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Aug 19 2012

Where are all the Free Inquiry readers?

You know, I’m a regular columnist for that magazine, and if you open up the August/September 2012 issue, you’ll find my latest article, titled Atheism’s Third Wave…which is really eerie given Jen McCreight’s recent post. I don’t think she read it first, I’m pretty sure she’s just psychic…either that, or a whole lot of us are converging on similar ideas right now.

I’ve got a contract with Free Inquiry so I can’t just post it here, but I’ll ask Tom Flynn if he’ll give me a special dispensation, because I think it is part of an important trend in atheism — we need more people speaking out for an atheism that heeds social concerns. If he doesn’t, well, why aren’t you people subscribing?

(Also, take a look at the other articles in that issue…it’s full of stuff about broadening the reach of atheism.)

57 comments

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  1. 1
    allencdexter

    Why aren’t we subscribing? I can’t speak for anyone else, but money is the source of my non-subscribing, also for my sparse to non-existent contributions to political causes.

    We’re retirees and I still do some handyman type jobs, buy and sell, etc. for extra income that is far from steady. Everything keeps going up, and we get squeezed more each passing month. I don’t subscribe to the science magazines or news magazines I love anymore.

    I’m sure the bloated rich like it that way. They’d prefer we just crawl off somewhere and die. That’s what would happen if we didn’t have that horrible Social Security or if the greedy bastards of the 1% succeeded in privatizing it so it would be at the mercy of their manipulated Wall Street scams. We’re nothing but convenient fodder for their class war.

  2. 2
    cathynewman

    I tried several times in the past (2-3 years ago) to subscribe but never started receiving journals. So I gave up. Perhaps I’ll try again and badger someone with emails if I continue to receive no response…

  3. 3
    nmcc

    #1

    And to think, there’s actually a sizeable group who think religion is the problem. Money poisons everything.

  4. 4
    Zeno

    I’m currently subscribed to Free Inquiry and have been at intervals in the past. The magazine seems quirky and uneven to me and doesn’t always hold my attention. But now, of course, with its recent addition of a new columnist, I’m sure it’s much much better.

  5. 5
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I used to subscribe, but found I really wasn’t reading the magazine, which was mostly philosophical musings (zzzzzz), and let my subscription lapse.

  6. 6
    Gregory Greenwood

    nmcc @ 3;

    And to think, there’s actually a sizeable group who think religion is the problem. Money poisons everything.

    Greed and religious privilege have been intimately linked to one another for centuries – tithes, the sale of indulgences, the use of threats of fire and brimstone to get people to sign their possessions over to the church either immediately or upon their death, religious mandates that allow victorious armies of the faithful to rape, pillage and burn at will…

    Is it any surprise that religion – for all the vows of poverty of some religious groups and claims that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man* to enter heaven – serves to keep the rich rich at the expense of everyone else?

    Christianity – fighting for the 1% for two** millennia

    Religion is the world’s most efficacious long con.

    —————————————————————-

    * Man notice. Once again christianity just quietly forgets about half of the species.

    ** Far longer if you include its jewish Old testament roots, and longer again if you look at religion in general, since the vast majority of religions throughout history have been about maintaining the power of the privileged and putting money and influence into the hands of the clergy.

  7. 7
    a3kr0n

    I’m still digesting your 3rd Wave of Atheism. I’m still stuck with the notion atheism means no belief in God, and Humanism is what you might do next. Like I said, I’m still trying to figure it out.
    I’d like to start a secular alcohol and drug recovery “club”, and I’m still stuck what to call that, too. Atheist Alcoholics (AA)? Nope. Secular Society for Sobriety (SOS)? Maybe. Freethought Recovery Club? I’m not sure.

  8. 8
    Silva

    I think a third wave is just generally wanted. You and Jen are not the only ones. I’ve even de-lurked at the prospect. Hi again!

  9. 9
    Dylan Llyr

    I’m from Wales and I subscribe. I think it’s a terrific magazine. My only quibble is that I would prefer that the articles weren’t split (“continued on page 44″ etc). It’s slightly irritating that you have to keep flipping pages back and forth. But I think the quality of the writing is excellent, so that’s not too hard to forgive.

    Your latest contribution was excellent, PZ.

  10. 10
    nmcc

    @ #6

    Couldn’t disagree with a word you said.

    My point, however, is that making such a stand against religion as evidenced on here and elsewhere, while ignoring the economic basis of a society that dictates that someone in his retirement years can’t even afford a science magazine, shows a lamentable misjudgement and lack of sensible focus. Which is the ‘new’ atheism in a nutshell.

  11. 11
    billseymour

    I read Jen’s post and wanted to make a supportive comment; but I was about 18 hours and 330 comments too late. I confess that all those comments were tl:dr; but it’s not hard to imagine that plenty of them were the vile kind.

    I’m just a quiet member of American Atheists and an attendee of Skepticon beginning with 2; but FWIW, I, too, think that the skeptical test pretty well trashes what the various hate groups are spewing.

    And I was totally flabergasted by elevatorgate. It seemed to me that the only rational response to “Hey, Guys, don’t do that,” is “Uh…OK…yes, I see.” Maybe because I’m an old fart and so had to accept feminism as a conscious decision because it wasn’t part of my culture when I was growing up.

    I hope that Jen is right and things are changing. I do see some folks who seem to care.

  12. 12
    Stacy

    @a3kron

    I’d like to start a secular alcohol and drug recovery “club”, and I’m still stuck what to call that, too. Atheist Alcoholics (AA)? Nope. Secular Society for Sobriety (SOS)? Maybe. Freethought Recovery Club? I’m not sure

    There’s already an SOS–Secular Organizations for Sobriety, aka Save Our Selves. Jim Christopher heads SOS, which is headquartered at CFI-Los Angeles.

    You should give Jim a call, I’m sure he’ll be glad to help you.

  13. 13
    Anthony K

    I read Jen’s post and wanted to make a supportive comment; but I was about 18 hours and 330 comments too late. I confess that all those comments were tl:dr; but it’s not hard to imagine that plenty of them were the vile kind.

    That’s what I was expecting. To my surprise and delight, it seemed like 95% were of the “Right on! About time!” variety.

    The times, they are a changin’.

  14. 14
    raven

    I don’t subscribe to the science magazines or news magazines I love anymore.

    Not unusual. One of my friends is on disability for mobility problems due to an autoimmune disease.

    The money is barely enough and without medicare, she would be dead broke or just dead. Every time the wingnuts attack social security or medicare, she panics. I can see why.

    And to think, there’s actually a sizeable group who think religion is the problem. Money poisons everything.

    This is stupid.

    The Tea Party/GOP and the fundie religous right aren’t joined at the hip. They are the exact same thing.

    What do you get when you cross religion with right wing extremist politics? More right wing extremist politics, in this case the Tea Party. Jesus is just their front man.

  15. 15
    raven

    @1 Allencdexter

    I don’t subscribe to the science magazines or news magazines I love anymore.

    Get them from the library for free.

    Our public library has hundreds of magazines, far more than anyone can read and you can check out the old issues.

  16. 16
    wholething

    I was a long-time Free Inquiry reader when I started reading talk.origins in the mid 90′s.

  17. 17
    Thomas Lawson

    Free Inquiry is an excellent magazine. I love the book reviews (winkity-wink). And PZ’s article is a great revelation that atheism is not merely the absence of a belief. Consider atheism to be a cork in a keg (like this analogy already, don’t you?). When you remove that cork, the cork that has been holding back women’s equality, rights for minorities, rights for those not easily pigeon-holed as far as gender, etc., you realize that atheism means more than not believing in God; atheism means believing in everything right about the world, or at least believing in the things that should be set right.

    .

    I’m a history buff, and have been researching the history of atheism in the United States, and I came across this manifesto from my favorite freethought newspaper, the Blue Grass Blade, and you can see from this link here that atheism meant more back then as well. (See the article right next to the photo of C.C. Moore). Keep in mind that this is from 1899! There were some silly ideas, like banning alcohol!, which was in vogue at the time, but according to Moore, the editor of the newspaper, atheism meant giving women the right to vote (3), it meant legislation at the federal level “to improve the condition, financial and educational, of Negroes and Indians” (5), it meant the “publication and dissemination by the United States Government, of the most competent opinions of scientist[s] on the sexual relation” (7), and even the substitution of life imprisonment for the death penalty by an amendment to the Constitution (14).

    .

    Atheism is not the absence of belief, it’s the freedom to believe in what is true.

  18. 18
    a3kr0n

    Stacy @12 – Yes, I’ve been trying to get a hold of someone from the SOS group up near Madison WI, but no reply yet. Maybe I’ll give Jim a call, or email. Thanks!

  19. 19
    allencdexter

    “Get them from the library for free.”

    I know most of them are available there and I may make an occasional trip there to read them. Just don’t like driving there and spending the gas and time. I depend instead on the internet and TV as long as I can afford to keep them. I wear out the link to Huffington Post science section, etc. They’re my main source of news also along with MSNBC. Still manage to pay for satellite TV. Miss most of Bill Maher though because I don’t pay for HBO. So far, Direct TV has the best deal for the channels we want.

  20. 20
    Amateur

    Yes, a whole lot of us are converging on similar ideas right now. Some say it better than others [I figure that I personally will hit a readable literary style just about the time I die].

    I think what Ms. McCreight said about participants and causes is worth repeating far and wide (emphasis mine):

    I don’t want good causes like secularism and skepticism to die because they’re infested with people who see issues of equality as mission drift. I want Deep Rifts. I want to be able to truthfully say that I feel safe in this movement. I want the misogynists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and downright trolls out of the movement for the same reason I wouldn’t invite them over for dinner or to play Mario Kart: because they’re not good people.

    I haven’t yet arrived at a coherent mission statement, but I think I couldn’t say it much better.

    Any two atheists, as such, are bound to converge only at a few common points. It is inevitable: Differences can arise as a result of demographics, the nature of the religion one rejects and, simply, “variation in a species”.

    But, some disagreements cannot be ignored — must not be ignored. Instead, particular disagreements must be vigorously argued against and fought with as much energy as one fights religious hegemony and demagoguery.

  21. 21
    lanceleuven

    ‘I’m pretty sure she’s psychic’ I’m pretty sure you’re right there. It’s the only logical explanation. Like I was saying the other day when I threw a double six, clearly the dice were psychically connected and spoke to each other through the psychic medium and affected each others outcome. It’s the only logical explanation.

    But on a more serious note…

    Thomas Lawson: ‘Atheism is not the absence of belief, it’s the freedom to believe in what is true.’ I literally vocalised a ‘Ooooh’ as I read that. Is that a famous quote or work of your own? Either way I like it a lot. A great deal in fact. If that is indeed your words then thank you very much. I might have to use it at some point.

  22. 22
    reasonbeing

    I like this idea, and value all of the causes this Third Wave would become involved in. I have one honest question though, how is this different from the secular humanism/humanist movements? Aren’t we advocating for something that already exists? Could we not strengthen those movements with our support rather than reinvent the wheel? I am curious to know your thoughts on this, or to learn if I am off-bass here.

  23. 23
    KarenX

    I have one honest question though, how is this different from the secular humanism/humanist movements?

    I echo this question. If I, out on the fringe of the atheist/skeptic community (for lack of active participation and little time spent thinking about its structure), were to answer the question, I’d say that the efforts of what I’m now seeing called Atheism Plus is to take back the name of the movement rather than abandon it to the people arguing against expanding its reach.

    That is, in snarkier terms, to crowd out the undesirables instead of letting them ruin a perfectly good movement name.

  24. 24
    Nathair

    Why aren’t we subscribing? I can’t speak for anyone else, but money is the source of my non-subscribing

    This.

  25. 25
    Christoph Burschka

    Well, this looks like a great publication, and I could probably keep up with a bi-monthly schedule. Pity about the credit card only thing.

  26. 26
    Marcus Ranum

    I don’t think it’s necessarily atheism as much as it’s the philosophical consequences of atheism. For many people, rejecting the nonsense of religion is a big step, but it already starts you down a liberal/humanist trajectory. Religion hates women? Hmm… maybe women’s equality is not a bad idea! Then think it through and conclude that, yup, the faithful had it wrong once again, and rock on. For others, atheism is a result of being unconvinced in gods and then attempting to construct a philosophy of life that makes sense. It’s pretty much (dare I say?) impossible to think about “how to live?” without encountering variations of “the golden rule” whether it’s in the form of Kant’s categorical imperative, or in the sayings of Confucius, or simply a realization that turn-about is good argumentation. Once you encounter that idea, unless you’re a sociopath (i.e.: you become a randian) you’re going to wind up with the whole kit and kaboodle: social equality, gender equality, sexual tolerance, etc. Because unless you can really show how it harms someone to be fair (a trick!) then fairness is required or you risk being treated unfairly yourself.

    So I wouldn’t say it’s got anything to do with atheism, except that atheism allows one to free up ones preconceptions and think about philosophy (in the root sense of the word: love of wisdom) with a bit less baggage. I don’t feel like we need a 3rd wave of atheism as much as we need a bit less derision toward philosophy as useless (some of it, admittedly, is) and reflection on the question of “how to live?” It can be “how to live now that I’ve got god out of my system?” or “how to live?” or “how to help someone else think about ‘how to live?’”

    This would encourage atheists/humanists to dust off the pretty damn awesome thoughts of many ancient philosophers who tackled that question, before philosophy got bogged down by epistemological wanking (ironically, that was a consequence of use of skeptical philosophy as an epistemological weapon of mass destruction during the reformation and enlightenment)

    I’ve had the pleasure of being party to a couple deconversions and one of the questions that sometimes comes up is, “well, what do I believe?” I usually point people to Epicurus: http://tinyurl.com/czp4y85
    It’s a hell of a start.
    Question each of your desires: “What will happen to me if that which this desire seeks is achieved, and what if it is not?” – Epicurus

    In other words I wonder if we need a 3rd wave of atheism as much as we need a new wave of philosophers. (except for the post-modernists; you can keep those)

  27. 27
    charismatron

    Having had the good fortune to have studied a fair bit of feminist theory and its history, it’s
    easy to see atheist community’s experiencing a wave of disruption and growth. I was playing
    with the idea of making a YouTube clip about this subject, but have hesitated.

    Of course, there will be more of them (waves) to come. When you see how these changes
    worked for, rather than against, feminism–how the introduction of new voices, new elements,
    made it stronger and not weaker–then the current ‘division’ currently seen in atheist com-
    munities is merely the workings of an idea improving upon itself: better now than later, don’t
    you think?

    What’s more, is that those lucky enough to be involved regardless of whatever ‘side’ they hap-
    pen to occupy, can at the very least take pride in being part of an important historical shift.
    While I find the backlash (and its size) against the inclusion of feminist thought in the atheist
    community pretty pathetic, it’s certainly not unexpected.

    Thanks for the post. It pushed me over the edge to make an account and comment.

  28. 28
    rorschach

    As we can see with the fallout from EG, it’s not just religion that makes people disrespect women. Plenty of atheists and skeptics have no trouble at all doing that without any divine guidance. It’s the culture that has to change across the board, not just in one particular movement.
    But obviously, as pointed out above, rejection of superstition is a step in the right direction.

  29. 29
    alanwilliamson

    @reasonbeing posted what I was thinking. Atheists say that atheism isn’t a philosophy that a person can use to live their life by. However, Humanism is. So I guess what people are going to do is coop Humanism and give it a new name???

  30. 30
    melody

    The term “atheism plus” has been used a long time in my circles. We would use it when talking about secular humanism or the Center for Inquiry. “We aren’t just an atheist organization, we are atheism plus.”

  31. 31
    Marcus Ranum

    atheism plus

    atheism++
    it’s athier.

  32. 32
    Crissa

    I don’t subscribe because it turns into more junk mail.

    It just bugs my spouse to have piles of craping arriving by mail that we then have to recycle.

  33. 33
    Stacy

    @a3kron

    I was so sure I included a link in my last post! Well, no doubt you googled the email, but just to make things easy for anybody else who may be interested:

    http://www.cfiwest.org/sos/index.htm

    CFI-Los Angeles (323) 666-9797 (is that a cool phone number or what!?)

  34. 34
    billseymour

    Marcus Ranum suggested “atheism++.” This C++ coder thinks that a great idea. 8-)

  35. 35
    ryangerber

    I’m a subscriber. It’s ludicrously cheap with a CFI Canada membership, something like 10 bucks a year. Considering how backwards and misogynistic CFIC has been lately that magazine is about the only thing keeping me a member.

  36. 36
    allencdexter

    There is no conflict between humanism and atheism. I count myself as being an adherent to both right now. If one doesn’t believe we are beholden to and controlled by god or gods, then man becomes the ultimate. Thus, humanism and humanist morals and ethics are even more far reaching and rational than what can be found in religion. They are centered on our loving responsibility to our fellow humans and have nothing to do with slavishly smooching the behind of some imaginary deity with some unsavory attitudes.

  37. 37
    Marcelo

    You guys just keep adding up your hive mind status.

  38. 38
    Chuck

    I’m a subscriber, I just haven’t had time to read it yet.

  39. 39
    ThorGoLucky

    I have been subscribed to Free Inquiry for years and plan to continue, as it’s my favorite magazine along with Skeptical Inquirer, Skeptic Magazine, and PC Gamer. It was sad to see Hitchens column go but great to see Myers come on board.

  40. 40
    echidna

    A++. I like it. Even though I much prefer Python.

    **duck**

  41. 41
    fly44d

    Subscribed like the cult member that I am. Will give it a shot. :-)

    A+…. too many +’s confuse some people. I never could figure out C++.

  42. 42
    Thomas Lawson

    Lance at #21: Very kind. Not a direct quote from anywhere, but a sentiment that has most assuredly been said or written in one way or another. Feel free to use it in that composition, though, by all means.

  43. 43
    Charles Sullivan

    My issue just arrived in the mail. I promise to read your piece tomorrow morning, while I’m on the throne.

  44. 44
    billseymour

    fly44d:

    A+…. too many +’s confuse some people. I never could figure out C++.

    <geek>
    The C language has a unary ++ operator (inherited by C++) that increments its operand. The implication is that something is being moved to the next level. The unary + operator, by contrast, is just a no-op: it returns its operand unchanged.

    But it’s not clear that A (for atheism) is a modifiable lvalue. 8-) Maybe we need something like “A+1”: the binary + operator returns a new object that’s the sum of its operands. It doesn’t modify either operand or require that either operand have a definite address in memory.
    </geek>

  45. 45
    sawells

    @44: I think we need to recognise that once you open a “geek” tag, there is no “/geek” tag. We are stuck like this for ever :)

    Definitely liking A++. And maybe a snappy tagline like “Atheism is about more than just atheism”.

  46. 46
    John Morales

    sawells:

    And maybe a snappy tagline like “Atheism is about more than just atheism”

    Making it into an ideology?

    (No thanks — I’ll remain an atheist rather than become an Atheist)

  47. 47
    Nick Gotts

    If one doesn’t believe we are beholden to and controlled by god or gods, then man becomes the ultimate. – allancdexter

    The ultimate what? “Ultimate” is an adjective, not a noun.

  48. 48
    julietdefarge

    I’m all for people getting involved in social causes, even though my current choice is environmental causes. However, I don’t think it’s a good idea to burden the word atheist with more baggage than it already carries. The dictionary definition is sufficient. It’s perfectly ok with me to meet a person who describes himself as atheist and not be able to make any other assumptions about his behavior or philosophy.

  49. 49
    dghdgh

    First time Pharyngula post!

    I subscribe to Free Inquiry. I like FI–however, I agree with many above–that the magazine is uneven. Sometimes there is too much mental masturbation by academes and not enough “current events” and the humanist spin on them. Your column seems to be in the latter, thank you. Conversely, there are also a few lightweights who write for the magazine too. Some might call this eclectic; some might call it cognitive dissonance. I still subscribe though.

    As for this issue, Flynn is right that he is out on a limb. For years, he has ranted for a fiercely individualistic secular humanism devoid of anything that smells of ritual or community. This issue seems to try to make amends by focusing on charity as a reasonable activity that is not a facsimile of churchyness. My concern is this: atheists shouldn’t feel in competition for the same charitable space that churches operate in, nor do we need special “atheist” versions of say, the Salvation Army. It is a losing battle for us—the faith-based (specifically, big box Christian churches) are so embedded in relief work that they edge out other religions let alone secularists. A few years back, I met the disaster relief director for the scientologists in Washington, DC. They have difficulty getting into disaster areas to provide relief in part, because they are scientologists. (Of course, what they are offering are massages as ordained by L. Ron Hubbard, so maybe it is a good thing that they are not welcomed in the same way as the Baptists, who are slinging pancakes and bacon to hurricane evacuees.) Some of these secular charities already exist (say, the Red Cross or UNICEF). Better to support the non-theist charities out there than to try to create our own and compete in the same space. Saying to survivors of disaster and disease that “Our donation is brought to you by Atheism” is really no different than any other proselytizing.

    However, in defense of the FI feature this month–so long as we don’t become proselytizers, I see no harm.

  50. 50
    Tabby Lavalamp

    I haven’t read the magazine much because one of the last times I did (quite a while back) there was an article with a blatant libertarian bent regarding public education. I thought the publication isn’t for me, so I haven’t felt the need to track it down since (I would have to go out of my way to a store that stocks it).

    On the other hand, recently I picked up an issue of Skeptic at a local supermarket and I always buy that when I see a new issue. Leafing through it, I was reminded that yeah, Harriet Hall writes for them and I was so disgusted by her actions at TAM that I put it back on the rack and will probably never buy a copy again.

    So it looks like I’ll have to check out Free Inquiry again knowing it’s likely not some sort of libertarian/objectivist mouthpiece and that article was probably an unfortunate blip.

  51. 51
    davedell

    I concur with all the lack of money comments. I’d subscribe to many magazines if they weren’t so expensive. Nature, Science, New Scientist, Mother Jones, The Progressive, etc. I limit myself to one subscription at a time and glean what I can (a considerable amount) on the web.

    This is especially true of Skeptic and Free Inquiry. Seems like quite a bit of money for very few issues.

  52. 52
    Thomas Lawson

    I just wanted to amend my original comment. Atheism is not the cork in the keg, dogma is.

    So…

    Consider dogma to be a cork in a keg. When you remove that cork, the cork that has been holding back women’s equality, rights for minorities, rights for those not easily pigeon-holed as far as gender, etc., you realize that atheism means more than not believing in God; atheism means believing in everything right about the world, or at least believing in the things that should be set right. You have to believe that it’s the earth that moves before you can prove it.

  53. 53
    David Marjanović

    …So I wandered over to the homepage, naively expecting a paywall and links to the articles.

    Instead, it’s dead-tree only, except for a few selected articles (selected by what criteria, when PZ’s isn’t?) that are completely free.

    what is this I don’t even

  54. 54
    David Marjanović

    You have to believe that it’s the earth that moves before you can prove it.

    What??? That’s complete nonsense. Total, genuine surprises happen in science all the time. There’s one in my very first paper, and my thesis supervisor is famous for something that he was so sure it had to be a mistake that he went back and pored over his dataset for a long time.

  55. 55
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    I subscribed twice to Seed magazine and I received one (1) copy. I just read things on the Web now.

  56. 56
    Thomas Lawson

    David #54:

    Let me re-phrase it:

    You have to be allowed to believe that it’s the earth that moves before you can prove it.

    If Galileo had been a good Catholic, he would have given up astronomy for alchemy or something, because he wouldn’t have been allowed to believe what he saw. The Church would have destroyed his belief. But he freed himself from the doctrine and found that he was right to believe what he did. Not everyone in history chose that route. Newton felt some of his ideas (beliefs) lived in God’s domain and backed off. Think of the mysteries he could have solved if he had no cop-out like God’s domain.

  57. 57
    Paul

    You have to be allowed to believe that it’s the earth that moves before you can prove it.

    Countless religious high school students prove otherwise each year (although not for long, if “conscientious objection to certain subject matters” keeps going further). You don’t have to believe a model to report what falls out when you do the math.

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