There has been a stirring as of late in the blogosphere. Lee Moore, the host of a podcast co-hosted by Reap Paden, has taken it upon himself to attempt to broker a peace treaty, a ceasefire, a breaking of bread and a healing of the divide between the two sides of the Great Rift — between the feminists on the one side, and the antifeminists (and those claiming the name “feminist” for their libertarian laissez-faire cargo cult “equity feminism”) on the other. A sort of Khitomer Accord, if you will indulge the Star Trek reference. Of course, this would depend on either “side” being a cohesive unit, with leaders or any ability to encourage conformity among its self-identified members. In a leaderless movement such as ours, a movement where leaders viewed with awe and reverence by some are equally eyed with suspicion by others, such a gambit is doomed to fail.
But what really strikes me as misguided about the whole effort is that, from the outset of this conversation, everyone is using terms differently. And not just terms of art — we’re all working with different definitions on just about everything of substance! We talk of attacks, of slurs, of in-fighting, of trolls and witch-hunts and censorship and co-opting of movements. We talk of inclusiveness and privilege and exclusiveness and tribalism. And every one of these words means something completely different to one another.
There are certain behaviours and certain tropes that I find myself hard-pressed to defend or accept in people I call friends and allies, and I will call them out on these behaviours in hopes of either swaying them to my position, or of exposing the irrationalities behind our differences. I have attempted to teach myself to look for and to compensate for the Halo Effect, where you unintentionally give extra leeway to someone who’s done something else you agree with. That doesn’t mean being especially harsh with them — it means being consistent with your values and where your lines are drawn.
And yet I am, to borrow a phrase from JT Eberhard, more than willing to employ toilet paper in a divisive manner. We divide ourselves from the religious and call ourselves atheists instead of theists or “agnostic” in order to play nice with theists. I am willing to cleave whole communities in twain to divide from people whose core values are so diametrically opposed to my own. I have heard their arguments and found them wanting — and in the same way that we divide ourselves from the religious, with whom the fundamental difference is our belief in deities, I will divide from the people with whom I have irreconcileable political differences.
If atheism WAS enough to bind us, if it was a sufficient foundation for our communities, there would be no great rift. There would be no polarization, no in-fighting. There would be no great sorting. People wouldn’t be so willing to throw down the gauntlet over simple advice like “guys, don’t do that”, taking a commonplace anecdote as a personal insult and escalating beyond all reason. There would be no screeds about “feminazis”, there would be no recriminations and accusations leveled without evidence about who’s responsible for downturns in conference attendance. There would be no need to hold people’s feet to the fire over breaches of moral precepts if mere atheism was enough to sustain and build a movement.
But atheism itself implies, as the angrier atheists so vehemently insist, absolutely nothing else about a person outside of their lack of belief in a deity. Nothing, that is, except the consequences of that belief with regard to morality. Continue reading “Atheism is not enough (pt. 2)”→
I keep chewing this thought over in my head, this one nagging meme that got planted there by way of innumerable trolls during innumerable battles in my tenure on the blogosphere. It’s been percolating in my brainpan at least since the inception of the label “Atheism Plus” and the community that coalesced around it. Longer than that, in fact. Playing over and over, like a drum beat.
That thought is, atheism is not enough.
It is good, important, even vital to become an atheist; to free yourself from the intellectual and in some cases physical impediments that religion imposes. But that should be the beginning of a journey into freethinking, not the end of it. Without a god or gods, you have no moral lawgiver, so you have to build your own morality.
One of the more ridiculous memes that’s gained a disproportionate amount of traction in the freethought community is that of “witch hunts”. It’s the idea that there’s some roving band of bloggers and commenters hunting for the least appearance of deviation from the One True Path and punishing with extreme prejudice without evidence or empathy. It’s that if you dare speak up, you’ll be unfairly tarred and silenced and black-bagged and murdered and possibly eaten.
This band is invariably called “FTB”, “FTBullies”, “FTB and Skepchick”, or some mutation of the network’s name that includes the word “from” or “feminist”. Lately the smear also applies to atheism plus — mostly because that label, in being inclusive of outgroups, makes an outgroup of bigots and misogynists. Doesn’t matter if the people involved are actually from either network — it’s enough to use our site name as a shibboleth, to associate it with this opposition-to-the-haters as though that’s somehow a bad thing.