Teeny, Tiny Rifts

Well, really, I doubt they’re even rifts for the most part. Different modes of working. Different skills to bring to the table. Different locations for organizing. Different emphases.

Last weekend, Alex Gabriel of The Heresy Club suggested a few of us get together to talk about this newfangled Atheism+ thing and how it relates to Atheism and Humanism. We ended up with him, me, Debbie Goddard (of CFI, AAH, and Skepchick), Jason, and Ophelia.

It was a fun talk, and I think it ended up covering territory we haven’t covered before. Watch out for Debbie. She’s very good at asking the questions that will make you do that. Part of the reason I love her.

As a little bonus, watch as I talk to Alex about generational differences in atheist rejection of homophobia while being very, very careful not to tell him his perspective is due to his age.

If you haven’t read them, here are a few of the blog posts we talk about in the video:

Update: Thanks to the lovely folks at A+ Scribe, there is now a transcript of this video.

Teeny, Tiny Rifts

18 thoughts on “Teeny, Tiny Rifts

  1. F

    Oh yes, transcript, please. The transcribers certainly have my gratitude. I’d like to see what else Alex says, as I was not moved by his post – erm… yeah, it’s the one that is linked above.

  2. 5

    Happy to do one with you in future, James.

    I think my point about atheism and homophobia was that, as you later put it Stephanie, we’re in a situation now where active spreading of that bigotry (and I definitely mean homophobia rather than transphobia, and all the other anti-queer prejudices) is something only theists really tend to do. Secular society often lacks awareness and is passively enabling toward homophobia, but it isn’t really the source of it in 2012. Because of that, you can frequently make someone less homophobic simply by deconverting them – because homophobia is frequently contingent on belief in a homophobic god.

    This isn’t true of the other things we want to fight – misogyny, transphobia, racism etc etc. But couldn’t we, in principle, reach a situation where it was? It’s usually religious communities who are the last to change their minds about these things, and if we’re active about making equality and social justice part of our communities, I can imagine the day might come where to express those attitudes explicitly, you have to be a theist saying things like ‘God designed us as two separate genders’. And if/when that day comes, atheist evangelism could be the last step toward eliminating prejudice.

  3. 6


    Excellent discussion panel!

    There were certainly diverse perspectives represented and it was a real pleasure to be able to see you all as the ‘people’ behind the blogs, as well as being introduced to Debbie Goddard who I had not previously been familiar with. The immediate back and forth communication that this online chat format allows really enhances the value of conversation in ways that written communication just can’t accomplish.

    I think that I am coming away from this with a much better sense of how different people might be looking at this Atheism Plus thing in general, although I will admit that I felt most in accord with Debbie’s evident ‘skepticism’ towards it. For my part, I think that fragmentation and the segregation of the Atheist Community (such as it is) into special interest groups will probably provide more benefits than detriments overall.

    Thanks much to all of the participants! Stephanies blog just happened to be where I watched it, so this is where I am commenting.

  4. 10

    I didn’t read that as a hit piece at all. He’s not trying to make humanism disappear. He identified differences between himself and humanists, and he had a few specific criticisms about the BHA.

  5. 11

    Then he could have written a piece called “problems with the BHA and why I’m not a member” or something to that effect-although by his own admission he’s responding to something James Croft said and in any case this is part of the broader discussion of why Atheism+ is different and/or preferable to Humanism.

    I told Alex exactly the same thing on his facebook link to this but it was deleted.

    I have absolutely no idea what Alex hopes to accomplish with a post like this.

  6. 13

    I thought Alex was quite clear in his post that he was giving the reason why he himself does not identify as a Humanist, and was not attempting to give a “fair and balanced” view of Humanism itself. And I think in this case that’s warranted because I did ask the question of why many people who seem to embrace fundamentally Humanist values do not like the term “Humanism”, and that is going to be a matter of perception as much as anything else.

    It is extraordinarily interesting to listen to discussions on this topic – both this one and the one on atheism+ recently posted by PZ – which cover very similar ground to the discussions I have in Humanist groups, now gaining a lot more interest because of the new name. I ultimately think it’s going to be very positive for the movement.

    In terms of accents, there is one thing I’d like to suggest if you do one of these again – I am always extremely happy to come and talk about my writing in forums like this hangout, and since a significant section of the first part was in response to something I’d written I would have liked the chance to reply in real time!

  7. 14

    Simon: what I hoped to do was contribute to a discussion on why some people don’t respond well to ‘the humanist brand’. (And, as James says, the nature of brands and PR work is that you have to care about implicit associations and emotional responses as well as what your product actually is.)

    This wasn’t a hit-piece at all. Hell, if I wanted to write about problems I have with the BHA in non-philosophical, operational terms, I certainly could. It’s far from just the BHA I mention there, though. Their name comes up frequently because I’m writing about my own experience of humanists, and humanism in Britain is dominated by the BHA.

    I haven’t deleted anything you wrote on my FB. All I have is the ‘What this should… in the US’ comment you left, which shows up fine. If you tried to post something else and it didn’t get through, try again. I won’t delete it.

  8. 15

    …by the way, you know when I said people would (a) start going ‘Hey, that’s not what humanism *really* is!’ and (b) accuse me of being aggressive, hostile, shrill etc. etc.? I love it when I’m right.

  9. 16

    I haven’t deleted anything you wrote on my FB. All I have is the ‘What this should… in the US’ comment you left, which shows up fine. If you tried to post something else and it didn’t get through, try again. I won’t delete it.

    That is correct. Facebook must have been buggy last night when my comment wasn’t showing up. I retract that part of my previous comment and apologize for the misunderstanding.

    However this listing of grievances and your concerns about the humanism “label” are really reminiscent of American nonbelievers that (in my opinion, misguidedly though of course it is their choice to make) declined the atheism “label” because of Madalyn Murray O’Hair. I identify as both personally and that is due my convictions in the underlying concepts. Doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything every atheist and/or humanist organization says and does.

    Anyway, I don’t want to derail Stephanie’s post so I’ll try to make general points:

    1) I think the benefit of these discussions is that people are being educated about what humanism actually is. We have seen instances where proponents of Atheism+ where operating under incorrect information re:humanism. The fact that at least one blogger -Greta- made a public correction allowed her many readers to get more accurate information on humanism as well.

    2) This is for all the folks who are promoting Atheism+: be cognizant of the fact that people who identify as humanists will be a significant portion of the target audience.

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