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Aug 22 2012

What Atheism Plus Might Mean for Atheist Organizations

Atheism Plus logoWhat would it mean for an atheist organization to be on board with Atheism Plus?

What would it mean for an atheist organization to be on board with the principle that atheists should care about and work towards other forms of social justice… and still primarily be an atheist organization?

As most readers here know, Jen McCreight recently proposed a new wave of atheism — an “atheism 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.

So what would it mean for an atheist organization to be on board with that? Either overtly — by putting an Atheism Plus logo on their website, for instance, or by endorsing and working with the Atheism Plus organization once it’s formed — or de facto, by adopting the Atheism Plus principles in how they operate?

I don’t think it means mission drift. I don’t think anyone expects the Secular Coalition of America to start lobbying about racial profiling, or for American Atheists to do a billboard campaign about drug policy. I think it’s fine for atheist organizations to keep their focus on atheism. (Note: This question has a somewhat different answer for skeptical organizations, and I’ll take that on in a separate post.)

What I think it would mean, at a minimum, is that atheist organizations would keep their own houses clean. At a minimum, it means they would pay attention to social justice issues with their own internal matters: hiring, event organization, community structure, etc. They would pay conscious attention to questions like:

How is the diversity among our own staff?
How is the diversity among the speakers at our events?
Do our events appeal to a diverse range of people?
Are our events affordable? Do we make scholarships available if they’re not?
Do we have child care available at our events?
Are our events accessible by public transportation?
Are our events accessible to people with a variety of disabilities?
Do we have an anti-harassment policy at our events and conferences?
Does our community provide day care, counseling, economic support during financial crises, and other forms of support commonly provided by churches/ mosques/ other religious institutions?
Do we have a mechanism in place for educating members of our community who are acting insensitively or offensively towards marginalized people? If these education efforts are not effective, do we have a mechanism in place for eventually ejecting these people from our community?
Does our public messaging — our billboards, our bus ads, our TV ads, our YouTube videos, etc. — offend or denigrate marginalized people?
Does our public messaging — our billboards, our bus ads, our TV ads, our YouTube videos, etc. — reflect a diverse range of atheists?

This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, by the way: I welcome suggestions in the comments, and will update this post with the ones I especially like.

None of this constitutes mission drift, even in the slightest. Any more than it would be “mission drift” for an exclusionary golf club to change its policies and include women and Jews and people of color. This wouldn’t transform them into a radical-left political organization. Their mission would still be, “facilitate and promote the game of golf.” They would simply be expanding the reach of that mission to a broader population.

Now, that’s just the minimum. It could certainly mean more than that — without getting into mission drift. It could mean, when deciding which issues to focus on, making a conscious effort to focus attention on atheist/ religious issues that are of particular concern to marginalized people. Such as:

The effects of the Religious Right on birth control legislation.
The effects of the Religious Right on sex education in the public schools.
The effects of the Religious Right on recognition and acceptance of trans people.
The ways that faith healers and other religious charlatans take advantage of poor people.
The failures of religion in addressing mental illness — and why secular approaches to mental illness are better.
The effects of the Catholic Church on AIDS in Africa.

This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, by the way: I welcome suggestions in the comments, and will update this post with the ones I especially like.

None of this would constitute mission drift. It would be entirely on mission. It would just broaden the range of people being targeted by that mission.

And in fact, many organizations already do this. Many atheist organizations, for instance, have taken up the banner of same-sex marriage. They recognize that the opposition to same-sex marriage is (a) grotesquely unjust, (b) overwhelmingly religious, and (c) increasingly unpopular, especially among young people — and they have taken up this fight as their own.

Why should organizations do this? Other than it being, you know, the right thing to do? I explain that here: Why Atheism Plus Is Good for Atheism. In a nutshell: Doing this will make an organization stronger, and more appealing to a broader base. Yes, it will put some people off: an atheist organization is never going to appeal to all atheists. To quote myself:

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.

(many similar examples snipped, regarding people of color, trans people, poor people, and mentally ill people)

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?

(snip)

Where do you think the future of this movement lies?

It’s totally fine for atheist organizations to focus primarily on atheism: on fighting for atheists’ legal rights, on fighting anti-atheist bigotry, on creating atheist communities, on persuading people out of religion. But it’s important for these organizations to remember that not all atheists look like Richard Dawkins. It’s important for these organizations to remember that they’re fighting for all atheists. Including the ones who aren’t yet in the movement. Including the ones who are afraid to come out of the closet, or even to call themselves atheists. Including the ones whose marginalization makes them more reluctant to come out as atheist, and to pile another stigma onto the one(s) they already have. And including the ones who aren’t atheists yet… but who could be, who would be, if the atheist community and the atheist movement were answering their particular needs, and if they saw it as being more about them.

57 comments

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  1. 1
    Nev

    No. Dual, extended, multiple branding identities is confusing and totally unnecessary. The causes are legit, as long as they’re focused on injustices that are a direct result of religious influence: gay marriage, etc.

    You say: “What I think it would mean, at a minimum, is that atheist organizations would keep their own houses clean. At a minimum, it means they would pay attention to social justice issues with their own internal matters…”

    Just button up the ship, draw up some guidelines what we believe in and how we treat each other, and be done with it. What’s the point? Unless this is a totally inward-facing communications objective, there’s no branding required.

  2. 2
    Bronze Dog

    I’m not sure what you’re arguing for, Nev. Are you arguing that we shouldn’t put effort into cleaning house or just that creating a brand for clean house atheism is confusing?

    If it’s the latter, as things are, the generic “atheist” label currently includes some slimy characters who I doubt would be willing to let us exclude them by adding on the various values to the generic label. If we tried, they’d probably come up with their own brand they’d try to spin with a positive-sounding name. In either case, the likely result I see will be two brands, just with a different group taking the initiative on branding.

  3. 3
    dave

    Nice organization you got there. Be a shame if anything bad happened to it — i.e. atheists+ started throwing around accusations of bigotry because some organization didn’t put the logo up. Right? This is so transparent.

  4. 4
    HumanisticJones

    Riiiiight… because that sort of thing totally happened to everyone that didn’t put up the RDF’s Out Campaign logo on their website or blog.

  5. 5
    Pteryxx

    Just button up the ship, draw up some guidelines what we believe in and how we treat each other, and be done with it.

    Guess you weren’t paying attention since the end of MAY when Stephanie Zvan said “We need anti-harassment policies.”

  6. 6
    M. A. Melby

    Really Dave?

    Are you reduced to making shit up to be upset about?

  7. 7
    James

    Here’s something I’ve been wondering about since I first read about the Atheism+ wave: would this mean trying to work with interfaith organizations who support diversity, social justice and progressive policies? (I admit I have done zero research on this, so it may be that atheist organizations already do this. In which case, would it mean more of that?)

    A related question: does anybody know of any interfaith organizations who support diversity, social justice and progressive policies, that we might cheer on a bit?

  8. 8
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Bronze Dog – that makes two of us. this: “Just button up the ship, draw up some guidelines what we believe in and how we treat each other, and be done with it. What’s the point?” just sounds like someone who doesn’t know the background of the issue.

  9. 9
    Greta Christina

    dave @ #3: You are trolling. Go away.

  10. 10
    M. A. Melby

    It makes sense to me.

    Atheism literally means nothing. It’s the lack of something.h fngv

    A branding simply to show that a group is focused on issues surrounding atheism (unlike secular humanism) but explores the topic a bit differently than simply saying, “There is no god or gods” and talking about how stupid non-atheist are all day. It could be a nice way to answer those who become annoyed the moment you do anything other than that – and yeah, those people exist and get all bent out of shape when they are not given immediate undeserved deference and are clueless enough to think that their “brand” of approaching things is not default neutral.

  11. 11
    Greta Christina

    Just button up the ship, draw up some guidelines what we believe in and how we treat each other, and be done with it.

    Nev @ #1: We have been trying to do that for a solid year. Longer, actually. And as a direct result, we have been subjected to a tremendous torrent of abuse. 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. Read Jen’s original post if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

    We have tried, for a solid year, 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 heaping abuse on us as a result.

    Drawing up some guidelines about what we believe in and how we treat each other is what we are doing. And we are no longer willing to work with people who aren’t willing to adhere to them. We have tried to clean house. People have persistently, deliberately, with malicious glee, shat all over it. We are now building another house.

  12. 12
    M. A. Melby

    James – I’m a UU, so we do that all the time. Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable at times and I doubt that someone branding an org or blog or whatever as A+ would have that focus.

    There are already many other orgs that do that.

  13. 13
    John Horstman

    Ooh, only 3 comments before someone started complaining about a non-existent problem. Nice. I’m not sure whether that’s more or fewer posts than usual.

  14. 14
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    I don’t think anyone expects the Secular Coalition of America to start lobbying about racial profiling, or for American Atheists to do a billboard campaign about drug policy.

    You know, Greta? I kinda do. Maybe not right this moment, but why shouldn’t the major Secular lobby group in the US *not* lobby against racial profiling or AA put up billboards promoting evidence-based drug policy? You don’t see religious lobby groups restricting their mission to protection of churches and religious freedom (I mean the real kind, not the wah wah wah kind). Why shouldn’t Atheist groups join in Pride parades? Put up bus signs advocating for the rights of women? Lobby for research & academic funding or educational reform?

    I actually think this would draw more people towards the atheist movement than current campaigns do.

  15. 15
    Greta Christina

    You know, Greta? I kinda do. Maybe not right this moment, but why shouldn’t the major Secular lobby group in the US *not* lobby against racial profiling or AA put up billboards promoting evidence-based drug policy? You don’t see religious lobby groups restricting their mission to protection of churches and religious freedom (I mean the real kind, not the wah wah wah kind). Why shouldn’t Atheist groups join in Pride parades? Put up bus signs advocating for the rights of women? Lobby for research & academic funding or educational reform?

    Ibis3, member of the Oppressed Sisterhood fanclub @ #14: I entirely support atheist groups being in Pride parades (I march with the Atheist contingent at SF Pride myself); putting up bus signs advocating for the rights of women; lobbying for academic funding and education reform. I just think it’s reasonable for these groups to keep these efforts within the basic wheelhouse of atheism, separation of church and state, criticism of religion, etc.

    If there’s a religious basis for racial profiling or drug policy, I could see AA or SCA doing work on them. If there isn’t, then to me, that would look like mission drift. There are plenty of social justice issues that do intersect with atheism — I think it’s okay for us to focus on those.

    Skepticism is a different story. But that’s a later post. Working on it now, but I’m working on about five different pieces at once now, so it may not be right away.

  16. 16
    dave

    Funny thing. I spent years arguing on an ultra-conservative blog.
    I argued that the Virginia TVU was rape. I argued that creches in city hall violated the first amendment. I argued that abortion should be a woman’s choice. I argued that they were paranoid about the “liberal” media. And a lot more. I never held back. I never sacrificed the truth for politeness.

    You know they never accused me of? Trolling. They would argue, call me names, some of them even tried respectful argument. Congratulations Greta, you’ve failed to live up to the standards of nutty right-wingers. Yeah, I know, I’m banned. But maybe you still have to read this in your moderation cue. That would be nice.

  17. 17
    ik

    I will now throw my support behind A+. This is pretty much EXACTLY the outcome I wanted the conflict to have. I hope that Atheism Plus will be adopted by a majority of the more virtuous of New Atheists, and that it will succeed.

  18. 18
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Greta:

    Drawing up some guidelines about what we believe in and how we treat each other is what we are doing. And we are no longer willing to work with people who aren’t willing to adhere to them. We have tried to clean house. People have persistently, deliberately, with malicious glee, shat all over it. We are now building another house.

    I’ll add that this new house is not meant to replace or redefine the old one. I keep seeing comments from people saying “you’re trying to redefine atheism”.
    That is not what is happening.
    This is an offshoot of atheism.
    Atheism still remains what it is (largely defined as a lack of belief in a higher power(s); some extend this to any “supernatural” entities and forces).
    Atheism+ takes the above definition and adds a mission statement to it. It doesn’t redefine atheism. It doesn’t attempt to replace the atheist movement. It says “We are atheists. Plus we want to address issues of social justice.”
    If you’re someone who doesn’t want to pursue advances in social justice, fine. Stick with atheism. No one is saying you’ll be less of an atheist. No one is saying “A+ is an elite movement open to only the *right* kind of people.” No one is saying SCREW YOU to those members of the atheist/skeptic movement who are working to overcome the pervasive effects of religion. What is being said:
    The A+ movement seeks to minimize the pervasive effects of religions AS WELL AS advance issues of social justice.

  19. 19
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Dave:

    You know they never accused me of? Trolling. They would argue, call me names, some of them even tried respectful argument. Congratulations Greta, you’ve failed to live up to the standards of nutty right-wingers. Yeah, I know, I’m banned. But maybe you still have to read this in your moderation cue. That would be nice.

    Do you have something of substance to add besides this vague and extremely biased ‘argument’:

    Nice organization you got there. Be a shame if anything bad happened to it — i.e. atheists+ started throwing around accusations of bigotry because some organization didn’t put the logo up. Right? This is so transparent.

    Greta explained at length what A+ is about. Several other bloggers have done so as well. None of them have mentioned an attempt to make current atheist organizations adopt the A+ logo or mission. If this is your ‘argument’, then you have not read what the purpose of A+ is. You’ve made a decision based on questionable evidence that *something* is transparent. If you have an argument to support your point, please present it.
    If you don’t, I hope you can see why you would be labelled a troll.

  20. 20
    Greta Christina

    Dave was not actually banned before – but he has been now. I no longer have any patience for people who spew baseless, venomous accusations into my blog and call it “respectful argument.”

  21. 21
    Chana Messinger

    I think this is a great point. Even though I’m very pro A+, I’ve been struggling with exactly where it would fit in. I thnk the Humanists are generally concerned with the world at large, and there’s so much room to make sure that atheism and atheist organizations are doing and being the best they could be.

  22. 22
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    I’m trying to decide whether I’m glad or annoyed that there are people complaining that what A+ stands for is what they already agree with – the former because it means the community isn’t as riddled with regressives as it sometimes appears; and the latter because (as I see it) one of the reasons the people behind A+ felt the need for it was that there weren’t enough ‘mainstream’ atheists speaking about against the hate to indicate that.

    If you think Atheism+ isn’t necessary because there are already enough atheists who genuinely want to fight for social justice, make that clear. Just don’t be surprised if you get a response something like, ‘well, we’re sorry, we didn’t realise – but can you blame us when almost all we’ve heard in the last year are lies, hate and smarmy, thinly-veiled hate-apologists?’

  23. 23
    mildlymagnificent

    One thing that bugs me mightily speaking from outside the USA. I know that atheists/skeptics are keen on debunking woo – especially in medical matters.

    What I see from this distance is the vile, evil exploiters of people who lack medical knowledge who also lack access to affordable medical care. Many of these people are sucked in to spending money they can ill afford on rubbish that does them no good and does real harm to some people who should be saving, or arranging payment plans, for real medical care.

    I realise that this comes perilously close to mission-creep political argument if mis-handled but focusing on the potion peddlers – and the evil they do – might be a good activity for some A+ groups.

  24. 24
    Sneffy

    So I just found out it’s “Anti-Trolling Day”, where you make an effort leave positive comments on blogs and such. I just wanted to say that today I applied for a science communication job, and the words on my personal statement only started to flow when I wondered, “How would Greta phrase this concept?” Turns out your writing style has been as much an influence on me as your writing content, and I thank you for it.

  25. 25
    YOB - Ye Olde Blacksmith is a Spocktopus cuddler

    Intersectionality is an N way street. I came to the atheist movement via my atheism, as is traditional, but have learned so much more about social justice from the proto-A+ folks. The opposite scenario can happen, too. Someone approaching from the social justice side of things might be educated about atheism.

    Come for the Social Justice, stay for the Atheism and vice versa.

  26. 26
    kennypo65

    I’m not sure, and I know that I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong, but I think I’ve always been an A+. When I rejected religion, I also had to reject religious reasoning. For example, anti gay arguments boil down to religious objections; there is no logical reason to be against homosexuality. I personally believe that a persons sexuality is none of my business. Racism is illogical, we are all the same species, race is scientifically meaningless. Social justice makes life better for everyone, therefore it is reasonable to fight against injustice. Just a few thoughts from a guy who does look like Richard Dawkins (albeit with less grey hair).

  27. 27
    InnocdntInfixel

    Why does this new ‘house’ even have to have Atheism in its title? Why would a primarily feminist group want to usurp another’s identity? Atheist groups exist because of a common lack of belief in Gods, meetings are organized and conferences held discussing the problems with religions and the impact they can have on policy and peoples lives. But that is the aspect they are interested in, perhaps some are not that outspoken nor really care about some of the lgbt issues others are. It’s almost as if this new wave is saying, ‘if you not onboard with all these issues to, then you are not a true Atheist,’ or somehow less the A+ crowd? Some atheist might have a lack of belief in gods but also have very different views on your other deeply held beliefs.

    Why not just call yourselves Humanist?

  28. 28
    InnocentInfidel

    Also, correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the scarlet ‘ A’ suggested in your proposed new logo copyrighted to a Mr. R. Dawkins?

    p. s
    I bought your recent book and really enjoyed it, cheers.

  29. 29
    Greta Christina

    It’s almost as if this new wave is saying, ‘if you not onboard with all these issues to, then you are not a true Atheist,’

    InnocdntInfixel @ #28: If I seem a bit impatient here, it’s because this question has been answered, and answered, and answered and answered and answered, in the many discussions on this topic. But you may not have seen that answer, so I will answer again.

    No. Atheism Plus is not saying, “If you’re not on board with social justice, you are not a true atheist.” That’s the whole idea behind the “plus.” We recognize that not all atheists are on board with social justice. We want to form a subset of the movement that is.

    Why not just call yourselves Humanist?

    And again: answered, many times, by many people. But I have just posted my own answer, here: Humanism Is Great — But It’s Not Atheism Plus.

    Also, correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the scarlet ‘ A’ suggested in your proposed new logo copyrighted to a Mr. R. Dawkins?

    Again — answered many times over. No. The scarlet A was specifically created for people to use as they will, without copyright restriction.

  30. 30
    Greta Christina

    Oh, as for this:

    Atheist groups exist because of a common lack of belief in Gods, meetings are organized and conferences held discussing the problems with religions and the impact they can have on policy and peoples lives. But that is the aspect they are interested in, perhaps some are not that outspoken nor really care about some of the lgbt issues others are.

    InnocdntInfixel @ #28: The whole point of this piece was to answer this question. Please re-read it. The tl;dr: Atheist groups will be stronger if they appeal to a broader and more diverse demographic they they currently do. And addressing social justice issues — minimally in internal matters, if not in which issues they take on publicly — will help accomplish this.

    And as for this:

    Why would a primarily feminist group want to usurp another’s identity?

    I am going to have to try very, very hard to be patient here, and not to blow my top.

    We are not usurping another’s identity. We are atheists. The people who are involved in Atheism Plus have been busting our asses for atheism for years. We speak out about sexism, racism, classism, transphobia, and other forms of marginalization within the atheist community, largely because we care passionately about atheism, and because we think atheism will be better off if we deal with this stuff. And as a direct result of our doing this, we have been harassed, abused, had our personal information hacked into and made public, and threatened with violence, rape, and death. We are not usurping anyone’s identity. This is our goddamn identity, too. We are carving out a subset of it that we can work in without getting a faceful of toxic waste for our efforts.

  31. 31
    clydey2times

    #30 @Greta Christina

    If I seem a bit impatient here, it’s because you are being intellectually dishonest. Don’t believe me? Have a look at what Richard Carrier had to say about those who don’t subscribe to Atheism+:

    “So either you endorse the values and aims I have laid out, or you do not. If you do, just join the cause and stop fretting over being part of a culture whose values you embrace. But if you don’t endorse these values, then you are our enemy, in one fashion or another…”

  32. 32
    clydey2times

    Want to hear another pearl from Richard Carrier, one of the most vocal proponents of Atheism+?

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

    Here’s the thing, Greta. The vast majority of atheists are interested in social justice. However, many of them are not interested in social justice as defined by FtB and Skepchick.

  33. 33
    Dingflofbips

    You may take religion out of a bigot, but it may be hard to take bigotry out of the atheist.
    Becoming enlightened and rational (atheist) may no longer be the privilege of the intellectual.

    Just like new born atheists may have nightmares about hell and damnation, women remaining submissive to men and men remaining authoritative only because they were all taught so in their despicable religions, it may be difficult to let go of their racism and sexism too.
    My view its that we start seeing a more average of the American civilisation in the atheist movement where this was exclusive to the intellectual elite before.

    Looking at my country, (The Netherlands) seen as a progressive and largely secular society and to me incredibly more enlightened than America but unfortunately in process of turning for the bad at the moment.
    Even though politically progressive we still have bigotry all around us here if not based on religious beliefs more due to economical downfall and populist politicians. It is part of us humans and it its based on fear and it will never be eradicated.

    To me creating Atheist+ is reinstating an elite organisation for intellectuals while excluding the average American and will therefor not contribute to the promotion of atheism where this is most required.

    If you have personal problems with people harassing you then deal with it or stop publishing. I am afraid that you will not be able to stop harassment by this atheist+ movement initiative.

    Your social agenda is sound and I fully support it, but it may be too early yet for the USA.

  34. 34
    The Nerd

    To all the nay-sayers: there are organizations already doing this and it has not destroyed them. The Skeptical Society of St Louis hosted the nation’s largest SkeptiCamp yet (125+ people) and did our best to abide by the spirit of A+ a day before it was even announced (and will hopefully continue to improve), and the result? Happy people! This is field-tested, helpful advice here.

  35. 35
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    The Nerd wrote:

    The Skeptical Society of St Louis hosted the nation’s largest SkeptiCamp yet (125+ people) and did our best to abide by the spirit of A+ a day before it was even announced (and will hopefully continue to improve), and the result? Happy people!

    Yeah, but were d00ds getting laid? Because that’s what cons are all about, donchaknow.

    </snark>

  36. 36
    artharjar

    There was once a time when women were denied the right to vote in the US. To their great credit, those women stood up and did something about that tragedy of patriarchy. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pleasant, it wasn’t safe. It took guts. They suffered in hideous ways but in the end the whole country is vastly better for their sacrifice.

    What those women did not do was form a new country all their own; America+ perhaps?

    I’m one of those privileged white males who have recently fallen into disrepute so perhaps my thoughts don’t count for a whole lot but I’d like to take a moment and stand up for the interests of women. I have never threatened to rape anybody or hacked an email list serve. What I have done is spoken out in my own community about equality.

    Now it seems people like me are loosing atheism to this debate. I’m concerned that in the long run atheism itself will suffer. I don’t think christianity is very accepting of the feminist perspective (or of anything else I care about) and I’d hate to see our in-fight hand the battle to the religious right.

    The people who are behind the A+ wave complain that guys like me are too little too late; that we should have said something earlier. Perhaps that’s true. I can only speak for myself when I say that I never waded into the comments before because I figured arguing with the sexist fucks would only fuel their fire. If I had know their behavior was going to split the movement in two I’d have thrown in long ago, such is the value of hind-sight.

    With all that out of the way, I think a previous comment was spot on. That person said that A+ was really a new way to enjoy a privileged community of educated elites. I fear that’s true. This debate about feminism may have turned unpleasant but that’s an unfortunate side effect of gaining ground numerically. These issues need to be dealt with, not avoided. Today its feminism, tomorrow something new. If we created a new form of atheism for every challenge we’ll all soon lose track completely.

  37. 37
    Entrained

    A few thoughts…
    I have not seen one comment from any director of the major organizations responding to this idea on any of the blogs, except RD tweets which I assume is a no from him. Curious where they come down on this?
    This has been chacterized as a subset but it feels like a stand alone, Just my perspective. So if the major organizations don’t adopt the tenets of this proposal will the originators of these thoughts, you, Jen, PZ start your own organization and then how does this impact your relationships with them?
    In conversations I’ve had in the Atheist group I am attached to in the deep south, our struggle has been leaving the religion, culture and family where we have been so intertwined most of our lives. In our conversations regarding A+, none of the issues you identify would have helped us leave religion but would create a larger hurdle. This was independently unanimous in reaching our conclusion. We support the issues you describe but are not activist in that direction nor is there any intent to become activist in that direction but there is a huge move in activism to create a safe haven for people here to leave religion, but not using the path you advocate.
    Our goal is to cut the head off the snake, not fight it one scale at a time. Does this now mean we are in conflict with you?

  38. 38
    Greta Christina

    This has been chacterized as a subset but it feels like a stand alone, Just my perspective. So if the major organizations don’t adopt the tenets of this proposal will the originators of these thoughts, you, Jen, PZ start your own organization and then how does this impact your relationships with them?

    Entrained @ #41: It’s way, waaaay to early in this to be able to answer that question. I know that Jen is in process of forming a website that will be a clearinghouse for information and a host for an online forum. It may turn into more of an organization than that. Speaking only for myself: I will be entirely happy to work with organizations that don’t officially sign on with Atheism Plus. I will not be happy to work with organizations that have demonstrated active hostility to its values and goals.

    In conversations I’ve had in the Atheist group I am attached to in the deep south, our struggle has been leaving the religion, culture and family where we have been so intertwined most of our lives. In our conversations regarding A+, none of the issues you identify would have helped us leave religion but would create a larger hurdle. This was independently unanimous in reaching our conclusion. We support the issues you describe but are not activist in that direction nor is there any intent to become activist in that direction but there is a huge move in activism to create a safe haven for people here to leave religion, but not using the path you advocate.

    I think the big question I have for you is: Who is “us”?

    Do you think there might be women, people of color, poor people, gay people, trans people, and other people from marginalized groups in your area, who are atheists or are considering atheism, and who would feel more welcomed in your group if you made more of a conscious effort to include them?

    And do you think it’s possible that, if you don’t make this effort now, in ten or twenty years you’re going to end up with a group that’s very homogenous, with a public image of being very homogenous, and entrenched in unconscious exclusionary attitudes and habits that will be hard to break?

  39. 39
    Entrained

    Greta thank you for taking the time to respond and I completely understand your perspective regarding inclusion which I find consistent with what I read on your blog.
    “Us” is a fairly significant cross section as you mention. We are composed of white women and men couples and singles, a few gay couples and singles both men and women, in our local group no one of color but in our expanded group are an Hispanic couple, an African American couple and single. No trans I am aware of. As you can see we are fairly inclusive and diverse. The economics stretch from lower middle class to one percenters. Because we are diversified we get a fairly comprehensive view of the world.
    Does this additional information help in offering additional thoughts?
    Thanks and we all are avid fans. Not always in agreement but respectful and avid.

  40. 40
    saltydog

    Hi Greta,

    Just from the freethinkers, atheist, skeptics, etc. few meetings I have been to, and understand that I am a guy, I did not see any sexism. Seems like the leadership of the various atheist groups are both sexes and the the speakers are pretty much even.

    I do have one other thing to add to the list, not about atheism, but about skepticism. Seems like we need more of an effort to educate the public about “flim-flam”. It is so in your face everyday and everywhere and people, usually the un-educated and poor and old, are getting taken in all the time.

    Thanks Greta. You are one of my heros!

  41. 41
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Here’s the thing, Greta. The vast majority of atheists are interested in social justice. However, many of them are not interested in social justice as defined by FtB and Skepchick.

    You mean, they’re interested in the abstract, but they don’t want to have to actually DO anything. Or rethink anything.

  42. 42
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    To me creating Atheist+ is reinstating an elite organisation for intellectuals while excluding the average American and will therefor not contribute to the promotion of atheism where this is most required.

    Oh for crying out loud.
    This is ridiculous.
    Fine.
    People want to say A+’ers are elitist? Go for it. Knock your socks off.
    It’s not the reality, but hey, a tremendous portion of the USA thinks there’s a God, so not living in reality is already commonplace.
    Once again, what is elitist about not wanting to deal with misogyny, homophobia, sexism, racism, ableism, ageism and all around douchebaggery?
    Don’t people GET it?
    We don’t *want* those kind of people in A+.
    They’re not good people.
    If you want to continue associating with the dregs of society that are contributing to oppression, that’s something you need to work out on your own.
    (oh, and A+ isn’t just about promoting Atheism; the ‘+’ is for SOCIAL JUSTICE).

  43. 43
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    saltydog:

    Just from the freethinkers, atheist, skeptics, etc. few meetings I have been to, and understand that I am a guy, I did not see any sexism.

    Sexism takes on many forms and can be quite subtle. It isn’t surprising when people don’t see it. Especially when it’s an individual with the privilege of rarely-if ever-having to deal with it.
    This isn’t a slam on you. Women simply deal with overt and subtle sexism in ways that men-especially those who haven’t developed an eye for it-don’t see.
    The key here is to listen to the people being harassed. If a woman tells you she’s being harassed, *listen* to her. Don’t dismiss her. Treat her concerns as valid and if she asks for help or assistance, support her.

  44. 44
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    artharjar:

    That person said that A+ was really a new way to enjoy a privileged community of educated elites. I fear that’s true. This debate about feminism may have turned unpleasant but that’s an unfortunate side effect of gaining ground numerically. These issues need to be dealt with, not avoided. Today its feminism, tomorrow something new. If we created a new form of atheism for every challenge we’ll all soon lose track completely.

    1- Please explain how those in A+ are privileged. Other than having the privilege of [ostensibly] not having to deal with the misogynistic trolls, ableist and ageist douchebags, homophobic and transphobic nitwits and other assorted miscreants that continue to oppress minorities, I fail to see the privilege in being part of A+.
    How can you fear something is true when you don’t seem to understand it?
    2-Why are so many people framing A+ around *just* feminism? Sure the genesis of the idea likely came from Jen’s frustration at so many misogynists and anti-feminists crawling out of the woodwork over the last year or so, but feminism isn’t the only area of social justice A+ is concerned with.
    3-this “new form of atheism” is in response to people that are shooting down attempts to fight sexism and misogyny, as well as other forms of social justice.

    This is getting frustrating. People are mischaracterizing A+ when there are many posts by multiple bloggers explaining and going into detail what the idea behind it is. Yes, we know that Richard Carrier has certain ideas that aren’t widely accepted (even among those who support A+), but he’s not the Atheist Pope, and he doesn’t get to lay down the law. A+ is a nascent movement. It just got started. Heck, it’s probably not even a movement in the usual sense yet. People are at work now trying to get there. Yet we’re having to fight battles to convince people that fighting for social justice is a worthwhile battle for atheists.

    WHY?
    What is the reason for the pushback?
    Once you actually look at Jen’s original post, or Greta’s posts, or JT’s posts and get a clear picture of what A+ is meant to be about, why is it difficult to see this is a GOOD thing?

  45. 45
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Here’s the thing, Greta. The vast majority of atheists are interested in social justice. However, many of them are not interested in social justice as defined by FtB and Skepchick.

    Well no one is standing in their way. If they want to combat social justice, they’re perfectly capable of doing so, just as those who identify with A+ plan on doing.
    I’m not sure how many ways social justice can be defined (though I have a few suspicions), but one movement doesn’t negate another one.

  46. 46
    NearlySane

    Unfortunately I am too busy with my membership of Car Driving Plus, Cake Decorating Plus, and Gravity Plus to help much with this

  47. 47
    ToffeeMoonPie

    I love this idea and I’m in total support of it.

  48. 48
    Erik

    Great idea, all those times I said atheism isn’t a religion, and now you’re trying to make it one.

  49. 49
    Greta Christina

    Great idea, all those times I said atheism isn’t a religion, and now you’re trying to make it one.

    Erik @ #56: Right. Because a group of people with common interests and values coming together to have conversations and plan actions… that’s exactly what “religion” means. m-/

  50. 50
    christine

    I’m an “out” atheist and have been for about 5 years, but my husband and I haven’t jumped in to the local community yet. I want you to know that I in no way have a fair sense of what the “atheist community” is. We DO intend to join and meet up with others so that’s why I’m jumping in (we have tickets to a CFI event next week, and CFI is the only game in town at the moment).

    I’ve been reading intelligent articles and comments on both sides which pull me back and forth. What I feel now is that of course any group of people are entitled to create any group they want. The backlash, even though I felt it at first, is unfair. However, if I felt it, I can extrapolate and understand that somebody actually entrenched in the movement could be much more affected.

    Moving beyond my own knee-jerk reaction, I can see that it’s useless for A+ to listen to people who say this move is divisive. As the movement grows, more and more groups of various sizes with a foundation in atheism and a goal to further “something else” will spring up. A+ will have some members going off to specialize in their own particular interest while still retaining a link to the larger group. Or not – some will independently form and also operate completely on their own. It’s important to let groups divide and spread because rather than fragment and silence the movement, it will do more for atheism at large for the theistic community (and secular community that may or may not give a fig one way or the other) to see that we are everywhere around them. We are normal people like everybody else, not just part of a huge group that could be considered threatening to some.

    Division and variety is good! We do it on a cellular level all the time, and somehow our bodies are able to keep our separate parts running smoothly together. It’s large, over-arching, homogenous groups that can become problematic, as they bring in a large overhead in terms of finances, bureaucracy, and their core ideas and goals (which have to become more generalized if they wish to appease every member). Or, if they are not watered down, they need to maintain control of their members which can turn out bad. It means less fighting and more efficiency within the various groups if members are on the same page, or at least the same chapter.

    A+ hasn’t even had a chance to find out how big they are or how general or specific their ideas and goals will become, and so far it seems to me that all they want are the assholes out. Again, I wasn’t part of the online or convention-going community before, so I have to accept that there WAS a problem for some people who were a part of it, and I can’t come in and say there wasn’t.

    I do feel that the name Atheism Plus is a little “in yo’ face”, but that’s none of my business unless I join up.

  51. 51
    christine

    I forgot to click “notify me”, so that’s what this is for.

  52. 52
    RyGuy

    “And including the ones who aren’t atheists yet… but who could be, who would be, if the atheist community and the atheist movement were answering their particular needs, and if they saw it as being more about them.”

    All this needs is an organ playing in the background to become a sermon from the pulpit.

    I’m sorry, this A+ thing is starting to derail what Atheism is. Count me out.

  53. 53
    Greta Christina

    “And including the ones who aren’t atheists yet… but who could be, who would be, if the atheist community and the atheist movement were answering their particular needs, and if they saw it as being more about them.”

    All this needs is an organ playing in the background to become a sermon from the pulpit.

    RyGuy @ #60: Right. Because… ??? Caring about being welcoming to a broader spectrum of people is the definition of religion? m-/

    I’m sorry, this A+ thing is starting to derail what Atheism is. Count me out.

    Atheism Plus is not “derailing” atheism, or redefining it. It is a subset of it, carved out by a group of atheists who share some particular interests and values. If you don’t want to participate, that’s fine. But it might be better if you based your decision to participate or not on what Atheism Plus actually is, and not on a misconception about it.

  54. 54
    RyGuy

    I appreciate the reply.

    I just find the whole premise odd. Atheists do not have a single ideology or tenant. Though I’m sure any atheist would agree and fight for a separation of church and state, but that’s about it.

    So to have an atheist group, call it “Plus” (as in better), and then imply you want to start social policing. This is pretty much the exact opposite of what atheists have been fighting for. We fight Christian dogma in schools and in the government and society. Now you want to introduce your take on atheist ideals into a new organization, brand it as a better form of atheism and then start beating people over the head with it?

    I really hope I’m wrong with how I am interpreting things…. because that sounds frightfully theocratic.

  55. 55
    Greta Christina

    I just find the whole premise odd. Atheists do not have a single ideology or tenant. Though I’m sure any atheist would agree and fight for a separation of church and state, but that’s about it.

    RyGuy @ #62: Yes. I understand that, as does everyone else I know who’s involved in A+. But many atheists share many other interests and values. Those of us who share the values of social justice want to form a subset of atheism with one another. It’s not radically different from atheists who want to form a knitting group. Would you find that objectionable?

    So to have an atheist group, call it “Plus” (as in better),

    “Plus” does not mean better. “Plus” means “in addition to.”

    and then imply you want to start social policing. This is pretty much the exact opposite of what atheists have been fighting for. We fight Christian dogma in schools and in the government and society. Now you want to introduce your take on atheist ideals into a new organization, brand it as a better form of atheism and then start beating people over the head with it?

    Nobody in Atheism+ has said anything about social policing. Or about beating people over the head with it. If you don’t want to participate, then don’t. But as I said before: It might be better if you based your decision to participate or not on what Atheism Plus actually is, and not on a misconception about it. And it would be very much appreciated if you didn’t spread those misconceptions. Thank you.

  56. 56
    Copermarkus

    Count me out too. Not because I think the causes are unworthy–they are. It’s just a semantic oxymoron, and I don’t understand why one would try to build a conceptual ideology around a nondescript word. I didn’t like “new atheism” for the same reason. Nor am I a fan of any ideology because of its tendency to filter and bend evidence.

    To paraphrase Bill Maher, atheism is an ideology like abstinence is a sex position. The term atheism is vacuous; it is defined by what it is not rather than what it is. I saw your last post about humanism–why not just call your beliefs atheism-humanism and be done with it? Sure some humanists don’t like it, but it’s technically accurate. Compare it to Buddhism; there are atheistic and polytheistic Buddhists out there, but neither variety is attempting to rebrand themselves as Buddhism- or Buddhism+. They are just Buddho-atheists and Buddho-theists.

  57. 57
    Homa Sapiens

    One thing for sure– Due to their responses, I have the names of several men I will want to be aware of and avoid.

    I’ve joined the website.

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