It’s war once there’s casualties, right?
Jen McCreight and her commenters dubbed the necessity for a third wave of atheism — a wave that actually gives a shit about people who are getting forced out of the movement by a cloud of vile hatred just because they’re not cis males — as “atheism plus”. A forum is built and a thousand members join within a week. Organizations form to shore up some social justice movement intersections with the atheist community. We built something good. Something energizing. Something that portends a great swamp-draining. A way for movement atheism to heal itself.
Then a whole antifeminist and anti-woman wing of the atheist movement rallies to show us why we can’t have nice things. They amp up the hatred, the vitriol, the vileness. They steal Jen’s resources and leave her drained and incapable of contributing, by making her clean up rivers of bullshit aimed at tarring her personhood, slut-shaming her, and threatening her job by taking the same bullshit to her employers. They make her dread contributing her writings to this movement. This movement which she loved. This movement in which she gathered fans of her writing as easily as some people breathe.
She was a bright shining star in the atheist community when she joined, with all the energy and motivation in the world — but because she was young, not ugly, and made the mistake of mentioning that she has boobs, she started gathering the wrong kind of attention. Then she realized her mistake and started fighting, and the same community that once welcomed her energy and motivation turned on her.
Not everyone, of course. Just the terribly entitled ones who registered her demands that people stop being such assholes as “being divisive”. The people who take “stop being such assholes” as a challenge to prove exactly how big an asshole you can be.
And the irony of it is, this is why a third wave of atheism is entirely necessary. The same people who would bully Jen McCreight out of the community do the same to any female voice that speaks up. Some of them do a victory lap about pushing Jen out of the movement (and yes, this is a shameless bit of self-congratulation on having done damage to the movement!). And they simultaneously ask, “why is atheism plus necessary?”
It’s necessary because of you. It’s necessary because of the colours of Team Douchebag that you so proudly wear while you’re attacking vital new members of the community who dare to talk about issues that might only affect, say, women. It’s necessary especially because there are some among you who won’t wear your colours off the field. It’s necessary because of the divide — the “Great Rift” in our community — between normal, reasonable people, and people who hate as a matter of course. It’s necessary because some people think that if you stomp on sadists who get off on bullying people, then YOU’RE the bully. It’s necessary because some people need to destroy to make themselves feel important.
Some people say you can’t win a war on trollishness.
Maybe not, but you can make the trolls wear their colors off the field. You can show the world exactly what kind of hate-filled monsters some of your supposed “leaders” are. You can prove that the antifeminist and anti-woman factions — our largest single issue for movement cohesion at the moment — are the ones driving the divide and are the ones that make atheism plus a necessity. They are the ones drumming people out of the movement. They are the ones embracing tribalism. They are the ones making atheism plus a divisive idea — because they cling tenaciously to the idea that giving offense is sacrosanct. These people WANT an “us vs them” war, but the reasonable people who recognize that hatred has no place in our movement to be the “them” in the equation. All because they worship offense as its own greatest good, and hold the status quo of privilege as our golden cow.
And here I thought we weren’t supposed to have gods or idols in this community.
So congratulations on your victory, those of you who consider “atheism plus” to be an evil that one must fight. You’ve managed to push out one of our brightest stars.
Know, though, that I’m not going anywhere. And you won’t win the war.
Update: To avoid giving anyone any misperceptions, Jen did not say that she was quitting blogging, or the community. She’s taking a break. But that means she’s taking a break because of the hatred she’s incurring, which amounts to bullying, which amounts to a subset of our community forcing her out. This changes nothing in the above post except that Jen’s taking a breather, not a bow.