How the Atheist Movement Failed Me – Part 2: Dealing with Diversity

A few weeks ago, I detailed a specific failure of the organized atheist/secular movement regarding cost and accessibility. This week, I am back with the second and final chapter — See? I don’t have that many complaints! — of specific areas where I have felt that the atheist and secular community have fallen short.

Without further ado:

Aggressively policing each other for not focusing “enough” on “atheist issues” and general hostility for those who deviate from the script.

The amount of pushback that certain topics get — feminism and social justice, in particular — from the atheist blogosphere rivals any squabbles that I have seen in Christian spaces, often times with equivalent or greater vitriol and self-righteousness. The problem, though, isn’t that we fight amongst ourselves — I consider that a positive sign that we are working through tough issues. (Coincidentally, Greta Christina wrote a post on this very topic that says everything better than I could. As usual.)

The problem is that many of us — myself included — will often offer critiques that lack or completely forego the level of critical thinking and reason that we apply to religious belief. Part of the reason these squabbles are so dangerous is that a) demanding that atheism be limited to God-and-only-God actively excludes anything that falls beyond it and b) they potentially exclude entire populations who may be more inclined to agree with the god-and-only-god issue, if we would only put it in terms that are more relevant to their own interests. Not dealing with these problems is detrimental to our (hopefully movement-wide) goal of being more inclusive.

The thing is: Discussions are not a zero-sum game. If I decide to talk about social justice and why I think it’s important, it does not prevent anyone else from discussing other topics. More importantly, discussing my own interests — in topics like feminism or social justice — may be able to convince religious people who also care about those topics to take a second look at their own faith.

This perspective is particularly puzzling considering that people who comment to gripe about the fact that a blog post isn’t directly about atheism are probably perfectly capable of starting their own blog and publishing posts on whatever topic they please. (And, for the record, I stumbled into this whole blog-writing business by tentatively emailing Hemant about a post I had written on my personal blog that I felt might be relevant to FA readers; I had no prior presence in the online community and was pleasantly surprised to find that my limited perspective was welcome, too, despite my newbie status and non-existent following. One of the best things — yes, something positive! — about the atheist movement is its grassroots nature; anyone with an internet connection and decent writing skills can become an advocate for the atheist community. No need for approval from an Atheist Pope!)

We all know that atheists come from every corner of the known universe, in every size, shape, and color, yet our mainstream representation is still predominantly white and male. Presumably, women make up around 50% of the atheist movement, yet we still struggle to achieve parity in terms of speaking engagements, leadership roles, conference attendance, and attendance at local events, as well as a pattern of hearing our concerns belittled or erased entirely. Anecdotally, the events I have attended — both local group meetings and larger conferences — have been dominated by white men, both in attendance and leadership roles. I had the best time at the Madison Freethought Conference but was still unsettled that women made up only 19% of the speakers. (Other conferences have been improving in this regard, but not without proactively attempting to level the playing field. Being race- or gender-blind does nothing but reinforce the status quo.) I just moved across the country, and one of the first things my husband and I did was look on Meetup.com to search for non-theist/atheist gatherings. At the Skeptics in the Pub event we attended, I was the only woman in attendance until the grand total of three other women trickled in over the course of the evening, out of the fifteen or twenty-odd individuals who came.

Does this mean that I won’t be attending any more conferences or local meetups? Absolutely not! Quite frankly, if I value community with non-believers, these meetups are my only option (If I want to develop relationships with like-minded individuals outside of the internet, that is — and I wholly accept that an online level of community may be all that some people need). The questions are why is this the reality and what can we do to change it?

We say that we want atheism to be an inclusive movement, but our actions betray us by constantly reverting to a script of what we think the atheist movement “ought” to care about. If we really want more diverse representation in the atheist movement, in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, and personal priorities, then we need to honor that diversity rather than questioning whether or not it should exist and have a platform. If we want diversity in our movement, we have to fight to include it, not skate by doing the same-old, same-old and expecting that women, minorities, and families will feel included in a movement that does not seem to reflect their needs, or cares to.

This is why the “this isn’t an atheist issue; why are we wasting time on it?” question is so frustrating to deal with, particularly when atheist blogs are often dominated with topics that are not directly related to atheism, but are relevant to the secular movement at large. Even separation of church and state isn’t linked in any way to why we don’t think gods exist; to be a complete pedant, if we want atheism to stay entirely “pure” and “relevant” we should really only be talking about why we don’t believe in the supernatural and nothing more. We can completely accept blog posts concerning the fight for marriage equality, but post something about feminism and commenters run for their torches and pitchforks. Which is kind of strange, considering that both feminism and social justice intersect with religious dogma in the same way the GLBTQ movement does. So why is it acceptable for atheists to talk about gay marriage when other non-atheist topics are treated with contempt and constant trolling?

The hardest thing I have faced in a classroom as an educator thus far has been attempting to explain concepts that feel like second nature. Grammar? I just know that sentence is incorrect; how can I explain the problems in this sentence to an individual that doesn’t know the difference between a subject and verb?

The same is true, I think, for belief and identity. When I deconverted, I learned a ton. I spent hours and hours reading, listening to podcasts and debates, and writing privately on my own. Lots of people recognize the insanity in their own religion and thus arrive at the belief that their god doesn’t exist. But it’s a much tougher leap to believe that no gods exist.

Similarly, the only way to understand what the world is like through the eyes of a woman or a homosexual or a racial minority or a poor person or pretty much any non-mainstream identity is by listening to them. Not by telling them to “stay on topic.” There is a strong current of hyper-skepticism demanded of feminist and social justice issues within the online atheist community — particularly in the recent discussions about the need for adoption of harassment policies — that is not demanded of other topics, and that hyper-skepticism places marginalized groups in the difficult and uncomfortable position of justifying their needs and desires.

The problem lies in the fact that many atheists a) seem content to defend atheism’s narrow script and b) demand that evidence be presented to justify listening to the claims in the first place. So the deck is already stacked against the few people with the guts to address the issues tangential-but-still-related to atheism; they either say nothing and their silence exacerbates the current climate, or they jump into the fray and wind up burnt out and/or threatened. Thankfully, in the time it took me to compose this piece, Jen McCreight and a battery of whip-smart commenters have conveniently created a new label for atheists concerned with social justice, and I think you’re sexy if you’re rocking the A+ label. (Let’s be friends.)

And, although this is just my personal opinion, I think it’s important for atheists to be on the right side of history, and to apply reason and evidence to all areas of life, not just the comfortable parts. That means we have to start exploring areas where belief in god plays a secondary role to another issue. After all, what good is demanding reason and evidence if it’s only being used in one compartmentalized area of your life?

(Image via Shutterstock)

About amanda

Amanda is a pie-baking, music-listening, lindy-hopping, yoga-doing, power-tool-wielding feminist, atheist, and wife. She divides her time equally between cooking delicious things, trying to make nice with the house cat, and ranting about religion.

  • http://johnm55.wordpress.com/ johnm55

    I can’t really get my  head round why certain members of the non-theist community thing that the only thing that matters is a belief on non-belief in  god or gods. Having, on the basis of available evidence, come to the conclusion that the existence of a supreme being was highly unlikely, I moved on and looked at what needed to be done to improve our planet.
    Perhaps it it because here in the United Kingdom the Culture Wars are at a much lower level than in the USA, and religion, especially Evangelical Christianity is much less in your face. Stating that you are an Atheist or an Agnostic has less of a polarising effect than it appears to do on the other side of the Atlantic.
    Consequently, even as an Old White Man© I feel that working for social justice in all its forms is more important than constantly rehashing the arguments for why god doesn’t exist. Yes, taking apart creationist arguments is fun for a while, but so is shooting fish in a barrel, and after the first couple of times it just gets boring.
    Leave that behind, get behind the fight for gender equality, racial equality, and economic justice, it can get hard and dispiriting, but never boring

    • AndyTK

      I agree, but that’s not what we do here.  You can belong to multiple groups, each of
      which is focused on different goals.  I
      also belong to environmental groups.  There
      are overlaps between Atheist and environmental groups to the extent that they
      both believe in global warming, but I don’t think Atheist groups ought to
      become as environmentally active as Green Peace.  That’s why we have Green Peace.

      • Patterrssonn

        Except the women discussing feminism were addressing issues within the atheist community. If someone complained about the habit of participants and organizers dumping toxic waste in the lobby at atheist conferences, and then got dumped on because this was an environmental not an atheist issue, your analogy might work better.

        • The Other Weirdo

           Except there have been calls to make feminism an integral part of atheism.

          • Patterrssonn

            Why except?

            • The Other Weirdo

               You started it.

              • Patterrssonn

                Started what? All I did was point out that Andy’s environmental metaphor was crap, then you started going on about some feminist conspiracy to take over atheism.

                • The Other Weirdo

                   I never said “feminist conspiracy”. I said there have been calls to link atheism with feminism, and the calls were on this blog and others. I didn’t once mention any feminist conspiracy.

                • brianmacker

                  He’s either ignorant about these open calls to impose feminist ideology or confused about what a conspiracy is. Conspiracies by definition are done in secret, and what we have here is hardly secret to anyone who isn’t completely ignorant. Complete with nutty step forward, step back, privilege exercises.

            • CelticWhisper

               Because they’re different ideologies and that’s okay.

              Atheism/secularism, as a movement trying to keep religion optional and prevent it from interfering in government, is a good thing.

              Feminism, as a movement trying to raise the status of women in society up to the current status of men in society and keep both at that point so as to make both genders equal, is also a good thing.

              They can certainly be allies, but to necessarily combine them diminishes the significance of both.  People are generally only able to pursue so many goals.  There are people in both movements who are very good at pursuing what they stand for and rallying people to follow them – to ask them to combine movements and wrangle new crowds of people who don’t necessarily believe in the other movement’s tenets (witness, for example, liberal-christian feminists who want equal rights but are not about to give up religious belief) and still keep the movement on track is asking a lot.

              • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

                But no one is trying to combine them. Everyone recognizes that they are different movements. The issue is that whenever feminism is even brought up and mentioned as a useful ally, it is shut down and everyone claims that they’re trying to make all atheists into feminists.

              • Patterrssonn

                You’re making a lot of assumptions there. The first being that asking for women to be treated as equals to men within the atheism ‘movement’ is an attempt to combine atheism with feminism. It blows my mind that people would argue against this.

                I shouldn’t be surprised though as the exact same thing happened in the peace movement in the 80′s and 90′s. Only then the catchphrase was “one issue at a time”.

        • AndyTK

          Global Warming is a problem that makes Atheism look small by comparison.  It has the potential to kill off any species that the human race decides not to preserve while killing BILLIONS of people in the process.  When food prices go up next year because of the global warmed drought we will all be affected by environmental issues.  Atheism is related to this issue since Atheism is generally pro-science and the reason we are not fighting CO2 emissions is due to scientific ignorance.  However, I would never tell other Atheists that they must be environmentalists to be true Atheists or that all Atheists gatherings must be zero emissions.  It is a good analogy for the other difference is that it isn’t YOUR issue while the feminist issue IS YOUR issue.

          • Patterrssonn

            I seemed to have confused you Andy, my post was in reference to your failed analogy.

             If atheists had a habit of dumping toxic/nuclear waste at atheist conventions, why would it be wrong to raise this issue on atheist blogs?

            Because this is how this whole issue started, women addressing misogyny and being attacked  because of it.

            • AndyTK

              I have no problem with creating a sexual harassment policy, and then enforcing that policy.  A+ seems to go far beyond that and by its name implies that everybody that isn’t on board with this new hybrid social movement is a less worthy person.  I also still defend the analogy given that it’s far more than just preventing sexual harassment at conventions.

              • splodie

                I agree. While I understand the idea here I am afraid that all that will happen is that the next round of fighting will be about who deserves the A+ and who doesn’t.

          • brianmacker

            The possibility that everyone goes to hell for eternity makes both atheism and global warming look like small potatoes. You’ve just bought into another doomsday cult. plus the exact opposite is true. It is easy to adapt to climate, and we do it all the time. The reason the carrying capacity of the earth has increased is because of greater economic freedom and the use of fossil fuels. Billions die when you take away those freedoms and we know this because of experiments in Marxist countries with the removal of property rights. If we were to stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow that would actually cause around 6 billion deaths.

            You know, economics is a science too even if there are quack schools of economics like Marxism and Keynesianism that politicians love to fund, and support. No one has died from man made climate change and no one is likely too either.

            It is profoundly anti science to confuse weather with science. Droughts are weather. Climate change is when you move from Canada to Florida, or when you come out of an ice age. The dust bowl was both a bigger drought and have hotter years and more of them than now, for the US. No one confuses that with climate change. It’s weather.

            • AndyTK

              First of all Keynesian economics is much better supported than “trickle down” economics which has been discredited everywhere except the Republican Party.Second of all, while we cannot attribute a single storm or unusually hot summer to global warming if we look at the number of record hot years that have happened in the last decade it is statistically impossible to be a random event.  (Of the top twelve warmest years on record eleven were in the last twelve years).  Once you have established that global warming has caused hotter years and fueled more and larger storms you can pin any death count outside of a statistically reasonable number as being the result of global warming.  Stated another way, I cannot point to a particular death and say that it was caused by global warming, I can point to a higher than average weather related death count and say that a certain number of them were caused by global warming.  So yes, people have already died due to global warming.  A small number to be sure, but we are only getting going.

              • brianmacker

                Andy, You are an ignoramus if you think “trickle down economics” counts as a school of economic thought.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      Because “non-theist” means not believing in a god. And that’s all it means. We should not expect non-theists to get behind anything, or to have any particular beliefs. Being a non-theist carries no responsibility to support or reject any social movements at all. And the implication that it does disenfranchises many atheists and stands against the goals many of us share. It also taints the perception theists have of atheists, essentially politicizing what is inherently non-political, again to our detriment.

      If you’re a humanist, do humanist things. If you’re a secularist, do secularist things. There are no atheist things to do.

      Atheism is a non-thing. It’s boring, and we’ve succeeded when we portray that. I fight for equality! I fight for economic justice! I fight for gender equality! Am I an atheist? Oh, yeah. Yawn. I don’t do these things because I’m an atheist; atheism is just a byproduct of the mindset that led me to these causes in the first place.

      Anybody who does something because of their atheism doesn’t understand atheism, and I think, doesn’t even understand themselves.

      • Glasofruix

        Well said, it’s quite tiring to hear “atheist movement this or that” when it represents nothing more what its name says.

    • brianmacker

      That’s not a life story I can believe. I don’t know of anyone who didn’t give a shit, then became an atheist, then “moved on an looked at what needed to be done to improve our planet”. I’ve always from the start as a child been asking questions and pondering how to improve things. Do you really mean “planet” because who the he’ll cares about planets? It makes you sound like you are obsessed only with things environmental. Don’t you mean the human condition? Weren’t you always concerned about that in one way or another even if only to ask yourself “Why do people steal and is there something better we can do about it?”

      There is no reason why you can’t set up an atheist group specifically to work on “social justice” but there are plenty of religious groups already established to do that, and they share the same misconceptions about what is just that the atheist members would. There are so few atheists that the narrowing of membership in such a group to only atheists seems counterproductive. Unless it is a stotting strategy to advertise how swell atheists are. However that makes no sense because as you understand there is nothing about atheism per se that motivates one to do ” social justice”. Why not make a group that doesn’t believe in leprechauns to work on “social justice”, at least you will have more members, and you can demonstrate what swell people those who don’t believe in something can be.

      Although some people like me will not appreciate it when “social justice” groups advocate
      policies that screw up the economy like government guaranteed loans to the poor. We still won’t think you are swell.

      Why restrict this to atheist groups. If you like trains then why not join the local train enthusiast group and try to take that over and divert its resources away from the train hobby and into political lobbying for redistribution of income. You can even combine them. You can form a atheist, train hobbits, social justice group.

  • TheAmazingAgnostic

    I have to say that this is a fairly compelling argument for expanding the focus of the skepticism, but I still must disagree with some of the points that  you have made.

    It seems that erasure and ignorance are the main problems faced by women in the atheist movement. Although I am a male, I have certainly noticed the occasional sexist commentary made by well-meaning (yet ignorant) atheist males. Also, I can see that approaching these kinds of issues from a “gender-blind” perspective can easily make women feel as if their concerns do not matter.

    Even still, I must say that I do not want to see our community become an “advocates-only” haven. If I were to be even more honest, there are elements and ideas of more extreme types of feminism (specifically, anti-trans bigotry) that I do not want to see gaining root in the atheist movement.  Advocates (specifically, anti-racists, feminists, and LGBT rights proponents) are fundamentally good to have around in society; they highlight the unfairness experienced by minorities that would otherwise be overlooked and ignored. The only problem is that advocates spend too much of their time arguing over popular figures and “naughty” words instead of focusing on social justice. By exporting advocates to our community, we will be creating more infighting, not preventing it. Honestly, I do not know what the right decision would be in this case.

    Just some food for thought.

    • TheAmazingAgnostic

       (By the way, “food for thought” is a Colbert reference.)

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

        Thought for food.

    • John Small Berries

       Even still, I must say that I do not want to see our community become an “advocates-only” haven.

      Her paragraph about discussions not being a zero-sum game? It already addressed that concern. Just because people want to advocate for social positions doesn’t mean that’ll crowd out every other topic of discussion.

      The only problem is that advocates spend too much of their time arguing
      over popular figures and “naughty” words instead of focusing on social
      justice.

      Actually, judging from Jen McCreight’s Twitter feed over the last few days, they’ll spend most of their time being attacked by people who are furious at the thought of people not accepting their bigotries.

    • brianmacker

      Expanding the focus of the skepticism would involve debunking feminist dogma if we are moving into that arena.

    • brianmacker

      Many of the feminists make not so well meaning yet sexist and ignorant comments about men. Like their asinine belief that a man cannot comprehend what it means to be weaker and smaller than another, and a potential victim. Like they are unaware males go through this stage called childhood.

  • TheAmazingAgnostic

    I have to say that this is a fairly compelling argument for expanding the focus of the skepticism, but I still must disagree with some of the points that  you have made.

    It seems that erasure and ignorance are the main problems faced by women in the atheist movement. Although I am a male, I have certainly noticed the occasional sexist commentary made by well-meaning (yet ignorant) atheist males. Also, I can see that approaching these kinds of issues from a “gender-blind” perspective can easily make women feel as if their concerns do not matter.

    Even still, I must say that I do not want to see our community become an “advocates-only” haven. If I were to be even more honest, there are elements and ideas of more extreme types of feminism (specifically, anti-trans bigotry) that I do not want to see gaining root in the atheist movement.  Advocates (specifically, anti-racists, feminists, and LGBT rights proponents) are fundamentally good to have around in society; they highlight the unfairness experienced by minorities that would otherwise be overlooked and ignored. The only problem is that advocates spend too much of their time arguing over popular figures and “naughty” words instead of focusing on social justice. By exporting advocates to our community, we will be creating more infighting, not preventing it. Honestly, I do not know what the right decision would be in this case.

    Just some food for thought.

  • LesterBallard

    3, 2, 1, . . . .

  • AndyTK

    Let me give the counter argument(s);
    1) First we need to determine if women really are 50% of the Atheist community.  It is my understanding that polls of the general population show that Atheists are generally older, white males.  I suspect that it’s the lack of IRL communities that keep the number of women in the Atheist community down, but I have no study to back that up.  If 80% of Atheists are old white dudes then it isn’t surprising that they dominate the movement.  That isn’t suppression of women, it’s just numbers.  Stating that it’s an oppression of women imposed by old white guys is viewed by old white guys as an attack on their character and most people don’t respond well when they are unjustly accused of being a bad person.
    2) If I were at an Atheist meeting I’d like to hear the best speakers where I define best speakers to be entertaining, informative and motivating.  I don’t give a rat’s ass about color or gender.  Give me Dawkins, Harris, DeGrasse and Christina (never heard her speak but I suspect that it would be good).  I don’t want to waste my time listening to somebody that’s only okay when I can listen to somebody great.  If my first experience at an Atheist conference is marred by poorly executed talks because of a quota system it will be my last.
    3) We shouldn’t be diluting our message.  When I went to Zuccotti Park to protest with occupy Wall Street I was struck by what an unorganized mass they were.  There were people there protesting nuclear power, pro-choice, women’s rights, Indian rights and every left wing issue you could think of in addition to corporate power in the US.  One of the reasons OWS failed as a political movement is that it was never able to get a strong message out because it was so all over the place.  When we have side issues like this I worry about the Atheist movement splintering as well.  It IS a valid concern.
    4) It is just as unrealistic for the Atheist movement to be as hard core about feminist issues as it would be to expect the feminist movement to be as hard core about Atheist issues.  There is a fraternity between the two movements given their common enemy of conservative religion and both movements should be respectful of each other and should strive to be better on each other’s issues than the general public, but it would be too much to ask the feminist movement to eliminate all references to god and to denounce god as part of their basic DNA.  The reverse is also true.
    5) This isn’t so much an argument but where I think we should be.  The name calling has to stop.  Atheists that don’t want to turn the Atheist movement into a feminist pure organization are not bad people, the feminists that want to do so are not bad people either.  Calling each other names, slandering of character etc. is not part of a healthy debate and only serves to show an immaturity of character.  We need to make sure that Atheist events are welcoming and safe environments to all.  We need to figure out how we can attract more women and minorities to the movement.  (and quotas are not the way to do that).  As I said earlier I think one of those ways is to create more IRL communities where we can gather the Atheists and agnostics that are currently in Unitarian Churches because they want a family friendly community, networking, mutual support and a place to teach morals to their kids.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      I think your statement in #4 about not forcing feminists to drop any references to God isn’t really a fair comparison. That’s like saying it’s not fair to have to accept LGBT issues if we can’t also force them to stop believing in God. It would only be fair to say that if there was a clear effort to make all atheists feminists. I don’t see that at all. I see plenty of women standing up and defending the relevance of feminism or why sexual harassment is an important issue. That’s about it. Women speak up for themselves, and all of a sudden, we’re trying to make everyone feminists!! That’s like when atheists speak up for themselves and suddenly that means that they want this to be an atheist country!!
      I see women trying to gain acceptance and respect in the atheist movement, and I guess that’s too much for a lot of men here.

      • The Other Weirdo

         It’s not the women standing up for themselves, that’s not the problem. Its calls on blogs, like this one and Daylight Atheism that I’m aware of, that atheists must also be feminists to be considered atheists.

        • Glasofruix

          People don’t realize that homophobic, racist and misogynistic atheists also exist.

          • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

            Or far more commonly, I think, atheists who simply don’t have GLBT issues, racial politics, or women’s issues very high on their personal radar.

            There is an awful lot of room for people to exist between feminism and misogynism, between gay activism and homophobia.

            • brianmacker

              … Or thick that quite a bit of it is irrational bullshit, and in some cases dangerously and counterproductive irrational bullshit.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

          But that’s not what happens at all. It has never been stated on this blog that all atheists must be feminists. Sometimes there are posts that involve feminism, but it’s not anything radical. It’s typically just about pro-choice issues and the oppression of women by religion.

          Discussing the equal treatment of women is not the same as insisting everyone join a political movement.
          Discussing global warming is not the same as insisting that everyone recycles or uses only environmentally safe products.

          • The Other Weirdo

            Actually, it has, on this blog and others. Some time ago, probably last year, I think.

            • Patterrssonn

              Give us a link then

      • AndyTK

        I support having a sexual harassment policy.  If that was all that the A+ people wanted I’d be fine with it.  We should treat women with respect and we should try to reach out to women and minorities, we shouldn’t however change our priorities to do so or impose some kind of quota system to increase the number of speakers.  You missed the point of my comment, it isn’t that I want a quid pro quo with the feminist movement; it’s that it would be just as ridiculous to force the feminist movement to adopt all of the Atheist positions as it is to force the Atheist movement to accept all of the feminist movements positions.
        It does appear to me that the A+ group wants all atheists to support all of the issues that feminist organizations support and to the level that they support them.  From my standpoint they are trying to remake the Atheist movement into something that goes well beyond Atheism when we have enough on our plate just trying to ensure justice for Atheists in the society as a whole.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

          I don’t see what’s wrong with encouraging people to pay attention to a certain issue or support a certain group. It’s a suggestion, not a command. There are a lot of things posted here that I skim over because it’s not something that I care a lot about. So I skip it. I don’t protest it’s place here, because I know that some people are interested. I don’t feel like I’m forced to care about any issues that are being presented here. I’m just presented with them and I’m allowed to care about them or ignore them.

          • AndyTK

            It seems to be more than just topics on a blog that one can skip over.  The A+ movement wants to change who is on Atheist organization leadership positions, they want to change who is allowed to give talks at Atheist meetings, and they want to impose a feminist/LGBT ideals on Atheism as a whole.  As far as I can tell they want to run the Atheist movement and run it in a way that promotes points of views that have nothing to do with Atheism.

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

              Yeah, because people who have been oppressed by religion won’t have anything interesting to say about religion and atheism.
              See, if atheism is only about how there are no gods, than the atheist movement is pretty pointless. Sure there are no gods, but why does it matter if some people believe there are? Well it does matter because religion is horribly harmful. The harm religion does gives atheism its importance. So why is it off topic to talk about the people harmed by religion?

              • AndyTK

                50% of Americans don’t believe in evolution. 70% of Americans believe in some kind of invisible friend that telepathically listens to them and on occasion helps them out. $71 Billion dollars of tax revenue is lost each year to religious organizations. Prayers are still said at government paid for events. It is harder for an Atheist to get elected to office than any other group.  Dealing with THESE issues is the point of the Atheist movement, and there is plenty of work to do on these issues.

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

                  Yes, you’ve stated that again and again. I agree that these are important issues, however, that does not negate the importance of feminist and LGBT issues that are relevant to atheism.

                • AndyTK

                  Then stop saying that without feminist and LGBT issues Atheisum is pointless.

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

                  Where did I say that? What I did say was that the importance of the atheist movement is to combat the harm done by religion. The things you listed are harms done by religion. Many people feel that LGBT and women’s rights issues should be included with that.

                • AndyTK

                  Strange, I thought I was responding to a comment saying that Atheism by itself was pointless but I cannot find the comment now.  Sorry about that.

              • brianmacker

                Did you even read his comment? Your comment was totally non-responsive.

        • Pseudonym

          It does appear to me that the A+ group wants all atheists to support all
          of the issues that feminist organizations support and to the level that
          they support them.

          No, I don’t get that at all. As I understand it, all the A+ group wants to do is support these issues. If you are A but not A+, then don’t call yourself A+.

          Personally, I’m curious about how A+ will interact with those who are + but not A. But I’m in no hurry to find out; it is early days. I’m just excited that some of the A community is formally adopting the + issues at all.

          • AndyTK

            When they start talking about quotas at meetings and at leadership positions it goes beyond simply wanting to create a web page saying that Atheists support feminist issues, it is a power grab.  They are also the ones calling for people to pick sides.  Like I’ve said elsewhere, if they goal was simply to create a group within the umbrella of Atheism like the Secular Students of America, let’s call it Progressive Atheists, I’d be fine with that.  Instead they want to take over existing groups and enforce quotas over quality while demanding that everybody pick sides; your either with them or a knuckle dragging, women hating dumb ass.

            • brianmacker

              It so blatantly obvious. They even stopped to have a cultish interactive “privilege” reprogramming exercise at one of these sessions.

            • Sally Strange

              When they start talking about quotas at meetings and at leadership positions

              See, I can guarantee that zero people of the A+ social justice persuasion have ever called for quotas. Yes, that’s a broad claim, and I’m making it because you won’t be able to prove me wrong, and it’s a good demonstration of what I was talking about. Someone’s been feeding you misinformation. You have no idea what you’re actually talking about – this isn’t an example of engaging with the reality of what’s going on.

          • Sally Strange

            You know, you could just go ask them. I haven’t posted on the A+ forums in a while, but I recall seeing that sort of discussion when I was checking it out. I know several atheists who also do activism on other issues, and we work with religious people ALL THE TIME. It’s a constant source of amusement and sometimes annoyance. That information is out there. It’s obvious that there’s a big long game of telephone going on about A+, 2nd and 3rd hand information – too many people aren’t bothering to check sources. For shame. Bad skeptics!

      • Pseudonym

        That’s not what I got from point 4 at all. Quite the opposite, in fact.

        Feminism and social justice (as well as humanism, for that matter) has roots which lie partly in religion. Not fundamentalist/conservative religion, of course, but liberal religion. Think of the symbiotic relationship between the suffragette movement and the Christian temperance movement, as one example. It would be unreasonable to ask social justice-minded communities to dump their history.

        On the other hand, atheism doesn’t have a great history of championing feminist causes. (Or social justice causes, for that matter; look at the strong libertarian streak.) It would be unreasonable to ask all atheists to champion feminist causes.

        You rightly point out that eliminating sexual harassment and defending the relevance of feminism within the atheist community is a good thing. However, I think that’s orthogonal to what AndyTK was trying to say.

        If your nontheism inspires you tobe a decent human being, that’s great. But being a decent human being is not an atheist issue, it’s something we should all do.

        On one hand, Hindu feminists, Muslim feminists, Confucian feminists and atheist feminists are all 100% bona fide feminists. On the other hand, atheists should not respect their fellow humans because they’re atheists.  They should respect their fellow humans because it’s right.

        • brianmacker

          Sorry this was supposed to be a reply to Julie.

      • brianmacker

        “Social Justice” is a religious term with deep roots in Christianity, and it has not all been good either.

        • Pseudonym

          I don’t know who used the term “social justice” first, but the idea solidified as a response to the industrial revolution. A lot of that was religious (the Methodists in particular), but a lot was also developed by philosophers like Rawls.

          It doesn’t belong to religion, and it doesn’t belong to atheism. And anything that has been around for long enough doesn’t have a perfect track record.

    • 1000 Needles

      1) First we need to determine if women really are 50% of the Atheist community… If 80% of Atheists are old white dudes then it isn’t surprising that they dominate the movement.  That isn’t suppression of women, it’s just numbers.

      *repeated headdesk*

      Congratulations. That is some real creationist logic right there.

      The Bible is true because the Bible says that it’s true.

      • AndyTK

        No, I’m saying that if older white man make up 80% of the people that are Atheists then one shouldn’t be surprised if 80% of the people at conferences, leadership positions or giving talks are older white men.  It’s a two part argument; the first part is a fact that can be disputed with a poll that shows that it isn’t true.  The second part is a conclusion based on the first part.  It isn’t circular logic.  If you can produce a poll that shows the first part isn’t true then you can invalidate the conclusion.  I’m trying to say that it isn’t a conspiracy of old white dudes or oppression by old white dudes if the leadership/conference speaker percentages roughly matches the over all population.

        • AndyTK

          I’d also add that if only 20% of Atheists are female then requiring 50% of the leadership and speaking spots be held by women isn’t going to increase the number of female Atheists.  Some other method is needed to first convince women that god doesn’t exist so that the base pool from which these positions are filled is brought into balance.

          • Glasofruix

            Leadership of what exactly?

            • AndyTK

              You’d have to ask the A+ leaders about that.  One of their issues is the lack of diversity in “leadership” positions.

          • Patterrssonn

            “I’d also add that if only 20% of Atheists are female then requiring 50%
            of the leadership and speaking spots be held by women isn’t going to
            increase the number of female Atheists.”

            How do you know this?

            • AndyTK

              Because the issue isn’t that the conventions are alienating women, it’s that there are significantly less women in the group to begin with.  Requiring more women speakers, without regard to ability to meet some quota, is not going to increase the number of Atheist women in the general population.  The goal should be to increase the number of women in the general population.  I work in a male dominated field, high end (engineering) software design.  The problem isn’t the work place; it’s that too few women major in computer science.  My suggestion is to create Atheist communities along the lines of Unitarian Churches without the woo (not just IRL meetup groups) that provide a sense of community.  (My problem is with the quotas, not in eliminating name calling and sexual harrasment).

        • Patterrssonn

          Can you give us a link to the study that shows that 80% of atheists are “old white” men?

  • Philstilwell

    I recently had one prominent atheist remove me from her facebook friends after I pointed out the inadequacy of using the vague term “atheist” for a wide variety of nuanced epistemic positions across a wide range of god definitions. She said I had to clearly state I was an “atheist” or not be her facebook friend. And with all the irrational atheists out there, why aren’t people rallying around the term rationalist or something similar? Isn’t rationality the goal rather than a particular (though unnuanced) epistemic stance?

    • http://www.facebook.com/ellenbeth EllenBeth Wachs

       
      Atheist is a vague term?  Since when?
      Anyone can unfriend anyone else for any reason or no reason on facebook as far as I can tell.  I have at-will friendships with the people in my list. If I wake up on the wrong side of the bed tomorrow and you post about Roquefort cheese and I like Stilton, guess what?  I have the prerogative to unfriend you. It may be arbitrary and capricious but so what?

    • Nordog6561

      Doesn’t setting rationality as a goal require one to have already taken a particular epistemic stance?  How do you separate the two?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1465205388 Jack Jesberger

    Atheists are people, and people are always going to be more than atheist.
    As trite as that sounds, this seems to be the point being missed.

    As we carve out a social space for unbelief, as it grows,  it will achieve the numbers required for all the issues in society at large to emerge within it.  This is a sign of success, not doom.  As we progress we should expect atheism in practice (or lack of practice) to become less distinct for this very reason. 

    As the social space occupied by atheists and atheism grows we will have to account for this.  The alternative is for our space to remain too small to sustain the emergence of other issues, or for groups to coalesce around them. This is self defeating in the extreme, in my judgement.

  • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

    I think you are misrepresenting the case, Amanda.

    I’m not sure I ever encountered the “Ooh, don’t talk about social justice issues, because it’s not related to atheism” type atheists you talk about. Surely, there must be some of them out there, but virtually every online atheist community I know is the paragon of inclusivity. They don’t care if you are gay or straight, or white or black, or female or male. Sure, there are assholes out there in really small numbers (compared to other groups), but how are you going to convince these assholes to be beter people if you play no true scotsman and declare them no true atheists, and demonize them and form your own elite club, your own little ivory tower.

    I think you, and Jen, and Greta, and Watson and the rest of the A+ crew are fighting an enemy that’s not there and with the wrong tools.

    For example, saying something along these lines around the A+ team usually gets me called a misogynist, a rape enabler, a servant of the patriarchy, a privileged white male (and those are just the nice things). Then my comment gets deleted by moderators.

    If you read what mainstream news sites publish about abortion then in the comment section surely you must’ve met those rabid women who insist that men are the root of all evil, that males want to take away their rights to their own bodies and such.. despite the fact that according to polls and studies the ratio of males who oppose abortion is around the same as the ratio of females who oppose abortion.

    Your A+ movement reminds me of those women (and yes, some white-guilt harboring men).

    • onamission5

      That you have not personally experienced what Amanda speaks of is a testament to your privilege, by far and away. Be glad you have not come under the assault of that level of vitriol. Having your personal privilege called into question is a much lesser affront than being told your problems aren’t important or don’t exist by people who don’t share your life experiences and being threatened with violence by people who’d rather uphold the status quo than change their behaviors.

      • CelticWhisper

        First off, threatening violence is (obviously, or it should be obvious) never acceptable.  It should be taken seriously and responded to just as seriously.

        That said, how does one quantify privilege?  How do we test for privilege in a controlled setting?  I’ve noticed that in a lot of atheist/feminist discussions, it’s becoming dangerously close to our own version of a “shut up, that’s why” argument.  Dissenting voice?  Obviously they’re speaking from privilege, and the P-word means their words are automatically invalid and we should ignore them.

        I’m not okay with that – a statement is valid or invalid on its own, irrespective of where it comes from.  Things are true or untrue, and if we’re going to apply “privilege” as a litmus test for determining whether or not some sentiment should be heeded, then we damn sure need a reliable and consistent way of proving that A. privilege exists in an objective sense; B. that it is present in the given exchange; and C. that it has applicability and impact on what is being said.  If we begin disregarding salient points based on who is saying them or what that person’s nonspecific life experiences have been, then we’re no better than religious authorities who don’t permit women to be clergy or who spout “old-fashioned” axioms like “children should be seen and not heard.”

        “You’re a woman so you’re wrong.”

        “You’re young so you’re wrong.”

        “You’re privileged so you’re wrong.”

        I have light skin and a Y chromosome, and for my part, I don’t think that renders anything I have to say any more or less impactful than a statement made by any other sound-minded human being.  Now, that’s not to say that WHAT I SAY doesn’t render ITSELF more or less impactful than something someone else says.  If I pontificate on climate change and disagree with someone who is an expert in the field (take, for example, a former girlfriend of mine who recently attained her Ph.D in paleobiology and who studied extensively the effects of climate change in marine bivalves), the expert will have the backing of knowledge and fact and so their statement should be treated with more seriousness, because it can be tested and proven true.  Conversely, if they disagree with me on data networking protocols, odds are my statements will be considered more valid, and for the same reason.

        Now, you’re going to say “that’s fine, but that’s not privilege.  Privilege is when things that have no reasonable impact on the validity of a statement still get that statement taken more seriously.”   And I say, “I know.”  Please don’t take this (now rather long-winded, sorry about that) comment to mean that I don’t understand the concept of what some advocacy groups regard as privilege.  I understand the notion, the mental model, the theory of it.  What I mean to say is that, in all the instances where I’ve seen it applied, it’s been applied unscientifically and sometimes used as a bludgeon to preserve a particular kind of conversational bias.  It has been used to quash dissent.  Not always, but sometimes.  It fails to allow valid points to stand on their own by, perhaps ironically, calling them into question the same way those who are applying it are claiming their own perspectives are called into question.

        “You’re saying I’m wrong because I’m ($RACE).  You’re the one who’s wrong, because ($PRIVILEGE).”  Where the hell does that get us?  At that point it’s nothing more than schoolyard “No, you!” arguing.  What we should all be doing, and I strive to do this as much as possible, is to strip the identity of a speaker from a statement and consider the statement in as much of a vacuum as possible.  It’s not easy.  It takes considerable mental effort to block out all the subconscious, learned social biases and prejudices that we pick up in our lives, and it only gets harder as you get older (though rigorous practice might mitigate that), but it’s worth it.  Consider the words on their own and it will become evident soon enough whether or not they’re worthy of merit.  And if the answer doesn’t become evident, you should at least see some means of testing for it.

        Greta Christina has a beautiful deconstruction of christian “shut up, that’s why” arguments and an explanation of why they’re unacceptable.  As skeptics, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard and not spiral downward into having our own “shut up, that’s why” argument in the form of “calling privilege” on a person’s statement.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

          Well you do have to recognize that social interactions cannot easily be measured in a lab. Similar to your “You’re [blank] so you’re wrong,” it’s also a bit unfair to just say, “If you can’t prove it, you’re wrong,” when the proof is something that’s not black and white. I agree with you that it can be unfair to dismiss someone’s argument simply by saying they’re privileged. However, you didn’t seem to pay attention to the actual reason that onamission brought that up, you just talked about why you didn’t like that word without actually looking at it’s context.
          Morva first dismissed Amanda’s argument as “just a few assholes” and not something that actually happens (Really?? I’ve seen it almost every time feminism is discussed on this blog!). Then he turned it around so we knew that the real problem is when he comments and is then called sexist.
          To put that in a different perspective, imagine a gay person explaining to a straight, anti-gay person why there needs to be more gay acceptance. The gay person explains all the bullshit he had to put up with, like bullying and name calling. The straight person quickly explains that actually, there’s plenty of gay acceptance, those were just a few assholes, but also how are you ever going to get them to accept you if you demonize them and call them out for being assholes? Gay rights aren’t an issue. The real issue is that whenever I talk about how I feel about gays, I’m called a bigot and a homophobe, and it really hurts my feelings.
          Perfect example of privilege. Denying someone else’s experience as an oppressed group, simply because you (as the non-oppressed group) have never really noticed.

          • CelticWhisper

            A. Thanks for responding civilly.
            B. I agree it’s difficult to measure social interaction.  I see what you’re saying in your gay/straight framing of the issue and I don’t disagree that that happens.  The problem I see with it is that the heterosexist jerkweed could just as easily turn around and say that the gay person was privileged because so many people go out of their way to be politically-correct but nobody cares about being considerate to poor old straight people.  You can bet they’ll do it if they’re christian, as it seems to be their favorite standby.  “We’re so put-upon, we’re so oppressed, the bible even says so, wah wah wah.”  So then we get into…isn’t that what they call “oppression olympics?”

            It pings (rightly so) on our bullshit detectors, but it’s not so easy, if possible at all, to conclusively disprove. 

            As you said, it’s hard to quantify social interaction (“creepy” is another word I’ve heard thrown around a lot in these discussions that bothers me similarly – nobody seems interested in quantifying it) but that’s perhaps an argument in itself for eschewing the use of words like “privilege” and “creepy.”  You illustrate a clear case of wrongdoing and mistreatment, but is it objectively an example of oppression and/or privilege?

            Clearly it is unjust.  Clearly it should not happen – the gay person in your example should not have had to endure what they did, and the straight person should be showing more compassion than they are.  How, though, do we know for certain whether it meets an objective criterion for privileged oppression?  We can set out dictionary definitions but they’re vulnerable to nitpicking.

            Another point to consider, though, is whether we need the concept at all.  I would argue that it’s not necessary to see “straight privilege” in your scenario in order to see that it is wrong.  A person was mistreated and another person is failing to show compassion for them.  That, in itself, seems proof enough that all is not right in the land of Oz.  Perhaps it’s best to just focus on righting wrongs without having to wrap them in terminology that can be used to discredit the secularist community.

            Anyway, thanks again for your thoughts.  It’s nice to hear from someone like you who is willing to discuss the points of a matter instead of ignoring what I write and accusing me of not caring about women or being a rape apologist.  I think you’re a good person.

        • onamission5

          I agree with you that a salient point ought not to be dismissed out of hand just because someone comes from a privileged group.  Hell, I come from a couple privileged groups. Most of us have some level of privilege, and as such, our perspectives are skewed by our experiences.  I understand that there’s sometimes a rush to disregard people who appear to be JAQing/derailing when they quite possibly aren’t, after all, it can be hard to tell a dog whistle from genuine desire to understand. We know this just from interacting with creationists! I do wish that more people would argue in good faith rather than jumping all over someone who doesn’t “get it” as though they had bad intentions.

          Here’s where I say “BUT!” But… just as pretty much all atheists who’ve spent any length of time in online forums can tell fairly quickly who’s trying to derail or distract or disingenuously reframe us as the problem, so can pretty much any social justice activist when it comes to the topic in which they are most well versed. There’s some things we hear over and over that are the equivalent of “why are there still monkeys?” and “why are you atheists soooo angry?” Arguing with that shit in good faith is frustrating, as we all know, because that kind of question is rarely asked in good faith itself, so answerers usually respond in kind. Just as in social justice, sometimes we alienate a potential ally who really did want a sensible answer. We need to work on that, sure, absolutely, but (again with the but) having occasional off target knee-jerk responses to familar dog whistle/derail techniques doesn’t negate the need for that type of activism any more than occasionally jumping all over a well meaning but annoying or ignorant creationist doesn’t negate the need for atheist activism.

          • CelticWhisper

             Thank you, too, onamission5 for responding reasonably.  You and Julie have given me the best replies I’ve had in a while and though I’m not convinced I agree with you 100%, I appreciate your civility.

      • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

        You know, the other day I was commenting on a post on moveon.org’s FaceBook page. The post was about Todd Akin’s bigoted and unspeakable comments regarding ‘legitimate rape’.

        There were about a hundred-something comments and there were about 7-8 comments saying things like ‘Male is the most evil gender’, ‘Men are stupid’, ‘Men, don’t pretend you can know anything about a woman’s biology’ and one lady summed up my gender with the words.. penis-people.

        An awful lot of voices from A+ decided to do something like that: the white old male is the enemy and the career of Richard Dawkins should crash and burn, and as a white male you can’t possibly understand the issues around women, or LGBT people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

    If Atheism is entirely restricted to professing unbelief and not addressing other issues, what good is it?

    • AndyTK

      50% of Americans don’t believe in evolution.  70% of Americans believe in some kind of invisible friend that telepathically listens to them and on occasion helps them out.  $71 Billion dollars of tax revenue is lost each year to religious organizations.  Prayers are still said at government paid for events.  It is harder for an Atheist to get elected to office than any other group.  Excuse me but we have A LOT of work to do with regards to simple Atheism without having to go looking for some new distraction.

      • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

        Those issues don’t really matter to non-Atheists, though. Some of them might not even matter to Atheists, who are more concerned with discrimination they experience at the hands of religion. Religion has infiltrated all aspects of society and actively damages women, gays and many other groups that could be allies.

        • AndyTK

          This is an Atheist movement.  There are other organizations that focus on those other issues.  We can all multi-task and be members of more than one movement.  I’m an environmentalist, I want to repeal the Citizens United decision, I canvased for Elizabeth Warren a couple of weeks ago and I’m an Atheist.  I don’t expect these groups to all hold all my different views, I expect each to fight for its intended purpose.  Yes they can be allies, yes they can be friends, but I expect them to focus on their given task with a laser like focus.  People that are not Atheists that want to focus on women’s issues should join the appropriate group if for no other reason than that’s their goal.

          • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

            That’s a valid opinion. If this Atheist+ thing catches on, then there’ll be a clear choice for new atheists as to the issues they want to focus on.

    • Glasofruix

      There in no atheist “movement”, atheism is a lack of belief in a deity, nothing more. The other qualities (humanism, rationality, feminism etc..) are just addons that people like to glue to the term for simplicity.

      • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

        Then why discuss it? If atheism is just a lack of belief what’s the point of a site like this? Specifically, why are you here? (asking in curiosity, not as an attack)

        • Glasofruix

          Because religious stupidity makes me sad. Jokes aside, why not? It looks like there’s a huge downside being an atheist in the US, why not discuss it or show to people that’s it’s ok to not belive in idiotic nonsense?

          • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

             Well, you just said that atheism is only about not believing in god(s). If it’s also about the treatment of atheists, and also about religious privilege in society, then we’ve expanded the scope some.

          • Sally Strange

            Why does religious stupidity make you sad? Atheism has nothing to do with finding stupidity encouraging or depressing. Why are you trying to dilute the pure meaning of atheism? It’s just the lack of belief in gods. It entails no opinions about other peoples’ intelligence or behavior.

  • onamission5

    A good part of what has kept me coming back to this atheist blog and a couple others, rather than some alternate ones out there, is the focus on social justice as it relates to both atheism and religion.  I’ve been an atheist long enough to have already hashed out my reasons for not believing in things like deities and alien volcano spirits.  If belief in woo was the only problem which we had in the world, then I could see focusing our combined efforts on god-and-bigfoot alone, but it isn’t. Religion so often intersects with the wrong side of social justice. Isn’t that our main complaint about religion and the religious? That they err on the side of exclusivity and intolerance, to the detriment of women, minorities, et al? If so, why would we want to model them? If we are to oppose the harmful effects of religion on society, then we have to likewise promote inclusiveness, understanding and tolerance. We do no good if we are the same as religionists in our attitudes toward the disenfranchised, simply minus worship of deities or belief in homeopathy.

    I don’t understand those who say that inclusiveness and social justice are causes of divisiveness. Divisive of what?  No one is going to be forced to work on a social justice cause if that is not in their perview. I ask– what harm does it do to also address social justice as it relates to a secular society, in addition to how it relates to religion? What harm does it do to atheism as a whole to confront those who’d prefer to keep the status quo just because it benefits them, or because it reenforces their personal bias? What harm does it do to *not* address social justice within our community? What’s worse?

    Observe problem —> address problem. Isn’t that how the vast majority of us got to be skeptics in the first place?

    • Eltrain

      Interestingly, TAM 2011 speaker lineup was 50% women and over 40% women attendees. Clearly they were reaching out to a greater audience as this was done through design, not happenstance. A year later, and hundreds of blogs and threads later, TAM is the facilitator of everything evil in the atheist/skeptical movement. Just being a critical thinker you don’t have to drill to deep to see something wrong with this calculus.
      This issue should never have gotten to the level it has and yet here we are. Richard Carrier, telling me I have to take sides, or…what? Burned at the stake, nailed to a cross. Can’t be part of his group.
      Which of these seems worse, DJ miss peaking or Richard threatening? Or, quite frankly Jen saying what you can or can’t be into the A+ group.

    • AndyTK

      50% of Americans don’t believe in evolution.  70% of Americans believe in some kind of invisible
      friend that telepathically listens to them and on occasion helps them out.  $71 Billion dollars of tax revenue is lost
      each year to religious organizations. 
      Prayers are still said at government paid for events.  Excuse me but we have A LOT of work to do
      with regards to simple Atheism without having to go looking for some new
      distraction.

  • Darth Cynic

    “We say that we want atheism to be an inclusive movement, but our actions betray us by constantly reverting to a script of what we think the atheist movement “ought” to care about.”

    But that’s exactly what this A+ thing does, tell us what the movement ought to be about and if you don’t agree with their list and their agenda, then you’re persona non grata on the other side of the rift.

    “Thankfully, in the time it took me to compose this piece, Jen McCreight and a battery of whip-smart commenters have conveniently created a new label for atheists concerned with social justice, and I think you’re sexy if you’re rocking the A+ label. (Let’s be friends.)”

    From my read of it all they haven’t really created a new label for atheists concerned with social justice issues so much as they’ve created a label that they expect all atheists to adopt, and if you don’t then you’re some vile, disgusting individual to be avoided or chucked back underground likening you to C.H.U.D.  There is nothing in the least bit friendly about Carrier’s screed on the matter, a hyperbole infused piece of dreck that calls on folks to publicly pick sides so the hierarchy can know who is friend and who is to be cast out.  Last time I looked the sterling defence consisted of calling those who weren’t subscribing douchebags, telling em to GTFO and responding to points by asserting the person to be irrational thus magically negating their points without further ado.  So far no one over there of note, or otherwise, that I am aware of has called him on it or distanced themselves from it.  Nor is there much sign of critical reasoning as it would seem as though certain issues have been decided and are now beyond question lest ye yearn to be a sinner and have need of repenting.

    “I think it’s important for atheists to be on the right side of history, and to apply reason and evidence to all areas of life, not just the comfortable parts. That means we have to start exploring areas where belief in god plays a secondary role to another issue. After all, what good is demanding reason and evidence if it’s only being used in one compartmentalized area of your life?”

    It is important but it is not for you, me or some self appointed people to tell everyone else what issues and what version of them they should be fighting for.  I’ll choose what issue and what version of same I’ll support and I’ll go to the most appropriate place to do that.  That to me is what A+ stands for, we the leaders decide the issues and you the people get with the program or GTFO you’re the enemy.  If McReight et al want to focus on issues that concern them then fantastic, do that and make a difference.  Just don’t expect everyone to share the same level of commitment or advocacy, and leave those who want to stick to more direct issues to do that without the opprobrium and labelling as lesser people to be ostracised.

    • onamission5

      “But that’s exactly what this A+ thing does, tell us what the movement ought to be about and if you don’t agree with their list and their agenda, then you’re persona non grata on the other side of the rift.”

      No. As has been stated time and again, A+ is supposed to be a safe space in which to work on social justice issues free from the drag of hyperskepticism and mean spirited attempts at derailing. Anyone who doesn’t have it in them to work on social justice doesn’t have to. The people who get ostracised, as you put it, are those who actively and maliciously try to get in the way, who try to interfere, sabatoge, threaten, silence, in an effort to stop a focus on social justice from happening. 

      If you don’t have it in you to wear more than one hat, that’s fine, do what you’re good at. Just don’t try to shut down the efforts of others who can wear two or three hats at once!

      • The Other Weirdo

        Safe spaces tend to become insular and hide-bound, unable to handle criticism and new ideas, and increasingly out-of-touch with the reality on the ground. People who merely question the premises of the safe-space group are deemed malicious trolls out to interfere, sabotage, threaten and silence, mostly because they dared question a dogma that must never be questioned.

        Just saying…

        • CelticWhisper

          This makes sense to me.  It’s not inherently bad to have a “safe space” (why does that term irk the shit out of me?  Is it just the absurdity of using it to refer to a website, which is sectors on a disk and not a space at all; or is it the alliteration, or what?) but it must be acknowledged that the nature of that “space” then precludes a measure of skepticism, because a core tenet of skepticism is that “sacred” doesn’t exist – everything is open to question and analysis.

          • Patterrssonn

            “why does that term irk the shit out of me?”

            Because you don’t give a shit about women feeling safe?

            • CelticWhisper

               Nope, you’re definitely wrong about that.  I care about all people feeling safe.  Which you’d have seen in this sentence:

              The matter of providing a physical place for people to go and be
              confident that they will not be assaulted or harmed is another one
              altogether, and ideally, all of society would be such a place.

              if you’d actually read my comment instead of spouting off unfounded assumptions.

              • Patterrssonn

                I did read your comment, CW, it’s just the usual Skeptik wank.

            • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

               lol, obviously! That must be it! Is there a ‘radical feminist’ equivalent of Poe’s law? I seriously can’t tell if you’re doing a parody of atheism+ or not. If you are a Poe, congrats, though.

              • Patterrssonn

                What’s a ‘radical feminist’?

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

                  It’s funny…radical feminist is actually a specific movement, but that seems to go over their heads. Actual radical feminism basically deals with the idea that because of patriarchy, pretty much everything we do is unequal and all sex is rape and all men are rapists. They’re pretty crazy. But around here, mention that feminism is relevant to atheism and that it would be nice to include more women at conferences, and you’re now a radical feminist!

                • Patterrssonn

                  I remember reading Andrea Dworkin and taking it seriously myself, it seemed important at the time as though it was necessary to go overboard in response to epidemic male violence. In retrospect I don’t know how helpful it was in the end, and it occasionally became surreal when radical feminists defended Karla Homolka, claiming she was as much a victim as the girls she helped kill.

                  I thought it had died out in the 90′s like recovered memory syndrome.

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

                  The thing that really pissed me off about it was that they were saying that when you can never really say no to sex, then all sex is rape. I agree with that except…as imperfect as our society is, the majority of men will still listen if you say no, especially in a healthy relationship. It also seemed very anti-feminist because it seemed to imply that women don’t actually want or enjoy sex.

                • The Other Weirdo

                   We understand that. We, or at least I, simply don’t care.

                  For the same reason that I simply don’t care that many Christians, for example, are against tying religion in with government. They are silent and they allow the strident minority to speak for them. A movement is defined by the voices that speak, not those who are silent.

                  So it is with feminism.

        • Patterrssonn

          “Safe spaces tend to become insular and hide-bound”

          Do they, and how did you come up with this brilliant assertion?

          • The Other Weirdo

             Really? That’s the best you’ve got? Male privilege and feminazis? You couldn’t come up with an original point of your own?

            • Patterrssonn

              What do you mean?

        • onamission5

          I don’t understand what you’re saying. Are you saying that no one should create safe spaces for marginalised people, because you find them insular?

          I find unsafe spaces to be far more insular than safe ones, personally.

          • The Other Weirdo

             Marginalized? Who’s talking about marginalized people?

            • onamission5

              If we’re talking about creating safe spaces for social justice activism, then we’re talking about safe spaces for marginalised people, since that’s pretty much the whole focus of social justice activism.

              • The Other Weirdo

                 Or people who are perceived by themselves to be marginalized. Before we start building specific safe spaces for marginalized people in a specific way let’s ensure that there, in fact, people marginalized in a specific way.

                • Patterrssonn

                  I don’t know how it is on the planet you inhabit but here on earth we have something called sexism.

                • The Other Weirdo

                   User interface failure. I won’t be responding to individual branches any more.

                  Yes, I know. But so what? Sexism is often in the eye of the beholder. But you know that.

                • Patterrssonn

                  “sexism is often in the eye of the beholder” Well I know sexism is something experienced by women and there are a lot of men who are threatened by the idea of women speaking out against it as it threatens their privilege. But you know that.

            • Patterrssonn

              We are

      • Darth Cynic

        “No. As has been stated time and again, A+ is supposed to be a safe space in which to work on social justice issues free from the drag of hyperskepticism and mean spirited attempts at derailing.”

        But who is it that decides what is “hyperskepticism” or mean attempts at derailing?  The hierarchy does is the message I’m getting, we decide for you or you can GTFO.  I’ve personally seen – but from only my own perspective and possible bias – very reasonable criticisms and questions treated as though the very existence of them is an affront to all decency.  I’m not trying to prove anything to you but I think one persons hyperskepticism is anothers reasonable question and one cannot simply declare things to be sacred beyond question, that’s what the religious folks do.

        “The people who get ostracised, as you put it,”

        It’s not as I put it it’s exactly as they put it, I don’t read “kicking the C.H.U.D. back into the sewers” as anything less.

        “If you don’t have it in you to wear more than one hat, that’s fine, do what you’re good at. Just don’t try to shut down the efforts of others who can wear two or three hats at once!”

        I’m not trying to shut down the efforts of those who want to do more or wear more hats at once, they can if they want to and are able to, more power to em.  My issue is with being told that I should be directly involved or supporting them or I’m an evil, disgusting person to be shunned as Carrier so eloquently puts it in his call to visibly ‘pick’ sides,

        “In the meantime, are you an atheist? Do you identify as an atheist? Then I call upon you to pick sides within our movement (not in comments here, but publicly, via Facebook or other social media): are you with us, or with them; are you now a part of the Atheism+ movement, or at least cheer and approve it’s values and aims (since you don’t have to label yourself), or are you going to stick with Atheism Less and its sexism and cruelty and irrationality?”

        What a preposterous dichotomy, you’re either with us or you must be sexist, cruel and irrational, one of the ‘lesser’ people from these enlightened giants.  Nor am I buying the revision that by being for social justice however they are defining it, I must tacitly support them with the lumpen implication that by not supporting them I must be for inequality.  If they just said they wanted to focus on other issues and not necessarily atheism I don’t think anyone would have cared all that much.  But this attempt to turn it into a manichean conflict is absurd and I don’t support self-appointed ideologues trying to tell me how I should think, act and to pick sides.

        As far as I’m concerned A+ is an agenda laden nasty divisive nonsense divorced from critical reasoning that I’m having nothing to do with and won’t be pretending otherwise.  Which to Carrier and Co means I’m a douchebag who can GTFO.

        • onamission5

          I think that if you have a problem with Richard Carrier, you need to take it up with Richard Carrier. I can’t speak for him. I don’t even know him.

          • Darth Cynic

            The problem I have is that someone at least on the surface appears to speak for A+ in some capacity and not just some random punter offering their two cents of support.  Because of this and as there has been no retraction and no distancing by others involved I’m aware of, it seems reasonable to take his words as representative of A+.  His is the most strident enunciation of ostracising, public declarations of affiliation, us and them language etc.  

            • http://twitter.com/RealityEnthused Reality Enthusiast

              Jennifer McCreight, who started A+, distanced the movement from what Carrier said in his initial post here: https://twitter.com/jennifurret/status/239789560081563648

               Richard Carrier apologized for some of the insults he used, (http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/2207/comment-page-1/#comment-20570) and made a follow-up post about “Being with or against Atheism+” here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/2412.  He still calls on atheists to “pick sides”, however, which I think is unfortunate. There are atheists who because of their experiences in life are just not interested in social justice, and there are atheists who are out and out bigots of one stripe or another, and I don’t think it’s good to lump the former in with the latter. (An example of the former here: http://shanebrady.com/post/29935153211/i-wont-be-joining-up-with-atheism-plus. Seems like a good guy. Why put people like him on the defensive?)

              • Darth Cynic


                Jennifer McCreight, who started A+, distanced the movement from what Carrier said in his initial post.”

                I stand corrected then, I still personally query the utility of A+ given the existence of organisations focused on those issues but at least they’ve stood back from Carrier’s language of conflict and division.

                “”Carrier apologized for some of the insults he used, and made a follow-up post…”

                I was aware of the insult apology though I found it extremely limited in who it referred to and still standing by the OP.  That said at least he walks back somewhat in his follow-up post, it’s not great but it’s nowhere near as bad.  I think it would have been better to put the hand up, admit a mistake and go clean slate but that’s just my take.

    • RobMcCune

      Well, when certain atheists try to address issues of women, minorities, and the LGBT community to help these groups be included in the movement, they’re trying to take over and co-opt the movement. And when they form their own group to pursue those goals that are not common to everyone, they’re trying to take over and co-opt the movement.

      And you wonder why can’t they stop trying to steal the movement?

      • Darth Cynic

        The wonder you attribute to me has nothing to do with your preceding statements the purpose of which escapes me.

        But to answer your question, no I don’t wonder that.

        • RobMcCune

          From my read of it all they haven’t really created a new label for atheists concerned with social justice issues… 

          That’s odd since it is exactly what they are trying to do, it’s not a banner that all atheists are expected to follow, since it’s been made obvious that certain issues are really divisive. In fact it seems to me there is a very big divide between many in the Atheist Movement and A+. The Atheist Movement is a big tent based on promoting the idea that religion is false, a science based world view, and secular government. A+ accepts that, but emphasizes social justice issues created by religion, and seeks to ally with groups most affected by harmful aspects of religion. Many in the atheist movement acknowledge the importance of social justice, but consider it a side issue, and some are downright hostile to it, which is why A+ is being formed.

          it is not for you, me or some self appointed people to tell everyone else what issues and what version of them they should be fighting for. 

          Again, that’s exactly why A+ is being formed, some how it translates to you as GTFO of the atheist movement.

          • Darth Cynic

            “From my read of it all they haven’t really created a new label for atheists concerned with social justice issues so much as they’ve created a label that they expect all atheists to adopt, and if you don’t then you’re some vile, disgusting individual to be avoided or chucked back underground likening you to C.H.U.D.”

            That’s my entire sentence, the main point is in the “so much as they’ve created a label that they expect all atheists to adopt.”  As far as I can see they’ve not merely created a group of atheists who happen to want to focus on social justice issues, they’ve created a group with a specific outlook they expect everyone else to join or at least visibly support otherwise your branded as the enemy.

            “Again, that’s exactly why A+ is being formed, some how it translates to you as GTFO of the atheist movement.”

            In comments on The New Atheism+ a user called Tom said, “I’ll stick with the original atheism thanks.”  the response was, “So one vote for douchery. Got it.”  Read further and you’ll encounter GTFO sprinkled about in responses.  I’m not reading it in, it’s right there.  Now you might be of the opinion that the GTFO is understandable but I don’t.  As no one is retracting or distancing from the content of that manifesto I’m left to assume that it accurately represents the agenda and aims of A+.  Were it the more benign version of just a group with different priorities that you suggest, then I’d likely not be commenting.

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

              There’s a difference between not accepting the label and mocking it.
              I call myself an atheist. I don’t call myself a humanist and I don’t call myself an A+ atheist. Really, I probably agree with all the things these labels stand for, I just personally don’t see the need to use any extra labels, especially since I wouldn’t consider myself very active in the atheist movement. So far no one’s told me to GTFO.
              No one’s going to come after you if you don’t adopt the label. No one will even know if you don’t adopt the label. The only way they’ll know is if you tell them, and that’s kind of a douchey thing to say. It’s like commenting on some suggestion to donate to charity and saying “Yeah, I don’t think I will.” It’s like commenting on any sort of racial, LGBT, feminist thing and saying, “I’m not really into helping these people.”
              I was once in a locker room in high school and I dropped my brush on the floor. A girl walked by and said, “I could pick that up for you…but I’m not that kind of person.” I don’t care that she didn’t pick it up. What made her an asshole is that she felt the need to point out that she saw the problem but actively decided not to help.
              You don’t have to spend any time caring about other people, but why protest the idea of others caring for other people? It’s not the inaction that makes anyone a douchebag. It’s the announcement of that inaction.

              • AndytTK

                It’s more than just creating a sub group that wants to help women.  If they wanted to create a Secular Student Association like group that helped and encouraged women and minorities to become Atheists I very much doubt that people would be complaining.  The impression I’ve gotten from the proponents of A+ is that they want to take over Atheism with own agenda while bad mouthing anybody that dares to disagrees.  They want to change the leadership of Atheist groups and they want to change how Atheists conventions are run.  They want to IMPOSE their ideology on everybody else and they want the Atheist agenda to be broaden to include things that have nothing to do with the disbelief in the supernatural and thus diluting both the brand and the energy needed to fight religion within the US.

                Also that damn A+ name is such a poor choice as it proclaims that they are better than everybody else, and that never goes down well.

              • Darth Cynic

                I’m sorry but where is this mocking, where is the protesting the idea of others caring for others?

                My problem is this kind of dreck, “”In the meantime, are you an atheist? Do you identify as an atheist? Then I call upon you to pick sides within our movement (not in comments here, but publicly, via Facebook or other social media): are you with us, or with them; are you now a part of the Atheism+ movement, or at least cheer and approve it’s values and aims (since you don’t have to label yourself), or are you going to stick with Atheism Less and its sexism and cruelty and irrationality?””  That and a sizable portion of the rest of that noxious post, and subsequent comment replies.  Like I said above, “Were it the more benign version of just a group with different priorities [...] then I’d likely not be commenting.”

  • http://twitter.com/kitsunerei88 Mary


    Does this mean that I won’t be attending any more conferences or local meetups? Absolutely not! Quite frankly, if I value community with non-believers, these meetups are my only option (If I want to develop relationships with like-minded individualsoutside of the internet, that is — and I wholly accept that an online level of community may be all that some people need). ”

    That paragraph really resonated with me because while you might not have left IRL gatherings entirely over those issues, I did. I only ever went to one secular meet-up, one time. When I showed up, it was predominately white and predominantly male. The conversation topics were of course about atheism and very little else.

    After I went home, I decided I didn’t need to be part of a group like that. I’m  an atheist – but as a woman and a person of colour and a young professional, issues like feminism and racism simply matter to me just as much or more. I’m very busy with the volunteerism I’m already involved in (working pro bono poverty law cases, making my way through law school, etc). Nothing against the Secular Alliance I went to at all – they were good people. But there was nothing there that would make me want to take time from my other commitments to go. The group was tiny (about 20 people at the meet-up I went to) and struggled to get a working executive because I definitely was not the only person who decided that it just wasn’t worth my time.

    I think had the group been an Atheism+ group rather than just an atheism group, I might have gone back. The additional value of being able to work with social justice issues as well as atheism would have given the group a different dynamic – one that I might have found comfortable enough to continue going.

  • Patterrssonn

    It’s good for those who are happy with the way things are except for the predominance of theism.

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

    A few initial thoughts about female participation in the atheist community.  First, I don’t think this is a unique problem to the atheist community, but one it inherited from society at large.  Quite frankly, the reproductive and child-caring burden still falls primarily upon women.  Even in more egalitarian relationships, women are the only ones anatomically capable of being pregnant and breastfeeding. (Sure a man could take hormone treatments to breastfeed, but this is expensive and has other complications.)  Then there is also the fact that having children is itself a predictor of poverty, especially for women. 

    As a mom to go to an atheist conference, I would need to not only pay for travel and lodging expenses for myself, but find overnight childcare for my children while I’m away.  If we have funds to send one member of my family to a conference, we send my husband b/c I’m still breastfeeding our son.  (This will likely change as he gets older.) But the point I’m getting at is a certain female demographic will feel that caring for their nursing child is more important than attending a conference, and that is not the fault of atheism.  Family responsibilities are what they are, and depending on the relationship a woman has with her significant other and her child-raising responsibilities will be  large determining factors in her participation in the atheist movement.

    The same goes for having atheist speakers.  The education and credentialism required to obtain a respectable position in any field make it more difficult for women in our society to obtain these positions, since most of this education necessarily takes place during prime child-rearing years.  This isn’t the fault of the atheist movement.  This is simply the way society functions at the moment.  We don’t have paid maternity leave, and it is difficult to continue one’s education with childcare responsibilities, especially for women without a supportive significant other. 

    In order to see greater female participation in the atheist movement we need to fight sexism in society at large–paid martnity leave, easier access to affordable childcare.  Perhaps the atheist movement can be an example in this regard.  I imagine that child care and children’s activities at atheist conferences would go a long way in gathering female attendees.  I’m not sure how this could be implemented in a cost effective way, but I want to throw the idea out there.

  • The Other Weirdo

    The thing is: Discussions are not a zero-sum game. If I decide to talk about social justice and why I think it’s important, it does not prevent anyone else from discussing other topics. More importantly, discussing my own interests — in topics like feminism or social justice — may be able to convince religious people who also care about those topics to take a second look at their own faith.

    Nice strawman, but no. No one is saying that atheists shouldn’t discuss other issues, or at least no one important. What we are saying is that atheism should be about atheism and not become diluted with other things. Daylight Atheism, Friendly Atheist and Pharyngula have all said(and those are just the ones I know about) that atheists must also be A and B and C and D and whatever. Well, to hell with that.

    The problem lies in the fact that many atheists a) seem content to
    defend atheism’s narrow script and b) demand that evidence be presented
    to justify listening to the claims in the first place.

    Wait, what? So, now demanding evidence is bad? I thought it was good. Or is it only good when we do it to those we’re supposed to dislike, like theists? Those we’re supposed to like, like feminists as just one example, we’re what, now? Supposed to take them on their word, on faith, as it were? To hell with that.

    Wasn’t there an earlier article, on this very blog, complaining how supporting all these extra causes is burning people out and turning them off of atheism?

    • CelticWhisper

      Atheism is not inherently bad.

      Feminism, from what I hear people say it is and leaving aside my steadfast refusal to use any term other than “gender egalitarianism” to refer to my own perspective on gender relations, is also not inherently bad.

      What they are is different.  Even if we abandon the “purist” interpretation of atheism (the matter of keeping strictly to god-or-no-god-and-why), general skepticism and feminism are not the same thing.

      That doesn’t mean they can’t sometimes be allies.

      That doesn’t mean they can’t sometimes even be friends.

      That doesn’t mean they don’t often share common goals (for instance, abating the unconscionable disenfranchisement of female people in many monotheist churches who fail to see that all people are equal and neither gender is ever “better” than the other one).

      However, I’m with you on the idea that I don’t particularly care to be told that in order to identify with one ideology, I must accept another.

      What’s my ideology?

      I believe in gender equality.  Some say that makes me a feminist, I say it makes me a gender-egalitarian.  If those two things are, in fact, one and the same, then surely feminists would not begrudge me a simple difference in terminology.  I also believe in gender-blindness.  I don’t care that Amanda thinks it’s not a solution, and I’m not sorry for adhering to it.  There is so much more to who a person is than what reproductive components they have that I consider it idiotic to give that characteristic (gender*) more than the slightest passing consideration when hearing and pondering points made by that person. 

      I believe that gender should never, ever matter outside the realm of biological reproduction, and there’s a part of me that would like to see male pregnancy, artificial wombs/incubators that don’t require a human body, and other advances in sci-fi medicine to take off so we can truly erase the difference.  I believe that it should not be “MAN” or “WO-MAN,” but rather “HU-MAN” that we focus on in our interactions with one another, and that anyone generalizing any gender (“MEN!  All you want is sex!”  “WOMEN!  You’re all hormonal and irrational!”  To say nothing of LGBT people or other “nontraditional” gender identities) should be trout-slapped.  All INDIVIDUALS are unique and that is a far more fascinating and wonderful thing to see than any gender-based trends or patterns.  If Amanda does not like my insistence on gender-blindness, that’s okay.  I’m fine with agreeing to disagree, because I’m sure that our end goals are more than sufficiently alike for us to still call ourselves allies if not friends.

      Where I’m going with this is that atheism/skepticism is an inherently eclectic movement.  Because we reject religion, it can be stated with relative confidence that we reject most forms of unified leadership, from small-group leaders all the way up to national governments.  This varies from person to person, of course, but that only reinforces the point that no two atheists are perfectly alike in their atheism.  I believe in the things I’ve described above.  I even believe in a lot of the ideals the A+ers stand for.  And I will fight for these things which I believe are right, but I will fight for them in my own way.

      This “A+” label, however, seems very much like it’s telling me “You’re right for fighting for social justice, but you have to do it the right way too.  And the right way is our way.”

      No I don’t, no it isn’t, and fuck you too.

      *By the way, for anyone complaining that I’m conflating sex and gender, confusing biological primary sexual charateristics with gender identity, it’s missing the point and my point stands either way – it’s no basis on which to judge a person or their claims.

      • Sally Strange

        How about naming some of the “right ways” you think A+ promotes and explaining why you think they’re really wrong?

  • guest

    “b) demand that evidence be presented to justify listening to the claims in the first place”

    isn’t that the definition of skepticism?

    • Johann

      Please present evidence that this is the definition of skepticism before I will deign to consider what you are saying.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      No, it isn’t. A better one would be “demand that evidence be presented before completely accepting the claims.”
      The key word is listening.
      This is something that happens very often. A woman/minority will talk about negative experiences that happen from time to time as a result of being marginalized. Someone else steps up and insists that that really doesn’t happen. They dismiss it right away because they have never seen it.
      They don’t even bother to listen because it’s something they themselves never experienced, therefore it doesn’t exist; that person is probably just being way too sensitive.

      • brianmacker

        Who exactly has claimed that something hasn’t happened. Be specific.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    How high a grade must one get to be an atheist in good standing and who does the grading?

    A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D-,

    Perhaps we need these grades defined with a point system (say out of a possible 100) around stances on the various issues and self-awareness of gender, ethnic, and cultural privilege.

    It gets complicated, though, when various different people have “incorrect” views on different issues. I would assume that not all issues are equal and therefor they would not get the same number of points. Atheism may need a constitutional convention to work out the details.

    The best that might be hoped for, though, is to form a meta-policy of how various different advocacy groups within a larger atheistic umbrella can compete for attention with none claiming to speak for all atheists or for the stance that all atheists should hold (to be atheists in good standing).

    I say this without actual knowledge of all the details of what the A+ group advocates. I may actually personally agree with every stance they hold but at the same time, I get a little nervous about any group that says this is the stance that everybody should have.

    • The Captain

      Yep. Kinda drips of condensation towards any atheist that doesn’t share their concerns when you take on a moniker that implies you are better than everyone else…. All in the name of being “inclusive” though?

      • Tainda

        Reminds me of the cliques in high school.  

        I can NOT stand being labeled.  I am an atheist because I do not believe in gods or religion.  That’s it.

        • The Captain

          For a long while now I have referred to a group of prominent people within the atheist community as “the cool kids blogger clique”. The whole skeptic movement has become more and more high school since they started blogging.

          • Tainda

            I’m new to the whole thing and I can already see that.

            I would get kicked out of the cool kid’s table because I’m a woman who thinks radical feminism (yes, there is such a thing) is ridiculous.  Gets me in trouble every time lol

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

              I have to ask you though, what do you consider radical feminism? Because there is a such thing, and yes, it is ridiculous. But around here, requesting that men respect women is labeled as radical feminism.
              Just curious.

    • onamission5

      A+ isn’t a grade. It means positive atheism, as in, atheism plus social justice. It’s an umbrella term to describe what a lot of atheists are doing already. Check it out before you draw your conclusions! 

      • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

        namission5,  Thank-you for informing me of the intended meaning of the A+ term.  I was indeed looking at it like a grade.  Now I know better. 

      • The Captain

        Stop playing coy! 

        A+ is most defiantly a grade. It’s what most people have grown up with in the US as the highest [possible standard on the educational grading scale that we have all used from elementary school through college. It’s used in advertisements, government and finical ratings, and even workplaces and you know that.

        This is like when those idiots decided to call themselves “brights” and acted shocked that others said it was snooty and implied everyone else was “dim”.  The fact is everyone in theUS (and other western nations) see the term A+ and associate that with exceptionalism or excellence, and if you can’t see that you deserve and “F” in societal communications. 

        But that’s why it was even picked, specifically for the double meaning since the double meaning is too hard not to miss. But if A+ has no other connotations then I’m sure you would have no problem with calling the movement F- for “freethinkers minus inequality” right?

    • Sally Strange

      It gets complicated, though, when various different people have “incorrect” views on different issues.

      Give an example, please. What do you think would be “incorrect,” and why do you put “incorrect” in scare quotes? Do you mean to say that it would actually be “correct”?

  • Tainda

    I like talking about social issues and any issue besides atheism.  If someone doesn’t and throws a fit about it, I ignore them.

    AlsoI can’t tell you how much I LOVE labels    /sarcasm

  • John D

    A+ = Atheism + Radical Feminism.  Count me out of this “new” movement.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

      If treating people well is considered Radical, this movement’s in trouble.

      • John D

         I do support treating people well.  I do not support many ideas proposed by rad/gender feminists.  Can’t you see the difference?

        • CelticWhisper

          I doubt he can see the difference, John.  He “Liked” Pat’s comment elsewhere in this thread that was accusing me of not caring about women feeling safe, just because I said the term “safe space” bothered me for some reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on (in the same comment wherein I said that all of society should be a safe place for all people).

        • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

          What are the radical things that feminists are asking for from atheists?

          • John D

             Quick summary – I do not support the concept of “patriarchy” as it is used by many feminists.  I do not agree that we live in a “Rape Culture” as defined by feminists.  I do not think the sexes should have identical social roles.  Everyone should have identical opportunities, but both genders need not be equally represented in all things (including the number of speakers at atheist conventions).  Etc…..

            • WildRumpus67

              Stating that it’s an oppression of women imposed by old white guys is
              viewed by old white guys as an attack on their character and most people
              don’t respond well when they are unjustly accused of being a bad
              person.

              • brianmacker

                Stereotype much?

          • brianmacker

            Asking us to stop “mansplaining” when we use reason. Asking us to accept as true ridiculous and false conclusions and theories, like Privilege Theory.

            • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

              Privilege is basically the idea that certain people have extra bullshit that they have to deal with that others don’t. I imagine you don’t get catcalls as you walk down the street, for example. The kotaku article about difficulty settings is a good primer.

              Sometimes their offense meters are tuned too highly, but sometimes the person mansplaining is actually being condescending. It varies, I guess!

              • brianmacker

                Actually no, that is not the definition of a privilege, nor is it the limit of Privilege Theory. I’ve read plenty of articles by leftists on the subject. They’ve all been ridiculous and depend on stereotypes, equivocation, and guilt by association.

                I in fact have been cat called on many occasions, for example, by a guy in a car while I was jogging in shorts, when cycling to the beach by some girls in a convertible, by obviously gay kitchen workers when I was a bellhop, and when I had to pass the county jail when walking to school.

                So ask yourself if it makes sense to call an ugly girl who never got a cat call in her life privileged over me because I got a few.

                • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

                  Please explain it to me, then – what I explained lines up pretty neatly with what I understand privilege to be.

                  Are you seriously saying that because you were catcalled, and some women aren’t, that catcalling isn’t an issue that vastly and disproportionately affects women? Are you seriously saying that on an atheist website, places where logic is supposed to hold sway? Seriously?

                • brianmacker

                  Please, Chris, refrain from the straw men, since you think atheist websites are where logic is supposed to hold sway. I did not claim that men get catcalled more that women. I was doing something in science called falsification. I was providing the black swan to show the falsehood of the claim “All swans are white”.

                  The problem with privilege theory is that it is a collectivist theory. It assumes guilt and victimhood based on group membership. Since I am a white male I am supposedly privileged with regard to “cat calling” and therefore should be immune to the issue. After all I have the supposed privilege of not dealing with it. I obviously am not, nor is any other male.

                  Plus not every girl gets cat called. In particular, ugly girls are a lot less likely to have it done to them, and so it is silly to think of them as privileged over those who do get cat calls. Being ugly isn’t exactly a privilege.

                  Actual justice (not that fraud called social justice) requires looking at individual victims and perpetrators. Just because some men are assholes who cat call does not mean all men are, or even a majority are. Assuming the individual is guilty based on behavior of some minority of a group is exactly the same as assuming a black person likes watermelon because some black people do.

                  How about you address the issue instead of using dishonest straw men? How can an actual victim of catcalling, me, be privileged over others of the supposed victim group who were never victimized? This is classic guilt by association (where the associate is done by mere skin color or gender).

                  My son is reading this over my shoulder and he got catcalled by some gay guys. He was walking through Chelsea and a big muscular guy groped his ass during the catcalls. Does this mean gays are privileged over straight men? Of course not.

                • brianmacker

                  I just got a Disqus notice on your comment (which I see it is very old) but I will respond anyway.

                  Don’t get confused and think your opinions (or those of the feminists you blindly follow) are based on logic. First, one who thinks logically doesn’t throw around straw men like saying I believe catcalling doesn’t disproportionately effect women.

                  I certainly do believe that women get catcalled more than men, but I also believe it disproportionately effects attractive women. The problem with this ideologically informed definition of privilege is that one would have to say that ugly women are privileged over attractive ones because they don’t have to deal with the extra bullshit of catcalls. Attractive men also have to deal with it more than unattractive ones (another example I just found out about was my son got catcalled in Chelsea, and his ass grabbed by a gay guy). Not sure if attractive men have to deal with this bullshit more than unattractive women but I suspect so. So that would mean, according to your definition that ugly women are privileged over attractive men.

                  There are many problems with privilege theory. For one, it is based on stereotypes, and ignorantly and illogically applying those stereotypes. You just assumed that I never got catcalled because you bought into this whole idea that the stereotype applies to every single male and female. It’s as stupid and illogical as assuming every black person likes watermelon because some do.

                  Second there is an element of shame involved in being part of the stereotyped group. I’m a white male so therefore I’m “privileged” regardless of the reality of my actual life. A white male orphan abused and starved in childhood, uneducated, poor, unjustly accused of rape, and thrown in jail is seen as privileged merely by race and sex, over some rich bitch like Paris Hilton who had all the advantages in life. Exactly why should such a white male buy into the concept which assumes as a stereotype that he never had to put up with bullshit.

                  Third, the concept is tone-deaf to bullshit that the supposed privileged groups have to put up with. Men have to deal with the draft, higher victimization from murder, etc. Blanket statements like men are privileged over women, ignore these things. It is equally correct to say that women are privileged over males as the reverse. For the term to have any valid meaning it must always be paired with the attribute which statistically the one group suffers from more than the other. However if you are going to do that you might as well drop the word altogether and just state what you mean. Men aren’t privileged with regards to women when it comes to catcalls. Men are less frequently catcalled.

                  Fourth, privilege theory leads to a natural equivocation that leads to group demonization, based on those stereotypes, and the vitriol that some feminists have for men bears that out. Once you believe that men have some unfair advantage they are cashing in on how can you not be outraged, and especially when they deny they “benefit” from that “privilege”. Problem is that this outrage confuses a statistical fluke with the granting of an unfair benefit. As a man, I do not benefit from any such statistical fluke unless I actually benefit from it. I certainly did not benefit from not being catcalled. Even if I had not been catcalled it wasn’t something that was granted to me unfairly. Being mad at some random guy because you got catcalled and he didn’t is moral insanity. You should be mad at the person who cat called you, not some random stranger based on race or sex. How is that different than hating random black people because some other black person mugged you?

                  I can go on with how illogical and irrational, bigoted, etc. that privilege theory is, and I have here in the past. This is on an old comment thread so I am going to stop here. No one except you is likely to see it.

                • Sally Strange

                  Actually no, that is not the definition of a privilege, nor is it the limit of Privilege Theory. I’ve read plenty of articles by leftists on the subject. They’ve all been ridiculous and depend on stereotypes, equivocation, and guilt by association.

                  Pony up. One link to an article wherein privilege theory really does boil down to stereotypes, equivocation, and guilt by association.

                • brianmacker

                  Look up “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”.

            • Sally Strange

              Nope, sorry, the atheist movement does not have room for social science denialists, any more than it has room for climate change denialists.

              • brianmacker

                LOL, and you are complaining that my behavior is “extremely alienating.” Others have specific disagreements with particular political and ideological (not scientific) positions and you literally, by the definition of the word, advocate alienating them.

                I guess in your world people who are critical of Diederik Stapel need to be shunned. Atheist heros like Alan Sokal who’ve shown what a fraud social science really is need to be ostracized for being a denialist.
                We aren’t even talking about social science here. We are talking about Woman’s Studies, Black Studies, Whiteness Studies, and Men’s Studies. Hardly areas of scientific inquiry.

                Climatology is an area rife with error and labeling people denialists for making valid criticisms is not at all in the scientific spirit. I think that David Vitner making claims like “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” hardly counts a science. Using strip bark tree ring data to make hockey stick temperature diagrams is inexcusable. The global temperature anomaly has been flat for for 16 years, which completely falsifies the boastful claims being made by alarmist climatologists for the last twenty years. Hardly inspiring.

    • RobMcCune

      A+ = Atheism +Radical Feminism Not Demeaning Women for being Women.  Count me out of this “new” movement.

      Fixed that for you.

      • AndyTK

        There is lies the problem; nobody is saying they want to demean women, but you just had to slander somebody for saying that these other issues are not the focus of the movement.

        • RobMcCune

          Its a common definition of “radical feminism”.

          • John D

             No it isn’t!  Radical/Gender feminism is a more specific type of feminism and it supports ideas such as “patriarchy” (which I happen to think is hogwash).  Just because I do not agree with the concept of “patriarchy” does not mean I wish to demean women.

            • Patterrssonn

              I hate to break this to you Johnny but the ‘patriarchy’ concept is hardly radical. Except to the radical extremist misogynist movement.

              • John D

                 You are a “real” skeptic… aren’t you Patterrssonn?

                • Patterrssonn

                  I don’t know, what’s a “real”skeptic?

                • brianmacker

                  Someone who exercises a modicum of critical thinking about ideologies before accepting their dogma. Just because the Muslims or Christians had or have had patriarchies doesn’t count against every new atheist group that is founded.

            • brianmacker

              Patriarchy, Privilege Theory, and a whole host of irrational and nutty dogma.

      • John D

         Gee wizz Rob.  Thanks for the clarification.  Somehow the fact that I do not wish to join a group lead by self professed radical feminists is instantly conflated to mean I support demeaning women.  You are an intellectual giant and should teach the rest of us mortals how to read minds.

        This must also mean that radical feminism is the only way to stop the demeaning of women.  Is this your claim?

        I also suppose you think it is cute to imply that I demean women.  You make this claim simply because I don’t support radical feminism.  Do you see where this is going?  (and youall wonder why people get upset at the A+ idea…. sheesh)

        So, if anyone is listening.  It is clear to me, and many other atheists, that the goal of A+ is to shame people into supporting the ideas of gender feminism and the idea that gender feminism is the only way to be a “good” person.

        Gender feminism is the only recognizable difference between the popular version of secular humanism and A+.

        My thoughts on the matter… and Rob… you may snark back all you wish.  I have my big-boy pants on.

        • RobMcCune

          Where are you getting the radical feminism from, and where is it self professed? 

          As for the demeaning women remark, all I did was substitute a common definition of “radical” or “gender” feminism, that I’ve seen in these discussions. Radical/gender (the latter isn’t a real category btw) is thrown around as a pejorative when it comes to sexual harassment, or decrying the use of bitch, cunt, old, ugly, slutty, etc. So what am I supposed to think when the term comes up?

          • John D

             I didn’t use any abusive language on this thread.  I cannot police everyone elses language either.  I made a claim that radical feminism is a unique element of A+ that I do not support.  You can think what you wish about this, but I suggest you simply tell people using harsh language to knock it off.

            Certainly, both camps in this debate use pretty strong language so it is hard to find a really “guilty” party.  PZ and Jen, and Rebbeca etc. use some pretty vile words (often directed at me).  And I should alosnote that you, yourself, implied that I support demeaning women.  That’s not so nice on your part.   Not that I care… I am just saying that A+ supporters are known for harshness as well.

            Here is the wiki for gender feminism.  Just blog it if you don’t believe me.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equity_and_gender_feminism

            • Sally Strange

              Anyone who provides a link to “Unpacking the invisible knapsack” or assumes mere numbers is hard proof of institutionalize misogyny is an irrational radical feminist.

              So, you admit you don’t care about the intellectual content, you just sling labels as pejoratives.

              • brianmacker

                No, intellectual content consists of more that stereotypical ideological mistakes. People who are so naive they never learned how to adjust for variables, avoid fallacies, and the like. Both of those are classical examples which those in the know would be aware of. I don’t always write for the benefit of the ignorant, for brevity’s sake. I have posted very specific and detailed criticisms of “Unpacking the invisible knapsack” here in the forums which a simple google search will turn up for you.

          • brianmacker

            Anyone who provides a link to “Unpacking the invisible knapsack” or assumes mere numbers is hard proof of institutionalize misogyny is an irrational radical feminist.

        • Sally Strange

          Somehow the fact that I do not wish to join a group lead by self professed radical feminists

          Who exactly?

          It is so painfully obvious that you’re making things up that I’m cringing as I read your posts.

    • Sally Strange

      No, actually, they’re both just Leninist-Marxism, it’s all a plot!

  • guest

    Is it just me or is does the atheist move have a rather anti-capialism slant?

    • guest

      *atheist movement

    • CelticWhisper

       I think it’s demographic overlap.  At least in the US, atheism is seen as being left-leaning (and a lot of atheists have taken up the “liberal” label as a point of pride) whereas religiosity, at least mainstream and particularly christian religiosity, is seen as right-leaning.

      A lot of right-wing people are also big into general capitalist sentiment as a part of that, since the US Republican party advocates for deregulation of business and promotion of capitalist enterprise.

      As a part of the rejection of religiosity, a lot of atheists (myself often included, though mostly in the realm of copyright and the war on sharing, which has more to do with my involvement in the technical community than in the atheist one) push back against that pro-capitalist sentiment as well.

      Capitalism, socialism, and other economical “isms” don’t really have that much to do with atheism, but I suppose it does resonate with the part of the article asserting that atheism doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

      For my part, I’m a staunch individualist.  Businesses can do what they want up to the exact point they start trying to take away my own freedom to do what I want.  At that point I reject them just as much as governments and churches.  Whether it’s “To protect intellectual property to generate revenue and enhance shareholder value”

      or

      “BE IT RESOLVED THAT the people of this nation, in order to protect children, eagles, flags and cute baby kittens, shall prohibit the sale, manufacture, ownership and usage of…”

      or not wrapped in any BS legalese or business-speak at all, “Thou shalt not” is still “Thou shalt not,” and it still pisses me off.

    • RobMcCune

      No, there are plenty of libertarians.

    • The Captain

      For me the interesting question is why is so much of the religious movement so pro-capitalist. The answer I came up with is because for them both are based on “faith”.

      • guest

        Yes because left leaning economics has been so obviously good for America these past 4 years.

        Snorts

        • The Captain

          Ahh sorry, we haven”t had left leaning economics in this country for about 40 years. Nice try though to paint right wing laissez faire economics in regards to the banking industry as “left leaning”, that may work on idiots, but not me. Learn what words mean.

          And the belief that an invisible hand will always produce a net positive result for a society is just as religious as an invisible man who gives a shit about you.

          • brianmacker

            Bullshit.

        • Patterrssonn

          And the economy was in such great shape after 8 yrs of Bush.

          • brianmacker

            Bush was also following left leaning policies. Romney will too. You think Romneycare was free market? bush spent like a drunk sailor on New social programs, and did nothing to unwind all the GSE’s, bailouts, and stimulus programs Greenspan and congress had in place.

      • brianmacker

        That’s an ignorant statement.

    • Sally Strange

      It should, if the atheist movement is mostly skeptical humanists. Capitalism’s reality does not live up to the claims of its proponents.

  • Charon

    I’m curious if there’s a correlation between people interested in this (A+, etc.) and people who used to be religious.

    I’ve never been religious, never belonged to a church, so this all seems a bit silly to me. If I’m interested in advocacy on specific issues, I turn to the ACLU, or Amnesty International, or the Human Rights Campaign, etc. I don’t turn to some secular version of a church. But I can imagine that someone who used to belong to a church that had all this other advocacy stuff going on would feel that lack.

    That said, carry on. There’s room for all sorts, so more power to you. Just keep in mind that there will be plenty of us who don’t join in, despite being left-wing atheists ourselves.

    • Charon

       I also feel compelled to say that while there are religious organizations who do it right (the American Friends Service Committee comes to mind), many churches work on issues like this largely to spread their ideologies. And even those churches that don’t do this often work on these issues because they feel commanded to by their religion (e.g., “Jesus said to help the poor”). Freethinkers have neither reason to collectively advocate on social issues.

    • Johann

      I’ve never been religious, and I find this movement towards a more inclusive atheist activism encouraging and refreshing. More than a little tired of watching brilliant, passionate women within our movement get ground down by assholes, plus I think we need a broader focus in general if we have any hope of making alliances with other progressive groups.

    • brianmacker

      The correlation tends to run towards those indoctrinated in social studies programs because they use a lot of their ideological jargon.

  • Guest

    I agree 100%.

    I am a wife, mother, and atheist. I don’t consider myself a feminist; I consider myself a humanist. Gender inequality is seen in different ways for both genders, and to me feminism doesn’t convey the desire to remove gender inequality, but rather inequality for women alone.

    But aside from that, I don’t want the atheist movement to be “taken over” by the feminist movement, or even turn into a movement that demands acceptance of gender equality for both genders. Mainly because what equality looks like is up for debate.* There are other movements for that. I also don’t want the atheist movement to exclude republicans, libertarians, those who are for the death penalty, or any other philosophy to life besides a lack of belief in gods.

    What I really want from the atheist movement is simply advocating for atheists and their families to live in a society guaranteed by the constitution to provide freedom of conscience. I want a secular community for my daughter.

    *We can take equal pay for equal work, for example. Does that mean equal pay for the job position, regardless of whether or not women work as many hours (paid maternity leave, pumping at work, etc) essentially being paid more for the work done, or does that mean we get paid the same amount per hour we work (no paid maternity leave), or does that mean men have the same amount of paid paternal leave as women have maternity leave? I’m all for the third option. My husband had to take 2 weeks off work using his own sick days to stay at home with me and help me recover and enjoy our new baby after the birth of our daughter.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Well, I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say it again. And again yet, unless somebody provides a good argument to change my mind.

    You have not been failed by the “atheist movement” because there is no such thing. And when you try to place atheism into a movement category, you hurt it, and you hurt atheists. When you expect a person to support feminism or other social movements simply because they are an atheist, you misrepresent a huge number of people, and perhaps even encourage many atheists to remain in the closet.

    By assuming that atheists will share your values about other things, you are guilty of the “bad” sort of stereotyping- pigeonholing individuals based on what the statistics say about the larger group.

    By speaking “as an atheist” about something like women’s issues, you confuse both. And I see no reason that an atheist shouldn’t call you out on that. You should be speaking as a humanist- an actual philosophy that has something to say on the matter. You should be speaking as a secularist, since many women’s issues involve legal matters that have been influenced by nonsecular views.

    But this has nothing to do with atheism! Atheism is a narrow script… I’d argue no script at all. Atheism is limited to “God-and-only-God”.

    Its name aside, I don’t see this as an atheist forum. Participants here have many interests, and are tied together by having atheism in common. But topics center around humanism, secularism, anti-theism, and others that are commonly shared by atheists, but not by all atheists, and by some theists as well. There’s nothing wrong with posting about something like women’s rights- but it needs to be done in a context consistent with this forum. And atheism doesn’t work. Point to a problem and show how its roots are in Biblical belief, or in the beliefs of nonsecular politicians, or in a lack of humanist values, and you’d be spot on. But if you can’t tie your view back to something like this, you are probably posting in the wrong forum.

    If you still feel that you have been failed, I’d like to hear some specifics. Not that some “movement” has failed you, but that this forum has failed you, or some other forum, or some particular conference. Something tangible.

    • Thegoodman

       I agree with this on many levels and you have said it in a way that I could not.

      I have read countless posts the past 2 years about how many non-white non-males do not feel included in the atheist movement. This makes me sad and I truly wish anyone and everyone interested felt equally welcome. The confusion I have is typically in the reasons why women, in particular, do not feel included. The reasons are almost always a laundry list of GLOBAL SOCIETAL ISSUES regarding women’s rights. Does that make it ok? Certainly not. It is unfortunate that these issues exist and it is unfortunate that more people do not do more to stop them from existing.

      That being said, it seems naive to think that the “atheist movement” is going to solve the problems that men have plagued upon women since the dawn of time. Don’t misunderstand me, this is not the “get over it” speech that chauvinists across the world preach to women every day. I don’t believe you should “get over it”. I completely support your fight for equality and will do my best to fight along side you (as best a white guy can). I will do my very best to show empathy to your cause and listen to you and try to understand your perspective (if you will allow me, again, do as you wish). I consider myself a feminist and I love the feminist movement, it has taught me much and I do my best to champion any woman that is wronged should she need my support.

      As C Peterson has said, the role of destroying the societal issues that plague women does not belong on the shoulders of atheists. Atheism owes nothing to any of us. The movement is a ragtag bunch of misfits from any and all walks of life. To be let down by something so disorganized and something that lacks so much ownership, to me, seems like your own fault.

      • Patterrssonn

        “As C Peterson has said, the role of destroying the societal issues that
        plague women does not belong on the shoulders of atheists”

        It does when atheists play that role

        • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          We choose whatever roles we wish… a choice that has nothing to do with whether or not we are atheists, but depends on our broad world view.

    • 1000 Needles

       If you still feel that you have been failed, I’d like to hear some specifics. Not that some “movement” has failed you, but that this forum has failed you, or some other forum, or some particular conference.

      This is not a problem specific to a forum or a blog or a local group. Sexism in the atheist and skeptic communities is so pervasive that women are being drowned out of the community as a whole. And the reason this sexism has been allowed to foster is that whenever the topic comes up, people like you put their fingers in their ears and yell, “la la la la that’s not atheism I can’t hear you!”

      It does not matter one goddamn bit whether or not this sexism is rooted in something Biblical. It exists. It is pervasive. It needs to be dealt with. That is enough.

      You want examples? You are the example.

      • AndyTK

        I fail to see why this is an example of sexism.  I do see you thinking that it is as misdirected anger and why lots of us on the other side of this debate are not happy about where people like you want to take the movement.

        • 1000 Needles

          I fail to see why this is an example of sexism.

          Dismissing the rampant sexism in the community is part of the sexism. When sexism is ignored, it grows. Ever tried to ignore a high school bully? How’d that work out for you?

          • AndyTK

            I was talking about the comment that you claimed was sexist while telling thegoodman that he was the problem.  You cited him as the example, don’t try to dodge your error by changing your claim after the fact.

          • brianmacker

            LOL, the evidence for X is the denial of X. Irrational twattle.

        • Patterrssonn

          Well then, stay where you are.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        Well, since I don’t think there even is a “community as a whole”, I can’t agree. And where there is sexism, it does matter if it’s associated with issues of concern in this forum… otherwise, it’s best discussed in more appropriate places.

        And your little ad hominem just serves to emphasize how little you seem to have to add to this discussion. I know I’ve never said anything here or elsewhere to suggest that I’m not very sympathetic towards women’s issues in general.

      • Glasofruix

        So what? You expect everyone to play nice? Jerks are everywhere, we can’t control all of them.

      • brianmacker

        Yeah, a guy posting his opinion on a forum that was not in response to any comment by a women, is a perfect example. Not.

        Typical Marxist style thought process. Label him bourgeoisie and ignore him in an ad hominem fashion. You A+ atheists can barely think.

        • RebeccaSparks

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t he replying to the OP, who is a woman?  Also, for someone if you disapprove of ad hominem attacks, should you be saying that A+ atheists can barely think?  It seems like that statement could also be perceived as ad hominem.

          • brianmacker

            Sorry I thought the article was another Hemant post.

            There was still zero content in his post to indicate that he was fostering sexism. These issues are not being brought up in a way one would expect of someone who was victimized and wants things corrected. Instead they are brought up in a way of someone who wishes to be the victim. You don’t like being groped then you call the police. You don’t sit on it as a poker chip to use later to accuse the innocent and push your ideology. Specific instances have to be dealt with individually, and with the culprit(s).

            That was not an ad hominem attack on my part. I have demonstrated over and over many of them lack critical thinking skills. In this instance the commenter has labeled him in order to dismiss his points. He’s now a sexist enabler and according to the ideology to be shunned and dismissed. That shows a lack of thinking skills, and the sentence refers to all those A+ members who have demonstrated such.

            Social Justice in and of itself is a compound word that in many cases is actually about imposing injustice. If you are for justice you don’t need the modifier. The modifier is used to identify a collectivist notion of justice. As any first year ethics student should be able to tell you, collective blame and punishment are unjust. The fact that these people are using phrases like “Reddit makes me hate atheists” shows they have an ethical screw loose.

            • RebeccaSparks

              re: thinking it was Hemant-that’s ok, even the best make mistakes to let the rest of us know it’s ok to be merely human :). Thank you for the articulate and reasonable response.  I am chagrined to admit that my sympathies lie with many A+ causes, as I worry that you now suspect my critical thinking skills.

              However, I don’t think C Peterson’s post is sexist; he’s really arguing the semantics of an “atheist” and “atheist community”, and demanding more specific nomenclature for the communities that are failing to support women’s rights in the context of secular and humanistic values. [The question I would have for C Paterson is since there is significant overlap between specific communties (like this forum and that forum and various atheist events), is there a term that we can use for the collective group identity since "atheist" is strictly no-(g/G)od(s) related?]

              I think 1000 Needles started off questioning this topic, but I think that they got tripped up on the semantics of C Peterson’s definition of “atheism” saw a correlation that wasn’t really there between C Paterson and others past commenters who refused to talk about women’s issues at all since atheism is only “God-and-only-God,” even though the forum is also a place to discuss humanistic & anti-theist issues. I can understand 1000 Needles’ frustration since I have also seen this to dismiss various feminist topics; the greater scrutany for relevance and sometimes outright dismissal of feminist topics.  Once again, I don’t think that it was C Peterson’s intent and I wish they had not made the personal accusation.  I don’t know about shunning and dismissing–I believe you can think someone is wrong, very seriously wrong, and still include them in the debate.  However, this is not my statement so I’m not sure what 1000 Needles hoped to gain with the accusation.

              I thought social justice referred to a school of thought of economic equality and human rights, like the the Green Party espouses.    I’m not sure I understand your remarks about collectivism.  Do you mean collectivism in the socialist sense, that the group of people collectively making rules for their community, or excluding collective groups of people based on preconcived notions?

              Also, some of the vile comments on Reddit/4chan/fark/youtube make me hate humanity–but then I take a break and go outside. :)  Hopefully that repairs my loose screws.

        • Sally Strange

          You are also the example.

    • Sally Strange

      I mean, there obviously is such a thing as the atheist movement. You’re standing in the middle of it; all these atheists, moving about. Arguing about the direction. You’re like, No! Stop moving! Okay, none of you are moving, I deny that you are moving! Amazing, the level of cognitive dissonance here. Look, acknowledging its existence doesn’t mean you have to participate OR agree! So chill.

  • The Captain

    “We say that we want atheism to be an inclusive movement, but our actions betray us by constantly reverting to a script of what we think the atheist movement “ought” to care about.”

    I love the irony that this sentence was inserted into a long article where the author complains that the atheist movement doesn’t care enough about the things they thinks it ought to care about.

  • http://benny-cemoli.myopenid.com/ Benny Cemoli

    If I decide to talk about social justice and why I think it’s important, it does not prevent anyone else from discussing other topics.

    However, if one decides not to talk about certain “social justice” issues or conform to the  dogma views of a small but very vocal minority of the atheist/skeptic community then you are immediately labeledfair game to be marginalized and destroyed by any means necessary. 

    I think Richard Carrier said it best. 

    There is a new atheism brewing, and it’s the rift we need, to cut free the dead weight so we can kick the C.H.U.D.’s back into the sewers and finally disown them, once and for all.

    In the meantime, I call everyone now to pick sides (not in comments here, but publicly, via Facebook or other social media): are you with us, or with them; are you now a part of the Atheism+ movement, or at least cheer and approve it’s values and aims (since you don’t have to label yourself), or are you going to stick with Atheism Less and its sexism and cruelty and irrationality?

    Then at least we’ll know who to work with. And who to avoid.

    Source

    If this is representative of the values held by the “Atheism+” crowd then I will respectfully bow out of the whole movement and get on with my life.

    • The Other Weirdo

       Wow! Hyperbolic, much? Atheism is now about sexism and cruelty and irrationality? Except for this A+ movement? They’re A-OK, but we’re all evil scum of the Earth fit to be marginalized and hated?

      • http://benny-cemoli.myopenid.com/ Benny Cemoli

        Yeah, that’s the way “Atheism+” has decided to present itself to people. You either agree totally to the dogma that they spew or you are a misogynistic, MRA and rape enabler if you are a male or a sister punisher and gender traitor if you are woman and therefore serve no purpose to the great rebirth of atheism. LOL

        However people like  PZ Myers are perhaps beginning to realize that he has gone too far with the US v. Them attitude and are  now trying to cover their tracks with disengenous comments such as this gem inserted in the middle of one of his typical screeds:

        Also, it can’t be about booting people out. It’s entirely opt-in. It’s like announcing that you think the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan club is dogmatic because they all like Buffy, and that they’re
        being cruel to non-fans because they aren’t asked to join. It’s OK, guy!
        You can join, even if you like Spike better than Willow, and if you
        don’t give a damn about the stupid TV show, why are you complaining
        about not being in the fan club?

        I’m sure at this point all the other Myers sycophants are now going to start spewing this  kind of stuff on their blogs in the hopes that people will forget how awful they were treated by these people.

        In my opinion it’s far too little far too late trying to mend the fences of everyone the Atheism+ers have alienated.

        • http://benny-cemoli.myopenid.com/ Benny Cemoli

           Sorry, forgot to add a the source for that quote:

          Source

        • brianmacker

          Myers, like Ayn Rand, and now apparently Richard carrier are all intolerant asses. All little Stalinists.

    • brianmacker

      Please tel me that this was part of some spoof article by Carrier. I just read part of it and he makes Ayn Rands rants against non-Objectivists seem mild. I didn’t have time to finish reading it but the beginning was batshit insane, and any Stalinist would be proud of it.

  • The Captain

    I’ve said it before and here it is again, because it’s kinda important. The group that constantly complains the loudest about there not being enough “diversity” within the atheist movement and who has now finally gone ahead and labeled themselves as better than everyone else, in fact do not want actual diversity. What they want is the exact same archetype of person, who is just like them in everyway, just in different colors and sexualities. 

    Until I moved last year my local atheist group was extremely diverse. It was run by women, and had a large female presence. Not quite 50%, but a hell of a lot larger than any of the comic book, motorcycle or other events I go to. We had racial minorities, political differences, and cultural ones, and everyone really got along well. But then we didn’t constantly go around demanding that everyone follow one set of beliefs outside of skepticism to be considered as worthy to be there than anyone else.

    • Blitzgal

      Your local atheist group sounds awesome, and you can speak to your experience with that group.  Some of us have not had that positive experience when we tried to participate in our local communities.  Some of us have felt that we were seen as women first, and judged only on the sexual merits we may or may not bring to the community while our actual thoughts and opinions were ignored.  Some of us have been driven away from our local atheist communities as a result.  And when some of us try to talk about this issue, we get knee-jerk defensiveness and anger in response.

      • The Captain

        Please do not take this the wrong way, but you probably would not have felt anymore comfortable in that group either unless just being around more women makes you more comfortable. I didn’t have time to go into all the specifics in that post (or this one) but that group was not doing anything “special”. Frankly they where just laid back people who did not give a shit other people where different from them. It was not some gender neutral zone, but no one was ever dismissed for their gender. So maybe you would have loved it, but while it’s possible some guy might hit on you, you could also be the most respected leader of the group. 

        Basically people where just not drama queens blowing every perceived offense into some intergroup drama. No one thought the entire group had to cater to their needs or demands. We all just got over shit and moved on.

        • Tainda

          That’s exactly the type of group I would look for lol

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Secular Women, Atheism + It makes me happy the atheist movement is getting more and more open to minorities and women in particular. Diverssity should be one of our more important values.

    • Glasofruix

      Again, atheism is NOT a movement, there’s no entrance exam, no atheist “leader”  to approve your membership, you can become an atheist by yourself no matter the color of your skin, sexual orientation or gender. Some atheists are jerks, but they do not represent the whole concept of atheism. So the whole” atheists not accepting people in their ranks” is bullshit.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

        Feminism is NOT a movement, there’s no entrance exam, no feminist “leader” to approve your membership, you can become a feminist by yourself no matter the color of your skin, sexual orientation or gender. (etc)
        Yeah…I think you’re confusing “movement” with “organization.”
        Atheism is a movement.

        • brianmacker

          Atheism is NOT a movement.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

            No, it’s not an equivocation. It’s just that “movement” doesn’t have the most concrete meaning in the world. The fact that there are tons of people here who *do* consider atheism to be a movement shows that the issue lies in the word itself and people’s perceptions of the word, not how I personally used it.
            My point was to illustrate that all those reasons stated that supposedly discounted atheism as a movement would also discount feminism as a movement, even though most people would consider feminism to be a movement.
            Atheism might not be a completely unified movement and not all atheists are necessarily involved in any changes being worked toward, but the same is true of other movements too.
            Still, if you prefer, it does make a bit more sense to refer to the secular movement instead.

            • brianmacker

              Tons of people here are wrong about many things. Feminism was and is a movement, it is also various belief systems. You equivocate because your statement referred to the second meaning “a belief system” in its attempt to reject the first definition. There is no doubt that Feminism is a movement is a true statement because the phrase “movement” is short for political movement. Feminism had and has political goals. Merely being for women having the vote, being allowed to have abortions, etc. Does not make one a feminist in the political sense. That required actual political activism, which may include joining a feminist group.

              You argue like Muslims who claim Jihad is not religious warfare because the word is used more widely. No Christians argue that the Crusades don’t exist because we use the term crusade to mean food drives, and charitable work.

              There is no political movement called “atheism”.

              You also failed to use his full argument. You were mirroring him up till the end and then dropped his point. You should have ended it with, “So the whole” feminists not accepting people in their ranks” is bullshit.”. Which would have been true about feminism as a belief system, as it is of atheism as a non-belief system.

              There is atheist political activism but it is not called “atheism”. One can certainly be excluded from atheists organizations on the basis of race or gender but I know of no organizations doing so. Usually it is the women and minorities that do this now days (and back in the 70′s with organizations like black student unions.) I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a black atheist or women atheists group. Not likely you find a white atheist or male atheist organization that excludes.

    • brianmacker

      It’s always been open to minorities and women. Since when have we had whites only, or men only signs. What alternate universe do you A+ atheists live in?

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        What part of “more” don’t you understand?
        It doesn’t have to be overt to make people feel unwelcome and believe me, every time that a topic relating to women appeared here the response of many commenters made me sick. I thought I was safe and people here were mostly progressive when I naively came to read atheists blogs a year ago but what I’ve seen this past year is discouraging to say the least.

        I don’t speak for the A+ movement, so go to the A+ forum if you really want to know what the rest think.

        • brianmacker

          How can you get “more” accepting than complete acceptance. What don’t you understand about your use of the term more? Do you suppose it would be a complement for someone to say to someone else, “I wish you were more intelligent”? Your use of “more and more” implies that in the past these particular organizations were less and less accepting. That however was never the case. Some like AA were founded by women.

          • Sally Strange

            Your behavior, for example, is extremely alienating. If I found out you were in my local atheist group, and had read your comments in this thread, I would be thinking, “This is a person who will not like me, will not get along with me, will not be interested in listening to me. It’s probably not worth going. I’ll have to start my own group.” Then I’d probably start a feminist group instead because that seems to attract a nicer crowd.

            • brianmacker

              Sally you are a total hypocrite. The A+ movement is not about being accepting and lots of A+ers have called for purges. You yourself have commented that there is no room in the atheist movement for people who question your beliefs (which you label “climate change” and “social science”). You’d don’t think feminists are alienating? Maybe I should join a feminist group and make a big stink and suggest they push atheist issues, and complain about the lack of men at their meetings.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

    The main complaint I’m seeing is that men feel like they have to be feminists to be atheists or else they’re called sexist.
    That’s not really the case. It’s not like whenever there’s a post about a feminist issue, everyone’s talking and then there’s a pause and someone says, “Wait, I haven’t seen [username] post anything…he must be anti-woman!” Yeah, that’s not how it works. You don’t have to take interest in these topics. No one’s going to notice or care. It’s when you come to the comments section of a post that a lot of people got a lot out of and you tell women that their experiences aren’t important to you and therefore have no place on this blog, even though they are relevant to atheism. You don’t get called sexist if you don’t care about feminism. I don’t care if you don’t care about feminism. You get called sexist when you tell women to stop caring about feminism, that sexual harassment isn’t a big deal, that they don’t face discrimination anymore, and that the suffering they experienced at the hands of religion somehow has nothing to do with atheism. And then you remind us that the real tragedy is that you got called sexist because that really hurt your feelings.
    I agree that these issues are a little off topic to Pure Atheism (TM), but this is an atheist blog that deals with humanist issues, and everyone should know that by now. You’re free to skip posts that you don’t care about. 

    • brianmacker

      You are just plain wrong. The main complaint was about the irrational interpretation of self selection as some form of evidence for misogyny. Then using that to stereotype every male atheist as someone in need of reprogramming. You are the ones who have advocated forcing things along ultra feminist lines. You get propositioned in an elevator then the proper response is to correct that person on the spot, not use it as some kind of evidence of the deviance of everyone. Deal with the individual, because they are the guilty party. Collectivists like Skepchick just don’t get the obvious.

      It’s appalling that you justify making false charges and claims on the basis that it only hurts our feelings. You don’t get to just make shit up.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

        1) ”
        stereotype every male atheist as someone in need of reprogramming ” No, just the ones who take every chance they get to say shitty, disrespectful things to women.
        2) Ultra-feminist? Really? I think you’re just thinking of feminist. You’d just rather use “ultra” to make it sound like we’re crazy, similar to when people talk about militant atheism.
        3) You obviously don’t understand what it feels like to be the physically weaker sex when you’re in a confined space with no people around and someone shows interest in you. Have some fucking empathy.

        • brianmacker

          1) Why should women get special treatment. I get shitty disrespectful things said to me all the time. Mansplaining comes to mind, as does being called a dick for nit agreeing with some dogma.

          2) Many feminists are crazy. There are entire feminist books full of crazy. Andrea Dworkin’s “Intercourse” comes to mind. There are nutcase articles like “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”.

          3) You obviously don’t understand what it is like to be a male child in the men’s locker room at the YMCA when a naked wrinkly old codger decides to strike up a conversation. I like how feminists assume every male on the planet is larger than every female, and totally forget that men go through this stage called childhood.

          We’ve already covered how much empathy SkepChick deserves for her behavior. The answer is, “Not much”. Her verbalized complaint at the time she brought it up had little to do with any concern about rape and she was rather flippant about it and not at all cowed by the guy. In fact she came across as having zero empathy for the guy., Their are plenty of girls who have no problem with the decried behavior. Of course when another female atheist had the gall to question the dogma the crazys couldn’t stand for that.

  • Pansies4me

    I really hesitate to comment at all, but I’m going to anyway. I am a female atheist, secular humanist. I am always confounded by believers who react negatively if I tell them I am an atheist because telling someone I am an atheist tells them absolutely nothing else about me except that I don’t have a god belief. Count me in as a “dictionary atheist”, I guess. If someone tells me they are a Christian, I merely have an idea of what theological doctrine they espouse. That’s it. This is the lecture I give to people whose heads are blown because they can’t square the nice person they see before them with the baby eater they think an atheist must be.

    If someone bothers to get to know me after I lay that on them they will also find that I care about a host of issues that may or may not have anything directly due to my theological leanings. I was a tree hugger type as a child, before I ever figured out I didn’t believe in gods. I’m still a tree hugger type. I’m not an “atheist tree hugger” I’m a tree hugger who also happens to be an atheist. I am also a feminist who happens to be an atheist. I’m politically liberal, and I care deeply about issues of social justice, many of which are spelled out by the Atheism + faction. I work on those issues because they speak to me as a moral entity, not as an atheist entity.  Would I happily work with any atheists who want to address issues I agree with? Of course. I wouldn’t necessarily seek out an “atheist group” though, to petition the EPA about my tree hugging concerns. I can join the Sierra Club for that, as an example. 

    I personally don’t prefer to define myself as an A+ atheist because atheism is merely a theological stance. I bet I would nod my head in agreement with all the issues someone who labels themselves in that way would, though. I don’t want to see atheists “othering” each other over this. If I don’t “opt-in” will it be assumed that I am a bad person who cares nothing about others? That is what I fear.

    • brianmacker

      Try telling those believers that you are for gay marriage and see how that rolls on it’s own. Many atheists aren’t motivated by fitting in but in the truth. I personally don’t care if these A+ atheist think I’m bad for disagreeing with their imported dogmas.

  • TheAmazingAgnostic

    Like I said in my previous post, I understand that many women feel as if they are being shouted down and sexualized within atheist spaces. It is my personal opinion that disruptive behavior and harassment should not be tolerated within conferences and groups in our community. There are a few MRAs in this comment section that are taking this discussion and turning it into an extended rant against “gender” and “radical” feminism. Again, I do not agree with most of their ideas, and it should be clear to all that the MRAs have their own ideology to trumpet.

    I am perfectly happy to listen to what advocates bring to the table; however, I am not pleased with drawing clear ideological lines around skepticism.

    Politically, I would identify as center-left. Because of this, I am not in agreement with conservatives and libertarians over a variety of issues. Despite this, I enjoy listening to what they have to say, and I enjoy having conversations with them.

    I think that A+ would drive away some who otherwise might be interested in our issues by making them feel unwelcome or uncomfortable if their perspective doesn’t line up with the group’s consensus. 

    When people start to feel uncomfortable, infighting starts. When infighting starts, everyone is encouraged to “take sides” against fellow skeptics. When this happens, we will have incidents comparable to the Watson vs Dawkins controversy breaking out constantly on the atheist blogosphere and IRL.

    Does this sound like a good thing to anybody?

    I understand that issues of social justice may occasionally overlap with skepticism. Frankly, religion does a lot of damage on these fronts, and it is relevant to our discussion. Unfortunately, some people really do mistake atheism for being the same as religion. The Catholic church, for example, overlaps heavily with the pro-life movement due to its dogma. Skepticism does not have any dogma; therefore, many attempt to give it one. They treat their journey from religion to nonbelief as if it is a transformative personal experience and wish to talk about this journey in the same way that many religious people talk about their conversions.

    What I am attempting to say is that skepticism is not religion: there is no clearly defined agenda, and there should not be any focus on “deconversions” from religion as a personal transformation. While talking about women’s issues is fine, feminism is not just “women’s issues;” it is a complex social platform with many ideas that posses complex interpretations. Some schools of feminism (such as third-wave) seem perfectly reasonable, while others (such as what is popularly called “radical” feminism) are very unreasonable because they advocate anti-trans bigotry and extreme resistance to patriarchy. I am not completely ignorant of feminism; I am perfectly aware that radical feminism was very much a part of the second wave (60s through the 90s) and is pretty rare today. Even still, there are plenty of modern-era feminists who have co-opted the rhetoric of the old generation of radicals and refer to themselves as “rad” fems. They do their cause more damage than good and are responsible for the overwhelmingly negative perception of feminism here in the US, even among women.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      The radical feminist thing is a bit of a red herring. I’ve come across radical feminist discussions on the internet and they really are terrible, irrational people. However, I’ve never really encountered any of them outside of radical feminist blogs. I agree that radical feminism isn’t something that atheists should welcome, but it’s not really an issue. Most of us would also agree that we shouldn’t welcome the KKK.
      I guess the issue is that every time someone brings up important feminist issues, someone starts warning us about radical feminism, as if all feminism is radical feminism and as if we silly females are going to go along with it because we’ll believe anything if it’s labelled with “feminism.”

      This whole issue would be so much easier to discuss rationally without the MRAs here. Without them we could calmly discuss the atheist movement and goals, humanism/A+, and which subjects are relevant to what. But the MRAs jump in to silence women and explain how they’re the real victims and our experiences aren’t important. It’s horribly offensive and discouraging and puts the women in a very defensive position where they have to explain the basic principles of equality over and over again to men who keep dismissing things that these women have personally experienced.
      It really wears us out…
      This post touched on a very important issue that needs to be addressed since it comes up every time there’s a post about women’s issues. I was hopeful that there could be a reasonable discussion about it, but I’m really disappointed in the direction this has gone.

      • AndyTK

        What is an MRA?  I’m not opposed to discussion, I am opposed to forced quotas and a plank in the Atheist party platform that says that you must support quotas and except that women in the Atheist community are oppressed simply because there are less of them.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

          MRA = Men’s Rights Activists. They’re basically a group of sexist guys that insist that it’s actually men who are the victims of sexism in this country.
          Not saying that anyone who has a disagreement with this article is an mra type, it’s just that those types of people tend to turn up every now and then, offending all the women and making it really hard to have a reasonable discussion.
          I don’t like the idea of quotas either, though I do like the idea of trying to make sure that minorities are at least represented. It’s not really anyone’s fault if we can’t make a certain percentage. It is true that there are less female atheists and less black atheists. I think the better thing to do is have them represented by at least a few people so that those groups are more encouraged to join the movement.

          Still, women are oppressed in the atheist movement, and no, it’s not just because there are less of them. It’s because women are oppressed in our society and some of the oppression is a part of the social norm.

          • brianmacker

            That’s a straw man and a extremely biased definition. There are plenty of ways men get screwed over in favor of women in this society. Divorce law being just one example.

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

              I’m not saying that there is no sexism against men in this country, just that the MRA refutes pretty much all claims of misogyny. I have no problem with someone who wants to advocate for more fair divorce laws or child custody laws. I do have a problem with someone who tells women that their experiences with sexism aren’t a big deal/aren’t true.

              • brianmacker

                Give specific examples because I just did an Internet search and I don’t see such claims. There are claims made by Feminists in the area of economics that are false. Perhaps you are mistaking the proper use of statistics for the claim that no woman ever got propositioned by her boss?

          • The Other Weirdo

             That’s a pretty “radical feminist” definition of MRA. I thought we left those behind in the 90s, together with recovered memory?

        • Sally Strange

          Bitter dudes who coopt the fact that rigid gender roles hurt men too as an excuse to blame feminists for all their problems. Which, since feminism isn’t the root cause, means that they ultimately accomplish nothing to solve the problems they complain about.

          • brianmacker

            That’s quite a bit of gross over-generalization and stereotyping there Sally. “All” their problems? Really? You need to be specific because you cannot support your positon otherwise. You’ve set an impossible task for yourself.
            Let me disprove your claim with a specific example so you won’t waste time trying to support it. MRA have a problem with the kangaroo court systems that the extremist feminists have been instrumental in establishing on college campuses. Destroying hundredes of years of legal rule developed to protect those wrongly accused. The travesty of the Duke Lacrosse scandal being but one example. Currently it is guilty until proven innocent on the college campus in many places. Which has nothing to do with “ridgid gender roles” hurting men too.

    • Sally Strange

      I think that A+ would drive away some who otherwise might be interested in our issues by making them feel unwelcome or uncomfortable if their perspective doesn’t line up with the group’s consensus.

      You mean, the consensus that it’s worth it to talk about things besides atheism in the atheist movement, that racist and sexist slurs have no place in the conversation, that anti-harassment policies are a good idea, that sort of thing? See, there’s a lot of blather about how “disagreement” is being shouted down and silenced. Rarely do we hear anything about the content of said disagreement. Perhaps because so much of the actual content of the disagreement hinges on the defense of morally indefensible behavior? Who knows. Do you know what the groups’s consensus is, and can you explain what’s objectionable about it?

  • http://twitter.com/zerodash Gregory Shefler

    So, what do I do as a male looking to start making atheist friends?  I have been intending to start attending meetups and whatnot, but given this backlash- should I stay away from atheist social gatherings because I would be making the community more “white” and therefore scaring off minorities? 

    This is a serious question, as I have been hesitant to become more social in the community.

    Also, the rise of this Atheist+ movement really has poisoned the well.  Since you people have declared that anyone who is not “in” with this group (mostly white people, I might add) is a bad person…I believe “douche” is the actual term you use.  Why the hell would any outsider or lurker want to be in a community where you have to walk on eggshells lest you be called names and ostracized for not being part of the “correct” community?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      Really? That can’t be a serious question.
      You can go to whatever social gatherings you want. White males are completely accepted within this movement. I think you’re confusing the concept of trying to be more inclusive of women and minorities with being exclusive of white males. It’s not like for every woman or minority that joins, a white male has to be kicked out.

      • brianmacker

        Problem is that his self selection to attend such meetings will tend to cause the atheist plus crowd to jump to false conclusions that is evidence of discrimination. Better to stay home that to be bitched at by a bunch of crazed feminists.

      • Sally Strange

        It’s a trick question, see – white males aren’t excluded, but sexists and racists are. Most sexist, racist people tend to assume that everyone is as bigoted as they are.

        • brianmacker

          No, you just like to be promiscuous in your definitions. Anyone who disagrees with your ridiculous assumptions automatically gets classified bad and purged. Notice how on mere uncomforted on his part you immediately label him both sexist and racist. Pol Pot would be proud of you.

  • AndyTK

    The thing I find the strangest about this whole conversation
    is that on Facebook I’m always posting my support for gays marriage and for
    women to control their own bodies, but here I’m a bad guy for not wanting the Atheist
    movement to get distracted by raising feminist and LGBT issues to the same
    level as keeping prayer out of schools. 
    (And also not wanting to have quotas that enforce some strange
    ideological purity test instead of striving for a merit based system.)

    • brianmacker

      I only have a problem with raising those issues to the forefront when they are based on irrational expectations, poor reasoning, and false claims. I’m all for Atheist protests of the religious hanging of gays in Iran. Hammer that every day. I not for the irrational nonsense coming out of Skepchick.

      • Sally Strange

        Give one concrete example of irrational nonsense.

  • John D

     Haha… you are a “real” skeptic Patterrssonn… aren’t you!

  • http://twitter.com/jcsamuelson Jeff Samuelson

    From a not-quite-old white guy:

    Atheists don’t exist in a vacuum, and insisting that the focus be solely on religion doesn’t really mesh with reality. On specific issues – church-state separation, say – then sure, it makes sense that feminism, etc. might not fit (though they might, if the state is implementing a law targeting women that stems from religion…are there any of those that don’t?). But in general, the views that any one of us have consist of a blend of ideas that aren’t so easily divorced.

    Social issues are germane to atheists because atheist issues are social issues. They aren’t merely academic, political, or economic issues. They involve people living in society facing problems with privileged ideologies. In other words, atheists are working toward a goal so similar to that of feminists, equal rights activists, LGBT activists, etc. that it’s really kind of laughable that people disavow the connection.

    For those who don’t think there is a movement at all, I think at this point the question is moot. You can refuse to be a part of it, of course. You can continue to engage in the pedantic and pointless activity of parsing how atheism is technically devoid of content – a “narrow script”, as some have called it – and pat yourselves on the back for being right. And it’s true that atheism can’t really be described as having a progressive set of ideals attached to it. Humanism has far more content associated with it, yes. But the fact is that Humanists (of the secular variety, at least) are also by-and-large atheists, and have as much claim to the label as you.

    So, if you’re a socially conservative atheist, or one who doesn’t care to participate in working on social issues, or who wants to keep atheism in an academic or philosophical box, or who thinks all feminism is radical and that misogyny is a thing of the past, that’s fine. No one is saying you can’t be or aren’t a True Atheist
    ™, or that you can’t work toward greater acceptance of atheism in your own way. Just don’t think you have any more right to dictate what the atheist movement is or isn’t than anyone else.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      This!!! Thank you!

    • brianmacker

      You want to equate atheism to what are in fact narrow Marxist and socialist spinoff ideological movements. Pointing out that is what you are doing, and informing you of facts, like that fact that atheism is defined by lack of belief is not pedantic. You use ideological terms like “privilege” as if that had anything to do with atheism. I’ve posted many a comment proving that such terminology is vacuous, but many atheists are not rational and just don’t understand proper reasoning.

      Why don’t you go form a group called the neomarxists, neoliberals, or neofeminists and do your own thing, instead of going around interpreting self selection as discrimination. The Marxists did this, the Objectivists did it, etc. Go do it if that is what you desire. Atheism is a more inclusive concept and if you wish to narrow it then form a subgroup. Don’t attempt to force the rest of us to take on your ideological trappings. Especially when they are based on false reasoning.

      I find it hilarious that you think we are dictating terms when we are merely pointing out the truth.

      • Sally Strange

        Atheism is a more inclusive concept and if you wish to narrow it then form a subgroup.

        “Hey guys, how about we talk about environmental justice and applying skepticism to racist institutions this week?”

        “No way! We’re too busy being inclusive! We only talk about atheism. By excluding talking about anything except atheism, we’re being inclusive! Okay? Stop being so divisive!”

  • Maud

    There is a very simple reason why some of us do not attend some atheist meetings. We get sick of some of the men who lear down our fronts and dribble whilst slurring “Hardeharhar, atheist boobs, get ‘em out.”  I had hoped that being willing to think far enough to reject religious belief might also imply the ability to think about other subjects too but it would appear that the ingrained social attitude that women are there as sex objects and nothing more is far too strong for some of the obnoxious neanderthals to overcome.

  • Amanda

    I don’t comment often, but I have to say something, after reading through most of the comments. As a 19 year old lesbian who has been in the atheist community for a few years, I can’t say that I can see where this is coming from.

    When I hear speakers talk, I hear them talk, I don’t care what gender they are, so long as they’re saying something worth hearing. It doesn’t unsettle me to see a majority of men speakers at the events. So what? Like someone else pointed out, I want the good ones, Dawkins, Harris, not someone I’ve never heard of before for the sake of a quota. At the global atheist convention I felt welcome, and when I listened to the speakers the last things that was on my mind was gender or race. 

    Living in a small city, I don’t have access to regular meetups, but if I were to attend one filled with middle aged white men, who cares? I’m not there to hang out and discuss things with other women. I’m there to meet up with other atheists, and talk about atheist issues, their age, race, or gender, doesn’t concern me.

    I’m not an avid reader of all the blogs like I used to be, but not because I feel unwelcome, or because I feel the environment is not diverse or all inclusive enough, but because I’m sick of all these debates on the matter. I come to these places to read about atheist issues. I have other places and people to discuss other issues with, specific places. So for me, all this talk has done is push me further away.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t discuss these things at all. But I’ve seen way too many people overreact and use the sexist card, and I’m tired of it. I’d probably be jumped on in an instant if I expressed my opinion on elevatorgate and all the other issues that have been happening in the last year, and I’d probably be called sexist for it, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

  • brianmacker

    “The thing is: Discussions are not a zero-sum game. If I decide to talk about social justice and why I think it’s important, it does not prevent anyone else from discussing other topics.”

    On your own dime no, but that is not what is happening, or will happen. The purges have already started with the Stalinist dear leader’s like Richard Carrier making cries of us vs. them. Organizations have limited budgets, and if the entire “atheist movement” meaning all atheist organizations, have to now support some politically correct stripe of feminism that is less money for other activities. Money will have to be spent to rent halls at conferences to indoctrinate all us skeptica of the dogma malcontents, or we can just be purged at the cost of any donations we make.

    In any case it is not a zero sum game with regards to these organizations. You can make the organization bigger but then it is still a matter of dividing a fixed pool of resources and if as others claim these “social justice” and “feminist” issues are more compelling and bring in more money That would skew things to a majority concern on those topics. Political control would then end up going to the leftists and funding for the original goals of these organizations would dry up. If it doesn’t grow the organization, or if it shrinks it than that is bad to.

    There are good reasons that organizations specialize. You can’t just combine the ASPCA and the NRA and expect the same results, and no those two are not necessarily incompatible. The ASPCA does kill animals, and there are members of both. I’m fine with both organizations. There is also a reason why PETA and the ASPCA do not combine. Differing goals would be diluted by even that combination.

    • Sally Strange

      Watch what you say, man. The FemiStasi are watching you. We’re listening.

      • brianmacker

        Fact is you can’t respond intelligently so you act like I’m paranoid. That is exactly the kind of comment the radical feminists would use as evidence of sexism if directed at a woman. Boo hoo you were so dismmissive, not listening, etc. For someone who was complaining in another comment about how you’d feel alienated by my presence at an atheist group, you sure are not worried about alienating people yourself. Hypocrite.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fred.kohn.3 Frederick Jacob Kohn

    As a pantheist sitting outside the whole atheist/theist discussion there seems to me to be very little difference between the two groups. Both have drawn their line in the sand and consider outsiders uninformed at best and evil at worse. Both put the blinders on when their sacred cows are challenged. Atheists have got to realize that believing in god(s) is being shown by research to be the natural state of humankind and that disbelief in them is an aberration. (This doesn’t mean atheists aren’t right- it is also natural to believe the world is flat and doesn’t move. Nor does it mean that although people are usually born with 5 fingers it is evil to be born with 6).  Justin L. Barrett in “Born Believers” lists numerous conditions that predispose people to be atheists, and being not just male but male-brained is one of them. (Another is relative social stability- the main reason Europe is so largely atheists). 19% of the speakers at atheist conferences being women is just about spot on to the statistics of atheists in the general population. Until atheists acknowledge that being religious is the natural state of humankind they are just going to continue to kick against the goads. (If you find this post upsetting, you might want to reald Barrett’s book, as well as “Why we believe in god(s)” by J. Anderson Thompson.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      Atheists have got to realize that believing in god(s) is being shown by research to be the natural state of humankind and that disbelief in them is an aberration.

      But how can we know that? Every single culture on earth was preceded by an ancient culture that believed in an unseen supernatural realm. All those deity beliefs have been passed down from generation to generation. The fact is,  we don’t know if children born into a modern society with access to scientific knowledge would invent gods and goddesses. We’d have to conduct a social experiment to find out. I would love to find out, but unfortunately such an experiment would be near impossible.

      • http://www.facebook.com/fred.kohn.3 Frederick Jacob Kohn

        One reason we know this is that about 40% of children create gods for themselves:  incorporeal intentional agents with superhuman abilities: also known as invisible friends. No one teaches them to do this. It comes naturally.

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          You have a very liberal definition of “gods!” Imaginary friends aren’t gods. They’re not even supernatural, strictly speaking, since even young children understand on some level that they are not actually real.

          Children aren’t raised in a vacuum. Every single child in every culture around the world is growing up in a world in which they are introduced to hundreds of different supernatural concepts. By the time a child is in preschool, he or she had likely been exposed to angels, ghosts, monsters, fairies, witches, superheroes, invisible people, magic powers, and so on and so on.

          And children generally don’t invent gods and goddesses of their own. They are exposed to the deities popular in their culture, which are presented to them as real. Most of them accept that these gods are real because the grown-ups told them they were real. If a child is left alone, he or she isn’t going to invent a new god to worship. Worship itself is a very strange and unnatural thing for a small child. You don’t see young children spontaneously engaging in prayer or devotions without (usually heavy) indoctrination and prompting from adults. Even children in fundamentalist families have to be taught how to pray.

          We have absolutely no idea what would happen if you isolated a group of children and raised them in a place free of supernatural concepts, or one in which the supernatural was presented as imaginary. It would be interesting to do a comparison, actually. (Can you tell I’ve thought a lot about this?) Take one group and raise them in a strictly secular, naturalistic environment. Take another group and raise them with exposure to fantasy, but be clear that the fantasy is just make-believe. Watch and see whether either group of children invents gods or goddesses to worship. I think it would be fascinating, but my point is that we simply don’t know what would happen.

        • Sally Strange

          Murder also comes naturally, so we try to discourage it. No reason we can’t do the same for imaginary friends. Hell, we already do, we just grant special dispensation if their name is Yahweh or Allah or Vishnu or whatever, and lots of people claim him as their imaginary friend.

  • Franklin Bacon

    Certainly no one is going to do it for you. If you want another branch or emphasis on your brand of atheism, go ahead and create one. Those already in existence have found their niche…the thing that keeps themselves afloat, so don’t go trying to change them, because changing them will destroy them.

    • Sally Strange

      Actually, it’s the lack of change that causes destruction.

      I can do bald assertions, too, see?

  • Sally Strange

    Hey Brian. Can you explain a couple things for me? First of all, you really, really want atheism to not be a movement? Why?

    Second of all, do you really think this can be accomplished by telling people to disbelieve their own eyes and listen to you instead, as you lie through your teeth and insist that there is no atheist movement?

    Cheers,

    Sally

    P.S. Thanks for proving the OP’s point.

    • brianmacker

      “Can you explain a couple things for me?”
      Sure but I doubt you will understand.

      “First of all, you really, really want atheism to not be a movement? Why?”

      I never said that or even implied it, you are confused, or a liar (as you just accused me of being).

      “…, as you lie through your teeth and insist that there is no atheist movement?”

      I never claimed there is “no atheist movement”. Again you are confused or a liar. In fact there are many atheist movements. For example, the A+ atheist movement which has called for separating atheists into “us” and “them” and purging those in the out group, agree or GTFO.
      BTW, the proper structure for a false sentence in this regard would be “there are not any atheism movements”. The sentence fragment “there is no atheist movement” is ambigious and therefore really can’t have a solid truth value. If it means “there is no [singular] atheist movement” then it is in fact true. If it is meant refer to a specific example of the many like “there is no [new] atheist movement” then it is false. Of course, I made neither claim because you are putting words into my mouth. Which is becoming a habit with you.

      What I might have said is “Atheism isn’t a movement”, and that is just a fact. Atheism is a group of positions on the existence of one or many gods. What is accomplished by informing people of facts like this is the reduction of error so we can communicate better, and understand problems so we can fix them. Your agenda on the other hand appears to be less honorable. At least as seen from my perspective.

      “Thanks for proving the OP’s point”
      You wouldn’t know how to prove a point if it was stabbing you in the eye.


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