Atheism+: It’s time to walk the walk

Hundreds of you are excited about Atheism+. I’m excited about A+. This is our chance for a new wave of atheism – a wave that’s more than a dictionary definition about not believing in gods. This is our chance for progressive atheists to come together and deal with issues that we see as a natural part of our godlessness.

But we need more than just a catchy name and a logo. We need to get shit done.

This new wave of atheism isn’t about declaring “We’ve already achieved something better” or “We’re not like those assholes.” You don’t just get your shiny membership pin and get to say you’re done. This is about saying “We want to work TOWARDS something better.” We need to recognize that there’s still room for self-improvement and to address the root of why we’ve been having these problems in atheism and skepticism. We need to focus on actual change instead of prematurely crowning ourselves victorious.

We need a plan.

So consider this an open thread on what you would like to see come out of a new wave of atheism. What issues should we be addressing and how? What actions should we be taking? How can we prevent this from having the same exact flaws that worried us enough to call for a new wave?

To start us off, here are some issues I envision A+ addressing from a secular, skeptical perspective:

  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Transphobia
  • Ableism
  • Classism
  • Ageism
  • Neurotypicalism
  • Animal welfare
  • Environmental issues
  • Political issues (Health care, crime, drug laws)

And as I said in my original post, I had been brainstorming with people to start a secular social justice organization. Our original tentative name was the Secular Alliance for Equality (SAFE) but we could always go with Atheism+ since that seemed to organically resonate with people. We envisioned ourselves as an umbrella group like the Secular Student Alliance that could provide services that help other groups become more welcoming and progressive. Here are some practical actions we came up with:

  • Providing basic anti-harassment policies that can be adopted and adapted by secular groups
  • Providing “101” educational primers on privilege, intersectionality, proper language, etc
  • Providing guides for making your groups and events more welcoming, diverse, and accessible
  • Providing event planning resources and ideas
  • Providing a diverse speakers bureau
  • Encouraging conferences and groups to increase speaker and topic diversity
  • Holding workshops about social justice and diversity at conferences
  • Organizing national events around progressive issues (for example, getting as many groups as possible to participate in gay pride parades)
  • Working alongside other existing organizations that share our values (like humanists!)
  • Writing blog posts/press releases about relevant issues
  • Providing a safe, moderated community for discussion – Facebook, forum, blog comments, r/atheismplus (which already exists! check it out!)

I can’t stress how important it is that we actively work toward true improvement instead of patting ourselves on the back and declaring ourselves enlightened. I also desperately want to hear from people with as many different backgrounds as possible. As a cis, middle class, white person, I have my own privileges. I can’t unilaterally declare what would be best for a progressive atheist movement. So please – brainstorm in the comments so we can truly start to make change happen.


  1. says

    I think there are other political issues that should be included. For example I think we should champion social issues outside of the ones listed as well. For example, economic inequalities.

  2. Icaarus says

    How about evidence based policy and platform justifications? Which in and of itself will circle back to that great list above.

  3. Shirley Portegys says

    Jen, I will do what I am able to help. Animal welfare is a big issue for me, as well as homophobia. I think there is room in here, also, for issues dealing with disabilites–both mental and physical–and atheist activism.

  4. says

    In the vein of “privilege 101,” I’d like to see something like a safe space where people can talk about those issues. So long as they don’t start flame wars, it would be judgement free.

    People will be most willing to consider new ideas if they don’t feel looked-down-upon for putting forward arguments which many people are tired of responding to.

    I dunno, just a thought. Not really expressing it well I think.

  5. says

    Educating on privilege should be our #1 priority, I think. It’s a great way for us to toss out that we are open and inclusive, because we actually look at our shit and try to sort it out.

  6. says

    This certainly ticks all my boxes, but no list is exhaustive, so I’d like to push for a mission statement of civility and open-mindedness; participants should feel secure in bringing social justice issues to the table that have not been explicitly identified, and the default setting for the group should be genuine listening rather than charges of mission drift.

    I’m excited!

  7. morgan says

    Economic inequality was the first issue that came to my mind and it is a huge, huge, huge one. If we can begin a solid, active grassroots method of approach we will have started a true revolution. This will not be at all easy, or quick. Let’s do it.

  8. Entrained says

    I think these are all great issues. I am curious how these will be adopted and become part of the mission of SCA, AA, FFRF , SSA The RDF and the other organizations and if they don’t then what happens? The reason I ask is because I have yet to see an affirmative response from any of the group directors adopting these views but I may have missed it.

  9. Jeremy says

    I was looking down your list of issues I realized they lend themselves well to labels. But not to “Atheism+.” You would never label yourself “Atheist+ableist+ sexist.” But you would use “Atheist-ableist-sexist.” My suggestion is that you use “Atheist-minus” as a nice counterweight to this new label. We may be forsaking a big tent, but we are adding by subtraction. We are shedding old baggage. We are showing that, if you are any of these things, don’t bother calling yourself “Atheist-plus.”

    And yes, I do recognize some level of exclusivity and “No True Scotsman” there. But something has to be done.

  10. Matt says

    I am much more concerned with being a good person than I am with being an atheist. We need to focus on philosophy and understanding the limits of our experiences. We cannot know what it is like to be anything or anyone else. For the males, and those in positions of privilege, you cannot know what it is like to spend your entire life viewed as prey.

    “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” – Arthur Schopenhauer.

    Skepticism and humanism neither starts with, nor ends with, a disbelief in god. The cognitive tools you use to interact with the world are much more important than the conclusions they lead you to.


  11. Carlie says

    First thought is not to bite off too much. Most of those are the same problem with different manifestations: all stem from thinking culture is biology, from believing people are worth more or less depending on their bodies or incomes, from not realizing the biases we have. I’d like to see tackling of those broader themes first, and then everything else follows naturally.

  12. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Providing “101″ educational primers on privilege, intersectionality, proper language, etc

    At least one easily linked to, fairly comprehensive index of such, rather than having to take a crapshoot of googling, say, feminism concepts and hoping you don’t get MRA sites (or having to stop and exhaustively vet every “basic concepts” link you try to toss out in an argument).

  13. says

    I think reaching out to help educate folks who may not have had that much emphasis based on critical thinking and sciences. I say that because as a woman of (almost) 32 it is only been the last couple of years that I took a step forward out of just being an atheist and decided to sharpen my critical thinking skills which were severely lacking.

    I was an atheist because I simply didn’t believe fairy tales were true, and felt no connection to religion. Not because I knowingly applied critical thinking to religion. I was still in to woo for many years. Only recently did I discover skepticism.

    We need to empower people on how to think. And give them a safe space for figuring things out. Not laugh at them when they say they’ve been receiving chiropractic care or healing touch, but rather help them with resources as to why that may not be the best care for them.

    I’d like to see more support systems for people who need empowerment after coming out of religion. So many people who think that a god has controlled everything for them. They need help to see what valuable and bright people they are. That they are completely capable of being in control of their own lives.

    I don’t want people like me or the ones coming from religion to be looked down upon in our community because we may not have a stellar background in science. Or even a college education. We are trying to change that now and need support.

  14. says

    Right on! What’s super important is that we listen to and take the lead from the people most directly affected by the specific issue on the table. Better to ask “Can we help? If so, what can we best do to add our numbers to your efforts?” rather than to tell people “Here’s our help on our terms, take it or leave it.” And if there’s nothing those people want or need from us, we don’t turn sour over it.

  15. marismae says

    I love this idea – especially the idea of blog posts and forum discussion based around atheist+ issues. Wish I could offer some kind of help or support in addition to my enthusiasm! But I’m willing to help try and moderate a forum of some sort. And/or search for relevant news articles and issues that could be posted about.

  16. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Actually, some kind of centrally located but ground-up implemented information thingy would help with a lot of these issues.

  17. says

    Agreed. I’ve always found it baffling that we don’t expect more data from our policy makers, at least where it is relevant/available.

    Additionally, reality-based thinking around policy should be right up the average atheist’s alley. Like, go science and stuff.

  18. Abbie says

    Some kind of internationalism, since patriotism is irrational? And definitely economic inequality.

  19. PQA says

    I would like to the development of resources and ideas around parenting and atheism. As a parent of a toddler it is something I think about all the time. Raising the next generation of skeptics is key to me and I would love more resources discussions on how to do this. Is their a parenting board for atheist parents? Are their road maps out there for how to do this?

  20. SoRefined says

    Besides guides for increasing inclusivity and diversity in groups and at events, an undertaking like this needs to include active outreach to groups currently under or not at all reflected in the dominant public face of atheism and active rejection of any kind of tokenism.

  21. 'Tis Himself says

    Rorschach’s blog “Furious Purpose” has some thought on this:

    It’s a new movement of people who apply critical thinking and rationalism to all the world around them, and who are willing to listen to those who perceive the world differently and have different experiences. People who will not feel threatened by the realisation that they have privilege by being for example white or heterosexual, and people who can see beyond their desire to gnaw at women’s ankles at conferences. But this new movement also needs new rules, a set of values and social behaviours that are widely accepted and enforced. MRAs and misogynists can learn and adapt, and they should be given the chance to do so, and people new to the movement should have a chance to learn what it is about, but at the same time those who can not let go of their privilege and sense of entitlement will have to be told that our movement is not for them.

  22. says

    Another thing for the list should be economic woo. Many in the atheist movement would presumably reject things such as “The Secret” (i.e. the claim that positive thinking mystically attracts success), but entertain libertarian political beliefs (e.g. the invisible hand of the market) that are little better.

  23. says

    Okay, for issues, I’m going to go through the list. What I am focusing on is not the community climate, but rather how well these issues are getting covered in the community that has emerged post-Elevator.


    We’ve damn well got this one covered. We can continue to refine our stances, but I seriously do not think that we need to look at bringing more voices in here. In fact, on a personal level, after a year of Elevatorgate I am getting a bit tired of sexism, and would like to see it withdrawn slightly so that other issues can be given more light.

    Environmental issues

    Honestly? Being that stomping AGW denialists is (mostly) skeptical boilerplate, we have this one sort of covered. All we really need to do is move from citing places like RealClimate to actually getting some climate scientists as allies — which is still a pretty major job.


    These are the next best two, but sexism absolutely runs away with the focus. We have good coverage of homophobia and transphobia, but both — especially transphobia — need some bolstering.


    We’re doing okay here, but, honestly, we could do way better. I see homophobia and transphobia get more prominence than racism, which is something we really should focus on because of its intersectionality with the radical Islamism that Maryam Namazie and others fight so passionately against.

    (I really should have asked Maryam how best to disentangle the truth about radical Islamism from US and Israeli sabre-rattling when I had the chance.)

    Political issues (Health care, crime, drug laws)

    We have good coverage here too, but while it’s improved lately it’s still mostly narrowly focused on secularist issues. That being said, if you want to do a good job here, you need to look no further than Ed Brayton.

    Animal welfare

    NEEDS WAY MORE ATTENTION, especially ableism and neurotypicalism. There’s really almost nothing here.


    I saved this one for last, because I think it’s becoming the new Elephant In The Room.

    Classism affects everything. It affects our ability to gather and discuss, much less actualize the changes that need to be made. There is, furthermore, absolutely no privilege that will equate to, much less override, class privilege. Class trumps everything. It doesn’t matter if you’re a gay transgendered nonbinary radical leftist atheist in a woman’s body if you’re rich, because you’re rich and can just buy yourself a corner of the world and surround yourself with people who won’t hit you on any of those marginalizations.

    It extends beyond the personal, as well. Classism is the construction that perpetuates corporate colonization “investment” in poorer countries that causes their populations to effectively become slave labour, producing our iPads and Nike shoes and what not. The wave of globalization and its associated political ideology, neoliberalism, represent classism writ large; a globe where a cartel of the richest nations benefit greatly at the expense of the poorest natuibs.

    And yet, I do not see any big names in the emerging A+ community that advocate against neoliberalism. I see specific issues dealt with by bloggers who feel passionate about them, but very little in the way of undermining the pithy rationalizations, Sophisticated Economics, Sophisticated Politics, Sophisticated Foreign Policy, and the other forms of sophistry that support neoliberalism and its abuses.

    Such abuses are not restricted to class, either. Neoliberal regimes also promote xenophobic immigration restrictions (as with their dismantling of the social safety net, under the term “reform”) and human rights abuses toward anyone who dares question the neoliberal regime. And in their glorifying of the rich, they could also care less about dismantling other privileges, considering that the neoliberal overlords are almost all white straight Christian men.

    And if we don’t stop neoliberalism really fucking soon, we won’t have to worry about any of the other problems, because the neoliberal overlords will keep heating our planet until we boil away.

  24. nf says

    While I agree with all the proposed positions, I think you’re making this far too broad. At this point it looks more like building a political party platform, which is fine if that’s what you want. I’m concerned that the broad, diverse ideals you are trying to put into this are going to limit movement growth and success. Successful movements tend to work because they have a strong focus.

    Feminists have feminist issues, and focus on those.
    Anti racial groups focus on Racism and focus on those.
    Environmentalists take those issues and focus on them,
    and so on and so forth.

    Currently part of the strength of atheism as a movement is that it maintains a single focus. If you’re going to make it broader than that it needs to be simple. A short statement that prejudicial treatment based on Gender, sexual orientation, race, age (or whatever else) is not acceptable would be better than making an entire series of dogmatic requirements.

  25. says

    I agree that different ones of us can reasonably be concerned with all the things you mentioned; but to the extent that we self-identify as some kind of movement, lets hope that our eagerness will be tempered by remembering that the motivator that we have in common is skepticism. We all of us will have any number of reasons for being pro-feminism, pro-LGBT, etc.; but in our capacity as atheist+s, our reason must be that it makes sense.

    I guess I’m worried that it’s all too easy for H. sapiens to descend into woo when we start getting excited about something.

  26. Paul says

    This seems to have morphed from “how to include women and allow them to feel and be safe at conferences and events” into some kind of dogmatic creed that you need to agree with before you can enter the club.

    I lack a belief in a god or god’s

  27. says

    For those who are interested in working on event planning resources, I’ve had something on the back burner for the last few months. I’ll be pulling it forward very shortly. If you’re interested in having input on that, let me know.

  28. says

    The sooner this movement spreads from out of the conferences and meeting halls and into the local neighborhoods and community centers, the sooner I will believe real change and caring is possible.

    And when we start competing with the local church agendas on my home town block and yours, then I will know the change is really happening.

  29. movablebooklady says

    I’d like to help however I can. I’m in for whatever I can do,and think this is exciting. If you or Stephanie or whoever needs organizing, proofing, editing, etc. just let me know. I’m in western NC and too poor to travel on my own dime but if you want to organize something here, I’ll help. Just let me know. And good luck to all of us.

  30. Johanna says

    How about including fat hatred/phobia? The world needs more evidence-based evaluation (I would call it “debunking” but whatever) of things like “fat is unhealthy,” “calories-in-calories-out,” etc.

  31. Erista (aka Eris) says

    Oh, we so need to do better on trans issues. One of my raging pet peeves is that people run around spouting “LGBT” like it’s some kind of acronym for “lesbian/gay/bisexual.” It’s like the “T” goes POOF! WTF, people, WTF?

    Also, Ableism and Neurotypicalism would please me greatly, as I’m having a lot of trouble with that right now. Soooo much trouble.

  32. GibberishWord1 says

    We can do something about both classism and irrational thinking in our political discourse at the same time:

    Need-based college scholarships.

    How about the atheism+ scholarship fund?

  33. says

    One thing that could be accomplished relatively quickly is a link-clearinghouse for great posts and resources on the 101-topics above. A simple boilerplate webpage for each topic–“Sexism,” “Misogyny,” “Transphobia,” etc.–and links (perhaps with capsulized summaries) to blog posts and other pages that discuss the issues from a skeptical perspective. Immediately I can think of Natalie Reed’s 13 Myths and Misconceptions About Trans Women, and I know there are similar myth-addressing posts for many of the other topics.

    Down the line, I’d like to see (as Sétar suggested above) a Talk.Origins for social justice, with easily-searchable resources on common “-ist” claims and arguments. It would also be nice to have some resources that debunk some of the naturalistic fallacies that underpin various sorts of bigotry, specifically mistaking social conditions (gender roles, poverty, crime) as the result of biology and not society. A simple, minor example might be Rebecca Watson’s post on Ben Radford’s uninformed rant about girls and pink-colored toys.

  34. Erista (aka Eris) says

    But also: the fact that I’m struggling hardcore with not being, er, well, “able” to get through my basic life leaves me unsure as to how I could help. Any suggestions?

  35. Slugger says

    Confused: were you providing a name (“classism”)for extant economic inequalities, or were you “arguing” that to believe in a need for raising people from poverty is “classist”?

  36. Martha says

    I don’t buy this description. It seems to me that Atheism+ is the intersection between atheism and humanism, and these two philosophies are quite natural bedfellows if atheists are to provide a replacement for religious tradition. Being a humanist is far more important to me than is being a atheist, but I like the nooks of combining humanistic values with a vigorous defense of the rights of nonbelievers.

  37. Yukimi says

    More than patriotism,I’d say nationalism, at least in my country, it’s the main problem.

  38. sarahm says

    I’ve always thought education could fix anything and this list of actions seems to cover that well. Basic resources for event planning could be a priority because putting together some contact lists for speaker diversification would be easy yet also create immediate impact. Perhaps later on (maybe much later), grants for speaker travel costs could be made available. There’s nothing like seeing someone in the flesh to create some empathy.

  39. says

    Hi, all—newbie reader and first time commenter here, and Jen, I think what you’re doing is excellent.

    I’ve loved watching the “atheism plus” idea unfold over the past few days, and I’m excited to see where it goes. I’d put atheism on the back burner of “things I care about” largely because I felt it was more important to argue with people about feminist issues, etc. than it was to argue about whether or not god(s) exist. So, A+ is very appealing to me as a way to get back to being more engaged with the atheist community without (I hope) feeling pressured into an “atheism first, everything else later” mindset.

    Anyway, my two cents about how to “walk the walk”: reaching out to the communities who have been marginalized by the mainstream atheism community should be a high priority. This will not only be a good test of everyone’s intention to engage respectfully with those who aren’t white, cis, men; it will also help ensure that further action on the many issues raised by Jen and others will be at least partially guided and informed by those with personal understanding of those same issues.

    For example, as a woman, I’m comfortable talking about the intersection of feminism and atheism, but only to the extent that my white, cis privilege allows, and I would feel presumptuous to start taking action related to racism and cissexim without input from people of color and the LGBTQ community.

  40. consciousness razor says

    And as I said in my original post, I had been brainstorming with people to start a secular social justice organization. Our original tentative name was the Secular Alliance for Equality (SAFE) but we could always go with Atheism+ since that seemed to organically resonate with people.

    I think that would be a mistake. I was under the impression that “A+” wouldn’t be an organization but a rebranding of the atheist/humanist/skeptical movement. Whatever the case may be, consider this: “plus” offers no information about what this organization/movement would do. For an organization at least, clarity and specificity in the name is very useful, so given the two I’d go with “SAFE,” which makes a nice acronym anyway.

    I think “A+” isn’t a good idea anyway — inventing a new label for ourselves, that is, not making the atheist/humanist movement more progressive or putting more emphasis on political activism. And like I said above, “Atheism plus” or “A+” is ripe for misinterpretation. I can’t think of a way to be more vague than that. Yes, when people ask what it’s about, you can say “atheism plus this, plus that, plus that, etc.” but that’ll get tiresome very soon, well before we’ve actually decided and explained to everyone else what all the pluses and minuses are supposed to be.* And someone could just as easily stake a claim on “Atheism plus bigotry and assorted nonsense,” so adding stuff to atheism isn’t going to be what establishes an identity separate from them.

    I’ll give it credit for being simple. I like that. But we can do a lot better, assuming we should come up with a new label, though I doubt we should anyway.

    * “Animal welfare,” for example. How many here are on board with this meaning that we should advocate vegetarianism or veganism? If not, why not? Isn’t that “atheism plus”?

  41. Martha says

    I agree strongly with those who have argued that economic justice/classism should be a major focus, in no small part because it intersects so well with racism and sexism. This issue may be of particular importance in the US, where we have an appalling social support network, but other nations (UK) appear to be heading in that direction with the current emphasis on austerity. Economic justice is both a moral and a pragmatic issue, as progressives need to re-build an alliance with the working class to have any hope of moving forward with our agenda in any of the other areas mentioned. As long as liberal ideas are associated with a privileged professional-managerial class, churches will continue to flourish and underpaid people will continue to vote against their economic interests. Education is an important part of this mission, but it can’t be done de-haut-en-bas, as Ophelia would say.

    Thanks for your energy and leadership, Jen.

  42. says

    Political and media watch. I want to see candidate report cards, party platform analysis, evaluation of media treatment of SJIs (Social Justice Issues), sexism, racism, heterosexism in advertising and political discourse. This is part of general consciousness raising efforts.

    I also think it might be nice to start off as an international thing (if that’s not too ambitious for you, Jen).

    (btw, I like SAFE as the name of your specific org, with Atheism + to refer to the whole movement)

  43. Johanna says

    How about, instead of advocating vegetarianism or veganism, advocating learning the facts about how your food got to your plate, and encouraging individuals to make reasoned choices about what to do in light of those facts?

  44. SueSomeone says

    Animal welfare is a big one for me too, I would like to see it include animal training as part of that.

  45. says

    so, here’s a couple thoughts.

    1)the “privilege 101” stuff is great, but needs to be coupled with spaces in which advanced conversations take place without allowing n00bs (and trolls, let’s face it) to derail advanced conversations into 101 conversations. So I do think that, as a rule, writings/blogposts/discussions, etc. should be at least tagged as “basic” or “advanced”, so that derailers of advanced discussions can be told to leave and ask their questions in the basic-level discussions, without feeling like this is somehow “mean” or “unfair” to them, and without taxing the patience of those who want to have an advanced discussion and are (at that moment) sick and tired of educating the privileged.

    2)one of the resources that should be offered is very basic “so you want to be an activist” sort of stuff: how to get engaged; how to get a group started in your area; what sort of resources are available for someone who wants to start a group; et cetera. Because right now, there’s workshops for “leaders” or “future leaders”, and resources for new groups, and similar things, all of which assume that you’re the sort of person with the drive, experience, indomitableness and extraversion to just go and start their social activism on pure willpower and improvisation. That excludes a lot of people who might be good activists and even good faciliators/organizers, but don’t have that certain something that’s required to invent activism from scratch for themselves. (I blame this on lack of proper civics classes. no one teaches how to be an engaged member of an active society)

    3)similar to 2), we need to think of ideas of how people who really are the sole A+ person in their area can contribute. of course they can donate and write, but activism ultimately is more than that, so a movement that’s as diffuse as this (at least for now) needs ways to make sure everyone is able to contribute as much as possible despite not having the ability to make meatspace-groups happen.

    Also: I like A+ better as an umbrella organization, but it seems people prefer it as a diffuse movement. So, I don’t know what advice to give. I think the former would solve the problems with a possibly harmful impression that we’re “ceding” movement atheism to the assholes, while the latter is more likely to make people feel like they all own A+. Tricky.

  46. Mzdameanor says

    Mental illness. Better education and less stigmatizing. I also like the use of SAFE for ur organization and A+ for this new movement.

  47. says

    Yes, this, please.

    Advocating for a better understanding of the global food industry is, I think, much more in line with skepticism, because it avoids making moral judgements on people for how they choose to eat.

    Additionally, any conversation about animal welfare in regards to eating habits should be willing to address the mess of racism, sexism, and classism that frequently surfaces in the vegetarian and vegan communities.

  48. neXus says

    How about an online database of speakers that are not white cis men, sorted by the subjects they can speak on? That way you could search for ‘animal welfare’ and get a list of speakers that would normally be overshadowed by the standard white cis guy.

  49. consciousness razor says

    How about, instead of advocating vegetarianism or veganism, advocating learning the facts about how your food got to your plate, and encouraging individuals to make reasoned choices about what to do in light of those facts?

    No, for the same reason we shouldn’t simply advocate learning about how racism occurs and encourage people to make “reasoned choices” (whatever those are) about it. If your movement is really against it, you actually have to oppose racism unambiguously.

  50. says

    “classism” is the name of the axis of oppression based on economic inequality. meaning, economic injustice is already on the list of things that should be addressed by A+

  51. Liza says

    I think that an Atheism+ movement absolutely needs to stand up loudly against Islamophobia, Antisemitism, anti-Sikhism, etc, etc. As a group that has experienced our own discrimination we should help protect others from prejudice. This doesn’t mean that we can’t be actively skeptical about religious teachings – there is definitely a way to do that while still fighting against hatred. While we might not understand religious beliefs and mythology, we must still be a partner in fighting for religious tolerance.

  52. says

    I think it makes sense. providing a special 101-space in which volunteers patiently explain and discuss stuff is a good idea. As long as it comes coupled with an “advanced” space where people can have non-101-level discussions, and from which folks can be “gently redirected” if their questions are too basic and off-topic.

    because right now, the problem is that every discussion of social issues that’s open to the public devolves into at least a couple folks insisting that the conversation should be about everyone educating them. That’s where the nastiness generally starts: not having safely separate spaces for basic and advanced discussions.

  53. says

    I’d be careful with the “civility” part, because often “civility” is used as a cludge against minorities more than it is used as a means of creating a safe space for them

  54. says

    Concerning Ageism, there’s an excellent site called Time Goes By that tackles this subject very well. It’s well worth a look. Ronni, who runs the site, tackles some of the other topics you mentioned as well. You can find it at
    Confession time: I write a music column for the site once a week.

  55. Yifflady says


    abuse culture.
    academic elitism.
    allosexual supremacy.
    asexual hate.
    authoritarian models and hierarchies.
    bdsm hate.
    body modifications hate.
    body policing.
    cartesian dualism.
    christian supremacy.
    coercive diagnosis.
    compulsory schooling.
    cultural appropriation.
    cyber / online / internet culture hate.
    diet elitism.
    diet shaming.
    dogmatic materialism.
    drug use enforcement.
    drug use & culture hate.
    educationism / educational institutionalism.
    enforced silencing.
    enforcing and policing dichotomies.
    enforcing attitudes.
    enforcing the self / body and self / mind dichotomies.
    environmental destruction.
    evolutionary psychology.
    fat hate.
    food policing.
    furry hate.
    gender essentialism.
    gender imperialism.
    gender policing.
    genderqueer hate.
    government ideology.
    grammar / spelling policing.
    GSM / GSAM (gender and (a)sexuality marginalized) hate.
    islam hate.
    kink hate.
    kink policing.
    language(s) policing / imposition.
    linguistic prescriptivism.
    majority rule.
    marriage as an enforced norm.
    nation-state ideology.
    nerd / geek hate.
    nonconsent culture.
    nonconsensual / coercive fetishization.
    nonconsensual / coercive sexualization.
    nonhuman hate.
    oppression of undocumented beings.
    oppressive family structures.
    oppressive notions of science.
    otherkin hate + erasure.
    policing selfhoods.
    property ideology.
    queer hate.
    rape culture.
    religious / spiritual discrimination.
    scientific dogma.
    sex work hate + shaming.
    shaming in general.
    standardized work and education.
    stealth shaming.
    the academic industrial complex.
    the adult / child dichotomy.
    the “all dichotomies must be false dichotomies” philosophy.
    the bigoted myth of neutrality.
    the prison industrial complex.
    therian hate.
    transabled hate.
    trans (*) hate.
    transcorporeal hate.
    transethnic hate.
    transracial hate.
    transsize hate.
    victim blaming.
    western supremacy.
    white supremacy.

  56. says

    I’d like to see model legislation worked out for all these issues and presented to legislators, much as ALEC does but to the opposite effect. I have no expertise myself but I’d contribute what funds I could, write to my representatives and so forth. Sean Faircloth provide some direction in that respect.

  57. machintelligence says

    It’s not just people coming out of religion who need help with critical thinking and science — those coming out of high school are sometimes sadly deficient. How about a community free school that would promote learning for the fun of it — no tests or grades –taught by atheists, of course. Critical thinking, evolution, some basic philosophy, and comparative religion could be the subjects, you know, all of the things that don’t get taught in high school.

  58. Johanna says

    And the analogue of “racism” here is what exactly? (Eating meat? Killing animals? Causing suffering?)

    Regardless, “If your movement is really opposed to X, you have to oppose X unambiguously” is a tautology for all values of X.

  59. laconicsax says

    Something that could help would be drawing attention to how seemingly disparate issues are often facets of the same larger issue. Sexism, homophobia, and transphobia (for example) are all aspects of the same thing. Classism, racism, and ablism (itself tied to neurotypicalism) are also interrelated in a nontrivial way.

  60. 'Tis Himself says

    The deep rifts appear.

    I’m unlikely to ever become a vegetarian, and me being a vegan is about as likely as me being a Jehovah’s Witness. If people want to discuss the idea, that’s fine. If you’re going to insist we (that’s the generic we) become vegetarians or vegans, then I’m not going to play along.

  61. says

    So we’re dealing with a LOT of marginalized groups here. A lot of groups that are all going to have a lot of trouble with “The 101 Problem”, where a lot of everyday people are simply not familiar enough with their particular issues to be able to be sensitive to them.

    One of the things that I’ve seen some people I knew who were part of the trans community try to do before is to get together what they called “libraries” online. Wiki-like repositories of basic 101, 201 information. Common issues, responses to common things people say or do out of ignorance, links to places where the concepts are best explained (e.g. a feminist library would no doubt include links to Schrodingers Rapist, etc.).

    Could we try and do this, on a more massive scale? Like, a giant collection of libraries for people in all of these different sorts of groups, where people could to go learn about them or to find sources to use to explain the concepts to others. I find that one of the most difficult things to do in talking to people about feminist issues, for example, is to find well-presented examples of whatever point I’m trying to get across. A lot of the time, I know I’ve read them, but it’s just that I can’t remember where, and sometimes I just don’t know where to find them. We need something like a TalkOrigins of feminism, of trans issues, of all of the groups you mentioned, and whatever has been left out.

  62. Lindsay says

    You’re missing out on the whole intersectional nature of this project, and really, missing out on how most movements have embraced intersectionality in a similar way. Contemporary third- and fourth-wave feminism usually champions causes beyond “old hat” feminism, including classism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia now. Hence, calling for a broader sense of social justice rather than one focus.

  63. Ken says

    Perhaps some sort of foundation or think tank, with an associated PAC (this is how the current political system works), is the way to go. And to get there, or anywhere effectively, there should be some sort of organized structure. I understand we are brain-storming her, but just saying…..

  64. Ella says

    Er… aren’t a fair few religions quite fond of telling people what they can and can’t eat?

    No. You can discuss your dietary habits* but don’t start trying to push anything. I for one will never, ever go vegan, and I’d certainly quit a group that tried to tell me I should. Too religion-y.

  65. Ella says

    Whoops. I meant to add that I wasn’t trying to trivialise the suffering of animals by calling vegetarianism and veganism “dietary habits”. Hence the asterisk.

  66. says

    Yeah. A+ isn’t necessarily about saying “This is our stance on issue X.” It’s the first step of being about to have a discussion about issue X based on skepticism, critical thinking, and scientific inquiry. Right now the greater movement sees that discussion alone as mission drift.

    I mean, there are feminists who disagree with each other on stuff. I don’t think there should be one official atheist-approved feminist stance. But I do think we need to be able to talk about feminism and sexism from a skeptical point of view. Same for all the other issues listed. Same for the issues listed that personally make me go “Hmmm, I disagree, do I have to rethink that?” Some things may be more clear-cut and others may be more controversial, but we need to be able to talk about them. That’s what this is about to me.

  67. Lokleo says

    I’d like us to have some kind of online resource for all the suggested issues, written from an Atheism+ perspective. Something that links to all the great writing already out there. Maybe a wiki intro for each subject and then links to blog posts, articles, etc so its not just one voice.

    How about one for hot button/news items? Just thinking of all the posts about Todd Akin today.

    Also, if it hasn’t been brought up yet, education should be on our list for so many reasons (science, history, health/sex ed)

  68. leslie says

    I would have to agree with several of the posters and say that working to support evidence based policies would cover a great many items on the list. Evidence based policy decisions would combat all the “isms” on the list and persuing greater access to educational materials would combat all the “phobias”. It would be a great place for a new organization to put its resouces.

  69. Dylan says

    The problem I see with this entire atheism+ idea is that it immediately makes an almost infinite number of positive claims, many of which will not be empirically verifiable. Many of the assertions made in the 101 primer pages will either be accepted on face value or endlessly debated.

    The concept of male privilege for example. What is it? What evidence is there? Can that evidence be interpreted differently? Is the proposition falsifiable?

    Patriarchy? Same questions. Perhaps a theory of male privilege, or patriarchy is entirely supported by available evidence, but that isn’t my point.

    It seems to me to be massively problematic to attempt to take the null hypotheses of atheism and skepticism and then graft onto them an arguably infinite number of ideological propositions.

  70. says

    I think Humanism covers that nicely. Hmm, I think Humanism covers almost all of it; a rational definition on the equality of humans.

    But here’s one; science-based (non-humanist) universal definitions for ethical interaction.

    We swat flys without too much thought. We kill other animals without too many qualms. We piss in the ocean without too much worry. And yet, we’re but one of millions of species of known biological alive entities we currently know of. All our efforts are being pushed at the human level of things, but shouldn’t we – as a bunch of people guided by science and reason – see the problem with defining everything we are about from a purely human perspective? We weren’t humans in the distant past, and we may not be human in the distant future, and we may discover that we are not the only biological (or otherwise) life that thinks about ethics.

    Just a friendly reminder that there’s a lot to be said about humanity when we place it in a scientific framework that normally gets ignored in our human-centric endeveours.

  71. myriadwords says

    Agreed. There’s a lot of intersection between issues, and the places where they meet are not only illuminating but productive to explore. The concept of Atheism+ is in itself an acknowledgement of how issues interrelate; mapping out and opening discussions on the interrelations would be quite valuable.

  72. Renee in Olympia says

    I am delurking to share what I have written on my Facebook page:

    “There has been a rallying cry for expanding the atheist movement beyond the tired old idea of “dictionary atheism” with its awful libertarianism (Ayn Rand was an hardcore atheist), misogyny (MRAs are EVERYWHERE), racism (there is a reason that the movement is so white), and reactionary views on everything. When I first openly declared myself an atheist, it was in high school and for the sole purpose of weeding out those people who I definitely did not want to be my friend. And it worked, I made only tolerant and fun friends. After I graduated from college, I found myself wanting more — needing more. That is when I found the New Atheist Movement. I was so excited! I thought I had found my people. People who were critical thinkers and compassionate and progressive and… But that turned out to be my naiveity. But NOW there is a movement that is all that I want. And that movement is A+! Atheism plus social justice. An inclusive atheism for all.”

    I feel that A+ is just naming the thoughts and actions that have been brewing for almost a year now within the Atheist movement as a whole. Thus, I feel like I have already been an advocate for A+.

    To add my two-cents to the brainstorming, I think the prison-industrial complex/justice for prisoners movement would be a great thing for us to be advocates for. This is a tangible goal that would greatly benefit from evidence-based methodology and compassion. Also, an emphasis on poor persons and how to help raise persons out of poverty. (I know that classism is listed, but I want to see atheists more focused on poverty, itself.)

    Thanks for getting this started, Jen!

  73. Nikoel says

    I’m side-eyeing the hell out of this list. No one is oppressing otherkin and no one is actually an animal in a human body or honestly feel they should have been born a different race. That one is just plain offensive.

  74. says

    If anyone is interested, I would love to help organize and run a non-fiction reading group as a way to promote (self-)education and discussion.

  75. says

    You’re going to have to force-feed me, then, and not complain when I spit anything my olfactory system can’t stand back into my face.

    My taste buds are highly restrictive. If it’s not on the list of Stuff I Like, it’s Stuff That Makes Me Retch. If your self-righteous open-tasting ass can’t respect that, then just stay the fuck away from me so your sensibilities aren’t offended by my ham sandwich.

  76. Johanna says

    And I love this. I was involved in vegan activism for a while. I gave it up because I couldn’t stand the far-too-common attitude of “Let’s assume that veganism is superior to non-veganism, and then cherry-pick the data and/or make stuff up to justify that assumption.”

    This is a topic where more critical thinking and scientific inquiry are badly needed.

  77. says

    Slugger #52:

    Confused: were you providing a name (“classism”)for extant economic inequalities, or were you “arguing” that to believe in a need for raising people from poverty is “classist”?

    The former. However, I argued in comment 19 that classism is quickly becoming the new Elephant In The Room.

    (Also, it would be nice if you either used the Reply link, or blockquoted the text you were replying to, so that others know what you’re replying to. It actually took Jadehawk’s comment to make me realize you were replying to me.

  78. Johanna says

    I should add: The vegan activists making stuff up is only part of the problem. There are also the omnivores who throw a temper tantrum if the word “vegan” is so much as spoken in their presence. Several of whom have already shown up here.

  79. consciousness razor says

    I mean, there are feminists who disagree with each other on stuff. I don’t think there should be one official atheist-approved feminist stance. But I do think we need to be able to talk about feminism and sexism from a skeptical point of view. Same for all the other issues listed. Same for the issues listed that personally make me go “Hmmm, I disagree, do I have to rethink that?” Some things may be more clear-cut and others may be more controversial, but we need to be able to talk about them. That’s what this is about to me.

    How would you reply to this sort of thing, from ‘Tis Himself?

    If you’re going to insist we (that’s the generic we) become vegetarians or vegans, then I’m not going to play along.

    Notice that I didn’t insist that anyway,* but this definitely isn’t openness to talking about it from a skeptical point of view. I’ve been reading ‘Tis Himself’s comments long enough to know that he’s a good, rational person who supports progressive causes — the vast majority of them, vegetarianism notwithstanding. So that almost certainly isn’t the problem.

    *I said that if we support animal welfare, then vegetarianism is a progressive cause which follows from that quite naturally. If we’re only supporting animal welfare in a limited way, then we should be clear about that and have good reasons for it. Otherwise, it’s implied.

    And we can’t only have dialogues. We have to do stuff to be effective and actually walk the walk, just as you said in the OP. It’s not necessary to have one official stance on a given issue, but we do need a fairly well-defined set of coherent, meaningful stances which makes doing stuff about it as a movement possible.

    If we had an atheist movement which wasn’t in some way interested in advancing atheism and opposing religion, it simply wouldn’t be an atheist movement, no matter what label you put on it. In fact, atheists do have differing views on what atheism is and what it entails. I think that’s fine, even though some people are wrong — maybe I am, but we can’t all be right. But although they’re different views, the ones which make any sense have enough in common to be “atheism.” Let a thousand flowers bloom and all that. The point is that it’s a work in progress, but we’re only working together as a movement if we’re going in more or less the same direction.

    So when you say we ought to support X and everybody agrees, they should know what they’re supporting and what they’re not. If suddenly people who thought they were supportive say “not a chance in hell, don’t even think about it,” you know you haven’t been clear enough about what X is, what it entails, what the relevant scope of it is for the movement, or how it fits in with everything else the movement stands for. Or else those people weren’t being reasonable before or after they changed their minds.

  80. Sas says

    With the exceptions of “cissexism” and “cisgenderism”, the “cis-” entries are from groups that are hijacking trans discourse for illegitimate reasons. They’re people who claim to be born “the wrong species” or “the wrong race” so they can roleplay being marginalized.

  81. rowanvt says

    Atheism minus- has a very negative connotation to it. It’s viewed as “less”, or “worse”. I mentally read the A+ like a chemical symbol. Positive Atheism.

  82. says

    Ooh, and as has just now occurred to me (though surely I can’t be the first), the plus symbol nicely illustrates intersection as well as addition.

  83. rowanvt says

    Animal welfare is not the same as animal rights. Animal welfare, in regards to raising animals for meat, would involve things such as adequate space, proper housing, prompt and necessary medical care, correct diet, and humane death. It does not necessarily go into “not eating them at all”.

    When I eat meat, it is from free-range, grass fed, non-hormone injected animals. As ethical as I can find. My eggs I get from a friend who has pet chickens and loves her birds as much as I do my own pets.

  84. karmakin says

    Well, privilege exists. I think we all recognize that. The problem is that it exists in so many different forms that at the end of the day the word privilege doesn’t mean anything solid. There’s experience filters, there’s other people viewing you either better (or worse) because you’re part of some group or not part of that group, there’s people claiming/acting that because of being something they’re better than people who are not better than that group and so on.

    It seems to me that people want a movement where they are free to discuss and work on these things. I agree. I just think that as it stands the communications need a LOT of work before they can get to that point.

  85. consciousness razor says

    Animal welfare, in regards to raising animals for meat,

    If we’re supposed to assume they’re meat right from the start, please let other people in on the joke. Maybe you could call it “meat welfare” instead, just to be clear.

    It does not necessarily go into “not eating them at all”.

    Let’s agree for the sake of argument that animal welfare doesn’t necessarily go into that. Okay. When people support feminism, what doesn’t that necessarily mean? They don’t hate women — we can be sure of that — but maybe they’re okay with misogynistic jokes or harassing people at conferences? Maybe they’re pro-choice, but they think late-term abortions should be outlawed? I really don’t know, so I’m just tossing out ideas.

    Anyway, I don’t want to argue for vegetarianism in this thread, because that’s not the issue I’m trying to raise anyway. It was an example. The name of the movement is as vague as it could possibly be. The issues as they are described are vague. What we’re going to do about them, other than talk endlessly, is vague. I’d probably agree with most or all of it (except I don’t want a new label), but some people don’t agree because others are being way too vague about it, with their lists of items of one or a few words. That’s not going to cut it.

  86. karmakin says

    I’m not really sure why A is different than B. I can easily see similar problems popping up over a whole lot of subjects. I mean, I have VERY strong views* on this particular subject myself, it’s not the hill I’m going to die on, but we’re not all going to agree on it.

    What then?

    I can easily see a community/movement that chops off parts of itself bit by bit in an ever tightening search for correctness. I’ve seen it before and I’m sure even if it doesn’t happen here I’ll see it again. (And “agreeing to disagree” quite frankly, I don’t think is going to happen. If this was an option we wouldn’t even be discussing this)

    *My wife actually comes from a strong vegan/vegetarian upbringing, her family involved in animal welfare work. Long story short, vegan/vegetarian groups I think either through ignorance or malice don’t do enough to warn people of the potential dangers of that particular diet. It’s not that it’s dangerous for everybody but for some people….

  87. Pteryxx says

    I dunno that any given group will have the energy or resources to focus on ALL the potential issues that sorely need the benefit of compassionate evidence-based policies; but that’s why I’m thinking education and dissemination of evidential arguments needs to be core. That’s the bulk of what happens in comments and the commenter social space (Pharyngula’s TET now lounge) – someone says “What do y’all know about this issue?” or brings up “Here is an issue where facts are being ignored” and lays out the situation that allows us to start becoming involved in a fruitful way.

    For instance, immigrant detention wasn’t on my radar until Walton kept pointing out the BS involved. Support programs for addicts weren’t on my radar until Natalie pointed to the research showing how well they work, while policy’s still arrayed against them. Racial disparities in criminal justice weren’t on my radar until Ed Brayton excerpted “The New Jim Crow”. Right now, we’re still attempting to raise awareness of racism in voter disenfranchisement via reasonable-seeming voter ID laws. There’s a need, especially in media and social media, for voices versed in evidence-based analysis. (I’ve become the go-to for some of my internet friends to ask ‘What do you know about [controversial social justice topic]?’ just because I follow FTB.)

    That doesn’t mean everyone will be able to personally protest or advocate for everything, but it does mean that as a networked community, we can be aware of all these issues, ready to listen, and make informed decisions about what we do devote ourselves to supporting. I might not be able to join the economics core while I’m specializing in animal care, harassment and voting, but I darn well want to KNOW what’s going on and chip in where I can.

  88. Tamsin says

    Some things I’d like to see are resources on critical thinking, and on the links between critical thinking and social justice issues – e.g. science- and fact-based debunking of the “common sense” ideas that uphold bigotry and privilege in our society. I think that the 101-style resources should include links to studies and data.
    Some “common sense” ideas ripe for debunking, off the top of my head:
    – the idea that dressing “modestly” protects women from sexual assault/that dressing “immodestly” invites sexual assault
    -the idea that the US/capitalist society is a meritocracy
    -the idea that “tough on crime” policies work
    -the idea that mental illness is “all in your head” and that you can “just get over it” (I HATE THIS ONE SO MUCH)
    -the idea that the US (or Australia, or Canada, or the UK, or New Zealand…) is a post-racial society/that racism is a thing of the past
    …etc., etc.

  89. says

    It’s not Atheism minus classism, sexism, racism et al. It’s Atheism plus Social Justice. Atheism plus Activism. Atheism plus Acceptance. It’s Atheism plus a safe space. We’re not shedding old ideas, we’re adding philosophy that should lead from not believing in god.

  90. says

    I think it’s a little ridiculous to expect certain arguments to not come up. Any rational person will agree that having privilege doesn’t make you a bad person. It just makes you a person who is ill-equipped to understand some of the biggest problems in our society. Learning to recognize and check our privilege is important, but I’ve often seen people act as though the privileged should accept their privilege on faith.

    It is logical to me that a young heterosexual cisgendered white man might be skeptical when they’re told “You’ve got it better than pretty much everybody else.”

    Skepticism is something we want to encourage. If we expect them not to be skeptical of that, how can we expect them to be skeptical when Christians proclaim that they are the most oppressed group?

    If they have an honest intellectual curiosity, then eventually they’ll come to understand and accept that they have privilege. But if the first thing they’re told is that they’re supporting the patriarchy by daring to question their own privilege, then they’ll just be driven away.

    (For the record, that’s precisely what happened to me. If not for a woman named Susan who took 30 seconds to explain my mistake, it would have taken me a lot longer to accept my privilege.)

    I feel like I’ve written “privilege” way too many times just now.

  91. Bjarte Foshaug says

    Sorry if this has been brought up elswhere in this thread, but (and this is where we might run into some problems…) I think it’s crucial that our concern for equality and social justice isn’t limited to to the western world while the (arguably worse) injustice that goes on elswhere is shrugged of as “their culture”. Without doubt there are many reasons why the petition for Alexander Aan failed so miserably. I think Stephanie Zvan is probably right that laziness (in the guise of slacktivism or cynicism) is the main explanation here, but that doesn’t mean Ideas like this aren’t also a problem:

    I have considered Edward Conduit’s appeal to sign the petition in defence of the Indonesian atheist who has been jailed for saying there is no God, but have concluded that I cannot sign [the] Avaaz petition for Alex. There may well be no God for Alex, as for you or for me. With the Indonesians however it’s evidently a different matter. The limits of subjectivity and of objectivity have to be recognized.

    As I wrote on Greta Christinas blog, there seems to be a deep and unbridgeable gap between those of us who advocate equal rights and equal treatment for all people regardless of gender, ethnic decent, sexual orientation etc. and those who try to reframe different rules/different rights for different people as a good thing, usually under the banner of respecting cultural differences and celebrating diversity. There is another unbridgeable gap between those who of us think rights, equality, tolerance, and respect are for living people and those who are mainly interested in protecting cultures, ideologies, beliefs, practices, traditions, ways of thinking, and ways of living. Those on the former side of the divide tend to see the latter as racist because they legitimize inequality and equate the individual with (usually the most reactionary segment of) “their”* culture. Meanwhile those on the latter side see the former as racist for imposing their own “western” ideals of equality and tolerance on another culture.

    In both cases I find myself firmly in the former camp. As I wrote on Maryam Namazie’s blog, there is nothing more conservative, or even downright reactionary, than radical cultural relativism. The whole philosophy is ultimately based on the premise that whatever your ancestors happened to believe or practice is somehow “right” for you, and that nobody outside the West could possibly want to live differently than their ancestors unless they have been taught to internalize western bigotry against “their own”* culture. It never seems to occur to cultural relativists that non-white women, homosexuals, infidels and heretics etc. might want the same kind of changes we have made (imperfectly, to be sure, but still…) in the West for the same kinds of reasons. There is nothing “white” or “western” about not wanting to be mistreated or oppressed, and anyone who claims the opposite is a far worse racist than those who still haven’t learned to flinch at the word “negro”.

    All inn all radical cultural relativism seems to be another harmful by-product of the disastrous doctrine of the Blank Slate. I have actually argued with people who seemed to think that disliking pain (or even feeling it in the first place) is just an aribtrary cultural convention that simply doesn’t apply to anyone outside “western” culture. If this isn’t racism, then nothing is.
    * As defined by others long before they were born

  92. Tamsin says

    education and dissemination of evidential arguments needs to be core
    Maybe not *the* core, but certainly part of it. I think there’s room for organising and campaigning as well, but I definitely agree that educating people about social justice issues is absolutely essential.

  93. says

    You have it backwards. Bigotries of various sorts are making positive claims: “my group (white people, men, straight people, cis people, people from my country or region, etc.) is better than others”. THIS is the positive claim.

    Social justice can be worked towards, simply by applying the null hypothesis of non-superiority: “Provide reliable, repeatable evidence that you are superior, or we will reject the claim.”

    Also, you really need to do more research before you pronounce well-established and well-evidenced concepts like institutional racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., to be not empirically verifiable, much less verified.

  94. Eric says

    Well here’s my thoughts:

    I think everything Jen offers up is certainly worthy and completely needed for the movement to take up if it is to get where it should be. My issue is that these things are strictly topical and not nearly ambitious enough. 

    Atheism needs to go truly toe-to-toe with religion and it needs to do so by demonstrating that it can fill the same role as religion. I realize this is simplifying things a bit, but really religion has the foothold that it does today because it didn’t simply provide answers to tough questions when science wasn’t yet able to, it also provided hope and inspiration. New atheism needs to more overtly offer these things to people. 

    It’s not good enough to offer people a path of reason. It’s not good enough to show them happy atheists. It’s not even good enough to tackle sexism, public healh, the environment, etc. No, we need big things done in the name of Atheism. 

    Call me a hopeless romantic, but the movement needs some romance. We’ll always need our Hitchenses, but we need more Einsteins and Plaits and Darwins. And we need those people to talk about not just about why what they’re doing is important, but also why Atheism is better way to prosperity and how we could be so much better than we are if it weren’t for our outdated religiousness holding us back.

    We need to state our intent, have a plan to see that intent through, and follow through on our plans. 

    We need to say:  We are atheists, and we believe it’s no longer acceptable to pollute our environment because of our insatiable appetite for fossil fuels. And boom, here’s cold fusion (said for effect to make the point.)

    We are Atheists, and we believe human beings should love and care for one another. So here’s our plan for health care for all. how do we fund it? Well…

    We are atheists, and we believe humanity is one community. Here’s our plan to bring about the dissolution of antiquated immigration law that’ll double global GPD and provide much needed funds for our health care and cold fusion projects. Link:

    We are atheists, and we believe humanity’s future rests on the back of technological advancement. Hey NASA, here’s a huge budget increase designed specifically for you to create incentives-based competition amongst private contractors. (we can’t just let NASA spend it because they are immensely wasteful when left to their own vices.) Link:

    We are atheists, and we believe our species suffers unnecessarily under the burden of our own stupidity. There’s a better way to usher in a new age of health care for our world. We can beat cancer. We can beat Alzheimer’s. And we’re going to throw as much money to the right projects as possible to see it happen. Too much pushback in the US on stem cell research? Fuck you America, our money is going overseas. You’re ignorance will not stop us any more. 

    And so on. 

    Yes, sexism needs to be eradicated in the atheist community and eradicated yesterday. Yes, homophobia and ageism need to be eradicated in our community. These are great and noble undertakings.

    But we can do better than that. The world needs us to. 

  95. says

    There is an academic discipline that defines, studies, and explains what these terms and more mean. It’s callled Feminism. We borrow from that academic discipline when using these terms.

  96. Cityzenjane says

    Hey folks- haven’t been able to read all the comments. (Apologies – Will do.)

    Just want to say I created the page on FB – but I would like to be sure it has the right people moderating it. I did it as a place holder for the group without the intention of being the sole “owner”…. So will some of you step up to moderate it? I am happy to hand it to you. I am also happy to help – BUT I will be offline from the 22nd probably until the 10th or so of September and I can imagine this taking off in the meantime. I am new to FTB but have been a part of the FB atheist community for years though not as vocal as most, and mostly as a commenter.

    I have also asked some folks from Atheist Experience – (Martin and Jen) if they would help me find moderators.

    I also have no cover photo – and need some flair.

    Anyone who would like to help please contact me via twitter @hyperlocavore Hjelp?!

  97. says

    As to an action we can take, how about workshops or 101s on how to be an ally? It is one thing to examine the oppression of others, a harder thing to recognize our own privileges, and still harder to be anything like consistent about being allies.

    As to environmental issues, we need to seriously address our global energy production, and the increase in temperature to which our current oil and coal use has led and is leading.

    I think with the Sexism/Homophobia/Transphobia we might stress the point that the culturally accepted (and mandated) binary stifles individuality for both groups for each issue – privileged and oppressed – although in different ways and to different degrees.

    I think we need to address the undervaluing of labor and overvaluing of capital. I know economic inequality was mentioned, but I think this is a core issue there. (Along with the attitude that people get what is coming to them because of a divine plan, karma, or the invisible hand of the market)

    On the subject of crime, I think we should subject the death penalty to a great deal of scrutiny, as well as alternate approaches to our private prison system, such as rehabilitation methods. Also, drugs which do less harm than alcohol we should work to legalize to put the black market out of business and tax the sales for regulation. This will also indirectly reduce gang violence, in the same way that ending Prohibition lessened the damage done by the Mafia.

    As to neurotypicalism, we seriously need to educate people so that they neither overreact and think that your OCD/Depression/Etc. is contagious, (or think it is caused by demons or divine punishment) nor trivialize it and think that you can just choose to be well. (“Wow, why didn’t I ever think to fucking try that?”)

    I hope something here is helpful.

  98. says

    I am willing to help in any way possible, but particularly web hosting, system administration, general techie stuff. I want to put my skills to work for something I really believe in.

  99. Cityzenjane says

    Very helpful…I think it will also be helpful to be a clearinghouse for peer reviewed literature with data supporting the overlapping maps of privileges…

  100. Cityzenjane says

    Female confidence and directness is often experienced as having a tone problem, not sufficiently “unemotional”, strident, harsh. Mostly by people who seem like they might have mommy issues if you ask me…not that you did.

    You can test this by running around in political online discourse disguised as a woman for a month or so.

  101. Jandorian says

    When it comes to addressing various -isms/-phobias from a secular, skeptical perspective…. what does this mean?

    Does it mean employing skeptical methods and secular values to derive a wishlist/goal/manifesto and then pursuing those goals by whatever means seems most likely to be effective? Or does it mean using skepticism and reason as a method (i.e. in argumentation) of convincing the requisite majority in any given situation? Or both, or neither?

    For instance, can one use unreason, distortions, emotional triggering, etc to attack this asshat with the “legitimate rape” biological response fantasy for th greatest possible effect? Or should we limit ourselves to rational, fact-based, valid-and-sound arguments? After all, his values and positions are decidedly less secular and less skeptical than the alternative (flawed though she may be). This race could tip the balance as to which party has the majority (and therefore sets the agenda) in the Senate. Willingly putting on handcuffs to stay true to our values, at the cost of being less effective in regards to policy outcome….. is this worthwhile?

  102. Cityzenjane says

    It’s been less than three days… I imagine they are waiting to see how the bread rises…or doesn’t.

  103. Cityzenjane says

    “We need to empower people on how to think. And give them a safe space for figuring things out. Not laugh at them when they say they’ve been receiving chiropractic care or healing touch, but rather help them with resources as to why that may not be the best care for them. ”

    YES YES YES I am so sick of the pwnage of people who simple haven’t had the benefit of a decent education -which in fact is MOST OF THE WORLD.

    It’s classism and snobbery. And it REALLY is why I have been reluctant to identify with the so called “New Atheists.” A TINY percentage of humans on the planet get a liberal arts education (focusing on science and philosophy) That alone puts you in an EXTREMELY privileged category no matter what other privileges you do not enjoy.

    THANK YOU so much for saying this.

  104. Adam H. says

    I don’t even know what to think about that post. Mocking? Spam? Genuine? I don’t know, but I’m leaning toward “mocking”.

    At any rate, Yifflady, I hope this is yours.

  105. Cityzenjane says

    Having a clear line in the sand on the issues we are talking about here…will make us MUCH more effective in getting shit done in our real neighborhoods.

    I hope too this will mean Atheism+ will be willing and happy to work in coalition with organizations who may be “of faith”
    who are also active in social justice if it is clear we ahve the same goal up front.

    It is premature to get into the weeds on this one- and I do not mean of course ALL faith orgs – I mean the ones doing the hard work in the neighborhoods…

  106. Pteryxx says

    Thanks for the resource, and covering what I (stupidly) left out. There was a long educating conversation about voter disenfranchisement in Pharyngula’s Lounge a few days ago, in which several also spoke up about how voter ID laws can disenfranchise married women who’ve changed their names (so they no longer match their birth certificate, thus need more documentation and more cost and delay) and those who’ve moved across state lines.

    Heck, I’d like to see a voter disenfranchisement info roundup somewhere.

  107. Cityzenjane says

    or my veggie burger with cheese and bacon…

    Oddly this really is one of those things that can go haywire really fast… my work is in food systems, localizing, sustainability etc… It is VERY complex and really would benefit from a great deal of “evidence based” policy making. That said… I cannot imagine a more massive can of worms with absolutely NO chance of bringing people together.

    Taking an anti-cruelty position is possible and can be arrived at broadly – perhaps but there will be serious serious rifts around animal testing.

    So third rail. Ya most def.

    I suggest you work on ALL of the others before trying to come to agreements on this one.

    Extreme passion on all sides of it is par for the course.

  108. Utakata says

    I am having the same issue. This list set my troll’dar off…but I don’t know the person posted it is legit or not. Can we have a clarification of the intent of this list?

  109. eigenperson says

    If A+ ends up devoted solely to issues of diversity in the atheist movement, I will be very disappointed. I think most A+ supporters have many more opinions in common than a desire to expunge the various “isms” of that list.

    To be fair, you touch on this by including “political issues” and “environmental issues” in your list, but in order to express the relative importance of these various things I think all the “isms” should be grouped under the heading of “social issues”. The social issues are important but I would hesitate to say they are more important than political issues, environmental issues or, as a few other people have mentioned, economic issues. Social issues have been the main topic of conversation for the past year or so but that does not mean they should be the overwhelming goal of progressive atheists, to the extent that they dominate most of your suggestions for action.

  110. Keith Jennings says

    Most of the issues – or the stand you are proposing to take could be labeled liberal or left of centre. My observation is that most atheists in America tend to have this political leaning too. (I am British where atheism seems to be more mainstream).

    By taking a politically liberal/leftish approach you will automatically alienate people on the right from what one might call neutral atheism. They tend after all to be rather more religious in the USA.

    I’m afraid atheism remains for me as neutral as not believing in fairies or trolls and I think associating it with social issues in this way may well be counterproductive.

  111. Dylan says

    An academic discipline is one thing feminism definitely isn’t. What next? The science of feminism? It’s alarming that so many people here at FTB seem to be confused about this.

  112. says

    Well, there’s the potential to advocate for Harm Reduction policies, but I fear that might be considered too ‘libertarian’ for some folks around here.

  113. Dylan says

    The reality is that there is no systemic assertion of superiority being made. No whites only drinking fountains. No classes women can’t take. No impediments to minorities in government. So there goes the entire point of that movement. The general assumption is that we are all equal. I’m not saying that bigotry doesn’t exist in our society or even that there aren’t institutional forms of oppression… just that there are no obvious examples where any institutionalized claim of superiority is being made.

    So that would mean that the A+ anti bigots would need to demonstrate that these institutionalized systemic sources of oppression do in fact exist… in the material world. If the actual sources of the oppression cannot be demonstrated to exist, it is not enough to merely point to the bigotry that exists in society and to assert that it’s cause is systemic in nature.

  114. says

    Is Critical Theory an entire academic discipline? I know it’s an important part of sociological study but I wasn’t sure if it could be described as a discipline in it’s own right. (I’m an autodidact, never been able to afford a proper college education, so there’s some holes :P )

  115. Dylan says

    Male privilege is a perfect example. If you tell me that there is such a thing… then you need to support that claim with evidence. I am not making the claim that males are privileged. I am asserting that males and females are equal. I am proposing the null hypothesis that there is no demonstrable systemic male privilege.

  116. says

    This kind of irrationality makes me spitting mad.

    Feminism is an academic discipline, as is the study of any form of oppression or inequality when it’s applied to the rigorous forms of investigation within philosophy. Just as we can scientifically study ethics, moral systems, ideologies, and social organization we can study things like gender roles, oppression systems, and the role that society plays in determining personality and persona.

    Feminism has a lot of science behind it. A lot of sociology, a lot of philosophy, a lot of psychology. To say otherwise is either ignorant (which you are now not) or disingenuous. So either accept that you’re wrong about feminism and move on (and accept that it is an academic system of inquiry that has a lot to say on society) or you bow out of the discussion as you cannot participate in a reasonable, rational, logical, and skeptical manner.

    If you want just the barest hint of the academic work put into feminism, just read through the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s page on feminism and how much technical reasoning goes into it.

  117. says

    Many of the issues not included in your self-defined list of “social issues” are, in fact, social issues as well. For instance, economic issues are social issues. By fighting racism and sexism we encourage more meaningful economic participation by women and people of color. By fighting classism we end up with more equality, economically, which is better for everyone. Universal health care touches on fighting sexism, racism, and classism and it provides an important resource (health care) to those who are typically underprivileged and unable to access it.

    Social justice issues will always benefit the other issues. The only issue that isn’t a social justice issue, on some level, is pushing the acceptance of data-driven metrics and data-driven policy using science we already have. Which we’ve already been fighting for, so it’s not really unique to “Atheism+”. Fighting for awareness of climate change is important, sure, but the most important fight right now is laying down the internal groundwork which is all social justice stuff. And if social justice stuff isn’t laid down at the beginning, you’ll end up pushing people like me out of the movement (I’m not heterosexual, I’m neuro-atypical, I live in poverty, and I’m physically disabled). I won’t even be the first either, since there’s a lot of disenfranchisment I won’t even notice as I’m white and male.

    In every community of oppressed peoples there’s a saying, “Nothing About Us, Without Us.” It’s more important at this stage that we ensure everyone is safe in Atheism+ and that everyone is encouraged to participate, and that our ‘leadership’ is composed of as diverse a crowd as possible, so that when we turn our guns to the outside world we can work cohesively, efficiently, and effectively. So that we don’t have to have another schism because we just didn’t have time to take care of that sexism problem again.

  118. Dylan says

    Feminism is an ideology… the ism should have been your first clue.

    I’m a socialist, but I don’t pretend socialism is a fucking science.

  119. says

    Give me a rational, data-oriented, and logical matrix of reasons that supports Conservative ideology of any kind.

    I dare you to.

    I might even put money on the fact that you can’t, since every piece of data that’s come out of any social and economic study in recent years has shown that the Conservative ideologies don’t work. Neoliberalism doesn’t work either, sure, but Social Justice is on the correct side of things, not just the left side of things.

    As well, fighting economic inequality? Better for the entire world. Fighting for universal access to health care? Better for the entire world. The central goal here is to make our own spaces, and eventually all spaces, safe and welcoming for everyone. Supportive for everyone. Inclusive of everyone. Unfortunately, there’s not a single Right-leaning group in the world that’d let us complete that mission if they had anything to say about it.

    The Right’s wrong. Everywhere. I’m not even talking politically or ideologically – they’re factually wrong. They’re wrong about economics, about social issues, about the environment, and about social organization. They’re wrong about how to fix the social problems in their own countries, or how to organize a legal system, or what’s best for their constituents. The only thing the Right’s ever shown, consistently, is that they’re really good at keeping the people in power, in power.

  120. says

    Feminism is an ideology, like all other forms of philosophy, and can be studied scientifically.

    Just like socialism can. We’ve got lots and lots of data on socialism, in fact, and we know a few particular elements of socialism that don’t work (and we know a few that are really, really important to a modern economy).

    Everything can be studied scientifically. It’s irrational to think otherwise.

    So yes, socialism is a fucking science. Everything can be if you apply the right metrics to it and try to find out if you’re right or not. Luckily, feminism has nearly a hundred years of debate, investigation, and examination to show right it is.

  121. says

    Because of identity politics, the fact that most leaders in social situations are Men lead Men to have a demonstrable advantage in obtaining and utilizing social resources. This is a male privilege.

    Men are apologized for. Women apologize. This is a male privilege. This can be seen in several studies that point out how rape culture is perpetuated and how internalized misogyny works.

    Men are still, on average, paid more than women for the same work. Recent studies have shown that women who do not “rock the boat” get to the glass ceiling faster, while women who take charge and act like their male coworkers are passed over for raises and promotions. This is a male privilege.

    Male privilege is demonstrated, and a simple Google search will give you access to at least discussions explaining the systems and showing data that supports these observations. All you’re doing is caterwauling about something you don’t understand, and your ignorance is going to make it hard for us as a budding movement to fix the sexism that you happen to be continuing. It’s this behaviour, these kinds of comments, that spurred all of this division talk to begin with.

  122. says


    Did you seriously just say that you understand and accept that there is internalized and systemic bigotry in the world and then ask that we prove that there is internalized and systemic bigotry in the world?

  123. says

    The idea mentioned up thread of a TalkOrigins for social justice is pretty awesome. It would be so helpful to have a one stop repository for evidence and relevant links on a host of pertinent issues. For example, if you were to get in to yet another argument on the prevalence of sexual harassment there’d be somewhere where links to relevant journal articles and tonnes of implacable statistics would all be collated under a single heading.

  124. says

    Pteryxx asked me to repost and elaborate upon my comment, which I had meant to post over here in the first place. Too many tabs.

    I would like to offer an additional plus–when willful ignorance and psuedoscience and wishful thinking get packaged as healthcare specifically for suspect groups. It’s wrapped up in all the others listed above, but it so frequently gets dropped to the bottom of the heap. The traditional skeptical community gives up after antivax and homeopathy and chiro. And far too many in even the would-be A+ community toss out opposition to those when it comes to the oppressed. And yes, I’m specifically talking about essentialist garbage passed off as women’s reproductive care and childrearing, and the constant misrepresentation of evolution as resulting in ANYTHING optimal. But the phenomenon is not restricted to women’s health. It also includes ignoring the real effects of chronic stress (from the above listed social problems) on health and behavior that get passed off as personal failure, the persistent -isms that are found in health systems which compound the health problems faced by oppressed groups, AND the antiscience escapism that is the consistent response to these problems.

    My elaboration became absurdly long, so I am putting it on my site.

  125. ibbica says

    Personally? I’d leave animal welfare and environmentalism out of it*, at least formally and at least for now, and instead start with a focus on (human) social justice issues.

    I’d suggest starting with “advocating for the recognition and treatment of all humans as people”.

    In practice, that would then mean approaching (advocacy?) groups of disenfranchised/marginalized people (or asking them to approach you) with one simple question: what can we do to help you?

    Nearly all of what’s been suggested, including political issues, will follow from that.

    As for animal welfare and environmentalism: the reason I suggest leaving them out of it for now is that *so* many issues surrounding those topics are centered around a first-world, developed nation viewpoint. We tend to convenient forget/ignore whether a suggestion is economically viable everywhere (e.g. crop rotation, fallow fields), or whether “eating animal meat” might mean something other than “buying a beef steak from the grocery store”.

    I don’t think we’ll truly be able to escape that trap until support from diverse populations is cultivated. And here’s the kicker, and why I say start with “social justice” and asking people what help they say they need: I don’t think one can cultivate that kind of support unless you first demonstrate that you think of members of those “diverse populations” as people too.

  126. SayNoMore says

    I agree, but as long as the PZ Myers is in the driving force of the movement you will never see this. He has too much invested in anti-theism to make exception, and because his white privilege blinds him to the nature of his commentary he doesn’t see the harm – or the harm of the commentary he encourages – he defended Terry Jones for fucks sake! – as he practically had to, considering his own unprovoked dismantling of a Koran.

  127. ibbica says

    I was trying to be brief, and don’t want to derail, but I hasten to add: huge TRIGGER WARNING at that link (descriptions of child abuse). Might not be clear from the hover-text.

  128. 'Tis Himself says

    When I was in high school ever so many years ago, I attended a meeting of the Socialist Labor Party of America. What I remember about that meeting was the vehement trash-talking of the Socialist Party of America as being too Trotskyist.

    One thing I’ve noticed about marginalized groups is they often spend inordinate amounts of time arguing about minutiae concerned with ideological purity. It’s one thing to discuss whether or not we should consider supporting or ignoring X, it’s something else to demand everyone support X and those who disagree shall be cast into the outer darkness with wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  129. 'Tis Himself says

    We must oppose liberalism? I think we need a definition of liberalism because I daresay many people here consider themselves “liberals.”

  130. markelamb says


    That 13 myths post is an excellent reference, I know because it certainly improved my understanding of the specifics, and opened my eyes to some glaring omissions in my understanding.

    I’m learning to learn.

  131. markelamb says


    It’s valid to say the scope of this proposed new wave can be expansive and may be hard to focus – but some of the above are less than helpful – most of them can be put under inclusive headings and some can be discarded like ‘generalizations’ in favour of clearer terms – like ‘biased or discriminatory generalizations’… IMO.

    Listing them out there is a lot of work to be done. If not us then who? Atheists can, under one heading or another, improve our image and our membership by standing up for reason in society, by pushing for equality under an overtly atheist banner seems appropriate.

  132. 2Up2Down2Furious says

    I haven’t read all of these responses, but most of them that I have read are prtty good. Generally, I’m prtty stoked about the attention social justice issues have been receiving as of late in the atheist community (especially as someone who has been a longtime atheist in the left, rather than a leftist whose primary home is atheism).

    A few elements of this discussion sort of dampen my enthusiasm. Atheist activist groups seldom remove themselves from a blog/conference/billboard/newspaper editorial context (not that any of these things are bad or unimportant), and many of the proposed next steps do little to build a home for unapologetic atheists within the grassroots, actually-existing left.

    Example: discourse on “classism” can be useful to help the well-off understand their privilege, it does little to actually empower the working class and poor, and build a base among poor communities. Rather than stop at educating the privileged, why not go to unions and attempt to raise atheist issues in workplace contexts? As a queer worker, the job where I felt most comfortable was one where my union rep was a queer woman of color. Just as LGBTQ folks have made tremdous strides to forge a shared agenda with labor, I would like to see atheists do likwise.

    In my in-person work for labor solidarity, immigrant rights, feminism, the environment, etc., one fourth to two-thirds of those with whom I worked in various organizations were non-believers. As atheists seek to make their presense felt in the grassroots, in-person left, they may be pleasantly surprised at how many atheists they encounter who have previously been uninterested in the atheist movement.

  133. 2Up2Down2Furious says

    The keys on my keyboard are kind of lousy, especially the “e” key. Apologies for typos!

  134. says

    I agree IRT Animal Welfare (though I may be biased – I think my homelessness is a marginally more important issue than whether we eat meat or not) but environmental issues, even those attached to animal welfare, include a lot of things we should have a statement on. Like how the science basically proves climate change and that it’s our fault. Or that the Farm Bill in the US is one of the primary causes of failing agricultural economies in the developing world due to artificially low grain prices. I think our biggest issue should be making sure everyone’s rhetoric and ideas line up with reality first, then we can work on what to do with the world.

  135. Bruce Gorton says

    I would add third world outreach to the list. This shouldn’t just be American and European thing.

  136. embertine says

    Can I just clarify – are talking about activism within the movement, or working towards the movement taking part in activism that has external effects?

    For example, if it’s the latter, then I think it would be a good idea to put together a list of laws in our respective countries which are either not there and should be, or are there and are discriminatory.

    We have recently learnt how to lobby (!) and I think we should use this knowledge. For example, the laws that allow trans* people to be discriminated against in many countries. Let’s take on some of those.

    Or perhaps that’s not what was meant?

  137. ibbica says

    I think I mostly agree ;)

    I’d just like to see the primary focus be put on “social justice issues” specifically. I do think the evidence-based approach to things like climate change (and homeopathy, and bigfoot, etc.) is relatively well-covered by the existing communities. I don’t think that it’s necessary to be a ‘A+ Atheist’ to concern yourself with them, unlike (apparently, and sadly) social justice issues.

    A stated emphasis on social justice issues should of course include poverty induced by policies… so the devastating effects of the US Farm Bill, for example, on the international stage would fall neatly under that umbrella. It’s an attempt to frame discussions around vegetarianism or coal use or deep-sea fishing into the broader context of a global community, rather than a US- or Western- or developed-nations-centric perspective.

    The point in my mind isn’t to ignore other issues at all, it’s to add the consideration of issues that are unfortunately lacking from, or marginalized in, the current communities.

  138. N. Perlt says

    “I’m afraid atheism remains for me as neutral as not believing in fairies or trolls and I think associating it with social issues in this way may well be counterproductive.”


    Do not, as Americans, make the mistake of thinking that there are only two political choices: Republican or Democrats.
    I don’t know how you managed to create a so messed up political system, that conservatism and libertarianism got mixed up and that the only alternative is some weird mixture of liberalism (in a uniquely American meaning) and conservatisme and libertarianism.

    I would, according to American vocabulary, be classified as a raging liberal lunatic.
    However, in Denmark I’m best described as a libertarian nutcase… :-D
    (Admittedly I tend to use the phrase “Pragmatic Libertarian”… Americans would probably understand it if I said “Pragmatic Libertarian Socialist”….)

    IMO the best thing, “the atheist movement” can do is to expand what is logically an expansion “no gods”:
    Atheists believe there are no gods.
    Atheists believe there are no gods, because we thought about it. Using logic and the methods we know from science. Using rational and scientific methods in all areas of life, because we don’t think religion or religious people should get special treatment.

    IMO the logical consequence of that is:
    People shouldn’t get special treatment.
    Groups shouldn’t get special treatment.
    Ideas shouldn’t get special treatment.

    So when there’s a social bias that causes immigrants from non-western countries to get “special treatment” (NEGATIVE!!! special treatment aka. racism), atheists should logically disapprove and speak against.

    When people say: Everything would be better if there were no public schools! Everyone should have to pay for their own education! That idea should be examined scientifically and with the use of logic. It shouldn’t be denounced because “it’s not fair”. It should be denounced because empirical studies will show that (GOOD!!!) publicly funded education improves a country.

    I do agree that conservatism sucks – but I think that because it doesn’t allow people to make their own choices. Neither does socialism. Liberalism pretends to, but ignores the class issues.
    Nobody’s perfect.
    Hitching A+ to any of the three big ideologies’ wagon wil IMO be a big, big mistake.

  139. Cranapple says

    I am 100% on board with all of the ethical concerns that you are proposing A+ to deal with. I think there are real problems with sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, etc. etc. etc. in the atheist movement, problems that need to be resolved. However, I think A+ is a completely idiotic idea. You’re proposing “Atheism + something”. That something already exists, it’s called secular humanism. If you want to be atheist AND something else, then be both of those things. If you want to be atheist AND sexist/misogynist, then I think you need to GTFO out of the atheist movement not because atheism should have some component that opposes those views, but because you’re not fit to be a part of ANY human movement. All people should be intolerant of racist/sexist assholes, it should have nothing to do with which particular club you belong to. This is like proposing “Amateur Astronomy +.” How about we just call out the assholes and let that be independent of our atheism?

  140. Nick says

    I’d be a terrible secular humanist – I’m not optimistic enough about humans generally (which is why I don’t identify as one). A+ sounds more like me. Good on you for stepping up to the plate :).

    One note of caution – rational, sensible, “progressive” people can and do disagree about quite big issues. Something to bear in mind before adopting big policy positions like “pro-nuclear-power!” or “pro-vegetarianism!” or “anti-war-on-drugs!” – the more such positions you specify, the lower the number of people you can claim to be speaking with the voice of. “pro-using-rational-debate-and-evidence-based-policy-making-to-eventually-come-to-a-provisional-consensus-on-whether-nuclear-power-is-a-net-good” is a hell of a mouthful, but far more palatable.

  141. Gavin says

    Seconded! Drug policy is full of irrational religiously-inspired crap, AND it kills people. Evidence based drug policy (+harm reduction) should be a no-brainer for atheists and skeptics who give a damn about social justice.

  142. says

    Hmm, I gotta disagree with this:

    we’re adding philosophy that should lead from not believing in god.

    I think rational skepticism, not atheism, is the foundation of A+.

    Atheism is the product of that skepticism applied to religion, and a strive for social justice is the product of that skepticism applied to culture.

  143. Amanda M says

    Well, feminism is a central topic of this blog, so why not start there?

    I’ve been told by a lot of people that the campaign platform the republicans are using right now that severely limits women’s health care options is “just posturing” and that after the election, it will die down. But in the meantime, it does real, tangible harm.

    So, what about a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood? They could probably use all the money they can get to help float through these budget cuts until the election is over and (hopefully) all this crap dies down. Although, it might not, and in that case they could REALLY use donations to help them stay afloat in general.

    Anyway, leading off with a fundraiser certainly shows that we’re ready to do something concrete and make a difference, and it’ll also get our name out there.

  144. Lux aeterna says

    Coming from a public health background, things I think are important to advocate for: evidence-based policy and practice, responsible journalism, including calling out pseudoscience and bullshit in the public and political arena, science education (I really like the Sense About Science organization), harm reduction, mental health. And finally: I think it is really, really important to discuss barriers to accessing health care- including class, economic and social barriers.

  145. fwtbc says

    Ableism is a big one for me.

    Accessibility is something that I have daily troubles with. This is something that we really need to focus on. I’m on mailing lists related to my specific disability and I’m frequently saddened to read about people who are on one hand being helped quite a lot by the church while simultaneously being influenced in negative, counter-productive ways, that are not in the persons best interest.

    So I really want to see this taken up, and taken up seriously. I’m really tiring of people writing wonderfully inspiring blog posts about moving forward, being great allies, only to have them completely ignore you or brush you off when you ask them to please remember their blind readers and include alt tags/textual descriptions of visual elements.

    Ableism includes far more than just accessibility, and there will be practical considerations, but when we can take steps to be inclusive, we absolutely should.

    I’d like to request that accessibility be one of the initial goals that the community aims for. We have a huge online presence, and improving accessibilty here is an easy place to start.

    Who’s in?

  146. Jacob K. says

    I disagree, I think that just highlights how much infighting and hatred exists within our own community.

    The first time I was called “privileged” it was because of something I said that was pretty ignorant. Was it explained to me? No, of course not. I was just told to “check your privilege.” What I heard was “You are a dumb asshole” and I distanced myself from the online community.

    My point is, I feel unsafe posting here because no matter what I say, I’m violating some taboo and then 5 people jump down my throat for being privileged or a misogynist or a homophobe when I make efforts to avoid those things. Instead of being used properly, as a model for explaining behavior, the term and concept of “privilege” has somehow been turned into an argument. It’s not. It works if the person you are discussing with already is familiar with the concept of privilege. It works if the person gives a damn about it. But it doesn’t work with outsiders who don’t know and/or don’t care.

    I think the atheism community, as a whole, spends too much time policing itself and that’s what the outside world sees. We aren’t see as inclusive or welcoming. We’re seen as a community that tears itself apart every time somebody makes a bad joke. We’re a community that jumps down somebodies throat for an ill-considered remark.

    We shouldn’t focus on privilege because too many of us see it as an instant argument win button. And that drives the new comers away.

  147. Xuuths says

    From what I’ve seen, this will be a problem — there does not appear to be a consensus on the topic of privilege. The definition. The ramifications. The accusation of it as a silencing tool. The denial of it (based on fact or simple denial).

    Every discussion I’ve seen has devolved into a flame war — which demonstrates it is an important topic. But, like the topic of “offensive” it is a highly emotionally charged landmine.

    Add to that the typical communication problems inherent with texting on the Internet, and it is a recipe for potential disaster.

    But it does seem like it is a topic which needs to be worked through, with extra patience, with a willingness to go the extra mile to avoid taking umbrage, and a sincere desire to work together to discover a solution.

  148. rowanvt says

    What else did you think the vast majority of cows, sheep, and chicken are raised for? When people see a hillside full of cows, they have a pretty good idea of why they’re there. There’s no joke involved. Animals used for food production, be it meat or products like eggs and milk, have severe welfare issues and those are issues I want to work for. I have pet cats (obligate carnivores) a dog and snakes (obligate carnivores). This means that other animals *have* to be raised, and killed, to at least feed *them* if not me. So there are millions of animals in the world today that exist because we want them to be food for something or someone else. Just because we have such a purpose in mind for them when we bred them into being does not mean they also have to have crappy lives.

    Unless you’d rather see no animals raised for food (and thus, the killing of millions of those animals as farmers will NOT keep around such money drains) and no pets at all.

  149. he11cat says

    I think we should focus on actually changing things – stand for government, get involved in decision making comittees, school boards, there are tons of companies and governmental organisations that have oversight committees. Perhaps one of the best things we can do is support more women, LGBT, people of low income, or any minority, into positions of power. Get them into local government, have ways that we can support them – many of these are ‘boys clubs’ and so information is a key tool, make sure people know HOW to find out how to get on these boards and into political positions.

    Do more in the political process, support candidates that use evidence to back up their policies instead of ‘what they reckon’. Buy shares in companies and actually vote on issues of how the company should run. How much could we change just one multi-national company if we ALL bought shares in it and then pushed for change. I for one would be happy to work on all of these – perhaps we also need some way of everyone being able to sign up to help with these causes? If I for example wanted to create a resource to provide info on how to get onto boards, if I could go to somewhere where I knew I could rally supporters who would really DO something, it would help get so many projects off the ground.

  150. Brandi says

    Telling people what they should or should not consume reminds me very much of this one thing I don’t like. It’s called religion.

  151. consciousness razor says

    It’s one thing to discuss whether or not we should consider supporting or ignoring X, it’s something else to demand everyone support X and those who disagree shall be cast into the outer darkness with wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    That’s true, those are different things. How right you are. Is anyone here doing the latter? Who or what are you responding to?

  152. Brandi says

    I think they meant that the bigoted people will take the stance that they *are* operating on equality and leave it to whatever marginalized group to prove that they are marginalized.
    I don’t think they were saying you’re not oppressed unless you have substantiated proof.

  153. pboyfloyd says

    “Our atheist leader, who art on the blogs, atheistic be thy name, thy new atheism + movement come, thy will be done on Earth as it is on the atheist blogosphere, forgive us this day our daily looking at girls cleavages and bums and our feeble attempts to gain access to the pudding below as they forgive us (hopefully) for fully appreciating the effort they have put into giving ’10′ guys boners although we’re only like ’4′s, for thine is the blogosphere, made somewhat godly since you make (relatively) mucho dinero from it now, the power and the glory forever and ever, amen.

    (don’t forget, half teh gheys want to fuck you, the other half want to be fucked by you! It’s something weird to think about!)

    I think that last bit was suitably gratuitous and I am sincerely and suitably ashamed if any actual GLBT person was offended by my attempt to poke Monsieur Carrier you-know-where!

  154. Jacob K. says

    I think the problem is there is no way to define it. Like anything insulting or trying to be politically correct, it depends on the person.

    A simple example is use of the word “normal.” Is it insulting to describe being straight as “normal”? Certainly the majority of people are mostly straight. It’s a norm. But some people consider it very offensive and some people think it’s a perfectly legitimate label. Dan Savage, for instance, says it’s expected and inoffensive to assume someone is straight because that’s the norm. Other people, some on this site, think that any assumption of this nature is offensive and an example of how privilege leads to negative influence.

    So if we can’t even keep track of that, how on earth can we expect outsiders to know what’s safe and unsafe to say? The goal should be that everything is safe to say, no one will be attacked even if they are insulting, wrong, or simply ignorant. We should give everyone the benefit of the doubt. We have to be the bigger people.

  155. Pteryxx says

    Seconding this. Accessibility of internet pages should simply be best practices, as basic as any other netiquette.

    – always include alt-text tags and/or descriptive captions of images and videos.

    – set off in-line links so it’s obvious that there are links there to someone using a text reader. (for instance, the OP just reads “Hundreds of you are excited about Atheism+. I’m excited about A+. This is our chance for a new wave of atheism – a wave that’s more than a dictionary definition about not believing in gods. ” A text-to-speech converter won’t reveal that there are links to previous posts in those sentences.) Usually this would read (link) after each of those in-line highlighted phrases. Another method would be to use superscripts for the in-line links with full links given as footnotes below.

    (note: I don’t use a text reader myself, so if anyone has better suggestions, please correct me.)

    – provide transcripts of relevant videos and podcasts. Every conference, podcast, vlogger and video meetup should ideally make provision for staff or volunteers to produce transcripts routinely. This is a huge investment of time and effort, but it can be easily crowdsourced.

    That’s just for internet communication alone. More attention needs to be paid to accessibility at conferences, sign language interpreters (also possible as an addition to previously recorded speeches), making ebooks available in open-source formats for text-to-speech conversion and so on.

  156. Xuuths says

    Your last paragraph is a wonderful suggestion! (Personally, I try to ‘hear’ posts being read with a pleasant voice of someone I respect. That way, I gloss over ‘flubs’ and don’t automatically presume they mean to be insulting.)

    But you point out the obvious difficulties. I hope we don’t get so bogged down with this that expend all our energy trying to get a perfect solution.

  157. 'Tis Himself says

    Who or what are you responding to?

    You, among other people. You started this subdiscussion with the following:

    “Animal welfare,” for example. How many here are on board with this meaning that we should advocate vegetarianism or veganism? If not, why not? Isn’t that “atheism plus”?

  158. Jacob K. says

    This is exactly the problem with atheism today. It is exclusive. We want ableist people to feel that they can talk to us. We want racists and sexists. Because if we drive them off, they never change.

    If the goal of this new wave of Atheism is simply to make it only people who say thing we agree with, then we’re not making a new movement, we’re just forming a policing agency. We’re just making a smaller club exactly like the last one, except instead of a Boy’s Club, it’s a Feminist Club. And everything we’re accused of is right. We hate men, we hate white people, we hate everybody who isn’t us and you can’t become us because we won’t let you in.

    It has to be decided. Are we just the same as before, but re-targeted against misogynists instead of against women? Or are we trying to grow and advance the ideas of atheism, secularism, and rational thought?

  159. says

    I’ll take up just one of your issues, namely “racism”. But I think the other issues are similar in many ways.

    Back when I was a graduate student (about a zillion years ago), I was optimistic about the prospects of ending racism. Over time, I became more and more pessimistic. But, recently, my optimism has returned, though at a more realistic and less idealist level.

    What I have learned, over those zillion years, is that attitudes such as racism are deeply embedded in culture and cultural traditions. They can only be changed slowly. But they can change.

    As a university faculty member, I could not help but notice that people would segregate by races in the dining halls, in making friends, etc. That was what led to my initial pessimism. But when I watch young students on campus today, I see that there is far less segregation, far more treating each other as just co-students and friends. And that is the source of my current optimism. The election of Obama as president, strongly supported by the youth, demonstrates this. The insane part of the opposition to Obama, strongly supported by many of the older generation, illustrates the slow rate at which cultural changes can occur.

    My conclusion: Social changes related to racism and other issues can only be brought about by steady continuing grass roots activity. Legislation alone won’t solve the problem. The grass roots campaign against homophobia is a great illustration of what is possible, though it also illustrates the slow rate of social transformation.

  160. MandaSauce says

    When you were told to ‘check your privilege’ without knowing what it meant, perhaps it would have been helpful for you to Google the term rather than assume it was an insult or wait for someone else to explain it to you?

    I also think the concept of privilege is hugely important. Understanding your own privilege and the difficulties people without those privileges experience is practically a requirement for developing awareness and empathy rather than dismissing or ignoring the concerns of ‘the other’. A lack of that empathy has been one of the biggest hurdles for the equality-minded among us in this movement.

    Though honestly, I don’t know how helpful a forum dedicated to educating about privilege would be. There are already so many resources available for doing so, and they haven’t stopped many people from wanting an explanation right there and then from others in the discussion. Would referring them to another forum really be more effective than referring them to one of the many helpful guides already out there?

  161. Pteryxx says

    Are we just the same as before, but re-targeted against misogynists instead of against women?

    you really think there’s equivalence between making a space welcoming to bigots, and making a space welcoming to their victims? really now?

    Bigots can read the education just fine at a distance if they care to do so. The purpose of a supportive movement isn’t to cater to THEM.

  162. Jacob K. says

    No, we don’t cater to bigots, we win them over. This is where we fail in regards to religion. A potential convert is courted and educated. We call them a bigot and drive them away. I’m not saying we ignore victims. I’m not saying we allow people to be bigotted. I’m saying we help them overcome it instead of saying they are wrong and driving them off.

  163. aurophobia says

    I want to see atheist bus ads that advertise much needed services rather than just statements that we’re good without god.

    Ex. “Suffering from spiritual abuse? You’re not alone.” Followed by info on support groups held at humanist centers near you.

    Ex. “Trying to find a science-based counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist in your area? Visit Atheist Medical Directory (or some such name) for help.”

    Ex. Child Care Services

    Ex. Community centers run by atheist groups. As a community organizer, I drool over this idea! To have our own building where we can hold meetings, have our mail sent, host gatherings like Atheist Christmas…oh how awesome it would be.

    And so much more.

    For those of you who live in the Seattle area, we’re looking for new board members for Seattle Atheists who’d be interested in making a few of these things (and other social justice issues) happen. We’re also having a “Big Idea Meeting” to get input on more awesome ways we can enrich our community.

  164. N. Perlt says

    IMO our opinions will always be based on our experiences.
    Privileged people can try expanding their experiences to gain better understanding of minorities, when nicely explained that their opinions may not match up with the facts of less privileged persons’ reality.

    Just yelling “That’s a privilege based opinion!!!” with no other explanation doesn’t help anybody change.
    Yelling “That’s a privilege based opinion caused by you being a white, heterosexual male! If you’d lived as non-white etc etc etc, you’d understand!” does help people think a bit more.

  165. Jacob K. says

    “Understanding your own privilege and the difficulties people without those privileges experience is practically a requirement for developing awareness and empathy rather than dismissing or ignoring the concerns of ‘the other’. A lack of that empathy has been one of the biggest hurdles for the equality-minded among us in this movement.”

    Exactly. And I’m calling for us, those who are more familiar with the concept, to be empathetic to people who aren’t. And instead of throwing around difficult concepts or thinking “they should just google it instead of assuming that the reason they’re being told their opinion is irrelevant is insulting” we work on building bridges and educating. We have to acknowledge that within any discussion about these topics, we are the most privileged. We know the lexicon, the rules of the conversation, the tacit agreements, and what is and is not an acceptable argument. They do not. So we pull these rules on them and they get frustrated because we are holding all the cards. And they do the logical, rational thing; they stop playing and go away.

  166. Pteryxx says

    and you can do that just fine in their spaces, instead of allowing bigotry and constant education-gone-JAQ’ing-off attempts to silence the voices and discussions we actually value here. Found a specific bigot-outreach blog or organization for that if you wish. There are limits to how much of that can go on *within* the same conversations we need to have beyond remedial humanity 101 lessons.

  167. 'Tis Himself says

    There are already discussions on other FtB blogs on the differences between secular humanism and Atheism+. Among other things, secular humanism isn’t necessarily atheistic. If it were, it would be called “atheistic humanism”.

  168. Jacob K. says

    I’m sorry Pteryxx, I thought a new wave of Atheism meant we were going to work on the entire package. Are we just restructuring ourselves internally and not changing our outward facing issues? I am honestly asking, I don’t know what exactly is being called for here.

  169. MandaSauce says

    Jen, thank you so much for this! I have been so disillusioned about atheism lately, and Atheism+ is really giving me hope for.

    I’m afraid I’m supposed to be writing right now and don’t have time to read all of the comments thoroughly, but I’ve seen some really good suggestions and wanted to make a few of my own in regards to following through on them.

    I’ve seen several comments suggesting an educational database for the concepts we want to address, and I think this will be a very helpful tool. There is a metric crap ton of brilliant stuff on the internet that has been written about this already, and organizing it into an Atheism+ Wiki or something similar would be awesome. It would take a lot of work that I am personally quite unqualified for, though. The first step in making this happen would be finding volunteers you trust with the skills and interest in doing it.

    What I do have experience in, however, is coordinating with atheist and humanist groups. I was an intern with the Foundation Beyond Belief last year and helped get their Volunteers Beyond Belief program going. Basically secular groups who were involved or wanted to be more involved with humanitarian efforts would apply for affiliation and we would help them coordinate, plan and promote events, as well as report on those events after the fact to help people see that religion doesn’t have a monopoly on volunteering.

    I think we could adapt this model for atheist groups that are interested in social justice and equality issues, and I would be thrilled to help. I think that working within the framework of existing groups to encourage and implement these ideas is going to be the best way to get actual stuff happening. We need people who are willing to do stuff first, otherwise we’re just talking about what we’d like to see.

  170. says

    The reality is that there is no systemic assertion of superiority being made. No whites only drinking fountains. No classes women can’t take. No impediments to minorities in government. So there goes the entire point of that movement.

    You make the common mistake of assuming that “systemic” equals “government-based”. It doesn’t. Sociologically these are cultural phenomena. The system in question is the larger culture, and the economy created by that culture. As far as feminism goes, real manifestations of this fact include the pay gap between men and women, the “glass ceiling” effect that still keeps women out of most of the highest positions of power in corporations, the set of cultural biases referred to as rape culture, and many other phenomena, all verified by scientific study.

    Besides which, there is still a major area in the US in which the government is forcing inequality upon women: reproductive rights. Republican-controlled legislatures and the House of Representatives have pushed numerous bills restricting access to abortion, to contraception, and to Planned Parenthood, an organization which performs numerous valuable and necessary medical services for women, for no justifiable cause other than bigotry against women. Has this escaped your notice?

    All of which is just in the arena of feminism. Bring in anti-racism, and you can see even more: the judicial system routinely hands down harsher sentences to minorities than to whites for the same crimes, police frequently beat, shoot, and kill black people without any justification and face no penalties, both local government and corporate plans to stimulate local economies with “revitalization” projects often lead to gentrification, which chases out poorer minorities from neighborhoods, and let’s not forget that the predatory subprime mortgage market, which triggered our Great Recession, primarily preyed upon minority homeowners. Again, all of these things are verifiable by research and scientific study. If you’re looking for sources, Google is your friend.

    Look at LGBT rights. In many states, it’s still legal to fire someone for being LGBT, few states have marriage equality, full federal marriage equality is still unachieved, violence against LGBT people (particularly transgender) is rampant, and justice for victims of said violence is uncertain at best. Has this escaped your notice as well?

    The general assumption is that we are all equal. I’m not saying that bigotry doesn’t exist in our society or even that there aren’t institutional forms of oppression… just that there are no obvious examples where any institutionalized claim of superiority is being made.

    If you don’t look at something, it won’t be obvious to you that it exists. The general assumption that we are all equal is the null hypothesis of anti-bigotry movements; it isn’t the working assumption of the culture at large.

    So that would mean that the A+ anti bigots would need to demonstrate that these institutionalized systemic sources of oppression do in fact exist… in the material world. If the actual sources of the oppression cannot be demonstrated to exist, it is not enough to merely point to the bigotry that exists in society and to assert that it’s cause is systemic in nature.

    This has been done repeatedly. If you are unwilling to do the minor due diligence of Googling up scholarly resources on the subject, that is your problem. It is also a major failure of skepticism on your part.

  171. Nikoel says

    It’s also not the responsibility of a marginalized person to educate every privileged person they encounter. It can get seriously exhausting having the same conversation over and over and over especially while being constantly reminded of your oppression by well-meaning, yet clueless persons from the oppressive classes. Intent isn’t magical and no one is required to give you the benefit of the doubt so they can discern whether your intent was “good” or “bad”. Marginalized people only have a responsibility to do whatever they feel they need to in order to protect themselves.

  172. fwtbc says

    Thank you for your support. I’m pretty quiet in comment sections, but you’ve frequently made me very happy and I guessed that you would probably be the first to reply to my above message if anyone did at all. Appreciated more than you probably realise.

    Speaking only to the screen reader side of things, links are handled in a variety of manners depending on the particular screen reader and/or configuration you’re using. Some will change the intonation/voice for links, some will explicitly point out links as you go, and some will not draw any attention to the links as the page is read, but will let you navigate through them easily. They all have their pros and cons. I prefer little attention being brought to links and then finding them afterwards, otherwise it’s really easy to lose the natural flow. This is also why I am not a fan of self-censorship, because f asterisk asterisk king is also jarring to the flow when you’re listening rather than eyeballing.

    On the most part, it’s really only images/videos presented without any explanation that cause the most problems (for me).

    I second you on transcripts. These are valuable for reasons far beyond aiding the hearing impaired. I frequently prefer to read a transcript than listen to the original audio, simply because it’s faster, but it’s also useful to be able to google for a text string and find a video which isn’t really possible without a transcript of some form.

    ASL at conferences, absolutely. I strongly suspect that this would also be reasonably easy to make happen, and usually it doesn’t happen simply because none of the organisers have put a call out for someone to live translate. Perhaps a list could be compiled of willing volunteers who’ll happily do signing at conferences.

    Thanks again for your support!

  173. says

    How is this a disagreement?

    Yes, skepticism is the process one would use to logically examine why there is no Divine Agent and what Social Justice steps should be taken in the culture.

    However, A+ isn’t part of the skepticism movement. It’s a division of the Atheism movement. It’s Atheism, as a movement, adding philosophy that naturally follows from not believing in any Divine Agent.

    Skepticism is a part of it, but it’s not the focus of why we’re self-identifying. I don’t self-identify as a skeptic most of the time for the same reason I’m going to start identifying as A+ – the people who do identify as a Skeptic and, increasingly, an Atheist are jackasses.

  174. MandaSauce says

    If my immunology professor uses a term I do not understand to tell me I am wrong about something I do not take it as an insult or to mean that my opinion is irrelevant. I take it to mean I am wrong and I don’t know enough to understand why. Of course, this analogy is flawed because it is my professors’ job to teach me so asking her for an explanation of the term I do not know would be completely reasonable, but she would be justifiably annoyed with a student who didn’t bother to do the reading before class and the students who actually did the reading would be rolling their eyes at me for wasting their time.

    My point is that it’s not very reasonable to expect your fellow forum-goers to educate you about core concepts of the discussion. That is your responsibility. Saying ‘you are wrong’ is not the same thing as saying ‘you are stupid and irrelevant’. We can’t control how people react when we tell them they are wrong, though. People getting angry or frustrated or defensive about being wrong doesn’t make the issue of privilege less important or worthy of discussion.

  175. Pteryxx says

    awww, thanks *blush* but as you know I’m sure, it’s shameful that so few people even discuss text accommodation that you could predict by name the one who’d second you. That’s embarrassing and we should fix it. Thank you for the clarifications re text readers, too.

    Another note on transcripts: transcripts are infinitely more amenable to language translation than podcasts or videos, which would require voice-overs. Even Google translate does a good enough job for a non-English-speaker to get the gist.

  176. says

    If the actual sources of the oppression cannot be demonstrated to exist,

    I dunno, Brandi. This sure reeks of gaslighting to me. Like someone with privilege shrugging and saying, “Well, I don’t see the oppression here folks. Sorry!”

    It really does look like someone who is saying that people aren’t oppressed if they can’t immediately prove it.

  177. Pteryxx says

    Another thought: any conference larger than a pub meet will have an organizing board, with officers specializing in volunteers, registration, speaker handling, advertising, setup/teardown and such. I suggest that conferences should have an Accessibility position responsible for looking at accessibility of venues such as restrooms and elevators, for lining up volunteers for transcription duties, contacting local organizations for ASL interpreters and most importantly, to field and handle any accommodation concerns the speakers and attendees may have.

  178. Jacob K. says

    I have read the source post, and I took this line to heart:

    “It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime. We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.”

    But apparently that was meant as and accepted by the majority, as a call to change for those already within the movement, not those who are outside of it looking in or those who feel the pressures of family, society, and what have you not to address the questions they have about their beliefs.

    I thought it was a call to increase the openness and allure of atheism. It’s instead a call to fix internal problems. My mistake.

  179. says

    I’d like to quote another comment here –

    This has been done repeatedly. If you are unwilling to do the minor due diligence of Googling up scholarly resources on the subject, that is your problem. It is also a major failure of skepticism on your part.

    Now, rather than me explaining a second time why anything can be studied scientifically and the science of sociology has given us a lot of data to support feminism, let me just link some of the evidence so you can have something to read after I call you an irrational bigot. – Pay Gap papers – Apologies and socialization with some commentary – And a little institutional distrust toward female leaders.

    And now, the end.

    You’re an irrational bigot that doesn’t understand what feminism is and you have no idea how skepticism functions. Read more, lurk more, but don’t comment until you actually understand how the academic disciplines underpinning these studies function and can converse about their findings without sounding like a jerk.

  180. says

    We can define privilege, though. Privilege is a social advantage that one group possess simply for being part of a normative group.

    You have an excellent example of privilege in this comment – it’s a heteronormative privilege that everyone is considered straight unless they identify elsewise. The entire culture we live in is predicated, initially, on the idea that everyone is straight. Marriage is “traditionally defined as one man and one woman” because everyone is straight.

    Being straight *is* privileged because you don’t need to worry about all of that stuff. You don’t lose resources even considering what the world would be like otherwise because it’s of no concern to your day to day life.

    Someone like me, on the other hand, I lose considerable resources over this on a regular basis that starts with the thoughts I think every day. I’m pansexual, and I have to move through heteronormative waters to try and find potential partners. Because I’m swimming against the current, as it were, I necessarily expend more energy just ferreting out who is a potential match, let alone pursuing anyone. A straight person doesn’t need to go to all these extra lengths to vet potential mates before beginning pursuit, which is where the privilege descriptor comes in.

    Honestly, to me, privilege doesn’t seem like a difficult concept. It’s a special right granted by the society (not the person) based on the nature of the person in question. White privilege and male privilege are two things that should be pretty easy to identify as well. Sure, there are limited spaces where privilege equations change, but they’re largely unimportant (since someone who’s White that goes into a space where white-privilege evaporates can always ‘escape’ back into the real world by leaving, and thus regain their privileged status).

  181. says

    Oh, I agree. I just think there are certain things that are “settled science”, like the operational bulk of climate change, that we need to have an unequivocal stance on. That debate, itself, has gone on far too long for how the science looks.

    It’s kind of like evolution in text books. I think there should be an understanding that we just support it out of hand, like other forms of evidence based policy. Our debate focus, though, and where we spend most of our resources and time is social justice issues.

  182. says

    I think the real class work isn’t at unions but at SOS, but that could be because I’m actually a victim of class and don’t have a job of any kind because of it d:.

    The Atheism movement, I think, doesn’t have the resources in general to mobilize the same way that churches do when it comes to social justice. There just aren’t enough people, buildings, etc, to have the same wide-reaching net effect that other grassroots systems have. What we can do, though, with what resources we have is force multiplication (which is what the blogs and conferences and such are good for). They allow us to posit real change and push for change without overextending our limited capabilities.

    As well, given that we’re not a social justice organization but a budding ideological movement, we should take advantage of existing social justice support networks and just remind everyone that we are atheists, that we’re part of a new wave of social justice activist atheists, and reintroduce what it means to be part of the atheist movement to the people we meet there.

  183. Dylan says

    What I said was…

    I’m not saying that bigotry doesn’t exist in our society or even that there aren’t institutional forms of oppression… just that there are no obvious examples where any institutionalized claim of superiority is being made.

    I agree that certain institutionalized inequalities need to be rectified such as gay marriage, abortion rights, etc… but I think it is wrong to extrapolate from this to a much more generalized theory of male privilege.

    I do not need to accept a premise that there is an inherently anti gay system in order to recognize that gay people deserve the same rights as everyone else… and likewise I do not need to accept the premises of patriarchy theory, male privilege, or rape culture, in order to support equal rights for women. In m y opinion these divisive ideological constructs are an impediment to progress because they mischaracterise the actual power dynamics in society.

  184. says

    Jen, and all. I’m glad a few topics I personally find important are in your list, namely environmental issues — although it seems a big bag of matters not detailed out enough if compared with the numerous “isms” above, rightly detailing human-to-human matters. (I’d love to see that single topic splitting into energy, biodiversity, transports, urbanism, agriculture, wildlife, water, pollution, climate change, etc.)

    However there’s another topic which is dear and near to me, which permeates almost all kinds of interpersonal relationships at all levels, and which deeply affects culture and individual perception. And yet it is utterly absent (*) from the discourse and narratives of US and UK atheist internet fora I have been lurking at for the past 15 years or so.

    That’s language. Not intra-language matters, such as role binarism influenced by grammatical gender, or sexist pronoun use. I mean inter-language matters — the practical and ethical matters concerning English hegemony (or hypothetically any other such one-language hegemony, in a different time and place) and what it means in terms of the worldwide invisibility of any non-English discourse, of the uneven playfield shared by natives and non-natives, of the risk of universalizing whatever specificities of English language interference in monolinguals’ worldviews, etc.

    So, I’ve been up for more than 24 h so I probably didn’t send my point across as clearly as I could — or not, being a non-native English speaker… ;-) But still I’m curious about what you could add on this topic. (Of course, only people with good command of English are reading this, and that’s the 1st realization that should become evident.)

    (*) Note: With one recent exception, when a commenter at PZ’s complained that a world conference in Germany had so many panels and talks in German.

  185. Jacob K. says

    Sure, that’s an example of privilege. But is it necessarily wrong or insulting of me to continue to think of being straight as normal? Is my privilege something I am supposed to reject? Because it is often portrayed as that. That because someone has a privilege and doesn’t actively deny themselves those benefits, they are a bigot.

    And that’s not including times when the term privilege is used, with no explanation, to shut down someone else’s argument. In some cases, I’ll even grant many cases, it may be correct, but never without explanation. I certainly have been lucky in life and have many privileges. That definitely influences my views on many issues, but I don’t think it invalidates them entirely.

    I’m certainly not arguing we shouldn’t teach the concept, I’m arguing that we need to stop using it as a tool. Having privilege is not a fallacy. But we is it to invalidate arguments and the people who made the arguments simply walk away, no longer intrigued by our community or its ideas.

  186. says

    Thank you, Martha!

    Living in the UK, I sometimes read these blogs and think “I’d love to help, and I see a lot of the same issue here, but is this aimed at me?”

    I love this online community I’ve somehow stumbed into, partly because I live in a big city on my owns, and my friends and family live in a different big city, but I would love to see any sites and resources developed out of this to reflect that it’s a global community, which is the only way I see something like A+ taking off.

  187. says

    I think the predicate of your argument fails to understand what privilege is. Privilege isn’t a tool to be used to shut down an argument, invoking privilege is used to remind someone that their point of view is not necessarily factual, not necessarily definitive, and perhaps not even necessarily common. It’s just privileged. And an inherent part of privilege is a lack of fairness.

    In that way, I do think that it’s bad for you to continue to consider straight to be the only normal. That may not be what you think, but that’s the implication of “normal”. It is more fair, and better generally, for the privilege of normalcy to be extended to all sexualities instead of reserving it for just heterosexuality and, in social practice, force people to ask each other how they identify. Assuming that straight is normal makes other sexualities invisible and forces them to play a game with rules that don’t apply to them, which is not just frustrating it’s kind of mean.

    So the use of “unpack your privilege” isn’t for shutting down a conversation, it’s asking someone to rethink their argument in light of the fact that they’re not representative of the majority and their experiences are not necessarily the same as everyone else’s. It’s a request that we make the conversation, our behaviour, and our society more fair by consciously including the currently underprivileged people. We don’t want to take privilege away from anyone, we want to extend privilege to everyone who doesn’t have it.

  188. Jacob K. says

    I agree with everything you said. My point is that what you said is not how many use it in practice. I’m not opposed to the theory, or the appropriate use of the concept and the term. I’m against those who use it to shut out other people. And I think we need to be aware of this misuse and stop it.

  189. John Small Berries says

    I’d really hope that the Atheism+ movement can avoid the smugness that so often infects skeptical and atheist groups.

    I went to a local skeptics’ society meeting once, which consisted of two or three hours of everyone patting themselves on the back for being smarter than Christians and people who believed in UFOs, and agreeing with each other that even if the term “Brights” was offensive to other people, it was “their own fault for being so dim”.

    I never went back, despite being an atheist and a skeptic myself, because quite frankly they were unpleasant and embarrassing to be around.

  190. says

    Part of putting a stop to improper use of the idea is to stop giving credence to the idea that improper use of it is “a thing”.

    What I’m trying to say here is that we shouldn’t discuss all those awful people who don’t understand how it works and we need to outline exactly how it’s used.

    What we need to do is simply use it the right way and when someone uses it the wrong way, we explain how that’s not exactly what privilege awareness is. By saying that improper use of privilege as a dog whistle or something is “a thing” we give credence to that kind of argument. Especially since this kind of argument, that the word “privilege” is used to shut down arguments, is something I only hear from groups like MRAs and not from feminists discussing the same issues. Generally, the only people who use “privilege” improperly are those that haven’t been educated on what privilege is, not those who are actually discussing privilege.

  191. Ecitsu says

    I would add sex-positivity in general, and supporting the rights of polyamorous people, so that we can be free to live our lives without persecution, loss of employment, loss of parental rights (and acknowledgement of the rights of three or more parents). It shouldn’t matter how many people your holy book prescribes being ideal.

  192. wytchy says

    As a biracial woman of color, among other qualifiers, I really do feel like racism needs to be seriously and thoroughly addressed in the atheist+ community. I’m not just talking about blatant discrimination either. I’m talking about meaningful dialogue WITH people of color, as in asking them what they think about the issue instead of a bunch of white organizers sitting around and patting themselves on the back for how progressive they are. This is going to go hand-in-hand with increasing racial diversity in the atheist+ movement, obviously, and it’s going to require hard work. It’s going to require white atheists to talk to people they may not otherwise see on a regular basis. It’s going to require visits to “other” neighborhoods where you are suddenly a minority, and all the discomfort that comes with that experience. It’s going to require a more nuanced understanding of how atheism, religion and race issues intersect, and what issues are blockages in particular for people of color in the atheist community.

    Alix Jules had a good panel about this at the Freethought Fest in Madison, WI a while back. If you didn’t attend, you can watch it here:

  193. says


    I’m excited. I would love to see things like a huge online resource for information, blogs and events groups so people have a ‘go-to’ place for this.

    I’d also like to see some of the other stuff people have been hashing out; resources where people can request advice for where to find A+ approved resources out in the real world. Businesses that don’t discriminate against atheists (I realise this will be far more important in some communities than others), comparisons of educational programmes to give atheist parents more control over their decision as to where to send their children (in the UK it’s actually the law that primary-school children have communal prayer – atheist parents might want a resource that explains their options for bypassing this)…

    in fact, as this idea gets bigger, I think resources for atheist families might end up being vital. From things as simple as reviews of family attractions, to atheist advice and guidance on how to deal with things like talking about death, and sex.

    I think we have something with a LOT of potential here, and I’m proud to be in a small way a part of its beginnings.

    OH, YES, please, we need some way to encourage new writers and commenters. Guiding new people into blog posts, or inviting people to start writing some of the resources (much like Wikipedia) would make it an open, accessible community. Oh, I know it would need moderating and revision, but I think that would be a nice way to begin this open community.

  194. jayyoung says

    The broken world food system and impending global climate disruption are things I’m deeply concerned about. Oh, and I wanted to throw this idea out there: I’ve really been wanting for a while now a podcast that specifically focuses on skepticism and social justice- both each individually and how they intersect.

  195. says

    I really like this idea! I’m almost finished with Sikivu Hutchinson’s Moral Combat – the first book of this kind I’ve read (I mostly focused on the “scientific atheist” issue), and I would love to read more. Especially with discussions!

  196. Emptyell says

    I think what I like best about the A+ idea is that it is inclusive and non-specific and can mean different things to different people.

    While the social justice aspect is fundamental (a requirement for inclusivity) how anyone chooses to participate is open to wide variations. Various people will choose to focus more on political or social matters, some may be more concerned with education or health care issues, others may be dedicated to environmental or developmental programs.

    Atheism is essentially a negative or null position, A+ is about atheists being positive.

  197. Grimm says

    Atheism does not necessarily entail any of those things…one can be an atheist and a liberal, a conservative, an anarchist, a communist, a nazi, a philanthropist, or a child molester.

    What you are showing is that atheism can not stand on its own.

    And read Richard Carrier’s vicious little post on the subject of atheists either being “with him or against him”.

    In HIS words, if you disagree with the Great Carrier, GTFO.

    He reminds me of Lenin dictating terms at a Party Congress! LOL!

  198. trinioler says

    Heya fwtbc!

    I don’t comment if ever. I’m personally hard of hearing, and pursuant to your comments today, which Pteryxx mentioned, I’m starting a group to help various bloggers/groups transcribe/caption their videos.

    We’re tentatively calling it A+Scribe.

    I wanted to do my part to help make it easier for those interested to support a wider range of readers and commenters.

    You can reach me through


  199. Sam Barnett-Cormack says

    Well, I’m cis, male, hetero, white, middle class (depending on your definition), and not exactly an atheist (do I need to repeat what I am?)… though also disabled, poorly off, and chronically ill (note that disabled and chronically ill are slightly different things, though an awful lot of chronically ill people are disabled).

    Is there a place for economic justice/general welfare on the list of issues? You know, standing up against poverty, that sort of thing? I know class issues are there, but it’s not quite the same thing – I live largely on state handouts, me and my partner both being disabled, but most would consider us middle class despite our financial situation. This is because of our upbringings and our attitudes.

  200. Sam Barnett-Cormack says

    See, this is what I get for commenting before reading the existing comments – though in my defence, the comment count is a little daunting ;)

    I think the label ‘classism’ is liable to cause such confusion, though, as it merges the concept of economic privilege on the simple grounds of money with privilege from perception of social class. I don’t know if it’s already in general currency, but it’s not one I’ve come across over here in the UK. If it’s liable to much misunderstanding at all, and not much is lost by saying something clearer (even if it needs more words), it’s probably worth being clearer.

  201. Sam Barnett-Cormack says

    *sigh* That was meant to be a reply to Jadehawk @89… but the reply link seems to have failed slightly.

  202. says

    One of the best things everyone can go do right now is join their local atheist group. If there isn’t one, start one. If it is a “boys club” or a “let’s pat ourselves on the back for being smart club,” overhaul it. The overwhelmingly positive response we are seeing to A+ shows that you will likely have more allies in that effort than you think. Actually standing FOR something can inspire an organization and will draw more people in.

    Local atheist groups need your help. We need leaders to inspire us to expand our ideas about what we can and should be doing. But we also need people to do the simple hard work it takes to run an organization. We need people who will work information booths at fairs to get the word out about the work we are doing. We need people who will set chairs out for a speaker event. We need people who will call around to restaurants to find a place that can host a dinner. We need people who will take notes at meetings and balance the checkbook. We need people who will cook for a fundraiser dinner or donate leaf raking time for a charity auction.

    Please join us. Together we can change the world – one local community at a time.

  203. Sam Barnett-Cormack says

    (In case reply doesn’t work again, this is in reply to Witchy @84)

    This point applies to all of the ‘disadvantaged groups’ (not a good phrase, can’t think of one that doesn’t have problems)… talk to us, let us tell you what the problems are. Talk to lots of people about each thing, and realise you still won’t get all the issues.

  204. Michael says

    Awesome, sounds fkn great, I vote we include economic in-equality as well, its a cause for soo much sufferring and for the most part we allow our politicians to lie to us through our own willful ignorance as a society.

  205. GordonWillis says

    I think a big focus on education, to include critical thinking, citizenship and social awareness as obligatory studies and to be part of the ethos of schools and colleges.

  206. GordonWillis says

    and people men who can see beyond their desire to gnaw at women’s ankles at conferences.


  207. Pteryxx says

    Honestly I’m not sure how to even approach this, outside of providing translators and multilingual materials in civic arenas such as courts and schools. The closest parallels to discourse I know are in science fiction, where excellent work only sees large audiences when somebody bothers to translate them; and in scientific research where English has basically become a go-to language for publication worldwide. The problem’s compounded by the US especially being generally unsupportive of learning languages other than English – mostly it’s an antiquated formality in high schools and colleges.

    I’ve seen crowdsourced translation projects, and if there are transcripts then Google translate can do a decent job on them; what else should we be doing and/or be aware of?

  208. says

    you didn’t bother understanding what you’re responding to, did you.

    here’s the thing: the world doesn’t revolve around you. social activists don’t exist for the sole purpose of doing social justice 101.

    therefore, having the ability to shoo n00bs out of advanced conversations, into the basic conversations that will actually get their questions answered, has to be an option, or we’ll never be able to move beyond the 101 level, since there’s a neverending stream of n00bs.

  209. says

    30 seconds times at least a dozen n00bs per new conversation, times at least a dozen questions equals no time for anything other than 101-level discussions.

    101-level discussions cannot be the only discussions that take place, or nothing ever would get done.

  210. says

    Dylan the Manarchist, didn’t I tell you to learn to stop being a denier of other axes of oppression before spouting your BS here again?

    Feminist Theory is a discipline within sociology. you’re the one who’s is ignorant and confused. and wilfully so, to boot.

  211. says

    Feminism is an ideology… the ism should have been your first clue.

    you’ve absolutely no clue what you’re talking about. -ism is a suffix that describes a state of being, not an ideology: lesbianism, eroticism, syllogism, etc. are not ideologies either. Don’t make such silly arguments from ignorance.

  212. fastthumbs says

    I’m all for treating animals well. Hurting an animal to make oneself feel better is evil and is unethical.

    With that said, I wouldn’t want to see A+ go down the irrational PETA route that equates animals equal (or better than) humans. Wants to ban all science that depends on animal testing, wants to mandate everyone to become a Vegan (Being a Vegan is great, but it needs to be a choice) and is against all pest control methods (we compete with other species for food and quality of life would degrade greatly for many people when the food supply is reduced without pest management).

  213. says

    as it merges the concept of economic privilege on the simple grounds of money with privilege from perception of social class

    that’s because those two things are the same thing in a capitalist society. The reason especially the UK contingent often gets confused on this is because they have a modern, capitalist class system superimposed on top of an old, feudal class system, and they often only use “class” to describe the latter. In social theory though, “class” means social status, and in a capitalist/industrial/post-industrial society that social status is acquired with wealth. You can thank the Protestant Work Ethic for that.

  214. says

    It’s the commonly used term that I know of in Social Justice circles in California for economic privilege problems.

    Also, there aren’t appreciable differences between a lack of actual money and the oppression of people perceived to be poor. Class issues that deal with the upper class are expressions both of being perceived to have a lot of money and because they have a lot of money (and which helps them save money). Issues on the lower class end reinforce one by expounding the other – if you’re perceived to be poor, it’s less likely you’ll find a way to make more actual money. If you don’t have a lot of money, it reinforces the perception that you’re poor.

    So the two things are inherently intertwined.

  215. Paul Scott says

    Fastthumbs and I probably have near complete agreement on theism. On the other hand when (s)he states veganism “needs to be a choice” we sharply part company as I don’t see why anyone should be given the choice to torture and kill animals for their own amusement/enjoyment.

    This, for what it’s worth, is why I think the entire idea of A+ is not a good one. You are taking people who could easily work towards a common goal and making it very difficult for them to do so.

    The sexism you have experienced as a result of the dismissive, patriarchal power structures in our society needs to end. Within the broader atheist movement, as you experience these events you should call the perpetrators out; and when you do so, you should call them out publicly and by name and with specificity regarding their actions, rather than the unnamed “Boy’s Club” to which you previously referred. No matter what might be done in private, publicly behaving like a sexists pig is not tolerated by many people. If you were to simply start naming both the persons and the specific behavior, I suspect you would find that it would stop.

    In any event, getting rid of religion would go a long way towards dismantling the aforementioned patriarchal power structure that allows sexism to persist, since it is Christianity (in this country, other religions in other countries) is a big part of maintaining that power structure.

    Creating a “progressive” (we’ll see how progressive it really is – my guess is that it will be “progressive” only to the extent that the newly created majority (majority of the new “A+” that is) deems the issue worth championing) movement that happens to be formed entirely of atheists just does not seem to me to be the best way of going about this.

  216. says

    But it can indeed increase the openness and allure of atheism!

    Add all the people who’ve been put off by the closed-mindedness and the deeply unalluring bigotry of the boys-club atheism. Subtract the closed-minded bigots. Which number is bigger? In sheer numerical terms, there are a LOT more people in the world who are not cis straight white middle/upper-class men than who are.

    (Of course, bigots and CSWM/UM are not all the same people, but that’s enough for a very rough first estimate of relative population sizes.)

  217. yellowsubmarine says

    I feel two different ways about this. On the one, I get what you’re saying about new people getting jumped on for not being familiar with the concept of priviledge and getting chased off. I feel that’s the very reason we need to have a safe environment where it can be discussed with an emphasis on empathy for and patience with people who don’t know. This is not a topic we’re familiar wtih society-wide and everyone here knows that. However, I would like a place to discuss this topic that isn’t saturated with the basic information also. I know something about priviledge and I’ve still stepped on toes recently simply because of a difference in the way language is used where I live.

    While I undertand where MandaSauce is coming from in the reply, I have to flatly disagree. You can’t know what you don’t know. Getting jumped on for breaking social rules you weren’t aware of is more like getting flunked out of immunology because you didn’t study the textbook you didn’t know existed. Expecting the majority of people to just suck it up after being socially attacked is not realistic. It’s a damned uncomfortable experience and many people’s first impulse is going to be to get defensive. Which I think is totally understandable. Not a good idea, not helpful, but surely you can see how someone might end up there. We need a better way of handling it than blaming them for not reacting ideally and charging ahead with or without them.

  218. cityzenjane says

    …I confess…I needed a dictionary for this…more than once and didn’t actually find a few of them in there..but I am anti-academic elitism so I don’t care…

    I kid. I do need a dictionary though – or a decent resource for this list….

    And yes… it makes my Spidytroll senses tingle…

  219. Paul Scott says

    Just an aside and not really material to the main thrust (which is why I missed it in the first place), but not a very good “skeptic” moment for fastthumbs (perhaps you should consider slowing your thumbs down a bit).

    You managed to criticize an organization (one, imo, deserving of criticism) without stating correctly even one of their positions. PETA is a relatively tame, mainstream, well funded, animal welfare (not animal rights) organization. It is not abolitionist. It certainly does not take the position that animals interests are superior to human ones. It (nor any other animal rights organization I know of) is not opposed to pesticides, generally (certainly not on the grounds that pesticides kill bugs). They gave Temple Grandin (probably the person most directly responsible for modern factory farming) an award!

    Ironically to this thread, there was a blog and partial movement called “vegans against PETA” because many of the tactics taken by PETA are considered misogynist (and also because they are not progressive enough when it comes to their core mission).

    To put it in the terms in which we generally speak, your post was not fact based.

  220. blogromp says

    I left a comment on a previous post that would’ve been better left here.

    My point, more briefly, was that it’s not enough to ‘address issues’ or to ‘ask for input from disadvantaged people’. The people who are living with these oppressions (often multiple intersecting ones) need to be a pivotal part of the creation of this new movement. If the people who are most marginalized aren’t represented and empowered from the beginning the movement, where they can have the most effect on its foundations and direction, then A+ will be just another organization that further marginalizes them.

    Also note that it’s not enough to make a general call for people of identities that aren’t currently well represented (if they’re present at all). You will have to do research, to get creative, to move beyond your normal spheres of activity, to actively reach out to people, and to find out what sort of support they need to enable them to join and participate.

  221. cityzenjane says

    It would also be right up our ally to take on the very specific cause of getting real libraries reinstated in the prison systems by law. As it stands now prisons are privatized often run by right wing religious zealots who give the prisoners one ONE book to read….

    Want to guess what that is?
    No silly, not the dictionary……

    I will let you guess again…

  222. cityzenjane says

    but but….we’re still working on homeopathy and exorcism…Where will we find the time???

  223. says

    I want to see “Enlightenment” as a broader concept than Atheism+. I have written lots about my “Dimensions of Enlightenment” on my blog, (via my name above), and I have just posted “Enlightenment is better than Atheism+“.

    It is not that “Atheism+” is bad. But I think it is too narrow and not sufficiently inclusive. It appears to have lots of appeal to the “atheist community”, and that has merit in the USA, where atheism itself is a big deal. But in Europe atheism is often pretty boring. I’m a “strong open atheist” and no one I know really cares about that.

    If everyone concerned treated religions as hobbies, (which is what religious practices really are), atheism would not be seen as so important. A privately-religious secular feminist might be 80% enlightened, but may never be an atheist. But why would we care? Why not include that person in this expansion of our objectives?

    In other words, I think what is being talked about here as Atheism+ is a subset of a more flexible and powerful concept.

    (Obviously my view of Enlightenment, which I first published 4 years ago, isn’t yet sufficiently developed. But it does have the merit that you can approach enlightenment along a number of dimensions: cognition, knowledge, empathy, and governance. Different people and organisations will follow their own preferred path).

  224. Fastthumbs says

    From PETA’s website:

    “Do you have to be vegetarian or vegan to work for PETA/FSAP?
    Some of our positions do require you to be vegan (e.g., all campaign positions, fundraising and development positions, and media spokesperson positions). However, many positions do not require this. We look for compassionate people to work here.”

    This indicates that the mindset of the leadership that mandatory Vegan\Vegitairian is one of their goals. I suspect if they could, they would mandate this as a condition of employment for all – Obviously they know that forcing this uponthe rank and file would reduce attracking people to their cause, at this time.

    As far as pest control PETA is all for “Humane” trapping of rodents and “alternatives” to posions for insect control. While what they suggest (see various comments on their comments sections) may work for the home gardenner/home owner, I just don’t see it as effective for agro and city dwellers and office/industrial plants. (

    I noticed no comments about PETA’s veiw onanimal research? I guess I tend to agree with most of the horde/PJ Myer’s views from Pharyngula which isn’t supportive at all of PETA.

    I do agree that A+ could easily get weighed down with too many issues e.g. animal rights (which I find often wooish and anti-science).

    A+ should really be about
    1) the intersection of Atheism, Skepticism and Humanism (Vern diagram someone?)
    2) dealing effectively with the asshats involving the negative -isms
    3) understanding what privledge is and how it affects oneself, family and community and work towards EXPANDING privledge to all (rising tide raises ALL boats)

  225. says

    Yes! Economic inequality is a hugely important topic! It is not only unjust and horrible for those who live in poverty. But it’s also keeping the human race back, because we lose extreme amounts of brainpower, ingenuity, innovation, etc. from all those who are unable to live up to their potential because of poverty.

    What is important then is to not only look at economic inequality inside our own country (as we white, privileged people people too often do), but in the world as a whole. The Pale Blue Dot.

    The richest 20% of the world consumes 86% of the resources consumed every year. This can obviously not go on much longer. 5 billion people around the world does not have access to a washing machine. They, or more likely the women, must spend so much of their time and energy washing clothes which could’ve gone into getting their families some income. So looking at global economic inequality touches on many of the other issues, like sexism, too.

  226. Sam Barnett-Cormack says

    Having a single person with overall responsibility for accessibility is a very good idea, and not just because they will think about it themselves – it’s good so people can contact them to let them know their needs.

    It’s no good having someone just do a checklist – so we have level access, accessible toilets, mobility assistants available, alternate formats for written materials, sign interpreters, Braille signs for navigation, even a mobile app and bluetooth beacons for navigating the venue. However thorough your checklist, you will miss things. You need to let people know they can tell you their access needs, and have someone for them to talk to, in advance of the event. You have to be ready to make changes to accommodate people, within some semblance of reason, and not resent people who don’t find what’s already been planned ‘good enough’. I’m not talking about any specific group or event – just a general attitude many of us experience.

    Most disabled people won’t insist on being absolutely catered to – compromise is something we tend to be used to. So we won’t get the widest choice of seating – but we won’t accept being restricted to the worst seating area. Restricting us to sitting with only one other person from our party, or of our choice, is also not really acceptable, unless clearly unavoidable (see the recent furore over London Olympic venues). We don’t insist that all activities be suitable for everyone – we don’t generally begrudge other people activities involving running about – but we prefer to know about them in advance, and have the opportunity to sit out gracefully (or choose an alternate activity, if there is on), rather than have it suddenly thrust upon us without warning.

    I hope folks will get the idea from that…

  227. Sam Barnett-Cormack says

    Correlated, certainly, but at least in the UK they can be separate. For example, choices of food can be seen as an issue of class in the UK at least, independent of the cost of those foods, because of the fact that culinary choices do tend to be correlated with the ‘older’ concept of class. Heck, the two main definitions of social class in the UK (one for market research, one for national statistics like the census), the only well-defined ones in wide use, aren’t based on anything financial (though they do correlate with both income and education), they are based on what sort of work a person does (or did, if retired or unemployed, at least short-term).

    So having just one thing called ‘class’ might work if you’re either simplifying a bit much, or being US-centric. It’s jarring on the other side of the pond.

    Examples of class privilege that exist independent of income include the way people are treated depending on accent and diction, the advantages of family connections, the respect given to certain professions (certifying photographs for passports, for instance, is something that can be done by people in jobs that include lower to middle incomes, as well as higher incomes). This ends up reflected in the treatment by security staff, airlines (people who seem ‘upper middle class’ get free upgrades when economy is overcrowded, people who seem ‘common’ don’t), even school and university admissions (state schools bend admissions rules for middle class parents, even though they get no financial reward from it, and even if the parents are actually skint, while universities with more competitive admissions routinely bias towards students who come across as higher class; economic incentives are now being used to offset both in this country). This is all because of preconceived notions about the suitability of people for things based on impressions of social class independent of individual finances.

    On the other hand, direct financial privilege arises where people with more money can afford better.

    Both lead indirectly to some other privilege issues, such as education. However, privilege deriving from education is not only from these two routes, as there are many other things that can obstruct a person’s education – at least mostly coming from other recognised privilege categories.

    Of course, there can be some instances where people who ‘seem’ higher class are at a disadvantage (much as there are some aspects of modern society that benefit women over men), though it’s much more minor than the advantages. For instance, coming across upper middle class and trying to get a subsistence job is incredibly difficult due to a number of presumptions that people make. Also, being poor but seeming middle class gets very different reactions – people assume there’s a good reason, such as health, asceticism, or deliberately working below your earning potential in order to do ‘good work’. Poor and working-class seeming just leads to a presumption that you are feckless.

    As final points, I’m not 100% convinced that it doesn’t exist in the US, it’s just less uniform, and the UK’s situation isn’t as much to do with feudal leftovers as you might think. In the US (and the UK, as explained in my earlier points), people from poor backgrounds who ‘make good’ are still tainted by that background; many people see rich ‘white trash’ as still being white trash; New England old money types, and those who aren’t wealthy but come from that culture, are negatively inclined towards a lot of new money types. Meanwhile in the UK, our feudal leftovers are very much minor leftovers. Yes, we still have some hereditary aristocrats, and they all come across as upper class, no question – even when they live in abject poverty in order to cling to their old family home, which may be draughty, mouldy and without hot water. However, it’s long been more about social milieu and types of work, about education, about food and clothing even, than it has about any feudal elements.

  228. carovee says

    I haven’t read all the comments but I’m super excited about Atheism+ (and would love to have an A+ pendant from Surlyramics!).

    As for the movement, I think that we should play to our strengths, and work to bring realism? uh, rationalism? oh you know, real facts, back to policy discussions. For example, we know why women get abortions (hint: not because they are lying sluts), or we know a lot about why african american boys drop out of high school (hint: not because they hate boostraps!!). There is a ton of good science that could make a real positive impact on our lives if we could get politicians to actually pay attention to it.

  229. Sam Barnett-Cormack says

    In some sort of twisted synchronicity, I’m now debating some old friends who I thought were quite reasonable people, and they’re doggedly asserting that equality can never be sought through unequal treatment – it started as criticism of a comment on rape by a politician (one said “rape occurs when a woman does not consent to sex”), meandered through criticism of the gender-specific laws on rape in England, and ended up making that statement… followed by condemnation of women-only spaces (some saying that there should be matching men-only spaces, some saying that either is wrong, even if they are both provided).

    Now a white middle class cis male not-yet-disabled person is telling me that I’m being silly, and to go away for half and hour to work it out because he doesn’t want to explain it to me.

    Oh yeah, and some operative examples are about disability.

    He, and several others (of similar privilege class backgrounds) are so proud of their devotion to equality.

    Excuse me ranting here in the comments, it just struck me given the timing, and I couldn’t help myself (obviously that’s not literally true, but I could do with the rant).

  230. Sam Barnett-Cormack says

    Um, I’m really confused by the order of comments… ones made today in the middle of (other top-level) comments made on the 20th?

  231. literaghost says

    Oh, don’t want to participate in the goals set forth here? Want your atheism to be “just plain ol’ [dictionary] atheism”? Guess what – you can still do that. Just not under the A+ banner. Because that’s defeating its purpose.
    Seriously, have you and N. Perlt even *read* the first few posts about this movement?

  232. thatmikehinesguy says

    Simplify, simplify, simplify. I applaud the direction, but I think the goal should be to make a premise that gets to the heart of the issue, and let the specific actions and areas of actions extend from that.

    Perhaps something like: “We will improve the human condition by actively working to ensure legislation, government and communities are driven by personal freedom, evidence and the scientific method. This includes the repeal of laws that restrict freedoms based on conjecture or personal belief, the reform of government to remove irrational or baseless legislation and action, and the overall goal of creating a society based on reason, compassion and common verifiable truths.”

    (maybe information or data instead of truths… truths sounds better, but is open to a lot of subjective argument)

    That may not be the right way to write it, but our core issue is that we want our society to be based on rational informed decisions. All of the other issues and questions should be extensions of that, and the thing we should be fighting is any action or legislation that violates that… regardless of the area or interest.

  233. says

    In that case, good news! Jen is spearheading it and, as far as I can tell, doing most of the work. So I’m not even sure why you had to make a comment about “as long as PZ Myers is the driving force”, because he’s not. Jen is.

  234. bakarichavanu says

    Hi, someone just hipped me to this blog post. Your A+ is so on point! I think A+ could definitely expand the atheist movement, because it shows what we stand for, not just about what we don’t believe in. This A+ couldn’t come at a better time, especially when more racial minorities this country are beginning to come out of the closet, or at least questioning god belief. Thank you for this post. I’m going to read the other comments later this evening.

  235. BreadGod says

    I still fail to see how “Atheism+” is any different from humanism. Why can’t you just call yourselves humanists?

  236. fastthumbs says

    This is >>>GOOD<<<. A+ should be concerned with making evidenced based policy – this WILL address a lot of the negative -isms (which should weed out a lot of religious malarky, junk science and newage woo)

    A+ should be the intersection of the three positive -isms: Atheism, Humanism and Skepticism.

  237. Pat says

    I’d love to see Rebecca Watson do something like this. I really have felt for a while that the SGU guys aren’t very excited about her issues…they say the bare minimum of supportive things but seem unwilling to get active about them, or seriously bring them up on the show.

    Might be nice to see Rebecca go out on her own (not quitting SGU!) and use what she’s learned to do her own kind of show, focusing on these issues.

    A+ podcast, Rebecca?

  238. says

    This gives me an idea; On top of report cards for candidates (a fantastic idea, by the way), I have for a while wanted to see something similar in regards to businesses and organizations and such. A way for people to search for a business on a list or something and see how well they do on social justice issues before using their services (such as with the Chick-Fil-A boycotts). Finding such information unless a business does something really noteworthy is difficult as it is, though.

    More importantly though, such a list could let people find out which places are secular-friendly or safe in a social justice sense. This would be especially helpful for LGBT people, trans* folks in particular, I would think.

    Though as I write this out I’m thinking that it would be less effective as a list and more effective as an A+ centered sort of review site.

    Though I do want to also insist that such a thing be only given as a tool for those who already want to or can make decisions based on social justice. We’d need to be careful not to make doing such a position of A+, because there’s a lot of classism inherent in basing your patronizing/purchasing decisions on social justice, and we wouldn’t want to start playing that holier-than-thou game. I’m thinking in particular of a post that I can’t find of Natalie Reed’s where she was blamed for receiving transphobia because of where she had been (McDonalds) and I really, really want to distance this idea from any thinking like that.

  239. says

    @Sam Barnett-Cormack

    the reply function is borked, and posts are appearing out of order, as well. a reply to your claims of separateness of class and “class” that you’ve described in your post from August 22, 2012 at 5:08 AM already exists in my comment from August 21, 2012 at 7:13 PM (you should be able to CTRL+F the timestamps to find the relevant posts), in which I explain what class is, and how come it confuses the fuck out of UK folks ;-)

  240. says

    anyway, the point is that social class is strongly correlated with wealth. not necessarily income, but wealth. and certain professions gain social status based on traditional wealth that can be produced with it (and vice versa), regardless of actual income currently being produced by it. But eventually, the social status does correlate with the money that comes with it. see for example the loss of both social status and income by US professors.

    BTW, things like language and accent are proxies for money. The same way someone who looks “effeminate” will be judged as gay regardless of whether that’s actually true, societies have ways of trying to establish visible markers of wealth. And accent is one, both in the US and the UK, for assorted complex reasons

  241. says

    First off, I’m going to echo a few people who’ve mentioned already how great of an idea this is. For the past few years 4chan was my go-to internet procrastination method, and eventually the misogyny got too annoying for me to handle and I switched to procrastinating on Atheist sites instead.

    And today I was thinking, and realized that I had hardly changed the community I was lurking. All that changed was the name. Even if FtB is (typically) the good, feminist, social justice end of Atheism, Atheism itself was the same MRA, libertarian, assclown hideaway that I had attempted to leave.

    So something distinct like A+ is much welcomed.

    As far as my suggestions, I have a few suggestions for things I’d think should be A+ policies:

    First, and I think I saw this alluded to in another thread somewhere on the subject, A+ policy on social justice issues that affect specific groups should be to always allow members of that group to voice their opinions first, and loudest. A woman’s opinions on feminism, for instance, are given the most precedence. Same for the opinions of racial minorities on the subjects of race, the opinions of LGBT people on LGBT issues, the opinions of the disabled on ableism, the opinions of sex workers on legalization/decriminalization, the opinions of addicts on how best to help addicts… and so on. None of this speaking over people or claims that people are too “emotionally involved” to be “objective” and so on.

    Second, A+ (or SAFE?) as a group needs to be willing to definitively take stances on issues. Not on every issue, and there doesn’t need to be a mission statement, but my one (small) issue with FtB is how there is explicitly stated to be no mission statement. To me, such a position implies that there aren’t objectively right stances on the issues at play, which sounds nice as a way to keep people happy, but it opens us up to treating issues that affect peoples’ lives as academic and debatable. Objectively stating some things to be right and others to be wrong in the sphere of social justice will upset people, it will cause divisiveness, and it will bring claims of hiveminding and echo-chambering, but we have to be willing to take that. Some things just are objective. Women are people, races are not superior/inferior to eachother, gay people are not abominations against nature, trans* people are not abominations against nature, abortion is not murder, rape is bad, conferences should have harassment policies, etc. Again, smaller issues can be left up to debate, but A+ should be willing to unabashedly takes broader, larger stances like those listed.

    Third, and finally, A+ cons should be notoriously inclusive as all hell. They should obviously have comprehensive harassment policies, free of hetero- and cis- sexism, that are very openly enforced and talked about, complete with assurances that complaints of any type of harassment will be taken seriously, for starters. As far as the cons themselves, obviously they should include diversity among speakers, but there should also be active attempts to accommodate for non-English speakers, disabled people (On this note, only holding cons at wheelchair-accessible places might be a good policy) and, well, anyone who needs accommodation really. It would also be ideal to make cons as free as possible, including with things like the grants that Surly Amy gave for TAM. That might help keep involvement from getting too saturated with economically privileged people.

    Anyways now that I’ve typed all of that out I’m feeling like a lot of it is kind of obvious, but hey, it’s 2am and I’m just goin to leave this as food for thought I guess.

  242. Sam Barnett-Cormack says

    @Jadehawk, no I had read that one – hence my explaining why social class and economic status are not the same thing, despite being correlated. Education and economic status are strongly correlated in much of the world – doesn’t make them the same thing. While the separation is less true in the US, I don’t believe that it is absent – it’s just a major part of the US national mythos that you have a ‘classless society’; given that mythos, accepting that economic disparity represents a class system is a fairly major step, no doubt, but there are certainly circumstances in which social background plays a role fairly independently of economic status.

  243. says

    Has there been a press release or a request letter? Perhaps they aren’t waiting it out; it’s possible that these directors don’t read FTB as often or as closely as daily or weekly…or at all.

  244. N. Perlt says

    Yes, I read the first posts about A+.

    I agree that something must be done to end the problems within the Atheist movement, that bloggers are concerned about. I think it’s a great idea to “grow” a more diverse atheist movement with more participants that arent white male middle class…

    I doubt the way to go is to promote another atheism movement that specifies that one must me Liberal (US definition)/”progressive”, vegan, socialist/anti capitalism/…

    thatmikehinesguy wrote:
    “We will improve the human condition by actively working to ensure legislation, government and communities are driven by personal freedom, evidence and the scientific method. This includes the repeal of laws that restrict freedoms based on conjecture or personal belief, the reform of government to remove irrational or baseless legislation and action, and the overall goal of creating a society based on reason, compassion and common verifiable truths.”

    I think that’s the better way to start working on social issues if it’s to be inclusive.

  245. Xuuths says

    Perhaps those organizations feel their missions already include them, or that it isn’t a problem there, or that they simply have a different mission? Just because they don’t specifically put those items in their mission statement doesn’t mean they are against any of the principles.

  246. Pteryxx says

    Sam Barnett-Cormack, I’m replying here to your post in threaded #75 above, in hopes it alerts you that you have a reply.

    Restricting us to sitting with only one other person from our party, or of our choice, is also not really acceptable, unless clearly unavoidable (see the recent furore over London Olympic venues).

    (bolds mine)

    I’ve done some searching on this and haven’t found much (lots of Olympic boasting about how great their access is) – could you provide links or source material for the issues involved?

    I did find articles about the shameful lack of accessible public transport, for instance:

    “Our bus fleet is the most accessible fleet in the world — with every one of our 8,500 buses low-floor wheelchair-accessible and fitted with ramps,” said Wayne Trevor, Accessibility Manager for TFL. However, only 60 percent of bus stops are fully accessible.

    “We get a lot of complaints from wheelchair users left to the side of the road,” said Lianna Etkind, Campaigns and Outreach Coordinator for disabled rights group Transport for All.

    Californian Hamilton said she often feels like a “third-class citizen” as her husband begs drivers to let her on and one in four drive away without her.

  247. says

    The viewpoint that “naming and shaming” actually works is incredibly naive. First of all, it has huge costs to the victim of blatant sexism to so so, because her word will be mistrusted if people don’t want to hear their pal has been sexist–and that happens all the time.

    Second, the vast majority of sexism cannot be “proved beyond reasonable doubt” in any individual case but only as aggregate statistics; so naming individuals does not make sense, but studying the overall trends and the reasons for them does.

    Third, everyone (regardless of their sex) is sexist sometimes, because sexism–misogyny in particular–is an unconscious bias inculcated by culture. So it makes more sense for everyone to learn about their own sexism, and work to decrease it in themselves and each other and society as a whole.

    If you don’t know this stuff, and you’re also going to say everyone should be vegan without fully addressing questions of health and of accessibility to good vegan food, you’re myopic.

  248. says

    OK, I laughed at the way you’re worried about excluding “ableists” rather than “people with disabilities”, and so on–you realize atheism massively excludes practically every minority right now, right?

    But reading on I realized I agree with you in a way. We should *not* be trying to make a club of people who are perfectly non-ableist, non-sexist, non-racist and so on. It’s fairly well in evidence that no such people exist. So to make a club of those who are “right”, and shun any “others”, would be to delude ourselves. But to define Atheism+ as an opt-in group by commitment to making these things and ourselves better, now, that makes sense.

  249. says

    I would like more of these too. I’ve been starting to gather such resources, but realizing it’s an almost impossible task because the “101” that works for different people will look different, and because I’ve read so much stuff. But I’ve collected a few here: some 101 stuff, some things about how we think.

  250. says

    RIGHT ON. Very good.

    I would also like a much more thorough and skeptical examination of what diets are and are not good for people. I have enough dietary restrictions, and a couple minor health concerns, that I am not willing to commit to being vegan; but I’ve also had that education and am conscious of trying to minimize my use of animal products, especially meat. I am also aware of how much a vegan diet does not seem to work for everyone.

    In any case, to those who are just going to say “everyone should be vegan” as some sort of abstract moral issue and NOT tie it to feeding the world and providing better nutrition to everyone: shut your ass up and learn something. Especially if you’re white and at-least-middle-class, because there sure as hell are issues of race and class and there are other vegans wanting to work beyond those.

  251. says

    “Sexism, homophobia, and transphobia (for example) are all aspects of the same thing.”

    Thank you, YES. Something not pointed out often enough.

  252. blogromp says

    @Grimalkin, the great points you make seem obvious to me (I’m the one who left the comment above saying it’s crucial to have marginalized people be represented and empowered during an organization’s nascency), but not to most other people. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have to say these things over and again and yet still not have them implemented (or even have most people understand why they’re important).

    >>A+ policy on social justice issues that affect specific groups should be to always allow members of that group to voice their opinions first, and loudest.<<

    Yes! A recent piece at Flyover Feminism and it’s follow-up describe how feminist organizations talk about the importance of inclusion, and yet still tokenize and marginalize women of color and other women with intersecting axes of oppression.

    >>Some things just are objective. Women are people, races are not superior/inferior to each other, gay people are not abominations against nature, trans* people are not abominations against nature, abortion is not murder, rape is bad, conferences should have harassment policies, etc. Again, smaller issues can be left up to debate, but A+ should be willing to unabashedly takes broader, larger stances like those listed.<<

    Absolutely. As the adage goes: "Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that held its ground." – attributed to Rosa Parks

  253. says

    Oh, please. It’s not my job to fix bigoted assholes. It’s their job to grow the fuck up and not be bigots. And it’s perfectly okay to be “prejudiced against” assholes who CHOOSE to be assholes.

    I can see why people pile on you and tell you to check your privilege, Jacob.

  254. says

    I’m not on board with fighting “ageism” insofar as it’s whining about using words like “immature” and childish” as insults or making valid statements such as that most adolescents lack the life experience or brain development to make certain critical life decisions. That gets into the most ridiculous excesses of Tumblr-style SJ.

  255. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    Yes, Jacob K., it is really, really wrong to think of heterosexuality as being “normal”. Thank you for playing Easy Answers To Bigoted Questions.

  256. Ant Allan says

    Well, maybe historically. But the BHA points out that “the word humanist has come to mean someone who: (a) trusts to the scientific method when it comes to understanding how the universe works and rejects the idea of the supernatural (and is therefore an atheist or agnostic) … ”


  257. says

    Adding another reinforcement. Wrote a similar post later with a ‘mission statement’ of sorts, but finally am going back through and trying to read all the comments. I definitely think defining the core principle is the first step. The specific issues and areas of interest will follow.

    Here’s hoping this reply actually goes to the comment, since I’m not sure who it was or where it was in the giant list now that it took me to the bottom of the page ;)

  258. says

    Yes, it’s true that we can support activist works elsewhere. And the cultural relativist viewpoint is wilfully ignorant.

    But too often people screw that shit up by coming from the Western world and trying to interfere in cultures in ways that are ultimately harmful. An extreme example is that of Anonymous: here. But more generally we may just see the wrong targets when it’s not our culture, or we may see the worst symptoms but be unable to diagnose the causes, and cultural change really has to come from people. (I also wrote about this, most recent post on my own blog.)

  259. says

    I see a lot of discussion of “ableism” in this discussion.

    We’re not going to get derailed into the worst sorts of language policing, are we, as exemplified by the “Ableist Word Profile” (Google it because I won’t link)? Or the absurd extremes of the social model, which posits, for example, that not having functional legs is no biggie and only considered such because because society values having functional legs?

  260. says

    Well, I’ve also come to recognize your name because you sometimes make comments that provide really good insight to me.

    Anyway, yes, ASL at events is so good!! Parts of the queer community seems to have started being on board with this, so I’ve ended up picking up small amounts of ASL and having my interest piqued just because there are interpreters.

  261. says

    Quite frankly, I’m tired of the label “sex-positivity,” because “sex” therein is always construed to mean “sex on men’s terms” and women and others who object to this are labeled “prudes.”

    There are major issues in sex work and pornography. Pretending they’re all the figment of fundie imaginations does not interest me.

    I have less of a problem with polyamory as a concept than I do with some of the people who take it up, particularly the “one penis per household” sorts, the “If you’re monogamous you’re unenlightened” sorts, and especially the “We’re an oppressed group” sorts. No, you’re really not.

  262. Jacob K. says

    I’m not talking about people who choose to be assholes, I’m talking about people who lack your life experiences and education. I’m talking about the people raised in very conservative households who begin to question their beliefs and poke their head out once. Then they say something that they have been taught since they were born, like, “But why would we want to encourage women’s participation in science when men’s brains are structured differently to be better at math?”

    They aren’t saying that from malice, or choosing to be bigoted. For the first time in their lives, they’re actually questioning this thing they’ve always taken as fact. They are reaching out and what happens? People jump down their throat, call them misogynist assholes, and tell them to grow the fuck up. That’s exactly what they are trying to do.

    And the sentiments I used in my example are sentiments I’ve heard expressed by young, college aged women. Women raised and taught that they can’t do math because that’s not how their brain works, but they are kind of interested in this science thing. Sure, I’ve heard misogynist assholes say the same thing. But my point is that not all prejudice grows from hate, or choice, yet that seems to be the default assumption. A lot of prejudice stems from ignorance, and when people come here and start questioning these things, they should be given straight, rational, and non-insulting answers. They should not be told to fuck off, its not our job.

  263. blogromp says

    >>I care more about these issues than I do about pure nonbelief in deities. I don’t really care if regressive assholes are alienated from any group I happen to be in. That’s a feature and not a bug.<<

    Hear, hear!

    Besides, we are by no means required to maintain balance between the representation of different political parties, because platforms and policies shift with time. And with the direction conservatism in the US has taken, both sides are not just as bad.

  264. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    Cosigning this with enthusiasm. Much of what is termed “sex positive” is mostly about sex on sexist dudes’ terms, in ways they approve of. And I’m kind of disgusted by the appropriation of queer oppression and reiteration of some seriously problematic shit that’s all through the poly community.

    And as a perverted, poly person, I cannot agree with your comment enough.

  265. says

    You might have grown up middle class, but if you’re living on state handouts and you can’t meaningfully participate in the economy in the same fashion as someone who is actually middle class, then it’s a class issue.

    I grew up middle class as well, in some fashions, and I used to make over $40k a year, but I’m disabled and homeless now. That’s still a class issue despite my past.

    Class activism is primarily about pushing people up into the actual middle class, being financially secure and capable of interacting meaningfully in the economy, rather than struggling to survive.

  266. Matt says

    Again the arrogance is mind-boggling.

    You can’t know what you don’t know. And people wonder why the “atheist movement” is so divisive right now.

  267. says

    I’m curious: what does atheism have to do with any of this nonsense? You guys are a great argument for establishment religion as a palliative for alleged unbelieving numskulls inventing new and even more deranged ones.

  268. Will says

    I think SAFE is a much better name for the movement. The focus should be on equality rather than atheism. Also, secular is a better way to frame it than atheist. It has some negative connotations that we could just do without.

  269. eean says

    re: “Secular Alliance for Equality (SAFE)”

    I don’t like the term ‘equality’ so much, since MRAs always seem to boil feminism down to nothing but equality.

  270. Cylis B. says

    Oh, I am gonna get in so much trouble for this… but here goes.
    I think we’re over reaching on this. By taking on so many disparate causes and concerns, I think we risk over-complicating ‘the movement’ to the point of complete inaction.
    It really is like herding cats. We’ve done quite well for ourselves with the herd-size we currently have, though not without it’s obvious problems. Now though, we seem to want grow the herd exponentially in a very short frame of time. We’re all very bright people, but it is swiftly becoming an impossible task.
    Another axiom I think that needs stating is: we don’t live in a vacuum. Many of the causes/principles suggested so far already have well established activist groups, and – quite frankly – have nothing to do intrinsically with atheism, plus or otherwise.
    If we care so deeply about these other issues, we have to also take into account that (like it or not, fair or not), we are not the most popular subset of society at the moment, and trying to crowbar the atheist label onto some of these issues will probably be more of a hindrance than help for the time being.
    All that being said, I think any individual atheist/atheist+/secular group that wishes to take it upon themselves to champion any or all of these issue should be applauded and supported. I just think writing up such an extensive “party-platform” for A+ in totality is a bit premature.
    I also don’t want to imply that these aren’t wonderful future goals, they are. But reaching for so much so quickly might well kill the movement before it really gets rolling. Once its establishes and working though, these would be fine things to revisit and discuss adding to the future agenda.

    But I don’t want to be just a Negative-Nancy and not make an attempt to give some positive contributions. I love the A+ idea, and I wish to help.
    The internal issues we’re already well aware of and have already set about addressing. Namely the issues of how members within the larger atheist community are treated, and how to build a more tolerant and inviting community overall.
    The practical actions suggested at the top of this thread are brilliant for that. Seeing the resounding support overall (minus a rather vocal minority), I think we have a very solid course of action as to how to handle the internal issues. They just need to be accepted and implemented by the community at large, and given time to work. To that end, the continued vocal support and activism on our part is vital.
    External issues are a much stickier wicket. As indicated by the shear volume suggested above, there are a lot of worthy causes out there, and it just seems rather crappy to ever say “Sorry, we can’t deal with (insert issue X here) right now,” but there does come a point – especially in the early stages of any new movement – when that has to be done. As I said, these are wonderful side-projects, but we need to place priorities on the initial focus areas.
    For my money, the largest external issue we face is social stigma. It is the largest hurdle we must overcome before any extraneous activism can be applied. For example, the American Cancer Society recently rejected a donation from an atheist group simply because they were hesitant to list the group on their list of donors. Until the tag “atheist” doesn’t inspire such fear and mistrust from the general public, we face nothing but an uphill battle.
    To address this, thankfully just solving some of our internal issues will be a huge help. By creating a more open and tolerant community, we will be better suited to attract more members in general, and help tear down the misconception that we’re all godless, immoral, untrustworthy heathens. This is even greater impetus to focus on our internal struggles in the short term.
    To further combat this stigma, I’d like to suggest the following actions:
    -Provide greater access to information concerning local atheist/A+/secular/humanist/similar groups, where to find them, and how to get involved.
    -Provide support and access to resources for people wanting to establish their own local groups.
    -Provide support and access to resources for individual groups who wish to get involved in other activist/community support endeavors. (this may seem contradictory to what I’ve said earlier. To be clear I think getting involved is of utmost importance. The A+ movement is just too small as of yet to effectively make such things planks of it’s established agenda.)
    -(Just putting more emphasis on one already suggest by Jen and her group) Work along side existing organizations that share similar values.
    I know that dreaming of a bright future, and what can be done with this wonderful new idea is impossible not to do, and in many ways absolutely necessary. I just don’t want us to make the mistake of focusing too much on the goal, and not giving enough though as to what are actually feasible actions to take initially in pursuit of that goal.

  271. says

    As far as animal rights go, I’m certainly for the ethical and humane treatment of animals. However, I’m not a vegan/vegetarian, and I believe we can still eat meat AND treat animals ethically and humanely. I steer clear of the vegetarian/vegan rationale, because I find it to be full of woo, and I see their reasoning as being extremely emotional-based (which is fine for them, but doing foist it on me). I’m not a monster because I enjoy eating steak, and there are many science-based reasons to eat steak. I think “A+” needs to better define what exactly animal welfare is or isn’t. I mean, do I get “kicked out of the club” since I’m not going to give up my enjoyment of eating meat? Into how small of a group will atheists parce themselves down to or break away just because we don’t agree? I’m really skeptical of “A+”. It seems like a great idea initially, but just because some atheists don’t agree with other atheists, or just because we think other atheists are a**holes doesn’t mean there has to be a break-away.

    ~ Qortni of “Atheist Beekeeping”

  272. says

    I think it’s important to stress that A+ has, as a central priority, using knowledge and reason to examine all ideologies, and to attack ignorance and dishonesty wherever they are found.

  273. says

    If we care so deeply about these other issues, we have to also take into account that (like it or not, fair or not), we are not the most popular subset of society at the moment, and trying to crowbar the atheist label onto some of these issues will probably be more of a hindrance than help for the time being.

    So if we care deeply about certain issues, the only option is to shut up, not do anything, and not make our presence known to others who might appreciate the additional support? Did it ever occur to you that getting involved might IMPROVE our popularity, not diminish it?

    All that being said, I think any individual atheist/atheist+/secular group that wishes to take it upon themselves to champion any or all of these issue should be applauded and supported.

    You just said they should shut up to avoid embarrassing other potential allies. Which is it?

    I just think writing up such an extensive “party-platform” for A+ in totality is a bit premature.

    When is a better time to do this? ANd how will we know when that time has arrived?

    I also don’t want to imply that these aren’t wonderful future goals, they are. But reaching for so much so quickly might well kill the movement before it really gets rolling.

    So they’re wonderful FUTURE goals, but not good goals today? Didn’t Martin Luther King have to address a similar vein of rationalized cowardice in his time?

  274. smhll says

    My #1 google hit for the search phrase “check your privilege” was this:

    It looks to be a pretty good, and compact source. (It’s interesting for me to realize that Google won’t give the exact same result to everyone who enters the string. A new kind of bias to think about.)

  275. someguy says

    You know what else “gets shit done”?

    Slavery, and not just the “black people in bondage kind”, slavery period, gets shit done.

    Call it a testament to strong leadership and the stomach to do what needs to be done.

  276. John Riddell says

    Hi there,

    Perhaps those of us who seek to follow atheism+ could announce our ethics as being those of the Golden Rule – treat people the way you would like them to treat you. It dates from much earlier than 0 BC.

  277. Justin Lopez says

    You want to steal an insignia, and change the purpose of an already powerful movement. This is just plain stupid, none of these (very much worthy) causes have anything to do with atheism or skepticism, you only perverting everything you stand for, everything you believe in with causes that all irrelevant to one another. With your movement spread thin across many completely separate causes how do you plan to accomplish anything besides a strain on your selves. We atheist should not be divided like this, we are united by doubt not belief. This movement has only the potential to be a thorn to secularist, and fail on its own behalf.

  278. says

    Absolute nonsense to “oppose” all these things listed.

    Atheism comes out of critical, scientific thinking. That’s all that’s needed. Politics only arises out of poor thinking, and the need to control others and assert your beliefs.

    I didn’t become atheist because I was opposed. No force changed my opinions, nor my understanding. What changed me from believing in some form of “deity” was critical thinking and education.

    For starters, “racism” is a misnomer, since “race” is a misnomer. All the effort you’ll put into chastising and opposing an uneducated “racist” could go into educating him about race itself.

    The banner of “racism” is placed on many people who criticize the more offensive religions, such as Islam. That’s another reason to not follow the tribe and fight this non thing.

    Stick to atheism. The more people who are educated into the fact there is no deity, and that religion is an outdated, evil concept, the better.

    And with that education all the other “isms” will fall into place.

  279. Cylis B. says

    @Justin Lopez
    Think of it this way;
    – Is the Democratic National Committee divisive to people who believe in democracy, nationalism, or committees? Does the simple existence of that entity at all change the meaning of “democratic,” “nationalist,” or “committee”?
    – If a group of fire-fighters decided they we’re going to take it upon themselves to speak out about women’s rights, would they be saying all fire-fighters who didn’t act with them should stop being fire-fighters? Would you say they were trying to “change the meaning of fire-fighting”? What if they decided to call their new group “Fire-Fighters+”? Would that change a damn thing?
    I think the basic problem is that people feel “Atheism+” is isn’t visually or verbally *different enough* to make the clear distinction its NOT… FREAKING… ATHEISM!
    A+ is not, and will never be, atheism as a whole. It is simply a subset within the atheist community that wishes to do more. Please stop accusing us of hijacking atheism.

  280. Justin Lopez says

    You completely missed the point. Firefighters are universally loved by the populous, they are not a group that many hate or look down on like oh I don’t know ATHEIST. This is without a doubt the worst idea you could have come with in regrades to atheism, this will cause major confusion for anyone looking at you and other atheist around the world that do not completely agree with you. hears some advice, god is irrelevant so you would be better off with a name that implies only secularism and completely avoids the god question, on top of that it would behoove you to start small only go after one or two of the subjects listed, and as you grow you can add the others to your agenda. You seem to think that you cant lose but actually you are setting yourselves up for failure. Oh and one more thing, I also accused you of stealing a symbol from the Richard Dawkins Foundation that represented giving aid the hungry and needy as an atheist which you have clearly have done.

  281. Adam Christ says

    Your Atheism+ movement is nonsense. Stop while you are behind.
    This “movement” is to Atheism what the tea party is to republicans. You will only turn out to be the laughing stock. Movement? Yeah, bowel movement.

  282. Cylis says

    @Justin Lopez
    I’m afraid you missed my point. I was trying to illustrate that ‘activist fire-fighters’ no more changes the meaning of ‘fire-fighters,’ than A+ would change the meaning of ‘atheism.’ Its a ridiculous charge against A+ that we are trying to hijack the term.

    But if you want to talk about atheist being hated, fine by me. Here’s a few more questions for you:
    – If we were to go around, being activists, while making a point to never indicate our atheism, instead hiding under the guise of “secularists” or “humanists,” wouldn’t that actually cause MORE confusion, as we reinforce the stereotype that atheists can’t possibly be as moral as those secularists and humanists?
    – If not through activism and community involvement that directly proclaims ourselves as atheists, how else do you propose we confront this stigma?
    – By what reason are you asserting that A+ ISN’T starting small with intent to add things as the movement grows? How can any such assertions be made when then founders themselves have made no “decrees” on set policy at all, and when the entire idea has existed for all of two weeks?
    – (OK, this one isn’t a question) I assume you’re referring to the RDFRS’s “The Out Campaign.” Yes, you are right, it is the same font, same red color, perhaps even cut and pasted directly… Now, here are the questions: So what? Does the RDFRS have that one letter copyrighted? More to the point, have you never heard of the word “homage?”
    – Finally, do you not see your own hypocrisy in dashingly coming to Dawkins’ defense for using a symbol he used when doing EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE TELLING US NOT TO DO?

  283. Afghan Whig says

    Atheism as a Trojan horse for left-wing politics? You guys have already been doing that for decades.

  284. Dan says

    So much for

    “Providing basic anti-harassment policies that can be adopted and adapted by secular groups”

    Seeing as PZ and others are calling people assholes and such.

    But good luck to you. If you can help improve the world, you h e my support in that. I’m still learning about this whole + thing. I’m an atheist myself. I won’t be putting the + next to it until I’ve learned more about this and decided it fits my viewpoint.

  285. KG says

    My, the fuckwits are out in force!

    For starters, “racism” is a misnomer, since “race” is a misnomer. – jackless

    You’re an ignorant jackass. Race is a social reality: people are classified as belonging to races, and this affects their life-chances. The fact that these social classifications do not correspond to biological realities is neither here nor there.

    Dick Johnson, Afghan Whig and Adam Christ – well, those content-free contributions were about as intelligent as farts.

    So much for

    “Providing basic anti-harassment policies that can be adopted and adapted by secular groups”

    Seeing as PZ and others are calling people assholes and such. – Dan

    Are you really stupid enough to think that calling someone an asshole on a blog is harassment?

  286. says

    You’re an ignorant jackass. Race is a social reality: people are classified as belonging to races, and this affects their life-chances. The fact that these social classifications do not correspond to biological realities is neither here nor there.

    Ha! Yeah, I know your type, KG. Condescending to the very last. You desperately need to play some arse ended game of rescuing human beings like you’d rescue animals, all the time trying to make yourself look like the hero and them the victims.

    But of course you don’t give a flying fuck that you continue to make “race” an issue by preserving it. No, that doesn’t fit in with your desperate need to be needed, does it?

    Your the kind of person who needs people to be broken up into sub groups just as much as the people you claim to be fighting.

    You couldn’t bear there to be a day when “race” is a meaningless concept, because you’d have nobody to blame, and nobody to rail it, and nothing to do with your life.

    Fact is, a person’s skin color is as irrelevant as irrelevant as a person’s eye color, and you might as well talk about there being a “blue eyed race” as much as anything. And that’s all you ever need to understand to wipe away the bullshit.

    But you are as much of the problem as the worst of those you call “racists” because of your determination to keep the concept of “race” alive.

  287. Ant Allan says

    @ Cylis / 338

    I think JL is referring to what is now Non-Believers Giving Aid (NBGA). Under its former name (which I forget) it did use an “A+” logo, but doesn’t now.

    @ JL

    See above.

    And in any case RD has encouraged the use of the “scarlet A” in derivative works for atheist organisations, &c.

    As to A+ being devisive, as Greta Christina pointed out on her blog, other atheists have already been divisive, but not called out on it.


  288. Ant Allan says

    @ Cylis / 338

    I think JL is referring to what is now Non-Believers Giving Aid (NBGA). Under its former name (which I forget) it did use an “A+” logo, but doesn’t now.

    @ JL

    See above.

    And in any case RD has encouraged the use of the “scarlet A” in derivative works for atheist organisations, &c.

    As to A+ being devisive, as Greta Christina pointed out on her blog, other atheists have already created divisions, but not been called out on it.


  289. Justin Lopez says

    Yes he is but not in a mostly christian country, England is far more diverse then america when it comes to religion, atheism is very much dominant in Europe but not the point. You like a fool attach the god question to ideas that can only be hurt by such a question in such a theist dominated province. You might as well go back to the 40s and start a satanist movement in support of all these subjects. if you still don’t understand you are a lost cause, and this (very much foolish) idea will only be a waste of your time. Another bit of advice, look back at every successful moving whether its the women rights movement or the racial equality movement they were very focused on one idea alone and that is why there successful. I guess the jest of what I’m saying is that you are biting off far more then you can possibly chew

  290. Justin Lopez says

    @jacklee racism is a major problem where I live ND.USA Native Americans are oppressed here, there is a town full of racist just out side the res(no clue as to why they want to be so close to people they hate). On top of that there are a lot of racist cops around the country, just ask former cop Berry Cooper he can tell you all about that.

  291. Cylis says

    @ Justin Lopez (Re: 347)
    You realize you just casually equated atheism with satanism, right? This is the exact type of subtle stereotype and stigma we are trying to confront. This defeatist attitude that directly confronting theistic, anti-atheist sentiment is insoluble simply because those sentiments are so prevalent, is precisely why I personally feel the movement is so necessary. What you fail to realize is that A+ *is* focused on one issue alone: confronting that stigma. Women’s right and racial equality movements were focused on one idea… but the DID many different things in pursuit of that idea, we are attempting to do the same.

    @ Jacklee (Re: 343)
    I agree. Ultimately racism is a meaningless concept. But it’s a meaningless concept that many none the less is used to hurt and suppress others.
    You’re right that unless we start directly confronting the cause: IE, the continued reference to “race” as a meaningful thing, we’re only prolonging and reaffirming it’s existence.
    The problem is that in the meantime, its nearly impossible to address and alleviate the direct harms, without referencing that proximate cause.
    That being said, I think a greater discussion as to how to address the consequences of racism, without reaffirming the underlying cause is one we need to start having.

  292. says

    Intelligent response, cylis.

    Thank you.

    See, I don’t agree with you on addressing the consequences of “racism”, though. It isn’t racism, see. It’s just good, old fashioned ignorance, and good old fashioned poor education.

    You can label all the “isms” until you’re blue in the face. But what it comes down to is improving education. That means teaching properly, eliminating nonsense like religion, and teaching people all the principles that stop them being “racist” or “sexist” or “homophobic” in the first place.

    The root of all hatred is only fear. And the root of all fear is only ignorance.

    It’s antidote is ALWAYS education.

  293. says

    Intelligent response, cylis.

    Thank you.

    See, I don’t agree with you on addressing the consequences of “racism”, though. It isn’t racism, see. It’s just good, old fashioned ignorance, and good old fashioned poor education.

    You can label all the “isms” until you’re blue in the face. But what it comes down to is improving education. That means teaching properly, eliminating nonsense like religion, and teaching people all the principles that stop them being “racist” or “sexist” or “homophobic” in the first place.

    The root of all hatred is only fear. And the root of all fear is only ignorance.

    Its antidote is ALWAYS education.

  294. Justin Lopez says

    I equated atheism with Levaian satanism, if you knew anything about it you would know its not devil worship. that is another reason why you will fail.
    Just to let you know I do agree with everything you have decided to take under your agenda, just not how your going about it.
    OH just to let you know many atheist seem to have mistaken animal welfare for animal rights, you might want to make a distinction between two on your blog.

  295. P3CO says

    Wrong reading of the + ?

    with all respect to the origin and the intentions of the A+ initiative I am worry that most of you are moving in the wrong direction.
    One way to reed A+ is to see it as a BETTER Atheist movement and I agree to the permanent need of that.

    A very different reading is to ADD all kind of other causes to the Atheist movement with the double risk of including many causes not related at all to Atheism and the risk of extending the initiative too wide and thin. This reading will have many non-positive impacts IMO, like forcing the Atheist label on subjects were it not belongs or will not be helpful nor well received; dividing the Atheist movement on the basis of *other* issues ( will I be less atheist or an Atheist Minus because I don’t prioritize the defense of animal or plants rights or the labor movement?) The long list of issues suggested in the enthusiasm of the new idea to be subscribed by A+ makes it look like a kind of political party were Atheism is only one of the many flags we follow. Nothing against political activism, but I think Atheism still need to be the central and strong focus of a movement of many people who maybe don’t agree on other ethical or political issues. IMO it should be focused on reason+science for freedom, against the action of dogma and superstition for abuse of the less informed and the powerless.

    Count me in for a renewed, wider and more visible A movement whose members while acting on all kind of spheres will show their rationality and humanism.

Leave a Reply