Atheism+

I’m somewhat late to the introduction to the Atheism+ movement. I had only heard of this a few weeks ago and have been trying to catch up on events. So on paper, Atheism+ sounds great:

We are…
Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.

A little bit about me:

  • I’m in favor of addressing issues of poverty and equal access to education
  • I support women’s right to choose, equal pay, equal rights
  • I don’t tolerate racism, I think it’s silly to judge someone solely on skin color, culture, religion etc…
  • I don’t understand people who are homophobic/transphobic. It never made sense to me and it doesn’t make sense to me now.
  • Being an atheist, I’ve at least applied critical thinking and skepticism towards my religious beliefs. I’m against radical skepticism. I believe having critical thinking skills can only be beneficial and a healthy skepticism towards beliefs and ideas help reduce the chance of dogmatism.

So on paper, atheism plus and I share a lot of common ground. I guess I am an atheist+ by definition if someone insists on defining atheists who share the aforementioned set of ideologies as atheism+. I guess technically that is what I am. Oddly the atheism plus movement is a disaster in practice. It could have been something genuinely positive which is a shame.

Where did it go wrong? I think it derailed when Richard Carrier, whom I respect, went on to describe atheism plus as you’re either “with us or against us.” I don’t know about you, but when given an ultimatum I tend to resist it. I can’t explain exactly why, but I tend to be anti-authoritarian. I can’t square away why atheists should be forced to fall in line and affirm an ideology. It’s something of a gut feeling that nothing good can come about this even if it is correct. What is disappointing is that Richard Carrier is a historian and should know better than to use such divisive language that reeks of absolutism. It is/was unnecessary and unproductive.

I think it is an illusion to think that atheism is made “better” by attaching these different ideas. One problem is that each of these issues become diluted; not all atheists are feminists and vice versa etc… down the list of issues that defines atheism+. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in divine deities. It’s wonky to suggest a-unicornism leads to social justice issues even though it took skepticism and critical thinking to arrive at that position. All these issues suggest skepticism and critical thinking by asking the right questions: Should different races, genders, sexual orientations and identities, the poor, and the uneducated be treated equally? Why or why not? It does become obvious that people have no choice as to what gender, race, culture, economic status or sexual orientation one is born with. To judge solely on this basis is to make sweeping generalizations that are downright wrong, imprecise or trivial.

Atheism+ has a forum. All I can say is holy crap!!! The forum needs to be rebooted to allow a little bit more freedom…. maybe even a lotta bit more freedom. The forum, in creating “safe spaces,” has created a serious amount of disharmony between people who would otherwise get along. There is being respectful and then there is being ridiculous, well the forum has made a head first dive into the deep end of any empty concrete pool. It is moderated to the extreme, so much so, that I wouldn’t even attempt to make contact with many of them despite the causes we share. I can only point to this thread. Bear in mind that one of the “co-founders” used the same language in their blog (“But not only were you guys supportive, you were excited.“) I’m assuming she is disregarding all of the women. You read correctly, the offending word was “guys.” As in “hi guys, how are you all doing.” While technically a gender-ed word it is clear from context that it was meant as kindly. Apparently this can not be tolerated. The mods felt that they needed to change the thread name from “Hi Guys” to “Hi all” and then someone apparently wrote this:

Noel819, consider this: Modern style guides advise phrasing things with plural hypotheticals, and/or using singular they to avoid excluding people on basis of gender. Even the most conservative state that alternating male and female is more appropriate than using exclusively male pronouns. As little as 20 years ago, if you were referring to a hypothetical person, you were told to write “he”. (edit: this is based on personal experience: 20 years ago, I was in first grade, and I was told by my teacher that I should use “he” if I don’t know the gender of someone I’m writing about in one of those “write an action sentence” exercises for kids*/edit*). 

Why is alternating male and female more appropriate than using male exclusively? Why is avoiding gendered pronouns entirely with plurals and/or singular they better still? 

Simply put: using male exclusively assumes your audience is comprised solely of men, thus erasing the existence of any reader who is not a man. That should be a problem for anyone who accepts that women and non-binary folk deserve equal participation in our society. Using binary pronouns exclusively assumes your audience is comprised solely of people who fall in the gender binary. While less exclusive than using male pronouns, it’s not exactly inclusive yet.

That is in response to the “guy” word. Also certain language that may induce some kind of stress such as words like crazy, mental etc… must be hidden and identified as “triggers” so only those who wish to expose themselves can do so of their own volition. As someone who suffers a bona-fide diagnose-able mental illness, I can only call this bat-shit crazy. I help people in group therapy who suffer from OCD and other anxiety disorders. We all have to deal with triggers because they are a part of life. Avoiding them online or in real life can actually make some mental conditions worse. OCD would be an example of this (avoidance or escapist behavior). I can understand why someone who is mentally ill would not like to be called crazy. I’m less than thrilled with the term myself, but one is making a very big mistake censoring what people think even if it is incorrect or “hurtful.”  More importantly, anyone who uses the intertubes should be educated on not feeding trolls. It’s simple. If abuse actually happens (instead of some “micro-aggressions” which is another term I just learned about), report the behavior to mods or admins and they can discipline them accordingly. Sometimes, one just has to get thicker skin. To believe in the idea that one shouldn’t be offended is unrealistic and contributes to people not understanding each other and an aversion to reasoning things out. The over policing implies bad faith on the part of the forum and doesn’t give people the benefit of the doubt. You are assumed to be causing trouble at the outset.

I can’t see how a movement can thrive if it deems dissent as an affront. It reeks a little bit of religion when some things just can’t be questioned and that people have to fall in line. This couldn’t be truer than in the case of Matt Dillahunty. He is a somewhat well-known and respected atheist. In order to combat claims of unfair treatment at the atheism+ forum by lowly atheist newbies, he decided to go “undercover,” as it were, to find out for himself.  To the surprise of none, apparently, he ended up banned.

While this movement may be in its infancy it seems closer to its demise and will become a footnote on some wiki page if things don’t change. I like the idea, but the implementation has been absolutely awful.

I apologize ahead of time, if I have offended anyone  ;P

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2 responses to “Atheism+”

  1. Jerome says :

    Atheism always offends some people. That’s just the way it is and they need to get over it.

    I’m only just beginning to start reaching out and talking with other atheists; in fact I had no idea that there were so many… By that, I mean I have come to my beliefs (or should I say lack of beliefs) on my own, and just recently found that there are many people who think the way I do.

    But I had no idea there was any kind of movement. It sounds like bullshit to me. That said, I agree with all their points barring the last one. WTF is *radical* skepticism? I believe only in what is real and what can be proven because of evidence. But theism creeps into every aspect of life, and the way we perceive ourselves as well as others. By disbelieving in all gods and all theology, by definition I also disbelieve in all so-called paranormal events. The way I see the world is redically different to that of a theist. The plots of a whole host of scifi and horror movies are now utter nonsense to me. So looking at the world through my eyes, and using my definition of “radical”, I am and *must be* radically skeptic.

    Oh, and thanks for liking my blog, by the way. 🙂

    • The Scrupulous Atheist says :

      Radical Skepticism is the philosophical idea that nothing can be known; Knowledge is impossible and beliefs are unjustified. I don’t know anyone who functions this way. I suppose Nihilists do. It’s a very cynical way to live.

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