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Atheism Plus: The New Wave of Atheism

If you’ve been getting worn down and discouraged by the seemingly-endless barrage of misogyny and trolling and hateful stupid in atheism and skepticism lately… read this. And then this. For me, it was like a shot in the arm.

I’ll be writing about this in more detail in the next couple/ few days. For now, I just want to say: Yes. This. So much this.

From Jen McCreight’s How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism:

I don’t want good causes like secularism and skepticism to die because they’re infested with people who see issues of equality as mission drift. I want Deep Rifts. I want to be able to truthfully say that I feel safe in this movement. I want the misogynists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and downright trolls out of the movement for the same reason I wouldn’t invite them over for dinner or to play Mario Kart: because they’re not good people. We throw up billboards claiming we’re Good Without God, but how are we proving that as a movement? Litter clean-ups and blood drives can only say so much when you’re simultaneously threatening your fellow activists with rape and death.

It’s time for a new wave of atheism, just like there were different waves of feminism. I’d argue that it’s already happened before. The “first wave” of atheism were the traditional philosophers, freethinkers, and academics. Then came the second wave of “New Atheists” like Dawkins and Hitchens, whose trademark was their unabashed public criticism of religion. 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. It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime. We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.

Changing a movement seems like a mighty task (especially when you lack a witty name – the Newer Atheists doesn’t have a great ring to it). But the reason I’m not throwing my hands up in the air and screaming “I quit” is because we’re already winning. It’s an uphill battle, for sure – in case you’ve forgotten, scroll up and reread this post. But change is coming. Some national organizations accepted anti-harassment policies with no fuss at all. A lot of local or student groups are fabulous when it comes to issues of diversity and social justice. A number of prominent male leaders have begun speaking out against this surge of hate directed at women. I’m working with others to hopefully start an atheist/skeptical organization specifically focused on issues of equality. And although the response from the haters is getting louder and viler, they’re now vastly outnumbered by supportive comments (which wasn’t always true). This surge of hate is nothing more than the last gasp of a faction that has reached its end.

There will inevitably be people who use this post as evidence of some gynocratic conspiracy and will hunker down even more (for examples, check the comment section in a couple of hours – odds are good you’ll find some). There will be organizations, conferences, communities, and individuals that will never care about diversity or equality or social justice. There will be some that continue to devote their free time to harassing and threatening the rest of us instead of going outside for a walk or reading a book. Though these people claim to love reason, no amount of reason will ever get them to admit that they’re wrong. So to them, all I have to say is have fun as you circle jerk into oblivion. Keep unintentionally or intentionally excluding women, minorities, and progressives while cluelessly wondering why you’re losing members, money, and clout. The rest of us will be moving on.

And from her follow-up, Atheism+, on the suggestion that we call this new wave of atheism “atheism plus” or “A+”:

It’s perfect. It illustrates that we’re more than just “dictionary” atheists who happen to not believe in gods and that we want to be a positive force in the world. Commenter dcortesi suggested how this gets atheists out of the “negativity trap” that we so often find ourselves in, when people ask stuff like “What do you atheists do, besides sitting around not-praying, eh?”

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.

Yes. This. So much this.

And if you want a real happy-making time… read the comments. I am not kidding. There are hundreds as of this writing… and as of this writing, they are overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Including lots of people delurking to say, “Yes, I want in.” I, for one, am feeling better about this community and this movement than I have in a good long while.

I quote once again from Jen:

If you’re ready for this new wave of atheism, now is the time to speak up. Say that you’re ready. Vocally support organizations and individuals that are already doing it right. Vocally criticize the inappropriate and hateful behavior so the victims of such actions know you’re on their side. Demand that your organizations and clubs evolve, or start your own if they refuse.

The Boy’s Club may have historically ruled the movement, but they don’t own it. We can.

Comments

  1. oolon says

    I will support Atheism+ as a positive way of differentiating from other Atheists that don’t see FtBs/Skepchicks/others focus on social issues as that important.

    Mainly I support because of the positivity – I’ve not found the debate between the two ‘sides’ particularly depressing – there will obviously be disagreements in any group. That they are expressed childishly and in an unpleasant way at times is also not surprising given we are on the internet! What I have found depressing is how many people are quick to say ‘the movement’ is falling apart and wailing and gnashing teeth at how ‘divisive’ it all is (On both sides). Atheists are still being atheists (Apart from John Loftus who is claiming PZs divisiveness has pushed him back to religion) so not that much of a schism occurred in the community of atheists.

    Now there are atheists and atheists+ then there is a clear delineation and no split in ‘the movement’ when any disagreements come up. It will be a disagreement between atheism and atheism+ which is self evident and hence hopefully not that upsetting. It will be a while before a group of atheist+ supporters start deriding another group of atheist+ supporters – so gives us some time for a breather :-)

  2. Vic says

    Why atheism+ ? Why not humanism+ ?
    Atheism has not much to say about these issues.

    As posted above, atheists can be “good without a god”, they can also be bad without a god.

    This might seem to be nitpicking, but if this is going to be a movement with these clear goals and structures, I think it deserves an appropriate, clear label.

    And if this movement is mainly going to be about these social issues and correcting them, with the added “by the way, we don’t believe in god”, it’s a humanist movement by atheists, not an atheist movement by humanists.

  3. says

    Why atheism+ ? Why not humanism+ ?
    Atheism has not much to say about these issues.

    Because humanists aren’t necessarily atheists, for one.

    In regards to saying that atheism has little to say about these issues, this has already been thoroughly covered.

    It’s saying “Atheism, plus [somethign else]“:

    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.

    Do you not understand? Of course it’s not extending the definition of atheism. It’s saying we’re atheists, and more.

  4. Ulgaa says

    The only quibble I have with all this, is that I just got an atheist style tattoo a couple of hours before her post. I now have to figure out where to slap a plus sign in by the A. Otherwise I’m totally on board.

  5. Michael Heath says

    Vic writes:

    Why atheism+ ? Why not humanism+ ?
    Atheism has not much to say about these issues.

    Jasper of Maine responds:

    Why atheism+ ? Why not humanism+ ?
    Atheism has not much to say about these issues.

    I don’t think people in general will intuitively get Jasper’s correct description of this movement since they’re naturally going to focus on the word atheism rather than the plus sign that follows. Some education will be needed where I readily concede that need alone shouldn’t be a show-stopper for use of this label.

    To add to the confusion, a new group’s been formed recently, Secular Woman, whose About page contains their Mission:

    The mission of Secular Woman is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women.

    Since secularism has always contained religious people who advocated for secularism, Secular Woman is a data point where we observe the non-religious excluding some secularists from a descriptor they’ve earned. In this blog post we find the adherents of atheism+, effectively I think, co-opting ‘atheist’ in a way to excludes those atheists which don’t adhere to all the policy positions of this potentially emergent group.

    I think atheists predominately support the planks being proposed here, with the exception of ‘social justice’ where I think there’s room to differ while still having a conscionable set of principles. That component is also concerning because I’m confident that any competent movement which takes on political and social goals will experience their principles evolving over time. That makes the co-option of the word atheism+ even more problematic because it will contribute to the mutation of the word atheist to meaning something very different than what it means now; within in the context where atheists are already grossly misrepresented by many who are politically active religionists.

    Why not some riff of two words or use the roots of two words to form a new word? Like ‘atheist humanists’ or ‘skeptihumanists’? I’m not arguing these are good candidates since they’re both off the top of my head and presented here only to illustrate my critique. Which is that using atheism as the only word to describe a group that is something [laudably] more; well that dilutes our collective understanding of the term atheism.

  6. Larkness says

    I think people are getting too hung up on the label. It doesn’t matter what it’s called, what matters is that somebody can look at that label and have a pretty good idea of what values are espoused. If I saw someone with an A+ pin (or SurlyRamic!), then I would be confident that I’m in good company.

  7. says

    @vic #4

    Why atheism+ ? Why not humanism+ ?
    Atheism has not much to say about these issues.

    Since the idea is to identify a subset of the larger atheist community, though, it makes sense that the label should indicate that.

  8. Silva says

    Michael Heath, I doubt it’s as bad as all that. Unless bunches of people start complaining that it is. A+ supporters aren’t leaving the community to make a new one. We’re just making a statement that, yes, we take social justice issues within the atheist community (and within society at large) seriously and we’re going to move forward with trying to improve the social environment. It’s going to be all right. No greater schism is planned. We’re only trying to make it so that what’s been happening to Rebecca Watson and Surly Amy and others doesn’t become normal. As Jen McCreight mentioned at some point, a lot of people didn’t know that level of bullying could happen in the atheist community, but now that it’s been happening, it needs to be fixed. That’s all. A+ isn’t the name of a new subgroup; it’s just a term we can use to refer to our social justice efforts.

  9. CPS says

    @Micheal #8

    “That makes the co-option of the word atheism+ even more problematic because it will contribute to the mutation of the word atheist to meaning something very different than what it means now…”

    Firstly, I don’t think this is co-option at all. We are not re-defining ‘atheism’ when we ask the atheist movement to adopt progressive social values any more than are feminists who ask the feminist movement to adopt anti-racist values, or LGTBQ activists who ask for their movement to adopt anti-ableist values. Movements can, do and should multitask.

    Secondly, I this isn’t a debate over whether or not the atheist movement should have values at all, it as a debate over which values the movement should have. We have an atheist movement. Not every atheist is or needs to be involved with it, but we do as a matter of fact have one. This movement will have values beyond simply not believing in god(s) because movements don’t occur in vacuums. They will either passively adopt the values and practices of the wider society or they will choose to actively counteract those values. The atheist movement exists in a sexist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, racist society. If it does not actively adopt progressive values that oppose these forms of bigoty then it will passively adopt and perpetuate them. You will see these values reflected in who is part of the movement, who leads it, who is given a platform to speak, what topics are prioritized and so on. It doesn’t need to be explicit, atheists will not go around with little ‘A-’ pins to demonstrate pride in the bigoted values that they share with wider society, but those values will be there unless we actively decide otherwise.

  10. Steve Schuler says

    Yes. This. So. Much. This.

    We showed the world what we are capable of with our totally underwhelming support of Alexander Aan. That’s what I call social justice in action!

    Stand aside you Tired Old White Boys Club Paleo Atheists, Third Wave Atheism Plus is about to Rock Your World!

  11. Sware says

    This is the best thing I’ve read about the movement in general in a really long time. Count me in!

  12. Nothing says

    Yay! I like where this is going. :)
    Can we have Natalie Reed back now?

    Also, white, cis, male here and I’m so in!

  13. Proxer says

    I’m down. It’s like having the LGBT safe symbol on your office door: nobody should assume that anyone’s not A+, but with the little + there, you know what you’re getting into.

    also, I feel compelled to add…

    A+ Post! Would read again!

  14. carlie says

    Plus, I’m tired of atheism being a bad word. I’m tired of being associated with horrible amoral/immoral baby eaters based on the word atheist. It’s a reclamation of the term, spinning it into a positive.

  15. says

    Personally I would have much preferred Atheism++ … but that is just the C++ hacker in me bubbling to the surface.

    I’m in .. I’ve found the recent “decussions” rather depressing, but this is indeed a real + for me.

    I wrote a blog entry and then published it on /r/atheism (fool that I am) … I did suggest that being an atheist does not make you immune to being obnoxious, hence we need Atheist+ (got a few down-votes for that, not a huge surprise I guess, but also got a couple of up-votes).

  16. Mad Hominem says

    I like it! I already have a shirt that says “A+” on the front: a “Nonbelievers Giving Aid” shirt from the Out Campaign, where the + is clearly a Red Cross reference. Nice to know that my A+ shirt isn’t going to be incompatible with the new A+ movement. We computer geeks like a good upgrade path like that.

  17. says

    Well, I’ve got a good first impression of the idea. It’d be nice if it spreads, since that would signal safe places. I think I’ll put the logo on my blog sometime today.

  18. says

    Hi,

    I admit I’m not an atheist but I wish you much success! Anything which increases the humanity quotient of humanity has to be a great thing.

    I made a decision today not to argue anymore about stuff like this, because I realise arguing is just an attempt to feel superior to someone else; it stems from insecurity.

    I came up with an ironic A+ logo in one of my posts last November but it’s good to see the same idea being put to a proper use!

    http://iaincarstairs.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/after-atheism-the-worlds-first-science/

    I think once we all solve the problems of war, poverty, homelessness, starvation and disease, it will be a great time to debate the concept of God again. Until then, good luck to you from Science & Religion!

    Kind regards

    Iain

  19. faceInTheCrowd says

    Hey there, a newbie here. I’ve been watching all this controversy from a distance, and found it rather depressing and alienating. So good to see the green shoots of something positive coming out of it!

  20. says

    I have a lot of worries that we’re putting a branding process ahead of the actual conversations that need to happen, and are altogether avoiding looking at the actual fundamental issues that caused Atheism to end up being what it ended up being.

    A+ is still pretty much the same people, with the same diversity issues, same issues of prioritization, and the same general motivations, and I don’t see any reason to think a slightly tweaked brand identity will actually prevent any of the problems we’ve been dealing with all along.

    One doesn’t become a more socially conscious person just by pointing at someone worse and saying “we’re not like them”. 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.

  21. Erista (aka Eris) says

    Natalie, I think that one of the wild, flaming issues that lead up to this situation is that a lot of us assumed that being an “atheist” meant something that it did not mean. We underestimated the number of people who came to atheism but were either hostile towards minority issues or indifferent to them. So when you got a group of people who wanted to make minority issues a serious part of atheism, then ran into the the fact that a serious chunk of the atheist/skeptic movement is actually completely unwilling to do this and always has been.

    And it’s not just the same old people who are behind A+. To name just two, Jen and Greta are hardly people who aren’t passionate about social justice issues. They’ve been fighting long and hard for social justice; they haven’t just declared a new wave, they’ve named a wave that they’ve been participating in. That’s the whole point. There are a lot of people who have been fighting this absurd for a year and have decided they can’t make the overarching atheist community change, and rather than give up on social justice issues, they are creating a new catagory for people who do have social justice as one of their big priorities. Hopefully, this will allow us to avoid walking into an atheist convention and being met with cries of “mission creep” by people whose atheism has nothing to do with social justice.

    For example, for me the whole point of an atheist movement is social justice; if I didn’t think that religion was a force against human well being, I wouldn’t care if people believed it without being true. I am an atheist because I don’t believe in a deity, but I’m an active atheist because I believe that religion usually serves as a stronghold for oppressive attitudes. If I walk into a conference that is filled with atheist libertarians who believe that the free market is king and employers should be able to not hire minorities because of their status as minorities, I’ve walked into a conference that has nothing in common with my goals whatsoever. And if there is anything that this last year has shown us, it’s that we’ve been walking into groups that have nothing in common with our ultimate goals for a lot longer than we knew it.

    Maybe it won’t work; maybe the atheist/social justice movement is doomed and we’ll all have to abandon it. But there are a lot of people who want to try this, to see if they can get it to work. And I support that all the way.

  22. says

    I believe in Atheism+, but I call it “Enlightenment”. See my old post:
    Dimensions of enlightenment

    My aim has been to put a range of related topics on a sounder and consistent footing. So my dimensions (in the absence of a better set) are “cognition”, “knowledge”, “empathy”, and “governance”. (See my post above).

    These can cover Skepticism and evidence-based reasoning, equality and peer-appreciation (opposed to misogyny and misandry), secular democracy, etc.

  23. says

    @Natalie Reed:

    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?

    No, unfortunately there is not. On the other hand, I do believe that Jen (and Greta and others) will keep on mentioning these issues, relentlessly, and keep on promoting understanding on a level that is more than superficial. That they will not only continue to include but actively welcome the voices of “The Other,” and take criticism with humility and grace when they fall short. I don’t believe this because of sparkleponies and rainbow shitting unicorns, either. I believe it because I’ve seen them do it before when it wasn’t easy, and also because my many years of therapy have taught me (among other things) that the best predictor of someone’s future behavior is their past behavior.

    For these reasons alone, I am in.

    In. In. In.

  24. CPS says

    Yeah, I have to agree with Erista. This is not a bunch of strangers to social justice issues declaring themselves enlightened, it is social activists within the atheist community giving a name to the work they do and the movement they have already been developing. I also don’t see this as “privileged folks getting together, declaring themselves enlightened, and setting out to help The Other.” so much as I see this as some of The Other from within the atheist movement saying “Hang on a minute, this is our movement too!”

  25. Entrained says

    I had similar thoughts to Natalie and…Is David Silverman in. Is Dan Barker in? Is August Brunsman IV in? Is Richard Dawkins in? I’m just curious since Jen articulated an idea that has no organizational structure I’m aware of and lots of folks are hopping on board. Just curious where everyone is hopping to. And it’s great ideas but these are not the existing planks of these organizations as far as I can tell and let’s not forget that donations are the universal grease. Just wondering if the grease is going to keep flowing for A+ and if these groups and the others are going to take this socially conscious risk.

  26. richardwatkins says

    Atheism, by definition, is not an organized group with an organized goal. If you want to join a “club” to promote pro-human views, try the Humanists. The only thing I share in common with other atheists is a lack of belief. That’s all there should be between us. Sure, individually, we can find common interests…tech, science, bacon, cats…but it’s mostly because we’re intelligent and nerdy, not because we lack a belief in a god. Trying to organize atheism as some kind of new age church is ridiculous and, quite frankly, insulting.

  27. lordshipmayhem says

    I must be ahead of the curve on this “new wave of atheism” thing. Count me in, in, IN!

    I’m an atheist – check. I don’t believe in invisible creatures with supernatural powers, regardless of whether they’ve got ultimate power or minimal wattage, or any level of supernatural power in between.

    I’m against harassing my fellow beings – check. I’ve worked in offices for over 30 years, and in all that time it’s the rare (and small) office that didn’t have a written anti-harassment policy. These policies all covered not just sexual harassment, but also racial harassment and any other kind anyone could think of. Those policies made a great deal of sense to anyone with even the slightest iota of empathy. They made sense to anyone with a heartfelt desire to keep one’s ass out of civil court for tort actions, to say nothing of criminal court for criminal harassment charges.

    And by extension those anti-harassment policies covered not just the people you worked with, but the firm’s clients and the firm’s suppliers.

    The whole thing just made sense.

    So you don’t make passes at people who you work with, and you don’t make passes at clients or clients’ agents or staff, and you don’t make passes at vendors or vendors’ agents or staff. Being at a convention, be it for business or pleasure, is just like being at an office – you don’t make passes at presenters or convention staff. They’ve got more important things to do.

    The people manning the booths in the vendors’ hall? Yes, they’re called “booth bunnies”, but they’re being paid to be there to make sales, and have to be there. They’ve got better things to do than submit to your lame attempts at making passes.

    This is “business ethics 101″. It’s also How To Be Grown Up. It saddens me that some of us supposed adults have never learnt this lesson.

  28. says

    @richardwatkins: Likening socially-justice minded atheism to some kind of new age church is ridiculous and, quite frankly, insulting. Who made you the arbiter of what “should” be shared between atheists?

    Kindly fuck off. No, actually: just fuck off.

  29. Entrained says

    #38 irisvanderpluym…So it didn’t take long…guess it doesn’t matter if it’s Atheism or Atheism+ till someone with an opposing view is cursed at. Just shows that no matter what you call it, we are stuck in a race to the cellar way to many times when it comes to open conversations.Very disappointing but not surprising.

  30. Erista (aka Eris) says

    Atheism, by definition, is not an organized group with an organized goal. If you want to join a “club” to promote pro-human views, try the Humanists. The only thing I share in common with other atheists is a lack of belief. That’s all there should be between us. Sure, individually, we can find common interests…tech, science, bacon, cats…but it’s mostly because we’re intelligent and nerdy, not because we lack a belief in a god. Trying to organize atheism as some kind of new age church is ridiculous and, quite frankly, insulting.

    See, this is the kind of thing I’m talking about. Here, right now, speaking (typing?) to us is one of those people who think that “pro-human views” isn’t something for atheism to deal with. This is why Atheism+ has a chance of working. You’re like Greta or Jen and social justice is an essential part of their atheism, a part that you have established over time that you will fight for? You go Atheism+. You want to be a atheist who has no interest in connecting their atheism with social justice, or anything else for that matter? You go dictionary atheist with richardwatkins. People like richardwatkins can opt out of social justice work, and the rest of us can stop being shocked when an atheist convention turns out to not actually want to do anything other than congratulate each other for not believing in a deity.

  31. Greta Christina says

    irisvanderpluym @ #38: Please do not curse at other commenters in my blog. Review my comment policy. Thank you.

    richardwatkins @ #36: If you don’t think atheists are an organized group with an organized goal, then you’re free to not participate in it. The door is that way. However, like it or not, the reality is that atheists are an organized movement and community — and many atheists want that community to be inclusive of a wider range of people than it’s currently including, and to give a damn about people it currently doesn’t seem to give a damn about.

    That’s the idea of “atheism plus”: it means, “we’re atheists, plus we care about and work towards social justice.” This blogger is on board. If you don’t want that — you are welcome to leave this blog any time.

  32. says

    You guys have a good thing going. You’re free of a lot of unhealthy dogma and you have a lot of very intelligent and thoughful people among you. It’s a shame to be arguing amongst yourselves.

    There are solid neurotransmitter reasons for dozens of spiritual practices, so they don’t have to be undertaken because of dogma or obedience to authority – they can be undertaken just because you know there is a solid cortical benefit.

    It’s less about not believing in God than it is about believing there are good, solid, scientifically valid reasons for doing all the things which religious people say are essential. You’re free of all that stuff in the past – you should be excited about the possibility of accelerating your own evolution using logic. It’s a good movement for very plain, understandable reasons.. why argue?

  33. SatanHimself says

    This is just a power play on the part of *bloggers* to hijack the atheist movement to add their own extraneous liberal political agenda to it. Count me out. How many of these brave *bloggers* have challenged a school board regarding SOCAS or atheist civil rights? How many of them have confronted their legislators? How many have filed suits against discriminatory businesses? How many have marched as atheists in public parades and incurred the public’s hate? Damn few. Instead they sit back in the safety and comfort of their basements and pontificate on their keyboards (and collect royalties)–and think they are important. I consider their efforts an insult to the trailblazing female atheists like Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Margaret Downey, and Annie Laurie Gaylor, who have incurred harassment and death threats for many years, but don’t whine about it incessantly. Can you imagine Madalyn being sexually harassed but NOT willing to chew out the harasser, or file a police report? Can you imagine her being afraid to NAME the culprit? Oh, but I forgot, many of these “bloggers” weren’t even alive during Madalyn’s heyday. These present-day non-activists (i.e. *bloggers*) are gutless weenies who want the rest of us to be their mommies and daddies to protect them, instead of protecting themselves and others by confronting the harassers or reporting them to legal authorities, where appropriate. They are pathetic.

  34. says

    Actually, I get tired of the trails of self-righteousness and similar, as well as tired of trying to figure out if we’re on the ninth wave, the 11th wave or whatever.

    Beyond that, all those nice items on that list?

    It’s called secular humanism and they already exist.

  35. Greta Christina says

    SatanHimself @ #43: Your concerns are noted. Thank you for sharing. The door is that way.

    SocraticGadfly @ #44: There is a difference between atheism plus and secular humanism. I’m working now on a piece that addresses those differences (among other things). In the meantime, Ashley F. Miller has an excellent piece about the topic, that says much of what I want to say.

  36. says

    @Greta: My sincere apologies to you and your readers: I retract my intemperate f-bombs and will refrain from dropping the same in the future, in accordance with your expressed wishes and the Principle of Benevolent Autocracy. (The rest of my comment, I trust, still stands.)

    @Entrained

    So it didn’t take long…guess it doesn’t matter if it’s Atheism or Atheism+ till someone with an opposing view is cursed at. Just shows that no matter what you call it, we are stuck in a race to the cellar way to many times when it comes to open conversations.Very disappointing but not surprising.

    Because the “opposing view” expressed by richardwatkins is somehow less insulting and condescending than mine, based solely on the presence or absence of f-bombs? You know, this is Greta’s house, and if she requires those who enter it to abide by certain standards of language and rules of conduct, that is perfectly unobjectionable. (And again, I apologize to her and to her readers — I was not aware of and should have familiarized myself with her policy before commenting.) But this deliberate conflation of content and tone? I will never, ever understand it.

  37. says

    @Greta:

    SatanHimself @ #43: Your concerns are noted. Thank you for sharing. The door is that way.

    But…!? WAIT!!! But they actually said that— okay! I know, I know! I just…

    …don’t know how you do it. But I’m impressed—and glad—that you do.

  38. Noemi says

    Hi Greta,
    I’ve been a long-time reader of your blog but I’ve only commented once (it was on one of your posts about sex workers). I was just wondering… What’s the best way to talk to you about something completely off-topic? For example, I have many suggestions for topics I want you to cover (but I don’t want to derail any of your comment threads with my suggestions). :)

  39. Rob says

    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.

    Natalie. I want you to be in. Not because I understand the issues that face you in your life and what is important to you, but because I do not.

    I’ve had bad stuff happen in my life. I have had to rise above some level of disadvantage (please note not a plea for sympathy) but, that has also been easier to rise above because I am a white cis-het male. That background makes getting on top of other issues easier. Anyone who says otherwise is deluded.

    Because of my background, upbringing and physical location I have had little exposure to other races, cultures and lifestyles. I strongly agree with the goals of equal treatment and opportunity for all. I strive to avoid treating others in a disrespectful or unequal manner. Lacking understanding of others though makes this a slow and hit/miss process. Even with guidance it will take the rest of my life (as I suspect it will for all of us).

    The best way surely (certainly for me – I can’t speak for others) is to be exposed to as wide a body of experiences and views as possible. In short I need you and others who are not like me to be a part of this movement (whatever we end up calling it) so that it becomes the movement and society that I believe we all want.

    I understand your reservations, but I/we need your voice. This may sound like a selfish motivation I know, but without the multiplicity of voices the aims of our nascent movement will not be met anyway.

  40. 'Tis Himself says

    Noemi #48

    Greta’s email address is given in the “About the Author” section in the upper right corner of this page.

  41. Noemi says

    ‘Tis Himself #50
    Just wondering… Will Greta actually reply if I email her? I’ve never talked to her and I don’t know if I’ll ever get to… Does someone who’s popular enough to have her own Wikipedia article even have time to reply to a nobody like me? :p
    But if you think she’ll reply, then I’ll try emailing her. :)

  42. Infophile says

    @29 Natalie Reed: I don’t see this as putting branding ahead of the actual conversations needed. Rather, I see this more as a rallying cry. It gives a specific subset of atheists a banner to rally under, should they so wish. Most importantly, judging by the comments here and at Jen’s, it’s working. It’s spurring people to join in the discussion who’d only lurked before.

    Will all of these new people be perfect on all the issues Jen mentioned? Of course not. But I’d wager we’d be selecting for an overall better crop of people than atheists in general. This isn’t an end. This isn’t a beginning. This is simply a banner planted in the sand, to marshall the forces to join in the fight.

    And hopefully, it can also help us avoid those endless arguments over what “atheism” means.

  43. duckdunn says

    @Greta

    However, like it or not, the reality is that atheists are an organized movement and community — and many atheists want that community to be inclusive of a wider range of people than it’s currently including

    This proposed A+ community will narrow the range of atheists/skeptics involved, not widen it. I don’t plan to “join” this movement, and indeed, you wouldn’t want me part or your community anyway.

    I actually agree with everything on Jenn’s list (such as the pro-feminism, anti-racism, etc) in her original post except for the “social justice” part. That’s really a euphemism for ultra left-wing politics, which I consider to be manifestly unjust, as well as profoundly irrational. (After all, who could be against “justice?” It’s like being against “freedom” or hating puppies.)

    The point of my post though isn’t to argue politics. Rather, I mean to point out that the A+ proposal is in fact an explicit fusion of atheism/skepticism and a particular political viewpoint. There is nothing at all wrong with that, and I can understand why you’d want to be part of a group that shares your views on both religion and politics. However, you should understand doing so will certainly alienate those of us who don’t agree with those politics.

  44. says

    @Greta 47 … but the triumphalism of Gnu Atheism, including this latest rebranding, is PRECISELY why, contra you and Miller, I identify first as a secular humanist.

    Also, let me add that atheism is not the same thing as irreligion. Hundreds of millions of Buddhists who are atheists know that. (So do philosophers who are careful about verbiage.)

    Anyway, thanks for giving me thought for a blog post.

  45. wugong says

    No.

    The idea that all activism needs to be “linked together” (you see this in the feminist camp as well) is precisely what divides society into halves, and a convenient excuse for intellectual laziness. Through a system of shame and guilt, it forces people to ultimately side entirely with one faction, or be tossed out and wholly demonized as a villain if he or she disagrees with a particular creed.

    Atheism is a movement borne on the currents of logic and science, destined to undermine, destroy and humiliate those that still cling onto primitive beliefs. Despite its popularity with the “left”, it is not an instrument of moralist grandstanding and any attempt at conflating it with “social justice” reeks of political motives.

  46. Erista (aka Eris) says

    @wugong I don’t know how with one breath you can say “Atheism is a movement borne on the currents of logic and science, destined to undermine, destroy and humiliate those that still cling onto primitive beliefs” and still insist that atheism should not be connected to social justice. I mean, what “primitive beliefs” are you talking about if you aren’t talking about the beliefs that women are less than men, women should be submissive to men, that there are specific gender roles that men and women should adhere to, that XY = man and XX = woman (except when a third party decides it doesn’t), that homosexuality is wrong, and all that kind of stuff?

  47. Tasha says

    Delurking for the first time ever to say that THIS discussion/evolution is getting me to stop just reading and consider getting active in the movement. I’m old enough to know better than to join old-boys’ networks and expect to be heard or treated respectfully, so I haven’t been willing to dip my toes in… until now. :)

  48. Sally Strange says

    This proposed A+ community will narrow the range of atheists/skeptics involved, not widen it.

    The only way you could seriously believe this is if you think that all atheists are straight white heterosexual cis men.

  49. Sally Strange says

    Also, someone who was truly apolitical wouldn’t bother getting involved in this conversation. Getting involved to push back against efforts to unite social justice with organized atheism doesn’t reveal a lack of politics, it reveals reactionary politics.

  50. wugong says

    Apolitical? Not at all. I’m an ultranationalist and proudly so.

    Erista: because those things have nothing to do with one another.

    I can support your Western social justice stance on abortion, homosexuality, trans rights etc, all but feminism and multiculturalism, both of which should be exposed as the garbage they are and confined to Western countries.

    And guess what? I’m no less an atheist than any of you.

  51. Greta Christina says

    I can support your Western social justice stance on abortion, homosexuality, trans rights etc, all but feminism and multiculturalism, both of which should be exposed as the garbage they are and confined to Western countries.

    wugong @ #61: If you think feminism and multiculturalism are garbage, you are not welcome in my blog.

    I am tired of doing 101-level education with people who are not interested in learning. I want to move on. I am no longer willing for this blog to be a host to people who despise me and everything I care about. Banned. Good-bye.

  52. Greta Christina says

    The point of my post though isn’t to argue politics. Rather, I mean to point out that the A+ proposal is in fact an explicit fusion of atheism/skepticism and a particular political viewpoint. There is nothing at all wrong with that, and I can understand why you’d want to be part of a group that shares your views on both religion and politics. However, you should understand doing so will certainly alienate those of us who don’t agree with those politics.

    duckdunn @ #53: That’s fine with me. In fact, that’s more than fine with me. That’s the entire point.

    You are completely mistaken about “social justice” being a euphemism for “ultra left-wing politics.” But I am not interested in debating that point. The point is this: Atheists who don’t share this basic outlook on politics — i.e., this basic outlook on ethics — are welcome to pursue atheist activism however they like, entirely separate from social justice. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to do something else. And apparently, a whole lot of other people want to do something else as well. I am perfectly happy to alienate people who don’t care about the things I care about most.

  53. Greta Christina says

    Noemi @ # 48: You can email me, at greta (at) gretachristina (dot) com. I don’t promise to answer — I’m pretty swamped (especially this week!), and I get a lot of email. But I answer emails as much as I can.

  54. Philip G says

    The views from my local student atheist society are best summed-up in this comment;

    “Atheists Plus… YAWN.

    For God’s sake. Atheism is atheism. Nothing more. A lack of a belief in a God. That’s it. Adding more onto it just clouds it.

    Be an atheist progressive if you want. Or an atheist socialist.

    But the day being an Atheist draws on more than the simple absence of belief in God is the day it becomes too politicised…

    Now pass the whisky.”

  55. Sparky says

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’ve heard this before. “I don’t like the views or attitudes or beliefs of some people in this group so I propose forming a new, better one” Hell, we could just call athiesm plus a different denomination.
    For the record, I’m pro lgbt and pro choice, so on and so forth. Now I guess that has to be stated because anyone skeptical of this proposal is already being painted as a misogynist pig by the author. Again, sounds familiar–religion playbook page one. Anyone who isn’t a believer is evil.
    I hope you see the folly in this proposal. Those that are out of line do need to be dealt with and will be, it is the nature of group not to tolerate the intolerant. Why risk alienating even more potential allies; atheist or not? All strong organizations stay on-message. That doesn’t mean that social justice stances can’t be and aren’t already being incorporated into the athiest movement, it just means that division only weakens the group and strengthens its enemies. To be a bit glib, “can’t we all just get along?”

  56. says

    @Sparky #68

    Why risk alienating even more potential allies; atheist or not?

    To be a bit glib, “can’t we all just get along?”

    Let us consider the list of proposed additions under the “plus” part of atheism plus:

    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.

    So who are we alienating? In order:
    People who don’t care about social justice
    People who don’t support women’s rights
    People who think racism is fine
    People who think homophobia and transphobia are not worth fighting
    People who don’t use critical thinking and skepticism.
    Do we even want any of these people as allies or in our movement?

    Who are we gaining?
    Everyone else who felt unwelcome because of the presence of the above list of people in our movement.

    I am with Greta and Jen on this one.

  57. Sparky says

    To Collin,
    Well obviously. You’re missing the point. The point is not to accept hateful people but that by dividing the “group” into denominations you are, by definition, alienating people who otherwise agree with the core tenet– no god(s). And by the way, who is really going to say, “well, I’m not with athiesm plus, I hate gays, etc” ? I’m relatively inexperienced with the larger athiest movement but really? I haven’t met or heard from any such people. That isn’t to say that there aren’t any, but surely they are a small, inconsequential minority. This whole “plus” thing is only so much self-stroking. It is one thing to justifiably point out faults of some group members, it is quite another to simultaneously puff yourself up and say you are establishing a whole new, better, group. I can just see fox news now—”war inside atheism.”

  58. duckdunn says

    @Collin #69

    So who are we alienating? In order:
    People who don’t care about social justice
    People who don’t support women’s rights
    People who think racism is fine
    People who think homophobia and transphobia are not worth fighting
    People who don’t use critical thinking and skepticism.
    Do we even want any of these people as allies or in our movement?

    This above is, of course, a massive false dichotomy. There are atheists/skeptics who care about those things, but don’t agree with the (so-called) progressive “solutions.” In fact, because I do care about the issues on the list, it makes it impossible for me to collaborate with people who I think have very mistaken ideas about how to deal with those problems.

  59. duckdunn says

    @Sally Strange #58

    The only way you could seriously believe this is if you think that all atheists are straight white heterosexual cis men.

    Me: The number of atheists/skeptics whose favorite color is purple is surely fewer than the total number of atheists/skpetics.

    Sally: Only if you believe they are all straight white men!

    Me: LOL Wut??

    (And fwiw, I’m not a “straight white heterosexual cis man.”)

  60. duckdunn says

    @Greta #63:

    I am perfectly happy to alienate people who don’t care about the things I care about most.

    Exactly, and I’m not saying I blame you. My point is simply that you are narrowing the range of atheists with whom you choose to associate to those who share your particular political and philosophical viewpoint.

    BTW, I care about those things too. I just disagree with most here about how those issues should be characterized and addressed.

  61. says

    @duckdunn 71

    There are atheists/skeptics who care about those things, but don’t agree with the (so-called) progressive “solutions.”

    I don’t see any of these progressive solutions listed though. Note the very careful wording in Jen’s description of Atheism plus.

    “Atheists plus we care about social justice” not “Atheists plus we support affirmative action”
    “Atheists plus we support women’s rights” not “Atheists plus we support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act”
    “Atheists plus we protest racism” not “Atheists plus we support hate crime legislation”

    Dictionary atheism does not logically lead to anything. That’s what the plus is for. The plus lets those of us who do care about social justice etc to identify that as something in addition to our atheism.

    This idea that atheism plus is splitting the community is strange to me. I identify as both an atheist and a humanist, and now I identify is both an atheist and an atheist plus. The plus is in addition to, not instead of.

  62. says

    @Sparky 70

    I’m relatively inexperienced with the larger athiest movement but really? I haven’t met or heard from any such people. That isn’t to say that there aren’t any, but surely they are a small, inconsequential minority.

    First let me say that I have met such people more often than I would expect in the wider atheist community, but more importantly I’ve met people of “minority” groups (especially women and African American) who feel unwelcome as a result.

    Second, I don’t see how it is divisive to say “I am an atheist in every sense of the word that you mean it, plus I do some other things too.” Is it divisive to say I am an atheist, skeptic, agnostic, freethinker, occasional anti-theist, feminist, secularist, AND humanist? None of these terms are mutually exclusive and by being able to identify with any number of them at the same time people can be involved in the aspects of the movement that they are most interested in. Again, how is this divisive? I only see inclusion here.

    I see atheism plus in the same way. It’s not “atheism but better” it’s “atheism and all this other stuff that I care about it.” I think it’s a very useful shorthand for the laundry list of labels I spelled out before and I plan to add it to the list.

  63. Sparky says

    @Greta #63:

    BTW, Greta, do you mean that social justice is only moderately left-wing or are you saying that social justice isn’t left-wing at all?

  64. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Now I guess that has to be stated because anyone skeptical of this proposal is already being painted as a misogynist pig by the author.

    because there’s no precedent for that, right? Nah, just some krrrraaaazzzzyyy chicks making up shit.

  65. Greta Christina says

    BTW, Greta, do you mean that social justice is only moderately left-wing or are you saying that social justice isn’t left-wing at all?

    Sparky @ #76: I am saying it is not “ultra left wing.” The political reality in America is that social justice is primarily a progressive concern. It shouldn’t be, it doesn’t have to be… but right now, it is. But it is not an extreme left-wing position. It is, I would argue, the core of what it means to be progressive — moderate, ultra, or other.

  66. Sparky says

    @Greta #78:

    Well, does “social justice” include support for affirmative action? And what are your thoughts on affirmative action?

  67. Sparky says

    @Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle #77:

    You seem to be implying that there were some people skeptical of this proposal who were misogynist pigs. Do you have any evidence of that?

  68. wtf Sparky says

    Ok, first off I, under the name Sparky have posted nothing past post 70. Whoever is writing under that name after that is not me. Wtf.

    Thank you Collin for your posts and Greta for elaborating much further, greatly appreciated.

  69. Horace says

    I think the red A infringes on a registered trademark, currently used by the Richard Dawkins Foundation (www.uspto.gov – search the TESS database for marks owned by the Dawkins Foundation).

    The red A is registered on the principal register.

    If you have obtained permission from the foundation to use the mark, then I may be speaking out of turn.

  70. Horace says

    I think starting the Atheist Plus movement is a good idea. It makes it clear that the political views being espoused by those in the Atheist Plus organization are not necessarily “atheist” views, but are rather “views held by a subset of atheists.”

    It’s not really helpful, in my view, to say “I support social justice.” The term is too vague to have any real meaning, and people use it in a variety of different ways. Before that term has any real meaning, we have to narrow it down to what is actually meant by social justice.

    Most everyone believes in the equality of humankind, even the evil libertarians and even more evil Objectivists espouse that belief. However, they, classical liberals, neoconservatives, modern Liberals, Leftists, Socialists, Communists, Anarchists, and everyone in between, have different thoughts on how best to treat that basic, underlying principle.

  71. Sware says

    I’m a woman. Funny though, not all women are feminists. I for one am glad that feminism exists and differentiates some women from others.

    I’m also an atheist. Curious enough, not all atheists have the same priorities. That’s fine. They don’t have to. One of those benefits of being dogma free I suppose. Not all atheists will be A+ and I think that is pretty much a given. But I’m glad the idea exists to differentiate some atheists from others.

  72. Sparky says

    To Collin,
    We are looking at this diffently. Seems that you’re looking at it as a sub-sub-set of athiesm in general, not to be confused with or competing with what I originally saw as a competing type of athiesm. It could easily be seen that way in the first version by the way. Anyway, after clarification, in that way, sure no prob, to each his own.

    To Greta @6
    Again, thanks for clarifying. However, “An atheist movement cannot be inclusive of atheist women… and also be inclusive of people who publicly call women ugly, fat, sluts, whores, cunts, and worse; who persistently harass them; who deliberately invade their privacy and make their personal information public; and/or who routinely threaten them with grisly violence, rape, and death.”
    Well no shit. I’m not sure who to bludgeon. Either this is a major jump to judgement, because seriously, where are these people? I’m still skeptical of thier existence. OR you’re right on and there are assholes coming out of the woodwork.

  73. says

    This is stupid. Why?

    I want the misogynists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and downright trolls out of the movement

    How long until those ass hole join this “atheist plus” “movement”? Trying to keel the ass holes out by creating a new movement is just going to create more devisions and will fail because ass holes will join the new movement.

  74. says

    It seems this is the point of those folks using the label “Humanist”. I prefer to keep using the word “atheist” in everything possible so believers learn we are all around them, good people, friendly volunteers, neighbors, doctors and relatives. I’d change it to keep the word “atheist” at the rear for emphasis, something like “Plus Atheists” or “Positive Atheists” or “Humanist Atheists”.

  75. says

    Don’t we already have something like this called Humanism. This is idiotic there are already a variety of names. This is how you can tell secular folk have religion when they include sect and start saying crap like ‘real’ atheist and ‘AtheistPlus’ as if branding were the problem and not that there is a different word for entailing an ethical atheist.

  76. levonmkrtchyan says

    This is so great! I am really glad this finally happened! I personally have felt for a long time that to me, atheism and the atheist community mean so much more than just lack of a belief in a deity.

  77. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Sparky @ #81: Really? Just read the comments here. Obviously, the misogynist pigs aren’t going to admit that they’re misogynists but you know which ones they are.

  78. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    James @ #91: Let me guess, are you a libertarian? :)
    It’s funny how all the people against this movement don’t really have any good reasons… It seems to all just be “but isn’t mixing atheism with liberal politics a bad idea”? Well, if you think social justice is a bad idea… If you think laws against hate speech is a bad idea… If you think affirmative action is a bad idea… Then yes, you’re the type of person who would think this is a bad idea. But guess what? You don’t have to be a “liberal” to support those things. You just have to be a DECENT human being. :)

  79. Tim says

    >>I’m working with others to hopefully start an atheist/skeptical organization specifically focused on issues of equality.

    Why aren’t you skeptical about “equality” given it is derived from Christian mythology of souls partaking in the divine?

    Or willing to embrace the mythology to advance your power 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.

    The Christian mythology of equal and infinitely valuable souls that partake in the divine slowly became hidden under the regime of liberal/human rights based on assertions of “personhood”. All persons are created equal and, as “persons” possess dignity. -Hmm, sound oddly familiar???

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

  80. LP says

    I guess we will just have to have two groups. Atheists plus and whoever is not a part of atheist plus will be considered atheist second class, or douchbag atheist. I mean do we need a designation for those who simply are not assholes? Or is it just there to make people stop and think about how much of an asshole they’ve been lately? What if someone transgresses, what do we do? Do they get kicked out? Publicly shamed? Isn’t this whole thing just a little silly? There is no tangible organization to belong to anyway, and whatever does it have to do with being an atheist anyway? It almost feels to me like a religion, an exclusive club, not a group of free thinkers. I think the intention is good, but I see potential problems down the road. Labels aren’t always the best thing. Just common sense is all that’s needed. It’s not going to keep the douchbags from being douchy.

  81. Greta Christina says

    Why aren’t you skeptical about “equality” given it is derived from Christian mythology of souls partaking in the divine?

    Tim @ #96: I’m trying to compose an answer, but it’s proving difficult, as I can’t seem to stop this uncontrolled fit of hysterical, derisive laughter.

    Equality is a concept derived from Christian mythology, therefore we should be skeptical of it and mock it. That is so profoundly ridiculous on so many levels, I don’t even know where to start. And I’m not going to bother. The haters are really reaching now. But it’s kind of comforting to see the “I think equality is ridiculous” principle spelled out so bluntly.

    Okay. Entertainment over. You can go away now.

  82. Greta Christina says

    I mean do we need a designation for those who simply are not assholes?

    LP @ #97: Unfortunately, we seem to. Look at what the last year has been like for women in this movement. And look at how many people are insisting that atheism has to be “inclusive” of people who treat women with vile, venomous abuse.

    What if someone transgresses, what do we do? Do they get kicked out? Publicly shamed?

    That depends on what context we’re talking about. A local community? A national organization? An online forum? A blog?

    I can’t speak for what exactly this will mean for other individuals or groups. In this blog, if they seem like they’re genuinely well-meaning and just not familiar with Social Justice 101, they will get a few chances. If they don’t seem genuinely well-meaning, if they’re clearly familiar with the concept of Social Justice 101 and have demonstrated their active and deliberate hostility to it, they will get both publicly shamed and kicked out.

    Isn’t this whole thing just a little silly?

    What’s silly is that women in this movement have been subjected to a solid year of venom, abuse, deliberate violation of privacy, and grotesque threats… and now people are acting as if we are terrible and divisive for not wanting to put up with it anymore, and for wanting to form a subset of atheism that doesn’t tolerate that behavior. If you have a better solution, I’d be interested in hearing it.

    There is no tangible organization to belong to anyway,

    Not yet.

    and whatever does it have to do with being an atheist anyway?

    It has to do with being an atheist because people who might otherwise want to come out as atheists and participate in the community are being kept away by behavior that, consciously or not, is sexist, racist, classist, transphobic, and otherwise obnoxious to marginalized people. More detailed explanation here: Why Atheism Plus Is Good for Atheism.

    Just common sense is all that’s needed. It’s not going to keep the douchbags from being douchy.

    Right. Common sense. Like responding to a guy asking you for coffee in a hotel elevator in a strange city at 4am after you’d specifically said that you don’t like being hit on at conferences and specifically said you were tired and turning in… by saying, “Guys, don’t do that.” That’s all that’s needed. There’s no way that could end badly, right?

    We have been trying common sense for a year. We have spent a year getting shit thrown in our faces for our pains. We are done. The douchebags will no doubt continue to be douchy… but I’m done with being expected to work with them. And I am done with giving them space in my blog.

  83. Tim says

    Greta @ #98 (why no inline replies?):

    I’m sure your answer to this questions will be more amusing than anything else here: How, pray tell, have you derived a right to equality, one so absolute it goes without saying?

    Why do you and others here pretend to be atheists while piously preaching morality (when not insulting critics) based genealogically upon Christian mythology of souls of equal and divine value?

    You are aware that our human rights, equality, “personhood”, “dignity”, etc, are all derived from Christian mythology, are you not? Surely you’ve read the recent originators of the new versions of these myths and seen how they derived these notions, no? Their assertions merit as much skepticism as Christian claims do, no? As I said, even Kant had the honesty to admit he needed “god” to support such ideas.

    Unless you have a pious faith in them? Or an interest in them?

    You haven’t taken 5 steps toward atheism. You’re a political actor making power claims, same as those you decry.

    Why not be a philosopher and skeptic first?

    For example: I saw a cockroach on the road today. Then another later on. We’re they equal? We’re they both of inherent value and had rights? What about that other animal on this rock, the clever one called “human”? Any cardinal difference there we didn’t simply invent?

  84. Tim says

    >>people who might want to participate in the community are being kept away
    >>a guy asking you for coffee
    >>specifically said you were tired

    Maybe that’s why he was offering coffee? ;-)

    Seriously, how can we ever share a community and have any justice in this world if a person can just brazenly ask another if they’d like a coffee?

    Good god, where’s Martin Luther King when we need him?

  85. Tim says

    Greta 102:

    Exactly as I thought. You’re not a skeptic.

    Don’t be afraid to think about it later though :-)

  86. Greta Christina says

    Everyone: Tim has been banned. (This particular Tim, anyway — not all Tims everywhere.) If he gets back on through a different IP address and comments again, please do not respond. I will delete his comments as soon as I see them. Thanks.

  87. Grey says

    I don’t quite understand how so many can fail to see that this manufactured movement is built upon the sorts of divisive thinking it claims to be created to break people away from.

    As someone aptly said above, the branding has come before the brain-work. All I see here is a bitter hatred for men and a desire to be “in control” of a community.

    Quote: “The Boys Club [male intellectuals] may have historically ruled the movement, but they don’t own it. We [female intellectuals] can.”

    Judging by the reactions of the people who are “behind” this “movement”, it’s taken less than two days to become arrogant and dismissive of people who disagree with you.

    The freethinkers and atheists of the world are capable of deciding which expressions of thought are to be given credence without being herded into a manufactured community. There is no community without persons who try to combine good ideas with bad ideas, especially on the internet. “A+” would be no exception and would be perhaps more vulnerable to the problems of internal division because the genesis of the “movement” is explicitly based on sexist thinking.

    Having said that, any atheist/freethinker that has somehow come to the conclusion that gender has anything to do with atheism, humanism, or free thought should be ashamed of themselves, male or female. That there should be such a volume of this kind of thinking as to motivate people to suggest an alternate community to be away from it is fairly sickening. There are more important things to do than fight with each other about how the atheist community ought to be composed.

    Certainly dividing the community into different movements does nothing but weaken the community outwardly. Don’t like how “Old White Guys” do atheism? Show them where they’re wrong, gather support from the community, and improve atheism from within. Taking your toys and going home leaves the “Old White Guys” in “power” where they are, dilutes the movement, and guarantees “Old White Guy” thinking remains the atheist norm.

    Fighting it out is harder, but if the concern was for atheism – as a community and a personal mindset -, you’d be doing that instead of this.

  88. Greta Christina says

    All I see here is a bitter hatred for men and a desire to be “in control” of a community.

    Grey @ #109: If you can read Jen’s post about the history of what motivated her to initiate this, and still characterize it as motivated by “a bitter hatred for men,” then you are part of the problem. Go away.

  89. Grey says

    If you had read my whole post instead of picking out a sentence you didn’t like, you’d have noticed that the quote of hers that I included in my post was from the post you just linked. So, I’m aware of her motivations/concerns and while “bitter hatred” might overstate her particular views, some of the comments in this thread and in others related to A+ are caustically motivated by a hate for men.

    But thank you for proving my point about dismissal and arrogance. I will be going and staying away now.

  90. blogromp says

    @Natalie Reed

    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?

    Thank you! I brought this up in the comments on the original posts. It’s not enough to discuss the marginalization of The Other. It’s not enough to “welcome the voices” of The Other. If this movement wants to progress without repeating the oppression of those of us with intersecting marginalized identities, it must recognize that we are not The Other. We are atheists who have been kept out of the atheist community in both active and passive ways. And we need to be brought in, during these nascent days, and be given power. Power to determine how the organization is formed, and the focus it has, and the direction it will take.

    This is somewhat like two people becoming roommates. If one person is already established in a place, and the other person later moves in, there is a strong sense that the home “belongs” to the first person. There are all sorts of expectations and “ways things are done”, and there is a certain feeling that the new person is in some ways a guest of the original tenant. Even if it’s supposed to be a mutual arrangement, and all the bills and chores are split evenly, this dynamic still tends to happen.

    I don’t want someone to build a house, get established, and then ask me to move in with them. I want to build the house together (hey, wouldn’t it be great to have accessibility already built into the house, instead of trying to retrofit it later?) and move in together, so that things are equitable from the start.

    But I still feel like the way “diversity” is being talked about in the A+ conversations is that the “normal” atheists (read: highly privileged people who are already well established in the community) see themselves as Us and The Other as Them. As if they can start things up with a new mission statement and then assume that The Other will show up and see that this atheism thing is pretty cool. We are already atheists! We aren’t Them. I’m sick of being Othered. Where is the anger from the “normal” atheists that the rest of us have been kept out of the movement? Where is the promise to put in the work necessary to ensure actual equality, and not just lip service?

  91. Grey says

    I realize I said I was leaving, and I still have, but I just thought I’d point out that the first two posts by “Grey” were me and someone else is trying to start something by using the same name for post 114 (wiki link about feminism).

    Any further posts by “Grey” on this blog will not be by the Grey who authored posts 109 and 111.

  92. Not Tim 105 says

    As you can see by the email/ip, I’m not Tim 105 (some photo?). I’m 103/104.

    But why in the world would you ban someone merely for asking why asking someone for a coffee (as you said was the event that troubled you) is a problem, or asking why you don’t question your own premises seeing their genealogy traces back to Christian mythology, which you condemn?

    But one valuable result here: your piety and reactionary tilt are very instructive for understanding why Christians react the way they do when their world picture and absurdities are challenged, as yours are here if you answered seriously, as a skeptic.

    Cheers

  93. Tim says

    GRETA CHRISTINA YOU FUCKIN HOE… I HOPE YOU GET RAPED YOU FUCKIN FEMINAZI SLUT… GO CHOKE ON A DICK AND DIE

    What are you gonna do, Greta? Are you gonna ban me again? :)

  94. says

    To be honest, I just see this as another “brights.” A new phrase that’s probably not going to catch on that is entirely redundant and pointless because there is already a term with greater traction that already covers everything involved with it.

    Atheism+ is Secular Humanism. It is nothing less than secular humanism and it is nothing more. I’m sorry but I don’t see why we need a new title for something we already have a perfectly adequate title for.

  95. says

    I’m against Atheism Plus for the very specific reason that any humanitarianism I may feel is not an extension of my atheism; my lack of a belief in a deity will not lead me to a community. There isn’t enough contained within non-belief in a deity to form a community, and my morality is fueled by empathy, not atheism.

    I say it all here in this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtxI7Crhwvk

    …but the basic point is what I’ve said above: even though I suppose pretty much everything Atheism Pluus stands for, I don’t think it’s a good idea because I don’t support those positions as an atheist. I only support those positions as a reasonable person who cares about others, and would support those issues even if religion weren’t a factor in our world at all.

  96. N. Perlt says

    I’m sad.

    I’m sad that it already looks like it’s too easy:
    Either you’re A+ or you’re “not a decent human being”.
    Either you’re A+ or you’re just an old school nasty Atheist.
    A+ = good, Atheist = not as good.

    I love your blogs, Greta Christina.
    Even though I don’t know much about fashion and cats I keep reding your blog, because you’ve got so much so interesting and so enlightening to write that isn’t about cats. I have even red the Fashion posts and found them interesting.
    Never thought I’d say those words in the same sentence: fashion+blog+interesting.
    I also get that you’re tired of 101s (and I love that you have the “IF YOU’RE JUST GOING TO READ FIVE THINGS…”-list…).

    “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.”

    Personally I’d like to re-orde the list – I think if critical thinking and skepticism was on top, a lot of the others would naturally follow.
    And I care about humans’ rights. Not just women’s, though I agree that we women are worse off than men in most areas.
    I really do care about homophobia and transphobia – but I think they’re a symptom of a much bigger social structure; the rigid and idiotic old fashiond gender roles and stereotypes that even in a secular society still manage to stifle all genders.
    I think racism is unacceptable, a sign of either lack of knowledge or lack of understanding. I can’t get over how white the US Congress is. At least we’ve got a decent amount of non-white people in the Danish parliament (though mostly middle eastern immigrants or decendants).

    But I too cringe a bit when someone says “social justice”.
    Because who can be against justice, right?
    But I cannot (and refuse to) place myself in one of the two barking mad American political camps.
    And if “pro social justice” means what it seems like, I’ll just have to stick with apparently not being a decent human being (aka A+), but “just atheist”.

    (No, you don’t need to ban me or explain what a door looks like. I’ll shut up and be nice.)

  97. N. Perlt says

    What I forgot was:
    A+ is a US thing, it seems.
    Which is OK.
    That’s probably one of the reasons I don’t feel included.

  98. says

    @ BionicDance #121

    I’m against Atheism Plus for the very specific reason that any humanitarianism I may feel is not an extension of my atheism; my lack of a belief in a deity will not lead me to a community.

    Nobody is claiming that the humanitarian aspect of A+ is based on atheism. Atheism in addition to humanism does not mean humanism because of atheism.

    As I see it, the basis of A+ is skepticism and rationality. Atheism is the product of that skepticism applied to religion, and a desire for social justice is a product of that skepticism applied to society. People are choosing A+ as an identity because they believe there is value in using “atheist” as a label, but they also see value in distinguishing themselves from the assholes plaguing the community.

  99. GodlessForeigner says

    I have a different proposal to A+.
    Why not create an open and searchable database where all instances of sexism, harassment, racism, etc. can be reported, documented and indexed. All the hateful emails, comments, videos, etc. in one place with easy access and searchable.
    Wouldn’t that be better than inventing artificial labels that most likely will not do anything to fix the issue?
    I agree that it wouldn’t be an easy task and that serious measures against inevitable misuse and mistakes would have to be implemented.
    It would enable everyone to evaluate offences and deal with the offenders on a case to case basis. It would also (pls read this sentence carefully) help to convince those of us who, while certainly convinced about the existence and importance, are doubtful about the scope and seriousness of the problem within the atheist community.
    It would also be useful for those extra serious cases where legal measures are warranted.
    Something like that would constitute hard and undeniable evidence that you all aren’t just jumping at shadows and being too touchy because of a few trolls.
    Wouldn’t something like that be better and more effective than lobbying for some ineffective policies using only anecdotal evidence and pointing out few obvious trolls or creating a schism within the movement that will certainly estrange a lot of people that actually agree with you on most things along with those sexists, racists, etc.
    Well, I’m sure this idea has loads of problems too but I still think it would be better than this A+ thing,
    GodlessForeigner

  100. says

    I’ve been reading about Atheism+ with interest, as I’m a black female bisexual atheist. As I blogged this evening, I will be interested in seeing what concrete steps are taken to foster social justice within the atheist movement. Right now, my main mission is to feed the hungry, which I’m doing independent of any religious or non-religious affiliation.

  101. says

    I wish you all the best but confess I feel a wee bit lost here. Isn’t this more about reclaiming atheism than about initiating some new movement? I guess I’d consider myself a first wave atheist in that I use the label simply to express the fact that I don’t believe in God (I do believe in social justice, women’s rights, protesting racism, fighting homophobia and transphobia, and using critical thinking and skepticism, but those are separate issues). I’m not sure where not believing in a thing became so complicated.

  102. virginia solita says

    I heard your interview on realitycheck podcast and LOVE your idea! I came to atheism in a very organic and instinctual way and often am often intimidated (pissed off is more like it) by some guys “little lady” approach to my views and questions. It’s also hard as a woman of color (Latina) to walk into a room full of white folks snd find that some of them are just as prejudiced and ill informed as the gen pop. I understand that a douche bag is a douche bag no matter what his,or her (atheist groupies are just as bad) philosophical inclination but I really get butthurt when peeps who i think are enlightened turn out to be just the same old douche bags. I like this atheism plus idea and will support it. You go on girlfriend!

  103. Memory Hole says

    I thought the whole point of being an Atheist and freethinker is to reject all forms of authoritarian dogma. This smells like dogma crap to me.

  104. Greta Christina says

    I thought the whole point of being an Atheist and freethinker is to reject all forms of authoritarian dogma. This smells like dogma crap to me.

    Memory Hole @ #134: Right. Because some people in the community voluntarily carving out a subset of it for people who share certain interests and values, which people can participate in or not as they choose… that’s totally authoritarian dogma. m-/

    For the eleventy billionth time: Atheism+ is not an attempt to re-define atheism for all atheists. It is an attempt to create a space for atheists who also want to work on social justice. If you don’t want to participate, nobody is making you.

  105. Q8 says

    This is silly. Atheism a disbelieve in the existence of gods(s). You seem to be another feminist who thinks that the simple fact that the people who accomplished most in the atheist movement happen to be man proves that there is a misogyny problem within the atheist organization… or like the scepchicks.. you are just an attention seeking person with very little to show for who wants fame and fortune and doesn’t really care about advancing atheism.

  106. ladyaliara says

    I am all for equal rights regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. Mostly I believe in treating people the way I’d want to be treated. I love helping & defending others. That’s probably why I became a firefighter/emt after medical retirement from the US Army. I also happen to be an Atheist. That being said…. I really don’t think Atheist+ is a good idea.

    I believe it will more harm to the social rights portion than good. In the end I think your message will become convoluted &/or outright dismissed by those who don’t agree with some aspects. Not all Atheists are pro-choice, pro-gay rights, or even feminists. Just like not all Christians are bigots. A human is both capable of endless compassion, & unfathomable cruelty, regardless of religious background. Is it really necessary to prove that an Atheist is capable of good without god? A blanket approach isn’t the way to go.

    I think the social rights organizations should stand on their own. This way they can concentrate on their own agenda. It will be stronger due to not being spread thi ove

  107. ladyaliara says

    Sorry, phone is acting weird.

    As I was saying…

    It will be stronger, due to not being spread so thin. It’s a lot of devoted time & effort that could be better spent on one cause at a time. Let Atheism deal with Atheism. Let feminism handle feminist issues, etc. I’m not saying they can’t work together. However, this huge Atheist + blanket will ultimately bring the heat of not just one brand of bigotry… it will bring them all.

    I’d love to elaborate my POV more. Sadly, my device simply isn’t handling posting here for some reason. =P

  108. Another Atheist says

    This is a great development. Thank you for highlighting it.

    I am a former atheist organizer (white and male, if it matters). I have over time gotten extremely turned off by organized atheism because of the lack of coherent drive (being an atheist in and of itself doesn’t really seem to define much) and the rampant misogyny, Social Darwinism, and other things I have over time associated with a movement largely driven by white men who feel socially excluded.

    I’ve ended up becoming something of a closet atheist as a result of not wanting to be lumped in with such people. I know plenty of atheists who would not come within a mile of the big atheist organizations, because they are filled with vitriol. They make us look like assholes. I would rather hang out with your average, non-asshole Christians than people who go out of their way to emphasize their atheism, most of the time.

    At the very minimum, atheism needs better P.R. Maybe this will help.

  109. Chris says

    How about Atheism 3.0 ?

    Quote from Jen’s blog:

    “It’s time for a new wave of atheism, just like there were different waves of feminism. I’d argue that it’s already happened before. The “first wave” of atheism were the traditional philosophers, freethinkers, and academics. Then came the second wave of “New Atheists” like Dawkins and Hitchens, whose trademark was their unabashed public criticism of religion. 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. It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime. We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.”

  110. Jimbo92107 says

    Greta, from your list can be derived an excellent starting point of chores to accomplish, but underlying them there must be a central operating principle.

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

    Each of these five items does offer an aspect of a social movement. I suggest that each is a kind of vector arrow, pointing in a direction that converges on a kind of healthy, harmonious system of interrelationships. Candide spoke of it when he said, “Tend your garden,” although Voltaire’s conclusion was to withdraw from the big, bad, confusing world and mind your own business.

    Question: If this list was accomplished, what would this utopia look like? The answer to this would help form a more complete picture of the ultimate goal, making it easier to formulate a more complete list of specific To Do statements.

    Even so, understanding where the pointy end of the arrow winds up is not enough. What direction do they share? Is the current scope of the movement sufficient to afford a kind of universal appeal, or is it falling into the trap of self-limitation?

    To me, the list seems focused too much on issues centered on social acceptance, or incorporating selected demographic segments into a larger pool of people. As such, the + plus sign in A+ leaves out a whole lot else that needs attention.

    Also, bear in mind that to define yourself with what will inevitably be interpreted as a self-congratulatory label like A+ implies that everybody else is, well, stupid. You just gave yourself an A+, but everybody else gets a lower grade.

    See how that could piss off the world? It’s like when Jews started calling themselves “the chosen people.” That leaves the rest of us feeling un-chosen. By a god, no less. Awwww! The hangup lies in the emphasis on self-identification. Atheism can’t succeed if it revolves around ‘what I am,’ versus ‘what I do.’

    Question: Do you feel like you should be in the business of planetary maintenance? Global environmental stewardship. Social harmony. Biospheric sustainability. System health. Are these issues that seem worthwhile?

    Here’s a central operating principle for a social movement: Proper planetary maintenance. It ain’t getting done right now, is it? This is a direction that generates many items on a To Do list.

    Welcome to the Aq movement. We don’t hand out grades, to ourselves or others. Our evaluation comes from what we see around us, and if it meets a criteria determined by planetary system health.

    Happy Aquarium Day!

  111. jc88 says

    I’m still not catching the benefit to tying these social movements directly to atheism. Whether linking atheism to these values is the intent or not, public perception will likely make that connection. Just strikes me as an awkward title…just as skepticism+ would be an odd title for atheism, or skepticism++ would be an odd title for this proposed “movement”.

  112. JC88 says

    That’s not far from saying: Finally, an atheist movement with faith based tendencies. I am so very on board. Hook us up.

    Okay, I admit that my example may be extreme….but what does one have to do with the other. What’s so wrong with just being part of a humanist movement, and being an atheist too? Don’t muddy the waters!

  113. says

    …………Hair splitting has been going on for over half a century between Atheists and Humanists.
    ……….. Part of it comes from childish loyalty to xian Webster’s false definition of Atheism.
    ……….. The entire concept of alleged deities is irrational. Most Atheists argue this. But the word order of “NOT BELIEVING IN a deity” is a non-sequitur. I walk in doors.
    ……….. I don’t walk in deities. All Atheists are not believers of any kind. We became Atheists by reasoning out of the quicksand of theocracy, cultures of lies for religion and demanding proof from believers as exactly what is a god.
    …………Sadly too many picky picky Atheists trash Atheism PLUS fearing patriarchal Atheist retaliation.
    …………The “elevatorgate” lie is a sophmoric anectdotal attempt to avoid the sexist boys and males in our ranks. The sexist males are addicted to their porn and too many Atheist women won’t fight them over this.
    Patriarchy is inseparable from theocracy.
    …………Thus Atheists fighting theocrats are fighting patriarchs. That needs no plus s+gn.
    …………Grow up purists. The burden belongs on believers to define what their gawd gott words are, prove where such alleged things exist. Our Atheism is not a denial of assumed deities as xian Webster falsely defines.
    …………Fight Webster purists not Atheists who are including their demands for justice in their same sentence Atheism. 843-926-1750 [email protected] @AtheistVet

  114. JC88 says

    Larry – If you made some valid points I’m not catching them. Can you please summarize in a few coherent sentences?

  115. Jadwin says

    The vast majority of the hate-filled actions in ‘atheism’ come from the content producers on FreeThoughtBlogs and their cultic worshippers.

    If you want to be less marginalized, stop acting like Pat Robertson or the Prop-8 supporters, and have some respect for people not like you.

  116. Josh says

    Greta.

    Just curious. How do you reconcile this atheist movement with your theistic comrades?

    There are those that say this is divisive. I don’t agree with those claims; at least not the way that they think.

    For those that ARE patriarchal, sexist, homophobic, or so skeptical and contrary that they happen to be counter-progressive anyway; A+ doesn’t seem to have lost any allies there. So I can understand why they would say you’d lose numbers (because despite their individualism, they still like to think atheists have a community anyway [until it makes them feel responsible for their sexism and misogyny]).

    But I’m not really worried about them. What I am worried about is spreading the message of what problems arise from faith are and how that might resonate with feminist comrades of the cloth. I guess I’m curious is all. Theism and atheism seem to be fairly irreconcilable as far as I can tell.

  117. alexreynard says

    I have already seen what Atheism+ will accomplish.

    On another blog post about this subject, someone made a post full of several instances of valid criticisms of the A+ movement. Then someone replied with a few more valid criticisms, plus the word bitch. That guy was immediately banned. From that point, the topic became, ‘What a jerk that guy was.’

    Do we see a problem here? The original valid points were ignored. The topic of the thread was derailed. Because they didn’t like the language this guy used, they shut him up permanently.

    This is a bad, bad, bad, bad, bad idea. Are we adults? Are we really this susceptible to a bit of bad language? I’m not denying the word he used was pointlessly inflammatory. But is that worse than censoring him completely?

    If you said ‘yes’, you are the problem. Period.

  118. says

    I am new to the whole controversy with atheism+.

    I must say that I applaud anyone who is willing to stand up for what they believe is right, and it’s great to see that many atheists care about issues that are also important to me.

    I also have to admit that I am concerned about the usage of the label “atheism” when it comes to things that don’t have to do with the lack of believe in god(s). The name atheism+ has a great ring, and probably many people love, yet I think its usage will be counterproductive and will come to create a rift between people whose ONLY thing in common is something that really isn’t there to begin with, namely, the lack of belief.

    I guess it is in some way inevitable to see group division as people with similar ideologies get together, but I hate to imagine that one day atheists will be fighting one another, and that the conflicts we have seen for so long of people fighting over whose god is better, will be replaced by those whose lack of belief is more involved and better directed and those who differ.

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