought up the issues with my defense of the term generally, I declared my defense of the idea to be wrong as well.

      My above apology was not about that latter issue, but about the way I insulted a few individual commentators in this thread. My change of heart on what language is generally ever appropriate has been a separate thread.

      But I do apologize for being wrong about that, and am working to fix things.

  115. says

    I foresee likely the same problems we had: Namely people claiming the A+ label, then arguing against some kind of social justice they don’t think is legitimate for the usual reasons of marginalizing problems that don’t affect them and conversely, people claiming that you don’t support social justice if you don’t support X where the logical support of X is suspect. (anti-capitalism, the Democratic party or whatever)

  116. Entrained says

    I believe in all the things A+ stands for, but want to be thoughtful before I decide what approach I want to take.
    Waiting to see how Todd Stiefel comes down on this. Why don’t you send him a note and ask him to respond publicly. You know the part where you let him know his choices, “Own it or renounce it. Be rational or GTFO.
    And David Siverman
    And Dan Barker
    And Annie Laurie Gaylor
    And Richard Dawkins
    And Elizabeth Cornwell
    And Ed Kagan
    And August Brunsun IV
    There are 2 sayings that come to mind though not as colorful as yours, “put your money where your mouth is”. That’s the one where you send the note or call them out on your blog because after all, if they don’t do as you have prescribed they are obviously allowing all things horrible in their organizations. Based on your logic there are no other choices.
    The second is, ” put up or shut up”. This is the one where if they tell you they don’t believe in your view you give them your, “Own it or renounce it. Be rational or GTFO.”
    Come on Richard, help us out. You have a national voice with a clearly defined and passionate purpose.If these guys aren’t going to play we don’t want to waste our time with them or donations.

    • says

      What comment are you referring to? As of this moment all comments have been cleared through the queue, and I do not recall rejecting any from you.

      So if something you posted before now isn’t up, there is something else going on.

    • Entrained says

      It was this one and was still in moderation when I sent you that note. Thank you for posting it, now curious about your response to my questions in 139? Please read that as less snarky. I was put off a little by some of your responses and have since read your apology and the post on slurs. I am interested in your response if you don’t mind. Thanks.

    • says

      As to how others respond, let’s wait and see. I have no doubt most if not all of the people you list are already on board with the values I’ve laid out, so I hardly need insult them by asking. The only issue is labels, which I have explained are irrelevant. And I have no evidence they are doing anything horrible. So that’s a moot question.

    • eliott1 says

      Richard thank you for your response however I am having trouble reconciling your position.

      I am not sure how asking any of the leaders of the major organizations their positions on an issue this dynamic in the movement is an insult and quite frankly you actually are demanding of others they make a decision.

      Don’t you think those decisions of the folks that donate thousands of dollars and hours deserve an answer from the stewards of those donations before continuing their involvement.

    • says

      No, I am only asking people to declare whether they are for these values or against them, and then stand up against the sexists and other hostiles. Indeed, it’s perfectly voluntary. I don’t require anyone to do this. I just asked them to. I do not care about who adopts what labels or endorses what movement apart from that (as my revisions make clear as well as my follow up).

      Thus, you are asking me to ask our well-established moral leaders if they “repudiate sexism, racism, and homophobia, and endorse the values of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity,” which would imply I think they don’t and thus need them to declare themselves. I already assume they do. So should you.

    • eliott1 says

      Richard Carrier says:
      August 30, 2012 at 4:30 pm
      No, I am only asking people to declare whether they are for these values or against them, and then stand up against the sexists and other hostiles. Indeed, it’s perfectly voluntary. I don’t require anyone to do this. I just asked them to. I do not care about who adopts what labels or endorses what movement apart from that (as my revisions make clear as well as my follow up).

      Thus, you are asking me to ask our well-established moral leaders if they “repudiate sexism, racism, and homophobia, and endorse the values of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity,” which would imply I think they don’t and thus need them to declare themselves. I already assume they do. So should you.

      I am convinced and in agreement with your first statement. Thank you.

      However I find your next paragraph interesting and distressing considering the dialogue of several bloggers that seem to have a different perspective regarding Dawkins and Grothe. After all, isn’t that how we got here so I don’t think anyone should presume anything.

      Just my perspective and I have a different point of view about this. I think it’s essential for our leaders to proclaim themselves and tell us what the organization they are driving represents and stands for. They have mission statements that probably don’t include this current language. Now would be a great time for an update that shows their perspective and their boards but I understand your position and reluctance.

      I appreciate you having taken so much of your time to respond to me. Thanks again, E.

    • says

      You confuse adopting a label for yourself with endorsing the values it stands for. I only asked for the latter. I never asked for the former. Once you get that straight, you’ll see your response is completely off base.

      For more on this point see Being with or against Atheism+.

      Also, there is not a No True Scotsman fallacy when you are defining what a Scotsman is as (for example) someone from Scotland. Thus, there is not a No True Scotsman fallacy when we define what an endorser of Atheism+ is as someone who endorses the values that distinguish Atheism+ from Atheism-.

      And that distinction is simply this: being against sexism and racism and for reasonableness, compassion, and integrity.

      There is simply no analogy here to your Muslim/NYPD example.

      But yes, I do use rhetorical hyperbole from time to time. I just don’t require the hyperbole to reach my conclusions (which would be a fallacy).

      Similarly, this analogy is wholly inapt:

      That’s exactly how this whole thing got started. A bunch of people belittled the concerns of a woman who felt intimidated in an elevator at a convention.

      For this analogy to work, you would have to mean that belittling the concerns of sexists, racists, and people who reject and mock reasonableness, compassion, and integrity, is bad.

      Think about that.

  117. Ian Johnston says

    Well, if nothing else, the writing in this article answers any question I had regarding the purchase of your books. Thanks, but no thanks. It’ll take me a week to wash the scummy residue of your article off as it is. “Retard?” seriously “RETARD?”

    • says

      I rejected retard as a slur from the start. You must not have been paying much attention. Such careless emotionalism is the antithesis of reasonable behavior.

  118. someone says

    So is it this?

    “Similarly, I can’t grasp why anyone imagines we are “re-branding” others who aren’t interested (we aren’t interested in you, either), or “kicking people out from atheism at large”. These things don’t even make sense. (Never mind the crap projections of authoritarianism onto atheism plus.)”

    Or it is this?

    “Natalie Reed cares about all those things, and has her specific focus(es). Lowest on her list of priorities is atheism, so I can imagine why she might not bother with atheism plus. Further, she has had it with the jerks of atheism, which are exactly the atheism non-plus sorts.”

    First you aren’t interested in rebranding atheism, but then you make it clear that is what you are doing by arranging them into the ‘good’ Atheism+ atheists and the ‘bad’ non-Atheism+ atheists. Is it possible for someone to not desire to be part of Atheism+ without being branded jerks at the very least?

    • says

      Yes. You are confusing labels with values. This is not sensible. Since all I did was this. But since people saw red because all they could see on the page was some kind of call for self-labeling, and they have an irrational emotional reaction to that sort of thing and thus came out as rejecting basic moral values (tout court, without even an argument) for the irrational reason that there was a label attached to doing that. When all in fact I asked is for people to say what kind of atheist they are, and to disown atheists who reject basic moral values.

      But in any event, read Being with or against Atheism+ if you are still confused about this.

  119. Michael James says

    Richard, you didn’t answer my question (#91). Perhaps you misunderstood. I asked WHO determines whether someone fulfills these requirements, not “HOW do we know”.

  120. Hunt says

    Kudos for walking the walk, not just talking the talk. “Retarded,” using your contextual rationale, is marginally better than “retard” which is an outright slag slur, but I’d say it’s probably best to avoid both. How exactly this will impact the use of “moron,” which is widespread, even here on FtB, and “cretin,” “idiot,” as well as a whole raft of other insults, is an open question. Eventually I think we’re going to get the the point that there’s nothing left to sling as insult. We’re probably going to have to take refuge in language from the 19th century “you, sir are a popinjay!” just because nobody knows what it means.

  121. apophenia says

    Whoah, looks like Dick has drunk the Koolaid. I have a similar argument with a local humanist organizer who believes the benefits of a unified movement outweigh any costs to diversity and freedom. I seem to recall a similar discussion in the Bush administration, when paraphrases of Ben Franklin’s famous maximum, “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power,” circulated widely. I guess that’s not the history Richard studied. Nor biology, where the lessen is clear, lack of diversity and monocultures lead not to success, but extinction. So much for the “brain trust” of the movement.

    He gave me a dagger and a sword,
    and said:
    “Turn them against your own body.
    They are made for you.”

    — Enheduanna, ca. 2200 BC

  122. GordonWillis says

    I’ve just posted this on http://emilyhasbooks.com/growing-pains-labels/ but I feel I ought to post it here as well.

    I have no problem with Richard Carrier’s uncompromising way of putting things. There are core values which cannot be compromised. Remembering what those core values are should be sufficient to enable one to grasp that he is not being a bully or dictatorial: he’s just expressing the logical consequence of accepting or rejecting the core values, and it really is a case of being in or out. You can’t fudge reason or compassion or integrity. I think that people who see Carrier as bullying associate strong words with bullying or being “told off”, but that is merely a personal reaction which ought to be examined.

    I know that it is odd that atheism for many people seems to imply as some sort of logical consequence the values of secular humanism: it is back-to-front. But it is only the result of people who are already inclined towards the core values finding that the new atheism has given them the courage to break out of the strait-jacket of their community cultures and stand against what they see as inimical to human well-being. So it’s natural that they should regard atheism as the first principle, even though it’s in fact a consequence. I don’t think it makes any difference in practice. On the other hand, I can see why so many atheists wish to stress atheism as fundamental to their perspective.

    Rebecca makes a strong point about fixing humanism, but if you think about it, “fixing” a social movement that embraces people of very different views about the nature of humanity is a horrendous task, and will inevitably lead to battle-lines and conflict over a label. For example, religious and atheist humanists will inevitably conflict whenever the religious agenda takes precedence over what atheists see as basic human rights: in fact, from an atheist perspective, religious humanism is self-contradictory. As it turns out, Rebecca is the person around whom contention crystalised within the atheist community, exposing a mess of unreasonable and uncompassionate and dishonest attitudes, and causing atheists to consider more carefully what they stood for.

    A+ is the present outcome. It seems to me to be inevitable. The fact that it coincides in its principles with atheist humanism is not really a problem, because in practice it contributes voices to the essential cause, and by drawing attention to the core values may go a long way towards “fixing” humanism.

  123. tristanvick says

    Richard, I didn’t get though all of the previous comments, but how is this not splitting atheism into a more inclusive group and thereby creating a religious like denomination?

    I am wondering if you’ve addressed this or, maybe, not?

    Personally, I thought it was bad enough when the media started calling atheists ‘New Atheists’. Now there are Atheists, New Atheists, and Atheist Plus-erz?

    It just seems to be easier to call oneself Atheist.

    Whatever else an atheist believes would be defined by what types of beliefs they hold personally, and not dependent on any group affiliation. If they think humanism is fine, and it is, then they are simply atheists who are also humanists. But, if they think humanism is crap, then what you are basically doing is saying that *because they do not agree with your dogmatic definitions of what constitutes this new denomination, then they are not “true” atheists in the sense you have defined.

    That seems overtly religious to me in nature.

    If your goal is to create other branches of atheism, with the goal of creating a more positive image, that’s fine by me.

    But if your goal is simply to dictate to people what atheism ought to be, then as an atheist who has a problem with authority, especially of the religious kind, I would have strong objections.

    Finally, why do we need a term to describe atheistic values at all? I think I understand the motivation behind wanting to coin a new term, because atheism by its definition is quite limited. Perhaps you view it as important, and by the content of your post I assume this is your angle, that atheism has grown into a cultural movement and that simple definitions no longer do the word justice.

    Terms are usually descriptors with referents. Atheism+ is describing what exactly? Atheism plus other stuff?

    I think the lists already provided… atheism is this plus this… are fine. But, ultimately, aren’t we just discussing the values we want to uphold as atheists? Do we really need a term for that?

    I’m not so certain. Who knows, maybe I’ll be persuaded to change my mind. But right now it seems that if we say atheism is this plus this… and you don’t meet those requirements… you’re not a pure atheist plus-er. That’s the danger, as I see it. So how do you propose to avoid this danger, so that this movement doesn’t degrade into a pseudo-religion?

    Looking forward to hearing your reply.

    • says

      Richard, I didn’t get though all of the previous comments, but how is this not splitting atheism into a more inclusive group and thereby creating a religious like denomination?

      Your question implies the assumption that having and insisting upon basic moral standards is “creating a religious-like denomination” and that that is bad, which entails the assumption that insisting upon basic moral standards is bad.

      Think that through.

      It just seems to be easier to call oneself Atheist.

      Except that doesn’t work anymore. Plenty of rampant sexists, racists, and people who even mock basic moral values call themselves atheists, too.

      So you have to distinguish yourself from them. Unless, of course, you don’t distinguish yourself from them, or don’t want to.

      And that’s the point. It’s time we started giving a shit about these distinctions and doing something about it.

      …then they are not “true” atheists in the sense you have defined.

      Note that I never said this. Not even once. Nowhere did I say anyone was not a “true atheist,” which would be silly (an atheist is simply someone who doesn’t believe in god).

      I very explicitly and repeatedly in my article said I was talking about distinguishing different kinds of atheists, atheists who were okay with sexism or racism or with rejecting basic moral values.

      If your goal is to create other branches of atheism, with the goal of creating a more positive image, that’s fine by me.

      Then you are with us. My article was very clear on the fact that this is exactly what I (and we) are doing.

      The question is: why did you read my article as saying anything else? What sentence tripped you up? And why, given the context of the whole article in which that sentence is placed?

      Finally, why do we need a term to describe atheistic values at all?

      My article answers that question. As have other posts by advocates. Start with my follow-up and the articles it links to: Being with or against Atheism+.

      But, ultimately, aren’t we just discussing the values we want to uphold as atheists? Do we really need a term for that?

      Yes. See above.

      (And thank you for a reasoned and thoughtful reply. Unlike many of the irrationalists and douchebags who mocked and rejected my call for support of basic human values, you had sincere concerns and made clear what they were so I could address them. It’s a wonder why this seems so difficult for other people to do.)

  124. eleutheria says

    Yes @someone,

    Don’t you see? We as atheists have been asking for Something from society at large for some time, and we’ve not had the greatest success at it.

    Why not just trying asking for Everything while we’re at it?

  125. theBuachaill says

    While I agree with the principles of some of the original posting, I dislike intensely the tone of some of the subsequent comments from Richard Carrier.

    Your accusations against anyone who so much as questions this new concept as being racist, sexist, ignorant, stupid, etc is distasteful at best.

    You’re going to take the term Atheism, already laden with negative connotations to those ignorant of its real meaning, and with your arrogant attitude conflate it with another movement which apparently will spend a great deal of time identifying and ostracizing people at the drop of a hat

    Personally, I will be specifically looking into the extent of your particular involvement and influence in this movement. Because currently I prefer to stick with Secular Humanism.

    • says

      Your accusations against anyone who so much as questions this new concept as being racist, sexist, ignorant, stupid, etc is distasteful at best.

      Don’t conflate people who actually questioned it (for whom I addressed their questions), and people who mocked it or simply rejected it outright.

      When you revisit the actual sequence of events, you won’t find my response inappropriate at all.

      No one who just read an article detailing what Atheism+ means can claim to be ignorant of what it means, much less use such ignorance as an excuse to reject (even mock) its call for basic moral values.

      In the meantime, there is no contradiction between being and identifying a Secular Humanist and endorsing Atheism+ (see Being with or against Atheism+).

  126. Michael Kingsford Gray says

    PZ “got to you” via his famous back-channel, I see!
    Repent! Ye sinner!
    You have succeeded in making the FTB look even worse to the adult world, such that your Pope Paul had to rebuke you!
    What an acheivement.
    Lucky that you curbed your inner nature, and buckled to the confessional authoritarian pressure, otherwise you would have been booted out of this ever-shrinking cult for apostasy against the FTB dogma, like Thunderf00t.

    (I bet that you don’t have half the balls to publish this, you hypocrite)

  127. haggard says

    Honesty and integrity. looks like this website will be getting a lot smaller.

    I am wondering why women’s rights is important enough to be placed as a placard, as if that is more important that the rights of any other group, including ethnic minorities, those of lower social class, or just straight up human rights? There are a fuckload of oppressed people in this world, women are certainly one of them.

    • says

      Funny how my article actually mentioned that. Yet somehow all you saw was “women!” You must be so polarized with hatred for women’s issues that you just see red the moment they are mentioned.

      Just as humorously, you used the “other people are mistreated, too, so we shouldn’t care about women being mistreated” argument. And actually thought that made sense.

    • says

      I didn’t ask anyone to label themselves, either. I only asked them to pick sides in the values debate between one set of values (represented by Atheism+) and those who reject those values. Exactly like Jen.

      That you saw any contradiction belies your emotionalism. You didn’t read what I said with any care, nor even paused to ask for a clarification. You just assumed I was saying something I wasn’t.

      You should see to that behavior. It’s not good for you.

  128. whoever says

    “So no. I don’t have to accommodate unreasonable expectations in people.”

    That seems to also be an expectation judging by the posts above, though (assuming: not actually trolling). Atheism+ already seems so much fun!

    PS: rein in

    • says

      I might be able to take you more seriously if you took the trouble not to fabricate an obviously fake ID.

      That, and if you actually made an argument, and not just an assertion.

      Just saying.

  129. Chris Willett says

    “I was already mulling a way to do this back in June when discussion in the comments on my post On Sexual Harassment generated an idea to start a blog series building a system of shared values that separates the light side of the force from the dark side within the atheism movement, so we could start marginalizing the evil in our midst, and grooming the next generation more consistently and clearly into a system of more enlightened humanist values.” – Richard Carrier

    The perspective at FtB seems as Manichaean as that of the religious fundamentalists many atheists *used* to fight. Here’s a reminder of what’s been happening while you’re busy fueling outrage and running witch hunts: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/23/the-crackpot-caucus/

    • says

      Oh, we’re not leaving them alone. If you peruse the FtB network you’ll see plenty of us are still on it. We just can’t be everywhere at once. But thanks for the article, that’s a great reminder of the work to be done on all fronts.

  130. coelsblog says

    Dear Richard,
    I believe in justice and compassion and in treating everyone equally; I believe in being reasonable and assessing issues on evidence and in adjusting one’s stance when evidence requires; I strive for and place a high value on personal integrity.

    However, I have serious reservations about your article, and could not sign up to it as currently phrased.

    … anyone who makes a fallacious argument and, when shown that they have, does not admit it, is not one of us, and is to be marginalized and kicked out, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with.

    All humans ever born are, at least to some extent, irrational. No human is perfectly free of biases. That is why, for example, we insist on double-blind medical trials, rather than just saying “sure you can know who gets the placebo, but please be objective”.

    For that reason there is usually no way of establishing in a clear and unbiased way what has been “shown” to be fallacious or in error. Because all people have biases, people can and do disagree on what is fallacious, even when all parties are, in their own minds, acting in good faith (the whole point of a bias is that you think you are acting in good faith even when you are making errors).

    So, who gets to determine what has been “shown to be fallacious”, which is a necessary precursor to deciding who to “kick out” as someone “we no longer wish to deal with”? One cannot have that determined by a majority of experts, since that would outlaw any good-faith minority opinion. For example, a majority of experts might well pronounce it established that Jesus existed and that mythicism had been “shown” to be fallacious; you and they would then disagree on what had been “shown” and what was “fallacious”.

    If one cannot establish in a clear and unbiased way what, on possibly controversial opinions, has actually been “shown” to be fallacious, then your above paragraph becomes very problematic, especially as the penalty (“marginalized and kicked out … not anyone we any longer wish to deal with”) is so severe. There is too big a risk of those who pronounce on the fallacy being the ones in error — because no human or group of humans has infallible judgment, and thus it is unreasonable not to allow for this possibility.

    There is way too much danger of people jumping from: “I disagree with you for reasons X, Y and Z, which I consider conclusive” to “since you are still disagreeing with me you are arguing in bad faith and failing to admit a fallacy”.

    Right back to Mill’s On Liberty, a fundamental part of liberty and freethought has been the right to voice disagreement with established opinions and to advocate ideas that others consider to be fallacious.

    A second major concern is compassion. Given that no human is perfectly rational and never irrational, and that we all have biases, foibles and weaknesses, and thus that we all will, at times and on some issues, adopt irrational positions, even when we think that we are doing so in good faith, it is very much lacking in compassion to condemn someone for any and all instances of this.

    Again, if we could guarantee that we could be rational and objective, we would not need double-blind trials. But we need to recognise and accept that we all have such weaknesses, and while we might strive to overcome them, we must accept that we’ll never entirely succeed.

    Hence, the principle of compassion means that we should accept other people’s foibles, and accept them even if at times they are holding fast (in good faith, as they see it) to fallacies and errors! No longer wishing to deal with anyone who shows any such weakness ever is setting the bar way too high.

    That is not a suggestion that you should have no threshold, and that you need accept everyone, no matter how bad, but it is a suggestion that your threshold as stated is way too puritanical, absolutist and idealistic — and thus distinctly lacking in compassion for someone who may be thoroughly decent and who supports you on many things, but simply has a few weaknesses and foibles (as every single person has).

    • says

      I agree with you that there are ambiguous cases, and I intend no absolute rejection of them. But there comes a point when you simply have to decide someone is denying reality. See CL’s question and my reply.

      As far as the “who decides,” it will be as organic and crowd-sourced as it always has been, in all walks of life, when deciding who is too irrational to work with or who is stubbornly rejecting the very idea of rationality (even while claiming to be totally rational). The same problem is faced when deciding who is actually an immoral rat vs. someone whose excuses are deemed valid. And so on. Hence see the subthread between me and Claus Larson.

      But you are right, there has to be leeway for people who are persistently irrational only on trivial matters and people who aren’t pervasively (troublesomely) irrational. So I have revised the relevant paragraph to include those qualifications:

      Revision (Round Two):

      Which means anyone who makes a fallacious argument on any matter of real importance and, when shown that they have, does not admit it (when given the chance), is probably not one of us, and if they persist in doing that, is definitely not one of us, and is to be marginalized and disowned, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with. This does not mean we must disavow anyone who happens to hold an irrational belief or have reached a conclusion irrationally, but only those atheists who explicitly oppose or reject the very idea of rationality. In other words, any atheist with whom we cannot even have a rational discussion.

  131. says

    Richard,

    Why were my comments deleted? Was there something wrong with the questions? Then again, I realize you went on a deleting spree (this thread had 180+ comments yesterday and now it’s under 100), so maybe mine weren’t consciously targeted.

    • says

      I deleted fewer than a handful of posts submitted (and almost all of those I actually posted with explanations). So I don’t know why your browser would claim the number of posts shrank from 180 to under 100. The actual number posted so far (counting subthreads) is in the hundreds. And at no point had I done any mass deleting.

      Your post has taken among the longest to get to because WordPress buried it so far out of chronological order it has taken me awhile even to find it. I am still having this problem with other commentators. WordPress is also posting comments out of order. It’s frustrating. It doesn’t seem able to handle well complex comments threads consisting of hundreds of posts.

      At any rate, your original comment is up, with a reply.

      (And I removed the duplicate questions from your comment here, since they went up there. I hope you don’t mind.)

    • says

      But ashamed of you. For failing to read the article you are responding to, which said:

      …be warned, I am AFK most of this week and so comment moderation here will be unusually slow

      I also don’t work on weekends. So the 145 comments still awaiting moderation will have to wait until Monday (when there will likely be a hundred more!).

  132. AtheistEqualist says

    I think this is a good thing. Finally I can stick with the atheists who focuses on atheism and don’t have to hear about someone crying about elevatorincidents or offensive t-shirts.

  133. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Interesting how many dudes equate “treating other people with respect” with “fundie religion!/nazis!/fascists!/gulags!/cults!”

    Seriously? being told that the entire dessert cart of life isn’t for you and you alone is just like what the Fred Phelps would say?

    being told that the people you like to shit on aren’t just sitting there taking it anymore is just like gulags?

    Moronic bigots have been telling women, non-whites, transpersons, LGQI people, etc etc etc to get out of their movements for cthuthlu knows how long.

    So we did. And now they’re STILL WHINING?

    Can’t leave these useless douches behind fast enough!

  134. christinereece says

    Crawling out from behind my ‘nym to state that Richard has represented my comments quite well and I approve of the expansions/adaptations of my words.

    I’m not comfortable demanding that battle lines be drawn because I had it drummed into my head as a child that girls need to be polite and not make waves, but fuck that. So many people are ‘concerned’ about people’s feelings that they’re not discussing shit like this:

    http://kdvr.com/2012/08/21/amidst-abortion-uproar-gop-adopts-no-exceptions-platform/

    The US’s Republican party is making a rejection of women’s rights over their bodies part of their core platform. This rejection of women’s rights is based on religious bullshit and they want secular laws passed that will actually PREVENT doctors from saving the lives of pregnant women. And we’re supposed to care more about not rocking the boat and not hurting people’s feelings than insisting upon someone’s right to be treated as a social and legal equal?

    I’d laugh, but I’m too fucking angry about this right now. If you are an atheist and you support Republicans who espouse this kind of religious batshittery, you ARE a sexist douchebag – and what’s worse, you don’t have the ‘excuse’ of religion for your misogyny.

    This is my Atheism+: I will not stand around silently – or idly – while religious wingnuts put their precepts into secular law. Laws are supposed to protect everyone, not selectively discriminate based on the fact that some people don’t have penises – or aren’t the right color, or don’t love the right person, or don’t believe in the right things. Other people are welcome to sit on their asses and debate whether they need to get involved, but my A+ demands that I help make the world a better place for everyone because this is the only life we get.

    If you want to focus your lives on selfishness and your own pleasure, then do it – and get out of the way of those of us who want to do something more.

  135. Michael says

    I’ve seen some pretty disgusting things said by atheists regarding all sorts of topics, especially regarding women and guns, that turn me off and that I in no way want to be associated with.

    Given that, I can and do understand where atheism+ is coming from. Hell, I even really supported the idea of a break-away group saying “We are atheists, but we also do this and this is and this”, trying to place more POSITIVE spin on the word atheism than the title of Humanism can do.

    I was all for it.

    Until I read this blog entry. More specifically, the comments in this blog entry.

    And I realised that in your mind, you can’t be wrong. Ever.

    Hell, even when you got the definition of C.H.U.D wrong, you couldn’t be wrong about it. You HAD to be right.

    So you say “First of all, it’s not dogma if it’s open to discussion and evidence-based revision”, but people have given you a lot of evidence about things, if only that your “Us Vs Them” either-or fallacy is incorrect, you’ve constantly had to state how no, actually you’re correct and clearly those people are against you.

    You’ve shown in your actions that you aren’t open to revision at all. It’s either you’re right, or people are against you.
    And that’s scary, that’s really scary.

    I like the idea behind atheism+, I really do.

    So long as you have nothing to do with it.

    Now go ahead, give me the same response you give everyone else, twist this around so that you’re right and I’m wrong and clearly against you. Prove me right.

    • says

      Since I corrected myself several times in this thread, that refutes your claim that I think I can never be wrong.

      That you think my definition of C.H.U.D. was wrong, and that that even signifies something important, demonstrates you are not acting like a reasonable person. (My definition was not even wrong–I even linked to the full explanation; you seem to be confusing a definition with expanding an acronym).

      That you think “a lot of evidence” was given here that called for revising what I said in my article (yet don’t point to a single example), and that you think divorcing ourselves from sexists and other reprobates is an either-or fallacy, does not speak well to your reasonableness, either.

      It seems to me you are just annoyed by the fact that I demanded some basic moral standards and stuck by them and denounced everyone who mocked them or rejected them.

      You need to ask yourself, sincerely, why that would annoy you.

  136. someone says

    “Because you are being irrational.

    “Oh no, atheists insist on the values of compassion, reasonableness, and integrity! What fundamentalist loonies!” ”

    I wasn’t talking about the ideas. I was talking about the delivery with it’s ranting, denouncing tone, and the ‘us-vs-them’ mindset. It reminds me of a fundamentalist preacher, all you need is a shiny suit and a pulpit. I have no problems with the ideas, just the dismissive and insulting tone you have applied to anyone who hasn’t immediately jumped on the Atheism + bandwagon.

  137. Johnson says

    I get it! This is a Poe. Carrier doesn’t support Atheism+ and he wrote this ridiculous screed and posted all these abusive comments to point out what is wrong with this “movement.” Brilliant!

  138. theBuachaill says

    I see my previous comment was blocked. [I have no idea what comment s/he is referring to–RC]

    I will continue to post it here until my opinion is displayed along with everyone else’s.

    Barring that, I’ll post it on every other forum on this site.

    While I agree with some of the principles in the original posting, I intensely dislike some of the follow-up comments from Richard Carrier.

    Your labeling of people who so much as question this new concept as racist, sexist, irrational, etc etc is distasteful at best. You’re going to take the term ‘Atheism’ (already burdened with negative connotations by those ignorant of its real meaning) and through your arrogance conflate it with another movement; which apparently will spend a significant amount of time identifying and ostracizing people at the drop of a hat.

    Personally I will be researching your particular involvement and influence with this movement, because based on what I’ve heard from you so far, I’ll certainly be sticking with the label Secular Humanist.

  139. Biff Blendon says

    The hypocrite calling everyone that disagrees with him a hypocrite. This diatribe should be a white paper. A more appropriate name for this movement should be called “Hypocritical Humanists (who just happen to be atheists).”

    I am proud to NOT be one of “your people.” I prefer to think for myself instead of march in theocratic style lock-step the irrational and intolerant.

  140. John Q Public says

    “This means, first, that we believe in being logical and rational in forming beliefs and opinions. ”

    …Well the problem here is you can’t…

    Honestly I find much of the “Feminism” stance to be a joke to say the least…AND you would too…

    To find out more, take estrogen and Testosterone inhibitors for 3 years… …at least then you’d have a clue

  141. Mike de Fleuriot says

    Some of us looking see it going from guidelines, to document to doctrine to dogma. Remember that the Church also believes that they are totally correct and right in what they want to promote, and no one can convince them otherwise.

  142. artharjar says

    Richard, you’ve won me over. I was always wholly in favor of all the things you laid out as a “platform” but was a little hesitant to run out and adopt a new name just because some jerks mouthed off over the last year.

    However, as I read through the many comments above I came to realize that I couldn’t put a finger on just why I didn’t like the new name and I’ve decided that if I can’t figure it out its probably not a good reason.

    I’ve long been a supporter of the idea that atheism had substantive implications for public policy (as opposed to just hard science) and if A+ is the way to get everyone headed in that direction that I’ll buy in.

    Thanks for taking the time to fight it out. The discussion has helped to clarify the purpose of movement in my mind.

  143. jackrawlinson says

    Perhaps the saddest thing about this unbelievable carnival of smug, privileged pseudo-liberal self-righteousness is that you actually do not understand – not even slightly – what it is that you have gotten so very, very wrong. Oh no. You are totally certain of your righteousness, aren’t you? There can be no valid criticism. I mean, who could possibly have a reasonable objection to feminism? Who could possibly have a reasonable objection to LGBT rights?

    You people have jumped the bloody shark. You don’t – or won’t – even understand what the objections to your absurd posturing are.

    Okay, this is where you dismiss me as a pro-douchery non-person who has committed thoughtcrime by questioning the groupthink. Carry on.

  144. moarscienceplz says

    You what else is great about this? Finally we have a clear and succinct response to this kind of tired old crap:

    “So, you don’t believe in God? Well, Stalin was an Atheist and he murdered millions!”

    “True. And that’s why I’m an A+!”

  145. says

    So…does our first lesson in A+ need to be “how to insult someone’s intelligence without being ableistic”? That’s what we all *really* care about, right? Be honest.

    • says

      I’m not sure if you mean that that was an attempt at derailing. I don’t think so. I think it was a valid subthread that illustrates what Atheism+ is all about and wants to happen.

  146. Mars rocks says

    ‘Agree with the cool kids or GTFO’. Got it. I’m sorry, but framing things in those terms will drive away many people who are wary or have been burned by such cliques in the past. I think you’ve shot Atheism+ in the foot with this blog, and especially the comments you’ve dumped on people here.

    I’ll stick with my rational humanism and maximising human potential, thanks.

    • says

      If by “the cool kids” you mean people who are not “going to stick with Atheism Less and its sexism and cruelty and irrationality,” then you’ve got it.

      If you mean by “the cool kids” anything else, then you’ve failed to get it.

    • Riverton says

      I’m sorry Richard, I love the idea of A+ and I support all of the points you’ve raised such as compassion, equality between the sexes, pro gay rights, and all of that.

      The problem is I do have a problem with your rhetoric. Do you really not think that labeling people who don’t agree or simply question this new movement “Atheism less” isn’t insulting to those of us who disagree with your “us or them” mentality? You don’t see the clear implication there that those who are not Atheist + are not dedicated to the causes that A+ is promoting? Seriously, is Natalie Reed atheism less? Is Hemant Mehta? Dawkins? Hirsi Ali?

      While I do mostly agree with A+ and I probably might adopt the label and will still support those causes, you’re clearly putting quite a few people off with your attitude and rather… stringent mentality towards those who disagree or are questioning.

      I do see that you’ve changed your mind somewhat on using retarded and some other slurs, so I do like that your mind can be changed and that you’re open in some cases and I do applaud you for that, so I hope you can see where I am coming from. I’m not trying to be rude and if I’m misunderstanding you in any way, please let me know.

  147. Adam says

    Being for social justice, gender equality, critical thinking, skepticism and being against racism and homophobia are all non controversial stances which the vast majority human beings claim, not just atheists. In fact I would suspect that atheists at least in the west probably lead in many of these areas.

    The problem lies not with holding these non-controversial stances but with how one interprets what constitutes, for example racism, and how to address this issue.

    If you draw a line and say behavior X is racism, and say that anybody who falls on one side is acceptable and the other side is racist, then you set yourself up as an arbiter. Such positions often are self-fulfilling, where people constantly see battles where none exist.

    Consider that you are proposing a solution to a problem that might not exist.

    • says

      That’s actually demonstrably untrue. The ubiquity of outright sexism apologists in the atheism community is already alarming.

      But it doesn’t matter. Because we have to start somewhere. You can’t have a conversation about what is sexist, if you haven’t even conceded that it is bad.

      And instead of agreeing that it is bad, many people here sided with sexism et al., many perhaps out of irrational emotional pique, but that’s just as shameful.

  148. someone says

    Third, I seriously doubt I’ve driven anyone away from Atheism+. For someone to abandon the movement for such a petty and trivial reason as you allege would peg them as massively irrational. Which would mean they were never one of us to begin with. And if that’s the case, it’s good riddens to them.

    So basically anyone who doesn’t immediately agree to sign on the dotted line, despite your insults, and become an unquestioning supporter of Atheism + is someone to be gotten rid of? Is thinking for yourself not part of the Atheism + agenda?

    • says

      Right. Because that’s what I said.

      I talked about signing documents and being unquestioning.

      Not.

      Yes, if you reject the values of Atheism+ simply because you don’t like me, you are being irrational. Own it.

  149. Hybrid Vigor says

    Richard,
    I appreciate the effort to elevate the atheism discourse to include a more conscientious and assertive identity. While I superficially agree with your position, I’d like to offer a couple comments regarding your post. First, I can’t imagine a debate moderator welcoming you to the stage and describing you as an “atheist-plus”. I don’t have any helpful suggestions to offer, but as a brand, it seems to carry the atheist baggage without additional intuitive meaning. Second, the declarations and values statements were clear as to what virtues the Atheist+ movement holds, and therefore help establish an identity. However, I didn’t get much of a feel for why these values are important to this new atheist group. Some of the connections are very straightforward, but let’s not forget that Texas conservatives now oppose the teaching of critical thinking skills in K-12, so just being intuitive may not work. Also, I know this blog post may have been directed at a largely atheist audience, but I think we should take every opportunity to associate our justifications (especially moral ones) with the values we uphold.

    As for the declarations themselves, I don’t find A to be strictly true, as they do not embrace irrationality, hate, sexism, etc. I think I know what you’re getting at here, but let’s be clear, intelligent design is not the kind of diversity in thought we’re looking for in Skepticism, right? B seems inclusive of C, and D buys into this notion that “science” is synonymous with chemistry/physics/biology, rather than a process of critical thinking by which models of reality can be rigorously evaluated.

    I agree with the values statements, but wonder if your vision of compassion (#2) excludes empathy for the perpetrators of “sins”? The parenthetical garnish thrown in later is barely noticeable amidst the multiple implied references to the in-group’s ability to rightly judge guilt and administer punishment (which seems to masquerade largely as a lack of compassion toward the guilty party…) I don’t mean to justify any specific “bad” behavior, but understanding the misinformation, flawed logic, or ignorant/malevolent drivers that allow one to do awful things to others can be immensely informative and may reduce future victimization. This doesn’t mean you can’t still wag your finger at the evil-doers, it just might not feel so wonderful. I know very little about the specific conflict that seems to be driving your post, but, in general, I think that it is irrational to label a person as “evil” based on what seems to be an assumption that particular anti-social behaviors are the product of a rational consideration of likely effects on others. As I said, I know almost nothing about these events, yet, in general, I find your version of compassion to be lacking in empathy, and slightly vengeful/righteous. It also does little to cultivate compassion, rather, asserting its necessity, then spot-testing for adequacy as a principal determinant of global “evilness”. Sadly, I find it hard not to fall into this pattern in my day-to day life, too.
    Anyway, thanks for providing a forum for these discussions, apologies for rambling.
    Cheers.

    • says

      I can’t imagine a debate moderator welcoming you to the stage and describing you as an “atheist-plus”.

      If it were relevant (in most cases it won’t be), they would say a member of the Atheism+ movement. (Usually if my atheism is relevant to a debate, it’s only my atheism that’s relevant to the debate, not my moral platform. And when it is, a term more familiar to the audience would be “humanist,” although that won’t capture it all it will do.)

      I don’t have any helpful suggestions to offer, but as a brand, it seems to carry the atheist baggage without additional intuitive meaning.

      It will drive people to ask what the “+” is for. That’s a feature.

      I didn’t get much of a feel for why these values are important to this new atheist group.

      If you mean the values of reasonableness, compassion, and integrity, as I note in the article my reasons for finding them important are presented elsewhere.

      If you mean the aims that follow from them, I present part of that case here.

      I agree with the values statements, but wonder if your vision of compassion (#2) excludes empathy for the perpetrators of “sins”?

      It does not. But neither does it entail we should not despise their character, unless they are sincerely aspiring to reform. And even when we despise, we do not dehumanize. See my remark in the article about “criminals” for example.

      Your comments in this regard are certainly worth heeding. I essentially agree with you.

  150. Huck Burbank says

    Mr. Carrier; Atheism +,

    I am an atheist and agree with pretty much everything in the above article, though I may have some reservations about

    “…when it is irrationality that is the fundamental root cause of all human evil.”

    which sounds dangerously close to injunction against passion. For certain I must be simply misunderstanding the statement or presuming too much.

    That aside, the rest is everything I’ve always advocated, particularly the importance in education to press critical thinking into the service of social and political critique surrounding the subjects. I think setting the students to this task every year, making it a natural, impulsive response to new information, will help in getting them acquainted with how society functions and could lead to alleviating the prevailing civil apathy.

    As to the current wave of anti-feminism, I feel convinced it is, at worst, an exercise in a manner of pseudo-contrarianism that advocates are confusing with or disguising as skepticism and not an outburst of full-blown, abject reaction. Though sometimes it isn’t even that easy to tell which is worse, since the former will try to create a distinction between humanism and feminism where I believe none lies.

    My only substantial problem lies in this statement made in comment by the author outside the content of the article:

    “You are then in our way, the same way Neonazis and Marxists and anarchists and UFO cults and churches and right wing think tanks and so on, are in our way, and what we will denounce and disown.”

    Well I personally am a Marxist. I am so every bit as much as I am a Hegelian, or a Humist, or Lockean, or Empedoclean, Democritussian, (alright, I’m beginning to free-associate the suffixes), Anaxagoran, Hobbesian, perhaps a bit more so than I am a Nietzschean, but a measure less so than I am a Russellian, and with the first and all of these I see no conflict of interest. You see my point. Am I to understand that I would be unwelcome in “Atheism Plus” and denounced regardless of input? I offer humble thanks for the allowance of my most

    Sincere Fraternal Regards,

    B.b.B.

    • says

      I may have some reservations about “…when it is irrationality that is the fundamental root cause of all human evil.” which sounds dangerously close to injunction against passion. For certain I must be simply misunderstanding the statement or presuming too much.

      I defined irrationality in the article. It is not in contradistinction to passion. So you shouldn’t worry there.

      Well I personally am a Marxist…

      That’s a good point. I was thinking of Marxism of the oppressive fascistic variety, stupidly forgetting about the peaceful and more enlightened Marxism (and I intend no sarcasm there–I’m serious). My apologies. I’ve deleted it from that comment. It really didn’t belong.

      You can certainly fit in, if this is agreeable.

  151. leebrimmicombe-wood says

    Richard, I don’t want to come across as a tone troll but I’m going to talk about tone anyway. Because the way you write seems to be in absolutist terms, about defining in-groups and out-groups and slapping on labels, and I don’t think that reflects the inclusiveness of A+ as I see it.

    Atheism Plus, as it currently manifests itself, is an amorphous idea, a rough alignment of a progressive agenda with atheism, but which allows members to bounce around in some kind of brownian motion that could mean that some of them move in very different directions. I expect it, like any political movement, to be a big tent. I expect it to have many camps and differences within it. Your kind of talk suggests something more homogenous. It hints at purity tests and Star Chambers to marginalise and shove out undesirables.

    Of course, I could be wrong about your intent. I don’t wish this to appear like I’m raising a straw man. But something about your post smells wrong to me, it whiffs of authoritarianism.

    I don’t feel we need the rigour of tests and doctrines. Like any political movement A+ will attract like and repel unlike. We’ll keep the arseholes out simply by being the people they don’t want to associate with. Reactionary dickwads will be barred from A+ blogs using much the same methods folks use now. The primary difference being that malefactors cannot claim they weren’t warned–that they didn’t know they were trying to operate in a progressive space.

    Of course, I could be talking completely out of my arse here. I may have gotten the wrong end of the stick entirely, in which case I apologise. Feel free to chew me out. But some of your confrontational language, particularly demanding we pick sides, rubs me up the wrong way. An irrational response I admit, but a genuine one.

    I shall be in the part of the A+ tent over here, thank you. If you want to strut about, making pronouncements about who is in and who is out, kindly do it in a different place away from me. I shall decide for myself who I associate with, thank’ee.

    • says

      The only out-groups being defined here are sexists, racists, and homophobes and people who reject or even mock reasonableness, compassion, and integrity.

      So you aren’t really tone trolling. You are concern trolling. And fabricating a false controversy to do it.

      Try again.

    • says

      From the other comments on this article, it seems that’s only true if you assume that a statement morality has nothing to do with atheism has a hidden premise that only things associated with atheism are important. I don’t think this is a valid assumption.

  152. says

    Note to All: As I have been very unusually busy this week (in studio every day, as I’ve noted) and I don’t normally work on weekends (I devote them to spending time with my wife), there are still over 130 comments awaiting moderation that won’t be cleared until end of Monday or Tuesday. Comments have also been clearing the queue out of chronological order, so if you submitted a comment several days ago, while others got through, don’t assume it has been rejected. It is probably still in the queue. Sorry for the inconvenience. But this is going to happen from time to time. You’ll just have to be patient. Enjoy your weekend!

  153. Ernest says

    I am surprised that this blog and the replies are associated to the name of “Richard Carrier.” That used to be a name I held in high esteem until today.

    Atheism + is going to fail. Not because of any of the stated values. Not because of its leaders or followers. Not because of lack of support or opposition to it. It will fail because it is unable to internalize any criticism. Every word is dogma and is not to be questioned. A lot is said of an organization by how it treats its dissenters. This full-on embrace of the “Us Vs Them” mentality is the fatal flaw of Atheism +.

    Not one person here on this blog disagrees with gender equality, racial equality, LGBT rights, diversity, skepticism of religion or government policy, reason, compassion, or integrity. I embrace all of that more than you will ever know. But why would I be consider an enemy of the Atheism + movement? Because I question. Because I would disagree with tactics. Because I choose not to self label as atheist + and go for skeptic and secular humanist instead. Atheism + wants enemies. It wants the world to be black and white and the issues very simple. Little do they know I am on their side for many of the issues and happy to support them but because I may not agree with everything…

    This is why they will fracture themselves to irrelevancy. There will be a unexpected event and it will trigger disagreements. Seeing how disagreements are treated among atheist that agree with those values but don’t self label as atheist + and those who do, just wait until there is a disagreement among atheist +. May be if they gracefully accept criticism and ditch the “Us vs Them” tactics they will survive but I doubt it.

    • Ernest says

      I love how even the smallest disagreement on the internet and you are all of a sudden a “troll.” This is just evidence of you dismissive attitude to any dissenting opinions.

      A blog on insults doesn’t change my point. Your actions here on this comment board proves that. Again, no one here explicitly or implicitly denies the values of Atheism +. However, when anyone says they are not accepting the label of atheism +, you are less than kind(to put it mildly). It doesn’t matter if you talk-the-talk, only if you walk-the-walk. If you want to say it is not about accepting the label, then may I suggest that “douche-bag” not be the first word out of your mouth. As pointed out by someone else they can be “group 3.” Accepting of the values but not the label.

      are you with us, or with them; are you with the Atheism+ movement, or do you at least cheer and approve it’s values and aims (since you don’t have to label yourself), or are you going to stick with Atheism Less and its sexism and cruelty and irrationality?

      If that is true, then you must not call someone a douche-bag just because they say the are “sticking with regular/old/less atheism.” The way you react only enforces the “Us vs Them” mentality that everyone perceives you have. If they don’t support the values, then fine call them a douche-bag but not before you confirm it. Sticking with “atheism less” is not that confirmation. They are merely declaring that they are not convinced to accept your label. You are emotionally reacting and acting as if everyone is rejecting morals and good values. That just is not the case and no matter how it is explained you seem to miss the point on that.

    • says


      I love how even the smallest disagreement on the internet and you are all of a sudden a “troll.”

      Nice try. But the fact is, I have had plenty of reasoned discussions with critics in this comment thread (just take a look). So obviously you must have done something different. And it’s called concern trolling.

      Your irrational obsession with labels has been pointed out as moot in this thread numerous times. Yet you are still hung up on it for some weird reason. Catch up with current events.

      The reality is this. And that’s the fact of it.

    • Ernest says

      I have read the blogs and I don’t believe you are following what you have stated. Talking out of both sides of your mouth. Say it about the values and not accepting rebranding of a label in you blogs all you like but your actions speak of a different story.

      You can’t have it both ways. Either say accepting the label is not required or call everyone a douchebag for not accepting the label. However, you done both. Then you back pedal by creating the false dichotomy.

      Show me one person in this comment section that actually rejected the Atheism + values. Not someone who says that they stick with the “old atheism” or “atheism less” then link to your false dichotomy but actually show a real denial of those values. The thing is you can’t do it because as I have stated many times now ” no one here explicitly or implicitly denies the values of Atheism +.”

      And I am not crazy because other like have commented on the “Us vs Them” mentality that you are creating from it or pointing out the 3rd option your dichotomy exists.

      andreschuiteman
      sc_35c267c004a51913836810b8c78b76cb
      AdamTM
      Quine
      SayNoMore
      Azrael Seraphin

      All of them said something to that effect. But every time someone criticizes you on that front you do only one thing. That is act as if they are denying some core value of Atheism +. Yet you are willfully ignorant of any statement that denies your attempt to strawman them be value deniers. Here an example with apophenia.

      apophenia:

      ” …I have a similar argument with a local humanist organizer who believes the benefits of a unified movement outweigh any costs to diversity and freedom…”

      Richard Carrier:

      “I can’t fathom your point. That adopting moral values is suicidal?”

      apophenia was making a point of individualism being sublimated to groupthink in a movement and the best you could respond with is as if apophenia is rejecting moral values. I am sorry but your response is underwhelming. Your “Us vs Them” mentality is evident and your responses to people not accepting the label is inept and reinforces the perception that you really do hold that mentality. Another example:

      norbury:

      “I’m on board with reasonableness, but I don’t consider drawing lines in the sand and stating banalities like “you’re with us or against us” to be reasonable.”

      You have to do better than to dismiss me as a “concern troll.”
      I actually do read the articles for and against atheism + and consider them fully. May I suggest that you do the same. Especially on youtube. You will hear a lot “I agree with the values of atheism + but I think the movement is stupid.” Maybe you actually learn something. Possibly make it more appealing?

    • Ernest says

      Thank you for providing yet another underwhelming reply. What a gem it its. You start off with:

      Since I have interacted with numerous critics without assuming or saying any such thing, you are clearly distorting reality to maintain your fantasy of what actually happened.

      Forget my last post? Forget where I show you do exactly that with apophenia? Talk about maintaining a fantasy. You do it numerous times, hell this is exactly what you are trying to justify! I wouldn’t be making a reply if you haven’t in the first place. Then noen absolutely spanks you. Now lets see how you reply to that:

      Which is irrational. No club joining was mentioned. I only asked to declare what kind of atheist we are, an atheist + these core values, or an atheist characterized by “sexism and cruelty and irrationality.”

      Ah no… Atheism + is self-described as “3rd wave of atheism” or “atheist movement”. So in fact it is a “club” of sorts. As a result as noen stated people just don’t want to “join” or be labeled as Atheist +. It has nothing to do with being assholes at all.

      …Tom declared he was not a member of A+, then he was de facto declaring that he does not hold to basic moral values.

      But was that what Tom meant to declare? Did Tom know that you would use that type of reasoning to come to that conclusion? If not, then your point is moot. What matters is what was the intended message was and not how you choose to interpret it. The fact of the matter is when you tried that on some people they actually responded and told you that they do not reject the values of Atheist +. So in those cases your assumption is wrong. Which is what everyone has been telling you.

      If you had not been calling everyone a douchebag for “sticking with old atheism”, then this wouldn’t have been as bad. You just should have ignored them until they made an actual undeniable rejection of those values. You have to own up to the fact that your actions is what spurs the criticism. I will leave and let you have the final word if you wish but I will quote again nobury because it bares repeating.

      I’m on board with reasonableness, but I don’t consider drawing lines in the sand and stating banalities like “you’re with us or against us” to be reasonable.

  154. theBuachaill says

    I see my previous comment was blocked twice now. [I still have no idea what comments s/he is referring to–RC]

    I will continue to post it here until my opinion is displayed along with everyone else’s.

    Barring that, I’ll post it on every other forum on this site.

    While I agree with some of the principles in the original posting, I intensely dislike some of the follow-up comments from Richard Carrier.

    Your labeling of people who so much as question this new concept as racist, sexist, irrational, etc etc is distasteful at best. You’re going to take the term ‘Atheism’ (already burdened with negative connotations by those ignorant of its real meaning) and through your arrogance conflate it with another movement; which apparently will spend a significant amount of time identifying and ostracizing people at the drop of a hat.

    Personally I will be researching your particular involvement and influence with this movement, because based on what I’ve heard from you so far, I’ll certainly be sticking with the label Secular Humanist.

  155. says

    Atheism+ what a crock, who exactly put you people in charge ? as I don’t remember voting for any atheistic leaders ?, as an atheist all this says about me is “I have no belief in any gods” it says nothing about any other position I may hold on any other topic.

    What right do you have to say who is a “Good” atheist or who is a “Evil” atheist, from what I have seen of F.T.B “Good” atheists are people who agree with what FTB says and “Evil” atheists are people who disagree with FTB.

    The last thing the “Atheist movement” needs is another denomination of itself, sound familiar ? your interpretation of atheism is different to ours, those atheists are “Evil” we are the “Good” atheists, sounds a lot like theism to me.

    Thanks but no thanks you can keep your atheism+

  156. jsfb says

    I think A+ has it backwards, there are these political positions PLUS you happen to be atheists, not the other way around. There are people who are atheists for non-rational reasons, but they might come to broaden their thinking if they are allowed to be included in such communities. It takes time and like leaving religion, is often not a singular event but a process. That means a portion of the community will be in some manner of speaking, not aligned with the community completely. That’s a good thing.

    Just an aside on naming implications: Something like FemSKEP makes more sense than SkepCHICK. It puts the focus on what is most important to the founders, especially these days it seems. A+ is backwards, and emerges in reaction not to the atheist movement itself, but various implementations of that movement. (handling of bad actors or those actors themselves)

    The bad actors that you are reacting against do not logically follow from a non-belief in the supernatural. Some happen to be atheists, so what. If they act badly at a conference, kick them out etc, but starting a “new movement” like this to supplant or demean generic atheism is absurd.

    If it’s a hostile environment to some sub-groups in atheism conferences that is the real issue, start a new atheist focused conference and lead by example, but not by tribal means. The internet doesn’t count, that cannot be controlled in any pragmatic means as long as free access is allowed.

    I know it is easier said than done, but I think it is easier than trying to change the existing conferences to be something else than they have historically been.

    The new conference would allow the “market” show everyone that this new safe, respectful, inclusive kind of atheist event is in demand and works to shape attendance as you would envision. Eventually, the others will probably evolve to reflect the new dynamic over time, if that turns out to work and address a real need of a community rather than a vocal sub-group within the community.

    I would think this kind of conference would need to respect everyone through well crafted and published policies and have the diversity in panels you want, but the TOPICS covered aren’t biased away from generic atheist concerns that are applicable to everyone regardless of so called privilege.

    That is to say, the topics are not trying to fix activist issues about some internal subgroup demographic (women, LGBT, non-old white men etc) but are inclusive of atheism itself which doesn’t involve any of those things other than incidentally.

    • says

      It doesn’t matter which way around it is.

      What matters is that Atheism has become an actual social movement, with a strong and growing sense of identity (and, until fairly recently, a very skewed membership demographic). It therefore needs to define its values, and if that means separating the Atheism Movement into two, (a) the sexists, racists, and haters of moral standards, and (b) everyone else, that is what has to be done.

      Like in any economic system (to continue your analogy), consumers need information on the differences between the products, so they know which products (which conferences, meetups, forums, speakers, etc.) they want to patronize and support, and which not. And that requires each venue to signal what values they stand for, and what values they stand against.

      The rest is just where we go from there.

    • jsfb says

      Richard Carrier says:
      It doesn’t matter which way around it is.

      What matters is that Atheism has become an actual social movement, with a strong and growing sense of identity (and, until fairly recently, a very skewed membership demographic). …

      It hasn’t become a social movement except to the degree that it values church / state separation, since it’s core position is that claims of gods are not substantiated and the consequences of religious bias in politics are generally problematic for most groups not aligned with that bias.

      The labeling order does matter since you are advocating a very specific kind of re-labling and re-branding. You wrongly regard the order as insignificant because Atheism has nothing whatsoever to do with social movements per se, and to relabel/hijack a non-belief in deities as representative of something else is not valid. Atheism has no values unrelated to non-belief in gods. Many atheists will share values, but not necessarily because they are atheists.

      Richard Carrier also says:
      It therefore needs to define its values, and if that means separating the Atheism Movement into two, (a) the sexists, racists, and haters of moral standards, and (b) everyone else, that is what has to be done.

      “It” being atheism doesn’t need to define its values. Its values are defined, they relate to theistic claims about the nature of the supernatural and possibly how the state is involved with such matters, not some particular feminist spin on loosely identified examples of bad actors at conferences, for example.

      I could agree with every secular issue the “A+” movement might value, and I would still reject it as invalid to represent “atheism” as a movement, on the grounds that A+ demonstrates as a core principle the “no true Scottsman” line of thinking commonly found in (but not limited to) theistic collectives.

      You (or anyone) don’t get to redefine atheism to suite your particular sense of social justice, morality or any other metric of that sort.

      To me A+ is a broken concept because it tries to impose a non-atheist agenda on all atheists via exclusionary labeling and McCarthy style rhetorical tactics. If it weren’t trying to rebrand atheism but simply create new venues within atheism that increased diversity, acceptance (what a concept) and reasonable policies at events for bad actors, I would think it had some merit. But, the overreach makes it easy to dismiss.