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Posted by on Sep 10, 2012 in Atheism, Drama, Feminism, Freethought Blogs, LGBT Rights, Philosophy, Politics, Progressive Politics, Skepticism | 44 comments

A Letter To The Atheist Plus Movement

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Recently, I’ve heard a lot of concern and conjecture over why the old and new atheists don’t want the new-new atheist (A+) movement to go and “do its own thing.” At least from my perspective, this concern is unwarranted. Even if potential limits on the scope of intellectual inquiry might seem combative and counterproductive to some, I fully support your efforts, since you wish to establish a movement that focuses primarily on feminism, and secondarily on other social justice issues. Further, I also understand your need to criticize the historical repression of women and minorities in science and culture. I’m not sure that I understand why philosophical atheism is necessary to your movement, but it is not my business to question your motives, methods, or goals. You are free to organize as you choose, and ultimately, I agree with you in your quest for successful social justice activism. I can even appreciate your effort to create a “safe space” for yourselves, whatever those words may mean to you.

Pink Floyd – Us And Them

I am, however, concerned that your movement, working parallel to similar ones such as secular humanism, could divide already limited attention and resources for the sake of building up your potentially exclusive agenda. Further, I am bothered that some Atheism+ advocates react too sharply and too harshly to mild and/or civil criticism from other atheists. For just a few examples, see both the posts and the comments here and here.

I have also observed some unnecessary insults from Atheism+ advocates against other atheists merely for their age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and educational accomplishments. Personally, while I find ageism unacceptable, I consider educational accomplishments to be useful and laudable. And although I don’t agree with every atheist who doesn’t belong to your group (in fact, there’s no one that I agree with completely), I’m happy to work with them and with the religious(!) toward the goals we have in common. I’m also happy to help you achieve the goals we share, whatever they may turn out to be. But, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, I am not young enough to know everything, and therefore, I eagerly welcome differing opinions from others despite their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, socioeconomic status, or level of education. In sum, I wish you the best of luck. It takes real courage and hard work to take on the task of forming and funding your own organizations to pursue the extensive list of objectives articulated by former-Atheism+ leader Jen McCreight and others. Having distanced yourselves from so many atheists and organizations will make the successes of the Atheist+ movement that much grander, since the pool of potential resources and allies has diminished considerably.

  • “I eagerly welcome differing opinions”

    You’ll never fit into the Atheism+ movement with that kind of attitude!!

  • I wish Richard Carrier would write more about godless Jacobinism. I got a warm feeling inside while satirizing his certain brand of wackiness.

  • Zed Zero

    Hear. hear.

    Over at Hement Mehta’s blog he post a JREF video of a talk, beginning at around the 20 minute mark, about how the Mormons recruit people. Their overwhelming inclusiveness seems to work. Some people need a lesson or we will always be a petty people, tribal and nasty.

  • Egbert

    To put things in perspective, the number of actively interested non-religious globally are around 100,000 most of which are in America. The number of self identified atheists (strong and weak) in that are probably a fraction. The number of members for atheism plus are currently 1,400 so between 1-2% of the entire active non-religious groups globally.

    • Please cite where you plucked 100,000 from, because quite frankly it is horseshit. The Reason Rally had 20,000 attendees, so by your numbers, 1/5 of the active non-religious of the entire world attended, I don’t think so. Norway alone has 45,000 registered Humanists, unless somehow you do not classify them as active.

      • Egbert

        Your response seemed overly defensive, hostile and angry.

        • Well tone is difficult to convey through text, but it is safe t say I am none of those things, just not a fan of baseless statements.

          • Egbert

            Well, part of the problem with our various communities is how opinions that differ from others are shut down, called baseless and so on, and if that happens immediately after my post, then people will ignore my post and then possibly any future post I make.

            What this does is dehumanize and devalue opinion made by intelligent individuals that may or may not have a single source of evidence, or be making any single interpretation of the data out there.

            Is there a single narrative to explain everything? In my opinion (now devalued) no.

          • You made a factual statement, and factual statements are based on evidence, you supplied none. So I didn’t devalue your opinion. Please differentiate between opinion and factual statements.

          • Egbert

            So much for the idea of welcoming different opinions. I will not respond to you in future.

          • I say again, stating there are 100,000 active non-religious is a statement of fact, not an opinion. Your ‘differing opinion’ approach is that of creationists, evolution is fact but here is my baseless opinion with no evidence and you should be open to differing opinion. No, when it come to fact we have evidence and we should present is as such and those who do not present untrue facts as you did should be called upon it.

            Your opinion, however, is most welcome.

          • PJLandis

            Ferguson was asking about a factual statement, a literal number. It’s fine to say you made it up for the sake of argument or to make a point, but you certainly weren’t dehumanized or devalued because someone questioned where you got your facts..

          • Egbert

            So that’s three people now explaining over and over as if somehow I’m incapable of reading, while at the same time saying I’m not being devalued. Amusing and ironic. Yes my opinion has been devalued and this is a process of alienating new information and different opinions. You’re not listening to me, rather you’re joining in the alienating process.

            This will be my last post on the matter.

          • PJLandis

            Why did you ignore the question then? If you can read, then why do your responses completely ignore everyone’s comments?

            I actually feel “devalued and dehumanized” a little at this point, as if you are too important and above the rest of us to explain one simple number.

            I’m gonna assume you made the numbers up, along with the assumption about nationality for the sake of argument. If so, here’s one good place to get actual information about religious beliefs in America:
            And here’s the wiki
            to get some international info (e.g., Czech Republic leads the pack with 30% of population, although places like Sweden and Norway are similar if non-religious, rather than atheist, is the criteria)

          • Darth Cynic

            Come now, this need to play the victim is a bit much and without foundation. I noted an issue with your response to Clara45 and where you seemed to be indicating that the problem folks were having with this number was merely a misunderstanding between all non-believers and the sub-set of this that were activist non-believers. I did not join in elsewhere I made my view known in that sub-thread only until your latest claim of victimisation here.

            Your information is not being alienated as you put it, you would have had to have provided some for that to happen. As your “information” appears to have been made up it cannot really be alienated beyond an expected dismissal of useless fiction.

            Nor do I, at least, think you incapable of reading, you clearly can but you do seem awfully determined to pretend that your factual claims are beyond question hence this diversionary refrain of victim-hood. Tell me, are your assertions just to be accepted, is any query put to you effectively viewed as devaluing and marginalising you? Where is the difference between you and the believer who claims that a scientific paper has completely validated homeopathy but when pressed for details won’t cite this amazing paper?

            In this instance you’re not being listened to because you appear to be making stuff up, and this is noticeable hence why you’re being asked. A simple source cited or an admission of invention would clear it all up. Though I agree that there is little point in anyone else asking as you have clearly demonstrated no interest in supporting your claims by this point, any more would serve no use. I myself would have said nothing were it not for this erroneous claim of victimisation*.

            * – Needless to say, questioning data and disagreeing is not evidence of victimisation. You may well think otherwise but you would be wrong.

    • I’m sorry, Norway actually has over 80,000 Humanists.

  • Clare45

    Here you are: from wikipedia:
    ” Those who call themselves Humanists are estimated to number between four and five million people worldwide in 31 countries”

    • Egbert

      Clara45, that may be true, however i did state ‘actively interested non-religious’ which could be interpreted depending on what people think ‘active’ means.

      I was trying to put a reality check up for people here, to challenge the accepted wisdom, and of course people can continue to believe accepted wisdom.

      • Darth Cynic

        Right, I can see that you’re distinguishing those who would identify as non-religious with those who are non-religious and activists in and for that community. So the number of active would likely be lower than the total number of non-religious persons not everyone being activists; you put it at an approximate of 100,000 persons. However, it is not unreasonable to ask from whence this information comes, particularly when this approximate number is used to extrapolate other information from. You could well be right but without knowing if this number has some basis in reasonable data or if it is an arbitrary creation, no one looking on can place any weight on it. Thus we need to know the source of the value.

        As an aside I recently saw two related article headings that said much to me at least on the current shenanigans, ‘Five atheists who should be more well-known.’ and ‘7 Amazing Atheists Who Aren’t Old White Guys.’

        • Egbert

          Well it may be unreasonable to ask. It suggests a kind of cynicism and distrust (as I note in your name tag) towards someone who comes out with a different opinion to the norm. This process of marginalization of different opinions, is sadly the bane of the atheist community.

          • Darth Cynic

            Don’t get me wrong, I loathe the often overused demand for citation in places where it’s just not relevant or appropriate. However, in this instance it is a very valid request as you have predicated your assessment of the minority presence of A+ on this 100k value. This is not an opinion but a factual claim being proffered. Without a source neither I nor anyone else can tell if it is valid, derived by questionable methods or has been made up entirely to suit a purpose. Your reticence in supplying a source can only lead people to doubt the veracity of the claim. The oblique ad-hominem utilising my user-name does nothing to help this.

            Btw I am thus far no fan A+, how they have conducted themselves etc., and it seems as if they’re less significant than they might otherwise imagine themselves to be, but they should rise or fall on the facts not on spurious numbers. Which I am afraid is the only way I can view your claim sans any corroboration. Which I hasten to add is emphatically not me trying to marginalise your opinion, just a reasonable request for the source of this factual claim. I can’t make you provide a source but it would help if you did.

          • Egbert

            Okay, this is a very amusing post. Yet you’re persisting in the marginalizing tactics I’ve already pointed out. I’m not playing that game, so feel free to ignore my posts in future.

          • Asking for evidence about a factual claim is marginalising?

          • Darth Cynic

            Asserting that a request for a source for data you have proffered and predicated further claims upon is a marginalising tactic, does alas not make it so. I nor anyone else thus far is marginalising you, I’d genuinely like to know where this value has come from and it shouldn’t be that hard to provide it. It’s not a game it’s a standard query with factual claims not in general knowledge or contrary to what is known and this shouldn’t be surprising.

            However, I am not interested in any further obfuscatory diversions based on an invented victimisation, so in the absence of a source and the pushback against citing one I must assume that this 100k value and all that stems from it is actually an invention.

          • I am not too sure you know how this skepticism thing works. We are atheists because religionists have no evidence to back up their claims, factual claims. You keep using that word opinion, I don’t think it means what you think it means. Saying there are 100,000 active non-religious, is a factual claim, not an opinion.

            If I said the Sun was blue, that is a factual claim and should not be accepted on the basis that is ‘different opinion to the norm’. If no evidence is provide then it is a baseless claim. So is yours, unless you decide to provide evidence and then we can evaluate your claim.

  • Zed Zero

    I brought up plusser’s divisiveness and was promptly accused of being mentally ill and a misogynist so it led to ponder some of why plussers miss the point and it led me to think that in fact plussers are paternalistic in their own mental construct. A+ is in part the idea that atheist need to help out and support feminism and women. This idea is wrong in that women have gain equality and societal inclusion in many areas were atheist have not. We have women leading in in several areas of life including several religions, corporations and the arts. We have women in national office, cabinet posts and the presidency is near at hand.

    Societal inclusion of out of the closet atheists is pathetic in comparison to that of women. So why is it that women need the help of atheists, many of which are men? I think it should be the other way round. We need a manifesto of Feminism Plus. We atheist need successful, powerful women helping out the atheist community in our efforts to climb out of our social oblivion.

    Do with it what you will. I am not serious but, it does strike me that the plussers are backwards in their thinking and are requesting paternalistic support for feminist.
    Lead on Sister Plus!

    • Egbert

      I understand how it feels to be labeled and dismissed, that’s the cynical strategy of young revolutionaries that are tired of the old folk who control the ‘movement’ so it’s time for an uprising. A+ is a more puritanical zeal of what we were already doing in A, namely, a neo-new atheism for the next generation.

      What went wrong? Let’s take a step back out of own ideological blinkers and examine the origin of modern atheism, and its strange belief in rational superiority over unscientific claims. This rational superiority lead to a moral superiority, both of which were foolish errors of self-deception. Since we can now see unblinkered, we’re neither more rational nor more moral than theists, the dichotomy seems rather futile.

      Hence the need for post-atheist analysis and an escape from ideological blindness. We’re not more moral or more rational than anyone else, so let’s throw off that delusion and see what comes after.

      • Zed Zero

        Yep, actually like that.
        The mimicking of religion grates my nerves but, it is not unexpected. Rational solutions are good for airplanes but, for a social species our messy irrationality goes with territory and it is not really a problem as long as you are a productive part of the society that actually exists as opposed the one you fantasy ought to exist. Atheist are exactly the same species as religionist. I see a lot of this little schism as big egos in a little pond.

      • PJLandis

        So abandon atheism? I do actually think it’s a more rational position than theism, and certainly more so than any religion as practiced.

        We may not be more rational or moral as people, but when it comes to this specific issue, religion, I do think atheism has the higher ground intellectually and morally.

        • Zed Zero

          Disassembling a religion does not require atheist and it is done all the time by the competing religious themselves. Also atheist has no intrinsic moral values, it is a null point.
          Generally, abandoning atheist is not possible as there is nothing to abandon. What I would suggest is that if you are looking to atheist to be something other than a no belief then you are not going to get very far. If you want to get somewhere you have to something tangible to offer that improve someones life. To be successful socially, you need to improve a lot of lives.

  • Egbert

    Seriously, what has this group actually accomplished so far? Nothing that I can see, other than a declaration of a war on misogyny, without actually doing anything about it other than using insults (what the hell can anyone do about hatred toward women?). There is no actual real world organization going on, it’s a hobby club for students and a nice comfy forum.

    Still, what have new atheists ever accomplished? Well, a few made a lot of money selling books, and there is always that really important thing of ‘raising awareness’ even though it has not created any such zeitgeist.

    I’m not a political activist, but if I were, I’d be scratching my head and wondering what is actually being done.

    • Egbert

      By ‘this group’ I meant the ‘atheist plus’ people, just in case anyone misunderstood.

      • Darth Cynic

        Nothing tangible as far as I am concerned, though I am certain that those who support it would see it differently and class such things as the creation of a safe forum space as an achievement, the launch of A+ Scribe as another and so on.

        As for what “New” atheists have achieved, well raising awareness is not some small matter if that’s what you mean to imply. The more that are visible out there the more others feel freer to do likewise and not hide for fear of offending others. The more weight can be brought to bear on religious infringements into the public arena; like prayer in government meetings or specific denominations paraphernalia in schools. That self-identified atheists are growing in number and thus are constituting a group that has a real voice politically and not an easily dismissed minority. Now one could argue that this is a trend of an increasingly rational society and little to do with visible atheist personalities, but I think that they have made a contribution though quantifying it might be difficult.

  • In my opinion it is irresponsible to throw numbers around without any support for those numbers except they are an opinion. If this was a regular practice we would have serious problems functioning or progressing in most areas of our life. There is no way anyone can provide an accurate number for people who identify as A+. You can post your opinion of that number but it should be given the consideration it deserves.
    Now with that explained I have come up with my own opinion on the number of active atheists. That number is 1,654,149.
    With 1,654,149 active atheists I would say about 16 people actually know what A+ is and can rightfully claim to belong to the label. Of course I may be off by as much as 1000% (or more) but I think my numbers should help put all this into perspective

    • Out of those, I believe about 0 agree on what it is.

  • Jimbo

    Jenifer McCreight’s original blog post that luanched A+ was every bit as divisive as Richard Carrier’s. The only difference is it was written around a tone of victimhood and passive aggression rather than direct aggression.

    PZ Myers also reflected Carrier’s position when he suggested non-A-Plussers were A-Assholes.

    These are important points to consider because the first response you’re going to get from Atheism Plus is going to be to claim Carrier was alone in his views and that they rejected them.

    • Exactly, look at he comments in Namazie’s blog, Carrier is cast as an ‘outlier’.

    • Yes, I think that’s a key point to raise.

  • Clare45

    Reap beat me to it, but inst
    ead of 16, I was going to suggest the number 42.

    • You may be correct, that still puts me within my margin of error so I’m cool

  • I prefer citations for numerical claims. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask everyone who has not supplied citations for their numerical claims to please stop marginalizing my viewpoint.

    By simply not supplying citations for numerical claims, my worldview is clearly being belittled and forced down into the bin of oppression. I want to live in a world where all viewpoints are given equal validity…including the viewpoint that no viewpoints are valid. Truth=Falsehood=Numerical Citations Got it?

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