Jacoby on Women in Atheism and Humanism

Jacoby on Women in Atheism and Humanism September 19, 2012

Susan Jacoby has a long and thoughtful article on why so many atheist, humanist and secular groups have a far higher percentage of men than women. After pointing out that part of the answer is that women are more likely to be religious than men, she then suggests some other possible reasons.

I’ll also note that the very question of why women are more religious than men often elicits a prejudiced, sexist response. When I first began writing for the “On Faith” section of the Washington Post, one of the earliest questions asked for an explanation of women’s greater religiosity. An amazing number of men on my blog answered baldly, “Because women are stupider than men.”

I think most of us can agree, without parsing SAT and IQ scores, that this is not exactly a reasonable, evidence-based answer. It represents the so-called thinking of a group of modern-day social Darwinists who make up one component of the secular movement. These were the same angry white guys who would often call me “Susie” in their comments. Interestingly, the religious right-wingers on the blog simply referred to me as an “ugly old atheist.” (Apparently the former were under the impression that using a diminutive would make any woman burst into tears, while the latter group thought that calling you ugly or old was the worst possible insult.) I don’t want to make too much of this, in part because I place about as much value on anonymous opinions expressed on blogs as I do on professions of eternal love after drinking the night away in a bar. However, I don’t think it can be denied that the idea that women aren’t as, shall we say, tough-minded as men has long been held by an element in the secular movement, including the twentieth-century movement as it developed after World War II.

This misogyny sometimes shows up as a distinction between “soft” and “hard” atheists, describing people like my friend Sam Harris as a “hard” atheist because he argues that so-called moderate religion is even worse than fundamentalist religion, because moderate religion provides a respectable cover for fundamentalism. Speaking only for myself—and certainly not for womankind—I don’t agree with Harris about this. The job of the secular movement would be much easier if religion in the United States consisted only of liberal Protestantism, along with the liberal Catholicism that tells its bishops just where they can stick their doctrines, and Reform Judaism.

So does that position make me a “soft” atheist? A kinder, gentler atheist, as the religious historian Steve Prothero once described me? Such distinctions merely reduce a genuine, reasonable disagreement—one as much about tactics as principle—to a difference between the sexes. Because what’s really being said here is that in disagreeing with a male colleague on an intellectual issue, a female is “soft”—a word that’s synonymous with flabby and weak-minded. And she’s soft because, well, she’s a girl.

I agree with her on both counts. I think Harris is (mostly) wrong about moderate religion (gee, I guess I’m a “soft” atheist too, despite my possession of a penis) and I think that we still have a problem with this kind of latent sexism in this movement. The fact that the mere mention of that problem so often provokes an outpouring of the most disgusting misogyny imaginable underscores that fact.

She also offers some suggestions:

Of course there is also a need to tap more women for positions of responsibility in secular organizations. Women have played a very important role in grassroots battles—say, the teaching of evolution in public schools—but they’re not as well represented at the organizational level. Again, I think part of this is generational and is about to change, but experience in other social movements shows that such change doesn’t happen automatically.

Finally, it’s time for women’s rights to be seen not as a “special” issue but as something integral to our larger mission of freeing society from anti-rational, supernaturally based restrictions.

Exactly right. Fighting against sexism (and racism and homophobia as well) is — should be — automatically part of the mission of anyone who seeks to do battle with the influence of religion in society. It should go without saying that the web of ideas and institutions in society that have long conspired to deny equality to women are largely a product of religion; it does us little good to argue against religion without also combating the myriad of ways it justifies inequality in nearly every form.

Where does that leave me on the whole Atheism + issue? Given that I clearly believe that fighting for social justice is an indispensable part of being an atheist and a humanist, the answer should be fairly obvious. I’m not the least bit interested in playing any game involving whether we are the Judean People’s Front or the People’s Front of Judea — meaning I really don’t care whether you want to call yourself an atheist, an atheist + or a humanist — I am in favor of almost any effort that makes questions of equality a central part of the atheist/secularist movement. And I am frankly very happy that the whole thing started on this network through the efforts of Jen McCreight, Greta Christina and many others.

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  • marcus

    But will atheist+ fight for my right to (hypothetically) give birth? (Even though I too, have a penis?

  • That’s what I say too also.

  • jamessweet

    It’s OT, but on the point as to whether moderate religion is “even worse” than fundamentalist religion… I’m mixed. I agree with you and Susan that we’d be a lot better off “if religion in the United States consisted only of liberal Protestantism, along with the liberal Catholicism that tells its bishops just where they can stick their doctrines, and Reform Judaism.” But I think the point that people like Harris is making is that such a scenario is not realistic: The nice comfy religions provide cover for their more fundamentalist counterparts to grow, flourish, and gain influence.

    I’m not entirely certain that Harris et al are right about that, in the net. There’s little doubt in my mind that an increase in moderate religion both helps and harms fundamentalist religion — harms it by taking away market share, helps it by giving credibility to acting in the name of faith. Which effect is the dominant one? I think it is not at all clear.

  • jeremydiamond

    Tangentially related, I got drawn into a thread on Fark recently that was about a (crappy) article on the term “mansplaining.” Whatever you think about the term, someone brought up Atheism+ and a bunch of people asserted that Jen McCreight and Rebecca Watson were drama queens who were… well, I’ll just quote what one guy said.

    This annoying bullshiat has been popping up in the atheist/skeptical community lately as well. Apparently “feminism” and “social justice” mean “scapegoating white ‘cisgendered’ males for one’s personal inadequacies and creating gender-specific terms (like ‘mansplaining’) for generic human traits”.

    To which I tried to respond by basically saying, “Dude, are you fucking kidding me?”

  • @Marcus

    Yes.

    Recently, a man in America has given birth to three lovely children. So, the answer to your trolling is yes; since A+ is about dismantling arbitrary gender lines, we would support your right to give birth (hypothetically).

    I don’t often comment on FTB, but your trolling made me laugh. This was just terribly pathetic.

  • Michael Heath

    Susan Jacoby writes:

    . . . Sam Harris as a “hard” atheist because he argues that so-called moderate religion is even worse than fundamentalist religion

    Ed responds:

    I think Harris is (mostly) wrong about moderate religion

    While I’m an enormous fan of Susan Jacoby, having thoroughly enjoyed reading two of her books, I’m skeptical she’s accurately described Mr. Harris’ conclusion about moderate vs. fundamentalist religionists. Two reasons:

    1) Every single time I’ve encountered a criticism of his position, the criticism avoided his actual argument but instead misrepresented and weakened it; especially those coming from liberals. Oddly enough this defect is consistent with how conservatives think, by force-fitting his conclusion into a black-white paradigm rather than the nuanced position he actually takes.

    2) And on this matter specifically, it would argue the complete opposite of my memory of the argument in his book, Letter to a Christian Nation. There he identified fundamentalism and the type of thinking used by fundamentalists as the predominant reason humanity should work to convince people about the harm caused by religion, in the case of the aforementioned book, he focused on Christian fundamentalism.

    I read Mr. Harris’ Wikipedia page searching by the keyword, ‘moderate’ and found no quotes which would accurately describe what Ms. Jacoby asserts and Ed concedes. Nor does the wiki of Harris quotes provide any evidence Ms. Jacoby has got it right. I’m also disappointed she didn’t use a link in her post to this assertion; that’s poor form on her part – even if she has Harris accurately pegged on this point.

  • Abdul Alhazred

    The flip sode of this is the *non-atheist* answer that women are more “spiritual” than men.

  • @1 Yes. Bring on the androwombs!

  • Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    Where does that leave me on the whole Atheism + issue? Given that I clearly believe that fighting for social justice is an indispensable part of being an atheist and a humanist, the answer should be fairly obvious. I’m not the least bit interested in playing any game involving whether we are the Judean People’s Front or the People’s Front of Judea — meaning I really don’t care whether you want to call yourself an atheist, an atheist + or a humanist — I am in favor of almost any effort that makes questions of equality a central part of the atheist/secularist movement. And I am frankly very happy that the whole thing started on this network through the efforts of Jen McCreight, Greta Christina and many others.

    Ed,

    I can imagine only strawman or non-worthy arguments critical of some atheists seeking to associate themselves in new groups which promote humanist ideals, even by libertarians and others who don’t agree with humanists’ advocacy for progressivism. Therefore I see no reason to pay attention to such moronic dissent. The core criticism of Atheism+ that does resonate, which you disappointingly avoid Ed, is co-opting the atheist label to promote a humanistic version of atheism. Why?

    While I too share much of the Atheist+ agenda, I don’t find it helpful to the broader atheistic movement for a subset of atheists to dilute and misconstrue the definition of atheism. This reminds me of the new secular women’s group which is for atheists-only, in spite of the fact liberal Christians are predominately responsible for the creation and ultimate success of secularism. In both cases both groups appear to leveraging the popularity of one label to advance a cause which is not shared by the general population who has earned the now desired label.

    Therefore I find your whole, Judean People’s Front or the People’s Front of Judea a strawman which is not representative of the best objections for either group co-opting a label for a cause different than what the word actually means.

  • lofgren

    I think Jacoby is reading a hell of a lot into the term “soft atheist.” Even within her own post, she shows that the term is pretty clearly, albeit not perfectly, defined. A “hard” atheist takes a “hard” line against all religions, while a “soft” atheist varies their stance on religion depending on how fundamentalist it is. I’ve seen people self-identify with these terms, and I’ve definitely seen both applied to women and men. I would definitely have to see some evidence that softness is attributed to women more often despite their actual stance to believe that the terms are gendered, and I would have to see some examples to convince that the terms are used to mean anything other than what they appear to mean. It’s not impossible that “soft” atheism is used as a pejorative to describe poor or fuzzy thinking. It’s just not what I have observed.

    Minor trolling aside, I don’t think atheism is anything worth fighting for unless it comes accompanied by a set of positive values. The Soviet Union was atheistic enough, but without a social justice and individual rights component it succumbed to all of the worst flaws of religious movements without appealing to the supernatural. Reason and truth are virtues unto themselves, this is true. It’s part of why I consider myself a “hard” atheist. But They are not sufficient to actually improve our world and our lives in the vacuum that religious authority would leave behind. That’s why we can make common cause with the atheists who reject women’s rights or civil rights when it comes to fighting the excesses of religion, but we must be clear that we do not agree with them on other matters. Atheism, I believe, is only one component of our plan to offer people a better life without religion. Social justice and personal freedom (and responsibility) must also be present, or you’re going to end up living in a less magical world that is no less oppressive and dogmatic.

    Also, I fucking hate the term “mansplaining” and I completely agree that it is unnecessarily gendered. I’ve been accused of “mansplaining” for attempting to clearly elucidate my own thinking and what has influenced it. Apparently expressing my opinions is mansplaining because I included too much detail about my sources (which I should have assumed everybody on the blog were already familiar with, because they are so super smart), and it turned out that the commenters on the blog in question were slightly majority female (something I didn’t know). If expressions of my own mind are “mansplaining” and therefore not worth responding to on their merits, it’s hard for me to see that as anything but an attempt to dismiss my thoughts based on my gender.

  • Michael Heath wrote:

    While I’m an enormous fan of Susan Jacoby, having thoroughly enjoyed reading two of her books, I’m skeptical she’s accurately described Mr. Harris’ conclusion about moderate vs. fundamentalist religionists.

    I actually haven’t read Harris on this subject of moderate religious believers helping the more fundamentalist variety to have credibility; I assumed that the description of his position was accurate, mostly because I have heard that same argument, as described, used by many others. If that is not the position he takes, my comment was targeted wrong, but it does apply to the position I’ve seen taken by many atheists.

    Greta Christina makes a similar argument in her most recent book. She uses the analogy of someone who thinks their hair dryer talks to them and tells them what to do. And she says that it’s certainly better if someone thinks their hair dryer tells them to feed the homeless than if they think their hair dryer tells them to kill every woman on the #3 bus — but the problem is still that they think their hair dryer is talking to them.

    I told Greta when I had her on my radio show that, while I’ve never found this argument very compelling, I thought she had come closest to convincing me on it. And I meant that. This is a logically valid argument, I admit. But I still don’t buy this idea that liberal versions of religious belief really provide some coverage that helps the fundamentalist varieties to flourish. In the real world, when it comes to the issues that I so strongly criticize fundamentalist religion for — gay rights, women’s rights, separation of church and state, etc — liberal Christians (and Muslims too) are some of my most important allies. The Episcopal church in this country has been a powerful voice for equality; I just don’t see any reason to believe that, despite their excellent and important work on equal rights, they are somehow, theoretically, helping to provide some sort of cover or support for the anti-gay bigots. The same is true when it comes to Ken Miller and others like him on the evolution/creationism issue, Barry Lynn on church/state issues, and many other liberal Christians who fight shoulder to shoulder with me to fight against the religious right.

  • rork

    “Fighting against sexism (and racism and homophobia as well) is — should be — automatically part of the mission of anyone who seeks to do battle with the influence of religion in society.”

    I don’t agree with “automatically”.

    I want women to get a fair hearing on every subject, but it’s not cause I’m an atheist or against the influence of religion. It’s cause it’s 1) fair 2) smart (in my interests). Nietzsche wouldn’t care one whit about 1 and would likely disagree with 2 and call me an imbecile. Maybe he wasn’t a true atheist.

    I am generally against the influence of religion, but am not against them on every subject. Shall I reject serving others cause some religions have that on their list of good things to do?

  • abb3w

    I think the phrase “group of modern-day social Darwinists” corresponds interestingly to the high-SDO component of authoritarianism, per the work of Altemeyer and Sidanius as summarized by Altemeyer… plugging that once again.

    The particularly interested can see a comment I made over at Ace of Clades for some elaboration on this notion.

  • carlie

    Another nuance in the “but women are more religious than men are” situation is that women in many religions are made solely responsible for the spiritual state of their families, so they have more pressure to be extra-religious even within the same environment as men. Sure, the man is the spiritual and authority head of the family, but if everyone isn’t up and dressed nicely and at church on time, it’s the mother who is blamed for not doing her job right. So given a single nuclear family in the same church, the woman will almost always exhibit more “spiritual” traits than the man will because the pressure is on her for the family to be behaving correctly. The expectations on her are higher, and the social cost more, for not being super-pious, while the man can get away with just proclaiming some faith here and there.

    It’s the same reason that has given rise to the woman are clean/men are slovenly dichotomy, because a generic person from society walking into a house will judge the woman of the house on its cleanliness, not the man. Ditto the state of a child in the care of either one, etc.

  • Atheist in Solidarity,

    So, the answer to your trolling is yes; since A+ is about dismantling arbitrary gender lines, we would support your right to give birth (hypothetically).

    Holy crap. Is this a version of an A+ Poe? The right to give birth is an arbitrary gender line? Is that a serious A+ position? A Poe? (Calling Alan Sokal).

  • michaellatiolais

    @Michael Heath,

    I wrote about my view of the A+ movement as a comparison to one of my hobbies:

    “And while I’m on the subject, I’ll even toss in another example of this. I ride a Harley Davidson. A loud, mean old Ironhead. I used to go to the occasional rally. I do not anymore. Why? Because there is a vocal group of white supremecists. And anti-Semitists. And misogynists. And heterosexists. I don’t need to go to a rally where my wife is judged as a piece of meat and not a rider in her own right. I don’t need to go to a place where the Aryan Brotherhood are at home spewing hate. I don’t need to go to a place where the phrase “curbstomp a f*ggot” is not met with anything other than horror and expulsion. So, I just don’t go. Sure, there are plenty of nice people there with whom I share a great interest(some say love) of Harleys. But as long as they are comfortable associating with the ones mentioned above, they can do without me.

    The same goes for atheism. If the atheist movement as a whole can’t reject their nasty underbelly, then don’t expect to have those like me hang out in it.”

    If the bulk of the atheist movement do not share a committment to basic human rights, then I, for one, feel absolutely no desire to identify myself as such anymore. I might quibble with whether the label is actually just a restatement of the term “atheistic secular humanist,” but as far as I’m concerned, I just don’t feel like associating(online or otherwise) with people who reject human rights(not that I am accusing you of such, just responding to your post).

  • lofgren

    If the bulk of the atheist movement do not share a committment to basic human rights, then I, for one, feel absolutely no desire to identify myself as such anymore.

    That level of ideological purity is poison for a movement, especially a nascent one like our own. We can make common cause with atheists who are racist when we oppose ten commandment monuments on school grounds just as we can make common cause with the religious when supporting good science education, or common cause with Christians when opposing the persecution of non-Muslims in the Middle East, or common cause with Muslims when opposing the treatment of Palestinians in Israel. I agree that it would be the death of atheism as a political or cultural force if it came to be dominated by those who oppose equality and social justice, but that has not happened yet and people like yourself abstaining from participation would only hasten that outcome.

  • We can make common cause with atheists who are racist when we oppose ten commandment monuments on school grounds…

    You can, but why would you want to?

    I wouldn’t want to be associated with a racist no matter what else we agreed upon. And if that is how the “athiest movement” is determined to be, happy to associate with racist atheists as long as they support atheist causes, then I’ll stop calling myself a part of that movement.

  • Splitter!

    I actually just read ‘End of Faith’ for the first time a couple of weeks ago; if I had to characterize his position (and I’m going from memory here as I don’t have the book in front of me) on moderate religion, I’d say that he considered it less harmful, but harder to root out, and certainly objectionable in that it provided cover for the more extreme forms. If I remember correctly, the ‘cover for extreme forms’ argument wasn’t so much him saying that moderate religion is itself worse, but more like his answer to critics who complained that he went after them, too, and not just the crazies.

    I think it’s fair to say, speaking for myself, that all religion is false, but some manifestations of it are more harmful than others.

  • lofgren

    I wouldn’t want to be associated with a racist no matter what else we agreed upon.

    Nobody wants to. It’s just that the alternative is to whittle away at any cultural influence we might have until we are, simply by number, destined to be forever powerless.

    In the overarching goal of creating a more secular, just, and fair society, atheists who are racist are our enemies, as are believers who are not racist. In individual battles, especially those with only two sides (the monument is either going to stay or it’s going to get taken down), your allies are those who share the values that pertain to the specific cause. Atheists have made common cause with Christians, Muslims, and Jews in order to support science education, hate crimes legislation, student speech, a secular military, and civil rights. Are you really suggesting that we should abstain from those battles – that we should refrain from openly and confidently stating our position – just because those who would aid us and accept our aid in this particular fight do not perfectly adhere to all of our principles?

    It’s an effective way of silencing yourself, anyway.

  • Atheism, has no stance on equality or values and so it cannot accurately describe people who self identify as Atheist, but there is a group of predominantly straight, white, male, able bodied, educated men who have long led the group who have arbitrarily decided that their particular style of defining the community and the arguments and the expectations are the “norm” and any deviation is a lesser version of atheism.

    And that’s actually, in theory, ok. You can decide that you don’t want your private event, blogs, etc, to be a particularly welcoming place for a given group. Romney’s doing that with voters right now. He doesn’t want to worry about poor people or women. They aren’t his problem and he’ll continue to alienate them in his campaign and we’ll have to see how that shakes out for him come November.

    What I find galling about many people who object to A+ is that a group of people said that something isn’t working for them in the atheist community. They have been harassed to the point where some don’t even want to be part of the community anymore. They explain why this something isn’t working, suggest changes and improvements and the harassment just got worse. They finally said that they wouldn’t ask anything further of the community and they’d build their own where the matter was addressed to their satisfaction and somehow that is an affront to the atheist community too. It’d be like taking a job where you are browbeaten every day by your boss and having him/her harass you for quitting and demanding you come back. Even if everyone else in your office was lovely, if the top ranks are routinely making your life miserable and you can get out, you probably will.

    For the record, I don’t think straight, white, male, able bodied, educated men are a problem at all and there are many leaders in the atheist community who want to be inclusive, and welcome feedback on how the group can be better. The problem is not that group X is right and group Y is wrong, it’s the assumption that what is right is solely defined by the values and needs of group X even if it hurts group Y.

  • zmidponk

    heddle #15:

    The right to give birth is an arbitrary gender line?

    Given that it’s now possible to swap genders, yes, it is. If a woman has a sex change procedure, it is possible that they may choose not to have their womb removed, so that later, they may become pregnant as a man. I know this because it’s been done – Google the name Thomas Beatie.

    Hypothetically, it is also perfectly possible for a man who was born male to have an ectopic pregnancy by having an embryo implanted into them, and having the placenta attached to an internal organ. This has high risks, though, and, for that reason, I, personally, would think it’s a very bad idea – but only for that reason. No other.

  • As a recovered born again christian, I actually can relate to why women might prefer remaining in the christian communities

    The key word being… “community”.

    I raised my daughter without having the benefit of there being lots of other women nearby to help me through difficulties and without the benefit of learning from other non believer mothers interested in the survival of us all.

    That is a huge facet on the face of this issue.

    Where can non believer moms go for help?

    I went to La Leche League and became an LLL leader.

    I had nowhere to go for help with buying food, or utilities, no benefits of living within these christian communities.

    And with the non believer men behaving as dirty old misogynistic uncles… women feel more & more isolated and yearning for , dare I use the same word again? yearning for… community.

  • michaellatiolais

    lofgren wrote:

    I agree that it would be the death of atheism as a political or cultural force if it came to be dominated by those who oppose equality and social justice, but that has not happened yet and people like yourself abstaining from participation would only hasten that outcome.

    If atheism as a movement dies either because it has become dominated by those opposing equality or by the lack of participation by people like me, then it deserves to have died. In both cases, it means that it no longer represents the values that most of us adhere to. All that means is that something else will rise up in its place.

    And what do you mean by participation anyway? It’s not like I’m suddenly going to become a theist just because some of my fellow atheists are bastards. If my values are increasingly only shared by A+ or secular humanists, then that is the venue through which I’ll act. Those are the blogs I’ll read and support. Those are the conferences I will spend my money at. If my time and money is less important than maintaining an environment inclusive of those who oppose equality, then that is just how the cookie will crumble.

  • lofgren

    Thank you MissMarnie. I find that it is a healthy practice to reframe every argument as “in-group versus out-group” rather than right vs. wrong in order to better appreciate the position of the other side. It doesn’t mean I am going to change my position, just that it provides a valuable perspective. In this case, reframing the argument as you have, it’s pretty hard to see the A+’ers at fault.

    I think the A+ thing is a nice little identifier, but ultimately doomed to fail. It’s useful for expressing your support of certain principles that are not strictly speaking atheistic, but are nevertheless critical to a worthwhile message for our movement. Ultimately, though, the atheist movement is too besieged and too small to endure sizable schisms. I hope, and predict, that the A+ers will be coming back into the fold and probably come to dominate it. A positive message is just more powerful than a relentlessly negative one, and I do believe that the people Jacoby describes are a noisy minority who will eventually slither their way to their own dark corners of the internet when enough solidarity with A+ers becomes evident.

    All wishful thinking, of course.

  • lofgren

    If atheism as a movement dies either because it has become dominated by those opposing equality or by the lack of participation by people like me

    It’s not “either.” You are helping to create the conditions for the former by engaging in the latter.

    And what do you mean by participation anyway?

    You can go and support your A+ blogs. But those A+ bloggers and activists will have to make common cause with people who do not support every element of their agenda or you will all be simply talking to yourselves.

    I think it is telling that you compared the current atheist movement to a Harley Davidson rally. Effectively you treat it as a fun pasttime or hobby. But atheism has real political and social fallout. As a cultural force, nonbelievers and their values are becoming increasingly potent. If you don’t go to a Harley Davidson rally, you’ll spend one less weekend drinking beer and talking about sparkplugs with a bunch of strangers. No big deal. If you stop advocating secularism just because a few misogynists also support it and you don’t want to associate with misogynists, then the cause of secularism has been weakened.

  • If you stop advocating secularism just because a few misogynists also support it and you don’t want to associate with misogynists, then the cause of secularism has been weakened.

    A+ers are not stopping advocating secualrism. They are advocating secularism while refusing to give a platform to people who advocate it without also opposing bigotry. Big difference.

  • Michael Heath

    lofgren writes:

    I don’t think atheism is anything worth fighting for unless it comes accompanied by a set of positive values. The Soviet Union was atheistic enough, but without a social justice and individual rights component it succumbed to all of the worst flaws of religious movements without appealing to the supernatural.

    Perhaps there’s an argument to be made that atheism needs to expand beyond mere non-belief, I’d argue yeah, but that value should be solely limited to using the most stringent methods possible for seeking objective truth and accepting those findings. However you not only haven’t first positively made your case prior to jumping to an illustration/analogy, but jump to an example where atheism didn’t have anything to do with the root cause failures of the USSR. The fact is the Soviet model was just another authoritarian model; it replaced a religion-derived authoritarian model with an authoritarian model based on a political ideology. Authoritarianism at the expense of liberty was the Soviet defect, not religious belief or the lack thereof.

  • lofgren

    A+ers are not stopping advocating secualrism. They are advocating secularism while refusing to give a platform to people who advocate it without also opposing bigotry. Big difference.

    I realize that, and I didn’t mean to imply that they were abdicating the fight. All I am saying is that they will have to make common cause with people who disagree with them from time to time, in order to remain relevant. I don’t really think that A+ers are opposed to this. Based on my understanding of the moniker, its intent is to draw attention to the other values that the atheist community already generally supports, not to detract from the atheistic goals of that community. In fact I see the A+ movement as little more than an attempt to visibly oppose the sputtering and gnashing of bigots within the atheist community, not as a full-blown schism. (When I say “They’ll be back,” what I really mean is “Atheism can’t survive as a movement without them, so one way or another we’ll all be working together again soon.”) My response was only to michaellatiolais and his position that it is better to take your toys and go home than to be seen as having any relationship with people with whom you disagree, even if the subject of disagreement is not the subject at hand.

  • lofgren

    @Michael Heath, 28:

    I’m not sure what you are trying to argue. You say that the USSR did not fail because of its atheism, but because of other harmful values which its atheism was not sufficient to mitigate. This would seem to perfectly illustrate my argument that atheists also have a responsibility to take a stand on those issues. Opposing authoritarianism at the expense of bigotry is a very good example of such a stand, and that is what I was getting at when I said “without a social justice and individual rights component it succumbed to all of the worst flaws of religious movements without appealing to the supernatural.” It seems as though you are criticizing me for saying the same thing that you said, but phrased slightly differently.

  • lofgren

    That should be “opposing authoritarianism at the expense of liberty…” (obviously)

  • Michael Heath

    I don’t associate with out-atheists except in this forum. So I’m out of touch with the complaints I’m reading here with the exception of reading a mere handful of Greta Christina’s posts and one from another female freethoughtblogger promoting Atheist+ (whose name I can’t recall).

    I’m beginning to sense the founders of Atheist+ are purposefully attempting to co-opt the name in order to defend the brand against atheists who are not progressive and behave in a contemptible fashion. Does this explain why a small subset of atheists are attempting to co-opt the name with Atheist+? At least partly?

  • michaellatiolais

    lofgren said:

    If you stop advocating secularism just because a few misogynists also support it and you don’t want to associate with misogynists, then the cause of secularism has been weakened.

    Gretchen nailed it. I won’t stop my current activities. I will, however, be more particular about how I go about it. Just the same as my riding. I still ride. I just don’t ride with assholes, and I don’t attend rallies where assholes are welcome. If the assholes find themselves increasingly left out of the discussion, perhaps they’ll wise up. If not, they will be ignored.

  • michaellatiolais

    Michael Heath wrote:

    I’m beginning to sense the founders of Atheist+ are purposefully attempting to co-opt the name in order to defend the brand against atheists who are not progressive and behave in a contemptible fashion. Does this explain why a small subset of atheists are attempting to co-opt the name with Atheist+? At least partly?

    I think that is pretty close to it. In addition, it is also meant to build a set of like-minded blogs where the rejection of bigotry is implied from the start, giving those people a safe zone to discuss issues. Given what we’ve seen from the more contemptible elements opposing it, I would say that that goal is warranted.

  • BTW, referring to the USSR & atheism is peculiar to me.

    Believing in anything = believerism.

    Believing in the “USA!!!” is equally as offensive as believing in a deity.

  • Michael Heath

    lofgren writes:

    I’m not sure what you are trying to argue.

    A new pet peeve of mine, which I used to do myself but now trying not to, are arguments that don’t first make a positive case for their position prior to jumping to an illustration or analogy to reinforce and illuminate the argument being made. Oft-times such arguments jump to such illustration/analogies where such doesn’t reconcile to the case being made. I find that true here with you jumping from atheism also needing some positive values to assigning atheism as a cause of the failures in the USSR. But even a cursory examination of the root cause failures of the USSR doesn’t lead to a lack of atheistic values but instead the presence of another authoritarian ideology dominating government.

    I think we’d all be better off we made our case without illustration and analogy, and then deploy either only if we think we need to in order to better explain our case or think there’s an opportunity to provide some entertainment. But the former argues that perhaps it’s better to go back and try and make a better case. I’ve been especially mindful of Einstein’s quip that you don’t understand a subject very well if you can’t explain it your grandmother.

    I don’t want to come off sounding superior on this. I used to read a blog where the blogger started blogging about a subject he knew almost nothing about. Rather than make a case on his position, that person instead would present a conclusion and immediately segue into an analogy from a completely different discipline where that person was well-informed. Because the conclusions promoted were on a couple of topics where I am very well-informed as opposed to this blogger, I immediately pointed out the lack of an argument and that the analogies failed miserably. I find found this behavior to be a type of arrogance to think being a expert on one subject allowed this blogger to bloviate about another by analogy alone – where they wildly misrepresented experts in the field they criticized and relied on arguments by people whose arguments can and are easily discredited by the experts.

    This criticism directed towards this blogger got me to thinking about the quality of my own arguments. I found I too frequently failed to make the best possible case in my arguments, that analogies are often used as a form of laziness where the reader suffers precisely because the position I wanted to make couldn’t withstand scrutiny or perhaps not even worthy of considering. So I’ve been focusing on making the best case I can and providing illustrations or analogies for mere entertainment value. I’ve found this has helped me become an improved thinker though I know I have a long ways to go. In some cases I’ve attempted to post a comment here where I find I was unable to build a case, because my case didn’t have any merit. So know I’m more apt to do some research rather than pontificate.

    lofgren writes:

    You say that the USSR did not fail because of its atheism, but because of other harmful values which its atheism was not sufficient to mitigate. This would seem to perfectly illustrate my argument that atheists also have a responsibility to take a stand on those issues.

    Have you read any books or done research on the psychology of social dominators and authoritarians? Fascinating stuff. What one finds is whether one is religious or an atheist is really irrelevant when it comes to the human development of both personality types if the individual is brought up in an authoritarian environment. The last book I read on the Soviets was The Dead Hand, which predominately focused on the end of the Cold War. However it also provided plenty of material going back to the 1930s.

    The author clearly revealed the defect in Soviet society wasn’t moral values at all, these people were predominately morally good people like we find everywhere, both Christians and atheists. The problem was they suffered under an authoritarian regime created by social dominators, who are not morally good people but capable of exploiting authoritarians given their submissive personality. So no, your argument here appears to me to be completely irrelevant in regards to the fact that social dominators were able to create an authoritarian regime precisely because so many people were already developed into authoritarians. These social dominators (Lenin, Stalin) were able to control people because they were ideologues, and then develop future generations after the revolution into atheist authoritarians just like the Russian Orthodox church turned their people into sheep.

    To make a case for a sufficient set of values to combat this and assign it to atheism alone is to make atheism a type of ideology not all that dissimilar from religion; an ideology which can also be subverted for some other ends. So I can’t support your argument for atheism+ to steal the label nor do I find that it would have had any efficacy combatting the core reasons which allowed the formation of the authoritarian USSSR regime. The antidote to the USSR has already been answered, and its secular liberalism, whether its practiced by people of faith and/or atheists.

  • I’m beginning to sense the founders of Atheist+ are purposefully attempting to co-opt the name in order to defend the brand against atheists who are not progressive and behave in a contemptible fashion. Does this explain why a small subset of atheists are attempting to co-opt the name with Atheist+? At least partly?

    Well, I would argue that the broad group that currently claims the title “atheist” has claimed a set of values that is exclusive of the whole, much like people who claim that “real americans are [something that defines a subset of americans]” are not representing the whole no matter how often they put the word “real” or “true” in front of the word “americans.” Atheism as a concept, has no values beyond its stance on deities, but the community does, no matter how often we try to pretend that it doesn’t.

    Atheism plus starts with the premise that the group is made up of atheists and then it adds some other things. To use the american analogy, it would be like saying “left handed americans” or “bow tie loving americans.” It takes away nothing from what it means to be “american” to say that there is a group of bow tie loving americans. Bow tie loving americans can have their own values and rules that need not reflect on any other americans in any way.

    Whatever comes of A+ is what it is, but it’s a reaction to something that is not being dealt with in the current atheist community to the satisfaction of many people.

  • lofgren

    I find that true here with you jumping from atheism also needing some positive values to assigning atheism as a cause of the failures in the USSR.

    But… I never did that? In fact I am explicitly arguing the opposite? That it was not atheism, but other causes which caused the downfall of the USSR? I’m not sure why you think I am attributing their downfall to atheism. Every statement I have made has been the polar opposite of that.

    To make a case for a sufficient set of values to combat this and assign it to atheism alone is to make atheism a type of ideology not all that dissimilar from religion; an ideology which can also be subverted for some other ends.

    Any ideology can be subverted.

    To be honest I am still not sure I even remotely understand your objection to my position. It seems like you are arguing against somebody else entirely. Honestly, it seems like you arguing against a position I have never even seen or heard from any source other than this post of yours. So obviously something is getting lost in translation, either from me to you or from you to me.

  • Michael Heath

    MissMarnie writes:

    Atheism plus starts with the premise that the group is made up of atheists and then it adds some other things. To use the american analogy, it would be like saying “left handed americans” or “bow tie loving americans.” It takes away nothing from what it means to be “american” to say that there is a group of bow tie loving americans. Bow tie loving americans can have their own values and rules that need not reflect on any other americans in any way.

    Whatever comes of A+ is what it is, but it’s a reaction to something that is not being dealt with in the current atheist community to the satisfaction of many people.

    I think the motivation for forming a new group is both universally understood and laudable. The problem is that Atheism+ is in no way analogous to “bow tie loving americans”. Instead Atheist+ apparently posits that only “bow tie loving Americans” are Americans, ergo, Americans+. If they’d called themselves ‘humanist atheists’ or ‘progressive atheists’ their name wouldn’t be a point of contention. It’s because they co-opt atheism to promote something additional to atheism that people like me are questioning both their motivation and judgment.

  • lofgren

    The problem is that Atheism+ is in no way analogous to “bow tie loving americans”. Instead Atheist+ apparently posits that only “bow tie loving Americans” are Americans, ergo, Americans+.

    This is interesting because I read it in a totally different way.

    As I see, it is like a bunch of people got together and said they want to stand for Americans. We’ll call ourselves Americans.

    Another group of people got together, and they said we want to stand for Americans, but bow ties are equally important to us. So we’ll call ourselves Americans+bow ties, or Americans+ for short, to indicate our focus on bow ties in addition to Americans.

    My interpretation of the name is basically the opposite of yours.

  • @Michael Heath

    Instead Atheist+ apparently posits that only “bow tie loving Americans” are Americans, ergo, Americans+.

    If that’s true, I haven’t heard that said by the people involved. Could you offer a link to where that is both stated and supported by the leaders of A+?

  • @41: It’s implicit in the name, even if it wasn’t intended that way.

    As for actual examples of divisiveness, look at the treatment of Dan Fincke. The problem is that people have different ideas about what social justice entails and some will inevitably decide that if your conception doesn’t match theirs, you don’t support social jstice. Dan Fincke doesn’t think we should call people stupid for holding abhorrent views. Quite a few commenters think that the oppressed calling their oppressors names is a critical part of social justice. It’s possible that they are correct, but this doesn’t mean he’s on the side of the oppressors or a generally terrible person as many of them concluded.

  • Michael Heath

    I wrote earlier:

    The problem is that Atheism+ is in no way analogous to “bow tie loving americans”. Instead Atheist+ apparently posits that only “bow tie loving Americans” are Americans, ergo, Americans+.

    lofgren responds:

    This is interesting because I read it in a totally different way.

    As I see, it is like a bunch of people got together and said they want to stand for Americans. We’ll call ourselves Americans.

    Another group of people got together, and they said we want to stand for Americans, but bow ties are equally important to us. So we’ll call ourselves Americans+bow ties, or Americans+ for short, to indicate our focus on bow ties in addition to Americans.

    My interpretation of the name is basically the opposite of yours.

    Your avoiding the core point of the criticism where I’ll repeat what you write here which has you diverging away from the topic; I’ll emphasize the following at the precise juncture where you avoid the point:

    we want to stand for Americans, but bow ties are equally important to us. So we’ll call ourselves Americans+bow ties, or Americans+ for short

    No, when you remove the ‘bow ties’, you revert write back to ‘Americans’ alone. That’s the whole point; ‘bow ties’ no longer exists, just Americans, “+”. If this group were wildly successfully, they’d effectively change the definition of atheism where atheists who don’t subscribe to the goals of these progressive atheists would effectively lose the very label which correctly defines them.

    I’m reminded of how deists like Thomas Jefferson who believed in an intervening god but depended on human reason while rejecting holy dogma and divine revelation appeals to make their conclusions about reality effectively lost their rightful title of being called a deist. That’s because contemporaneous people can’t discern the fact deism is a broader tent than they realize, it doesn’t merely encompass those who don’t observe an intervening god. That’s one reason why Gregory Frazer’s term ‘theistic rationalists’ is now so helpful. I don’t think it’s right for atheists to risk losing the very word which defines their lack of belief in a god just because a subset of atheists want to leverage the brand in a way that risk distorting the word’s very meaning; and that’s by depending solely on that one word with no other descriptors that convey their being a distinct subset and what type.

  • @41: It’s implicit in the name, even if it wasn’t intended that way.

    That’s an assumption but certainly not the message anyone in that group has put forth, as far as I can tell.

    I would say that the group that currently calls themselves “atheists” without qualifications has commandeered the name but has a community that is exclusive of many women and minority group. They may not actively oppose the membership of either but if the group is not interested in addressing a problem, then they have made a choice about where they stand on the matter.

    Atheism and Atheism+ are subsets of what are truly the atheists of the world. It is necessary that any group or community draw a line in the sand somewhere. So if one group is claiming to be the arbiters of what is atheism, it is the group who hasn’t qualified their name with any further descriptor. You may find the “plus” a bit of smugness; claiming that A+ is a better version of A, but in no way does that name claim to be the catchall for atheism.

  • eric

    Heath @9:

    The core criticism of Atheism+ that does resonate, which you disappointingly avoid Ed, is co-opting the atheist label to promote a humanistic version of atheism. Why?

    I don’t see how you have a credible argument about co-option here. We (including people on both sides) are seeing the possible beginning of a movement. The people who proposed the A+ label were very clear in what they meant the “+” to represent. No one is being fooled, there is no false advertising or stealing of a brand. No one is attempting to deceive anyone as to the meaning of a term. There is no doublespeak. Everyone with the least bit of involvement understands what distinction is being drawn between “atheist” and “A+.”

    Which is a very long-winded way of saying: no co-option. What you have here is one set of atheists choosing to brand themselves different from general atheists and choosing a different term to identify the differences, while keeping “atheist” as a part of their new name – because they are atheists and consider that a strong part of their identity.

    Co-option would be a set of folks trying to argue that the general term “atheist” now includes a focus on social justice and civil rights. But no one is doing that. They are making a new term that includes the word ‘atheist’ because that’s an important part of their identity. But in making a new term, they are doing ‘due diligence’ or making a good faith effort or whatever you want to call it in terms of not trying to steal anyone else’s brand.

    It is pretty sour grapes to complain that atheists who want social justice to be a key part of their work are not allowed to use “atheist” in the name of their movement.

  • Michael Heath

    MissMarnie writes to me:

    You may find the “plus” a bit of smugness; claiming that A+ is a better version of A, but in no way does that name claim to be the catchall for atheism.

    I never claimed or insinuated “smugness” nor did I weigh-in on the supposed superiority of one term relative to another. Instead I pointed out the Atheist+ group is co-opting the word atheism to promote an ideology and causes which are not by definition atheistic. Again, there’d be no worthy discussion on this matter if these Atheist+ members had called themselves ‘progressive atheists’ or ‘atheist humanists’ or some other descriptor of their group which doesn’t have them effectively mutating the meaning of a word which describes a quickly growing global population.

    I’m looking for a credible defense worthy of consideration; does such exist?

  • Michael Heath

    eric writes:

    I don’t see how you have a credible argument about co-option here. We (including people on both sides) are seeing the possible beginning of a movement. The people who proposed the A+ label were very clear in what they meant the “+” to represent. No one is being fooled, there is no false advertising or stealing of a brand. No one is attempting to deceive anyone as to the meaning of a term. There is no doublespeak. Everyone with the least bit of involvement understands what distinction is being drawn between “atheist” and “A+.”

    I find your defense naive in the extreme when it comes to how people digest brands. Nearly all people are not going to even encounter, let alone distinguish, this group’s rationalization for calling themselves atheists while actually being something distinctly more, in fact an ideological “more”. And if this organization becomes notable in their political advocacy, for good or ill, people will begin to assign the attributes of their success to who? Progressives? Nope. Humanists? Nope. To atheists; for obvious reasons which if I spelled out, should insult all readers’ intelligence in this forum.

    eric writes:

    It is pretty sour grapes to complain that atheists who want social justice to be a key part of their work are not allowed to use “atheist” in the name of their movement.

    Tell you what; I won’t respond to this in this comment post. Instead I’ll ask if you really want to continue to promote this argument or think perhaps its better for you if you concede you misspoke or just had a brain fart (which we all have) and therefore retract this statement.

  • @Michael Heath

    Instead I pointed out the Atheist+ group is co-opting the word atheism to promote an ideology and causes which are not by definition atheistic. Again, there’d be no worthy discussion on this matter if these Atheist+ members had called themselves ‘progressive atheists’ or ‘atheist humanists’

    Except that the “plus” is as much a modifier as “humanist” or “progressive” and in no way has anyone said that atheism wouldn’t be relavant to the group so you seem to be arguing just to be argumentative.

    No one group owns the term “atheist” yet, predominantly english speaking atheists have claimed (co-opted) the term despite the fact that speaking english isn’t at all a value of atheism. There is nothing about atheism that requires science based skepticism, yet the community that has claimed (co-opted) atheism is overwhelmingly skeptical. And that is fine and I’ll be the last person to object since I happen to be a skeptic too. But I still can’t understand why the group that you think of as the atheist community “owns” atheism and further how “plus” is a unacceptable qualifier while “progressive” would be fine. Who is being confused and confounded by the use of A+ and how is this confusion impacting the group you identify with?

  • M, Supreme Anarch of the Queer Illuminati

    @ Michael Heath —

    Patriarchy, plutocracy, white-supremacy, cis-supremacy, and heterosexual-supremacy (those categories opposed by A+ which are “outside the purview of atheism”) are fundamentally theological conceits. Even when the patriarchs, plutocrats, etc. take the Ayn Rand approach of attempting to shoehorn a stealth “because I said so” justification of a faith-based metaphysical hierarchy into their ideology, it’s still a supernaturalist, theological, and thus non-atheist position. Objecting to A+ for being consistently non-theist in ideology (and, if it should come up, erring on the side of equity over supremacy) isn’t exactly something I’m going to lose sleep over.

  • Michael Heath

    MissMarie writes:

    Except that the “plus” is as much a modifier as “humanist” or “progressive”

    If we queried any population beyond the one cognizant of and criticizing or defending the Atheist+ name, asking them what they think of when they observe a plus sign; I’m highly confident no significant fraction of this group will conjure up the terms ‘progressivism’ or ‘humanism’. There probably won’t be even one.

    Now add a plus sign to a word, any word, and I’m again people will predominately speculate the term is meant to convey some amped-up version of what that that word means.

    MissMarie:

    No one group owns the term “atheist” yet, predominantly english speaking atheists have claimed (co-opted) the term despite the fact that speaking english isn’t at all a value of atheism. There is nothing about atheism that requires science based skepticism, yet the community that has claimed (co-opted) atheism is overwhelmingly skeptical. And that is fine and I’ll be the last person to object since I happen to be a skeptic too. But I still can’t understand why the group that you think of as the atheist community “owns” atheism and further how “plus” is a unacceptable qualifier while “progressive” would be fine. Who is being confused and confounded by the use of A+ and how is this confusion impacting the group you identify with?

    Atheists are by definition not an organized group. The word atheist simply means some degree of disbelief in a supernatural being. It is not the name of an organization. So you’re wildly off in your claim that just because there is no organized group, anyone can claim the term as justification for this particular group apparently seeking to misconstrue the definition of the word. This is getting surreal, like it always does when there is no credible argument to made.

  • Michael Heath

    M, Supreme Anarch of the Queer Illuminati,

    Your entire post @ 49 has absolutely nothing to do with anything I’ve written. Which is probably why you didn’t quote anything I previously wrote.

    What I am observing in this thread is zero arguments worthy of even mild consideration in defense of Atheist+ members attempting to co-opt the definition of atheism to promote a political ideology. And the only person on this thread who has demonstrated the ability to make consistently good arguments, Ed Brayton, is avoiding the topic altogether with the exception of using a fatally defective analogy as I pointed out @ 9.

  • michaellatiolais

    Well, here is a quote from PZ which pretty much sums it up(I’m responsible for the bold bit):

    It’s an emergent movement, bubbling up out of resentment at some of our atheist “allies” who turn out to be regressive thugs. We can’t very well kick them out of the atheist movement — none of us have that power, and they legitimately are real genuine atheists who just happen to also be assholes. And some of us don’t like associating with them.

    So, there is a clear recognition that this does not encompass all of atheism. And, as I have noted, this is not an attempt to co-opt the whole movement, as if that were even possible. This is simultaneously an effort to bring awareness of these points to the general atheist movement as well as create a safe haven for those affected by the people opposing this movement.

    Frankly, I am not worried one bit about the atheist movement, as I think that most atheists will either be positive or neutral towards A+. If that assumption is wrong, then the atheist movement needs to fail, and be replaced by something better.

  • michaellatiolais

    Michael Heath wrote:

    Now add a plus sign to a word, any word, and I’m again people will predominately speculate the term is meant to convey some amped-up version of what that that word means.

    Wait. If you believe that people would read A+ as “amped up atheism,” doesn’t that imply that they would still recognize what “atheism” meant in isolation?

  • John Phillips, FCD

    Atheism+ = Atheism + a focus on social justice as we consider our atheism and social justice inextricably linked. It doesn’t matter so much, to me anyway, if people outside A+ don’t get it, they can always ask* as it is meant as much an explicit sign that you are dealing with another atheist who shares your values on social justice and/or as signifying a safe place to discuss relevant issues. Now from what I have read by you Michael on here over the last couple of years or so, I don’t see you disagreeing with our aims, only perhaps our label. That’s fine, nobody is forced to join, it is an opt in group.

    If over time more and more atheists agree with ‘our side’, then yes, it is likely that over time the + might be dropped as no longer necessary. It’s a bit like hoping that one day the term atheist will be redundant. But until then, it is, as mentioned above, an useful signifier to others. And as to whatever other modifier we might have added to atheist instead, plenty would still have found reason to disagree with it, many of which would have been the same ‘splitting’ the movement argument or confusion over whatever other modifier we used with any existing use of the modifier.

    Plus what the other Michael in post #52 quoted from PZ, pretty much covers the attitude of many who decided that A+ was needed and more a match for how they stood.

  • valhar2000

    gee, I guess I’m a “soft” atheist too, despite my possession of a penis

    Well, we only have you word for it: we will need photographic proof.

  • eric

    Heath:

    Nearly all people are not going to even encounter, let alone distinguish, this group’s rationalization for calling themselves atheists while actually being something distinctly more, in fact an ideological “more”.

    IMO that’s not relevant. Its not Hyundai’s job to make every single person on Earth aware that they aren’t the same company as Honda. Its up to them to draw a clear distinction in their own materials, so that they are not intentionally deceiving anyone and so that informed buyers can easily figure out that there’s a difference.

    The same goes here. A+ is not obligated to choose a name so different from “atheist” that no mouth-breather in Ken Ham’s congregation would confuse the two. They have a much lower obligation: to not intentionally deceive. To explain the difference in their materials, so that people looking in to what A+ is can easily understand how they are a distinct from ‘atheism’ writ large. I think they’ve done that. So, no co-option, any more than “Southern Baptist” is co-option of the term “Baptist.”

    I think your “nearly all people” thing is a complete red herring. Its not co-option just because some ignorami hearing the term for the first time will confuse A+ with general atheism. Its co-option if someone genuinely trying to understand the difference can’t, because the difference isn’t clear in the material about A+. And that is not the case.

  • Nick Gotts (formerly KG)

    we want to stand for Americans, but bow ties are equally important to us. So we’ll call ourselves Americans+bow ties, or Americans+ for short – lofgren

    No, when you remove the ‘bow ties’, you revert write back to ‘Americans’ alone. – Michael Heath

    No, you don’t: you revert to “Americans+”. Nor can you, or anyone else, produce a single statement by anyone involved in setting up Atheism+ that claims those atheists opposed to social justice, or opposed to Atheism+, are not atheists.

  • @Michael Heath

    FYI there’s an “n” in my name. It’s MissMarnie, like the Alfred Hitchcock movie, Marnie.

    Anyway, back to your point. You keep saying how people are going to misunderstand what A+ is. I don’t know who these people are that you think will misunderstand. They certainly aren’t current members of the active atheist community, but let’s say that parallel universe Michael Heath has never hung out online and gets his first computer and starts looking up atheist groups.

    Currently, on google, I look up “atheist group” and in the first two pages, not a single reference to Atheism+ comes up (haven’t checked further). But let’s say parallel universe Michael Heath trips over a reference to A+ and thinks to himself, “gosh what’s this now?” He does a search for Atheism Plus, and the top hit is the home page for A+ and it explains exactly what it is, in no uncertain terms. Anyone who reads that can either stay or leave.

    This is totally different than, say, a comparison of local chapters of The Humane Society and the Humane Society of The US, the latter of which co-opts the HS name, and suggests it supports local shelters when it’s simply an advocacy group that relies on donations from misled people. That is a group that has co-opted a name and they do so, to take donations from people who believe they are donating to local animal shelters.

    If your argument is that people will be confused, well, “humanist” and “progressive” don’t mean anything unless a person has a point of reference and the same is true with “+”. A+ has no interest in attracting people who are not on board with their goals. Having someone there who thinks that women are buzz kills if they don’t like to be groped or that men aren’t men if they can’t kill and dress a buffalo, isn’t their goal. They aren’t trying to take away one member’s resources for their own, they are simply creating a safe space to discuss matters that are effecting them in the atheist community. Many remain active in the atheist community at large.

    So you’re wildly off in your claim that just because there is no organized group, anyone can claim the term as justification for this particular group apparently seeking to misconstrue the definition of the word.

    Well, anyone who has no belief in any deities can claim to be atheists because they are. So nothing has been misconstrued. A group of conspiracy theorists or tarot card readers can all start atheist groups. They can even call themselves the “Atheists of the Greater Detroit Area” or wherever they are from and if they are a group of non-believers, there is absolutely nothing misleading about that. And since the A+ group is completely open and clear about what they are and what their focus is, there is nothing nefarious or misleading going on.

  • “gee, I guess I’m a “soft” atheist too, despite my possession of a penis”

    Viagra and Cialis will be fighting for that market segment, within two weeks of this being posted.

    I really have a hard time figuring out how to join an atheist group or an anarchist group. It just seems counter-intuitive to me. GOD is THE authority figure for a lot of folks. I don’t need him and don’t need a replacement for him.

    Atheists+, regular atheists, jewish (& christian) atheists–I don’t need to worry about any of that shit.

    People that are misogynists, racists, anti-liberty or any of the many flavors of bigot that exist are just fucking assholes. That many of them are christian and republican is probably an indicator about the way republicans view other people but I, happily, am an independent.

    And, yes, I’m aware that this comment is probably not germane–I don’t care.

  • @15

    This will be quick because I have class tomorrow, but:

    1) Yes, gender is arbitrary. 2) Persons who are born of the female sex or who are true gonadal intersex are both able to (potentially) become pregnant and give birth. And 3) one’s sex does not equal one’s gender.