This will be briefer than I like since I’m swamped between my real job and trying to move Atheism+ forward, but I want to address some of the common misconceptions about Atheism+ that have been thrown at me.
1. Atheism+ is just secular humanism! Just call it what it is!
I think there are some nuanced differences. Greta Christina gives a detailed explanation.
But really, I don’t give a diddly what label you want. Atheist, atheist+, humanist, pastafarian, Supreme Crusher of God-Belief. Whatever. I care more about getting stuff done, and I see the humanists as our natural allies. I just don’t understand why some of them are so cranky that we…what, are saying we agree with their ideals and values? Let’s not let progress get derailed by discussions about labels. Greg Epstein, head of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, called me to give me his support for Atheism+ and to agree that the debate about labels is silly.
2. Why does everyone have to agree with your particular dogma?
No one has to agree with me, and I don’t want dogma. I want to be able to discuss social justice issues from the context of atheism and skepticism. Discuss, not dictate. Right now we can’t even do that without being threatened, trolled, and derailed. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the views of people who support A+. Speaking of which:
3. Person X supports A+ and said this really shitty thing, therefore A+ is evil!
I can’t control what everyone writes about A+, nor can I read it all. That’s why I’m trying to focus my time toward moving forward with a website that will provide educational resources and a community. There I can establish a mission for what A+ is truly about. If people warp that mission in blog posts or tweets or what have you, all I can do is keep promoting what A+ is truly about.
4. You specifically want to exclude people, so you’re a hatemonger!
You can’t be inclusive to everyone. If you include misogynists, you exclude women – etc, etc. I choose to exclude the assholes. Read Greta’s post on the subject.
5. But you want to exclude old, white, men! That’s ageist, racist, and sexist!
I have never said I want to exclude old, white, men because I don’t. I have pointed out that some groups have a diversity problem and only consist of old, white, men. I don’t want to get rid of them – I just want other people to also be included. Diversity is important. If you want to keep spinning that as me hating old, white, men, I don’t know what else I can say to you.
6. Why do you get to decide who gets to be a part of the atheist movement?
I’m not kicking anyone out of the atheist movement. I’m not going to revoke your American Atheist membership or come in the middle of the night to steal your scarlet A lapel pin. I’m not going to petition the government to take away your freedom of speech. Yes, I think it’s time for a new wave, but that doesn’t make the previous wave disappear. There are still second wave feminists (and I know this will shock some of you, but no, I’m not one of them).
I just want a space where atheists with a shared interest in social justice can actually discuss it and get stuff done. You are free to form your own groups or continue taking part in whatever atheist community will have you. You can even come and civilly take part in our discussions! But we don’t need to tolerate the intolerant within our own space.
7. But you’re hurting the atheist movement by causing a schism!
Is the Secular Student Alliance causing a schism because it focuses on students? Are any of the many atheist organizations causing schisms because they all have slightly different missions? Why can’t we have our own group too? Would there be such vitriol in response to someone starting an Atheist Knitting Club? “BUT ATHEISM DOES NOT DE FACTO LEAD TO KNITTING!” So what? Let us have our space to talk about issues that interest us. You don’t have to participate.
8. Why do you hate atheists who just want to talk about atheism?
I don’t. I think discussing reasons why God doesn’t exist, flaws in theological arguments, stigma against atheists, religious privilege, violations of the separation of church and state, and all those related things matter. A lot. They were incredibly important for me when I was just starting to call myself an atheist, especially in a conservative, religious state like Indiana. I think groups should keep on doing that! I am just personally ready to expand my list of topics.
9. You’ve started a cult!
If I start wearing a silly hat, distributing pink jackboots for uniforms, and getting Kool-Aid to provide refreshments at all events, then you can start worrying.
If there are any common misconceptions I’ve missed, I’ll add them here.
EDIT: 10. Isn’t Atheism+ going to alienate atheists who are in the process of becoming allies/feminists/etc but aren’t quite there yet?
Hopefully not, since our intent is the opposite. Atheism+ is going to provide a lot of educational material about “101” and introductory topics relating to diversity and social justice. I also want to have part of the forum be devoted to “101” discussion, where people can legitimately ask questions without an angry horde that assumes ill intentions descending on them. But another part will be for “advanced” discussion, so those of us who want to have in depth discussion aren’t constantly dealing with people who don’t know the basics or are purposefully thread-derailing with the same old questions.