I had some fun yesterday poking a stick at the anti-atheist+ mob on twitter. It was actually revealing: it became increasingly obvious that the people who really, really hate atheism+ are authoritarians who simply cannot imagine an egalitarian movement — even when they are already part of one. There was so much projection going on I was wondering how such low-wattage bulbs could be pretentious enough to think they could cast light on anything.
But let me show you a few examples to illustrate what I mean. These are all quotes from people who were yammering at me; pseudonyms have been removed to protect the stupid.
Ah – but therein lies the problem – who is the official #atheismplus endorser / keeper of dogma? @Pzmyers?
Why are #atheismplus cardinals @pzmyers & Richard Carrier privileged old white men?
There was a lot of that: apparently, these people cannot relate unless there is a boss to talk to somewhere. They cannot comprehend an organization without a dictator, therefore atheism+ has a secret dictator somewhere. They cannot understand how an idea could be advanced without being treated as dogma, therefore atheism+ is dogma.
I have a surprise for them: I’m not a member of the Atheism+ forum. I am not a leader of this movement; I have no position in it at all. I like the idea and I’m happy to encourage people to explore it, and I’ve long been pushing ideas similar to what has coalesced as the atheism+ movement, but I’m not even remotely “in charge”. And that’s the way I like it.
I am deeply amused by the idiot who thought he could point out the hypocrisy of a movement that values diversity by announcing that two privileged old white men are in charge. We’re not. He could only make that claim by ignoring the fact that the person who triggered the whole process and has put in a lot of organizational effort was a privileged young white woman, Jen McCreight, and the person who has been promoting it most wonderfully is a privileged middle-aged white bisexual woman, Greta Christina.
And then there is this level of cluelessness.
#atheismplus is @pzmyers and @rebeccawatson egos personified.
As I’ve explained, I’m not a member of atheism+ and am not engaged as a leader in any way. Similarly, Rebecca Watson has expressed interest and sympathy with its goals, but is not on the bandwagon. But apparently, we are two great villains, so the people who hate atheism+ imagine that it must be a reflection of our desires. How pathetic.
Another theme that emerged is that, when I said there isn’t a person in charge of atheism+ telling you what to think, well then, it can’t work. Without an authority defining every last nuance, it’s going to fall into endless schism.
I’m pointing out that a label is meaningless if people have multiple interpretations of what it is.
How do you not understand that nobody deciding what Atheism+ is makes it meaningless?
If there’s no leadership/hierarchy, who decides what Atheism+ stands for?
Like, umm, the word “atheist”? There is a straightforward dictionary definition of that word, of course, but one thing you quickly discover if you actually interact with a lot of atheists is that the meaning in practice varies a lot. I have met atheists who believe in reincarnation; atheists who think Chopra is on to something with his ‘universal consciousness’ claims; atheists who are activists and atheists who just want to be left alone; angry anti-religion atheists and atheists who want to build a church of atheism; stupid atheists and smart atheists; philosophical atheists and pragmatic atheists. We’ve got Atheist Alliance and American Atheists and CFI and the American Humanist Association, all promoting atheism with subtle differences in emphasis.
Does that make atheism meaningless? Of course not. I’ve been telling people for years that there is a diverse world of atheism out there, with different causes and different consequences. And I’ve been against this contrary and irrational effort to pretend they’re all the same.
By the way, this very same person who is demanding a single, specific definition of every interpretation of atheism+ also said this:
Agreeing with people 100% is a hivemind. It’s not healthy. Disagreements are good.
Get that? It’s not healthy to have a “hivemind”, defined as a situation where people are in agreement on something. But atheism+ is bad because it tolerates multiple interpretations. I don’t know how his brain keeps from exploding.
This guy also has a problem:
They should certainly drop “#atheism” from the name because a+ implies telling us what to believe.
Somehow, he’s able to embrace “atheism” without this terrible crime of the label telling him what to believe, but stick a “+” on it, and suddenly it becomes a dictatorial imperative.
Do the atheism+ haters understand yet that it is entirely opt-in, that people join because they find its causes appealing? And that you don’t have to join? And that it just states a general emphasis on social justice issues, and isn’t going to micro-manage your life? No, they do not.
Possibility: “I’m an Atheist+” “Oh, which brand?” “Brand?” “Carrier’s? Jen’s? Dawkins? Dillahunty’s? Which?”
That was an amazing comment, so revealing. My answer: “Mine. Yours.” I really do not understand a mind that cannot imagine taking an idea for its own, but instead demanding that a charismatic leader tell him exactly what it means. Somebody has been thoroughly poisoned by religion, that’s for sure.
Here’s what atheism+ means, as defined on the official atheism+ page. This is about as specific as it’s going to get.
Atheism+ is a safe space for people to discuss how religion affects everyone and to apply skepticism and critical thinking to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, GLBT issues, politics, poverty, and crime.
You can see where it came from: it’s in part a reaction against the modern skepticism movement, which invests a lot of effort in putting up fences and telling you what you’re allowed to talk about under the umbrella of skepticism. It’s also a reaction to people shouting at atheists that they should shut up and stop talking about issues like sexual harassment, because it’s not important. So some people have stepped up and said, “We’re people who think social justice is important, and that secular thought has much to say about it. So we’re creating a space where like-minded people can talk freely about it.”
And the assholes creep out of the woodwork to find excuses to tell these people, indirectly, that applying critical thinking to social issues is bad. Oh, they can’t come right out and say that, of course, because that would make their stupidity obvious; so they invent bizarre excuses that it doesn’t have a pope, therefore it can’t work, or that it’s hypocritical because it made an old white man a cardinal, or that its a movement that is “divisive” — a favorite word in that crowd — as if their raging sexism and unconcern for broader social issues weren’t already divisive. And as if division weren’t a good thing — seriously, if an organization does not serve your interests, leave it or lobby it to do a better job. I left the church when I was 14; my atheism was “divisive”. Was that a bad thing?
Another theme of the day was the oppressive nature of atheism+. They’re going to have purges! I’ve heard this so many times, and I ask my usual question: who is going to purge you of what, and how are they going to do it? I mean, it’s not as if the atheist+ crowd has power over you or any aspect of your life, or that they’ve threatened to spray paint your property and shoot your dog. The first action Jen took was to set up a discussion board, not a standing army.
So, all you anti-atheist+ people, I challenge you: tell me what will happen to you if you don’t join atheism+? (Oh, and keep in mind that I haven’t ‘joined’ anything either; I’m more sympathetic than you are, but you won’t find my name on the atheism+ forum, yet.)
Here are the only answers that they came up with.
You don’t see it that way? The whole “Come to Atheism+ or we’ll leave you?” Carrier’s “Join us or we’ll never be friends?” Etc.?
Those evil atheist+ fanatics might unfriend you on facebook if you don’t join! Rarely has a tyranny had such awesome instruments of coercion. That’s really all we’ve got; we can decide you’re an asshole because you don’t share our values, and we can stop associating with you. Everyone does that. It’s not a special power, it is not the application of force.
And then they cite Jen:
From Jen McCreight: “Demand that your organizations and clubs evolve, or start your own if they refuse.” That’s a “must” attitude.
Yes, it is. If you want me to be part of your organization, it must reflect my interests; you could change to better address what I consider important, or I won’t join. That’s not a purge. That’s the nature of a voluntary association. What’s the alternative? “Jen, I’m sorry, we don’t think feminism matters and we really would like to gnaw on your leg, but you don’t get to leave our meetings.” That’s a totalitarian attitude, that you think you can tell us who are friends and associates must be, and that no one is allowed to reject an overture to pal up.
Are you that desperate to make Jen or Richard or me like you?
Conspiracy theorists showed up, too.
I’m surprised at how many people are trying to lie that it’s about a subset & not about taking over groups like JREF
Again, what are the mechanics of this? How does setting up a special interest group within atheism with a focus on humanist goals lead to the takeover of JREF? That makes no sense.
It’s like arguing that Doctors Without Borders has a secret agenda to take over the entire medical profession. Or that the Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology is an evil scheme to take over IEEE.
This same guy also reflected the authoritarian theme of all the other opponents:
Listen up douchebag, U make UR wages off of people like me. Don’t tell US what to think, we tell U what to do. Got it?
Oh. Gosh. So because the state pays significantly less than half my salary so that I will perform a service, random jerk on the internet ‘owns’ me and has the right to order me to do his bidding. When did teachers become slaves?
You get the idea. I spent an hour arguing with really stupid people. But then, I’ve spent even more time arguing with creationists, so I’m used to it.