The spectre and stupidity of Atheism+ lingers on. I had a comment on one of my previous posts that, in the end, I deleted because it was primarily profanity and insult, but it demanded that I explain just what was wrong with Atheism+. While I’ve posted a few problems here and there, I haven’t had it all in one place for quick and easy reference, nor had I done any kind of comprehensive study. Therefore, here it is.
1. They are desperately trying to entangle atheism with social and political movements which have nothing whatsoever to do with atheism. I have no problem with people saying that they are atheists and they are also this other thing, regardless of what that other things happens to be, many of the most influential people advocating Atheism+ are demanding that you cannot be an atheist unless you also embrace that other thing.
2. Many supporters are trying to argue that A+ isn’t a hate group, just because you can find people on the A+ forums that are talking about ” atheism and progressive causes, organising and sharing literature etc.” Okay… so what? That doesn’t change the fact that many A+ writers are still trying to be divisive, trying to “cleanse” the atheist movement of non-liberals and non-extremist feminists, etc. It’s made most clear in Richard Carrier’s infamous posting which said, in part:
There is a new atheism brewing, and it’s the rift we need, to cut free the dead weight so we can kick the C.H.U.D.’s back into the sewers and finally disown them, once and for all.
Sounds like a hateful thing to say from where I’m sitting. If you people honestly want to have a social movement, go for it. Start your own group, fund your own conventions, give to your own charities, but most importantly, pick your own name that doesn’t impact another group that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with your subject matter. It’s like starting a group called “Christian Axe-Murderers” and wondering why you have so many pissed off Christians.
3. It’s inherently divisive and exclusionary. At a time when the organized atheist movement needs as many vocal, committed and visible atheists as it can get in all walks of life, to show the world that atheists and secularists deserve equal treatment and an equal voice, you idiots are yelling at men, particularly white men, which, whether you like it or not, make up the majority of the outspoken atheist movement today.
An atheist movement cannot be inclusive of atheist women… and also be inclusive of people who publicly call women ugly, fat, sluts, whores, cunts, and worse; who persistently harass us; who deliberately invade our privacy and make our personal information public; and/or who routinely threaten us with grisly violence, rape, and death.
You have to remember that the only thing that all atheists have in common is a lack of belief in gods. That’s it. They can be sexist, racist and homophobic, they can be feminist, humanist and inclusive. Just because they’re all atheists doesn’t mean they’re all good people, any more than everyone at a religious conference is necessarily a good person. That’s the nice thing, you get to pick and choose who you want to hang around with, based on what you actually have in common.
Of course, most of the crap in this statement is patently false. I don’t think you can find many, if any, atheists who will call women sluts, whores, cunts or “worse” (whatever happened to sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you? A bit thin-skinned?) out of the blue, with no provocation. Likewise, I’ve yet to see anyone strike first with no reason to harass or threaten or attack. I’m not saying it never happens, just that I can’t believe it’s that common. Further, ThunderfOOt never “invaded your privacy”, he was given a link and read what was offered to him. It’s funny how divisive this whole nonsense really is.
But what about things like ugly and fat? Sorry, some people just are, such as the picture to the right. There’s no denying reality, no matter how ridiculously politically correct you want to be. Nobody in their right mind should modify their speech or pretend what is so really isn’t, just to make you feel good.
4. Many of the A+ers have declared a witch hunt against those who don’t agree with them, in particular PZ Myers and Richard Carrier, and anyone who doesn’t meet their exacting standards must be dispatched from organized atheism. Who died and made them the arbiters of atheism?
5. As I have posted before, Atheism+ looks very much like repackaged humanism with a strong hate component, but plenty of A+ers deny that evident connection and in so doing, show their hatred. Jen McCreight tweeted “Dear smug humanists: My critique of the atheist movement included you. Your groups are infamous for being mostly old, white, men” Then she posts:
I want Deep Rifts…I want the misogynists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and downright trolls out of the movement for the same reason I wouldn’t invite them over for dinner or to play Mario Kart: because they’re not good people.
And that’s fine, you don’t have to invite anyone over. I wouldn’t invite you over either, nor would I invite many people from the atheist movement because, frankly, except for a singular lack of belief in gods, I have virtually nothing in common with them and relationships are based on commonalities, not lack thereof.
Yet here we see a hint of the major misconceptions prevalent in much of atheism itself, especially the Atheism+ movement. There is an assumption that the “old white men” who kicked off the “New Atheist” movement were part of some grand conspiracy. We will touch on this in more detail under #7, I just want to clear up this particular misconception. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens, the four horsemen of New Atheism, wrote books that resonated with the scattered atheists across America. It had nothing to do with their gender or skin color, it had to do with their writing ability. These are people who wrote excellent books and just so happen to be male and white. They are not people whose books were successful because they were male and white. It amazes me that for a group of people who claim to be largely rational, they repeatedly fail to confuse correlation with causation.
6. It comes off as oddly self-serving. Where this is claimed as a massive social movement, it seems focused almost exclusively on what happens at atheist conventions. Now while I freely admit, I don’t read any Atheist+-friendly blogs or forums, certainly the major issues that are reported outside of those areas are aimed inward at the atheist community, dedicated to making atheist conferences more comfortable to a particular subset of feminist atheist women. That’s not to say they don’t discuss it amongst themselves in private, I hope that they do, but the impetus for this “movement” was clearly “We’re not happy! Make us happy!”
You have to remember where all of this started, with people entirely over-reacting to minor events as though whole conventions were advocating wholesale rape. Then came the demands for convention anti-harassment policies, never mind that the events that spurred these demands would never have raised an eyebrow under said policies. It’s apparently the thought that counts. That seems to be what all of this comes down to. There’s nothing appreciably wrong going on at these conventions in the first place, except in the eyes of a few hypersensitive women. That’s what Richard Dawkins pointed out that got him vilified. Women worldwide are being murdered in honor killings, stoned for daring to get an education and having parts of their anatomy sliced off and the worst thing these women can come up with is being asked out for a cup of coffee? Seriously?
7. It comes off looking like a lot of paranoid, conspiracy-theorist nonsense. In fact, I wrote an article a while back about the similarities between religion and conspiracy nuts and it’s starting to look a lot like the A+ crowd.
Face it. This community is already divided. And it is divided in a way that is making many, many women feel cut out. For a solid year, far too many women in this community — and especially feminist women — have been relentlessly subjected to a torrent of hatred, harassment, and abuse… and to a torrent of people ignoring this behavior, rationalizing it, trivializing it, or getting angry at us for even talking about it.
The reality isn’t that people are ignoring the behavior, rationalizing it, trivializing it or getting pissed off at you, the reality is that most people outside of your little group simply disagree with you! You get personally insulted when people point out that you’re vastly over-reacting to essentially minor incidents and have failed entirely to demonstrate that there is a significant problem with sexism within the atheist movement! The very idea that others can disagree with your conclusions and question your methods and agenda turns immediately into a cabal of people out to get you. You start with unrealistic expectations, cling to the absurd view that your opinions are the only possible valid opinions and anyone who doesn’t buy into your claims must hate women!
And the reality for me — a reality that makes me sick and sad, a reality that I can hardly bear to talk about — is that, as a public figure, the people I fear the most, the people I am most genuinely concerned about doing me physical harm, are not religious extremists. The people I fear most are other atheists. Why is that not “divisive”?
Seriously, paranoid much? Geez.
8. They point fingers at everyone but themselves. This is a common tactic, of course, but it’s important to note it here. Once again:
A leader of a major skeptical organization speculated on the causes of low female attendance at his conference… and blamed it on women who were speaking out about sexual harassment. Why was that not “divisive”?
How is that divisive? Truth is not divisive, truth is true and I think in this case, it was the honest truth. When prominent women bloggers spend an entire year blogging about how unsafe TAM is for women, they’re suddenly surprised that significantly fewer women show up? Seriously?
This, however, is not the biggest issue. It’s a desire for numerical equality at all costs. However, there just aren’t as many women as men who are interested in being outspoken atheists. It’s not sexist, it’s reality. Women, whether by culture or biology, tend to be more emotional while men tend to be more intellectual. While I’m sure no studies have yet been done, I liken it to the hard sciences, where women are sorely under-represented compared to their percentages in the population at large. The problem though is that many liberals tend to think in quotas. Groups need to be represented in relation to their size in the general population. Women have to be 50% of any group. Blacks have to be 22% of any group. Hispanics have to be a certain percentage, gays have to be a certain percentage, transgenders have to be a certain percentage and if any of these quotas don’t naturally work out, something is wrong and they have to do something about it!
Of course, they only worry about it when their chosen “disadvantaged” group is out of proportion. Quilting or needlework, for example, is heavily female dominated. If you go to a quilting or needlework show, the overwhelming majority of attendees and exhibitors are women and most men who do attend do so with their wives. So where are all the major studies and focus groups trying to equalize gender attendance and interest in cross-stitch? It doesn’t exist and I suspect that if it did, you’d have an outcry from feminists over how awful it is that men are trying to encroach on the territory of women.
9. They’re using imagery and a name that’s already copyrighted by the Richard Dawkins Foundation group Non-Believers Giving Aid, which has been operational since 2010. The “A” is actually part of their “Out” program symbology and clearly, they had the whole “A+” idea long before any of the radical feminists in the atheist movement did. Now whether or not Richard Dawkins wants to issue a DMCA “Cease and Desist” order or not is entirely up to him and his charity, but if it were me, the last people I’d want to be associated with on any level are a bunch of sexist fuckwits and there’s a certain irony involved considering that one person who would have to be served would be Surly Amy, who is using the symbol on her crappy jewelry, and who also served a number of DMCA claims against others.
10. If there is one thing that Atheism+ and the Internet feminist “movement” has taught me, it’s that some people are absurdly over-sensitive to everything. I honestly don’t know how these people manage to get through their day without running around in a tizzy. Something anyone who has been on the Internet for more than 5 minutes ought to have realized, there are trolls online. Deal with it. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to be happy about it, you just have to accept it and deal with it. Trolls specifically say things to piss you off and make you react. Your reaction is their pay-off, their reason for doing what they do. If you want to be left alone, you cannot give them that pay-off.
That said, Atheism+ is a troll’s paradise. Not only do they react, they freak out and treat it like the world is coming to an end. Large portions of their rhetoric is based directly on trolling. I’ve written before that I’ve received an absurd number of threats in my considerable online life. I have no idea exactly how many but it’s in the multiple hundreds. From my recollection, I don’t know that anyone has ever threatened to rape me, but one enterprising troll did threaten to chop my cat’s head off. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much fear or concern did I give any of those threats? Absolute zero. None whatsoever. About as much response as any of them got was laughter and an encouragement to give it a shot. In fact, a select few got my address. Nothing ever happened.
And no, if I was a woman, I wouldn’t have responded any differently. I understand threat assessment. I know these people aren’t serious, they are pathetic. Unfortunately, the Atheism+ crowd not only does poorly with threat assessment, they suck at threat identification. To them, everything is a threat. They see the world through fear-colored glasses. Threaten them? Criticize them? Disagree with them? Question them? It’s all hate! The worst part is that many of the people who are most vocal, who are most putting themselves at risk of being criticized are the ones who are most unable to handle it. They are, as I’ve heard it described “delicate little flowers” who cannot imagine anyone would ever disagree with them. They over-react to the smallest things, from guys asking them out for coffee to people wearing t-shirts they don’t like and when they have a hissy-fit over what normal people would find absurdly minor and beneath notice and if people don’t immediately back up the support wagon to carry them around in, they scream abuse and insult and hate.
Unfortunately for them, they picked the wrong group to get involved with. Atheists are, by nature, skeptical beings. We question everything. We demand evidence. We critically examine all claims put to us. We reject emotion as the basis of making rational decisions. That’s where Atheism+ fails. It’s social agenda is entirely based on emotion. While some of their basic goals may be fine, their methods are bizarre and their rationalization is extreme. I have yet to find one willing to debate their points on a wholly rational, evidence-based footing. I think it would be fun to have an intellectual, non-emotional debate on the subject matter, but I fear such people simply do not exist.
My question, however, is, some of these people are scientists. For the sake of argument, if they write a paper and it’s published in a peer-reviewed journal and other scientists are critical of their paper, what do they do? Declare them misogynists?
And finally, with Jen McCreight, who I have quoted throughout this article, announcing that she is indefinitely retiring from blogging because of the attacks she received, I must strongly criticize both sides for this kind of behavior. Way back in the day, when PZ Myers was messing with communion crackers, lots of Catholics said they were going to his university to try to get him fired because they didn’t like what he was doing on his non-professional blog. It’s unknown whether anyone actually tried to do that, but certainly if so, it failed. It was a dick move then and it’s a dick move now for anyone who has done anything to actually harm Jen McCreight. I may disagree with her on many things but no one deserves that kind of actual abuse.
We’re atheists. In theory, at least, we’re supposed to be rational and intellectual and actually care about truth and reality. Acting like that is reprehensible on every conceivable level. Some people might say “attack the idea, not the person”, but in reality, since the ideas come from the person, I simply cannot go that far. If the person is an irrational idiot, they should be directly criticized for their idiocy. However, there’s a big difference between calling a spade a spade and making threats against them, their family or their livelihood. It is never acceptable to make death threats, rape threats or to attack someone’s employment or social standing. Both sides have been guilty of this and both sides need to grow the fuck up.
I wish Jen all the luck in the world and I sympathize with her, even though there probably is very little we’d ever agree on. The people who have made actual threats against her, or against anyone else on the FtB side need to be ashamed of themselves. By the same token, those on the FtB side who have advocated ejecting people from the atheist community because they don’t share a political or social agenda, and that includes you Jen, ought to be equally ashamed of yourselves. It is disgusting, reprehensible behavior on both sides.
There you have it, what I consider to be ten major problems with the Atheist+ camp. I’m sure I could come up with many more problems should I put my mind to it, but let’s start here and address them one by one. Of course, I suspect my list will be largely ignored by the radical feminists and their henchmen, or subjected to ridicule and insult, and I shall forever be labeled a misogynist, which is fine with me because it just proves my point. Rational, intelligent people don’t operate that way, but there is little logic in the Atheism+ movement. There is only emotional rambling, absurd finger pointing and irrational hatred directed outward.
I have no interest in it and I shall continue to criticize it for the same reason I criticize religion. It’s just downright stupid.