Atheism+ in the news

Hey, the Staggers blog is onto Atheism+.

Let me introduce you to Atheism+, the nascent movement that might be the most exciting thing to hit the world of unbelief since Richard Dawkins teamed up with Christopher Hitchens to tell the world that God was a Delusion and, worse than that, Not Great.

Less than a week old in its current form, Atheism+ is the brainchild of Jen McCreight, a Seattle-based biology postgrad and blogger at the secularist Freethought network. She has called for a “new wave” of atheism on that “cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime.”

Nelson Jones (for it is he) got that a bit wrong – you’re not supposed to say “the secularist Freethought network” like that, you have to add a minimum of two pejoratives and a parenthesis saying we hunt down dissenters and have been officially registered as a hategroup by The Coalition of Furious Tweeters.

In this early phase Atheism+ is fired by anger as much as by as idealism. And, at least initially, much of this anger is directed inward towards the world of atheism itself.

Any community, new or old, has its tensions, and in the past year the atheist/sceptical community has been rocked by a divisive and increasingly bad-tempered debate over sexism and, more generally, a sense that the dominant voices have tended to be white, male and middle-class.

And additionally that that wasn’t because there were no women qualified to be dominant voices, but rather because of sheer lazy forgetting to include them.

A number of incidents have served to crystallise the sense that all is not right in the world of unbelief.  Most notoriously, there was “Elevatorgate”, an late-night incident in a lift during an atheist conference in Dublin during which the blogger Rebecca Watson was propositioned. Her subsequent public complaint about the man’s behaviour and sexual harassment within the Skeptic movement drew criticism from Richard Dawkins himself and fuelled an ugly flame war.  She received, and continues to receive, rape and death threats.

The first item on the Atheism+ agenda, then, is a cleansing one. McCreight herself says: “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.” Greta Christina has gone so far as to devise a checklist of goals to which atheist organisations should aspire, including anti-harassment policies and ensuring diversity among both members and invited speakers. “To remember that not all atheists look like Richard Dawkins.”

That sounds like, at least partly, a negative programme – “getting rid of the garbage”. Yet the name – or at least the symbol – is pleasingly double-edged. “Atheism plus”, the natural reading, implies incompleteness: that other, associated principles need to be added to the core idea to produce a rounded philosophy. But it can also be read as “Atheism positive”, going beyond the mere negation of belief. Time will tell whether McCreight’s initiative leads to permanent changes in the atheist and sceptical movement, or to the formation of a new and distinct nexus of atheism and progressive politics, or is soon forgotten. But I’d bet against the latter. Whether or not the name sticks, there is an energy behind this new wave that makes it hard to ignore.

He forgot the pejoratives again!


  1. Aratina Cage says

    Drescher must be up to her eyeballs in BS so much that she cannot see past it to believe that.

  2. says

    Meanwhile Barbara Drescher is telling the world that Jen is “a shallow anti-intellectual narcissist.”

    Maybe Jen is, I don’t know her personally. I’m more disturbed that such a supposedly clear and superior intellectual like Drescher would think that this has any bearing on the truth value of Jen’s claims.

  3. Smhll says

    Did Barbara D try to support her assertions about Jen, or did she just load up the adjective cannon with scrap metal and start firing?

  4. Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish says

    While the wall of twitter hate for the concept is disappointing (especially when some of it comes from people I’d previously thought better of), the fact is that for each one of those I’m seeing there are 5-10 positive comments on assorted blogs.

    That the former is almost exclusively straight white cisgender guys while the latter is a mix of different groups helps as well.

  5. Anonymous Atheist says

    Ophelia, I’ve noticed a somewhat-related issue that I’d like to ask you to bring up with whoever the webmastery people are here. I’m asking you simply because it happened to be this post where I noticed the increased importance of this longstanding minor annoyance.

    Dating back to the early days of FTB last year, I’ve been continually mildly annoyed by the bizarre programming decision to omit all punctuation from the recent posts’ quotes on the front page. This is harder to read and looks weird. The titles get to retain all the proper punctuation; why not leave the punctuation in the quotes too, like every other blog/news site does?

    It’s lame to get quotes that look like, for one of multiple current examples,
    On Thursday s episode of Glenn Beck s web based GBTV show Beck s guest….
    instead of
    On Thursday’s episode of Glenn Beck’s web-based GBTV show, Beck’s guest….

    But now with this Atheism+ idea catching on, the nutty punctuation-stripping takes away the plus signs! So your post’s quote says,
    Hey the Staggers blog is onto Atheism Let me introduce you to Atheism the nascent….
    instead of
    Hey, the Staggers blog is onto Atheism+. Let me introduce you to Atheism+….

    It’s time to repunctuate the front page, please! 🙂

  6. Bruce Gorton says

    I think there is one major step that needs to be taken for the Atheism+ campaign to really work – FTB needs some third world blogs. Looking around FTB, who isn’t blogging from the first world?

    One of the major problems with atheism as a whole right now, is it is perceived as dealing mainly with first world problems, when in actual fact the positive impact could have been greater in the third world.

    With the broader umbrella of topics Atheism+ is planning to deal with, it has even greater potential for good in the third world.

    It just needs some voices speaking from the third world to cut through that view that it is mainly people speaking from the US and UK.

  7. maureen.brian says

    I want to put in a cheer for one Eric Dutton in the New Statesman comments – truly a man who can see beyond the end of his own willy and thus deserving of praise.

  8. says

    I think there is one major step that needs to be taken for the Atheism+ campaign to really work – FTB needs some third world blogs. Looking around FTB, who isn’t blogging from the first world?

    Maryam Namazie, while currently based in Britain, is Iranian. Taslima Nasrin is Bengali, living in New Dehli. Mano Singham works and lives in the US currently, but is from Sri Lanka. So voices from the developing world are not entirely absent.

    Nevertheless, I feel reasonably certain that FTB would welcome the voices of more atheists, skeptics, secular humanists, freethinkers, whatever the term you wish, from the developing world. Diversity is a value that FTB does explicitly espouse.

  9. says

    Looking around FTB, who isn’t blogging from the first world?

    What makes you think the USA is first world in anything other than military budget?

  10. bcoppola says

    Harrumph. I should very much like to say to Ms. McCreight, “Now see what a kerfuffle you have started? What have you to say for yourself, young woman?” And harrumph again. 🙂

  11. Dave says

    Right, what we need now are some good “seeing beyond the end of his willy” jokes:

    – I tried, but I’m VERY shortsighted…

    – I will, when I get a new distance-reading prescription…

    – He could, but he’ll need bifocals…

    – He has enough trouble seeing his willy past his belly…

    And of course:

    – I always try to see past the end of my willy, but it’s just SO DAM’ BIG that sometimes I can’t.. [hey, nobody ever lost points for being obvious, right?]

  12. Dan says

    Good luck to McCreight. It’s usually worthwhile to stir things up a bit. And I don’t blame her for wanting to associate with friends rather than people who are opponents except for the atheism bit. And she’s correct on the issues.

    Perhaps the biggest mistake is thinking there was an coherent “atheist movement” in the first place.

    There’s a pedantic talking point here about exactly what number wave of atheism atheism+ actually is.

    But ultimately what matters is that there are waves at all.

    If you don’t have waves, what do you have? Stagnant puddles, that’s what.

  13. John the Drunkard says

    It wouldn’t sound as good, but I still think we might encourage the idea of Atheism Minus.

    An atheist movement, or congery of movements, which explicitly rejects Red-Diaper Stalinists and misogynist Randroids. Cults are still cults, even without deities.

  14. ericdutton says

    maureen.brian @ #11

    Thank you!
    I really wish I had been typing better, but I was tired, annoyed, and impatient. The kind of condescending, sexist, proud, ignorant, and entitled commenting I saw over there is exactly the kind of stuff that needs to be flushed from the atheist movement. I don’t mind if people think that theism is the biggest problem around (though I would disagree), but when people act like atheism is the only cause that matters, and that once you’ve got your atheism badge, you get diplomatic immunity . . . THOSE people need some correcting.

  15. Aratina Cage says

    FTB needs some third world blogs. Looking around FTB, who isn’t blogging from the first world?

    Maryam Namazie, while currently based in Britain, is Iranian. Taslima Nasrin is Bengali, living in New Dehli. Mano Singham works and lives in the US currently, but is from Sri Lanka. So voices from the developing world are not entirely absent.

    Also, Cristina Rad is from Romania IIRC. And AronRa is in Texas…

  16. callistacat says

    The social justice part…isn’t that about having an atheist/skeptic movement that is welcoming to women and minorities, and not one that treats them like a special interest group or second-class citizens within the movement? That the default position should be that we are all included in this movement, and women and minorities aren’t taking away attention from atheism by asking to be treated with basic human decency and not be marginalized?


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