• Goals of #AtheismPlus



    I’ve not given much thought to Atheism Plus in quite awhile, except to check their block list every now and again to see whether someone in particular is on there. The movement seems fairly moribund (judging by the activity on the forums) and I’ve hardly heard anyone promoting that brand or their specific goals lately.

    That is, until earlier this week.

    I asked Dr. Carrier which goals he is talking about, and he referred me back to this talk:

    When I dug up the transcript, though, the goals mentioned therein were usually not well-differentiated from the preexisting goals of mainstream atheist and humanist groups. For example:

    Obviously one of those big goals, as has been talked about today already, is to increase the number of atheists. Hopefully, that means increasing the number of morally responsible atheists. I think that should be part of our goals as well. And also to protect the rights of atheists, the interests of atheists, the welfare of atheists.

    These are basically the goals of any given atheist group, except for the “morally responsible” part which is central to the mission of any given secular humanist group. This has been the case for decades, at least.

    In order to show that Atheism Plus has prevailed in shifting what is considered “the norm in movement atheism” we would need at least a few new goals which Atheism Plus brought to the table which were not already considered the norm in the movement. Goals such as public call-outs, for example:

    [W]e should all, all organizations, call for atheists to speak out against and socially punish—meaning denounce, downvote, for example, things like that —any harassment behavior, wherever and whenever you can find it, whenever you have an opportunity to say, state, publicly, and make the world aware that atheists, and you in particular, are opposed to this. I think we should all be doing that, more actively.

    I have to doubt whether it is an emergent “norm in movement atheism” to focus on socially punishing alleged “harassment behavior” via public denunciation. Certainly I’ve seen a few strenuous efforts in that direction, typically as part of a coordinated effort at calling out selected prominent skeptic men and occasionally freethinking women. It would definitely be a stretch to say that publicly humiliating those people has become one of the mainstream goals within the broader atheist movement, though each of them has received something of a flogging over at FtB.

    It may well be that Atheism Plus brought something new to the table—other than singling people out for public shaming—which clearly differentiated it from old guard movement atheism and secular humanism. If you know what this mysterious X-factor might be, please leave a comment.


    Category: Atheism

    Article by: Damion Reinhardt

    Former fundie finds freethought fairly fab.
    • Filippo Salustri

      Couple of things.
      Thing 1. Seems to me that depending on Carrier, who clearly has a chip on his shoulder about A+, is like expecting an unbiased opinion about tobacco smoke from the CEO od Philip Morris. A Google search for “goals of atheism plus” quickly pointed me at http://atheismplus.com/faq.php. The only explicitly stated goals seem to involve elimination of gender and sexual discrimination and related biases. These do not appear to be mentioned in your argument or Carrier’s. One might read both your post and Carrier’s efforts in this regard as misinformed.
      Thing 2. Carrier’s own tweet reads “All Atheism+ goals are now the norm in movement atheism.” Notice the “now” in that tweet. One might well read that sentence as saying that the norms came to absorb the goals of A+ after A+ advocated for them. If this is in fact true, then A+ has been a significant success. Perhaps more clarity is warranted, even if one is only tweeting….
      Thing 3. Google’s suggestions are significantly based on each users own search habits. So that first image you have tells me more about the person who ran the search than about the subject of the search. I certainly do not get the same suggestions when I start such a search. Given this, I cannot help but wonder if you yourself have a chip on your shoulder about A+.

      • “Google’s suggestions are significantly based on each users own search habits.”

        Try using an incognito window.

      • Filippo Salustri

        I still get different suggestions.

      • “One might well read that sentence as saying that the norms came to absorb the goals of A+ after A+ advocated for them. If this is in fact true, then A+ has been a significant success.”

        Which particular goals were widely adopted after the rise of A+, in your understanding?

      • Filippo Salustri

        That’s a different question, as far as I can tell. I’m just commenting on what was presented. As for A+ itself, I never really got into it. I was more interested in the format of the presentation here than the particulars of A+

      • “The only explicitly stated goals seem to involve elimination of gender and sexual discrimination and related biases.”

        I’m happy to take the FAQ at face value, though it seems uncharitable to limit A+ goals strictly to the eradication of prejudice against marginalized groups.

      • Filippo Salustri

        I agree. However, the goals we can all agree on that were/are part of A+ are those for which there is clear evidence. Everything else will be at least slightly suspect. If person P says organization O has goal G, but O itself has presented no evidence of having goal G, then I must be a bit skeptical of the claim.

      • Are you contending that Atheism Plus is actually an organization?

        I tend to agree with Richard Carrier that it is really just a label for a subset of secular people who happen to share certain goals and methods: https://www.google.com/search?q=%22Atheism%2B+is+just+that+clinical+name+for+the+movement%22

      • Filippo Salustri

        Organization as an “organized body of people” – sure, why not? There were, at least at one point, common activities, etc. Not an organization like The Red Cross or Form Motors, but an organization.

      • I’m not seeing a lot of common activities, at least not after the initial surge of interest.

        Here are the results of their last “organized” fundraiser: http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/2014/08/26/atheismplus20dollars/

      • Filippo Salustri

        Where one draws the line between “organization” and “not organization” is a separate issue. I admit that it’s only in my (limited) experience with A+ that it could be treated as an organization, and even then when it was active. But perhaps it achieved enough headway during that “surge” that its values got coopted by other groups. In any case, my original comments still stand as far as I can tell.

    • Ophelia Benson a freethinking woman? Ha! A bit of a stretch, maybe?

      • Trying to be as charitable as possible. I’ve enjoyed her writing in Free Inquiry.

    • ElectroMagneticJosh

      I was just thinking about this recently too. I remember when it was conceived my thoughts were “All well and good but not for me.” – I agreed (if I remember correctly) with most of what they stood for but wondered what made them different from humanist-secular groups.

      I ended up having issues with them over their desire for a sort of “purging” of atheists and skeptics who they didn’t like using call-out tactics. They even employed nasty tactics towards people in their own group who didn’t 100% fall in line. It became important to, not only share their goals, but adhere to their ideological purity.

      I will state that this is information I have gained from people who were part of Atheism + and then got kicked out. People who are very much liberals/progressives/feminists/”SJWs”*/what-have-you but weren’t the right type of those things because they disagreed with a certain tactic or proposition.

      *In the literal sense of what that alphabetism would mean.

    • jjramsey

      It does seem to me that Atheism Plus is basically secular humanism reinvented poorly. From Atheism Plus, we get the good stuff from secular humanism, like an interest in fair treatment of women and minorities, but mixed in with toxic habits such as tribalism or public callouts with nary a concern for accuracy.

      • Secular humanists are generally slow to wrath, because of our emphasis on empathy. And because we’re mostly over forty and relatively privileged.