8 Atheist and Agnostic Scientists Who Changed the World »« Is “Atheism Plus” Just Secular Humanism?

Why Atheism Plus Is Good for Atheism

Atheism Plus logoI’m going to lay this out there: I think Atheism Plus is good. And I don’t just mean “good” in the sense of “morally right.” I mean “good” as in “good for the health and future of atheism.”

As most readers here know, Jen McCreight recently proposed a new wave of atheism — an “atheist plus” wave that explicitly focuses, not just on atheism, but on the intersections between atheism and racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other social justice issues — externally in what issues we take on, and internally in how we deal with our own stuff. I’ve already chimed in briefly with a “Hell, yes, I’m on board.” I now want to start talking about why.

I don’t just think the principles of Atheism Plus are morally right. I do think that, and I think that’s the most important thing about it. But I also think it’s good for the future of atheism. And I think atheism will be stronger if more atheists support it.

Much of the pushback on the Atheism Plus idea has come from people saying that it’s divisive: that the atheist movement has to include everyone who calls themselves an atheist, and we can’t expect every atheist to line up around the same social justice issues.

There is no nice way to say this, so I’m just going to come out and say it:

There is no way for an atheist movement to be inclusive of everyone.

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.

An atheist movement cannot be inclusive of atheists of color… and also be inclusive of people who think people of color stay in religion because they’re just not good at critical thinking, who blame crime on dark-skinned immigrants, who think victims of racial profiling deserved it because they looked like thugs, and/or who tell people of color, “You’re pretty smart for a…”.

An atheist movement cannot be inclusive of trans atheists… and also be inclusive of people who think trans people are mentally ill or freaks of nature.

An atheist movement cannot be inclusive of atheists who are mentally ill… and also be inclusive of people who think mental illness is just a failure of willpower.

An atheist movement cannot be inclusive of poor atheists… and also be inclusive of people whose basic attitude to systematic poverty and economic injustice is, “Screw you, Jack, I’ve got mine.”

Repeat, for many more marginalized groups that I don’t have time to list here.

And an atheist movement cannot be inclusive of atheists and potential atheists who are women, people of color, trans people, poor people, mentally ill… and also be inclusive of people who think that welcoming these people into the movement just isn’t a very high priority. The movement cannot be inclusive of atheists and potential atheists who are women, people of color, trans people, poor people, mentally ill… and also be inclusive of people who think sexism, racism, misogyny, transphobia, poverty, mental illness, and other forms of marginalization are trivial or non-existent problems that we can’t be bothered with.

There is literally no way to make the atheist movement inclusive of all these people. So we have to ask: What are our priorities?

measuring tape on dollWhen people say, “This should be a one-size-fits-all movement,” what they ultimately mean is, “Our size should be the size it is already — the size that comfortably fits straight, white, middle-class, college educated, cisgendered men.” They may not mean that consciously or intentionally… but that is the upshot. In order to make the atheist movement more welcoming and comfortable for a wider variety of people, we have to risk making things somewhat less comfortable for some of the people who have been — somewhat understandably, and often out of ignorance rather than hostility — building a movement that fits themselves.

There is no way to make an atheist movement that fits everyone. So we have to decide: Who do we want to make it fit?

Let’s look at this. Let’s set aside the moral issues for just a moment, and look at some hard-nosed, practical questions.

When we look purely at the numbers game… what will get us more numbers? Let me give you a hint: There are a whole lot of women in the world, and a whole lot people of color, and a whole lot of poor and working class people. And there are a whole lot of middle class white men in the world who care about women and people of color and poor people: who have them/ us as friends, colleagues, romantic partners, family members, and who give a damn about making their/ our world a little less toxic. Aiming for the “everyone we’re currently not reaching” demographic — as opposed to the “handful of whiny entitled douchebags who don’t give a damn about anyone who isn’t like them” demographic — is pretty much a no-brainer.

And when we look at our public image… what face do we want to present to the world? Do we want to keep presenting a face that is consistently white, middle-class, college-educated, cisgendered, and male? Or do we want to present a face to the world that looks like, you know, the world? Do we want to present a face to the world that looks like we know we live in the 21st century?

And when we look at the youth and student atheist movement… where do you think they’re lining up on these questions? I’ll give you a hint: When I give talks to student groups about diversity, they are overwhelmingly on board. They are usually way, way ahead of me. And they usually do not want or need to talk about the “Why?” of pursuing diversity in our community. They want to talk about “How?” The students are the future of this movement — to a great extent, they are the present of this movement — and they overwhelmingly think this stuff matters.

And finally… let’s look at history. Let’s look at the history of other social change movements: the LGBT movement, the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the labor movement, the environmental movement. Every single one of them has been bitten on the ass by this issue. Every single one of them failed to deal with this issue in their early days of becoming visible and vocal and activist. And every single one of them now desperately wishes that they could find a time machine, go back in time, and tell their early leaders to freaking well get this right… before bad habits got entrenched, before bad feelings had decades to fester, before vicious circles and self-fulfilling prophecies got set into a groove, before this turned into a minefield.

I’ve said this before, and I will no doubt say it many more times, and I’m going to say it again now: As frustrating as these conflagrations are, as upsetting as they are, the fact that we are having them now gives me enormous hope. It means that in ten years, twenty years, fifty years, we won’t have to hash these issues out. Or at least, we won’t have to hash them out as much, and the hashing out won’t be as ugly. If we learn nothing else from history… we can learn that.

Then, of course, we have the moral issues. The idea that atheist women, atheists of color, trans atheists, poor atheists, mentally ill atheists… you know, matter. The idea that this movement belongs to all of them, to all of us.

Add all that up. Put it on one side of the scale. And on the other side of the scale, put in the fact that some atheists aren’t interested in sexism, racism, transphobia, poverty, mental illness, and so on. Put in the fact that some atheists are, indeed, actively and toxically hostile to some or all of these issues. Put in the fact that some atheists are only willing to make the movement more diverse if “diversity” means “new people joining and doing things the way we’ve always done them.” And look at what most of these atheists have been contributing to the movement. Other than, you know, spewing toxic waste into the atheosphere.

Where do you think is the bigger balance?

Where do you think the future of this movement lies?

Atheism Plus“Atheism plus” is not trying to re-define atheism. That’s the whole point of the “plus” part. “Atheism” still just means “not believing in any gods.” “Atheism plus” means “not believing in any gods — plus caring about and working towards social justice.” Many of us have decided that “not believing in any gods” isn’t enough. Many of us have decided that we’re no longer willing to work with people who say we’re stupid, who say we’re lazy, who say we’re freaks of nature, who say they want to kick us in the cunt — or who say these things about our friends and colleagues and compadres — just because they happen to not believe in God. If you want to participate in an atheist community that focuses entirely on atheism, to the point where it ignores the fact that many women, people of color, poor people, trans people, and other marginalized people do not currently feel welcomed in it… be my guest. I, for one, am moving on.

And if this causes deep rifts in the community — and if those rifts cut sexist, racist, self-absorbed, hateful, “screw you, Jack, I’ve got mine” assholes out of it — I say Mazeltov. That’s not a bug. That’s a feature. We will be a stronger movement without them.

Related posts:
Getting It Right Early: Why Atheists Need to Act Now on Gender and Race
Race, Gender, and Atheism, Part 2: What We Need To Do — And Why
Why I Have Hope: Atheism, Sexism and Blowing Up The Internet
Race and Inclusivity — A To-Do List
Examples of Racism in Atheist/ Skeptical Communities?
The Reason Rally, and Why It’s Good to Keep Hammering On About Diversity

Comments

  1. mikee says

    That was inspiring, Greta.
    Thank you for articulating such an important message, which is not only pragmatic but morally sound.

  2. (e)m says

    Hi, my issue with Atheism + is a little different.

    I am, dare I say, skeptical that rebranding atheism will change anything. I hope that I am wrong. I think that it is good to acknowledge the failures of the atheist movement so far. I just don’t see how declaring a new brand of atheism changes the fact that, for the most part, it is a movement primarily composed of people whose top priority is atheism. These people tend to be higher up on the privledge ranking.

    I’ll be honest. I can be fired or harrased where I live for being bisexual. I can be fired or harrased where I live for being trans*. I cannot be discriminated against legally for being atheist. I am completely out as an atheist. Only 2 people in meatspace know I’m bisexual. No one offline knows I’m trans*. I don’t fear being attacked for being atheist. If I flirt with the wrong person I will be severly beaten. I am too scared to transition right now. Can you guess where my priorities are?

    For the record, I am glad that the bloggers at FTB are trying to change things. I admire you for putting in the time and effort. I still don’t feel welcome in the atheist movement, because words, without actions to back them up, are as meaningless as prayer.

  3. coelsblog says

    “Atheism plus” is not trying to re-define atheism. That’s the whole point of the “plus” part. “Atheism” still just means “not believing in any gods.” “Atheism plus” means “not believing in any gods — plus caring about and working towards social justice.”

    I think that distinction is why the A+ idea will likely succeed and be beneficial, whereas alternative attempts to build values beyond “dictionary atheism” into “atheism” itself are less coherent and so less sensible.

    (I’m impressed by your book, by the way, by the quality of writing and exposition — just reading it on Kindle.)

  4. markelamb says

    Yowza!

    Well said.

    We all are stronger if scapegoating is done away with.
    Those with pet prejudices will have to stand firm and be ostracized – making atheism and A+ look good, or will fall in line with reasonable, decent thought and admit the issue, educate themselves, and change in public – making atheism and A+ look good.

    I suspect both eventualities will make the group more united – but lead to better diversity with the greatly improved ethical standards.

    Thanks :D .

    P.S. Religion, pseudoscience, bigotry and injustice are real and observable facts… we won’t need scapegoats ever – if we could reasonably and ethically use them.

  5. Bjarte Foshaug says

    Standing ovation!

    @e(m) #2:

    I am, dare I say, skeptical that rebranding atheism will change anything. I hope that I am wrong. I think that it is good to acknowledge the failures of the atheist movement so far. I just don’t see how declaring a new brand of atheism changes the fact that, for the most part, it is a movement primarily composed of people whose top priority is atheism. These people tend to be higher up on the privledge ranking.

    Even if that’s true, I still consider it a major improvement to get rid of the people who are actively hostile to our values and pull as hard as they can in the opposite direction. As I have commented elsewhere, I don’t really mind if someone prefers to focus exclusively on empirical claims, and not get bogged down in politics (Who has the capacity to dedicate themselves equally to every worthy cause anyway?). However, there’s a major difference between staying out of a discussion altogheter and actively opposing anyone who seeks to improve the status of women and minorities, and we shouldn’t let them get away with framing the most conservative and downright reactionary postion imaginable as the “unpolitical”, “non-ideolgical” position.

  6. (e)m says

    @6 Bjarte Foshaug

    Even if that’s true, I still consider it a major improvement to get rid of the people who are actively hostile to our values and pull as hard as they can in the opposite direction.

    I agree that it would be good to get rid of them as well, but do you really think that by changing an A to an A+ that will do anything. The MRAs and TF supporters are still going to troll FTB. I said above that I am an atheist, but that is not my most important issue. If I felt safe and welcome in the movement, I might consider joining. I instill critical thinking where I can. I debunk religious arguments all the time. You care about social issues. So do I. They affect me directly. I don’t have a choice. I’m glad that you care about social issues. I’m glad that you want the atheist movement to be better. I wish you good luck with that. I just don’t see rebranding as some great accomplishment. I want results. Until I see them,

    I still don’t feel welcome in the atheist movement, because words, without actions to back them up, are as meaningless as prayer.

  7. Greta Christina says

    (e)m: You should, by all means, take care of yourself and your safety, and focus on the issues that matter most to you. I don’t think Atheism Plus is simply re-branding, and the people most involved with it are moving forward on action even as we speak and write. But by all means, if you need to see that action before feeling safe participating in it, do so.

  8. Josh says

    I do think that an “atheist+” movement is interesting and certainly a noble effort but at the same time, I try to ensure that I stay firmly rooted in reality. We have many social injustices that have already been mentioned and these are embraced and perpetrated by believers and non-believers. Since I was a young, impressionable man, I have enjoyed the song “Imagine” by John Lennon and have thought that indeed, just imagine if we could rid ourselves of religion, hatred, etc. and make this a better world. But you will always have those that look at us atheists as wrong for not sharing their religious mindset, or those who think that there are times when military intervention is the only solution. Some will never be able to understand homosexuality. The thing, I feel that bonds atheists together is non-belief. That the atheist I am speaking with had the forethought to at least question the world and the highly held belief in a deity and came up with the same conclusion I did. When we start making sub-groups of atheists, I do think we begin to become divisive. We will probably never share the exact same values and ideas other than not believing in a god just as believers don’t share all the same ideas. Before long it will be the conservative atheists, the liberal atheists, the militant atheists,the Athiests+, and before you know it we will have begun infighting and claiming that our own personal view of atheism is the only correct view to hold. I like the simplicity of my atheism…I don’t believe in god so I don’t complicate my ideas with religion. I don’t even feel the need to explain my atheism to others. It just is. Now, I am by nature a fairly liberal person in my thinking and wonder at times why people can’t share these ideas with me as well. But these are their opinions and they are well within their rights to have them. I might not agree but chances are, all of the debating and discussion of these topics, in all likelihood, won’t change those opinions. I am not suggesting that anyone that is an atheist and tries to force their opinions on others shouldn’t be called out. As a community of freethinkers, it can be decided as to how to deal with someone who is being discriminatory. Hatred, in any form is still hatred. I know atheists who are Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, and every other political belief you can be. I can have heated discussions with them about politics and perhaps personally feel that they are obtuse or maybe just closed-minded in their ideas. But at the end of the day, I can relate to them in a way that I can’t to others because they aren’t telling me they will pray for me because I disagree with them. When someone tells me one day that “You’re just close minded and definitely not and Atheist+”, then I will have to come to the realization that we have not come so far, and still do not embrace the ideas that opinions are just that, and that we can agree to disagree.

  9. F says

    No-one is re-branding atheism. Some are flying a new flag that embraces all the things these particular atheists care about. It is a useful distinction and identifier internally, as well as for those who are coming to atheism, or looking for movements which care about all their social concerns, or looking for a section of the atheist blogosphere in which they will be more interested.

    I don’t know why anyone would think that the FTB community and those who share the interests and priorities of what we are calling Atheism Plus here would imagine that the impetus of this effort was to engrave a magical glyph which would somehow alter atheists external to our causes. People who are consistently on the other side of a Deep Rift™ are unlikely to change immediately upon news of A+, and no one here is under the impression that they would. No one is trying to “re-brand” all of atheism.

    In short, I haven’t seen a sensible objection from anyone more or less on the “inside”. (Aside from the mildly interesting point that people can easily play silly games with the A+ notation, which has nothing to do with the core concepts, but the name and/or symbol-logo only.)

  10. rq says

    I can only agree with this post. Also, while pure re-branding does not guarantee a shift in direction, I think in this case, where a shift (or a widening?) in direction is acknowledged as being different from what the movement had originally, a new name is absolutely necessary – like a new chapter or a new story: of similar origin, but a new theme to develop. Hiding behind the old name would be confusing and off-putting to those who have started associating plain atheism with a lot of negative feeling.
    I know that a lot of the ‘+’ aspects have been around for quite a while, but what strikes me with the ‘A+’ re-branding is the change in focus from atheism as a goal to social justice as a goal, with atheism itself being something of a by-product of a better world, along with all the other wonderful things skeptical thinking should accomplish. I find that comforting for me personally, because it takes some of the stress off from being an atheist first and everything else second, rather than just being everything all together in the first place. If that makes sense. That being said, I will mention that I am speaking from about as privileged a position as is possible for a woman, and I probably have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to marginalized groups and how they feel about this New Wave.

    And I love the second A+ logo you posted (the round painted one). I think it’s my favourite out of those that I’ve seen so far – I have yet to attempt my own.

  11. Bjarte Foshaug says

    @ (e)m:

    Sorry for mispelling your name the first time (looks like I’m primed to see mathematical functions everywhere these days…)

    As I wrote in the comments section of Greta’s previous entry…

    …to me “Atheism Plus” isn’t mainly about adding something new to humanism. It’s about handing the rest of the “movement” (the part that’s been flooding every skeptical/atheist website, youtube channel, forum, or blog with toxic waste since a woman had the audacity to say “Guys, don’t do that”) my divorce papers, cleaning out the closet, burning all the bridges and never looking back.

    So, it’s not simply a matter of giving a new name to the same old movement (the one that included said elements). It’s about telling the pro-harassment crowd that we re refuse to be part of their movement, and we’re going on without them.

    That having been said, I fully agree that it’s going to take more than just words, which is why Jen McCreight is taking suggestions right now.

  12. jhendrix says

    It’s hard to be someone to voice concerns that go against what you’re writing about here, because I support the stances that you and Atheism+ want to hold on the issues. It’s also hard because you put it all so very well, and yes, you’re highlighting a real problems with respect to including the marginalized groups in “atheism” if there are people already in the movement who take stances that are against those groups in the general sense.

    I guess my primary issue is that everything that’s crucial to “Atheism+” has almost nothing to do with convincing people of atheism. It’s all about values we as a collective group of “Atheist+’ers” hold on ancillary issues because of our atheism informing our ethics and morality.

    Maybe it’s because what made me an atheist was the counter-apologetics stuff that goes on to a lesser or greater degree here, that actually convinces people who believe in fairy-tale style bullshit, that the stuff they were indoctrinated with is actually fairy-tale bullshit.

    You still need the stuff that convinces folks not to believe in just because it’s in . To convince people that there doesn’t need to be an “intelligent designer”, “first cause”, or some “spiritual/metaphysical grounding to morality”. Those are very real reasons why a lot of people continue to believe in religion.

    Once you do that, I think the rational arguments on the issues will largely get most newly convinced atheists to hold the positions you’re advocating in “Atheism+”, but clearly not in all cases.

    How do you/we tie the values of “Atheism+” to convincing people to be atheists in the first place? Isn’t that supposed to be the goal of the “Atheist Movement”? I suppose it could be useful to convert more liberal members of various faiths, since the stances on minority/LBGT/womens/etc rights make much more sense on an atheistic view than on a religious view in the majority of all cases.

    It could also be useful because by dismantling the systemic problems in society, we force religions to oppose equality – much like has been done for women’s and minority rights, but not (yet) for LBGT rights – it’s easier to convince said people to leave religious institutions based on their abhorrent stances on these social issues. Similarly, if we fix societies problems on the poor, then they don’t have a need to rely on churches for survival, which makes it easier to leave religion.

    All that’s on the long view, which isn’t a bad thing, since if we take away the material reasons people rely on their churches, all they’re left with is the metaphysical claptrap, which can be countered a lot easier than ‘they give me food when I’m hungry….yay Jesus’.

    Is that it? Do you think we’re winning already on the actual arguments among those who can easily afford to give a shit (largely us white, middle class, educated, cisgender males)? As such the arguments don’t matter as much for convincing marginalized groups who have much more real material reasons (aside from LBGT’s) to be attached to the support structure provided by religious institutions due to inequalities in our society?

    Also, there’s still the much smaller problem that saying “I’m an atheist plus” IRL sounds really dumb.

  13. says

    Instead of reinventing the wheel by kicking these arguments back and forth, folks, you have to ask yourself: Is there a precedent we can look at?

    The answer is yes. There’s third wave feminism.

    A lot of people think “third wave feminism” is when a bunch of sexy young things came in and said, “We want to be strippers!”, but really, that’s not it at all. First of all, while a more nuanced view of sex work was part of it, it really was a minor part of it that got blown out of proportion because a lot of people in the media thing sex is what women are for. But in reality, it was a much broader thing movement that wished to put intersectionality at the center of the movement. Second wave feminists were more intersectional than they were given credit for; there were black feminists, lesbians feminists, etc. the whole time. But third wave feminists put intersectionality at the center for exactly the reasons Greta states above.

    I dare say that the concerns being expressed—that it wouldn’t work, that it was divisive, etc.—proved to be untrue. Feminism is more inclusive. Running out “feminists” who were transphobic, etc. worked out really well to broaden the appeal of feminism. Conflicts didn’t go away, but they got resolved more quickly. Feminism put its weight behind LGBT issues.

    Did feminism suffer from “mission drift”? Did they give up fighting for women’s equality and issues like equal pay and abortion rights? What do you think?

    Seriously, this is a good idea. Don’t reinvent the wheel; look at how this has worked for other movements.

  14. Tom Phoenix says

    Who’s afraid of the big bad rifts? It seems that a deep rift is useful when we actually want to divide a movement, and the time has certainly come to do exactly that.

    I’m ready to become a card-carrying member of this new A+ movement. Where do I sign up?

  15. says

    I am all for the Atheist+ movement as an idea, but wonder how far people are willing to take it in terms of inclusion. I am for the various causes which have been named, but will other people be willing to include issues such as polyamory?

    I have been writing about the intersection of skepticism, atheism, and polyamory for years now, and while I do get a fair amount of nods from people saying ‘yeah, that makes sense,’ I don’t see a lot of people seeing it as a part of social justice and skepticism itself. I don’t know if people don’t see the issue that way or just have not applied enough thought to it, but either way polyamory as an atheist+ issue may be left to the wayside (along with other causes which get less attention).

    To me, polyamory is the rational outcome of skepticism applied to love, sex, and relationships just like feminism is the rational outcome when skepticism is applied to questions of gender, culture, and power structured in society. Am I wrong or have people not comprehended this yet?

    What say you, atheist+ advocates??

  16. Christina says

    To me, the idea of the A+ movement is an effort to unify atheism, skepticism and secular humanism – because, really, if you’re down with all three of those, you don’t have room to be a racist/homophobic/misogynistic jerk. This would seem to be a good thing – instead of bickering over the fact that the three are not synonymous and don’t always go hand in hand, we should emphasize that they should. This leaves some “I’m a hardcore libertarian and don’t really care about any of this other stuff, but hey, I don’t believe in God” (see also: r/atheism) people in the dust, but well, too bad.

  17. Will says

    I support Human rights. Human rights do not lend themselves to easy solutions and formulas because what one group deems as a right another may deem as oppression. The support of human rights requires honest communication, empathy, negotiation, tolerance and perseverance.

  18. karmakin says

    I think this is a good thing for atheism.

    But I don’t think it’s a move towards intersectionality or inclusiveness, and as such I suspect that it’s probably a bad thing for social justice (especially feminism). I hope I’m wrong, of course, but I’ve seen this path before.

    The key, I think is to actively push back against group identity, or at least be aware of the biases that come with it, but I’ll be honest, I think there’s very little, if any interest in this.

  19. says

    @Christina #17:

    To me, the idea of the A+ movement is an effort to unify atheism, skepticism and secular humanism

    I see that this is a different take than simply, as others have said, that “Atheism+” just means “humanism”, and i think i see what you mean, but i disagree. One reason many of us call ourselves atheists (or so i gather) is that we want to contribute to the destigmatization of the term, and even build up over time a positive connotation in the public consciousness (and provide what GC has called a “safe place to land” for groups whose communities are exceptionally hostile to irreligion). This campaign strikes me as confluent with such goals. These are separate goals, however, from those of humanism; even if the “plus” part of “Atheism+” amounts to humanism, these reasons to still call it “atheism” are not themselves (purely, or simply) humanist. Am i making sense?

  20. says

    To me, the idea of the A+ movement is an effort to unify atheism, skepticism and secular humanism – because, really, if you’re down with all three of those, you don’t have room to be a racist/homophobic/misogynistic jerk.

    I’ve heard the argument that secular humanism is “just” another worldview or belief system, and just because you’re an atheist, you don’t necessarily have to be SH. However, I’ve not heard of many alternates which fully embrace the thought that there are no gods.

    This sounds like a good discussion group topic. I host one on the third Friday of each month, and I think I will propose this as the next one.

    Thanks, Greta! Between you, Jen, Richard and the others, this is becoming clearer.

  21. Jen says

    I love this. Currently, my atheist activism begins & ends on the internet. It’s the social justice issues that get me off the couch; to rallies, protests, marches, etc… even parades & festivals where my presence & small financial contribution serves as a way to make the political statement that I support The Cause. I am excited by the prospect of intersectionality.

  22. Robert says

    I agree with the idea of Atheist +, but this way of thinking already has a name and a movement behind it. It is called Humanism.

  23. says

    To me, polyamory is the rational outcome of skepticism applied to love, sex, and relationships just like feminism is the rational outcome when skepticism is applied to questions of gender, culture, and power structured in society. Am I wrong or have people not comprehended this yet?

    Sexual freedom (among informed, consenting adults), yes, but not necessarily polyamory. Some people want just a single, monogamous relationship and that’s okay. Others want to be single period (whether celibate or not) and that’s okay. Still others like to have many casual or a few committed relationships. In other words, whatever floats your boat.

  24. PatrickG says

    @ Robert:

    Not true. There is such a thing as religious humanism (even has it’s own wiki!). Call this a re-branding of secular humanism, if you will, but even secular humanism is not indicative of atheistic beliefs. The Council on Secular Humanism includes agnosticism in their rallying cry, for instance. (Not trying to derail with a philosophical discussion of the differences between the two!)

    As many people have said, there’s a crying need for a term that proudly indicates “I am an atheist!” but does not stop there.

    Now, my minor quibble. What am I, an A+? An A+er? How does one describe themselves as part of this movement in shorthand?

  25. PatrickG says

    @ Robert again:

    I’ll also add that while I don’t think it’s a mainstream use of the term, but I have run into religious people who describe themselves as secular humanists, in that they’re personally religious, but also actively work to preserve a separation of religion and civil society (church/state, if you will). Teh Googlez don’t really justify this claim, but I’ll plead anecdata.

    In any case, the A+ term really clears away a lot of ambiguity!

  26. Leeloo Dallas Multipass says

    I’m pro-polyamory (in the “as an option”, sense, not the “everyone should be this way” sense.) I’ve never really gotten monogamy; it seems as strange to me as saying you could only have one friend at a time, or only love one of your children. But I’ve never actually been in a poly relationship, and I’ve read pieces by someone who is and said she ran into a lot of prejudice even from people who were very progressive in other ways.

    Speaking as someone who’s been an lifelong atheist but has been hesitant to get involved IRL in part because of some of the more vocally awful parts of the movement (and, to be fair, in part because I am very lazy), I really like the atheism+ designation! I’m going to school this fall and I’ll be on the lookout to see if there are any groups for it!

  27. BryonPav says

    I love the idea. There’s a certain bulkiness to some of the phrases that emerge from this branding, we could either try to plan our way through it or let it evolve on its own. I’ll advocate the former. Communities gravitate toward short one-to-three syllable words, especially in cases of identity labels. Shorter words get used with higher frequency than longer ones.

    Atheism+ is simple looking in text, and to insiders it can be shortened further to A+. But phonetically, there’s many syllables to deal with here. Five syllables just to pronounce Atheism+… but often, it would be referred to as “the atheist plus movement”, which is seven syllables, or “the atheism plus movement”, which is eight.

    Then we run into the added problem of what to call ourselves. The natural English standard is to add the suffix “er” to the end of the title. So if we let natural English take its course we would become the “Atheist plusers”. It’s a little bulky at five syllables. I predict that if we let natural human laziness take its toll, it will eventually get shortened down to “plusers”. I’m a “pluser”, you’re a “pluser”, we’re all “plusers”. Do we like the way that this sounds? Certainly sounds positive… but the word Atheist has been dropped off of the phrase (the implications of this subtle departure from the word Atheist could be significant). I conjecture that this will happen. I’m not for it or against it, I’m just curious of what other people would think of it.

  28. Onamission5 says

    I am tenatively excited. As someone who’s frequently referred to herself as a secular humanist just because it most closely, but not completely accurately, fit who I was inside, I am eager to see where this new and passionate claiming of social justice action on behalf of atheists takes us. In fact, I had just this sort of argument on FA about a week ago, questioning how we as atheists can really tackle issues of religious based prejudice and maltreatment of the disenfranchised if we, as a movement, harbor those who express the very sentiments we mock when they come from the religious? How can we rail against prejudice if we shelter the prejudiced?

    My excitement comes from knowing that there’s a wider number of atheists than just the handful I previously thought, who also want to enact broad social change, and refuse to enable anything less. The tenative aspect, well, I suppose I am trying not to let my idealism run away with my pragmatic side. I don’t know if a rebranding is sustainable. I certainly want it to be.

  29. Greta Christina says

    Killerrat @ #25: I have a fair degree of tolerance for dissent and disagreement in this blog. But I have no tolerance for people who think “caring about and working towards social justice” equals “Nazi.” Banned. Goodbye.

  30. Greta Christina says

    When someone tells me one day that “You’re just close minded and definitely not and Atheist+”, then I will have to come to the realization that we have not come so far, and still do not embrace the ideas that opinions are just that, and that we can agree to disagree.

    Josh @ #9: If you want me to “agree to disagree” with people who repeatedly say that they want to kick me in the cunt — or with people who say that I need to work with these people because this is a “big tent” and we have to include everyone who doesn’t believe in God — you are going to wait a very long time.

    Re-read the piece. Yes, this is divisive. If it divides sexist, racist, self-absorbed, hateful, “screw you, Jack, I’ve got mine” assholes out of my movement — that’s not a bug. That’s a feature.

  31. says

    An excellent post that clearly explains the point behind the A+ idea.

    I have to admit that I wasn’t so keen on the nomenclature at first, preferring something like “progressive atheism”, but I see that the name is not that important (other than in the sense that it could have been an awful name, but isn’t).

    I also get that A+ is not a group that one has to declare fealty to. What it does is explicitly states that atheism has moved forward and willingly embraces social justice issues.

  32. says

    When you think of it, the A+ is not a divisive movement, it’s actually makes atheist community a more inclusive community for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or race. So it would reach some atheists who are usually closeted or feel discriminated to join the community.

    But in developing the A+ movement, the whole issue shouldn’t be framed as “us vs them”, as the feminists vs the sexists, as the non-racists vs the racists. It shouldn’t be about how to cut out people deemed to be racist, sexist, or homophobic, instead, it should be about how to bring a discussion and debates about racism, sexism, and other social issues to the atheist movement.

  33. Greta Christina says

    How do you/we tie the values of “Atheism+” to convincing people to be atheists in the first place? Isn’t that supposed to be the goal of the “Atheist Movement”?

    jhendrix @ #13: That’s not the goal for everyone in the atheist movement. But it is one goal for many of us — including me.

    So to answer your question: I would say that “atheism plus” recognizes that it’s worth trying to persuade women, people of color, poor people, etc. to become atheists — not just straight, white, middle-class, college-educated, cisgendered men. And I would say that atheism plus means looking at the reasons more women, people of color, poor people, etc. aren’t coming out as atheists and joining the community — and looking at what our community might be doing to make this easier for a wider range of people.

  34. Well,... says

    If you are going to include social justice as part of atheism, I see that you have completely left animals out of the equation. I guess it bothers you more if an atheist doesn’t want to pay higher taxes than it does if his/her food choices contribute to untold suffering and slaughter of other sentient beings while harming the earth at the same time?

    Why should I sign on to GLBT and racism issues if you’re not willing to even acknowledge the massive injustice of the factory farming industry? Or talk about the environment at all? If my primary concerns fall completely out of your purview, why should I help you with yours if you won’t help me with mine?

    I mean, if you are all about excluding people to make the movement stronger, than it should be only vegan, very liberal, non-racist, non-phobic atheists. Just the term “vegan” should knock off about 80% of our very small number right there. Wow, we’ll be REALLY strong! Exclusive to be inclusive.

    I am anxiously awaiting the hate-filled comments from all you allegedly “tolerant” people that I DARED bring the injustice of your cherished eating habits into question. I have learned that often the most open-minded and understanding “social justice” advocate will turn into Rush Limbaugh or Ted Nugent when challenged about the cruelty of their beloved cheeseburgers.

    Or, we could just focus on our main COMMON goal-keeping religion out of government and public policy. I don’t see how that goal allows or encourages sexism, racism, or phobia.

  35. Greta Christina says

    I am all for the Atheist+ movement as an idea, but wonder how far people are willing to take it in terms of inclusion. I am for the various causes which have been named, but will other people be willing to include issues such as polyamory?

    shaunphilly @ #16: I am. I’ve been taking this on for years: among other things, the “Atheism and Sexuality” talk I often give talks extensively about polyamory. I doubt that this will be at the top of the A+ priority list — and I don’t think it should be — but I’ll certainly advocate for it being part of the picture.

  36. Greta Christina says

    Well,… @ #39: Actually, if you look at the Atheism+: It’s time to walk the walk post on Jen McCreight’s blog, where she is crowd-sourcing ideas for how to take action on this concept, you’ll see that “animal welfare” is on the list.

    But given that the point of your comment seems to have been nasty sniping without any apparent comprehension of the fact that your issue about divisiveness was the very thing being addressed in this piece, you seem to be part of the problem and not part of the solution. I am willing and even eager to discuss the question of how animal rights fit into an “atheism plus” movement — but not with someone who is arguing in bad faith. Argue in good faith, or get out.

  37. jhendrix says

    Greta@#38

    You mean what convinced my straight, white, middle-class, college-educated, cisgendered, male ass to be an atheist isn’t necessarily going to convince all the people who aren’t like me?

    MADNESS!!

    Personally, I’m still interested in the counter-apologetics stuff that goes on “in the movement”, but I do support the stated goals of Atheism+. I guess that means I’m in then.

    Odd, I found FtB because of deconverting, and looking for more material against apologetic arguments. However I became way, way more educated about the “side topics” Atheism+ is concerned with as a result of reading the blog posts that weren’t purely about atheism. The education wasn’t easy, but I think those stances are the right ones now.

  38. JD says

    I’m still not a big fan of the name because it seems like *skepticism*, not atheism, is at the heart of all this. I’m thinking of Natalie Reed mentioning that atheism was one of the least interesting aspects of skepticism to her, which mirrors my own view.

    Most importantly, skepticism intersects with these various issues far more than atheism does. Sure, you could perhaps use atheist arguments to debunk Wiccan radfem ideas of trans women having “male energy”, but you need broader skepticism to combat non-religious beliefs that don’t hold up under scrutiny (e.g. “all penis-in-vagina intercourse is inherently painful for the woman, and any woman who says otherwise is just under the influence of patriarchy”). And I would argue that the latter type is far more numerous and powerful than the former.

    I also wouldn’t be caught dead saying “_____ Plus” IRL, so at this point I tend to refer to myself as an intersectional skeptic. It’s not as punchy/catchphrase-y, but I think it’s much more accurate.

  39. Kim McArdle says

    Greta Please stay on this. The ‘A’ was important but please let’s move forward. ‘A+’ is exactly my own personal message to the world. So much more positive. Buttons, bumper stickers, Action! How can I help?

  40. Kim McArdle says

    Do you think Richard Dawkins might consider adding a + to his red A?? I would be so much more willing to wear it.

  41. (e)m says

    @ Greta Christina

    Thank you and I hope you succeed.

    @Bjarte Foshaug

    No problem about the ‘nym, and I hope you succeed.

  42. Roxane says

    To “I don’t know whether this will change anything,” I can only reply, “Let’s try it and find out.”

    It looks to me like the movement has been “creatively designed” by people who, while claiming to reject the idea of everything in the bible, want to retain the privileges of biblical patriarchy. Atheist claims to being motivated by “rational, critical thinking” start to look silly and grandiose when you consider that, in other institutions that make no such claims, women are more respected than in our so-called “enlightened” movement. Bottom line: we don’t have to put up with this.

  43. Paul Scott says

    The reason why all of the above is wrong (disclaimer, I did not read any of the comments, just the blog post).

    I am a vegan. I find anyone who eats meat to be morally reprehensible. If my political power enabled me to do so, I would use the force of government to put an end to it all. Unfortunate that it is, I suspect, like most people in society at large, the majority of the Atheist movement/majority of atheists continue to support the killing and torture of animals for their own personal pleasure.

    None of that has anything to do with whether there is or is not supernatural forces at work in our universe. In spite of the fact that I find most people morally reprehensible, I can (and do) set that aside on a daily basis to live and work in our society. This is true whether I am working, hanging out with friends or participating in an Atheist activism event.

    If you want to insist that, when working on one issue, that everyone agree with you about all issues, well, good luck with that. I, however, cannot see any good reason not to compartmentalize and focus on the issue relevant to the group at hand. Lots of social movements in which I have been involved (in fact, pretty much all of them) have made the mistake you are making here with A+. I don’t think this has a profound effect on a movement, but such things do invariably cause a distraction.

  44. cuervodecuero says

    JD @#43. Intersectional skeptic. So, you’re interskeptional? tahtoomcha.

    When you type out ‘atheism plus’ it’s not quite as poetically catchy in the North American pop culturated mind as A+ itself but A+ is the ‘shortcut’, the heuristic(?) that resonates in English speaking minds that leads into more serious definition. (On an aside, what would it be in other major languages like Spanish, French? Does it translate adequately via the universalism of mathematics?)

    On the immediate face of it, the symbol A+ punctuates the frustration of the people not benefitting by those willing to publically state there aren’t deities only to strive to continue the power paradigms investing the relative few with default authority over the untrustworthy ‘masses’ through means of bluster, propaganda and threat rather than *evidence*.

    Continuing scientific investigation is providing humanity with ‘mindful’ evidence of how we tick as a species and how we can be manipulated to act against our internal spectrum of altruism and reciprocity. Enjoying the artistic discovery of a symbol that helps define efforts to overcome that is such a wee small part of that mindfulness but like all poetic memes, a human delight.

  45. gjuro says

    I think that A+ is OK, for it is not meant to exclude all those ‘others’ and it clearly shows to all ‘included’ that their main ‘enemy’ are churches of whatever denomination that are perpetuating superstition and hatred against everybody that is not hardly trying to comply with religions’ rules

    in my opinion making that clearly stated is a very important thing for the atheist community and for finally stopping religion’s attempts to orchestrate all things around us and to poison young minds worldwide

    it has been enough (from churches and religions) to MANY people and A+ says exactly that for it is not only about religion but about all the harm that religion does in this world

    :-)

  46. PatrickG says

    @ Paul:

    I am a vegan. I find anyone who eats meat to be morally reprehensible. If my political power enabled me to do so, I would use the force of government to put an end to it all. Unfortunate that it is, I suspect, like most people in society at large, the majority of the Atheist movement/majority of atheists continue to support the killing and torture of animals for their own personal pleasure.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but: Animals aren’t Atheists.

    The whole Atheism+ thing* is about finding a way for people who are interested in the intersection of atheism and social justice. There is definitely a place in this for animal welfare issues, and that’s been addressed in previous comments in this thread.

    I can see that you feel very strongly about your ethical position re: meat production/consumption. That said…

    In spite of the fact that I find most people morally reprehensible, I can (and do) set that aside on a daily basis to live and work in our society.

    Perhaps I’m misreading you, but as someone who doesn’t share your values**, it sound awfully like you’re willing to overlook the fact that the people who you dislike aren’t actively working to harm you. For people living outside the box of privilege, that’s kind of offensive.

    Bluntly, if you were a cow, would you be comfortable being asked to cooperate with McDonalds?

    -PatrickG

    * Well, from my viewpoint. Not trying to speak for the movement at large!

    ** Though I rarely eat meat, for reasons more related to sustainable agriculture and personal health.

  47. PatrickG says

    And oh FSM, I just compared a lot of atheists to cows. I blame being lost in rhetoric, hope nobody takes that personally!

  48. says

    What you described above already exists as far as I’m concerned. All atheism says about a person is that they do not have a belief in a god, but it does not state what they do believe. The A+ idea seeks to fill this void and I applaud it but there already is Humanism, why not just use that pre-existing ‘brand’ instead of inventing a new one?

  49. PatrickG says

    @ Peter Ferguson:

    Because “Humanism” does not necessarily indicate a lack of belief in gods, and is entirely compatible with religious belief. “Secular humanism” comes closer, but “Humanism” does not.

    Also, as many people have mentioned, the term “atheist” is a very dirty word. Part of the goal of Atheism+ is specifically to reclaim that term and purge it of its negative connotations.

  50. says

    If you want to insist that, when working on one issue, that everyone agree with you about all issues, well, good luck with that.

    Paul Scott @ #48: I don’t insist that. I have never said that, and neither has anyone else advocating for Atheism Plus.

    What I insist is that the people I work with not publicly call women ugly, fat, sluts, whores, cunts, and worse; who persistently harass them; not deliberately invade their privacy and make their personal information public; not routinely threaten them with grisly violence, rape, and death. I insist that they not say that people of color stay in religion because they’re just not good at critical thinking, blame crime on dark-skinned immigrants, say that victims of racial profiling deserved it because they looked like thugs, and/or tell people of color, “You’re pretty smart for a…”. I insist that they not call trans people mentally ill or freaks of nature. I insist that I, and my colleagues, not be treated with the kinds of vile abuse we have been dealing with for the last year. Etc.

    If you think that’s too much to ask… the door is that way. Go ahead and have your movement that says marginalized people have to put up with further abuse and marginalization from other atheists, in the name of “being a big tent.” I am moving on. And so are a whole lot of other people.

  51. says

    The A+ idea seeks to fill this void and I applaud it but there already is Humanism, why not just use that pre-existing ‘brand’ instead of inventing a new one?

    Peter Ferguson @ #53: Ashley F. Miller has answered this question. I’ll be giving my own answer in a day or two. In short: There’s a lot of overlap between atheism plus and humanism — but they are not the same thing, and they will not be perceived in the same way.

  52. karmakin says

    Also, as many people have mentioned, the term “atheist” is a very dirty word. Part of the goal of Atheism+ is specifically to reclaim that term and purge it of its negative connotations.

    I’m not sure you understand what the actual negative connotations of atheism are in the wider world, outside of these circles. Sexism isn’t really one of them. Maybe it should be of course, but generally we’re talking about something that most people are relatively unaware from.

    There’s actually most certainly a sort of gap from people becoming atheists to actually participating more actively in the movement, but that’s a bit of a different story. (Something I’m in favor of fixing, unfortunately I don’t think enough people really take this seriously)

    Atheism as a dirty word primarily stems from the concept of the divine as the sole moral force in our society/reality. Will this movement rehabilitate that? Probably not. And that’s fine. But let’s stay reality based on what this is designed to do.

    It’s designed to create a more comfortable environment for those on the inside. And that’s fine. I think it’s probably necessary. But I really doubt it’s going to help any of these causes at all.

  53. Horace says

    The red A at the top of this article appears to infringe on the Dawkins Foundation red A, which is a registered trademark on the principle register in the US (www.uspto.gov – search trademark owners for Dawkins Foundation and it comes up).

    Maybe the + distinguishes it, but I doubt it. The color is intrinsic to the mark claimed by Dawkins, so maybe if you changed the color it would be o.k.

    Or, maybe you have Dawkins Foundation’s permission to use it, in which case I’m speaking out of turn.

  54. Steve Bowen says

    Look the issue is this, under atheism plus, in order to belong, you expect me to be liberal, progressive, socially inclusive, un predjudiced and generally anything that the deontologically repressive conservative religious mentality would disapprove of. Am I right? … Well … OK then.

  55. (e)m says

    @52 PatrickG
    Actually, you compared non-whites, Trans* folk, non-straights, women, non able bodied people, mentally ill people, and all other non-privileged folks to cows.

    I blame being lost in rhetoric, hope nobody takes that personally!

    I do take it personally. I would like an actual apology instead of an excuse.

  56. PatrickG says

    I’m not sure you understand what the actual negative connotations of atheism are in the wider world, outside of these circles. Sexism isn’t really one of them. Maybe it should be of course, but generally we’re talking about something that most people are relatively unaware from.

    It sounds like you’re thinking my “purging negative connotations” comment was referring to eliminating the various -isms and -phobias that plague certain sectors of that set of people who identify as Atheist. Not where I was going, so let me restate in more detail.

    I was attempting to get at what Ashley Miller said (much more eloquently!) here. Miller said, among other things:

    I am an atheist because I don’t believe in gods, but I call myself an atheist because being an atheist means I get treated like shit by some people and that is not OK.

    As Miller says, humanism simply isn’t sufficient. It’s not confrontational enough. The reclaiming/purging I refer to might be better stated as an attempt at better public relations, a la the reclamation of the word “queer”.

    Atheism is a very dirty word in many societies, and I think it’s a worthwhile goal to change that.

    Will this movement rehabilitate that? Probably not. And that’s fine. But let’s stay reality based on what this is designed to do.

    I would argue that this identification (whether called Atheism+ or something else) is a pretty critical step. This debate is taking place among leaders in a community, after all, and might well have effects outside of the internal community.

    It’s designed to create a more comfortable environment for those on the inside. And that’s fine. I think it’s probably necessary. But I really doubt it’s going to help any of these causes at all.

    If it does nothing but create that environment, it’s worth doing for that reason alone (as you say). However, my hope is that this doesn’t remain an “in thing”, but can be leveraged to more effective activism outside the inner circles.

  57. PatrickG says

    @ (e)m:

    I truly apologize for that use of words, and I sincerely regret that my words caused you or anybody else harm. My hasty/flippant caveat after the first post was not sufficient.

    If I may offer an explanatory (though not exculpatory) comment, I was attempting to point out that the original poster was effectively making the same atrocious point I ended up making.
    As someone who fits one of the criteria on your list (not really comfortable saying which), the comparison of (some) atheists to animals really pissed me off. I tried to illustrate the point with snark; I did it badly.

    Again, the explanation doesn’t excuse my clumsy rhetoric, but I do hope it will demonstrate where I’m coming from, and I’ll try to be more careful with my language in future.

    And again, I apologize.

  58. PatrickG says

    @ e(m):

    You’re quite welcome, and please call me out in future if I do similar things again. I’m not the most gifted of writers and sometimes I don’t see things. :(

  59. Paul Scott says

    I thought using an example, a personal one, would effectuate clarity. It appears to have had the opposite effect. Let me state things more simply.

    Humans are composed of a number of moral values and beliefs. On any one of these things, a significant number of people will agree and can form a movement. If that movement then decides that it not only stands for X, but also for Y, Z and A, that movement becomes smaller. It is also likely that people who do not stand for Y, Z and A could meaningfully contribute to X, but for the decision of the movement that to be relevant to X, one must also stand for Y, Z and A.

    I have been involved in many social movements over my life and I have witnessed first hand (and continue to witness first hand) the cohesion of these groups suffer because people, all of whom agree about X, prefer instead to fight over Y, Z and or A.

    I witnessed this when I was a law student assisting Lamda Legal. I witnessed this, and continue to witness this, as an animal rights activist in that community. And we are seeing it now in the Atheist community with things such as A+. About the only organization I have not seen this in is the ACLU. In the end, the “harm” done to the core movement is not that big of a deal.

    My feeling is this is largely a mistake. I don’t expect the A+ folks to acknowledge this, because like every other fragmentary subgroup (which is intended as descriptive, not pejorative) the basics of it are that, as Greta has stated, the priority is not Atheism. Instead the priority is some collection of “-ans” and “-ists” and -“isms” among which is included Atheism. That is fine, but it should be done with open eyes and the recognition that you will be alienating some persons that might have otherwise made significant (or insignificant) contribution to the movement.

    I don’t think it is crazy to envision a world where Christopher Hitchens (selected for this example exclusively because he is dead) did and said everything he did and said but was also a sexist. In such an hypothetical world, that would not make his work on Atheism less relevant.

    Now, of course, I am not suggesting that anyone personally work with others in an environment where they are being abused. I am suggesting that just because an otherwise excellent speaker for atheism is sexist, racist, homophobic or someone who gains personal pleasure for the torture of animals (e.g. all non-vegans), that is not a good reason for the Atheist movement to fragment and ostracize that person (again, assuming this is not someone with which you are personally working).

  60. Greta Christina says

    That is fine, but it should be done with open eyes and the recognition that you will be alienating some persons that might have otherwise made significant (or insignificant) contribution to the movement.

    Paul Scott @ #67: Re-read the piece, please. There is no way we can organize a movement that includes everyone. No matter what we do, we’re going to alienate someone. My suggestion is that, if it’s a choice between alienating sexist assholes, and alienating half the human race, we should choose the former. And I am sick to death of people viewing me, and others who share my views on this, as the divisive ones.

    My eyes are open. My eyes have been forcibly propped open for the last year. Yes, this is going to alienate some people. I am at peace with that. I am positively happy about that. That is not a bug — it is a feature. If you are one of the people it alienates, you are free to not participate in Atheism Plus, and you are free to not read this blog.

  61. Paul Scott says

    Greta Christina @ #68: I understand what you are saying but forget about sexists for a moment. What about normal atheists who are not liberal? Is being politically liberal required to belong in this movement? I guess my real problem is the phrase “social justice” – it seems to imply liberal policies that I do not support (such as affirmative action).

  62. Paul Scott says

    Paul Scott #69, btw, is not Paul Scott #48 or #67. The curse of having a common name, I suppose.

    Paul Scott #48 and #67 is a liberal (though not one that is lock step, since I am more nuanced about AA)

  63. Jason B says

    Yeeaaa!!
    This will be awesome.
    Thanks for this and you can count on my practically useless support!

  64. says

    Paul Scott @69-70:

    Ultimately, I think an A+ movement is about using skepticism as a means of interrogating issues of social justice. In other words, what is the reality of how people live, and how does that fit with secular humanist ideals of equality, mutual respect, fairness, and harm reduction?

    Examining reality is the key. And reality has a well-known liberal bias.

  65. BCat70 says

    ““Atheism plus” means “not believing in any gods — plus caring about and working towards social justice.””

    I’ve thought about it… meh, I’m just gonna keep calling it Freethought.

  66. PatrickG says

    @ Paul Scott #69:

    I don’t presume to speak for Greta, but I would suggest you’re conflating political action/policy with a basic call to treat human beings as, well, human beings.

    AA is something that can be examined skeptically/rationally. Motivations, implementation, results-based analysis. I would hazard that nobody is asking you to endorse the idea along some sort of party line. However, you would do well to be open to arguments that discrimination and resulting effects based on race or gender are serious issues.

    So, no, you don’t have to be pro-AA (at least, in my view). But you really can’t just wave the issues away by saying that race doesn’t matter, or that we live in a post-racial society, or that race determines behavior. Not saying you’re saying this, but a hell of a lot of people do.

  67. David Quinn says

    Greta,

    I’m honestly confused. I get, of course, why you don’t want to associate with sexists, etc. However, by specifying specific social justice causes, don’t you risk alienating well-meaning atheists who may agree on church-state issues, but not on those particular social justice components? And doesn’t splitting efforts dilute efforts to “legitimize” atheism?

    It seems that there is a wide range between 100% supporters and sexist douchebags, that you aren’t fairly taking into account.

  68. JD says

    Paul Scott @ #68: Affirmative action is an excellent example of a belief which is unpopular but supported by the evidence. Pretty much any peer-reviewed research on the topic will show you that things are still heavily unequal between races, in education as well as in other factors which help one’s chances of getting into college, such that directly comparing a white person to a black person on the main metrics involved will not give you an accurate picture of the students’ future potential. There are any number of studies of post-college success that demonstrate the effectiveness of AA-type policies.

    I would argue that opposition to affirmative action is somewhat similar in spirit to global-warming denial – sticking to your core beliefs even when they don’t fit with reality. So, yes, I would not want you as part of my skeptic movement just as I don’t want Penn & Teller in it for supporting the latter.

  69. Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish says

    David Quinn wrote:

    And doesn’t splitting efforts dilute efforts to “legitimize” atheism?

    I keep hearing this sort of thing claimed, but never explained. How does saying ‘Hey, we’re is a bunch of atheists who make a point of claiming they’ve got a strong interest in social justice’ in any way ‘dilute’ atheism?

    Seems the opposite is more likely, and is supported by the number of people in the comments who’ve said (essentially) “I didn’t want to be part of it before but I do now.”

    People seem to think we need to pretend ‘atheism’ is infallible, or it’ll all fall apart. I don’t agree.

  70. tacotaco says

    This all reminds me of the crazy straw community. I look forward to the formation of A++, a group of former A+ers who can no longer associate with mere A+ers, given their belief that transexual humans have greater value than cows. Later, a great rift will form in the A++ community over whether atheist cows or Christian humans are the more ethical source of food.

  71. Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish says

    tacotaco:

    This all reminds me of the crazy straw community. I look forward to the formation of A++, a group of former A+ers who can no longer associate with mere A+ers, given their belief that transexual humans have greater value than cows. Later, a great rift will form in the A++ community over whether atheist cows or Christian humans are the more ethical source of food.

    I know, right? How dare people form groups in order to better fight for what they think is important to them. Those monsters. Lucky they’ve got smug onlookers like you to tell them how wrong they are.

  72. David Quinn says

    @wowblogger

    I’m pretty sure I never said anything about atheism being infallible, but simply that if no believers are 15% of the population, we’d have less impact as 100 groups each with .15% of the population than if we were more coherent.

  73. David Quinn says

    @JD

    So you don’t want climate change deniers as part of “your movement”. And not people who don’t believe in AA, simply because they disagree with you. At what point do you eliminate everyone who disagrees with your ideology?

    That sounds scarily close to fundamentalism, and IMO validates theists’ assertion that atheism is just another religion.

    I was curious about Atheism+ in concept, as it attempts to destigmatize the term; however, this conversation seems to show that it’s really more about excluding others in the name of ideological purity. (I know, I know…. I’m not welcome in “your movement” now either)

  74. says

    So you don’t want climate change deniers as part of “your movement”. And not people who don’t believe in AA, simply because they disagree with you. At what point do you eliminate everyone who disagrees with your ideology?

    It’s not because they disagree, it’s because they ignore facts. A skeptical movement should prioritize facts and evidence. If someone doesn’t “believe in” something despite factual evidence showing that it exists/is valid, then how can they be skeptics?

  75. epitome says

    Ignoring the fact that not everyone sees the same issues the same way and therefore not agree with the same solution.

    Example:

    -Feminist: see society as “women are victims of male oppression”
    (Solution: Give women rights)

    -Neutral View Person: sees society as having a self-enforced patriarch mentality that assigns roles by gender which inhibit personal freedom and incur an aggressive response whenever an individual deviates from the assigned roles.
    (Solution: Destroy society’s Patriarch Mentality)

    |

    But my question is: How is Atheism+ any different from being a Left-Wing Progressive who doesn’t believe in any god?

  76. Paul Scott says

    Greta,

    ” So, yes, I would not want you [because you do not support AA] as part of my skeptic movement just as I don’t want Penn & Teller in it for supporting the [idea that Global Warming might not be caused by man].”

    That might not (or maybe it is, I won’t try and speak for you in this regard) be what you intend for A+, but I do suggest that it is the expected consequence of it.

  77. karmakin says

    @Flewellyn: One of the big problems is that even if agree on what the problems are, there’s a significantly bigger chance we’re not going to agree on what the solutions are, the world being as complex of a place as it is. Recognizing the problems is the easy part. But in terms of solutions, often things are so complicated that it’s all over the place.

    @Epitome: Actually the “neutral” view you say is actually what I would say IS the modern feminist view, for the most part. I just think that for a variety of reasons we’re moving away from that (unfortunately), and that’s really hurting the perception that the average person has of feminism.

  78. PatrickG says

    @ epitome:

    There’s a lot of room for disagreement even in the smaller tent. For instance, I disagree with some of the comments on affirmative action above. I see value in the ideal, but the implementation has been … uneven. (I’d be happy to discuss this with others if they were interested. It’s quite possible I have something to learn, but I don’t think this is the forum here. Perhaps somewhere else?)

    That said, I’m somewhat disturbed by your asserting that social justice and left-wing progressivism are equivalent.

    I might have misread your post, but here’s my response anyway. If I failed to read you correctly, let me know.

    -Feminist: see society as “women are victims of male oppression”
    (Solution: Give women rights)

    -Neutral View Person: sees society as having a self-enforced patriarch mentality that assigns roles by gender which inhibit personal freedom and incur an aggressive response whenever an individual deviates from the assigned roles.
    (Solution: Destroy society’s Patriarch Mentality)

    Doesn’t that Neutral View Person, um, end up giving women rights? That’s your definition of the “feminist” point of view, after all. And honestly? From my viewpoint, I think you actually summed up the goals of feminism quite well with your Neutral View!

    My point isn’t new: Religion harms us all. It harms us in various ways, but not least in how we treat each other. If one rejects religion, one must reject the hierarchy that religion asserts. One part of that is rejecting the aggressive response to deviation. Because, honestly, why must deviation be punished so severely. Murder, rape, and bigotry are consequent from religious ideology, we see it all the time. Should that not be rejected?

    If we fail to recognize bigotry and hate, well, that’s just not skeptical. Bigotry isn’t restricted to religious people! It happens in atheists too. It’s a real issue that I, personally, struggle with: rejecting religion does not mean religion hasn’t infected me. But then, that’s why I turned to atheism and skepticism, so I could learn and overcome that poison.

    But my question is: How is Atheism+ any different from being a Left-Wing Progressive who doesn’t believe in any god?

    View it skeptically. Don’t put it on a Left Wing-Right Wing spectrum by default. A lot of Left-Wing Progressives (as you put it) are more than willing to throw women under the bus.

    I’d be more than happy to continue the conversation, but I feel I’ve said enough (more than enough!) here. Let me know if you want to pursue this further.

  79. PatrickG says

    @ kamarkin:

    Dam you* for your brevity re: Neutral Person, and beating me to the point. :)

    * Typo intentional. The beavers are on their way. Beware.

  80. says

    One of the big problems is that even if agree on what the problems are, there’s a significantly bigger chance we’re not going to agree on what the solutions are, the world being as complex of a place as it is. Recognizing the problems is the easy part. But in terms of solutions, often things are so complicated that it’s all over the place.

    This is why we try solutions, and then study their impact. Y’know, with research and facts and stuff. All that skepticky goodness. And the data on affirmative action shows its impact to be largely positive.

  81. karmakin says

    Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with AA myself. I’ll give a good example of where I might differ.

    I don’t think education is the economic solution. I think it’s a great thing for society as a whole, and I support the concept of affordable, accessible higher education. But it’s not a macroeconomic solution that so many people think it is. In fact, economically I think it’s actually at a certain point it’s a detriment. The powers that be want more educated workers in order to force down wages. Full stop. Now, believe it or not, I’m ok with rebalancing the economy around this, to where relatively flat wage levels are livable.

    But I do think that people who think that education is a panacea for widespread economic woes are mistaken.

  82. DanniHouse says

    Well said Greta. Ya after the Thunderfoot shit went down I no longer wanted to associate with New Atheists. It was def time to move on. I am more then happy though to participate and support atheist+

  83. Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish says

    David Quinn wrote:

    I’m pretty sure I never said anything about atheism being infallible, but simply that if no believers are 15% of the population, we’d have less impact as 100 groups each with .15% of the population than if we were more coherent.

    Why? There’s no reason why we can agree on the things that we do have in common – there are numerous different atheist/skeptic groups with their own focus who band together when it suits them; why should this be any different?

    If you hadn’t noticed, there’s a serious contingent of the atheist/skeptic community who either ignore or oppose addressing the issue of misogyny in that community. Why do you expect people on the receiving end of such treatment to be okay with that?

    Asking for the issue to be considered resulted in an astonishing unprecedented shit-storm of hate and abuse; I certainly cannot blame those who’ve had their concerns mocked and dismissed for having no interest whatsover in being associated with the atheists who’ve acted that way.

    The options seemed to be either bowing out of atheist activism entirely or breaking away – and people like Jen have chosen the latter.

    And it seems to me to be more likely to increase numbers of vocal, involved atheists, since so many of them have indicated (her and on Jen’s posts) that they wouldn’t have touched the ‘old’ atheist movement with a ten-foot clown pole, but are now interested in being part of it.

  84. says

    This is so amusing. “Don’t you risk alienating X, Y, or Z?”

    “Yes, in fact we anticipate alienating them. That’s kind of the point.”

    “But have you considered that you might be alienating X, Y, or Z? Or possibly A or B?”

    “If those people can’t get on board with treating all human beings with dignity and making our collective well-being a priority, then yes. The plan is to alienate them so they don’t alienate those human beings they are incapable of treating with dignity.”

    “But what if you alienate…”

  85. cityzenjane says

    Most of the objections seem to be coming from people who do not know how to build a movement that extends beyond people who are mostly like themselves.

    To say it is “divisive” is to be oblivious to the fact that we ARE already divided.

    To point that out is not divisive it is observant. To do nothing to address is IS divisive and sends people away.

    I feel like a lot of people who object… read but absorbed NOTHING of what Greta Christina has said here.

    Please read it again if you winged about “divisiveness.” I am NOT with you in the first place if you are a sexist jerk. I am not with you in the first place if you don’t give a rats ass about the intersection of race and Islam and therefor make blanket statements which would be shameful to anyone who knew something about it… I could go on.

    Point is the noise is coming from people who do not know what it is to build a real movement, to create a sea change…. Yes…the last five years have been a really decent start…but now comes the real work.

  86. cityzenjane says

    If your skepticism applies only to a crypto-erzatz version of feminism which only exists in your head – you are not a skeptic.

    If your skepticism only applies to anthropocentric global climate change – you are not a skeptic.

    If your skepticism only applies to environmental science – and not industrial claims you are not a skeptic.

    If your skepticism only applies to evolution and favors creationism – you are not a skeptic.

    If your skepticism only applies to the motives and integrity of others…and not yourself – good chance you are not a very thorough skeptic.

    If your skepticism only applies to a grouping that separates itself openly and honestly and not to the people from whom they say the separation is necessary – You are not a very good skeptic….

  87. Anonymous Atheist says

    Horace #60: The red A usage has been discussed in multiple comments on multiple posts on multiple blogs… Please take a look at http://outcampaign.org/promotions , the whole page, to see the RDF’s stated and demonstrated openness to people using it.

  88. Lyssky says

    Cool story, I’m all for it. But I have an issue with the name. Excuse me if this point has already been brought up, I don’t have time to read all the comments.

    I’m an Objectivist, which means I’m an Atheist + individualist, Atheist + ethical egoist, Atheist + I care about individual liberty, etc. There’s nothing denotational with A+ that makes this term not apply to me. Atheism Plus denotates more like plus-sized, that is, more of Atheism, which it isn’t. This then sounds for me like an attempt to connotationally hijack the term Atheism, which is all nice and good for you guys, but you’re kind of being a dick to other atheists who aren’t progressive. If you called it Atheism+Progressivism, Progressive Atheism, or something like that, I would have no problem.

    Much love <3

  89. dhoelscher says

    Greta I am a passionate advocate of the view that atheists ought to be extremely concerned about, and that they should work for, social justice. But I see a logical problem with the name “A+”. As you rightly argued in Free Inquiry a while back,”being an atheist demands that we work for social justice.” Your case was necessarily brief and therefore (in a wide sense) inadequate, but nevertheless you were absolutely right. But if, as your FI argument implicitly said, atheism entails (sure would be nice if FtB would allow readers access to features such as italics) a commitment to social justice, then the “+” is superfluous. If we accept your earlier reasoning about atheism and social justice, and again I believe we should, then “A+” is an unhelpful tautology. Or am I missing something?

  90. pasqualefranzese says

    You know, I like this A+ thing… It merges atheism with sheer being-a-left-wing.

    Apart from jokes, if you want to apply rational skepticism to social constructs other than religion, well, that’s what I’ve always done. That’s why usually I define myself Rationalist, not “ateist”: because my atheism is an effect of my Rational inquiry, just as my economic policy view or my view on animal care VS research.

    I admit thought A+ is a far better brand name than Rationalists, but we should understand is the very same thing.

  91. Josh says

    This will probably get me banned, but I must say, I haven’t read Greta’s blog on a regular basis and probably won’t in the future. Many of the responses, including part of mine, have been responded to by Greta in a scathing and what I feel to be a very narrow-minded approach…basically, if you don’t like it, get out. Her blog, her right. Interesting approach when atheists in general are looking for more inclusion in our society, but even more disturbing when these individuals are atheists themselves and simply attempting to debate the post. Interestingly enough, I share many of the views that Greta does. I want to see gays, trans, people of color, and women treated as equal in the atheism movement as well as in out regular society. If someone asks me about my atheism, be it any of the above-mentioned groups, I will try to explain my point of view without proselitizing. I am a white male, one who i’m sure that the focus is on as the propagators of these social injustices in the atheism movement, and you may well be correct. I will readily admit that because of who I am, I don’t have to deal with many of these injustices. But I am former military and we all know how well an atheist in a foxhole is excepted in a war zone. Try that with every other individual carrying a loaded weapon around. I have also settled in the Southeastern US and am surrounded by the ultra-religious who feel that if you don’t believe, then you have directly insulted their copilot, the great jesus christ. On top of that, I’m a “Yankee”. They deal with this with harrassment, damage to property, or threats directed at your person. I have a wife and son so those threats can be very real. So save the sanctimonious viewpoint that only gays, trans, people of color, and women can be victims. Atheists “are” the minority. It is obvious from many other blogs that this Thunderfoot has pissed many people off. Probably scared them as well. He is a dick, for sure, but I think it is unfair to think that he is indicative of the mindset in atheism. My atheism, to me, means that I have a limited time on this planet and I am going to try to make the most of it. That means being happy, enjoying my life, and ensuring the my family does as well. The by-product of that is hopefully that my positivity reaches outward and possibly affects others in a good way. I’m not an activist. I don’t go to rallies and discussion groups to try and change the world’s injustices. This doesn’t make me lazy or a bad person. Maybe my worldview is considered limited and shortsighted. My understanding as to what being atheist means is “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings”. Thats what I am.

  92. karmakin says

    If your skepticism only applies to the motives and integrity of others…and not yourself – good chance you are not a very thorough skeptic.

    This is generally the point where these sorts of efforts go horribly, terribly, awfully off the rails. One of the big dangers, and again, it’s a common one, of creating a more focused community, is that you actually amplify, not reduce this. That’s been my experience.

  93. says

    This is a no-brainer. In fact I’m surprised that we’re even having to have this conversation. Atheists are no stranger to marginalization and therefore we should be highly aware of and motivated to champion the causes of other marginalized groups. Free from the shackles of religious dogma, it should be plain to see that marginalized people are still people who deserve the same degree of equality, happiness and dignity as everyone else. We have to ‘de-otherize’ as much as possible if we want to win in the end. Any move closer to that is where I will be going as well.

    Greta, how do you propose to actually keep the trolls out now? Do we have to get more aggressive with banning on forums and real-life events? Or do we effectively punish people who violate these principles, or motivate them to change?

  94. Horace says

    Atheist Plus, will go the way of the Brights — and will be lost in insignificance.

    It is a good idea to call it “Atheist Plus –” whatever to make sure that your group’s values and mission are spelled out clearly, and then those of us who don’t want to be involved with it will be able to still identify as atheists without being saddled with the “Plus” of being involved with that group.

    The danger for the majority of good, kind, and non-discriminatory people who nevertheless do not want to be part of your group is that by merely calling ourselves atheists, we will be lumped in by the friends and acquaintances as sharing the extreme and childish views that your group espouses.

    I don’t mean the generalities like “social justice” and “equality” — almost everyone believes in those things. Where people differ is on the specifics. And, many of us don’t think that, say, ceramic jewelry that isn’t made by one particular person should be banned. Many of us don’t think that a woman wearing an “I am not a Skepchick” t-shirt is harassment. many of us don’t think that asking a woman for coffee on an elevator at 4am in Ireland after a conference is worth a year of hand-wringing or represents “objectification” and “sexualization,” much less “misogyny.” Many of us don’t think that Thunderf00t’s disagreement on the extent of the sexual harassment problem is misogyny or hate. Many of us wouldn’t throw DJ Grothe under the bus and don’t think what he wrote about TAM was misogyny or victim blaming. Many of us are tired of dissent being called mansplaining, and many of don’t want to put up with folks who consider “I disagree with you on the facts” to be “gaslighting.” And, many of us don’t want to be told we are out of line for asking for evidence or proof of allegations, even if those allegations are made by a woman.

    If you folks differ, that is fine. Keep on championing your causes. I am only very grateful that you are making it very easy to distinguish myself from you, and to clearly state to others that under no circumstances would I ever be affiliated with such a divisive, mean spirited, antiskeptical and unfreethinking group as Atheist Plus.

    Thanks again for creating this group, and cheers!

    PS – check with Richard Dawkins’ Foundation before you move to far with your use of the red-A which is a registered trademark on the US Trademark Principal Register (see http://www.uspto.gov).

  95. says

    I would just like to add that I think that anonymity plays a role in the escalation of violent rhetoric. Perhaps the solution involves requiring people to use real names on forums and possibly show up in person to certain events, every once in a while? Like it has been said, people don’t usually behave the same way when in person and I think that has something to do with anonymity. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I suspect it has something to do with humanizing people more.

  96. Carlos Ramirez says

    This is great! I am one-hundred percent on board! Everything you discussed is what I’ve fought for and against, all my life against all groups. Maybe we can make some change with this. It’s exciting!

  97. Proxer says

    Horace,

    Your misrepresentation of the Elevatorgate incident undermines your other arguments. You describe the situation as

    asking a woman for coffee on an elevator at 4am in Ireland after a conference

    You then imply that such an event is not

    worth a year of hand-wringing,

    before setting up a straw-man, namely that proponents of Atheist+ assert that the event, by itself,

    represents “objectification” and “sexualization,” … “misogyny.”

    Greta explains, in detail, what’s wrong with the misrepresentation of the event here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/07/04/what-gets-left-out-of-conversations-stephanie-zvans-elisions/

    I’ll summarize though: Nobody ever said that asking a woman for coffee in an elevator was misogynistic. What they did say was much more complex; that the complete set of events leading up to Rebecca and the man in the elevator should have made it inexcusably clear that Rebecca did not want to be hit on at that time, and that to do so crossed the line of ‘normal social behavior’ into ‘harassment’.

    The aftermath of that incident and its retelling is very very messy, but the upshot is that a large number of people took sides over whether or not the incident constituted harassment.

    The mess isn’t as important as what was revealed in the mess. There are a lot of members of the atheist community who, regardless of their stance on the Elevatorgate issue, hold misogynistic beliefs and perpetuate them. It also revealed to a lesser degree some faulty logic on the part of some atheist feminists.

    The issue that was well worth the year of debate was the issue of these responses. In order to be a better, stronger movement, we need to eschew misogyny and the lack of skepticism and critical thinking with regards to social justice.

    To be clear, you’re not “out” of Atheism+ if you disagree that a T-shirt can ever constitute harassment, or any other specific position. People are only “out” of Atheism+ when they fail to apply reason, responsibility, and compassion to these issues in addition to the issue of theism.

  98. Entrained says

    As always Greta you never disappoint. Your thoughts and ideas have in my view always been a driving force in the Atheist movement.
    I personally have no concerns about these concepts or what impact it has on the movement. I believe it is a natural progression of things and this is how this particular segment of the Atheist world will manifest itself. To the extent it flattens or broadens and is adopted or rejected only time will tell.
    Interestingly, the movement I thought of as I read through this evolution is what has occurred in the variety of religious sects throughout history and their evolution. People ultimately land where they are most comfortable or born into.
    I’ll be interested in seeing what impact this has on SCA and the other current organizations. My feeling is as this movement incubates it will have a significant influence on membership in some of the other organizations based on which direction they turn so in some form if that calculus is correct purely from a numbers perspective Atheism per se will have some short term weakness. It always felt like a political opportunity was that we were moving in the direction of strength in numbers to become a stronger political lobbying force. I may be wrong but don’t see any way that this manifesto can help but slow down at least temporarily that process. However, it may catch on fire and a huge group may ultimately be born from this chrysalis of an idea.
    It will interesting to see where the larger organizations land in this process or if a new organization doesn’t spring from this. personally I think a new organization is called for. Start from scratch. No baggage. Create the A+ manifesto and let it rise or fall on it’s own merits. This way you don’t have to compromise with existing issues or priorities within an organization. People know what they sign up for and the “Rules of the Road” are very clear. Quite frankly, based on what I’ve read on the blogs this last year, it seemed like it was always going to come to this. And now it has.
    Time for everyone to step up or step out.

  99. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Horace knows that he’s lying, Proxer. He knows that we know he’s lying. He just wanted to shout “bitches ain’t shit!” once again. And, apparently, that’s supposed to make us want to be in his group of bigots who don’t believe in bigfoot.

  100. Horace says

    @Proxer –

    I do understand that the elevator incident was not completely described by the mere statement “asked for coffee in an elevator after a conferences.” That was a shorthand reference to the incident itself, and I am not going to recount all the events and rehash the debate. Suffice to say, the incident as described in toto by Ms. Watson, taking everything she said about it as true, was not, in my view, harassment at all, and I believe that her reaction and the reaction of her supporters to it was over-the-top. I think offering it as evidence of an overarching harassment problem in the “community” which is what she and others did, was misplaced.

    Then people who hold my view of it were immediately labeled as misogynistic, enablers, and mansplainers. We were told that we don’t have a right to evaluate the facts and opine whether we believe X, Y and Z were sexual harassment, because once a woman says X, Y or Z is sexual harassment, then that’s what it is. We’re not her, so we can’t say what’s offensive to her or not.

    I agree, of course, that we can’t say what is offensive TO HER (or him, of course), but we most certainly can, reasonably, rationally and justifiably, have an opinion as to whether a given set of facts reasonably ought to be considered, objectively, as sexual harassment or misogyny.

    The whole year-long ordeal went off the rails more and more. I mean, one woman announced on a podcast that “all we’re asking for” are policies to prevent people from selling fake jewelry and that people not intentionally offend other people. Well, neither of those things are reasonable demands. The jewelry that that woman was selling does not give her an exclusive right, and parody jewelry or similar jewelry has just as much of a right to be sold as her jewelry. And, since when does “intentionally offending” someone mean it is or ought to be forbidden? Skeptics the world over claim the right to “intentionally offend” people — particularly religious people.

    I’ll remind people of the poignant quote by Stephen Fry, “It’s now very common to hear people say, “I’m rather offended by that”, as if that gives them certain rights. It’s no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. “I’m offended by that.” Well, so fucking what?” The same goes for t-shirt’s that say “I am not a Skepchick,” and such. The same goes for fake jewelry. The same goes for dissent of any kind. And, the same goes for offensive comments, in my view.

    As for being out of Atheist Plus because one does not use reason to address issues, I would point out that telling people to fuck off if they ask for evidence, looking to drum opponents “out of the movement” and make them into “pariahs,” and such, is not using reason. It’s not rational. Improperly using the term “gaslighting” in response to people disagreeing as to the facts of a given issue, is likewise not rational. There are a host of other examples I could give you. But, frankly, it’s not really worth the time.

    Again, I am glad that the movement has decided to call itself something that can be easily separated from mere atheism. I, for one, want nothing to do with Atheism Plus, will oppose it anytime it arises in conversation, and will look forward to its descent into obscurity like the unfortunately, and arrogantly, named “Brights.”

    Good luck with your movement, and best wishes.

  101. Horace says

    @Illuminati —

    I rest my case. Your post is exactly why many people want nothing to do with your movement.

    Don’t worry, you don’t have to run me out of the movement.

  102. Pteryxx says

    I would just like to add that I think that anonymity plays a role in the escalation of violent rhetoric. Perhaps the solution involves requiring people to use real names on forums and possibly show up in person to certain events, every once in a while?

    Er, no. That’d disenfranchise at one stroke most women, many minorities, almost all queer folks or atheists who are closeted, anyone with real-life stalkers, and trans* people.

  103. says

    Many of the responses, including part of mine, have been responded to by Greta in a scathing and what I feel to be a very narrow-minded approach…basically, if you don’t like it, get out.

    Josh # @ 103: Narrow-minded, no. Scathing, perhaps. If you don’t like it, get out — definitely. And there’s a reason for that.

    I, and many other people, have spent the last year trying to do Sexism 101, Racism 101, Transphobia 101, Poverty 101, etc… with people who are sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming, “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!” And for the last year, we have been subjected to a tremendous torrent of abuse as a result. We have been persistently harassed. We have had our privacy invaded and our personal information made public. We have been threatened with graphic, brutal violence, with rape, with death. This is not just about thunderf00t. This is the culmination of a year — longer, actually — of trying to cope with this behavior, and trying to find ways of being in the atheism movement with the people who treat us like this.

    I am done.

    I am willing to do Social Justice 101 with people who are genuinely well-meaning and simply aren’t familiar with these concepts, and who aren’t familiar with the history of what led to this action. But the people who are clearly familiar with this situation, and are on the wrong side of it, I am done with. They are not welcome in my blog.

  104. says

    …many of us don’t think that asking a woman for coffee on an elevator at 4am in Ireland after a conference is worth a year of hand-wringing…

    Horace @ #106: And this is Exhibit A in why Atheism Plus is necessary.

    Elevatorgate was not “a year of hand-wringing” over asking a woman for coffee on an elevator at 4am in Ireland. It was about the fact that, when Rebecca Watson responded to this incident by saying, “Guys, don’t do that,” she was subjected to a torrent of vile, hateful, grotesque, overtly sexist and misogynistic abuse, including graphic threats of violence, rape, and death. As has every female public figure who spoke out on her behalf about the incident. If, after a year of watching this abuse unfold, you still can dismiss it as “a year of hand-wringing,” then you are clearly part of the problem.

    As I said above: I am willing to do Social Justice 101 with people who are genuinely well-meaning and simply aren’t familiar with these concepts, and who aren’t familiar with the history of what led to Atheism Plus. But I am not willing to do Social Justice 101 with people who are sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming, “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!” — and who are being vile and hostile to the people talking to them. You are not welcome here. Get out.

  105. Proxer says

    @Illuminata – I think you’ve gotten a little jaded :)

    @Horace

    I haven’t seen your specific arguments as to why the elevator incident didn’t cross a line of acceptable behavior, so I can’t comment as to whether or not your views are, in fact, misogynistic. That said, my original point still stands – your comment attempts to discredit the position of those who believe that it was unacceptable behavior, which is fine, but it does so by misrepresenting the facts of the event, which is not. In short, you’re not granting the respect that you’re demanding for your own position.

    I agree that some feminists have staked some indefensible claims, and that some have quickly demonized any disagreement. I myself was opposed to the “always ask before physical contact” rule that some were promoting and I took a lot of heat for it, including some responses like Illuminata’s above. In the end, that particular misstep was abandoned.

    That said, I think that you continue to mis-characterize some of the arguments of your apparent opponents:

    telling people to fuck off if they ask for evidence

    This is fairly well-trodden ground in any social justice movement. Asking for evidence is reasonable. The objection comes when someone asks for evidence, rejects it, asks for evidence, rejects it, asks for evidence, rejects it…

    To be clear – this is a well documented tactic that is used daily to shut down movements for social justice. (Quick question, do you recognize that fact?) I don’t know if you’ve got an Illuminata-esque experience in mind, but my experience has been that, on the whole, Feminists (and certainly Athesits+) have no problem providing evidence. The problem is with uber-skepticism, where presented evidence is disregarded irrationally.

    looking to drum opponents “out of the movement”

    I can only assume that you’re talking about Thunderf00t. I’m pretty sure you’re quoting a statement that was made after he’d done some unethical and illegal things. While it would be correct to say “‘s lack of ethics in one area has no bearing on his reason or conclusions in another,” it would be incorrect to say “<person's lack of ethics in this area does not harm the larger movement."

    Those things are rational responses to documented behavior.

    Improperly using the term “gaslighting” in response to people disagreeing as to the facts of a given issue, is likewise not rational.

    Improperly using any term is not rational. I’d have to see the specific use to make a judgement here.

    Further down, you focus on ‘offensive’ comments. I like that Steven Fry quote as well, but I always understood that the issue isn’t with ‘offensive’ comments, but with actual harassment. Just out of curiosity, do you think that there are significant issues with sexism and harassment within the larger Atheist community?

  106. says

    Greta,
    This may help you, it may not. (I just discovered I can log in by my facebook account, so I am doing that now. I was/am Paul Scott #67, etc. – as far as I can tell, but I have not checked, every Paul Scott except Paul Scott #69).

    So, here’s the thing. This Thursday a good friend of mine recommend to me a book to which she was listening on audiobook. that book turned out to be your “Why Angry” book. It was an enjoyable, quick read and thought provoking in parts. I came to this site for the first time with the express purpose of finding out if you were open to (and had a forum for) discussing parts of your book.

    When I got here, naturally, I started reading parts of your blog and that is when I discovered A+. I have absolutely no background to the series of events, the year of discussion, etc., that have gone into Jen’s and your (and others I am sure) desire to form A+. I took it on its face as presented in those posts. You are embroiled in the facts surrounding the events that led to this new movement. I (and I expect many others) have no idea what you are talking about. There is nothing wrong with that disparity in knowledge. That is the natural result of new people coming and going, as happens with any living organization.

    However, if A+ is really a response to a specific series of events involving specific people, you and Jen might want to make that clear in the first paragraph. To an outsider (e.g., me – and if your community is growing like I hope it is, a lot of other people too) the A+ movement appears to be nothing more than a desire to create a group that is both Atheist and, as to some narrow issues, “progressive.” Add a paragraph, or at least a footnote, that indicates this is all in response to a specific series of events involving a specific series of persons and it will be a lot less confusing for new arrivals.

  107. Greta Christina says

    However, if A+ is really a response to a specific series of events involving specific people, you and Jen might want to make that clear in the first paragraph.

    paulscott @ #121: Jen did that. Read her post. It contains an excellent summary of the events that led up to this. That’s why I keep linking to it.

  108. says

    Greta,
    Yup. That article, especially if you follow the links in it does the trick. Had I read that, I would have understood your position better. If I may suggest, something other than an apparently casual link, with the link phrase “proposed a new wave of atheism” might be better. Really, just assume that I (and most other people new to this) are not going to read most of the links unless you make it explicit to what they are referring. I would have read something like “If you are new here, [link]this[/link] will explain the background.” Something that indicated the link was going to lead me to the necessary background information (in a way, mind you, that the other two links in your post – the ones actually containing “Atheist plus” as a link phrase – do not).

    That said, I accept that even if I did not readily identify it as such, there was a link to the explanation. It would have saved me a lot of typing. ;)

  109. Horace says

    @Greta Christina — fair enough – I am out of here, and will not return. I believe, and many of us outside of FtB and Skepchick, et al. are of the mind, that it is you, FtB, Skepchick and the like that are “the problem.” This isn’t about people not knowing Sexism 101, Feminism 101, etc., as you so condescendingly put it. It’s about disagreeing with you that incident X was sexism or harassment in the first place.

    Take the Surly Amy “incident” at TAM. Nothing she complained of was sexual harassment or even just generic harassment. Nothing. She claimed she was harassed and had to leave because people wore and/or sold mock jewelry, and a woman wore a t-shirt stating she was not a skepchick, etc. She claimed that conventions should have policies against these behaviors. I heard her say it out loud on a podcast.

    The reason I oppose the policies you folks are looking for is not because I am in favor of harassment. It’s because I’m not in favor of policies which are so broad that they would include the conduct Surly Amy characterized as harassment.

    This kind of thing is NOT Sexism 101 or Feminism 101. It’s some bizarre kind of complaining that certain people are engaged in, suggesting that parody, criticism, and mockery is something that can be prohibited and regulated. That anything “intentionally offensive” needs to be or ought to be banned.

    And, this idea that you folks are teaching us something about sexism and harassment is ludicrous to begin with. Look at the claims made: All women (query: people?) have a right to set their own boundaries. It’s not for anyone else to judge whether it would be reasonable for someone to be offended or uncomfortable. If she (query: he?) feels offended or uncomfortable, then she is, and then you need to stop.

    No. I disagree. Unapologetically. That is not now and never has been the test for what is acceptable. It is not up to the listener to have carte blanche as to what will and will not be allowed to be said. If that were the rule, then we would have religious people claiming offense to what bothers them, and claiming the right to set their own “personal boundaries.” All people would then claim their own Sacred Cow to be sacrosanct.

    What is the result? Chilling of speech, expression, humor, etc. What if some group or another at a skeptic conference decides to do a debaptism, but a Christian happens to be at the skeptic conference and is seriously offended by that? What if a practicing Jew attends a conference and is offended by jokes about god hating ham?

    The lessons that you folks teach are that if someone says something offensive to you, then it’s harassment. That is not correct. That is not harassment.

    Recounting nastygrams received by email, Greta, is just whining. At the very same Irish conference that started this whole hullabaloo, Ms. Watson sat next to Richard Dawkins and laughed – laughed – outloud at the, in her words, “hilarious” hate email that he received (some of which included threats of death and such). In fact, she found them so funny, she stated that she had put one of them as a ringtone on her phone. She then went from there to engage in a discussion of how unacceptable and “sexist” similar hate mail she received was. Naturally, she thinks that the mail she gets is worse.

    Now, I’m already overstaying my welcome here, because Greta told me so, in no uncertain terms, that I am not to be here. She told me to get out. I will honor that request, and this will be my last post here.

    @Proxer, I won’t be able to respond to your post or continue the discussion, because, I’m about done here.

    I’ll leave you with this. After you drive away all but those who properly genuflect and prostrate themselves before you, don’t be surprised if there are very few people around to talk to. If your goal is to create a movement where you parrot back and forth to each other the same views, and then pat each other on the back for being so smart, you’re off to a great start.

    Enjoy.

    I’m out.

  110. Greta Christina says

    Recounting nastygrams received by email, Greta, is just whining.

    Re Horace @ #125: Anyone who thinks speaking out about threats of violence, rape, and death is “whining” is not welcome in my blog.

    I am going to help Horace stick the flounce. He has been banned.

  111. Martha says

    Annoying as the detractors are, it’s nice to see fewer of them coming by, suggesting that the separation has already happened. It’s inspiring to see here and elsewhere how many people are genuinely excited about combining atheism and social justice. If this re-branding gets people energized, I don’t care what name they give it, I’m in.

  112. Martha says

    And for those people who are whining about Atheism Plus being a combination of atheism and liberalism, guess what? FtB has ALWAYS been liberal. And no, that doesn’t mean you have to be a card-carrying Democrat to join… But if you don’t at least support basic liberal principles like social justice, then we don’t want you here, anyway. :p

  113. says

    I would say that “atheism plus” recognizes that it’s worth trying to persuade women, people of color, poor people, etc. to become atheists — not just straight, white, middle-class, college-educated, cisgendered men. And I would say that atheism plus means looking at the reasons more women, people of color, poor people, etc. aren’t coming out as atheists and joining the community — and looking at what our community might be doing to make this easier for a wider range of people.

    This seems like a coordinated unveiling of the concept and term given the use of collective 1st person pronouns scattered across the FTB entries. Any field research done on whether the term actually appeals to people not fitting the straight, white, middle-class, college-educated, cis-gendered men demographic outside of the Freethought Bloggers? Still wading my way through the posts and comments, forgive me if I’ve not stumbled across it yet. Many thanks to any who provide links.

  114. Eric says

    “And an atheist movement cannot be inclusive of atheists and potential atheists who are women, people of color, trans people, poor people, mentally ill… and also be inclusive of people who think that welcoming these people into the movement just isn’t a very high priority.”

    I really can’t agree with the above. Can an atheist movement be inclusive of people who play golf if there are people in the movement who don’t consider golf a very high priority? Can it be inclusive of Republicans if there are people who don’t support that party?

    Actual harassment is obviously a problem, but you seem to be going further and saying that you cannot have an “inclusive” movement unless everyone in it agrees on all issues. Not only does that seem highly unrealistic, it risks fragmenting a movement that is still in its infancy.

  115. Greta Christina says

    “And an atheist movement cannot be inclusive of atheists and potential atheists who are women, people of color, trans people, poor people, mentally ill… and also be inclusive of people who think that welcoming these people into the movement just isn’t a very high priority.”

    I really can’t agree with the above. Can an atheist movement be inclusive of people who play golf if there are people in the movement who don’t consider golf a very high priority?

    Eric @ #132: First, you mis-stated your analogy. To correctly state your analogy, it should read, Can an atheist movement be inclusive of people who play golf, if there are people in the movement who don’t consider including people who play golf a very high priority?

    Second: If society were systematically set up to marginalize, demonize, oppress, degrade, and treat as second-class citizens people who play golf? If unconscious bias against people who play golf was well-documented and close to universal? If vicious circles and self-fulfilling prophecies were in place that kept golf players from participating — vicious circles that could only be interrupted if conscious action was taken to do so?

    Then no. An atheist movement could not be inclusive of golf players, and at the same time be inclusive of people who don’t consider including golf players a high priority.

  116. says

    What about the animals? What about their rights to live in this world without being eaten by us? Time for the rational to recognize that animals should have the right to live among us too. We are herbivores and need to act like it for the planet, for our health and for the animals.

  117. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Eric @ #132: Before I reply to your comment, answer these 2 questions for me:

    1. Are you a libertarian?
    2. Do you think that liberals are “biased” against white males?

    If you answer “yes” to either of these questions, then I won’t even waste my time on you. Find out yourself why you’re not welcome here (here’s a hint – it’s not cause we’re the “biased” ones). :)

  118. says

    I’ve been an atheist for quite awhile, but have never been terribly compelled to join any movement for it. This Atheism Plus idea, however, sounds like something I would definitely like to participate in. I especially wanted to put out my voice as a vegan who supports this idea 100%. In an ideal world, yes, I do believe everyone should be vegan, but we do not, and probably never will, live in an ideal world. Although I have to say I would enjoy rational discussions on the topic of animal rights in hopes that it would help more people move toward veganism as a result, once they’ve heard some perspectives that don’t come from PETA. For example, here are a couple of blogs with different perspectives most people are probably unaware of, although neither are atheist: http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/ and http://vegansofcolor.wordpress.com/. I think, in general, this is an area that could really benefit from rational discussion, as, in my experience, it tends to be lacking on both sides of the argument.

  119. Thomas says

    Thank you Greta for putting a lot of thought into this. This all sounds quite a bit like Humanism, which is already a growing non-theistic movement. Why the need for another group/label?

  120. Jonathan says

    I have to say it’s a breathtaking stroke of arrogance as well condescension to imply that Atheism was a principle founded by white males. You have no way of proving this. The fact of the matter is that Atheism is not a philosophy so much as it a type of absence in philosophy, and that absence can be filled with anything. But there are plenty of current philosophies that already have discrimination cut out of the picture, and the + is really just a stupid and crass way of bragging about the notion that you’re morally superior.

  121. Jonathan says

    I should also add (I apologize, I forgot to compliment you) that it’s certainly honorable to defend the oppressed classes, and it is accurate to infer that there is a level of white patriarchy as well as patriarchy in general. But I think the perspective needs readjusting.

  122. S. says

    Could not disagree more.

    Atheism is easily defined. The simplicity of its definition allows that people of all kind can be atheists.

    Subcategorizing atheism is too much akin to the creation of religious sects. Instead of theists, we have Christians, Jews, Muslims, and so on. Then we have Protestants, Lutherans, Catholics, Hasids, Conservatives, Reform, Sufis, Sunis, Shi’ites. And all of them believe they are superior to the others.

    We don’t need to theolize atheism be creating sects. We already have feminists, conservatives, liberals, skeptics, spiritualists, etc. Those are separate and individual from lack of belief in gods, and there is no reason to officially codify any combinations of them.

    It is sufficient to say, when asked about religion, “I am an atheist,” and when asked about social issues, share your positions on those, as well.

    You keep using the phrase “the Atheist movement”, but you never define what you consider that movement to be.

    “Atheism+” is lazy. Someone says they’re an atheist, fine, you know they don’t believe in god(s). Is it so much work to add (when necessary) that they are also for equality in all the ways the + is supposed to encompass?

    It is absolutely divisive. The implication in the use of the term is that if someone does not use the +, they are not for those types of equality.

    It smacks of the same kind of arrogance as those people who start sentences with, “As a Christian…”. Someone is an atheist who is for equality? Great. Then be that. No reason to crow about it.

    By definition, I am “Atheist+”. I won’t be using that term, tho.

  123. says

    S.says @ 147:
    “No reason to crow about it.”

    Silence does not advance social causes.

    “Subcategorizing atheism is too much akin to the creation of religious sects.”

    You seem to be implying that any group with sub-groups is somehow analogous to religion. This does not follow.

    “We already have feminists, conservatives, liberals, skeptics, spiritualists, etc. Those are separate and individual from lack of belief in gods, and there is no reason to officially codify any combinations of them.”

    There is a critical mass of people for whom the intersection of atheism and these social issues is important. We wish to organize. That is the reason.

    “The implication in the use of the term is that if someone does not use the +, they are not for those types of equality.”

    I can see where you’re coming from here, but I don’t see it that way. If Atheism+ in general were taking Carrier’s “with us or against us” approach to this, then I would agree. I’m not seeing this rhetoric from Atheism+ supporters in general, however. There are plenty of people who support these values but are not going to adopt the label of Atheism+. I’ve seen quite a few Secular Humanists expressing exactly that, and I think no less of them for it.

    Saying that you’re an “atheist” does not suddenly mean that you oppose social equality. It just isn’t a statement on those issues; it claims dictionary atheism only. There are many reasons why someone might not have adopted a particular label. If someone wants to know more about the social positions of an “atheist”, they will have to ask. This has not changed.

  124. inurashii says

    @Jonathan

    Maybe you mean second-wave feminism? I don’t think I’ve seen a single modern feminist float the notion of female superiority without irony.

    Moreover, I’m not sure that I understand what you think the purpose of Atheism+ is. Could you please be clearer about what it is representing that you find breathtakingly arrogant, stupid, crass, boastful, or posing at moral superiority?

    Because it sort of seemed to me that it’s creating a community for atheist discourse where bigots are called on their bigotry as a rule.

  125. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    Greta, totally agree with pretty much everything in your post. I have been hoping for something like this for years. Not only is it time to condemn intolerance within the community, but I think the movement will be much stronger by not only increasing diversity, but also by giving many of us a place where we can combine the fight against superstition/irrationality with desires to push for positive changes in society through greater Two quick questions:

    1.) How would the separation between A+ and A look in practice? For example would A+’s refuse to work with someone like Dawkins at all, or would they simply be open and vocal about the instances where he is wrong? Note: I think it’s great that you, Jen, PZ and many others have been willing to call attention to the failings of Dawkins (or Harris wrt profiling etc.)

    2.) You mention that other movements (Civil Rights, LGBT etc.) failed in the past to make these kinds of crucial differentiations between their members and suffered because of it. Do you have any specific examples in mind that you could point to? (Just to be clear: That is not an I-don’t-believe-you challenge, but an I’d-like-to-read-more request.:) )

  126. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    Whoops. That was supposed to say “through greater attention to matters beyond just religion.”

  127. says

    first of all, sign me up! i’m pretty stoked about atheism+; this is a good start, imo.

    (TRIGGER WARNING for cissexism, rape, misogyny)

    @ paul scott (#48): “I, however, cannot see any good reason not to compartmentalize and focus on the issue relevant to the group at hand.”

    because as a non-binary trans* person, i CAN’T participate in the movement. there is no space for me. people like YOU tell me that i don’t exist, that i don’t have a right to take up space in the world as a person of my (non-binary) gender, that i deserve harassment and rape threats because i have tits, that people like me (trans* people) are to be examined/judged/mocked/murdered. you’d better not be telling me i should just ignore all that.

    i mean, do you think non-human animals might feel unsafe in the atheism+ movement? do you think cattle get upset when human atheists chow down on steaks? no. when atheists around you chow down on steaks, YOU don’t feel unsafe, but when atheists tell me i just need a good rape, I feel unsafe and unwelcome. that’s the difference.

    and yes, i hope atheism+ takes on non-human animal rights; the current state of things is horrific. but don’t try to draw a parallel between us being outraged over the unjust treatment of non-human animals and marginalized people wanting to FEEL SAFE in the atheist movement.

    sincerely,
    a life-long vegetarian

  128. Alice says

    This is what we are doing already in our Melbourne based group in Australia

    I thought it was amusing when you listed ‘educated’ as one of the privileged positions and then reported that ‘students’ were the future of atheism. I suggest you follow our lead and be inclusive of those who aren’t ‘students’ also, and perhaps include all young people as the future of atheism. ;) (cheeky ‘get out of your own paradigm’ perspective)

    The intellectual elitism of the atheist movement concerns me greatly.

    In addition – I personally don’t like the use of any name calling – including the term “douchebag” as in your comment:

    ““handful of whiny entitled douchebags who don’t give a damn about anyone who isn’t like them” demographic — is pretty much a no-brainer.”

    I agree with this sentiment (although again – is the word ‘assholes’ necessary?)

    “And if this causes deep rifts in the community — and if those rifts cut sexist, racist, self-absorbed, hateful, “screw you, Jack, I’ve got mine” assholes out of it — I say Mazeltov. That’s not a bug. That’s a feature. We will be a stronger movement without them.”

    People who are actively sexist, racist etc must be ignored for now. Although there are also many people who are passively sexist, racist etc. who have been brought up in such a way that they are caused to hold these values – and therefore we also need to aim to provide education and support to people who might be willing to let go of their sexism, racism etc. in favor of being included in an inclusive community of progressive atheists who don’t believe in God but are concerned about social justice.

  129. Alice says

    This pretty much covers the point I was aiming to make at the end of post #157

    Greta said:

    “I am willing to do Social Justice 101 with people who are genuinely well-meaning and simply aren’t familiar with these concepts, and who aren’t familiar with the history of what led to Atheism Plus. But I am not willing to do Social Justice 101 with people who are sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming, “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!” — and who are being vile and hostile to the people talking to them.”

  130. Alice says

    Greta – I wonder if you could help me with this exchange between Richard Carrier and myself on his blog “The Art of the Insult & The Sin of the Slur”.

    His response has left me feeling shocked and distressed. He seems fixed and cold in his response. I accept his position but the gap between his position and mine is huge and I would like some education on why is position might be valid.

    I value participating in the movement, and so for that reason I wonder if you might answer my same question (below), in order to get your perspective – which might be laced with a greater amount of compassion and education.

    Alice says:
    August 26, 2012 at 7:26 pm
    Richard,

    WHY are we supporting a set of guidelines for ridicule??? Surely that’s the same as the Biblical rules for slavery? Ridicule isn’t nice, it isn’t compassionate, and it should aim to be avoided altogether.

    It isn’t a tool for change or progress – it’s a nasty thing to do, and if you do it, let’s hope that you can see the error of your ways and everyone can forgive you.

    Am I missing something here?

    Reply
    Richard Carrier says:
    August 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm
    I disagree. Not only do I disagree with the notion that we always have to be nice and be nice to everyone (we don’t), I also disagree with the notion that ridicule isn’t a tool for change or progress. To the contrary, historically it has been one of the most effective tools for change and progress ever used. It’s just not effective for certain specific kinds of purposes or in certain kinds of contexts.

  131. Greta Christina says

    Alice @ #159: If you’re asking for my own perspective on the uses and limitations of mockery and ridicule, I outline them here: Is It Okay to Mock Religion?

    If you’re asking me to discuss Richard Carrier’s views on the uses and limitations of mockery and ridicule… please don’t. I have enough on my plate explaining my own opinions, without trying to explain someone else’s. Richard Carrier is one voice among many. If you don’t respond to his perspective or approach, read others instead. (Sorry if I seem impatient, but I’ve been getting “Will you please explain Richard Carrier to me?” for several days now.)

  132. Alice says

    I agree – we don’t need to be nice to everyone.

    I exchange and share with those who I get on with and I ignore the rest.

    Ignoring, blocking and excluding is how I would suggest is the best way to deal with percipient, conscious and aggressive sexism, racism, homophobia etc.

    Ridicule like any causal factor is a tool for change – but is it going to be progressive change?

    When we model ridicule as a form of communication for change that becomes an acceptable way of operating. This is not the sort of culture that I want to promote.

    You say that ridicule has been used as a successful tool in the past to initiate change. My question is regarding the methods we can use and the consequence of those methods – what are the pros and cons of each method vs effectiveness.

    Rewards and punishment are effective – so are bullying, harassment and trolling. They provide good short term outcomes, but the long term outcome is negative in terms of the culture that is developed.

    I prefer reasoning, compassion and perspective taking as better tools to use for short and long term outcomes.

  133. Alice says

    Thank you Greta for your reply.

    I have no wish for you to explain Richard Carrier to me – he can do that himself. I was asking for your perspective on the matter of ridicule – I will read your blog.

  134. says

    I am sad to say that, as much as I have enjoyed and admired much of your work, I believe you are terribly wrong on this issue. This whole “Plus” movement is, in my opinion an overreaction to some real and some perceived bad behavior. Whether this is true or not however, is irrelevant. For Atheism Plus will re-brand us as just what theists try to claim we are – just another religion, complete with thought crimes. By doing this we weaken our ability to do the most important things we need to do now by dividing us. Your article seems to take it on “faith” that the people put off by this venture are somehow the morally inferior (hello religion) – those who are racist, or homophobic, or misogynist, etc. That is far from the truth.
    Many of us feel that there are two basic problems with your whole mentality.
    First, conflating belief with behavior – yes, it is important to have BEHAVIORAL rules at events which would outlaw threats and harassment, as long as those terms were very carefully defined (see elevatorgate). However, behavior is not belief. I can easily say, “I think your homophobia is not a good thing, but as long as you treat homosexual members of our group with the same respect that you would anyone else, you are welcome”.
    It is also not unreasonable if, when a person is speaking for the organization or even holds a high office in the organization, their public speech should reflect the views that the members of the organization have decided to accept as “official positions”. Again it is about behavior, not exclusion of different belief and value systems.
    As for your illustration about black people and critical thinking skills, this is a perfect example to show how your attitude can result in a closed mindset that keeps real data from getting in (do I hear creationists out there?). For the best defense of that argument that I have ever heard came from a black man. You see, lack of critical thinking skills is not necessarily a sign of genetic or racial inferiority, it can be seen as a sign of the poor educational opportunities that many minorities have. That in mind, my black friend suggests that atheists need to focus on minority educational opportunities to help weaken the grip of religion. Under your mindset, this person might be silenced because you don’t approve of his thesis.
    Second, we feel that getting atheists out of the closet, making it clear that atheism is merely a rejection of god claims and in no way associated with Marxism, Liberalism, Conservatism, Satanism or any other “ism”, and fighting for separation of church and state are already a monumental task. Trying to tie us to fifty other things will just provide fifty new avenues of attack for our enemies, and harden many opinions against us further. We are a small, highly reviled minority fighting just to gain recognition for ourselves, let’s keep the other issues as a separate issue for individual atheists to work on for themselves. Not to mention that, if I leading were almost any cause, the last people I would want on my bandwagon would be US! We would likely do more harm than good at this point. Perhaps form a “Secular Morality Society” to take on these other issues if you like.
    You have every right to form a group where you can set the thought agenda for all the members, but please leave the word atheist out of it – I am an atheist, and I don’t want, in any way to be re-branded this way. I do not want the title that I proudly proclaim to be associated with this. Finally, if my personal experience is any indication (though it is hardly a valid statistical sampling) your new group will be a minor fringe movement, as none of my atheist friends who follow this want anything to do with “Atheism Plus”.

  135. Greta Christina says

    patrickdoyle @ #168: For the eighty billionth time: Atheism Plus is not trying to re-define atheism for all atheists. It is carving out a subset of atheism for those of us who are interested in the intersection between atheism and social justice, and who think focusing on social justice issues and making atheism more welcoming to a broader segment of the population will make us stronger.

  136. Marco says

    Atheism Plus is a horrible idea. Why? Think about it. Creationists commonly try to cast atheism as a religion, and we call them back on it saying atheism is merely a lack of belief in a deity. Now you want to essentially attach what are in essence beliefs,creeds, and ideals to it? why?

  137. Greta Christina says

    Atheism Plus is a horrible idea. Why? Think about it. Creationists commonly try to cast atheism as a religion, and we call them back on it saying atheism is merely a lack of belief in a deity. Now you want to essentially attach what are in essence beliefs,creeds, and ideals to it? why?

    Marco @ #170: As has now been explained eleventy billion times: Atheism Plus is not an attempt to redefine atheism for all atheists. It is an attempt to carve out a subset of the atheist community and the atheist movement, for those atheists who also happen to share certain interests and values. It is no more a religion than an atheist knitting group.

  138. Jim says

    “Many of us have decided that “not believing in any gods” isn’t enough.”

    Yup. I don’t know about you, but I’ve held absolutely no positive beliefs ever since I’ve been an atheist. Thankfully A+ has come a long so I can now have an opinion on politics, crime, justice, etc. It’s also provided a group of people who care about those kind of things, as there hasn’t been any groups for that before now.

    I mean, how am I supposed to pursue social justice without incorporating atheism? Am I supposed to communicate/work with people on important political goals like ending the war on drugs, or reducing rampant military spending, regardless of their position on gods?

    What on earth would be the point in that?

  139. Peter Beattie says

    » Greta:
    Elevatorgate was not “a year of hand-wringing” over asking a woman for coffee on an elevator at 4am in Ireland. It was about the fact that, when Rebecca Watson responded to this incident by saying, “Guys, don’t do that,” she was subjected to a torrent of vile, hateful, grotesque, overtly sexist and misogynistic abuse, including graphic threats of violence, rape, and death.

    This is false. And I have a very hard time coming up with a good explanation for why you and lots of others ignore good-faith objections to this myth. RW did indeed calmly and reasonably say “Guys, don’t do that”—had that been all, there might still have been random commenters on the Interwebz wanting to harrass her (or simply to troll the issue for all it was worth—which apparently never occurred to lots of people who instead made sweeping accusations about the community, including personal attacks), but there would have been no reaction whatsoever from the actual atheist community.

    In fact, however, RW also said that EG “sexualised” her and that the incident was apropos of “blatant misogyny” in the community. These two things were what got the response. Many people pointed out that to suppose sexualisation on those flimsy grounds was in fact a form of sexism. That may be debatable, but it is on the face of it plausible and certainly no reason for character attacks. And with respect to the “misogyny” claim: that is what Richard Dawkins explicitly referred to in his “Dear Muslima” comment. Again, a plausible point about disproportionality, which earned Richard and pretty much everybody else who even tentatively supported his point of view a lot of vitriol—and not from random commenters on the Interwebz.

  140. says

    @Peter Beattie:

    Wow, really? You’re going to claim that an example of someone ignoring clearly stated boundaries (because Rebecca had stated them during her talks, as well as during the meet and greet afterwards) and propositioning her despite her stated wishes, is NOT an example of blatant misogyny, and that it was somehow false and evil for her to say so?

    You then go on to claim that her “supposing” that he was sexualizing her, because he propositioned her against her wishes, was a sexist act on her part?

    Umm…I think this is a sterling example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

  141. Peter Beattie says

    » Flewellyn:
    an example of someone ignoring clearly stated boundaries

    Which you know as well as anybody else is at best evidence of RW stating these things, not of EG being present when she said them. And even if you grant that: do you know what exactly she said so that we can then come to conclusions about what a reasonable person would have taken her words to mean? If you do, please quote her. If you don’t, stop lecturing people about things you can have no knowledge of.

    propositioning her

    Again, an assumption without any basis in knowledge. RW may have taken the question to be a proposition, but for you to pretend to have knowledge about this is simply arrogant.

    You then go on to claim that her “supposing” that he was sexualizing her … was a sexist act on her part?

    I clearly said, “That may be debatable.” If you cannot even represent that kind of position fairly, I don’t know that we can have a reasonable discussion. Same goes for your baseless claim that I said RW’s actions were “false and evil”. Having to load somebody else’s words with your own exaggerated (to put it mildly) interpretations is never a good sign.

    Umm…I think this is a sterling example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect

    Excellent to have that quoted to you by somebody who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

  142. says

    We do know that he was there to hear her words, because she said he was. And we know what she said, because she said in her video post what it was she said.

    And a reasonable person would take her at her word on the matter, and not engage in hyper-skepticism simply because you don’t like the answer.

    Seriously, it isn’t as though men propositioning women, and doing so in a way that violates clearly stated boundaries, is an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence. We know, from living in the culture that we do and paying attention to what happens in it, that this is a common occurrence. Extremely common.

    The only reason to display such extreme skepticism of Rebecca Watson’s words on the matter is if you are predisposed not to believe a woman when she says she was harassed. Given your commenting history on this site, particularly on issues of misogyny? Reasonable conlusion to draw.

  143. Greta Christina says

    I am stopping this, right now. We are not going to re-hash Elevatorgate again. I am willing to explain Elevatorgate to people who have never heard of it and aren’t familiar with it. I am not willing to re-hash it with people who are obviously familiar with it and have already made up their minds about it. And I am not willing to let my blog be host to that re-hashing.

    If I had any part in the re-hashing process, I apologize. Everyone else, please stop now. Take it somewhere else. Thank you.

  144. Peter Beattie says

    » Flewelly:
    We do know that he was there to hear her words, because she said he was. And we know what she said, because she said in her video post what it was she said.

    Except she said no such thing in the video. I have said before, please quote her (or anybody else with such information), which you did not do. Also, assuming that anything but taking her at her word is hyper-scepticism would indicate an inclination towards extreme gullibility. May be fine for you, not so much for me. And to assume that the only reason I don’t immediately fall into line must be that I am “predisposed not to believe a woman when she says she was harassed” is pretty outrageous, and I wouldn’t have thought that that sort of thing is okay on this blog.

    I will not continue this, as per Greta’s request. If you have a link with an actual quote, please post it. Otherwise please don’t bother.

    » Greta:
    I am not willing to re-hash it with people who are obviously familiar with it and have already made up their minds about it.

    Well, there is no doubt that you “had a part“, since you mentioned the affair in your post—which is specifically what I referred to in my comment. And I have no intention of re-hashing, just of pointing out an obvious error. I seriously thought you would be interested if that sort of thing was pointed out to you, not least since your mentioning the episode in your post seems to indicate that you consider it important. If so, it is obviously important to get the facts right.

  145. damon says

    It appears to me that Atheism + is social justice piggybacking Atheism. I think Atheism is irrelevant to your causes and that the causes can stand on their own feet. If Atheism is giving your causes some easier ride then make this known and you will be flooded with support. Ask Atheism for this permission.
    All is good in this debate except for the sexist crimes committed , especially towards you at A+.
    We have extreme left and extreme right factions in our government presently and both sides have overlapping causes.It is dysfunction ally functioning.
    I wanted to write to you to let you know personally that I have to decline to join A+ as it is too exclusive for me. I am imperfect and worry that I would end up causing trouble for you by holding my views. I wish you luck in many of your positive endeavors.

  146. Fabrizio Polo says

    The thing about atheism + that bothers me is that it has so little to do with atheism. I’m an atheist because I don’t believe in god and I’m happy to discuss it with anyone. I don’t want people thinking atheism has anything to do with a bunch of bigoted ideologues.

  147. PatrickG says

    I don’t want people thinking atheism has anything to do with a bunch of bigoted ideologues.

    Couldn’t agree more, which is why we don’t want people like Tf00t in our little subset of atheists.

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  1. [...] “I don’t just think the principles of Atheism Plus are morally right. I do think that, and I think that’s the most important thing about it. But I also think it’s good for the future of atheism. And I think atheism will be stronger if more atheists support it.” Why Atheism Plus Is Good for Atheism – Greta Christina’s Blog [...]

  2. [...] lot of its critics claim that it is divisive, but Greta Christina in Why Atheism Plus Is Good for Atheism | Greta Christina’s Blog argues that it’s hard to be inclusive of groups where some groups hate some other groups. As [...]

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