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Posted by on Oct 14, 2012 in Atheism, Drama, Feminism, Freethought Blogs, LGBT Rights, Politics | 70 comments

A+ to Ashes

In the wake of a certain female blogger’s protest over pro-equality t-shirts, another feminist blogger’s sudden hiatus immediately after expressing the need for Atheism Plus, and a real tragedy in the life of a third female Atheism Plus leader, the movement was dead almost on arrival. Its fate was sealed when optimistic supporter, Matt Dillahunty, President of the Atheist Community of Austin and Host of Non-Prophet Radio got banned from the A+ forums in an attempt to show that those forums were fair to outsiders. To make a long story short, he quickly found out that they weren’t. Around the same time, another female Freethought Blogs (FTB) blogger wrote about the possibility of reproduction without males, while feminists in the Rad Fem Hub* gleefully speculated about the submission and demise of the male gender. Shortly after that, the now infamous PZ Myers wrote a blog post where he mourned the death of an octopus over the death of a woman, while denouncing Korean culture in the process, and aptly demonstrating that when you keep turning left unquestioningly, you end up on the far, far right. Last I checked, even some of his most loyal acolytes seemed a bit queasy.

In the meantime, three of the FTB network’s best bloggers deserted Freethought Blogs for more fertile pastures, with at least one of the cited reasons for the departures being that civil discourse had become impossible due to the behavior of the commentariat. But there may have been other reasons as well. I mean, what would I know? In any case, you can now find two of these blogs by following the links below, where your comments will hopefully be welcome, or at least fairly addressed:

Al Stefanelli

Chris Hallquist

As for A+, all that’s left are a few persistent embers glowing angrily in the heart of the largely deserted A+ forums, where a few people feeling sorry for themselves are battling angry trolls and waiting for the next big conflagration. And so I wonder, what, if anything, have we learned?

Hopefully, at least some of us learned that intentionally trying to cause “deep rifts” and fighting against inclusiveness, even in the name of social justice, is not a good idea after all. In the end, it doesn’t matter what we call ourselves; it matters what we do and how we treat each other.

*It’s important for people to understand that most of the writers at Freethought Blogs are not radical feminists and neither are the A-Plussers, though their inconsistent feminist ideology is loosely based on radical feminist theory, which has slowly crept into mainstream feminist thought.


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  • Denis

    Hopefully we learned that there is a VERY good reason for the first amendment. Combining politics and “religion” is unacceptable, whether religion indicates “belief” or “lack of”.

    • bluharmony

      I couldn’t agree more. It seems that some atheists want to do away with freedom of speech and freedom of association, without any idea of what doing so actually means. Or maybe they do know, but don’t care.

  • This was inevitable, really – atheism has always has to strive to resist the demagogue’s ideological heel. We didn’t submit when it was the Church, and we didn’t submit when it was radical feminism. The Atheism+ orthodoxy machine was a non-starter from the get-go. You can’t corral people whose lives have been spent resisting orthodoxy requirements, sordid rhetorical ploys, and disgraceful intimidation tactics with more orthodoxy requirements, sordid rhetorical ploys, and disgraceful intimidation tactics.

    Now maybe we can get back to doing what atheism does, rather than what some self-serving, power-hungry individuals want it to do.

    • bluharmony

      I hope that’s the case, but this appears to be a monster with multiple heads; slay one, and three grow back in its place. Where are the people who are looking out for others and not for themselves? Those are the people I want to work with/for.

  • CommanderTuvok

    Yeah, it is clear A+ is running out of steam. Many “big name players” never really supported it, ie. PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson. The founder, Jen McCreight, talked the talk but couldn’t walk the walk, and then there was the Matt Dillahunty fiasco.

    A+ was always going to fail as it lives in the shadow of the behemoth that is the FtB and Skepchick axis. This axis still has some pull – demonstrated by their bullying of Justin Vacula, but even this movement has received some devastating blows recently.

    When PZ Myers starts bloging about racist hats, you know they are desperate people. Even the people commenting on his blog don’t appear to understand what he is moaning at. Further, Ophelia Benson has her 1 zillionth post moaning about somebody else using bad werdz. Like a racehorse well past its prime, give it up Ophelia.

    • bluharmony

      Not a peep from that lot on this blog (except Kazez), even though there are no bad words in sight. In fact, they’re explicitly prohibited in my comment policy, yet no one is complaining. Amazing how that works. In fact, the only gendered slurs against me have been used by the FTB crowd.

      It is truly sad and unfair that Justin Vacula had to resign from his well-earned position because of their gang; he didn’t even post Surly’s full address, he just identified the apartment complex, exactly as it’s listed in a ten-second Google search. His actions have been the actions of a true leader, who puts the needs of his organization first. Needless to mention (but I’ll mention it anyway), my address was posted in full & it was clear that it wasn’t a business, in a feminist hate post with my full name in the title (eighth result when you Googled my name), yet that was absolutely fine and dandy. And I didn’t tweet it to all my followers, either.

      • Eritrea

        Is Kazez really “of that lot”?

        • bluharmony

          Lately she has been, starting with her posts about Surly Amy and, I imagine, through today. Solidarity with (a few) women is her point, and she has to go through a lot of tortured logic to get there. She was someone I used to admire. But, for example, she called me a “mad dog” in a dedicated blog post because of a video someone else made about her hypocrisy (involving a discussion of an incident where feminists posted my home address in a hate thread about me), when I didn’t even know about the existence of said video. I do now.

          • Eritrea

            That’s a pity. She often seemed more rational and less vicious than PZ et al

    • bluharmony

      Ophelia’s “bad werdz” tirade is a red herring. Also, it’s become obvious that she has nothing to say, as she is supporting exactly the type of nonsense her (originally Jeremy Stangroom’s, actually) blog is supposed to be debunking.

    • raskolnikov37

      I guess I’ve been out of the loop for a while so can someone tell me what the Matt Dillahunty fiasco was? What happened?

      • Michael Cooper

        Matt created a new account, he had only done a “hello” post under his
        own name, in order to prove that the criticism of A+ was unwarranted and
        that they were really reasonable people just maligned. His initial
        post, asking why a particular user was banned, was deleted (it was
        claimed it was accidental) as they were modding all posts and when one
        is rejected it disappears. It was rejected, essentially, for being

        Not expecting that Matt, as Curiosity, was baffled. He
        wrote that he hadn’t saved the post externally as he had zero
        expectation it would be deleted.They piled-on him. He revealed his
        identity. Much crying ensued about how he had “damaged” them. They then banned his named account for breaking the forum rules.

        He still defended them for a video or two.

  • Good riddance…I liked it better when the rats ran the place.

    • bluharmony

      I rather like rats.

  • Vagrarian

    Wow, really? Already? If it is indeed dying, it’s not shocking. I saw this happen with the Brights and wondered if that wouldn’t be the fate of Atheism+. I saw the best and noblest of intentions there, but also sometimes a bit too much anger, self-importance, and joylessness there. An aggressive antireligion stance was also troubling for me; some of the most impassioned social justice crusaders I know are religious, and true progress in social justice calls for alliances, not divisiveness. And Jen McCreight’s little “ew, that awful homeless person” tirade recently didn’t help. Maybe it’ll rally; I’ll be surprised if it did. Maybe a future movement can learn from their mistakes.

    • bluharmony

      I agree — I am not anti-theist; I do not hate the religious, I’m just hopeful that we can ameliorate some of the harm that religion can cause. Tolerant & liberal religious people are allies, not enemies. Just like libertarians may not be my political allies, but they can be my allies in many other ways.

      • Vagrarian

        Yup; I used to write for a progressive politics/religion website (now quite moribund) as its resident atheist. It was a wonderful community of people of different faiths and paths in life giving so much support (and the occasional squabble), but it meant a lot to me as they saw me through a very rough patch in my life but never sought to convert me; rather the reverse, they encouraged me to stick to my principles and be true to myself. I’m still in touch with many of them and it taught me the value of interfaith alliances for greater causes, and the value of viewing people as human beings first.

        • Eritrea

          I think that hatred is a problem born of people, not exclusively of religion, and that a blanket anti-theist stance is unfair and illogical if you are aiming to fight hatred and promote Social Justice.

    • Contra others, I’ve never seen the “best and brightest of intentions” in Brights. That word was chosen to have pejorative insinuations. I’ve never seen the “best and brightest” in its evolved successor, Gnu Atheism, whether at FtB or elsewhere. And now, its love-hate child, produced by a liaison with ninth-wave feminism, has arrived nearly stillborn in A+, the highest wave yet of attention seekers and childishness.

      • “That word was chosen to have pejorative insinuations.”

        False assertion, contrary to all evidence. The reasoning behind the name was made explicitly clear from the very beginning. Only determined detractors such as yourself try to smear their intentions. It was a poorly chosen name, but quite clearly not out of spite.

        And gnu atheism is not its successor. That’s just mindbogglingly inane. At least have the courtesy to get the targets of your petty sniping straight.

  • Around the same time, another female Freethought Blogs (FTB) blogger wrote about the possibility of reproduction without males

    Really? Y’got a link? Because the only reference to this that I remotely recall on FTB was written by Edwin Kagin (a man), who posted it as “a literary Rorschach test,” and most definitely not in support of feminism (radical or not.)

    • bluharmony

      The website appears to be down right now, but it was in one of Taslima’s entries (Blog: No Country for Women). It was very similar to Edwin’s “Rorschach test,” only serious. I think I mentioned this on your blog earlier, but then forgot to provide you with the link. I will as soon as the FTBs are back up, unless you find it before me. Sorry for being remiss. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Edward Clint

      Here’s the link: “We do not need a male to get pregnant.”

  • Edward Clint

    Back on August 28th I called A+ stillborn in this essay. Even then, I would not have guessed just how devastating a debacle Atheism+ would turn out to be, and how quickly.

    • bluharmony

      That’s a great essay. Love it.

    • Eritrea

      That’s a fantastic essay. Very well argued, you make a lot of points I’d not thought of, and you make a lot of sense. It’s a sub-group of a small group being lead by people without expertise in the area and who are already leaders in the original group who haven’t done this before, or proposed any concrete ways they intend to achieve anything now. Wow.

  • JRS

    I certainly hope it is dead. I tend to be a bit more cautious, though. My main concern is that the FTB/A+ attack machine, which existed long before A+ and was used so effectively against Justin Vacula, remains intact as part and parcel of FTB. Hopefully, even if someone else is targeted, there is enough awareness in the community to recognize the process for what it is and it will then, again hopefully, lose it effectiveness. I’ll rest a bit easier when I know that is the case.

    • bluharmony

      They still use Google poisoning as a tactic, though. Someone’s name + a lie about them = great possibility of a ruined reputation. Forever. Legally, it’s likely defamation, but no one has litigated, given the cost. It won’t stop until someone does.

  • Dear Atheism+,

    I have been made aware of your recent troubles and sympathize greatly. While being crushed under the weight of your own inadequacies, I urge you to consider what might have been the cause of your undoing and endeavor to do better next time:

    1) Lecturing inclusiveness while telling others to “fuck off” and describing rape scenes with porcupines is perhaps a breach of taste, if not etiquette.

    2) Logic applies to us all. Not just “those other people”.

    3) Ostracizing people only works when you’re in the majority. When you’re in the minority, it’s called “self-imposed exile”. Which means you’ve just taken yourself out of the equation. Thank you.

    4) There are only so many instances where one may call near total strangers “rape-apologists” before you are written off as kooks.

    5) Last one…and I know this is going to be hard:

    Ideas don’t deserve respect. People deserve respect. Remember that one? The moment you forgot that lesson was the moment your troubles started.

    • bluharmony

      Brilliant response. Thank you for that.

      • It’s a pleasure, bluharmony. Keep up the good fight.

        • Chill Chick

          I also thought it was brilliant. What kills me about the A+theism crowd is (a) they claim to be all about skepticism and critical thinking, but they are incredibly gullible and will swallow the wildest conspiracy theory as long as it bashes men and “gender traitors”, and (b) the are incredibly privileged. They fly around the world from conference to conference, lecturing the audience on what oppressed victims they are because some guy made a clumsy pass at them, or they had to pass an icky homeless guy in the street. Talk about first world problems! What have they actually done for any of the long list of social causes they championed? Nothing! Just sat in their cozy little echo chambers moaning about how bad they have it.

    • Vic

      “Ideas donโ€™t deserve respect. People deserve respect.”

      Excellent way to end a great post.

      • Copyleft

        Agreed. Add that one to the quote board. (Along with “We need a quote board around here….”)

  • According to the definition of “radical feminism” given on Wikipedia, these people are indeed radical feminists.

    Therefore I believe that “radical feminism” is the correct term to use for many of the people at Freedomfromthought blogs, as well as at the A+theism forums.

    • bluharmony

      The theory is largely the same, but they don’t take it to its (il)logical conclusions. If men are such horrid & repulsive beasts (due to testosterone “damaging” their brains), and must be brought down and taught how to behave, why keep them around at all? And who wants them once they’re down on the floor groveling, anyway? Radical feminists are truly a hate group. They hate men, M-F transfolk, women who like men — basically, everyone but themselves. The A-Plussers, OTH, are more like a support group for those who feel victimized — by life. And I get the feeling that some of them really have been hurt a lot, so the last thing I want to do is invade their “safe space.”

  • John W. Loftus

    It’s hard to predict the future, but I think I did a fair enough job of this with regard to Atheism +:

    • bluharmony

      Yep, and you’re doing pretty well at running a blogging network, too. I just don’t foresee the same problems. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Shadow of the Hedgehog

    n the meantime, three of the FTB networkโ€™s best bloggers deserted Freethought Blogs for more fertile pastures, with at least one of the cited reasons for the departures being that civil discourse had become impossible due to the behavior of the commentariat.

    You left out Libby Ann of Love, Joy, Feminism. She was probably PZ’s first victim. Her crime? A comment policy of no abuse or obscenity. This made her a “tone troll” to the Pharyngulites and PZ told his commentariat to “go tell her what you think” of her comment policy. What ensued was not pretty and she eventually left for the calmer waters of Patheos. This incident was the breaking point for me as far as Pharyngula went.

    • bluharmony

      Ah, I didn’t catch that bit of drama. Sounds a lot like my comment policy, come to think of it.

    • Eritrea

      Calling people “tone trolls” when they want people treated politely or decently is a massive step towards becoming an echo chamber and radicalising yourself into a vicious hateful frenzy. If intercessions in defense of outsiders/enemies or for politeness are always labelled as “tone trolling” then the only way to go too far in the community is to advocate something immoral, or appear to be an outsider parodying them.

      This can lead to a spiraling wave of insults – because how are you expressing your outrage if no-one is shocked or surprised by your vitriol and if it’s all been said before – you have to go bigger, more crude, more exaggerated.

      • bluharmony

        You’re spot-on in every one of your comments.

  • Bringing the death of Greta’s father into this as though it is at all relevant to Atheism Plus is really inappropriate. Movements don’t die because someone has a death in the family. Lumping that in like it has anything to do with the future of that thing is exploitative. You should apologize or amend the post.

    • bluharmony

      To state that a leader was absent due to a legitimate family tragedy is irrelevant and exploitative? For goodness sake, how? I’m sorry, but movements need leaders who are present and active; otherwise, movements fall apart. Did you see how Sean Faircloth handled the death of his mother? He honored her with a dedication in a speech a few days later, while serving the movement he speaks for — all-inclusive, social justice-motivated Atheism. Should I perhaps replace what I said with a reference to the A-Scribe mess that occurred on Greta’s blog, the vile attacks on the female A+ supporter who dared to question the appropriateness of recordings without permission, and Greta’s apology for not paying enough attention? I do not fault Greta for her absence in any way (I don’t even name her in my post), nor do I state that a causal relationship between her father’s death and the failure of the movement exists. Because in reality, it doesn’t. The real causes for the movement’s failure are much simpler and apparent to most: lack of cohesive leadership, divisiveness, lies, constant personal attacks, double standards, real misogyny, real misandry, prejudice against minorities, paternalism, misplaced victimhood, lack of well-defined goals, lack of agreement, and the incompatibility of politically-motivated ideology with skepticism and atheism. This is outlined in so many other places, including several related posts on this network, that I didn’t think it needed to be repeated here.

    • Agreed – there’s simply no reason to bring Greta Christina’s loss into the argument. She was quite active with A+ up until circumstances made her take time off, and no reason to think she wouldn’t be again, if A+ continues as a movement. (Though I generally agree that it will probably go the way of the “Brights”, though as with all things A+, its demise will be more vociferous and angry.)

      Greta Christina hasn’t been on my list of favorite people for the last several months, but since she’s taking a time out for reasons I can empathize with, I’m certainly taking a time out with her and I think others should do likewise.

      • bluharmony

        It isn’t part of an argument; I’m not making one. It’s just one of the things that happened along the path to where we are now. To eliminate occurrences that aren’t anyone’s fault as contributing factors to a particular outcome is unreasonable. But I certainly wasn’t placing any blame on Greta. In fact, if anything, I was recognizing her loss and her understandable absence in contrast to the other two individuals I mentioned.

    • Michael Cooper

      You’re cherry-picking something to be offended about, aren’t you?

      Demanding an apology?

      We all have family that has died. This is one thing everyone always shares. There’s no privilege involved. There’s no politics involved.

      You named her to use her loss to mount an objection.


      • Michael Cooper

        (Though you did remind me that I forgot to put the VA forms in the mail for the headstone for my father’s grave and the burial flag, so thanks for that.)

        • bluharmony

          First, I’m truly sorry for your loss. And for Greta’s.

          But I agree, that was a highly irrational and extremely nasty comment on Fincke’s part. As if I’m somehow more privileged than Greta. As if my mother (and only relative) didn’t just have a stroke. As if my life is anywhere near perfect. As if I’m in a position to “exploit” anyone or anything. As if I haven’t been consistently defamed and maligned by his former associates (without the financial ability for recourse).

          I expected more from him. I always expect the best from people. It’s no wonder I’m so often disillusioned.

          • Zed Zero

            Petty snipe from Fincke. I guess it never occurred to him that Greta and Jen are both exploiting their fathers to deflect their follies. Greta had been doing a cut and paste martyring of herself all over the web for a couple weeks before this.
            It is they who owe their fathers an apology for dragging them into this idiotic internet drama.

    • So… I guess an apology is in order since you’re all “let’s all be friends and don’t cherry-pick” now!!

  • Zed Zero

    It looks like you are getting fleas, as Richard Dawkins would put it ( Perhaps you should start your own tote board.
    This is the part where the comments sections get to long and contentious and I quit reading them. I like your essays but, I will give up reading the comments section soon.

    • bluharmony

      I think people who have been stewing in FTB melodrama have forgotten what “attack the argument, not the person” means. It’s not just a matter of using politically correct language, it’s a matter of applying the principle of charity to someone’s position and then demonstrating where it’s wrong — if you can.

      For instance, an explanation of how lack of leadership is irrelevant to the demise of a movement would have been preferable to Fincke’s random snipe. But I don’t think he’d make that argument.

      Anyway, I do hope you stay to read the essays and to comment. I know that reading comments can be frustrating, but I do read (and try to respond to) all of the comments here. Thank you for reading and for your support. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Michael Cooper

        I had the apparently odd misperception when their forum launched that they would reject ad hom arguments outright. Obviously I didn’t know what they had meant by “safe space.”

        • bluharmony

          “Safe space,” to them, means that they can abuse you with the worst possible language and insults, degrade you, dehumanize you, post private information online, and destroy your career & reputation with lies for the simple crime of disagreement. It’s an interesting idea of “safe space,” for sure. (Of course, I’m conflating FTB with A+, but, in reality, they are conflated. One can look at A+ as an unsuccessful attempt at expansion of the FTB political and social justice dogma.)

      • ZedZero

        Thanks, there is a surprising good collection of blogs here. I find it doubly irritating that a couple of these guy’s feel the need to get at you in your “safe place”. I feel like John Stewart shooting down Sean Hannity on a slow news night.
        Moderation is good thing. If you deleted the whole thread it wouldn’t hurt my feelings in the slightest.

        • bluharmony

          That’s OK, I don’t need a “safe space.” I want bad arguments to be exposed for what they are; even my own.

  • Michael Cooper

    Did someone break the comments section?

    • bluharmony

      Blame Disqus. It’s mean. The old comments should be imported shortly, although I’ve heard there have been some glitches in the process.

      • Michael Cooper

        I like the up/down option.

        • bluharmony

          Dunno, with that and the endless nesting, it makes me feel like I’m on Reddit. And I (almost) never go on Reddit for good reason. Although, unlike Reddit, most of the commenters here have been consistently thoughtful and respectful.

  • Michael Cooper

    I’m seeing white text on a light grey background, well, when I highlight I can see.

    • bluharmony

      I think I chose the text option for a dark background. I’m smart like that. Fixed.

  • You live in Seattle too! Very cool.

    • bluharmony

      Hello, neighbor!

  • I’m sorry but can someone illuminate the pro equality t shirt thing? I muist have missed that.

    • bluharmony

      Just google “surly amy,” “hariett hall,” “Tam,” “t-shirt,” and that will start you down the rabbit hole.

  • I hadn’t heard that Hallquist left too. Maybe they better start recruiting.

    • bluharmony

      Yeah, he did it on principle, as shown by his Grothe disagreement and several brutally honest messages regarding me. Daniel Fincke, although I initially linked to his blog (but removed the link upon his request to change my post), I’m guessing left for financial reasons, given his comment here and on FTB. I’ll leave you to draw our own conclusions from that, as I don’t know anything for sure.

  • What I hope for now is that if anybody wants to make any kind of “social movement” while piggybacking on the success of “New Atheism”, they’ll do it with rational discourse and civility. That is what disturbed me the most about these people–they were like a mirror of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. You see the exact same kinds of behaviors–attacking people personally simply for disagreeing (“Misogynist!” / “Socialist!”), irrational thinking, and some truly vile attitudes.

    There is simply no room in real life for Internet shenanigans. If you aim to influence people in the real world, you have to behave professionally. Losing a man his job, for example, is the pinnacle of vicious behavior. It creates a chilling effect whereby people only criticize anonymously for fear they may have to deal with the consequences of simply not agreeing with these people.

    As for the “leadership” of Atheism+, they had only a single scientist of any merit, whose integrity has been thoroughly compromised. Then they had a couple bloggers. And…that’s it. Contrast this to the Four Horsemen of New Atheism: an accomplished scientist, a neurosurgeon, a philosopher and a journalist (and that’s putting it lightly). These were men who had actually gone out into the world and seen the atrocities and horrors that religion can do to people. These thinkers are orders of magnitude smarter than PZ Myers (an educator more than a scientist), Greta Christina (blogger), or Rebecca Watson (communications major).

    The fact that they were not as accomplished as the Four Horsemen is not a reason to disqualify their arguments, of course. But let’s be honest: credentials matter.

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