What is Atheism Plus a response to?

By now, you’ve probably already read this article on The New Statesman about the inception of Atheism Plus and what it means to the movement. There are, to my mind, a few misconceptions within it, and I think some people — even some high-profile people in our various communities, judging by Richard Dawkins’ recent pushback against “controversialist blogs” in response to this article — have evidently bought into those misconceptions. Chief among them is that Atheism Plus is a response to Dawkins’ New Atheism.

Any community, new or old, has its tensions, and in the past year the atheist/sceptical community has been rocked by a divisive and increasingly bad-tempered debate over sexism and, more generally, a sense that the dominant voices have tended to be white, male and middle-class. On the one hand, there have been suggestions that atheism and scepticism are philosophies disproportionately attractive to men. Indeed, the stereotype of the atheist as white, intellectually overconfident male – as Richard Dawkins – has long been a favourite among religious apologists.

While this is all in some sense true, that atheism has an image problem, it’s certainly not Richard Dawkins’ fault that the folks who’ve done the most to popularize atheism are educated white males. It’s society’s own fault that these folks’ voices are overprivileged — that those with privilege are heard disproportionately more easily than other valuable voices representing other demographics that have been left to the wayside.

The Atheism Plus movement is not a response to these privileged folks representing atheism. The people now identifying themselves as A+ have been talking about social justice, humanist ideals and privilege for some time. Factions within the community absolutely loathe the idea that these topics are being broached within “their movement”. And those intractable folks are simply horrified, despite the fact that these A+ people have been talking about these topics for quite some time. Years, in some cases. The Atheism Plus movement is primarily a response to those people who are horrified that someone would dare intermix these other concepts in “their” movement, and simultaneously it is a labeling of an already-existing faction within our communities.

So, I’ve prepared some Venn diagrams to try to help illustrate who and what Atheism Plus is a response to, exactly. First though, we have to find Atheism Plus on it. I’ve had to make a number of design choices that mean some things are not perfect. I expect people will argue with this; that’s fine. Please do. I kept the .odg file so it should be easy enough to manipulate.

Let’s start simple. First, we have atheists, and the religious. Presume that this does not include religious buddhists or other atheists who appreciate or engage in religious ritual for the time being — let’s say, for the purposes of simplicity, “religious” is shorthand for “theists”.

Atheists and the religious. They do not overlap.

That’s simple enough, of course. But there are two other factions we’re talking about. There’s the social justice advocates who comprise feminists, LGBTQ advocates, those who fight bigotries, those who fight the 1% who own all the wealth and power, and every other social injustice and privilege our societies have to offer. And there’s the humanists (with a small H), who heavily but not entirely overlap the atheists, who believe (rightly) that human morality and ethics should be informed by reason and reality to the exclusion of claims of the supernatural or of divine moral arbiters.

This latter group should, theoretically, encompass only those that follow the letter of the present movement (in other words, the Humanists), including only those who expressly reject that there IS a supernatural or any deities to contend with. However, with self-identification, and with the existence of multiple movements since the Renaissance that all lay claim to the name, the circle is muzzy and probably will be contentious where I placed it.

Social justice advocates and humanists added to the diagram.

So, where are the Atheism Plus folks in this? It should be relatively obvious, but let’s label it in the next diagram.

There are also humanists/social justice advocates who are religious — the ones who do good deeds for humankind and who advocate social change that benefits our society — who are not religious at all. If they could be convinced that there is no god, they would join A+. It is they whom we most hope to peel away from religion.

Note that while there are many people who are in the cross-section marked A+ who aren’t happy about the name, who talk about the branding as being unworkable. They are still part of that cross-section, they just have quarrel with the name, honestly.

Identification of where Atheism Plus and the “good deeds” religious folks are.

But that’s not the whole of the story, is it? When people talk about how Atheism Plus is prejudicial to “vanilla atheists”, how we’re trying to drum “them” out of the movement or make stringent rules that define what they can and cannot do, they’re actually talking about how the A+ folks are against a small subset of our community who do terrible things and have terrible moral compasses. They are added to the diagram here. Note that there are a large number of these folks outside the atheist circle altogether — A+ are equally fed up with those folks as well.

The actual misogynists and scumbags. This is probably shown way larger than it needs to be, for illustrative purposes.

But are we therefore calling every person who disagrees with A+’s goals misogynists, scumbags, privilege-defenders, etc! …Aren’t we?

No, not really.

The final diagram, showing where the loudmouths and offense-reifiers lie.

This final diagram adds two more circles, describing the loudmouths, the people who love to give offense as though mere offense was its own virtue. They are the trolls, and they are the people doing most to hamstring discourse.

You’ll note there’s some overlap even in the A+ group. There are some A+ folks who are more interested in giving offense than they are in fostering communication; people who think that the fact that someone can be riled to emotional outburst actually somehow justifies riling them to emotional outburst. People who misunderstand that epithets are slaps in the face, tools in the chest that we can employ to good or bad use. They are people who have discovered the joys of calling people names, who hold the idea of being a jerk to people absolutely sacrosanct.

They overlap heavily with those scumbags in the last Venn diagram. They are not one in the same, however. These loudmouths hold that we are trying to drum them out of the community, but we’re really not — not when some of us employ those same tactics, e.g., the “New Atheists” who use confrontationalism to force people to face their cognitive dissonance.

There are lots of people who hold terrible misanthropic views or who proudly defend their privilege who try to stay civil and whose backs get up if someone shows the least hint of irreverence. And the A+ folks are not ALL against giving offense — some even wholly embrace it as its own good, while others wholly vilify it as unacceptable in any context.

I’d put in another circle to describe those people who dislike the concept of Atheism Plus, who dislike the label, or who dislike the merging of other social justice movements with their own pet social justice movement, but that would complicate an already complicated graph. And I really don’t plan on talking about the people who are pushing back against this faction’s inception in this post, but rather discussing where A+ came from and why.

You’ll notice that the A+ folks are all against a certain type of person — the kind of person who would engage in concerted hate campaigns against certain members of the community merely for being pro-social-justice. By declaring the zone in which we occupy as uniformly against this other group, we are not attacking the atheist community as a whole. We are demanding that these horrible people either smarten the hell up or expect to be slapped down. We refuse to embrace those people as “part of our tribe”, as DJ Grothe put it in his introduction speech at TAM.

And that’s fine. If you other folks want to embrace the real scumbags, you go right ahead. We’ll know on what part of the Venn diagram you fall, and we’ll know that to reach our goals, we’re best off segregating ourselves from you; disassociating from those that would embrace the scumbags and staying in our own little corner of the movement where we don’t have to fight the same fights over what privilege is or how it hurts everyone, over and bloody over again. There is, after all, only so often we can explain what privilege is or how it skews whose voices we hear.

Ultimately, we might want our slice of the intersectionality presented here to grow, and we might want to eventually raise enough consciousnesses that those “dictionary atheists” — those folks who think “there are no gods” is enough to tell if you’re a good person — become the minority, rather than the mode. We may even succeed in marginalizing or shrinking the red blotches on our communities, convincing others within the movement to cut out the deadwood, so we can go on to fight the enemies outside. That is not our immediate goal, though. Our immediate goal is to delineate a space as safe for minorities and the underprivileged, and to demand that we all take to task those who do harm to that space. We want to criticize people for doing harm to those goals without “drumming them out of the movement” as some people would have you believe. We want each person who represents the banner of atheism to best represent the plurality we’d like to see the community become.

Atheism Plus is a way for the physicians to heal ourselves. We are at least triaging what we see as the problem where members of our communities are attacking us for our social justice views so frequently and with such aplomb. We are declaring ourselves “not with those jerks”. Because those jerks are giving the rest of us atheists an awful name with their incurious, unskeptical, and frankly atavistic views on how society works.

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What is Atheism Plus a response to?
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138 thoughts on “What is Atheism Plus a response to?

  1. 51

    Chris Mella said:

    Since you’re combining, for example, LGBT rights into the “plus” how is it that + will be able to actually work with the religious LGBT rights activists toward a common goal?

    and michaeld Said:

    I don’t see why its a problem for say LGBT issues

    What if a social justice advocacy group outright rejects working with atheist organizations or self-identified individual atheists? Do we cast aside the “A” part for the benefit of the “+”? It seems like the designation of A+ (as opposed to Humanist) is precisely for the purpose of maintaining the Atheist part front and center. What if we can’t engage in the “plus” work? What if we’re unwelcome? What if we don’t have the infrastructure to make our own social justice org/team/club? Would you say it’s better to drop the A for the greater good of social justice?

  2. 52

    @Becky

    I don’t see that happening so far but we’ll deal with that if and when we come to it. I don’t even know if there is some grand monolithic LGBT force for example that decides who gets to advocate on behalf of them or work towards some of their rights (there are also LGBT people involved in atheism+ like greta). Either way it doesn’t significantly change the issue that some atheists want to work on these issues as well whether or not they have a label.

    Also I find the list of what if’s kind of funny. What if a giant cuttlefish rises from the ocean and drags florida into the depths of the atlantic? ;p

  3. 53

    I don’t think the cuttlefish would be considered for inclusion under the label A+. That’s a little too militant, and more in line with the A²

  4. 56

    Excellent article. As someone who technically falls within the “A+” section of the Venn Diagram — I disbelieve in deities, I’m a Humanist, and I’m a vigorous advocate for social justice (peace / anti-war, feminism, LGBTQ rights, democratic socialism, etc.) — I have mixed feelings about the movement.

    While I love (LOVE! LOVE!) that a group of people are organizing around Humanism, feminism, kindness, and social justice causes, I feel that the nascent A+ movement has a few flaws.

    First, A+, as has been mentioned in the New Statesman’s article and in Richard Carrier’s writeup, places a heavy value on atheism and, not just any atheism, but anti-theism — the opposition to religion. I don’t understand why promoting atheism is important. After all, as many here on Freethought Blogs have mentioned, social justice and philanthropy is far more important than simple disbelief in deities. There are numerous atheists who are “race-realists,” right-wing reactionaries, misogynists, and Neo-Nazis, and we obviously don’t want to associate with them. However, by marrying A+ to an explicitly atheist and anti-theist agenda, we also isolate ourselves from religious people who share our goals. A united group of Atheists+ and “Theists+” will be much more effective than simply a group of A+’ers seeking to deconvert peace-and-justice theists. Also, I know this question will be controversial (I apologize), but I feel like I should ask: Why should atheism be promoted? Why should we care whether or not one believes in God/gods/a higher power? Religious believers are perfectly fine as long as they are not dogmatic fundamentalists and care about issues of equality and justice. Why not just accept them as-is and start a “Plus” movement without regard for whether one is atheist or theist?

    Secondly, the Atheism Plus movement seems, in many ways, dogmatic, sectarian, and yes, even bordering on religious. The in-group out-group dynamic in A+ is strong, and many of the movement’s advocates seem to be advancing an us vs. them mentality. This quote from Richard Carrier (I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dr. Carrier, but I disagree with him here) seems to drive home this concept:

    ” First of all, it’s not dogma if it’s open to discussion and evidence-based revision. So: fallacy of false analogy. Own it, correct it, or GTFO.

    Secondly, a culture has to define what’s destructive to its own ends and what is beneficial or even necessary to its own ends, otherwise it will self-destruct, and never make progress toward greater human happiness.

    So either you endorse the values and aims I have laid out, or you do not. If you do, just join the cause and stop fretting over being part of a culture whose values you embrace. But if you don’t endorse these values, then you are our enemy, in one fashion or another–because you will be endorsing, supporting (even if only through apathy and inaction), values that will ultimately destroy or undermine the human good. You are then in our way, the same way Neonazis and Marxists and anarchists and UFO cults and churches and right wing think tanks and so on, are in our way, and what we will denounce and disown. You can be among them, or among us. It’s that simple.”

    In saying this, Richard seems to be marking people who don’t agree with the Western liberal agenda as “The Enemy,” and I reject that mindset as dogmatic, sectarian, and borderline bigoted. It also seems to separate out a number of social justice advocates who don’t hold mainstream liberal Democrat political views, including socialists, democratic communists, peaceful anarcho-syndicalists, libertarian communists, and others who see structural political change and the eradication of capitalism as essential to eradicating the inequalities raged against by A+’ers. Why should we single out Marxists, anarchists, and other radicals who support social justice?

    By defining “Us” as liberal Democrats (Liberals in Canada, Labour in the UK, Social Democrats in Sweden, etc.) and labeling socialists, etc., as “The Enemy,” Atheism+ is setting up a religious-style divide that, in my opinion, will do more to alienate would-be allies for peace, freedom, and social justice than further the goals of the movement. Also, by having a rigid set of guidelines, tenets, and beliefs required to be “Atheist+,” the movement sets itself up as a religion with dogma, something it claims to be against.

    I’m sorry for the long, rambling post — please forgive me. I think “Atheism+” (or, if the name changes, whatever it will be called eventually) is a fundamentally good movement that, unfortunately, has exclusionary, dogmatic, and fundamentalist tendencies that make me uncomfortable with the idea of being a part of it. I hope that doesn’t get me put into the “scumbag” category, as I agree with the majority of your goals and abhor all forms of bigotry, hate, and discrimination.

    Peace, Love, and Kindness :).

  5. 57

    I hope that doesn’t get me put into the “scumbag” category

    Put that thought out of your head. Mere disagreement with the label, the convention, et cetera, doesn’t get you filed away in a category that plainly doesn’t suit your beliefs. Like I said, one faction I haven’t put in this diagram is the group of people who disagree with the labels, the necessity for, the self-arranging of Atheism Plus for various reasons. Some of those reasons are scumbag ones — that it would exclude them and their (misogyny/homophobia/ableism/race “realism”/etc). Your reasons are not like theirs, even if I disagree with those reasons too.

  6. 58

    Iain said:

    “Why else would Nature give us intelligence, if not to use it? When all the starving are fed, when all have access to clean water, when war is abolished, and when corporations are no longer allowed to plunder and ruin our home, our one and only planet, that would be an ideal time to sit back and congratulate each other on our debate re the existence of God.”

    This.

  7. 59

    Jason said:

    “Put that thought out of your head. Mere disagreement with the label, the convention, et cetera, doesn’t get you filed away in a category that plainly doesn’t suit your beliefs. Like I said, one faction I haven’t put in this diagram is the group of people who disagree with the labels, the necessity for, the self-arranging of Atheism Plus for various reasons. Some of those reasons are scumbag ones — that it would exclude them and their (misogyny/homophobia/ableism/race “realism”/etc). Your reasons are not like theirs, even if I disagree with those reasons too.”

    Thanks for your tolerant and kind response :).

  8. 60

    I like the line representation, like real numbers. A sliding scale between two extremes. In the middle, where zero would be, is the ‘A.’ Not really concerned with rights and bigotry.
    Towards the left, the negatives lol, are those that are less inclined to worry about civil rights and the environment, for example, towards ‘A-.’ Dogmatic and prejudiced. Simpletons.
    The right, positive of course, slides towards the civil rights, and I would include environmental, end. ‘A+,’ of course. The compassionists.

    Well, it started out as an idea, lol. Probably best if we just leave it at that.

  9. 63

    michaeld wrote:

    @Becky
    I don’t see that happening so far but we’ll deal with that if and when we come to it. I don’t even know if there is some grand monolithic LGBT force for example that decides who gets to advocate on behalf of them or work towards some of their rights (there are also LGBT people involved in atheism+ like greta). Either way it doesn’t significantly change the issue that some atheists want to work on these issues as well whether or not they have a label.

    Also I find the list of what if’s kind of funny. What if a giant cuttlefish rises from the ocean and drags florida into the depths of the atlantic? ;p

    The first “what if” (not the cuttlefish) is happening as we speak. 🙁 Trying to get it resolved, but keep ears open.

  10. 64

    @ Becky
    Assumeing you mean this what if:
    What if a social justice advocacy group outright rejects working with atheist organizations or self-identified individual atheists?

    Well then that really sucks (especially as members of groups they are trying to help are atheists). At the end of the day though even if they didn’t want to work with them (I would think at least some such organisations would) then it seems similar to that american cancer society atheist money thing from a while back. Atheists interested in social justice will just have to work in paralleled with groups that don’t like them on the same goals or work with the ones that aren’t so prejudiced (this may not be the exact term depending on the situation I freely admit I am not the best read on the current standing of the players in the social justice movement).

    Now if only we just had to deal with giant cuttlefish stealing states….

  11. 65

    I’m curious about the intersection between the “Scumbags, privilege-defenders, misogynists, anti-feminists, anti-gay bigots, people who hate social justice causes, and other miscreants” circle and the “Humanists” circle.

    In what ways do you think that first set of values is compatible with Humanism?

  12. 66

    @48:

    The only thing we have in common as atheists is that we do not believe in god.

    And now, a segment of the atheist population is coming together in pursuit of common goals, hence A+.

    ****
    Jason
    In your fifth diagram, why does the large red circle (with the miscreants) overlap with Humanism? Given that Humanists believe in equal rights and dignity for all, the miscreant(M) bubble shouldn’t overlap it at all, no?
    Also, the M bubble should have some overlap with religious.

  13. 68

    @One thousand needles:

    Your self-declared “intellectual artillery piece” Richard Carrier has the gall to think he can declare that ALL atheists must choose between your petty army-building agenda and ostracization (as if you clods spoke for even a sizeable portion of atheists). This Dubyan false dichotomy fallacy (You must join us or you are The Enemy and a “douchebag”, Carrier says), by the way, puts him and anyone else who panders it right outside of your own stated tenet of “…anyone who makes a fallacious argument and, when shown that they have, does not admit it, is not one of us, and is to be marginalized and kicked out, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with”. http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/2207/

  14. 69

    @”Jason Thibeault says:
    *****
    August 25, 2012 at 9:00 pm ADT

    I hope that doesn’t get me put into the “scumbag” category

    Put that thought out of your head. Mere disagreement with the label, the convention, et cetera, doesn’t get you filed away in a category that plainly doesn’t suit your beliefs.”
    *****

    Except that is not how things are going in practice:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/2207/

    *****
    8. Tom says:
    August 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I’ll stick with the original atheism, thanks.

    Richard Carrier says:
    August 21, 2012 at 9:46 am

    So, one vote for douchery. Got it.
    *****

  15. 70

    [meta]

    Taqiyya, your comments read as if you imagine Carrier is a more authoritative spokesperson for A+ than Jason is.

    (Where does Jen stand in your estimation?)

  16. 71

    I love the fact that in your last diagram, the “Loudmouthed jackholes who enjoy giving offense for its own sake” circle partly overlaps the A+ circle.

    I dislike the fact that it does not reflect reality. It should overlap some more. The thought that people should not only coexist with, but also think the same way as a small group of people or be called irrational, a scumbag, or a douche is offensive. And while it is a good idea to gather atheists in America a movement (which, by the way, is what Troy Boyle and Jakob Kramer are already doing with the National Atheist Party), it is a bad idea to force people to think the same way about every subject concerning social interaction (which is why the National Atheist Party is also a bad idea).

  17. Joe
    72

    I like your diagram, but it clearly defines how the A+ crowd coukd not work with someone like me. The most telling image is the second one: the religious dominance of the “Social Justice” movement.

    Any discussion of “social justice” which ignores its roots as “social gospel” must always be suspect.

    I am a veteran with a history of substantial health and financial challenges. I’m very aware of what real-world “social justice” looks like in this country. I have seen so much harm caused by faith-based “social justice” organizations.

    It is very offensive for an atheist, who has chosen to sleep on the street rather than being reuired to “pray for his supper”, to see how “social justice” is some grand thing to aspire to.

    For me the bigger discussion is how to create a post-“social justice” framework which has been purged of its christian foundations.

  18. 74

    I’m guessing that most of the contributors to this blog and comments are from North America. I fit into the A+ intersection but hail from the UK where at least a third of the population are atheists, a large fraction are indifferent to theism and atheism, and a smaller fraction are actively religious. It strikes me that the contemporary irreligious in the US are in a similar position to atheists in the UK (and other European countries) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s. Anti-atheist prejudice is strong in the US, as it once was in Britain, which produces a highly polarised situation. This is reflected in Jason’s excellent Venn diagram. However, I would suggest that this doesn’t reflect the whole truth. There will be people who identify as religious but don’t attend church, don’t read scripture and don’t prey, there will also be those who definitely don’t believe but do participate in religious practice for social reasons. These two groups are significant because they are transitional positions between belief and unbelief. If A+ is to be effective in promoting a more balanced view of the irreligious in wider society it needs to engage with those who are moving however tentatively away from religion.

    Increasing the number of atheists / nones / whatever will be a slow process though, it’s taken over 200 years to get to the position in the UK and Europe. Focussing on promoting tolerance of irreligion will probably be the most productive policy at this stage in the process. In Britain tolerance was increased by many factors of which the reduction in tension between Catholics and Protestants due to the settlement of the ‘Irish question’ in the 1920s was very significant. Clearly campaign groups and support networks would not have had any influence on factors like these.

  19. 75

    @”[meta]

    Taqiyya, your comments read as if you imagine Carrier is a more authoritative spokesperson for A+ than Jason is.”

    Do I smell an attempt at damage-control and crawfishing away from Carrier’s insane hyperbole?

    “(Where does Jen stand in your estimation?)”

    Has she publicly recoiled in horror at Carrier’s Storm-Trooper vitriol?

    In either case, this attempt at a coup-d’etat and at establishing an atheist/other-social-agendaist oligarchy isn’t fooling anyone who is aware of and sees through the blog-wallah facade.

  20. 76

    Drew, you might care to take a look at the very next post; it might well answer your question.

    The next post defines humanism this way:

    Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

    I do NOT see where this intersects with “Scumbags, privilege-defenders, misogynists, anti-feminists, anti-gay bigots, people who hate social justice causes, and other miscreants”.

    Could you be more specific about the overlap? Which of those villainies do you see as compatible with leading an ethical life that works for the greater good of humanity?

  21. 77

    I expressly caveated the post where I blockquoted James Croft by saying that the circle of “humanism” is not the same as the circle of “Humanism”. The former includes self-identification and people who hold to older Renaissance-era ideals. They might think they believe in those things but still hold terrible prejudices that they haven’t purged (or have no will to purge).

  22. 78

    You still have not answered the relatively straight-forward question.

    You drew a circle of “Scumbags, privilege-defenders, misogynists, anti-feminists, anti-gay bigots, people who hate social justice causes, and other miscreants”. Then you intersected it with (apparently lower-case) humanism.

    I’m asking, for a third time, which of those first ‘values’ you think is compatible with humanism?

    The answer I’m looking for is something like, “Nothing in the definition of humanism precludes a hatred of social justice”. (Though, it’s probably some different ‘value’ as renaissance humanism was a social justice movement.)


    The comment on ‘self identification’ being a problem raises a really interesting point. You seem to imply that, unlike humanism, Atheism+ will not rely merely on self-identification.

    If Atheism+ differs from humanism in that the label isn’t just self-applied, then who gets to be on the committee that controls the use of the label?

    I’d assume that, as founder, Jen would have a say. But do you imagine yourself on this council next to her?

  23. 79

    Nothing about identifying as a humanist — that you believe in the primacy of humans over the supernatural (which you may expressly deny, or may not) and the necessity of helping one another out in absence of that supernatural — suggests that you are devoid of prejudice. Those prejudices might come in all sorts of forms. In fact, I could see self-identified social justice advocates who are, in actuality, grossly prejudiced against certain types of social justice and blatantly wrong about the types of justice they advocate (think MRAs).

    Beyond all that, Venn diagrams are de facto reductionist, they are not exact, they are not perfect, and there are lots of people who should go on one spot but identify as another altogether.

    Understand that Jen isn’t really a founder of anything. This is the naming of a set of ideals that already exist. The people identifying as A+ were all already talking about these things for a very long time. She might parlay it into an actual movement, but it’s not like there’s some kind of A+ high council, or authoritative figures (judging by some folks’ demands that we all answer for Richard Carrier’s call to exclude the real scumbags from atheism as a whole), and if your understanding of this movement includes such, you might want to rethink your arguments. Possibly even reread what I wrote above in the original post.

    (Which, speaking of, I need to polish. There are a few rough patches.)

  24. 81

    Nothing about identifying as a humanist — that you believe in the primacy of humans over the supernatural (which you may expressly deny, or may not) and the necessity of helping one another out in absence of that supernatural

    Which current humanist thinkers or humanist organizations actually use this definition? Talking about current philosophical divisions by using an extinct definition seems like a large (and frankly offensive) strawman.

    If you think this is not a strawman, can you show me any currently-existing humanist group that uses a definition of humanism compatible with, “Scumbags, privilege-defenders, misogynists, anti-feminists, anti-gay bigots, people who hate social justice causes, and other miscreants”

    In fact, I could see self-identified social justice advocates who are, in actuality, grossly prejudiced against certain types of social justice and blatantly wrong about the types of justice they advocate (think MRAs).

    I agree that bigoted people identify as not-bigoted. And every wrong-person I’ve ever met self-identifies as not-wrong.

    What will keep “Scumbags, privilege-defenders, misogynists, anti-feminists, anti-gay bigots, people who hate social justice causes, and other miscreants” from self-identifying as A+ members?

  25. 82

    Absolutely nothing would keep them from identifying as A+, any more than would prevent scumbags from defining as humanist, or pseudoscientists as skeptics. While I’m saying “no true scotsman” would be both an A+ and a scumbag, and you’re saying the same about humanism (presuming that humanism always means Humanism), I’m frankly surprised that you’re taking offense at the idea.

    As for someone who uses the definition as a current Humanist, James Croft. There are plenty of people who are humanists who do not fit his definition of Humanist, because they do not expressly deny supernaturalism. A person that springs to mind is Pamela Gay, who is a theist of sorts, but well allied on every other front with my ideals.

  26. 83

    Jame’s Croft definition of Humanism doesn’t seem to be compatible with, “Scumbags, privilege-defenders, misogynists, anti-feminists, anti-gay bigots, people who hate social justice causes, and other miscreants”.

    The problem is the passivity of that approach, its reactive nature. I, as a Humanist, want more than equal rights. I want societal change, perhaps on a very large scale. To achieve that we need to move beyond recognizing areas in which we are discriminated against, and get active in our local communities to build Humanist alternatives, as Epstein suggests. And we mustn’t wait until equal rights are achieved to do this—we have to start now.

    http://thenewhumanism.org/authors/james-croft/articles/humanism-2-dot-0

    Pamela Gay’s website does not appear to have a definition of humanism, let alone one that is compatible with “Scumbags, privilege-defenders, misogynists, anti-feminists, anti-gay bigots, people who hate social justice causes, and other miscreants”.

    And, I’m not taking offense to the idea that people can wrongly identify themselves as humanists. That’s possible for all labels.

    Instead, I think you’re doing a deep disservice to humanist groups and humanists by blundering into an area, ignoring everything that’s been written since the Renascence and then telling people what their label means.

    It’s the same problem I have when theists come around and tell me that Atheism really means a hatred of god, or a certainty that God doesn’t exist.

    Not only is the person wrong, but their lack of research is disrespectful as is their trampling of groups’ right to define their own labels.

  27. 84

    You’re repeatedly and intentionally conflating “humanist” with “Humanist”. Could you stop? I told you we’re talking about the small-h. James Croft said in the comments that he agrees with my differentiation between the two right here.

  28. 85

    And yet you wrote “Humanists” not “humanism”.

    I’m saying that every follower of humanism or Humanism that I’ve ever actually met defines their ideology such that it is incompatible with “Scumbags, privilege-defenders, misogynists, anti-feminists, anti-gay bigots, people who hate social justice causes, and other miscreants”.

    Which living h/Humanists oppose the principle of equality?

    Unless you can actually point to some, your Venn diagram’s implication that h/Humanists have these problems (while A+ is, of course, immune to scumbags) is insulting and wrong.

  29. 86

    And yet I clarified several times that I was talking about humanists and not Humanists, and atheists and not Atheists (which is only capitalized by people who claim it’s a religion), and social justice advocacy and not Social justice advocacy, and religious folks and not Religious.

  30. 87

    I think that I can only clarify the distinction so many times before I realize I’m talking to someone who is intent on projecting difficulties onto me that are simply not there.

  31. 88

    We’re not talking past each other.

    You’ve asserted that there’s a non-empty set of people who are* h/Humanists and also “Scumbags, privilege-defenders, misogynists, anti-feminists, anti-gay bigots, people who hate social justice causes, and other miscreants”.

    I asked you to point me towards these vile humanist groups. And you started discussing people who lived in the Renascence and people who don’t self-identify primarily as lower-case-humanists.

    *And I mean ‘are’ not ‘wrongly identify as’.

  32. 89

    Why are labels even that important? Why not just be a kind, good person, regardless of whether you’re a Humanist, Atheist+, Christian, whatever? Labels are overrated and often serve to obfuscate rather than bring clarity.

  33. 90

    Taqiyya:

    Your self-declared “intellectual artillery piece” Richard Carrier has the gall to think he can declare that ALL atheists must choose between your petty army-building agenda and ostracization (as if you clods spoke for even a sizeable portion of atheists). This Dubyan false dichotomy fallacy (You must join us or you are The Enemy and a “douchebag”, Carrier says), by the way, puts him and anyone else who panders it right outside of your own stated tenet of “…anyone who makes a fallacious argument and, when shown that they have, does not admit it, is not one of us, and is to be marginalized and kicked out, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with”.

    I, and others who embrace A+ are not supportive of Richard Carrier’s attitude. He is not ‘in charge’ of A+. He doesn’t get to dictate how this nascent movement will develop. If he continues along the path he’s travelling, he may find himself in a lonely corner of A+.
    By the way, do you have any opinions about Jen’s views on A+, given that the idea is largely hers?

  34. 91

    Kind Avenue:

    Why are labels even that important? Why not just be a kind, good person, regardless of whether you’re a Humanist, Atheist+, Christian, whatever? Labels are overrated and often serve to obfuscate rather than bring clarity.

    Labels are an important part of self identification. Especially for marginalized people.
    If you don’t want to label yourself, fine (though I hasten to add, society already labels people, so labeling oneself is in one’s best interests), but other people *do* want to.

  35. 92

    @Jason & Drew.

    Part of the problem with this diagram is that Humanism (secular humanism) already carries within it the values of atheism and social justice. There are a few religious-humanism groups, but there are also Christian-atheist groups. Many of the (mild) criticisms of Humanism coming from A+ supporters seems to be coming from anti-theist perspective. As such, I’ve created this Venn diagram which I think more accurately describes the overlaps.

    Let me know what you think.

    http://img337.imageshack.us/img337/1152/aplusvenn.jpg

  36. 93

    @90

    You are the first of its proponents to back away from Carrier’s. But then, do you yourself speak for A+?

    And yet none of A+’s inner circle have distanced themselves from the stormtrooper mentality– including Jennifer — so you are really saying nothing at all.

    Jennifer has declared she wants to see who does and doesn’t don your silly pins so she knows who she does and doesn’t want to talk to. Do you really think she is unaware of Carrier’s manifesto? If so, how could she possibly be that dumb? And if she is aware and is doing nothing to shut him up, she either agrees with him or too dumb to see that he has torpedoed your Putsch before it got out of the Bier Hall.

  37. 94

    Oh, and I almost forgot: pretty damn hypocritical to claim to be anti sexist, genderist, etc and turn around and complain about “old white male cisgender hetero…etc etc.” members of the movement. Tu Cocque, all of you.

  38. 95

    Taqiyya Mockingbird wrote:

    And yet none of A+’s inner circle have distanced themselves from the stormtrooper mentality– including Jennifer — so you are really saying nothing at all.

    Jen has voiced her disagreement, as has Greta.

  39. 98

    @”When people talk about how Atheism Plus is prejudicial to “vanilla atheists”, how we’re trying to drum “them” out of the movement or make stringent rules that define what they can and cannot do, they’re actually talking about how the A+ folks are against a small subset of our community who do terrible things and have terrible moral compasses.”

    Yeah, scumbags and miscreants like this douchebag Tom:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/2207/

    *****
    8. Tom says:
    August 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I’ll stick with the original atheism, thanks.

    Richard Carrier says:
    August 21, 2012 at 9:46 am

    So, one vote for douchery. Got it.
    *****

  40. 100

    @ “it’s certainly not Richard Dawkins’ fault that the folks who’ve done the most to popularize atheism are educated white males. It’s society’s own fault that these folks’ voices are ***overprivileged***”

    WTF does that even mean? It’s nothing but a petty, self-revealing, self-serving, “othering” (to use the silly buzzwords of your fascistic echo chamber) fallacious ad hominem. Time to purge yourself for your own sins against the Revolution, Comerade.

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