I’m all for concentrating the stupid in one place »« Hispanic American Freethinkers

That’s another good name

While everyone was getting enthusiastic about Atheism+, Michael Nugent wrote up a Manifesto to promote Ethical Atheism. Here’s the preamble:

In real life, atheism means more than mere disbelief in gods, or belief that there are no gods. If you disbelieve in gods, it necessarily follows that you also disbelieve that we get our ideas of truth and morality from gods. This is a significant approach to two central questions about life, in a world where most people believe the opposite.

This is a draft manifesto for ethical atheists who care about both truth and morality, and who want to promote reason, critical thinking and science; atheism over supernaturalism; natural compassion and ethics; inclusive, caring atheist groups; fair and just societies; secular government; and local, national and global solidarity.

Ethical atheism is more useful than dictionary atheism, because it applies the consequences of our atheism to real life. Ethical atheism is more precise than secular humanism, because religious people can be both secular and humanist, and because ethics affects all sentient beings and not just humans.

I like it, and it’s what a lot of us have been saying all along. I really don’t care what label you attach to it — secular humanism, atheism+, ethical atheism — as long as you support the values behind it.

Comments

  1. says

    It’s heavy sledding, but Jurgen Habermas’s Theory of Communicative Action is worth reading in this regard. His basic concern is that morality and the social order can no longer simply be read from ancient texts, but must be constructed by people working together — communicative action. The positivists’ claim that the meaning of an utterance is equivalent to the means by which it can be verified would render most of human discourse meaningless; his response is that there are “three worlds” of “criticizable validity claims.” The first world is indeed the world of intersubjective reality, the domain of direct observation and of science. The second is the world of values and social norms. The third world is our inner experience. We can make assertions about all three of them, but we judge them on different bases. It gets a lot more complicated than that but that’s a start. The problem is how we engage in communicative action in a way that is open, transparent, collaborative; and not exploitive or as a means to get over on people.

  2. says

    What am I supposed to call myself? Atheist, Bright, secular humanist, positive Atheist, Atheist +, People’s Republic of Judea?

    I’m guessing some people gave a lot of thought to what people could waste time about bitching on blogs ever since the elevator issue died down.

  3. Abdul Alhazred says

    Ethical Atheism?

    Perfect. Now any atheist who disagrees with you is automatically characterized as unethical.

  4. says

    Doug: I think you should call yourself “asshole atheist”.

    A*

    Otherwise, did you even read the last sentence of my post?

  5. pedz says

    Why does everybody keep wanting a new name. This issue, as near as I can tell was settled over 200 years ago. The movement was called the Enlightenment and the term for those who bought into it was liberal. True, the first liberals were often not atheists but their commitment to the use of reason lead naturally to atheism as we learned more.

  6. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Perfect. Now any atheist who disagrees with you is automatically characterized as unethical.

    Frequently those people make that evidently clear themselves…

  7. Dick the Damned says

    My experience of Humanist groups in Canada & the UK is that the members appear to be very ethical people.

    I wonder, does becoming an atheist by rejecting the notion of gods lead people, perforce, into becoming ethical, or is it that ethical people tend to become either atheists, or sometimes, very religious?

    I favour the latter option. Those who seek truth either search for it in rational, philosophical, scientific enquiry, or believe they might find it in revealed religion.

  8. says

    It keeps returning to “OMG if how dare you create a name/group/faction cuz then that means you are calling the rest of us names!”

    On top of the whole you can be part of multiple groups at once. I am a big EFF supporter, but I like this here A+ thingy. I have an apple computer and an android phone. I have put time and money into both the Humane Society and the open source software movement. As long as you feel some part of a group or movement is worth supporting you can support as many as you want. Defining a particular subset whose focus differs from the main group doesn’t invalidate the main group.

    Also I would love to separate and rift and splinter and faction away from those who don’t think we should apply rational thought to social issues as well. I don’t actually want the support of people who think women constantly fake rape, or use phrases like “forced” or “legitimate” or “race card.” They can sod off. A sentiment many have expressed.

  9. Quinn Martindale says

    I’ll be ready when the brights, atheist plussers or ethical atheists issue a concrete call to action. Until then, I’ll bow out of the discussion.

  10. Psych-Oh says

    The “ethical” part is a big one for me. I also don’t care about the labels, except that it makes it easier for me to figure out who I’m most likely to get along with and join forces with.

  11. says

    Perfect. Now any atheist who disagrees with you is automatically characterized as unethical.

    If you disagree with the broad principles stated in Michael’s declaration, why then yes, you are unethical. Do you have a specific complaint? Is there something in the manifesto that you consider a violation of your moral standards?

    I’m just wondering if, in your complaints about the name, you’ve ever heard of the Ethical Culture movement? Because basically all you’re accomplishing is to make yourself look ignorant and ahistorical.

  12. says

    Yeah, Quinn, you’ll bow out — except that every time someone says anything about it, you’ll jump in to make your announcement that you’re bowing out.

    We don’t care. Really, we don’t.

  13. Dick the Damned says

    Psych, i’m with you on that. The ethical aspect is very important to me. I hope that i carry it over into other areas of my life. I certainly do in my professional activities, even though it stops me from making good money.

  14. says

    I have nothing more to say, I won’t say stuff, I’ll be the bigger wo/man and leave, I am staying out of this except to say I am staying out of this a dozen times

  15. Louis says

    I’m not worried about the name, I’m worried about the actions.

    The “Brights” thing didn’t pan out, but it didn’t really energise me the way it seemed to others. I saw what was trying to be achieved even if it failed. A+ or Ethical Atheism or whatever will emerge will either work or not, the label won’t change the ethics of it. Any more than “Bright” disappearing into the ether changed my lack of god belief and my adherence more Enlightenment values.

    I’m an atheist for the same reasons I’m a feminist. I support the erosion of real inequalities in society because it’s been demonstrated to my satisfaction they exist and cause harm. I don’t believe in any god because the “proofs” of such and the evidence for such things is shitty at best, non existent at worst. I might not be able to base every ethical or political stance I have on solid evidence based data, but I can at least do my “due diligence” and try bloody hard to inform my ethics and politics with the most solid evidence and data I can get.

    Louis

  16. Sastra says

    I agree that the label isn’t important — as long as the meaning gets across. “Ethical Atheism” has the value of being instantly recognized and understood by the average person, given that they know what an “atheist” is (probably), and given that they understand what “ethical” means (slightly less likely, perhaps, but it’s not as scholarly a term as “secular” or “humanist, nor does it need the kind of promotion “Atheism Plus” will need, if it’s to catch on.)

    The down side — a down side — is that, as others point out, “ethical atheism” seems to tacitly accept the idea that atheists ordinarily wouldn’t or shouldn’t be expected to be ethical. It’s something new some of them try.

    But I think there is always a down side to every designation — and unexpected consequences. The word “Bright,” for instance, was originally introduced by accomodationists who were eager to drop the bickering over God and build bridges with liberal theists. It was supposed to be a positive, non-threatening, non-insulting way to present atheism to the public. Heh.

    cervantes #2 wrote:

    …there are “three worlds” of “criticizable validity claims.” The first world is indeed the world of intersubjective reality, the domain of direct observation and of science. The second is the world of values and social norms. The third world is our inner experience. We can make assertions about all three of them, but we judge them on different bases.

    Interesting. This way of categorizing claims seems to fit in well with what I suspect underlies religious faith: the confusion of categories. People treat a validity claim about the world of intersubjective reality (“God exists”) as if it were a value or an inner experience. I’ve had more than one believer inform me that telling them that God does not exist is like telling them they don’t exist, or that love doesn’t matter. They blithely jumble all three ‘worlds’ together as if the confusion was simultaneously intuitively obvious, a great insight — and a humble virtue.

    And they expect critics to do the same. If we’re clear and careful and thus we don’t, we’re then accused of “not getting it.” We don’t understand them. We atheists aren’t going deep enough, making connections.

    If the faithful import this conflation of categories into how they understand “ethical atheism,” they’d probably imagine that those atheists must think Goodness is a spiritual essence.

  17. Nightjar says

    I’m guessing some people gave a lot of thought to what people could waste time about bitching on blogs ever since the elevator issue died down.

    You’re right! Some people who were wasting their and everybody’s time getting all worked up about a simple “guys, don’t do that” request are now wasting their and everybody’s time whining about a simple “hey, we have more in common than just disbelief, let’s get together and talk about it, maybe something positive will come out of it” statement. Pretty pathetic, isn’t it?

    ***

    Perfect. Now any atheist who disagrees with you is automatically characterized as unethical.

    Er… disagrees about what? You realise that part is important, right?

  18. Louis says

    Sastra,

    The down side — a down side — is that, as others point out, “ethical atheism” seems to tacitly accept the idea that atheists ordinarily wouldn’t or shouldn’t be expected to be ethical. It’s something new some of them try.

    I thought this too.

    I’m not so sure we need an A+ movement any more than we ever used to, in other words, there have always been arseholes, there have always been problems out there in the world that atheists can roll their sleeves up and help with. But I definitely agree with Jen and others that at the bare minimum we need a safe space to discuss atheist approaches to (for example) feminism, or feminist issues within atheist movements, or inclusivity, or diversity, or what have you. It would be nice to be able to “sit at the bar” and have a conversation without the rugby club coming in and waving their willies at us…

    …whoa…did I just say that? *ME*? I must be capable of maturity and growth or something!

    Naaaaaaah.

    Louis

  19. ChasCPeterson says

    I am starting my own unambiguously named splinter group:
    Dictionary Atheism Plus Also Too Secular Humanist Ethical Principles of Equality for All as Well (DAPATSHEPEAW).

    Our Mission Statement will be carefully crafted to be shorter than our name.

    We’ll be meeting in Zoe’s treehouse right after the weekly meeting of GROSS (Get Rid of Slimepitty misogynistS).

  20. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    Wow, seriously? You can be an ethical atheist without being part of Ethical Atheist. Just like you can be a Hispanic atheist without being a part of Hispanic Atheists. It’s a group, even if you meet the label requirements doesn’t mean you have to join the group or cease to be one if you don’t join.

  21. says

    The down side — a down side — is that, as others point out, “ethical atheism” seems to tacitly accept the idea that atheists ordinarily wouldn’t or shouldn’t be expected to be ethical. It’s something new some of them try.

    Is that really a down side? It’s reality. I think events of the last year have already done a really good job of demolishing the misconception that being an atheist automatically gives you an ethical edge.

  22. says

    Sastra — That’s correct. A great deal of argumentation goes wrong because people make category errors. “Is to ought” is a common example.

  23. carbonbasedlifeform says

    Several years ago, a Catholic and I got into an argument with an Evangelical Protestant about atheists and ethics. The evangelical was insisting that only theists, specifically Christians,could have a proper set of ethics. The Catholic and I were saying that it is perfectly possible to develop good, consistent ethical systems without any reference to God at all. We gave Utilitarianism as a specific example of an ethic which does not refer to God. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics also is nontheistic, as are others.

    The idiot, who essentially ended by saying that the only meaningful ethical system was one which he, himself, approved of, would not listen to reason. We finally told him that the world does not revolve around him, and left in an ethical manner.

  24. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    The down side — a down side — is that, as others point out, “ethical atheism” seems to tacitly accept the idea that atheists ordinarily wouldn’t or shouldn’t be expected to be ethical. It’s something new some of them try.

    Um, all things considered I wouldn’t expect all atheists to ordinarily be ethical. For instance the raging racism, sexist and libertarian atheists. Just like I don’t expect religious people of any faith to be ordinarily ethical. Everyone grows up in a terribly biased society and we have to actively fight ourselves to stop doing sexist/racist etc things. So atheists and religious people are fighting against a lot of the same pressure to be unethical. Atheists just don’t have belief in any gods. While you could argue being an atheist makes it easier to be ethical, especially considering the crap religion puts in your head, we’ve clearly seen some very unethical atheists. Plus a lot of atheists are still fighting the indoctrination of their religion to ethical.

  25. David Marjanović says

    “Ethical Atheism” has the value of being instantly recognized and understood by the average person, given that they know what an “atheist” is (probably)

    What, in the USA?

    We’ll be meeting in Zoe’s treehouse right after the weekly meeting of GROSS (Get Rid of Slimepitty misogynistS).

    (Also, I like treehouses.)

    and left in an ethical manner.

    Heh.

  26. says

    Sastra:

    The down side — a down side — is that, as others point out, “ethical atheism” seems to tacitly accept the idea that atheists ordinarily wouldn’t or shouldn’t be expected to be ethical. It’s something new some of them try.

    Haven’t we seen enough assholery over the past year+ to recognize that atheists aren’t necessarily ethical? How many times have we heard “I’m an atheist because I’m a rational thinker; nothing else matters?”

    Maybe I’m cynical, but I sure as shit don’t expect someone who identifies as an atheist to be ethical.

  27. says

    That’s a mighty refresher. I’ve noticed that atheist manifestos have changed very little over the years. People have this weird idea that there was a period in world history where atheists just gave up gods and didn’t care about anything else.

    Atheists have been on the “wrong” (meaning right) side of social justice for hundred of years, but issues like the abolishment of slavery, women’s suffrage, and civil rights were co-opted by larger, mainly religious factions that got the credit because the nonbelievers in the movements were either more humble or shut out. We all know that Dr. King had atheists working with him. Prohibition was the exception; that was 90% religion with a sprinkling of “bleeding-heart” atheists.

    Atheism opens doors to the things in this world that religion keeps shut. Theists witness suffering and have a two-step response: 1) I’m glad I worship X; and 2) What those people need is to worship X. (It harkens that picture where the starving want food and theists hand them Bibles. And that maybe they’re shipping five boxes of Bibles for every two bags of rice.)

    Atheists witness suffering and want to end it with pragmatic solutions, not enigmatic ones. Not all atheists, but most. Some are like Seinfeld characters that witness suffering and mock the victims. Those are obviously the type being shrugged off right now.

  28. chigau (違う) says

    When We™ finally decide on the Ultimate Atheist Action Group, I vote that we don’t tell Quinn Martindale.
    Or at least post a sign on the treehouse door that sez “NO QUINS ALOWED”.

  29. slothrop1905 says

    re the name A+, someone on another blog put it very well, which I’ve seen echoes of here:

    “I still think the name is a mistake.

    Social justice is my concern, and I don’t care if you’re a Muslim, dominionist, or atheist.

    I don’t really care whether it is humanism renamed or adding dogma or not. . .

    My atheism is a teensy-weency thing, social justice is not.”

    And the above is exactly why I want nothing to do with A+. Reality is actually more important to me than social cohesion, which is why I left a pleasant life with the church in the first place, and have gone through hell ever since. I’m looking for a community that actually values what’s real, and NOT surrender that at the expense of everyone feeling good. ‘Is’ has to take priority over ‘ought’, otherwise the ‘ought’ has a bullshit foundation. I will keep looking…

  30. sabai456 says

    While I like the idea of a manifesto that goes beyond humanism, I’m still struggling with the direction of my atheism. That is, I don’t think my ethics is driven by atheism. In fact, very little of my daily life is. For me, atheism is a consequence, not a cause. (I think PZ wrote that somewhere.)

    Nugent wrote, “If you disbelieve in gods, it necessarily follows that you also disbelieve that we get our ideas of truth and morality from gods.” I found truth in science and reason and morality from things like empathy and caring, which ultimately resulted in knowing that there are no supernatural forces running this world. Truth and morality came first, atheism was an inevitable result.

    Furthermore, Nugent wrote, “Ethical atheism … applies the consequences of our atheism to real life.” It seems that real life drives my atheism.

    While I intuitively like the intent, I guess I just don’t understand what ethical atheism is. For the most part when it comes to me being an ethical person, atheism is irrelevant.

  31. says

    I disagree with that. Atheism is not a “teensy-weency thing”: it’s a fundamental principle for rational decision making. People who can’t even see through the veil of lies surrounding religion are likely to be gullible in other ways.

    I want an intelligent, informed, evidence-based social justice, not social justice built on dogma.

  32. Beatrice says

    slothrop1905,

    So instead of becoming a part of a community who fights for social justice, you will sit on your ass and shop around for something better (’cause you don’t like the name, since the rest you wrote is stupid and false).

  33. slothrop1905 says

    Beatrice,

    I was in a community that fought for social justice, they just did it because God wanted them to. No thanks. And I was quoting what someone else said in the first part, sorry if that wasn’t clear, I wasn’t speaking about the name at all. And most of what I say out loud is stupid, but what was false?

  34. Sastra says

    PZ Myers #25 wrote:

    Is that really a down side? It’s reality. I think events of the last year have already done a really good job of demolishing the misconception that being an atheist automatically gives you an ethical edge.

    No, I was referring to the popular cultural assumption that atheists, as a group, would of course be expected to be unethical. We wouldn’t want to buy into that with an implied “Despite the fact that I’m an atheist, I can behave morally.”

    Otherwise you’re right, of course. I wasn’t looking at it objectively, but through the distorted prism of How the Faithful View Things. Will it backfire (like “Brights?”)

    I think the term is fine anyway. Sure, believers will try to squeeze something negative out of anything atheists come up with — but in this case I think they’d be working a little too hard.

    “Ethical atheism” will probably also be translated by the general public as saying “it’s more ethical to be an atheist than a theist.” Well, it’s certainly got more intellectual integrity, so fine. This particular interpretation, however, loses the whole point for the invention of the term.

  35. says

    @PZ I am still fuzzy about how big atheism in and of itself is for me. It is certainly important in that it is the truth, it conforms to reality and in opposition to religion it is very important as well. Reality is very important, and for me all humanistic tendencies come from my attachment to reality and one other factor: I would like to prolong the existence of humanity. Apply reality to that one goal and humanism appears. Atheism would, in a perfect world, merely be the default state.

    But riding in on the popularity and shear fightin’ strength the “new wave” atheists brought to bear on religion, one of the worst institutions to ever exist, is definitely a boon. It is just hard to say if atheism is the principle or a necessary consequence of a truth-seeking/human liking principle.

    That said, I love A+. Even if it changes names the focus on battling religiosity in the fight for social justice and truth is a good angle.

  36. carlie says

    And the above is exactly why I want nothing to do with A+

    And that is fine! Why do people keep insisting that we’re trying to stomp all over them? “Hey, we have a group, wanna join?” “No, thanks.” “Ok, then.” What the hell’s so insulting about that?

  37. says

    I like the Atheism+ as a way to spell it out for readers, but I personally like “Inclusive Atheism”; one of the possible pronunciations brought up on blaghag when A+ was originally thought up.

    Which would, of course, still open up the possibility of bullshit claims like “you’re saying other atheists are being ‘exclusive’!”

    To which I think we should be saying, “Pretty much.” I’m a relatively poor, but still privileged white guy, and it’s rather obvious to me that the Atheist movement previously hasn’t been terribly friendly to women or minorities.

  38. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    And that is fine! Why do people keep insisting that we’re trying to stomp all over them? “Hey, we have a group, wanna join?” “No, thanks.” “Ok, then.” What the hell’s so insulting about that?

    Maybe they’ve been terrorized by religious people harassing them to convert and join their particular religious group, so they are assuming we are going to do the same thing? Maybe they see Atheism as a monolithic group like the religious see us? Maybe they think like “We’re all the same! We’re all the Others, the Nones, we must fight as one!” crap?

    Dunno. I just see the similarities, I could totally be off the mark here.

  39. Beatrice says

    slothrop1905,

    Reply to your question about what was stupid: Your assertion that A+ is all about making people feel good instead of working for social justice.

    I don’t see your problem. These are atheists, you’re an atheist. You wouldn’t conform to superstition or dogma or plain old stupidity just so that you could do some good. You would simply associate yourself with people who you have something in common with.
    Not to mention, that I’m sure everyone will be perfectly fine with you fighting for social justice “on the side”, however you wish.

  40. Abdul Alhazred says

    Yeah I’ve heard of the so-called Ethical Culture movement. So?

    Next up: Atheist plus plus.

  41. Sastra says

    Well, the nice thing about A+ is that the atheists we argue against get to be nothing worse than A-.

    The media won’t figure out they can make hay over another Deep Rift.

  42. Beatrice says

    slothrop1905,

    Not that you have to join A+, of course. But I would be happier if you wouldn’t vilify it for no good reason, just because you don’t want to be part of it.

  43. says

    Quinn Martindale:

    Until then, I’ll bow out of the discussion.

    You know what would be nice, Quinn? You shutting the fuck up every single time you feel the need to sniffily declare “I’m bowing out.” Yeah, yeah, we get it. You can actually go away any old time.

    On the topic: I like Ethical Atheism. It sounds nice, it’s easy to understand and yes, I think there is a need to define yourself as a decent human being these days, especially if you’re an atheist. As I said on one of the other atheism+ threads, a whole lot of people already think atheists are immoral critters on the brink of monsterhood, so it’s good to define it for those folks.

    Also, given the sheer amount of creeps crawling out from under their ‘atheist!’ or ‘skeptic!’ labeled rocks lately, I prefer a way to differentiate myself from them.

  44. Beatrice says

    slothrop1905,

    Sorry for being an asshole in my first comment to you.
    It’s been a bad day.

  45. Sastra says

    shockna #44 wrote:

    I like the Atheism+ as a way to spell it out for readers, but I personally like “Inclusive Atheism”; one of the possible pronunciations brought up on blaghag when A+ was originally thought up.

    No; I’d not heard “Inclusive Atheism” before, and my immediate impression was that it referred to those accomodationists who want to join inter-faith alliances.

    When the average person thinks of atheism, they contrast it with theism. So if it’s “inclusive” they’re probably going to think we’re trying to bring in folks from the ‘other side:’ New Agers, pagans, liberal theists, and the Spiritual — sort of like the Unitarians. “No debate or disagreement — we’re a welcoming community.” Ick.

    Yeah, you can pick apart any term. I know atheists who get all hot and bothered over the term “atheist” because it privileges theism. Or, because it’s too ‘antagonistic’ and hurtful. Or, or or…

  46. Sastra says

    Caine, Fleur du mal #50 wrote:

    Also, given the sheer amount of creeps crawling out from under their ‘atheist!’ or ‘skeptic!’ labeled rocks lately, I prefer a way to differentiate myself from them.

    I do too, but I think your point about the term making a point to theists is more likely than “ethical atheism” being used to differentiate us from the creeps. That’s because creeps usually don’t think they’re creeps: no, they’re the ethical ones and we’re not.

    The likelihood is that it’ll only work if we more or less manage to “steal” the term through constant use (like “family values,”) so that Ethical Atheism is distinguished from ethical and atheism. In which case, the creep contingent will probably come up with “Honest Atheism” or “Brave Atheism” or something else (assuming they haven’t already.)

  47. says

    Sastra:

    In which case, the creep contingent will probably come up with “Honest Atheism” or “Brave Atheism” or something else (assuming they haven’t already.)

    I don’t care, as long as they remain distinct from me. The creeps have been (and still are) trying to force how things go, they’re losing and yes, howling all the louder about it. Despite names/labels, it takes very little digging to find the values of any given group. Naturally, those values are the important bit.

    A certain number of people who have gone anti-FTB lately have recently been involved with AVFM. If someone undecided identifies with AVFM, I don’t want them to have anything to do with me. Clearly defined labels can be helpful sometimes.

  48. slothrop1905 says

    Beatrice,

    Ok, perhaps ‘feeling good’ was a flippant way of putting it, sorry about that. I actually wasn’t trying to be villifying, I was just trying to point out why I wouldn’t be comfortable. Which is fine, I know, I’m not being forced to join, I get that. And maybe I’m in the minority amongst ex-Christers here, but I was heavily involved in social work, I was part of a large community that helped each other as well as ‘Outsiders’, my happiest memories maybe in my life were bus rides across the country, everyone singing and all that kumbaya stuff. I didn’t leave that community because it was oppressive or discriminatory or didn’t do everything it could every day to make the world a better place for everyone, some of the best people I ever knew are still part of that community. I left for the sole reason that IT WASN’T TRUE. I left over issues of epistemology and ontology and that’s it. It’s caused a lot of pain in the subsequent years to not have that underlying foundation with people I care about, and I’m wary of encountering that again, wary of people sacrificing epistemology for societal good. I’m not villifying them for their efforts, which are noble, I just don’t want to be part of it. Just my opinion, nothing more than that, and since I also am having a bad day maybe I should’ve been more reticent in sharing it, I don’t know…

  49. CT says

    Some people are saying it’s a group and some people are saying it’s a movement.

    If it’s a group, I can say “no, I don’t belong to that group” and no one will assume I’m against the group but if it’s a movement, I’m opening myself up to “but why aren’t you a part??”.

    I don’t expect people to be binary about it but the problem remains that if someone doesn’t identify with the group(?) movement(?) then people from that group will want to know why. I suspect that “because I just don’t want to” isn’t going to be a good answer because the people in the group will assume that I am against what the group stands for. When the reality is that I’m very unlikely to join any group even if the objectives match my own.

  50. Beatrice says

    slothrop1905,

    Big bad atheists apologizing to each other. Imagine poor Christians fainting. ;)

  51. abb3w says

    “Ethical atheism” seems to come closer to answering one of my minor philosophical hesitations over the “Atheism+” moniker as a label. (“Plus what? Cookies?”)

    But there’s still a minor philosophical hesitation: plus EXACTLY what? That is, what basis for defining “ethics”? What bridge is being used to cross from “is” to “ought”? What premise is the defining one, that when facing a set of options, and by implication with the set of ordering relationships possible over that set of options, is the premise defining which ordering relationship from the set of orderings is referred to as “ethics”? (Sorry, I’m fond of math.)

    The mere “ethical” modifier isn’t in itself specific enough to do a damn thing about Randite Objectivist flavor atheists waving around copies of “The Virtue of Selfishness” as a text on ethics, or other forms of sociopathic argument from high-SDO personalities.

    That said, it’s one of the really hard questions in philosophy.

  52. Erista (aka Eris) says

    Oh for the love of . . .

    If I started something called “atheists against cancer,” would people flip out and accuse me of saying that everyone who was not explicitly allied with “atheists for cancer” was FOR cancer?

    I certainly hope not; that would be absurd.

  53. CT says

    It would be absurd but here at this blog network are people who are doing that with A+. Just look around at the commentary on the blogs that talk about it. Repeatedly people are saying that if you don’t join the group(?) movement(?), then you must be against their objectives.

    Lots of people *aren’t* saying that but no one has in any way clarified exactly whether this is something just for joining or something that I implicitly need to endorse because otherwise I’m against it. Just in this thread are different explanations. Is it a group like “atheists for hondas” where no one really cares because of course everyone is for hondas or is it a movement saying that atheism is going this way and you better move that way also?

  54. says

    I don’t know why people think anyone involved in A+, or considers themselves a part of the A+ movement or organization or whatever… I don’t know why one would think anyone gives a shit if they personally don’t want to be a part of it.

    Here’s a tip:

    1. It isn’t the fucking Justice League.
    2. If it were, you aren’t Superman.

  55. says

    I just have to repeat my last sentence in slightly bigger print, if you don’t mind.

    I really don’t care what label you attach to it — secular humanism, atheism+, ethical atheism — as long as you support the values behind it.

  56. Beatrice says

    CT,

    a movement saying that atheism is going this way and you better move that way also?

    You don’t have to be A+, but I sincerely hope you will move in that same direction A+ is moving (that direction being the away from bigotry, racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc).
    Unless you have a problem with that direction instead of a problem with joining any groups. That would not be met with favorable comment.

  57. Beatrice says

    PZ:

    I really don’t care what label you attach to it — secular humanism, atheism+, ethical atheism — as long as you support the values behind it.

    I don’t have big fancy red letters, but QFFT!

  58. CT says

    Beatrice, I’m already there and have been. My objection was simply the definition of what was going on. Obviously, I’m not important enough to matter much so I’ll just shut the fuck up now.

  59. Sastra says

    Caine, Fleur du mal #54 wrote:

    If someone undecided identifies with AVFM, I don’t want them to have anything to do with me. Clearly defined labels can be helpful sometimes.

    Well, only to the extent that there are clearly defined people, I think. I’m cautious about that. Identities are a tricky business — it too often gets complicated and variegated and slops all over.

    That’s one of the issues I have against religion: the idea that human beings are going to fit into neat little ethical categories of “saved” and “damned” with no hard calls or gray areas and everything exactly fair. It’s too bad that nobody is likely to rally around the label “Downright Creepy Atheism” and make it all nice and easy for everyone.

  60. Beatrice says

    CT,

    I don’t understand what you are objecting to.
    If you don’t want to join just say that you don’t want to join any groups, but support our goals.

    What do you want? People to give up on joining in a movement because you don’t like movements, but will feel bad for not being in the movement, but you can’t join because you don’t like movements…

  61. Beatrice says

    CT,

    PZ didn’t say that you have to join the movement/group/whatever, but support values behind it. These things are not the same!

  62. CT says

    Beatrice, thanks for adressing my concerns. You can email me if you’d like to continue the conversation. chimako.27 on g mail.

  63. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Lots of people *aren’t* saying that but no one has in any way clarified exactly whether this is something just for joining or something that I implicitly need to endorse because otherwise I’m against it.

    Great Caesar’s Ghost!
    Holy Moley!
    Merciful Minerva!
    Suffering Sappho!

    Does. Not. Compute.

    If you’re not a member of the ASPCA, does that mean you’re against it?
    I’m not a member of any Secular Alliance organization, does that mean I’m against any of them?
    If someone who loves rats, but is NOT part of a rat lovers group, does that mean they’re against the values of that organization?

    If you don’t want to join A+, you don’t have to. Not joining doesn’t mean you don’t share the values of A+. It just means you don’t want to join.
    Which is perfectly fine.
    If you’re a sexist asshat, or you’re a raging homophobe, or you’re a transphobic POS, then you’re against at least *some* of the A+ values.
    ****
    I don’t understand why this is so difficult for people.

  64. unclefrogy says

    I think I may be beginning to understand this new name thing and the “New Atheist Movement” a little. Seems to be related to the minority status of atheism and the resentment of authority by some.
    having a recognizable new name is like having a battle flag gives a focus a thing to rally around to see in the distance that helps to dispel the felling and experience of being an isolated individual in the midst of a hostile society. It says to all who identify with it “we are not alone” It also says that “we” exist in larger numbers and you must deal with us to those who are hostile.

    I think that felling of isolation in a hostile society also feeds the resentment of those who object to new names generally and the hostility to any perceived authority telling them what they should think and how they should behave, how they should talk.

    I can agree with the striving for a more rational, just, inclusive egalitarian society and will stand with any that struggle for that but my personal trust issues make me reluctant to add my name to any list of members today.

    raise the flag I cheer !

    uncle frogy

  65. Beatrice says

    CT,

    Sorry, I’ve had a bad day already and (as you can probably see) am not in the right state of mind for intense debates.

    We’ll probably talk again somewhere on FTB and, since this is a hot topic, the chances are high we’ll continue this conversation some other time anyway.

  66. says

    CT:

    Lots of people *aren’t* saying that but no one has in any way clarified exactly whether this is something just for joining or something that I implicitly need to endorse because otherwise I’m against it.

    Maybe you’ve missed a few posts, but it has been clearly stated, multiple times that A+ or Ethical Atheism or Secular Atheism or Atheist Humanists or whatever the heck you wanna call it, is strictly opt-in.

    If you don’t specifically endorse it, it is not assumed you are against it. FFS, this has also been repeatedly said and clarified.

    There’s nothing formal to ‘join’. If you’re for social justice, that’s great and good and it means yes, you dig the values of A+ or Ethical Atheism or Secular Atheism or Atheist Humanists etc.

  67. says

    Tony:

    If someone who loves rats, but is NOT part of a rat lovers group, does that mean they’re against the values of that organization?

    Heh. I’m not part of a rat lovers group. I’m on no rat forums, etc. Yet, I’m all Love of Rats™.

  68. says

    Caine:

    There’s nothing formal to ‘join’.

    Goddamnit! I was really looking forward to the spiffy hats.

    To build on what I was saying over on the A+ thread, the argument that people are being excluded from A+ is like claiming that because I don’t 100% agree with 100% of what every other feminist says, then I’m not a feminist and I’m being excluded from feminist activism. LOLwut? A+/Ethical Atheism has to do with how one identifies themselves in the broader movement, not with applications and membership cards to a specific club.

    Think we’re being silly by focusing on social justice issues? Fine, who cares? Don’t consider yourself part of the movement. Like what we’re saying and doing, but have some sort of hangup over the label? Fine, who cares? Don’t consider yourself part of the movement. Like everything about A+/Ethical Atheism? Awesome, me too! Let’s get some shit done!

  69. Amphiox says

    You know, any and EVERY time a group has been set up or proposed to work for or value social justice issues, among the VERY FIRST thing you hear are the reactionaries howling “you’re being exclusionary”, “you’re implying that everyone who does not join you is against you”, “you’re just as bad as those you criticize since you’re excluding THEM from your movement”, and it is ALWAYS, always, just code for “how dare you even think of trying to ORGANIZE and assemble against our world order and challenge OUR established privileges”.

    So forgive me if I do not feel inclined to regard CT’s comments in a generous light.

  70. vaiyt says

    Once upon a time, “atheists” were presumed to adopt the pursuit of truth as a value.

    Turns out people can abandon one kind of evidenceless bullshit while still believing other evidenceless bullshit. Turns out not every “atheist” has the balls to challenge the entrenchment of religious authority in society.

    Thus, “New Atheism” came as a label for those people for whom “Atheism” wasn’t enough anymore. They were (and still are) accused of being divisive, militant, strident, radical etc. etc.

    Once upon a time, “atheists” were presumed to free from the harmful memes spread by religious and ideological indoctrination.

    Turns out people can fight woo and religion while still holding onto bigotry, ignorance and privilege for dear life.

    Thus, here comes Atheism+, and the story repeats itself.

  71. vaiyt says

    *heh, use of “balls” wasn’t the best choice of words, I apologize. Busy making a summary of a book on semiotics. Shit’s complicated, yo.

  72. CT says

    So forgive me if I do not feel inclined to regard CT’s comments in a generous light.

    Can I get some of that mind reading juice you got over there? Wait, I don’t want any cuz you’re completely and totally fucking wrong. Why don’t you re-read your own fucking comment and then get back to me on the whole ‘with us or against us’ stance in A+? And don’t give me any “but my intent was this” “my intent was that” bullshit either. I want you to explain how the fuck your comment was anything but saying “if you aren’t with us, you must be against us because you are a privileged asshat”.

    Here, I’ll even fucking quote it for you. By the way, fuck you too.

    You know, any and EVERY time a group has been set up or proposed to work for or value social justice issues, among the VERY FIRST thing you hear are the reactionaries howling “you’re being exclusionary”, “you’re implying that everyone who does not join you is against you”, “you’re just as bad as those you criticize since you’re excluding THEM from your movement”, and it is ALWAYS, always, just code for “how dare you even think of trying to ORGANIZE and assemble against our world order and challenge OUR established privileges”.

  73. Quinn Martindale says

    I take it from the response I got that stating one is leaving a discussion is bad manners. I really haven’t done it before, but sorry for sounding like a troll.

  74. says

    CT:
    Apparently you don’t realize how sick and fucking tired many of us are of hearing how social justice issues don’t matter and how we’re wasting our time and how people that don’t want to join in the first place are being excluded and wahwahwah!

    Of course when you fight against a movement that is strictly opt-in, you’re absolutely going to sound like a privileged asshat. So what?

  75. Skatje Myers says

    @abb3w

    The mere “ethical” modifier isn’t in itself specific enough to do a damn thing about Randite Objectivist flavor atheists waving around copies of “The Virtue of Selfishness” as a text on ethics, or other forms of sociopathic argument from high-SDO personalities.

    Which is why it’s “Ethical” with a capital E. According to the manifesto, “We should seek to minimize suffering and maximize flourishing of sentient beings, and to treat ourselves and other sentient beings fairly and justly.”

    This is quite specifically utilitarian, and not inclusive of the Objectivists.

    And to your other point, the most specific it seems to get for the cross from is to ought appears to be the premise (paraphrasing) “What we ought to do is what we are naturally inclined to do”:

    Morality and ethics are products of our brains, part of the natural evolution of generations of living together as sentient beings. They are based on natural ideas such as compassion, reciprocity and justice.

    Meh.

  76. says

    Audley:

    Of course when you fight against a movement that is strictly opt-in, you’re absolutely going to sound like a privileged asshat.

    Word. I think some people just need to fight against it, no matter what. As Vaiyt pointed out, the howling over Gnu Atheism was intense. You were around for the Gnu Atheist vs Old School Atheists vs Accommodationist wars, I don’t need to tell you how intense that all got.

    For every bit of growth, we see huge ripples of growing pains. Declare yourself in, declare yourself out, declare yourself on the side, label-free thank you, what the fuck ever. I simply want the complaints over those of us who do opt-in to stop.

  77. Amphiox says

    re CT @81;

    It’s not, as anyone with both a shred of honesty and a modicum of brains can clearly see just by reading for comprehension.

    No, I am not going to do your thinking for you and explain to you why the sky is blue. If you cannot see it for yourself then there is no hope for you.

    The nature of that peice of incoherent gibberish which your apparently think constitues a “response” to the completely mild and polite disapproval in my first post is rather amusing, but also revealing of the type of person you are. One does not need to mind-read someone who exposes themselves in such spectacular fashion.

  78. Nightjar says

    Think we’re being silly by focusing on social justice issues? Fine, who cares?

    Exactly. People are free to pick their battles and how to fight them. Some atheists want to focus primarily on social justice and consider that to be an important part of their atheism? Great. Some atheists want to focus primarily on advancing good science education? Great. Some want to focus primarily on philosophical arguments? Great. Bible studies? Great. Physicalism and naturalism? Great. Separation of church and state? Also great. Skepticism? Also great. Some want to be confrontational? Fine. Some want to be accommodative and nice? Also fine. Some want to multitask? Wonderful. Jump from one topic to another depending on their mood? Also wonderful.

    Really, I just don’t see what the fuss is all about. Unless your goal is to actively fight against social justice you shouldn’t have a problem with atheism+ (or whatever). Just go keep fighting the good fight you‘d rather fight and let others fight the other good fight they‘d rather fight!

  79. Amphiox says

    And isn’t so telling how the blissful privileged just melt down when their privilege is pointed out to them? Even when completely oblique and only as analogous comparison?

    It’s as if, deep down, they know, but are not sufficiently honest to admit it to themselves.

    It’s an almost foolproof screening test.

    If I didn’t think CT was a privileged excretory orifice before (and I didn’t), I do now.

  80. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Nightjar:

    Unless your goal is to actively fight against social justice you shouldn’t have a problem with atheism+ (or whatever).

    QFT. A thousand times QFT.

    ****
    CT:
    Do you understand now that A+ is opt in?
    Do you understand that you’re *not* automatically against the values A+ espouses if you don’t want to join?

  81. Nightjar says

    Me: Unless your goal is to actively fight against social justice you shouldn’t have a problem with atheism+ (or whatever).

    And just to make sure CT gets it: “not having a problem with X” isn’t the same as “joining X” or “doing exactly the same things people who join X do”.

  82. says

    Caine:

    I think some people just need to fight against it, no matter what.

    I will never understand this, especially when we’re talking about people who are active in the Pharyngula/FtB communities. A+/Ethical Atheism/whatever, isn’t actually changing anything that goes on around here*– it just seems like it’s clarifying our little corner of the movement. I mean, are you and I the only two people commenting regularly who have read PZ’s social justice/politics posts and noticed that FtB in general deals with these issues?

    *It’s not like your favorite liberal political blog all of a sudden went full conservative or something.

    As Vaiyt pointed out, the howling over Gnu Atheism was intense. You were around for the Gnu Atheist vs Old School Atheists vs Accommodationist wars, I don’t need to tell you how intense that all got.

    Ah, yes. I knew this all felt familiar.

  83. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    CT:
    [please note, I am trying to understand where you're coming from, because I cannot make heads or tails of much of what you've said]

    I want you to explain how the fuck your comment was anything but saying “if you aren’t with us, you must be against us because you are a privileged asshat”.

    Here, I’ll even fucking quote it for you. By the way, fuck you too.

    You know, any and EVERY time a group has been set up or proposed to work for or value social justice issues, among the VERY FIRST thing you hear are the reactionaries howling “you’re being exclusionary”, “you’re implying that everyone who does not join you is against you”, “you’re just as bad as those you criticize since you’re excluding THEM from your movement”, and it is ALWAYS, always, just code for “how dare you even think of trying to ORGANIZE and assemble against our world order and challenge OUR established privileges”

    .

    Can you explain how you got if you aren’t with us, you must be against us out of AMPHIOX’s comment.

    So forgive me if I do not feel inclined to regard CT’s comments in a generous light.

    Was the above the reason you responded with ‘fuck you too’ (which seems misplaced, as there wasn’t anything terribly insulting in the comment)?
    Or are you mad that someone said you were privileged?

  84. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    The loud objectors—especially those that don’t respond when you point out that the thing they fear isn’t actually true—are indeed concerned about how they’re perceived. It’s probably not conscious for a lot of them, but I suspect the real motivation is the knowledge (subconscious perhaps) that regardless of the fact that A+ is opt-in, its very existence does make dismissing social justice issues more costly. It threatens an identity that people feel comfortable in (whether that be apathetic, indifferent, or outright hostile to SJ). It changes the conversation and culture.

    This is the same reaction every progressive issue has gotten. A new group forms who wants to expand or go to the next level, and a lot of former allies scream bloody murder. Civil rights, LGBT rights, gnu atheism. . . it always happens.

    You know this is the motivation when you calmly, clearly point out that no one is making a moral judgment against the person if they decline to join, and the person still goes into full meltdown. They either don’t acknowledge the plain facts you gently put to them, they say you’re lying, or they find some other reason to keep melting down. I can’t think of any other motive than an uncomfortability with the implicit judgment that A+(or whatever)inevitably invokes.

    Well, sorry, but that’s culture.

  85. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Audley:

    I mean, are you and I the only two people commenting regularly who have read PZ’s social justice/politics posts and noticed that FtB in general deals with these issues?

    Wait, you’re supposed to read PZ’s posts? That’s not the way group think is supposed to work, is it?
    Aren’t we all supposed to just agree with everything PZ says, and pretend like we don’t have minds of our own that just happen to agree with PZ on many issues?

  86. says

    … its very existence does make dismissing social justice issues more costly.

    Good. Hiding behind atheism/skepticism/”rational thought” to dismiss the very real concerns of marginalized groups should absolutely come at a high cost.

    (*Note to the whiners that feel they’re being excluded: if you’re not actively dismissing social justice concerns, then I’m not talking about you, even if you don’t want to be a part of A+/Ethical Atheism.*)

  87. Abdul Alhazred says

    … I just have to repeat my last sentence in slightly bigger print …

    Poor old PZ is having a “the fools will not obey” day. :)

  88. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Yes, Audley. It is good that it makes dismissing SJ more costly. I’m in favor of that. Just wanted to point out the reality that there is, actually, an implicit cultural judgment (there’s no way for there not to be; that’s how human culture works) they’re reacting against. For me it makes it a little easier—though no less irksome—to understand their motivations. There’s nothing that can be said to such people though. So long as they’re in reactance mode they’re not going to stop melting down. Oh well. Moving on.

  89. Amphiox says

    Notice how in my first post I took care to say CT’s comments rather than CT itself? You know, making the distinction between the odious nature of the words and person who could have said them without recognizing or intending the implication?

    It rather rapidly became clear that I needn’t have bothered, didn’t it?

  90. says

    Josh:

    Just wanted to point out the reality that there is, actually, an implicit cultural judgment (there’s no way for there not to be; that’s how human culture works) they’re reacting against.

    Yes! Of course.

    I’m still confused by the “I’m not against it, but I just don’t want to label myself” nonsense going on though.

  91. consciousness razor says

    I like it. He’s laid out a lot of important points there.

    And I like “Ethical Atheism” too. It’s a little more descriptive at least. “Atheism Plus” sounds like it could be a soft drink or an iphone app or something.

  92. says

    Audley:

    I mean, are you and I the only two people commenting regularly who have read PZ’s social justice/politics posts and noticed that FtB in general deals with these issues?

    I’m pretty sure we aren’t, but you wouldn’t know it, going by some people’s input on the matter.

  93. says

    Amphiox:

    It rather rapidly became clear that I needn’t have bothered, didn’t it?

    I wouldn’t say that, no. CT is a worthwhile person and only recently began speaking up here. While the protests are annoying, I do think it’s worth the time to be a little more patient in this case and work to get your point through.

  94. consciousness razor says

    I’m still confused by the “I’m not against it, but I just don’t want to label myself” nonsense going on though.

    Sometimes it might just be the name. I’m not fond of some of them, just for aesthetic reasons, or because I think it won’t be effective at sending the right message across to other people. (“Brights” is a prime example.)

    Or some of it could be fear that once you label yourself, the label is stuck. So if you mostly agree, then something comes along that you should be against, it’s too late. Or something. If they don’t submit to the demands of a label (sarcasm alert!), they can safely be “right” all the time by never having taken a stand against anything.

  95. says

    CR:

    If they don’t submit to the demands of a label (sarcasm alert!), they can safely be “right” all the time by never having taken a stand against anything.

    I think this is very much the root of the problem and protests.

  96. David Marjanović says

    Amphiox, you’re quite the asshole for insisting that CT must be a reactionary on so little evidence.

    CT, when we try to label you as an “Atheist+” or “Ethical Atheist” or whatever, that doesn’t mean you have to embrace that label, buy a bumper sticker with it or anything.

    That’s one of the issues I have against religion: the idea that human beings are going to fit into neat little ethical categories of “saved” and “damned” with no hard calls or gray areas and everything exactly fair.

    Catholicism: 1) purgatory – which can be extended all the way to the idea that hell is actually empty; 2) insistence that nobody but God knows whether you can still be saved, and whether you’re safe from damnation.

  97. says

    cr:

    Or some of it could be fear that once you label yourself, the label is stuck.

    Sure, the label is stuck, but most of the time it is so broad that specifics aren’t known by the label alone, you know? For example: I’m a feminist. By that label, can anyone tell if I’m a radfem? Or a third-wave feminist? Am I sex positive or negative? Is my focus on abortion/family planning, income inequality, sexual violence, the plight of women in Afghanistan or something else?

    I guess I’m saying that anyone who’s squirrely about A+ should realize that 1) the focus isn’t terribly narrow in the first place and 2) the focus will naturally broaden over time, anyway.

  98. Amblebury says

    Louis, Louis, Louis. How much more disciplining is it going to take before the knowledge that willies aren’t mandatory for rugby club membership is embedded?! Really. My arm is getting sore.

    What Caine said:

    Maybe you’ve missed a few posts, but it has been clearly stated, multiple times that A+ or Ethical Atheism or Secular Atheism or Atheist Humanists or whatever the heck you wanna call it, is strictly opt-in.

    If you don’t specifically endorse it, it is not assumed you are against it. FFS, this has also been repeatedly said and clarified.

    This is me. Politically, I’m what is known as a “floating voter.” That means, at certain times, and with regard to certain issues, I align myself with the movement that I feel best fits with my own inclinations. I intelligently (I hope) assess issues or stances on their merits, and act accordingly. The option of opting in, the lack of disapproval for choosing to remain aloof, is for me, a hugely significant part of the ethos and appeal of secularism/ humanism/ A+.

  99. abb3w says

    @84, Skatje Myers

    According to the manifesto, “We should seek to minimize suffering and maximize flourishing of sentient beings, and to treat ourselves and other sentient beings fairly and justly.”

    Ah. That clarifies. I anticipate some irritating arguments fielded by the vegans, shortly.

    Another can of worms involves the distinction within of fairness of reciprocity and equitability; and “justice” vs “injustice” either confuses law with goodness, or looks a lot like the same good/bad ordering on is/ought from another angle.

    But, it will probably play pretty well, among atheists who are outside of hard-core philosophical circles.

    @ibid:

    And to your other point, the most specific it seems to get for the cross from is to ought appears to be the premise (paraphrasing) “What we ought to do is what we are naturally inclined to do”:
    Morality and ethics are products of our brains, part of the natural evolution of generations of living together as sentient beings. They are based on natural ideas such as compassion, reciprocity and justice.

    This seems to involve the basic “natural=good” confusion, which ignores things like natural arsenic, the edge-case from the fraction of humans having a natural inclination to homicidal mania, and the non-edge case of the largish fraction of human males with horribly aggressive tendencies towards women. In fact, “natural=good” is the essence of confusing “is” and “ought”.

    Alternately, it may be not an equivalence, but subset — “good ⊆ natural”. But that leaves the question of what the limiting iff-membership character of the subset is. Alternately, explicit enumeration leaves the question of whether the enumeration is comprehensive — at which point, Haidt’s empirical research becomes a major weapon for reactionary troglodytes.

    Now, if you skip the bit about “natural”, it seems a bit stronger: work directly from the enumerated ideas of compassion, reciprocity, and justice (though the last seems too imprecise). Of course, that seems to presume that the evolution of those ideas is complete, or does not address how they could/will/ought(?) to evolve in the future.

    That might tend play pretty well among atheists, outside of hard-core philosophical circles. However, I expect there’s several places for philosophical attack from the theist brigades. Plausibly, critique from the fundie brigades about how can you have ethics without God, and really stupid “Social Darwinism” stuff; while the Catholic theologians are more likely to argue that it’s effectively a Natural Law argument, which therefore points to God’s hand in Nature.

    In software terms: it does seem an incremental beta release, but still buggy.

    YMMV….

  100. grumpy1942 says

    I’m with PZ; I don’t care what you call it either, as long as you believe in and work for social justice. With this one tiny objection:

    I’ve already added a ‘+’ to my ‘A’ tattoo.

  101. abb3w says

    @62, PZ Myers:

    I just have to repeat my last sentence in slightly bigger print, if you don’t mind.
    I really don’t care what label you attach to it — secular humanism, atheism+, ethical atheism — as long as you support the values behind it.

    My hesitation is more over about the vagueness to seeming underlying commonalities to those values. I think there’s the potential to get to an explicit and extremely exact, unified, and parsimonious is-ought bridge, from which the other values can all be derived as implications — or at least approximations. (With the catch being, that if they’re only approximations, that means those principles might in very particular cases indicate immoral choices instead of moral ones. Which is certain to be upsetting, to someone whose taken an approximation as an unquestionable absolute.)

    It seems analogous to focused interest in an underlying unified theory, rather than using the existing set of kludges to immediately try to build stuff that might work. Screw the vacuum tubes, I want to transistorize?

    But trying to get philosophy to that sort of exactitude seems rather an uphill climb.

  102. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    abb3w:

    My hesitation is more over about the vagueness to seeming underlying commonalities to those values.

    I may not be following you here but what’s vague about advocating for equality between the sexes? Or equal rights for queers? Or advocating for fair and equal treatment of all people regardless of their age or what they can/cannot do physically?

    I guess I’m not wired to understand why anyone would be opposed to advancing equality for all based upon critical thinking, reason, logic and evidence based science.

  103. consciousness razor says

    Sure, the label is stuck,

    I don’t think it necessarily is, just saying perhaps that’s part of their concern.

    but most of the time it is so broad that specifics aren’t known by the label alone, you know?

    If it’s so broad that it basically doesn’t mean anything in general, much less in terms of specific positions, that’s a problem, because it’s hardly a label at all.

    For example, Carrier made a good general case for the basic concepts and values he thinks are underlying A+ (or whatever it’s called), leaving room for some disagreement so there could be a variety of different positions and ways of achieving more or less the same things. You do know quite a bit, if someone is basically supportive of that. And without something along those lines — if it’s not much more than “we want to do good stuff” or “I like social justice” — what’s more important is that there’s no way to tell what is or isn’t a valid approach to the issues the movement is trying to address, or even what counts as a legitimate issue. Writing lists of things we care about is useful in its own way, but it’s not doing any of the work of justifying what goes on those lists or why.

    I guess I’m saying that anyone who’s squirrely about A+ should realize that 1) the focus isn’t terribly narrow in the first place and 2) the focus will naturally broaden over time, anyway.

    Like I said, I wouldn’t consider #1 a good thing, necessarily. But I guess I’m squirrely in a different sort of way than the kind of jackasses who’ve been whining about it a lot. I’m not exactly sure what you mean by #2.

    ———

    I anticipate some irritating arguments fielded by the vegans, shortly.

    Too late. I mentioned that veganism was implied by something someone else wrote, and that was “irritating” enough (for all involved, I’m sure). I’d like to say I anticipated that some people would make irritating remarks about their anticipation.

  104. John Morales says

    [meta]

    dougittner:

    Don’t fall in line with a new phrase promoting ethics and get called an ‘asshole’. How classy and hypocritical.

    And, by not “falling in line”, you mean this: “I’m guessing some people gave a lot of thought to what people could waste time about bitching on blogs ever since the elevator issue died down.”

    (To what hypocrisy do you refer, other than your own, O whiner-on-blogs? :) )

  105. says

    John Morales,

    My comment was about how additional labels just divide communities and another label is just unnecessary. Looking over the various FTB I see how there are numerous blog posts and a lot of commentary and arguments.

    Since I didn’t toe the line and sign up to divide the Atheist community I get called an asshole by one claiming to be a supporter of Ethical Atheism which, as part of it’s agenda, is to promote caring, inclusive groups.

    If PZ wants to be a bully on his blog, it’s his prerogative, it just proves my point.

  106. Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish says

    dougittner wrote:

    My comment was about how additional labels just divide communities and another label is just unnecessary.

    It’s always interesting how some people judge what is and isn’t necessary based entirely on their own needs, rather than considering the needs of others.

    But how, exactly, is it ‘dividing’ the atheist community? Has anyone who disagrees with A+ renounced their atheism and affirmed a belief in god(s)?

    If PZ wants to be a bully on his blog, it’s his prerogative, it just proves my point.

    Oh, there are points it proves, all right; yours, however, is not amongst them.

  107. says

    I’m not on board for A+ but am for the values…I’m also not going nuts over the idea

    *because I don’t buy beta and am waiting to see if it becomes a thing first or fades away. Also I have questions on the value of rationalism now

  108. Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish says

    Ing wrote:

    I’m not on board for A+ but am for the values…I’m also not going nuts over the idea

    What? WHAT?

    And you say that here, with no fear? Haven’t you heard what Russell Blackford said? That we will HUNT YOU DOWN?

    Really, I’m with PZ on this – as, I suspect, is pretty much everyone else involved – in being completely okay with people who neither want to identify specifically with the name or even participate directly in shaping it.

    The only real ‘enemies’ A+ has are the genuine assholes. But of course the genuine assholes want everyone else to think that A+ is something it’s not; I just hope those believing the bullshit scaremongering bother to actually look into it.

  109. says

    Wowbagger,

    It divides in the sense that different Christian sects divide. As for the current slew of new labels, it’s just as bad. If one didn’t follow the crowd and call themselves a Bright, Atheism + or Ethical Atheist what does that make them? Dim, Atheism negative, unethical Atheist? Perhaps we can progress and disqualify people as not being True Atheists because they don’t match up to the purity test.

    Not matching up to the ‘purity test’ of being an Atheist is pretty simple, you disqualify if you believe in a god. However, based upon a list over at Blag Hag, it’s envisioned that the new label will encompass a number of political issues. I got called an asshole for merely being tired of a new label, I can imagine the hate someone will get for not following the bandwagon on whatever viewpoints are deemed necessary for inclusion.

    Alas, I’ve spent enough time on this issue. Take it as you will. This ‘asshole’ has to get back to working on fundraisers for a women’s shelter and Planned Parenthood. You know, the thing Asshole Atheists do.

  110. says

    dougittner:

    As for dividing, please see this comment.

    As for the rest of your complaints, if all you wish to do is whine, yeah, you’ll hear asshole. In all seriousness, no one cares what you call yourself or whether or not you support social justice issues. Do whatever it is you want to do and stop moaning at the rest of us, eh?

  111. Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish says

    dougittner wrote:

    It divides in the sense that different Christian sects divide.

    Except that Christianity claims to represent the wishes of an infallible God – and therefore any sectarianism undermines that claim, particularly when there’s no objective means of determining which sect is the ‘correct’ one.

    Atheism, ‘+’ or otherwise, does not make claims of infallibility.

    If one didn’t follow the crowd and call themselves a Bright, Atheism + or Ethical Atheist what does that make them? Dim, Atheism negative, unethical Atheist?

    Why would it? Why do you assume that someone else applying a label to themself is in any way making a reference to you? If I told you I was a tea-drinking atheist, would you assume I’m being derogatory towards those who didn’t drink tea? If not, why not? It’s the same logic.

    Perhaps we can progress and disqualify people as not being True Atheists because they don’t match up to the purity test.

    When this happens, you should feel free to criticise it. In the meantime, I suggest you read what people have already written and said (many, many, many times) that no-one is disqualifying anyone from anything; they are created a label to be self-applied, and which is opt-in, i.e. if you wish to call yourself that because you see those goals as your own, then you are welcome to.

    I suspect the worst thing the A+ people are going to do about people who don’t agree with them is they’ll ignore them. That’s all. What else can they do, exactly?

    However, based upon a list over at Blag Hag, it’s envisioned that the new label will encompass a number of political issues.

    Yes, it will. Issues that people who are atheists feel strongly about, and want to do something about. Hence, Atheism plus.

    I got called an asshole for merely being tired of a new label,

    That much I can understand. Whining at someone about being tired of something that – as you yourself admit – is new is pretty assholish behaviour after all.

    Also, remember what many of the people who are pushing A+ are doing it for: because they’ve been on the receiving end of an almost unceasing shitstorm of hate, scorn, dishonesty and threats. That they mightn’t be prepared to take every criticism as genuine, honest disagreement is not unreasonable under the circumstances.

    This ‘asshole’ has to get back to working on fundraisers for a women’s shelter and Planned Parenthood. You know, the thing Asshole Atheists do.

    I’m glad you do those things, as I’m sure is everyone else involved in A+. And I’m sorry to hear you’re buying into the bullshit scaremongering of the genuine assholes out there, since it’s only in their minds that anyone in A+ is going to consider that asshole behaviour.

  112. drummer25 says

    Forget about the name for the time being.

    Step 1. Let those interested submit to PZ the principles they would like included in the movement’s aims. At the end of, say a month, let PZ (and whoever) hold their ‘constitutional conference’ and issue the list of aims.

    Step 2. Publish the possible names for the movement and let people vote on their preference.

    Step 3. Accept the majority decisions on ‘what’, quit arguing and start working towards ‘how’.

  113. Nightjar says

    I’m not on board for A+ but am for the values…I’m also not going nuts over the idea

    *because I don’t buy beta and am waiting to see if it becomes a thing first or fades away

    Oh, me too. I’m still thinking about it and I’m not terribly excited either. Seeing where it goes and all that.

    Still, I’m tired as hell of the whiners who think the very idea of some atheists forming a group is insulting to them, personally. It may not the best strategy, or the best label, or it may not go anywhere, or whatever. Insulting to people who are in favour of social justice but don’t want to join for whatever reason? No. Insulting to people who are against social justice? Good.

  114. abb3w says

    @114, Tony •King of the Hellmouth•:

    I may not be following you here

    Yup. You’re not.

    The seeming vagueness is not in the values.
    The vagueness seems in what is the commonality that unites those values.

    Or at least, I think there is some potential unifying is-ought bridge principle as to why these values are “good”, and there certainly seems the intent for one. However, and if so, that bit still seems fuzzy down at the philosophical underpinnings.

    (A neat and plausible suggestion would be “equality⊆good”. However, I have deep and abiding suspicion of accepting that as an absolute principle, since it potentially also leads to the cult of ignorance problem — which Ken Ham would seem more fond of than PZ, since it would help raise up the ignorance of the former to be the equal the expertise of the latter.)

    As I implied earlier, however, the is-ought problem seems one of the biggest, oldest, toughest nuts in philosophy. I suspect that working with some vague, fuzzy kludges to get things done now is more practical than waiting for the sort of rigorous grand unified moral theory. It would be really really sweet if it could be done, turned into a nice neat label, and get deployed like the atomic bomb to punctuate WWII-Pacific. But that ain’t happening.

  115. CT Chimako.27 says

    David Marjanović
    28 August 2012 at 3:03 pm
    CT, when we try to label you as an “Atheist+” or “Ethical Atheist” or whatever, that doesn’t mean you have to embrace that label, buy a bumper sticker with it or anything.

    I realize that. The point that I was trying to make, which BTW had ZERO to do with PZ, was that despite what the leaders say, a lot, not *all*, of the followers seem to think that if I don’t wholeheartedly join in the movement or wtfever it is, that I must be a privileged asswipe who is anti- insert whatever here. My comment was to the *other* commenters, NOT to PZ which points out the *failure* of having discussions in blog comment threads. And of course my point is made without even trying very hard when someone posts that of course I’m commenting as a privileged asswipe because if I wasn’t a privileged asshat I wouldn’t be posting my irritation with some followers of the movement. And that is *ALL* I was doing, was trying to comment about my irritation and frankly anger.

    Should anybody give two shits about me and my irritation? fuck no. I’m just a white trash nobody from south hicksville usa. As PZ pointed out in his ever so thoughtful 40 pt font comment, the only comments that matters are his. and for all I fucking know, he’s probably right.

  116. says

    For a record I’ve been vocal meh about A+ here and have never had anything mean said about me. I have however been hounded with great venom by A.ssholes over NOT being against A+ because they presume that any disagreement from their view means you’re A+ and an enemy.