More Sad Parallels for Atheism+

Furry Atheism InsideWow, it’s weird how things come back out of the blue sometimes.  As I was preparing to erase #AtheismPlus from my Twitter client, someone came by and tweeted “Hah! A friend explained #AtheismPlus to atheism best… They are what the Burned Furs were to furries.”  You know, I had forgotten all about Burned Furs, mostly because they were pretty ineffective and quickly devolved into a bunch of screaming and insulting, but I can see some disturbing parallels between the furry fandom and modern-day atheism.

No, I was not a member, I was no more a joiner then than I am now, but I did know some of the people who started it and were most vocal in it.  Those were also the people who most quickly left the movement when it all started to go wrong.  However, as I see it, the Burned Furs were not analogous to Atheism+, it was the other way around.

Let me explain.  I’ve talked about this here and there before but let me do it again for people not in the know.  Way back in the late 80s, there was an offshoot of science fiction and fantasy fandom called anthropomorphism, or the “furries”.  In the earliest days, they were people who simply took human characteristics and applied them to animals, or vice versa, as a means of telling stories in a different way.  Furries are nothing evil, Bugs Bunny is a furry.  Mickey Mouse is a furry.  Wiley Coyote and the Road Runner are furries.  Lots of people who were fans of this kind of entertainment started to think, what if we took these concepts which had been primarily for kids and started telling more adult stories with them.  No, I don’t mean porn, I mean more intelligent, rational, intellectual stories.  One of the earliest was Maus, where creator Art Spiegelman was able to tell stories about the Germans and the Jews in a way that he couldn’t have with human characters.  By casting the Nazis as cats and the Jews as mice, he could examine emotionally-charged issues without the reader’s sentimentality  getting in the way.  That’s the way furry fandom was at the beginning.  I’m not going to say that there wasn’t a sexual component, there is in just about every fandom but it was very understated.  Even Star Trek fandom introduced us to “slash” fiction, where Kirk and Spock… well, you know.  People at the beginning of furry fandom would draw pin-ups, not full-blown rape scenes.  For a long time it went on this way, but good things just don’t last.

Over time, for a variety of reasons I’ve detailed before, people started to enter the fandom who were really not interested in the artwork or the anthropomorphics, they just wanted to get laid.  They wanted to be free to engage in various kinks and perversions and furry fandom happened to be very accepting, it had been founded by a lot of open gays who wanted everyone to feel welcome.  There was nothing wrong with that, of course, right up until the newcomers utterly took over the fandom and turned it into a beastial orgy.  That was the point where a lot of people, including those who would start Burned Fur, and said “wait a minute, you’re all just making us look bad!  Knock it off!”  And thus, the war began, between the people on the pervert furry side who not only didn’t want to give up their sanctuary, they didn’t want to lose all the free and easy sex, and the people who had largely started the fandom, or had been involved from the beginning, and didn’t want to see something they had worked so hard to achieve destroyed.  Unfortunately, lots of furs in the middle, who really didn’t understand the issues, stood on their “we accept everyone no matter what!” platform.  In the end, the whole of the fandom was virtually destroyed, the premiere convention, with which I had worked since it’s inception, went out of business.  Tons of people just walked away, refusing to be associated with the cesspool it had become.

So that brings us back to atheism.  Atheism, from the beginning, has been about non-belief, it’s been about logic and reason, debating with theists and trying to get them to see reality through their God-colored glasses.  It was never about social justice, just like furry fandom was never about fetish sex.  Then you got some people who came along, and under the guise of being “open”, joined in.  Now I’m sure they didn’t believe in gods, just like a lot of the first perverts who joined furry fandom actually liked furries, but as time went on, more and more radical feminists, to whom atheism was a secondary consideration came along, just like more and more perverts and fetishists who had no clue about anrthropomorphics joined in.  By the end, it wasn’t about atheism or anthropomorphism, except tangentially, it was about something entirely different.

But then, people got concerned.  They pointed out that what was in place now wasn’t what was in place before.  They realized that something had happened to their group, something that just didn’t make any sense.  They fought against it, at first rationally and then, unfortunately, irrationally.  See, the Burned Fur did the same thing a lot of anti-Atheism+ people do.  They started pointing and laughing and ridiculing and insulting.  The result was the same, in both cases, the newcomers felt wholly justified in their beliefs, in fact, the more they were attacked, the more justified they were.  The more attention they got, the more it validated their position.  That made them stronger and spurred even more attention by the opposition.  In the end, just as with furry fandom, I feel certain that organized atheism will implode because of this.

It’s sad that I see these dramatic parallels and can see the writing on the wall.  It’s happened before.  Everything has happened before.  It’s up to us to recognize these similarities and learn from the past.  Unfortunately, we don’t.  We do the same thing over and over, we suffer the same catastrophic results and we act surprised.

We shouldn’t be surprised.  We should just be aware.


13 thoughts on “More Sad Parallels for Atheism+

  1. I really like your statement: "Atheism, from the beginning, has been about non-belief, it’s been about logic and reason, debating with theists and trying to get them to see reality through their God-colored glasses." I have believed this for quite some time and can imagine myself writing something similar. This describes my approach to atheism well. In recent months, I have started to wonder if there are atheists we encounter online for whom it has never been about logic and reason but about power, feeling superior to others, or some other less desirable agenda. For some, it seems like it may even be about the usual motivators like status and money. Like usual, you've got me thinking!
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    1. To be honest, I think so many people don't see what I see because they've never been actively involved in other fandoms or movements, everything they see in atheism seems new and fresh but it's not. It's all been done before and especially when you're dealing with failed movements or fandoms, things that never met their potentials or which fought their way into the ground, these similarities are stark and obvious. I keep trying to point them out but it seems nobody is listening.

      There are tons of irrational atheists out there. Heck, if you want to see it, just go watch the #atheism hashtag on Twitter for a while, you'll be embarrassed at how stupid some of these people are. Not only making bad arguments, logical fallacies and atrocious spelling skills, these are people who just cuss up a storm at any theist that comes by, just because they're a theist. A week or so ago, I stepped in on one argument where a theist was surrounded by a pile of atheists cussing him out. Eventually, he said he wanted to debate me via e-mail, I haven't seen anything come through yet, but he was so sick of atheist assholes he started following me and blocked all of them. That's commonplace. It's also sad.

  2. Great post Cephus. I had no idea what a "Burned Fur" was until reading this…interesting story, and it does seem to parallel the current debacle that is "organized atheism" for lack of a better term.

    I am quite concerned that the divisions that seem to be inherent among atheists, particularly among "popular and well known" atheists is going to end badly for all of us. In recent years, I think secular groups have done a nice job advocating for secular causes. I would hate to see the momentum that has been gained in those areas slowed or even ceased because of the divide among atheists over atheism+.

    I would much rather we leave atheism on its own and work towards the goal that vjack quoted from your article. To me, that is what this should be about. I am all for many of the social justice causes, and do work towards many of them. However, they are separate from my atheism. I see no need to merge the two, and only see problems when some attempt to do so.

    Well done Cephus.
    My recent post Atheists: Go Educate Yourself

    1. Agreed: I'm finding this whole discord and animosity in the "atheist community" a crashing bore. I only visit a few sites these days because most others often have some axe to grind. There's one over at SkepticInk who is just as abusive as what i hear Myers at FtB is. Loftus started it to get rid of this nonsense. Oh well. Good post Cephus.

      1. To be fair to John Loftus, he started SkepticInk as a place where anyone was welcome regardless of their views, a place unlike what FtB had turned into. I read a handful of blogs there and I agree, there are some that are focused on hating on Atheism+ and I don't read them. I'm entirely fine if someone has a rational axe to grind, if they look at something Atheism+ is doing and critically analyze it and deconstruct it. Isn't that what most of us do with religion? However, if they just stalk Atheism+ members around, report on everything they say and do and call them names and strings of profanity, that's ridiculous and I not only won't take part in it, I have no interest in reading about it.

        As far as I'm concerned, Atheism+ is just another cult. They deserve to be watched, they do not deserve to be stalked. They ought to be exposed for what they are, not insulted at every turn. Those people who shine a light at the cockroaches over at the Atheism+ forums, I'll support and maybe even read. Those who put on their shit-stomping boots and run over there to stir up trouble, I simply will not.

    2. To be honest, whatever happens over on Atheism+ doesn't affect me at all because I'm not an activist, I'm not a part of any "atheist community", it doesn't make me look bad because I just don't give a damn. However, for those people who do care, if I were one of them, I'd be pissed and rightfully so. These kinds of divisions are not only going to split the publicity that activist atheists get, it's going to discourage people from working for the movement. I'm just hoping this doesn't spur atheists to do exactly what happened next in the furry fandom, trying to call themselves something else to separate themselves from the carnage. How long until we see atheists start calling what they do the "freethought movement"? I'll tell them right now, it won't work.

      1. Agreed. Actually I feel a little sorry for John because he did want to return civil dialogue. Most are but the one I'm referring to is Prussian. He labeled me a shithead, a dunce and totally ignorant. Why? Simply because I questioned his statements and and this happens every time others question his "wisdom." He is obsessed with Islam and European Fascism. (I don't disregard radical Islam but don't think 1.6 billion agree, they're are too intimidated to talk.) I can give you examples but I might go back and cause a little fun.

        1. I'm one of those people who don't purposely go places to cause problems. You've got a lot of people on the anti-Atheism+ side who go back to the forums over and over again, who go back to Pharyngula and create new accounts when they get banned, just to keep whacking the hornet's nest with a stick. I have no respect whatsoever for those people.

  3. "So that brings us back to atheism. Atheism, from the beginning, has been about non-belief, it’s been about logic and reason, debating with theists and trying to get them to see reality through their God-colored glasses. It was never about social justice, just like furry fandom was never about fetish sex. Then you got some people who came along, and under the guise of being “open”, joined in. "

    Exactly, all that should define an atheist is a lack of belief in a deity, nothing more, nothing less.

    If someone wants to support other movements, even movements that anyone (atheists especially) should be supporting, they are free to do so, but don't hijack the name atheism in the process, as though you speak for all atheists.

    I think many atheists would have supported Atheism + (myself included), had the FTBers not tried to hijack the name atheism, and then take feminism and support for equal right to such an extreme as they did.

    Never mind their tactics against anyone who disagrees with them or won't support them, that remind me of a 21st century version of McCarthyism, with the word "misogynist" being used instead of the word communist.
    My recent post Why Does Only The Book Of Matthew Mention The Zombies?

    1. That's really the point that a lot of us made at the inception of Atheism+. If they want to be involved in social justice, more power to 'em. It's just not atheism and that's fine. Most things I do in my life have nothing to do with atheism, I don't try to draw a link between what I read recreationally and atheism, or what I watch on TV and atheism, there's no reason they ought to try to link their views on social justice and atheism either.

      Yet they have and that's really the genesis of their problems, that and extremist feminism. There's just no rational defense of extremist feminism at all.

  4. Interesting post. I've never heard of burned fur, and I thought that furries was only a sex thing. I had no idea it started like it did.

    As to the A+ thing, it seemed like a fine idea to me at the beginning, atheism + social justice? Why not? I stopped paying attention to it almost immediately. It was clear very quickly that every time it came up it was just a shouting match and I was never really interested in wading in and figuring out who I thought was right.

    My recent post Introducing Hausdorff Bible Comics

    1. That's the problem, a lot of people just don't understand how things come to be the way they are, they just assume they were always that way. It's like the crazy Christians who think Jesus was white and spoke English and the King James Bible was the first Bible out there.

      I think I watched it as long as I did because it was just so absurd on it's face. It started out with guys in elevators and went on to evil t-shirts and the like and it's stuff that no rational person could possibly take seriously. The unfortunate reality though is that there are lots of people on both sides who do take this crap seriously and that's where I just had to bow out.

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