Quantcast

«

»

Aug 19 2012

A new atheism

The Rifts are Deepening, it would seem.

Jen McCreight laments that she had no idea exactly how prevalent the misogyny, privilege, irrationality, and Boys Club mentality all are in the atheist and skeptic movements before she got involved. Honestly, me neither.

I was exactly what a Boy’s Club wanted. I was a young, not-hideous woman who passionately supported their cause. I made them look diverse without them having to address their minority-repelling privilege. They liked that I joked about sex and boobs not because it was empowering for me, but because they saw it as a pass to oggle and objectify. But the Boy’s Club rescinds its invitation once they realize you’re a rabble-rousing feminist. I was welcome at TAM when I was talking about a boob joke, but now I’m persona non grata for caring about sexual harassment. I used to receive numerous comments about how hot and attractive I was, but when I politely asked for people to keep the discussion professional, the comments morphed into how I was an ugly cunt. I was once considered an up-and-coming student leader, but now I’m accused of destroying the movement.

So what’s to be done of this?

We change the movement.

It’s time for a new wave of atheism, just like there were different waves of feminism. I’d argue that it’s already happened before. The “first wave” of atheism were the traditional philosophers, freethinkers, and academics. Then came the second wave of “New Atheists” like Dawkins and Hitchens, whose trademark was their unabashed public criticism of religion. Now it’s time for a third wave – a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists. It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime. We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.

I argue that we are already the third wave of atheist/skeptical freethought. Freethought Blogs and Skepchick both draw more than their share of ire just for challenging the status quo, for trying to bring skeptical and atheist modes of thinking to underclasses and repressed peoples everywhere.

And there’s some tiny truth to the argument that “both sides” have been insulting, callous to one another’s feelings, angry, unjustly judgmental. The scope and scale of this is not balanced, as some folks would have you believe, however. Any time someone is critical of a leader of the old wave of atheism, regardless of the evidence for or correctness of the criticism itself, we receive undue levels of vitriol and opprobrium, as Surly Amy has learned, for the mere crime of suggesting that we’re not taking harassment in our communities seriously enough.

When faced with such vitriol, I completely understand that people’s nerves are frayed, that the repressed underclasses are willing to call someone a misogynist for merely supporting and defending misogynist ideas, that people be called assholes for boorish, thuggish behaviour; that people be called shitbags for disingenuous claims of the moral high ground while simultaneously doing terrible things, and supporting and granting succour to those who would do terrible things. As long as these people can be demonstrated to have done these terrible, immoral things for no reason other than self-aggrandizement, protecting the status quo, or just out of cussed determination that these newcomers and upstarts never have their say in THEIR community, we will not grow.

So we’ve built our own community, and we eliminate these worst parts of the old regime as best as we can. And those who would not have this community, consider it a cancer on their own. They go tribal, they go scorched-earth. They do terrible things to good people like they have to Surly Amy and Natalie Reed and Rebecca Watson and Jen McCreight, sometimes politely, sometimes using the most terrible slurs and epithets imaginable.

So when good people within our own community are attacked, we fight back. And sometimes name-calling is used, being as it is one of the only ways a person can force another person to understand how morally reprehensible we find them to be. I understand that, viscerally, and accept it — because when have such revolutions ever been polite?

What we’ve built here is worth fighting for. With Jen’s post, however, we’re only just now giving it a name.

Atheism Plus? Atheist-Humanism? Third Wave atheism, which allies itself strongly with fourth-wave feminism, both of which comprehend the primacy of intersectinoality and pluralism?

I don’t know what name we have carved out for ourselves. All I know is that I’m not going anywhere, and I’ll do what I can to help hold the line.

49 comments

4 pings

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    VeritasKnight

    I think Atheism+ is the way to go. I think that was the result of the discussion at Blaghag. I’m sure that a lot of the people from FtB and Skepchick will be on board, but I think we also need to move quickly. Don’t let the idea become nascent or abandoned. A website, perhaps a single blog with cross-posts or no regular poster but a series of people discussing why A+ has to become the forward wave of atheism.

  2. 2
    Rooker

    Some of these people have a real persecution complex going. “Disagree with any of these bullies at FTB and you’re automatically labeled a misogynist” is one I keep seeing and they’re doing a fine job of reinforcing this fantasy to each other.

    I haven’t identified as an atheist or a skeptic only to end up being associated with Mens Rights activism and “Guy Pride.” I’d rather turn in my big scarlet A than be associated with people like that. All this ridiculous drama has me wanting to just call myself a humanist and be done with the atheist identity.

  3. 3
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    Atheism Plus, or A+ for the win!

    My next paycheck ima see if I can’t get Surly Amy to make me an A+ pendant. She does take commissions, right?

  4. 4
    rturpin

    I’m still getting used to the idea of atheism as a movement, rather than simply a philosophical position reached after reading Ayer, Russell, and Mackie.

  5. 5
    rturpin

    Or after taking enough anthropology to realize that whatever gods there are quite likely have nothing to do with your culture’s — or any other culture’s — imagining of them.

  6. 6
    mraandproudofit

    I agree. We need to build an atheist movement without people who are so deeply irrational that the burst into tears at the sight of a T-shirt, or a polite request for coffee.

  7. 7
    Alyson Miers

    Nice try, MRA. Anyone who honestly thinks “coffee” is what a guy has in mind when he follows a woman into an elevator at 4-fucking-AM and asks her to come to his hotel room, is so irrational that we’ll be glad to leave them behind.

  8. 8
    mraandproudofit

    It’s also curious, Alyson (or do you prefer Allie?), that the guy who allegedly asked her back to his room hasn’t come forward to explain his side of the story? To maybe apologizing for his offense? Assuming he excists somewhere else than inside Watson’s head, of course. Is it allowed by Real Atheism (TM) to apply skepticism here, Allie?

  9. 9
    Jason Thibeault

    MRA: your elisions are noted. Your skepticism of ordinary events and your pushback against mild rebukes of such are equally noted. I’ll be glad to have you out of our movement.

  10. 10
    'Tis Himself

    It’s over a year after elevatorgate and some MRA jerks are still pretending elevatorguy was only interested in coffee.

    MRA, just go back to the slimepit where you belong. The adults are trying to have a conversation.

  11. 11
    EllenBeth Wachs

    Hey MRA, the fact that you shorten Alyson’s name without her permission shows your contempt. It’s a way of minimizing her and degrading her.

    It is also noted that you are re-framing the events surrounding both the elevator incident and the t-shirt incident. You have zero credibility.

  12. 12
    Rieux

    Pteryxx, coiner of “A+,” suggested “inclusive atheism” as the title that “A+” is short for.

    I think that’s what we should go with.

  13. 13
    André Esteves

    You all seem to be talking about anarchism, more and more…

  14. 14
    Alyson Miers

    FWIW, I’m going to think of myself as an Atheist Humanist as long as the new name is up for debate. I’ve always liked the term Humanism, anyway. It has a positive connotation.

  15. 15
    André Esteves

    Humanism has good connections on anglosaxon countries…
    In southern Europe you keep on hearing catholic priests on saying they are humanists, that they represent “the true centrality of the human being in life” meaning we are god’s special pet…

  16. 16
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    A+ to me signifies Atheism Plus Social Justice.

    @Alyson Funny, I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with the term. It always seemed to be too much in the tradition of the Christian doctrine that humans are the pinicle of creation and that the purpose of the universe, the earth, animals, and plants is to serve human needs. I realise that Secular Humanism doesn’t hold to that doctrine as such, but still, it’s hard for me not to go there first when I hear it.

  17. 17
    Sunday Afternoon

    @mraandproudofit (apparently an MRA), #6:

    You are being deliberately obtuse.

    At a scientific conference years ago I and another participant were getting on like a house on fire. An invitation for “coffee” was extended and accepted. Needless to say, no coffee was consumed, but a good time was still had by all and there was never a miscommunication.

  18. 18
    Rieux

    Ibis:

    A+ to me signifies Atheism Plus Social Justice.

    Yeah, I can get behind that.

  19. 19
    Alyson Miers

    Also, too: MRAs, if you must accuse us feminazi bitchez of being lying liars who lie, your accusations will be much more credible if you focus on something whose conclusion is a bit more severe than, “Guys, don’t do that.”

    That’s not the type of language we expect to bring on a shitstorm. in this case, the shitstorm was your idea.

  20. 20
    'Tis Himself

    André Esteves #13

    You all seem to be talking about anarchism, more and more…

    There’s nothing wrong with anarchism that a dose of reality won’t fix.

  21. 21
    jenny6833a

    4. rturpin says:

    I’m still getting used to the idea of atheism as a movement, rather than simply a philosophical position reached after reading Ayer, Russell, and Mackie.

    I’m not getting used to it, and won’t, especially when atheism gets mixed up with social causes. I don’t believe in supernatural thingees. I do support social causes, including some that are strongly panned by most posters and commenters on FtB.

    But I don’t and won’t mix atheism with social causes. I’m sure that doing so harms both.

  22. 22
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Well Jenny, we’ll still have your back and defend your essential humanity even though you don’t think it’s necessary. You’re welcome.

  23. 23
    The twelfth vote

    I do support social causes, including some that are strongly panned by most posters and commenters on FtB.

    Given the vagueness of this statement, it is presumably safe to assume that you mean the “Men’s Rights Movement”. Let us be perfectly frank: the MRM is not about rights, and it’s not about social activism. It’s about male supremacists pushing back against their loss of supremacy. It is a hate movement. If this is the sort of “social cause” you refuse to mix with with a movement that is based on rational thought, then no wonder.

  24. 24
    André Esteves

    “‘Tis Himself says:

    There’s nothing wrong with anarchism that a dose of reality won’t fix.”

    Really? What have anarchists to do with unreality? They are a very diverse pot. If you badmouth them, you are badmouthing atheists… Anarchists were the ORIGINAL atheists + social justice… And the social solutions they have presented have always changed with knowledge and the times. Albeit they always championed the non-authoritarian ones… unlike many atheists.

    Just look at some UK atheists… All king and country, forgetting that the crown is a corporation established by God…
    And inventing all kind of beliefs about the “glorious revolution” and such. Class war is alive and well in the UK.

    Remember: anarchists were the guys fighting with and for the republic in Europe, when the citizen’s of USA were already destroying the dreams of its founder’s.

  25. 25
    Trustocracy

    I agree with your thoughts on defeating the boy’s/snark club, but please, just call yourself an athiest. The pure term should be allowed to grow and change, it shouldn’t be left behind as outdated. You should hold fast to the title until its meaning is what you’re striving for.

  26. 26
    Rob

    Personally I prefer the A+ or something similar. I feel uneasy about the tag Humanism for reasons similar to #16. I realise that may not be strictly rational or justified, but I’ve read too many dystopian novels not to feel that anything that even gives the appearance of ‘humans first’ is dangerous.

  27. 27
    'Tis Himself

    André Esteves #24

    Like every theoretical socio-political idea, anarchism is built on wishful thinking, conjectures, and sophistry. Ever listen to two anarchists belonging to different sects of anarchism have a discussion? They quote various authorities but never give a single example from the real world. I’ve had the dubious pleasure of listening to an anarcho-primitivist and a post-left anarchist having a debate. Zerzan and Jarach apparently agree on very little, other than gummint bad!

    At least the left-wing anarchists give a damn about people, something that can’t be said about right-wing anarchists. But neither group is anything other than utopian. I agree with Landauer that “ill intentions will cease if repressive force disappears” is an “absurdity.”

  28. 28
    Nathair

    but please, just call yourself an athiest. The pure term should be allowed to grow and change, it shouldn’t be left behind as outdated. You should hold fast to the title until its meaning is what you’re striving for.

    The title means I do not believe in a god or gods. Period. That is all it should mean. Theist/Atheist. Technical terms. We are and will continue to be atheists. However, we (and this is emphatically not true of all atheists) are also passionate about feminism, racism, social justice, etc. There is no existing umbrella term to describe that confluence and so we need to invent one. I don’t see a problem here.

  29. 29
    Hank_Says

    but please, just call yourself an atheist. The pure term should be allowed to grow and change, it shouldn’t be left behind as outdated. You should hold fast to the title until its meaning is what you’re striving for.

    So … just call yourself an atheist, even though that doesn’t completely describe, to your own satisfaction, what it is you believe in and strive for.

    You want people to keep using a term that is inadequate and which you should believe should be allowed to evolve until its meaning catches up to their vision – instead of, say, using a new term that is adequately descriptive. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Why shouldn’t people choose a term that they feel conveys who they are?

  30. 30
    EdW

    I guess this is the event that’s forcing the issue that’s existed all along — atheism on its own isn’t enough of a worldview to rally behind for a sustained movement. A new name, a new direction, and a new set of ideals to call our own? That’s exactly what we’ve needed all along, it’s just too bad that it had to happen because we figured out a large contingent of us were jerks.

  31. 31
    Tinyal

    Although I don’t know (nor have ever communicated with) Jen, I agree 100% – and what the hell is this MRA crap? I tend to think of myself as well-read, both in terms of classical (books, newspapers, etc) as well as the ‘alternative’ media (net, blogs, webinars, podcasts), and have not (until today) heard of these troglodytes.

    I’ll have to deploy some google-fu to investigate this a bit more, it always bugs me when I notice an obvious gap in (required) life knowledge

    Growing up as a privileged white male, I’ve had to spend a lot of time unlearning attitudes I was told were ‘normal’, only realizing later in life that no, it’s not normal – it’s not acceptable.

    Hang in there!

  32. 32
    Devitek Pond

    I’m thinking that a new “A” is in order–we shouldn’t even try to re-purpose the old versions if we’re going to do this thing right. I might play with some designs, but are there any others going to be doing the same? Collaboration might be wiser than just taking this on myself…

  33. 33
    Deanna Joy Lyons - Mentioner of Patriarchy

    Tinyal @31: A good selection of examples of MRA stuff can be found (with a good dose of snark) at http://manboobz.com

    The SPLC has a good page here with brief descriptions of the most well-known MRA sites: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2012/spring/misogyny-the-sites

    Enjoy your exploration, and keep lots of brain bleach on hand!

  34. 34
    jenny6833a

    In #22, Josh, Official SpokesGay says:

    Well Jenny, we’ll still have your back and defend your essential humanity even though you don’t think it’s necessary. You’re welcome.

    Eh? Huh? What on earth does that have to do with anything I said in #21, or anywhere else?

  35. 35
    jenny6833a

    I am quoted as saying, in part, in #21, “I do support social causes, including some that are strongly panned by most posters and commenters on FtB.”

    23. The twelfth vote says:

    Given the vagueness of this statement, it is presumably safe to assume that you mean the “Men’s Rights Movement”. Let us be perfectly frank: the MRM is not about rights, and it’s not about social activism. It’s about male supremacists pushing back against their loss of supremacy. It is a hate movement. If this is the sort of “social cause” you refuse to mix with with a movement that is based on rational thought, then no wonder.

    I’d never heard of MRM until you brought it up. I have no idea what it is, and am unlikely to bother to try to find out.

    You’re just making stuff up, which doesn’t surprise me. I’d suggest you enroll in Logic 101 at some junior college. You might learn to eschew random accusations based on zero evidence.

    I said I don’t mix any social cause with atheism because I’m sure that doing so harms both atheism and the social cause.

    Do you read well?

    Sheeeeeesh!!!

  36. 36
    ibbica

    jenny, perhaps you could mention which specific ‘social causes’ you support that have been ‘strongly panned by most posters and commenters on FtB’?

    Actually, I’d be more interested in hearing how specifically you think any social cause or atheism can be ‘hurt’ by being mixed. All I see are upsides; what am I missing?

  37. 37
    Eristae

    @mraandproudofit

    If you don’t like people like us, then you should be happy if we decide to stop associating with you/attending your events/etc. In other words, this move should please you. And yet, for some mysterious reason that I don’t understand, you are in here fussing rather than sitting back and celebrating.

  38. 38
    One Thousand Needles, lumper-splitter

    @ 21:

    But I don’t and won’t mix atheism with social causes. I’m sure that doing so harms both.

    This message brought to you by People for Making Shit Up Without Evidence™.

  39. 39
    Kevin

    If deep rifts is what it takes to keep me away from those mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers, then deep rifts is what I want. The deeper and riftier the better.

    I do not want to be associated with them. I was so appalled at the venom displayed against reasonable requests made in the mildest of ways, that at first I was convinced it was a “fifth column” action by theists.

    Sadly, this appears to not be the case.

    Leave them behind to beat their hairy chests in futility.

    A+ for me.

  40. 40
    carlie

    But I don’t and won’t mix atheism with social causes. I’m sure that doing so harms both.

    In what way(s)?

  41. 41
    The twelfth vote

    I’d never heard of MRM until you brought it up. I have no idea what it is, and am unlikely to bother to try to find out.

    Your intellectual curiosity is impressive. Do you often post comments in threads without having the slightest clue of their background?

  42. 42
    Rieux

    Nathair @28:

    The title means I do not believe in a god or gods. Period. That is all it should mean. Theist/Atheist. Technical terms. We are and will continue to be atheists. However, we (and this is emphatically not true of all atheists) are also passionate about feminism, racism, social justice, etc. There is no existing umbrella term to describe that confluence and so we need to invent one. I don’t see a problem here.

    Me neither. Well said.

    @38: Who gave you permission to use that new, popular “A+” graphic as an avatar?!?

  43. 43
    FelixBC

    I’m pretty sure that #38, One Thousand Needles, *designed* that proposed logo. Check Jen McCreight’s latest post.

  44. 44
    lordshipmayhem

    I must be ahead of the curve on this “new wave of atheism” thing.

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

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

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

    The whole thing just made sense.

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

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

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

  45. 45
    Rieux

    Felix @44:

    I’m pretty sure that #38, One Thousand Needles, *designed* that proposed logo.

    Yes, I know. Thus the high-larious mock horror—?!?.

    (This is when my aversion to smileys comes back to bite me in the derriere.)

  46. 46
    LykeX

    @35

    You’re just making stuff up, which doesn’t surprise me

    No. What happened here was that you made a very vague statement (which, I note, you didn’t bother to clarify in your follow-up), hinting at a disagreement with the regulars here and The twelfth vote speculated about what you might mean.
    It was an assumption, sure, but not an unfounded one, given the topic of this thread and the kind of comments that usually pop up in threads of this kind.

    Take a moment to consider that the problem here might not be that people are “making stuff up”, but rather that you’re being very vague in your communication.

    Instead of getting testy, clarify. People have asked you what you meant. Take the chance to make it clear. What social issues is it that are being “strongly panned” by Ftb? Why do you think that mixing atheism and social awareness harms both?

    To get more specific, do you have a problem with the idea that an atheist organization might also concern itself with certain social issues? If so, why?

  47. 47
    Corvus illustris

    Andre Esteves says

    Humanism has good connections on anglosaxon countries…
    In southern Europe you keep on hearing catholic priests on saying they are humanists, that they represent “the true centrality of the human being in life” meaning we are god’s special pet…

    It’s surprising that you see the good connections as confined to anglosaxon countries; it resonates with Renaissance Humanism (which needs no introduction). The southern-European RC clergy using the term the way AE illustrates seems to me to be a typical RC false-flag operation; the real humanists accumulated a large number of condemnations for heresy–for their content if not by name, even unto the time of Pius X.

  48. 48
    epitome

    I must respectfully disagree with the notion that the reason why Atheism+ and freethougblogs has incurred such ire is because they bravely challenged the status-quo.

    I’m going to be blatant here as an outsider who doesn’t oppose the movement’s liberal progressive views.

    The movement comes off as self-righteous and unapologetically pompous with a “with me or against me” mentality.

    |

    I am very interested if indeed this will gain momentum and become a “new wave” as many here seem to expect, or it will just be another fringe splinter group like the tea-party to the republicans.

  49. 49
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    epitome:

    The movement comes off as self-righteous and unapologetically pompous with a “with me or against me” mentality.

    In what ways does the atheist movement display this mentality?

  1. 50
    More Than Men – A call for revolutionary action.

    [...] McCreight beat me to it with her brilliant post calling for a new wave of atheism. Ophelia Benson, Jason Thibaeult, and Greta Christina soon blogged their support. Jen followed up with a crowd sourced name for this [...]

  2. 51
    A+, Plus Drool-Worthy Geology, AW #49 Info, and Other Bits | En Tequila Es Verdad

    [...] A new atheism [...]

  3. 52
    Αθεΐα+ (⅝ x) 28 ημέρες μετά « On the way to Ithaca

    [...] A New Atheism [...]

  4. 53
    Atheism+ … can this be the third wave?

    […] Jason Thibeault also writes here - A new atheism […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>