Atheism+ (in Some Circles)

(In response to this post)

About M J Shepherd

Matthew graduated Louisiana State University in 2009 with a BA in studio art and a minor in art history. He has been drawing cartoons and comics online for several years.

  • northierthanthou

    I expect this may be perfectly apt as applied to a broad range of initforthesnark atheists, but I also think some folks may have legitimate concerns about whether or not those social issues are well served by  this approach.

  • piksipuzzlebox

     I can’t think of any social issue that would not be served by activism on the part of others.

  • TerranRich

    No! We’re all going to be forced to join on threat of death! If we’re not with the group, they’re going to attack us in some nuclear holocaust! They’re dogmatic and force the rest of us to conform!

    *sigh* Only in an atheist community can this amount of inanity occur, apparently. Want to talk about sexual harassment policies? If you’re an atheist/skeptic community, prepare for the onslaught of privilege and straw-men. Other places seem to do just fine adopting such policies. Same goes for Atheism+. If one group wants to splinter from another based on issues they care about, it’s never a problem anywhere but the atheist/skeptic community.

  • ganner918

    “This approach” was only necessary because the community at large refused to take their (those now forming a+) concerns seriously, and they were mocked, harassed, insulted, and treated like crap by a significant minority while both their concerns and the harassing comments alike were ignored by the majority.

  • 1000 Needles

    How can you have a cartoon about atheism? Atheism doesn’t address cartoons!

  • Coyotenose


  • RobMcCune

    Shouldn’t they be fleeing as a major metropolitan area is destroyed by a giant radioactive respect?

  • rg57

    While the cartoon does illustrate something true, the vague title “Atheism+ (in Some Circles)” is a Fox-News-ism (“some people say”) that implies that “some circles” is equivalent to the opposition to Atheism+.  Then the cartoon and title work together to imply that Atheism+ is equivalent to “social issues”.   It sets up those against Atheism+ as being against social issues.  Indeed, the cartoon is a prime example of exactly what is wrong with Atheism+.

    If you were being honest, each statement would have been a different objection to Atheism+ like “When do we talk about atheist-related social issues?”, “I’m already addressing feminist and LGBT social issues elsewhere!”, “Let’s think this though before burning bridges”, “Who elected bigots to lead A+?”, “You just called my friend an a-hole, jerk!”.  Those are my objections, anyway.

  • RobMcCune

    I don’t think social justice issues will be well served by the continuation of the conflict simply bringing them up creates. Look at the previous post’s comment section to see how well the idea went over. All the wild claims about the evils of A+ are reminiscent of faux news in their levels of vilification. That people should have to continue to endure that level of hostility is unreasonable.

  • DaveDodo007

    I think the whole ‘you are either with us or you are a douchebag.’ Might be considered counter productive in atheists/skepticism circles, just saying like.

  • Sam

    That’s… not exactly the only problem.    If it were, I wouldn’t be so hesitant about it.

  • Bo Tait

    What, with the Plus and the Circles I thought I’d put this here. 

  • Patrick Anderson

     “When do we talk about atheist-related social issues?”
    Atheism related social issues are STILL being talked about.  PZ, for example, still posts on religious issues.  A+ d0es not forbid such discussion anywhere!  Your argument that these issues somehow cannot be talked about because a self-selecting group also wishes to talk about other things is nonsense.

    “I’m already addressing feminist and LGBT social issues elsewhere!”
    That’s great!  How does having people talk about these issues and work on them while also working on Atheism and other social justice issues hurt you in any way?
    And just because you’re working on them elsewhere, doesn’t mean the problems are solved or that the issues can’t be helped by other people working on them.

    “Let’s think this though before burning bridges”
    Before burning what bridges?!  This is a voluntary group, you have to want to be in it to join.  It isn’t forcing people out of spaces they were already in.  Heck, it is not even limited to being a group, since it also acts as a label. 
    Further, if a strong stance on refuting sexism actually burns bridges with some people, and those people decide to have nothing to do with any A+ member, I’d rather not have their company anyways.  Even if they are otherwise a good skeptic.

    “Who elected bigots to lead A+?”
    Bigots??  Citation needed for this. 
    Also, there is no strict hierarchy or leadership.  The closest thing I can think of would be moderators on the forums of the A+ website.

    “You just called my friend an a-hole, jerk!”
    Was your friend acting badly?  Who called them that?  Was it a general comment about people who are unconcerned with social justice, or was your friend specifically called out?  Also, you assume that the speaker speaks for everyone involved with A+.  It is NOT a monolithic entity.  It is composed of individuals.  You (I assume) wouldn’t treat all the TAM speakers as being vile if one of them got in a heated argument with your friend and insulted them.


    We’ve already been told who isn’t welcome in A+ and it’s been repeatedly implied that those who aren’t cheering A+ from the rooftops are clearly against issues of social justice. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to join that group of charmers. They’ve built a quality little foundation that could support any cult.

  • julie

    A few points about this whole issue:

    - There do seem to be a few constructive criticisms about the movement, but others have raised the rhetoric too high to talk about it reasonably.

    - People are mad that either you’re A+ or you’re a douchebag, not seeming to understand that there might have been specific reasons why they were called a douchebag.

    - Most likely, they were called a douchebag because of sexist comments. One of the complaints that keeps popping up over and over is that A+ is run by radical feminists who hate men and want to turn atheism into feminism. If that’s your complaint, then yeah, you’re a douchebag. You’re not a douchebag for not taking the A+ label, you’re a douchebag for being sexist. GTFO, we won’t miss you.

    - It’s okay if you think atheism should be only about “no god” issues. Boring, but okay. **That’s why people are creating a different label** That’s the whole point. Not everyone agrees that that’s all atheism is, so they’re creating a different label for atheists who want to focus on social issues.

    - No, you won’t be told to GTFO just for not adopting the label. Watch this: I’m not calling myself A+. I feel like “atheist” describes me well enough. Ta da! I’m still here! Once again, you’re told to go away if you make stupid, sexist complaints or try to tell other people what to do with their atheism.

    - It’s quite a coincidence that people who complain about being shut down “simply for not accepting the label!” and don’t want atheism to be diluted also just so happen to be anti-feminist…

  • Robby Bensinger

    Yes, I agree both with this and with the cartoon. Being annoyed at people being too pushy and belligerent is sane. Being terrified of a mass evil feminist atheist quasireligious takeover ….. slightly less sane.

  • DaveDodo007

     Yeah I made that comment you know either or douchebag, feel free to show my sexist comments as I have been around online atheism a long time. I’ll wait.

  • Robby Bensinger

    Jen on common A+ misconceptions: 

    “8. Why do you hate atheists who just want to talk about atheism?I don’t. I think discussing reasons why God doesn’t exist, flaws in theological arguments, stigma against atheists, religious privilege, violations of the separation of church and state, and all those related things matter. A lot. They were incredibly important for me when I was just starting to call myself an atheist, especially in a conservative, religious state like Indiana. I think groups should keep on doing that! I am just personally ready to expand my list of topics.”Also addresses the cult concern. With all due gravity. :)

  • Adamwho

    The issues promoted by the supporters of atheism+ are completely non-controversial with the vast majority of human beings.  Atheist lead on many of this issues,  so issues are not the problem.

    The problem is that the people pushing this atheism+ have a history of “my way or the highway” bullying when people disagree with them on the slightest issue.   They say on one hand that “everything is open for discussion” but then turn around and say agree with us or GTFO. 

    The message is loud and clear:  Either you join us or you are the enemy, you are against social justice, pro-discrimination, and anti-critical thinking!!!

    Sorry, I am would not associate with such people.  I can be a moral and good person without Atheism+

  • julie

    A few people brought up the douchebag/asshole complaint and then suddenly everyone seems to be insisting that that’s the way it is. Were you called a douchebag or an asshole? If so, what was the conversation? 

  • DaveDodo007

     Try freethoughtblogs via Richard Carrier and take it from there. I wasn’t even involved but I was left with the impression that it is my way or the highway. American atheism scares the fuck out of me, It’s McCarthyism rite large.

  • julie

    No, that message is not loud and clear. It’s just something everyone’s been bringing up, as if they are being treated badly because they aren’t adopting the label, when many of them are actually saying some really terrible, untrue things about how it’s some big feminist takeover.
    I’m not really adopting the label, but no one’s called me out on it yet, so obviously it’s not a case of “Either you join us or you are the enemy.” I’m sure there are plenty of other people who don’t really care for the label, and no one cares that they don’t care. The people who are most vocal about it are vocal about it *because* they’re against these social issues so it’s perfectly fair that people are fighting back against them. The problem is that it gives the illusion that anyone against A+ is shouted down, because all the vocal people are also being very antagonistic to social issues, when in reality, there’s probably many people that don’t care that A+ people wouldn’t have a problem with, but there’s no arguments against them because…they don’t care.
    It’s not “you’re with us or you’re against us.” It’s “you’re saying that you’re against us, so you’re against us.”

  • Russell’s Teatpot

    Unfortunately the first interaction between A+ and a social justice advocacy group has been for A+ to launch a Facebook ‘shaming’ campaign. I think it’s a real shame a LGBT group wanted to distance themselves from atheism, but it does highlight a genuine issue and the response from the A+ crowd did not seem to be handled in the best manner.

  • Patrick Anderson

    “The message is loud and clear:  Either you join us or you are the enemy,
    you are against social justice, pro-discrimination, and anti-critical

    This is a strawman argument:  no one is claiming that, but you are insisting they are saying that anyways.
    What I HAVE seen: IF someone is against social justice THEN they don’t belong in A+.
    This is not the same as saying everyone who isn’t part of A+ is against social justice.
    Group B is not allowed in Group A.  Group C is not part of Group A, but is also not related to Group B.  Make sense?

  • julie

    Ehh…it seems like it kind of just got out of control a bit too fast.
    Tom: “I’ll stick with the original atheism, thanks.”
    Richard: “So, one vote for douchery. Got it.”

    See, right away, Tom is picking a bit of a fight. That whole “thanks, but no thanks” attitude basically means, “Hey, all that stuff you said about compassion and not being racist or sexist? Really lame.”
    Now of course, there’s a chance that he didn’t mean that, but that was the impression he gave. If he did mean that, yeah, he’s a douche. If he didn’t, then he should have elaborated on what he meant in a more respectful way.

    Richard assumed that that was what he meant, and it’s pretty understandable. However, he probably should have asked Tom to explain more before just assuming what he meant. 
    From there, everyone immediately took sides, and the people who didn’t get the sense that Tom was being antagonistic towards A+ immediately assumed that Richard had called him a douchebag simply for not wanting the new label, when Richard had called him a douchebag because he assumed Tom was against social justice issues.
    Both sides were a bit at fault, but now it seems like the argument is centered on this one comment because one person didn’t take the time to explain themselves and the other didn’t ask for an explanation. And it sucks.
    I still disagree that that’s the general sentiment of the movement. I just think someone spoke too quickly and everyone ran with that as if that’s what this whole movement equates to.

  • ImRike

     I don’t know if people just don’t get it, or if they don’t want to get it. My observations over the past few months have been that whenever the subject of feminism has come up, instantly there were objections like “This is an atheism blog, what does feminism have to do with that?” or “I don’t want to talk about feminism, this is an atheism blog!”
    Ok, so the Atheism+ crowd is doing you a favor: You don’t want to talk about anything but atheism, we’re starting our own community where we can talk about anything WE see fit and don’t you bother joining, since this will be Atheism+, not just Atheism.
    It’s just that simple.

  • 1000 Needles

    Bullying? Bullying? That’s a spit in the face to anyone that has actually experienced bullying. 

    Also, Atheists Plus have in NO WAY said  “everything is open for discussion.”  In that, they’ve been very explicit about wanting to create a safe space where women and minorities can discuss the issues they face without fear of harassment, trolls, or having to explain basic concepts such as privilege for the 100th time.

  • LeftSidePositive

    See, here I am, a person very much in favor of the new A+ label, and also very well known for swearing the fuck out of people who are being fools, liars, and/or douchebags, and note how I am NOT excoriating julie because she doesn’t like the label? I think, “Oh, not your style? Whatevs. Great insights on  the actual values that I care about, enjoyed your comment…”

    See, that’s not so terrible, is it, Adamwho?

  • LeftSidePositive

    “The issues promoted by the supporters of atheism+ are completely non-controversial with the vast majority of human beings.”
    You know what? These issues ARE very controversial to the people who spew a lot of rape and death threats whenever anyone tries to bring them up. It’s really great of you to declare that the harassment we are targeted with is apparently not a problem because you say so, but don’t you think that might come off as just a little bit condescending, irresponsible, and insensitive?
    “Atheist lead on many of this issues,  so issues are not the problem.”Says the person who is probably not getting a lot of the rape and death threats…

    “The problem is that the people pushing this atheism+ have a history of “my way or the highway””
    “Our way” is to treat women, people of color, LGBTQ people, disabled people, etc., AS PEOPLE deserving of respect and a voice in our movement. No, that is not negotiable. Why should it be?

    Being vehemently disagreed with is not bullying, and shame on you for co-opting the experience of those who are actually bullied to ignore legitimate criticism.

    “when people disagree with them on the slightest issue.”
    My equality is not a slight issue.
    “The message is loud and clear:  Either you join us or you are the enemy, you are against social justice, pro-discrimination, and anti-critical thinking!!!”

    I don’t think you understand. The point is usually more along the lines of: “You know that thing you keep insisting? You know that way you keep behaving? It actually has some really serious and deleterious effects regarding social justice because of a, b, and c, and this argument you made in favor of your position is actually not demonstrating critical thinking because of x, y, and z” (with the particulars of the situation filled in). It’s not about joining a particular group or having a particular label; it’s about the consequences of your actions in the real world, and the fact that just declaring yourself to be on board with social justice issues without actually delving into the details or considering one’s own biases simply isn’t enough.
    “I can be a moral and good person without Atheism+”Well, fair warning: you are coming off a hell of a lot more like you care more about reassuring yourself that you’re a moral and good person than about listening to the actual effects of your behavior and attitudes in the real world. You might want to reflect on that.

  • LeftSidePositive

    When the sole unifying position of a group is caring about not being a douchebag, someone who is vehemently opposed to it is likely a douchebag. How else can one be so opposed to “we’re against douchebaggery”?

  • LeftSidePositive

    Why is shaming categorically wrong? If someone does something that is marginalizing, selfish, prejudiced, and harmful to others, why is it wrong to stand up for those who were harmed by it? Why is it wrong to have a public discussion about behavior that harms/marginalizes a whole category of people? Did you also fail to notice that it WORKED? People don’t get their rights by being really quiet and really nice–sometimes you have to make a big deal about being wronged, and set some boundaries that such behavior is unethical and unacceptable.

  • LeftSidePositive

    Look, Gary, even REBECCA FUCKING WATSON does not cheer A+ from the rooftops–and you know what she got? An engaged and reasonable discussion that respected her reservations and her insights from people all over the spectrum as far as their opinions on the name. Another skepchick (Heina) posted in favor of the A+ moniker, and there was a really interesting discussion about all the flavors of humanism and the whole thread was really positive.

    The people who have been lambasted for being against social justice have been the people who have actually expressed opinions hostile to the values of social justice. To pretend they just have an innocent difference of opinion about the name or joining a group is flatly refuted by the evidence of those people who actually HAVE had just those objections, and have had no trouble with it from the A+ folks.

  • julie

    And usually, I wouldn’t make a fuss over it at all. I don’t really call myself humanist, but I don’t go into humanist discussions to tell them that I don’t use their label. It seems pretty pointless.
    But if you’re actively speaking out against it, it obviously goes beyond simply not caring for new labels, and the GTFO attitude is often warranted.

  • julie

    That’s what’s been pretty frustrating about this whole thing. People freak out when feminism is brought up in an atheist blog, so someone says, hey, why don’t we make a distinction between simply atheism and atheism plus caring about social issues?
    And somehow that’s a problem because apparently atheism should never be linked to social issues, and not only can we not talk about feminism on an atheist blog, as atheists, we cannot have an atheist conversation about feminist issues at all. We’ll have to find a separate feminist area for our women problems.
    …and then they get mad when they’re told to stay away? For people who put up such a fight against social issues, they sure get mad at not being included in a group that cares about social issues…

  • DaveDodo007

    Are you serious, A group (religion) decides what is sinful and what is not. If I don’t immediately sign up completely to its doctrines I’m a douchebag. I’m from Europe so why do you think I should be so gullible? Sorry sister you have just brought into another cult and I can’t help you there but I don’t like snake oil.

  • LeftSidePositive

    I think you missed the part where we are actually not talking about “sin” as though it were this arbitrary thing, but about being a douchebag in ways that cause demonstrable harm to other people. Having rationally-derived, evidence-based values about what works best for one’s fellow human beings and increases happiness in the world is not the same as having arbitrarily asserted rules of conduct to control people, and I think you’d know that if you actually paid attention.  By the way, you’re more than welcome to challenge why something should be considered okay–but if you don’t acknowledge the negative effects on others you’re probably being self-centered and, well, a douchebag.

    By the way, calling me “sister” like that is sexist, and is a demeaning term used to make people’s views seem insignificant on account of their gender. Part of being a decent human being is caring about not latching on to a bunch of toxic cultural bullshit just to seem superior to people who were born different than you, and this is a well-established value because of the known inequality, disenfranchisement, and violence perpetrated when this value is disregarded.

  • Salmancino

    Since you don’t know the “vast majority of human beings” that comment is complete bullshit. There are a billion Chinese that don’t give a shit about this issue or what you think. You then conflate the other arguments you list in equally hysterical fashion. You seem so zealous and closed. How very religious if you.

  • LeftSidePositive

    Hey, did you notice that you falsely attributed to me a comment by another poster that I was quoting and OBJECTING TO in order to tar me with how religious I’m being. Nice reading comprehension, there!

  • onamission5

    That was a very succinct and apropos breakdown of the dynamics at hand, which if you don’t mind is totally going in my head file for later use.

  • julie

    Hey, he’s from Europe though! He can’t be wrong!

  • Patterrssonn

    “McCartheism writ large”? Really Dave, I’m not surprised people are calling you a douchebag.

  • Chris Algoo

    I’ve never seen so many people tripping over themselves to defend assholes.

  • DaveDodo007


    The whole sister thing is brothers/sisters trade union speak
    from my past (it’s about equality,) I was very active in the socialist worker
    movement in my youth. It fought for the very same values as A+ is suppose to
    have. It was so easy to demonize our opponents, to class them as the ‘other.’ I
    literary hated people I didn’t know, judging them without knowing anything
    about them, their background, education. I’m glad I grew up. Atheism is one of
    the few things I still hold dear and seeing it co-op into a movement makes me
    very nervous. How long have we been arguing that atheism isn’t a religion,
    atheism doesn’t equal communism, remember communism as it holds all the same
    values of A+ and look how that turn out.


    Still I’m probably over reacting, good luck with your new
    movement and you’ll have to forgive me for not wanting to have anything to do
    with it, I have been there and done that already. The religious have a saying
    which I think is very apt here ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’


    I don’t have long before I’m an old white male, so I was told on day one that I wasn’t welcome. The first post that I made my concerns known, I was immediately hit with “People like you who oppose social justice and equality…” Nowhere have I ever opposed social justice or equality, ever. And the last comment was from Martin of the Atheist Experience who has seen the picture of me, a straight man, at a gay rights rally that went a little viral a couple months ago and I know that he’s read some of my posts on women’s rights because he’s commented on a few. The problem is that none of this matters if you don’t just snap to and get in line. It doesn’t matter what you actually believe because your beliefs will be assigned to you in order to demonize you as soon as you question them. This has been the standard attitude since before this A+ marketing move. I’ve been concerned since they first began to compile the enemies list.

    I agree with nearly everything they stand for, if not everything across the board. However, I do not stand for purity pledges and I don’t stand for unfounded hate filled claims and character assassinations. What will happen when I’m forced to testify in front of the FTB Unatheism+ Activities Committee? Should I admit to having done some work for The Thinking Atheist, a known conservative?