And yet they still speak

Alex has a post about the god panel at QED, which he attended, along with a lot of other people I know and a lot of people I don’t know.

Yesterday on QED’s second and last day, Carrie Poppy of Oh No, Ross and Carrie! fame (her talk on anecdotes, by the way, was excellent) moderated the ‘God Panel’, a discussion between Mitch Benn, Richard Dawkins, Mike Hall and Lawrence Krauss and the programme’s one specific atheist event. When a question was posed about mistakes our movement had made, the first example given – I think by Mitch Benn, though it might have been Mike Hall – was Atheism Plus, an answer audience members seemed to like and onto which other panellists piled.

Mitch Benn (again, it may have been Mike Hall) said A+ makes atheism into more than non-belief.

I can interject here to clarify, because Mitch Benn tweeted at Rhys and me to explain that he has no problem with the principles, only the name. Oh well then! I’m not invested in the name, and not sure I like it either. That’s that sorted.

Lawrence Krauss said a ‘PC’ ‘orthodoxy’ now clamps down on people who say the wrong things.

Richard Dawkins called A+ an ‘obvious example’ of atheists doing things wrong, and bemoaned the use of the word ‘douchebag’ in reference to people deemed sexist. (It wasn’t the accusations of sexism to which he objected, so far as I could tell, but the word ‘douchebag’ specifically.)

PC orthodoxy in a pig’s eye. Yes, when people call me a cunt then I consider that sexist bullshit and I say so. If Lawrence Krauss doesn’t agree then I think he’s wrong, politically wrong, politically “incorrect” if you like. I wish people like Krauss (and others, I’m looking at you M_____l S_____r) would stop saying things like that. I wish they would accept it and move on. They don’t approve of racists screaming about “niggers” outside school buildings do they? Why should sexist epithets be any different?

Alex’s later posts will be about the great things at QED, of which there was obviously far more than this small item.


  1. great1american1satan says

    The more I hear about this kind of horseshit, the more I want Atheism + to take over the fucking universe.

    I may be wrong in my observations because I haven’t actually been to their forums more than a few times, but it seems to me like all they’re trying to do at this point is have a safe place for the oppressed. It’s the height of privilege-denyin’ asshattery to pretend there’s no need for that.

    Seriously, to hell with all my fellow cis-male white atheist bros if they can’t shut up for two seconds and pay attention when someone that doesn’t fit that description has something to say. Dawkins, I bought your book second hand and haven’t been able to make the time to read past the foreword. Should I chuck it in the Puget Sound and call my $1.99 a loss?

  2. says

    And oddly this makes me feel better about Atheism+.

    Can we stop making so many homogeneous atheist panels that’s a mistake I wish we could stop making.

  3. says

    I’m pretty sure I’ve been hearing complaints about the PC police and all that since at least the 90’s, college and all. I remember the movie PCU, too, supposedly satirizing liberal causes going too far. I like to think that even back then I recognized that as more caricature than anything accurate.

    I do, superficially, understand the annoyance of being told about all those bad words you shouldn’t use. It has some superficial similarity to the religious prudes complaining about bad words, for one. And then there’s the annoyance of trying to watch what you say; around here things like ‘retard’ or ‘bitch’ are pretty common, as well as ‘girl’ to refer to women. It’s a widespread part of the culture, so it’s a lot easier to just go along with the common language use than make the effort to be different.

    But I didn’t find it that hard to grasp the concept that those words can be hurtful. And so if you don’t want to be criticized for being hurtful (sexist, racist, etc), paying more attention to the language you use is important. And it’s a step to making the culture more pleasant for more people.

    So I have difficulty seeing how people that are arguably smarter than I am, many even fairly liberal, don’t seem to get some of that. There’s plenty of evidence that language is pretty influential on ideas, and influencing culture.

  4. screechymonkey says

    I do, superficially, understand the annoyance of being told about all those bad words you shouldn’t use. It has some superficial similarity to the religious prudes complaining about bad words, for one.

    Like when Dawkins tells people they should stop referring to “Catholic children” and “Muslim children”? Something that he specifically said was based on the consciousness-raising efforts of feminists?

  5. Ulysses says

    Richard Dawkins called A+ an ‘obvious example’ of atheists doing things wrong

    Another obvious example of atheists doing things wrong is Dawkins’ Dear Muslima letter. Just sayin’.

  6. great1american1satan says

    The fuck is so obviously wrong with A+? I could get an answer by listening to that kyriarchal circle jerk, but terrorism is all the rage I need today. I retract the question.

    Like J-H B, I can understand where the critics are coming from, but their playing stupid is getting really disturbing to me. This isn’t that complicated, dudes. You like it when the world is a better place for everybody? Fucking prove it.

  7. Francisco Bacopa says

    I used to sometimes worry about using “douchebag” as an insult for fear it might be a gendered insult. Now I say it proudly. The vaginal douche is a useless solution to mostly nonexistent problems that only makes things worse when there are the occasional real problems.

    So I suppose that means “douchebag” is still a gendered insult. But a positive one! A douchebag is at best useless, and at times damaging to women To call someone a douchebag is to say that one is at best useless, and at worst harmful to women.

    If Dawkins doesn’t get a clue soon he is almost there.

  8. Bjarte Foshaug says

    Mitch Benn […] said A+ makes atheism into more than non-belief.

    Still haven’t learned the difference between + and = I see…
    Where I grew up we learned that in first grade.

    Mitch Benn […] has no problem with the principles, only the name.

    I for one love A+ precisely because it alienates all the people I want nothing to do with.

  9. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    Bjarte Foshaug wrote:

    I for one love A+ precisely because it alienates all the people I want nothing to do with.

    Zigactly. Anyone who’s going to make a huge song and dance about the name rather than the reasons why it exists isn’t someone we need to take very seriously or spend much time listening to. So it’s a very handy way to spot those whose priorities are all wrong right from the start.

  10. VeganAtheistWeirdo says

    So I suppose that means “douchebag” is still a gendered insult.

    Or homophobic or anal-phobic. Or something. I had already gotten kinda tired of hearing obnoxious guys call other obnoxious guys douche before I ever examined why. But yeah, I don’t particularly defend that one myself.

  11. doubtthat says

    If an atheist said something incorrect about the Theory of Evolution, even in its defense, Dawkins and Krauss and everyone else would not hesitate to correct them. Any whining about “PC” police jumping on every word would be dismissed — you should be correct in your statements.

    Yet the same corrective mechanism applied to people saying sexist things, even if they mean well, is somehow a massive affront. Double standard.

  12. says

    Hmmnot really. Factual claims are different from ethical or political claims. It’s not a “fact” that saying X is sexist. It’s a value judgement. It’s a value judgement that it’s not cool for people to scream about “niggers” outside of school buildings.

    But “Dear Muslima” on the other hand is a double standard. It was ok for Dawkins to rebuke Rebecca for talking about some minor sexual harassment instead of stonings, but it’s not ok for us to rebuke Some Important Guy for saying something sexist. Why would that be?

  13. doubtthat says

    Sure, but they aren’t just objecting to the substance of the rebuke, they’re objection to the notion of rebuking, itself, as you pointed out in your responses to Shermer. The point is that these same folks wouldn’t hesitate for a second to go after questionable arguments, political or factual, from their perspective. When others do it, the criticism is harming everyone.

    I was responding to this part, “Lawrence Krauss said a ‘PC’ ‘orthodoxy’ now clamps down on people who say the wrong things.”

    The implication that it “now” clamps down is the tell. That self-corrective mechanism has been in place forever, but now the clamp is being applied to things dudebros do wrong.

    If someone had said the following two decades ago (or now, for that matter): “Yeah, I’m an atheist, but I don’t see the big deal about allowing prayer in school,” you can bet that Krauss and Dawkins and whoever else would immediately challenge that assertion. That’s “applying the clamps,” in a way indistinguishable from criticizing people over troubling sexist language.

  14. Sercee says

    I’ve always like the term douchebag. It is a direct comparison to something that is useless at best, and frequently harmful. It is especially a good term for people who are sexist or bullies in some way: douching isn’t something that’s typically chosen by healthy women with healthy vaginas, it’s something we were convinced by patriarchal society that we needed so we don’t “smell bad” or so we can clean ourselves up after opening our legs all slut like.

  15. smhll says

    I wonder if AtheismPlus had bubbled up and been spontaneously named Atheism_And instead of Atheism_Plus, how much the level of pushback would have been reduced? Fifty percent? Five? (I need to build and instrument that lets me peer into parallel universes.)

  16. Dave Ricks says

    I agree with Bjarte Foshaug about “+” versus “=”.

    • The equation “1 + 2 = 3” does not redefine “1”.

    • The equation “atheism + social justice = A+” does not redefine “atheism”. The equation introduces a new term “A+” so the original term “atheism” keeps its original meanings.

    And I wrote “meanings” plural because anyone who has ever read a dictionary should expect to see a word can be listed with more than one meaning, but dictionary atheists act like “atheism” is a word that can have only one meaning, by their say-so.

    My personal support for A+ is mild.  I definitely support it as something some people want to pursue.  But mainly I’m amazed to see analytically excellent people make such illogical arguments against it.

  17. hypatiasdaughter says

    I agree completely that “Atheism+” is should be totally unnecessary.
    And it would have been if these piss poor excuses for humanitarianism/skepticism/atheism had stood up, shoulder to shoulder with the women in the movement, against the misogynist minority when the shit first hit the fan. But they didn’t.
    They made it obvious that they “believe in equality” as long as it doesn’t scuff their shoes, wrinkle their shirts or embarrass them in front of the “other guys”.
    Oh, they all believe in feminism – just not radical feminism.
    The label “Radical” feminist has the same rotten fish smell to my nose as “Militant” atheist.

  18. theoreticalgrrrl says

    Dawkins, you can’t use women’s rights issues to score points against theists and then spit on actual women who fight for women’s rights in nontheistic settings. If you had any shred of decency you wouldn’t. But you believe that atheist women deserve sexist abuse for calling anyone a misogynist, so decency doesn’t seem to be your strongest suit.
    I won’t call you a douchebag, I’ll just call you what you are, a sexist. I’ve known quite a few sexists from my religious days, but you really take the cake with your arrogance.

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