Helpful Suggestions for Atheism+

Robby Bensinger offers a few helpful suggestions for the Atheism+ crowd, as it grows out of its infancy, because he wants to see it succeed. A brief glimpse into his suggestions are below but I’d encourage you to read his full post here.

1. Define Yourselves.

It isn’t always crazy to let a term’s usage evolve naturally out of people’s amorphous intuitions. But in an already acrimonious environment, it’s asking for trouble. People listen most to those they agree with; when we strongly and consistently disagree, we tend to ignore or misinterpret each other. Thus each faction begins to converge upon a different definition, each new ambiguity compounding both the number of disputes and the difficulty and uselessness of resolving any one of them!

2. Be An Umbrella.

Your goals of attracting supporters and converting critics are both better served when you build bridges than when you burn them. And you’ll need a whole lot of help from existing humanist, secularist, and other activist organizations if you want to be seen as the Next Big Thing and not just as another escalation in the petty infighting that’s already been driving people away from the movement.

3. Learn To Persuade.

Atheism+ has a rhetoric problem. A serious one. Your opponents, of course, share this fault. But I care more about helping Atheism+ achieve its goals, so I care more right now about critiquing and enhancing you plussers’ tactics and discursive habits…

It doesn’t matter whether the name happens to be apt. It doesn’t matter how frustrated you are, or how entertaining your closest associates find the barb. Making a personal attack serves none of your aims. It doesn’t persuade, it alienates spectators, it offers us no real psychological insights, and it lowers the quality of discourse in general…

(via SAIU)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Marlo Rocci

    I’m afraid you’re too late.  They’ve already clearly identified themselves as a hate group.  They’ve also stated that they are willing to release personal contact details of anyone they deem unacceptable for reasons of real life harassment (doc dropping).  My advice is to stay as far away from these people as possible.

    • Steve Bowen

      One can only assume you haven’t experienced such harrasment. How lovely for you.

      • The Captain

        Your right, a lot of people have never had to put up with internet trolls on blog post we make. And a lot of us do put up with it.. well not “put up” so much as just ignore it as the internet trolling it is. And most of us don’t use such trolls as justification for everything we do or say after  that. Like the A+  clique does.

        Some if us have actually had more violent thinks said to us in person, by people who where more than capable of carrying them out and still we don’t let it define us, or us it as a cause. But then we are just grown ups.

    • shiny 1

      Please follow your own advice.


      Starting now.


    • LouisDoench


      They’ve already clearly identified themselves as a hate group.


      • Skizzle

        My troll readings are off the charts with this one.

    • 1000 Needles

      Woman after woman has been subject to sick amounts of harassment and sexism from self-identified skeptics and atheists, and you decide to be vocal when one of them finally cracks and has a lapse of judgement?

      You want to see hate, here’s hate. A year since, and skeptics and atheists are still attacking Rebecca Watson and any woman that dare speaks up in defense of her. And that’s just one symptom of a systemic, movement-wide problem.

      And you’re trying to accuse the people that want to carve out a safe space, where women can speak up without fear of harassment, of hate?

      Ridicule is all you deserve. I value A+ because it is a simple way of distancing myself from atheists like you.

      • 1000 Needles

        Some more recent examples:
        Hyper-skepticism on the JREF forum
        Paula Kirby being pathetically juvenile

        Yeah, individually they don’t amount to much. But drip, drip, drip, day after day, directed at the same people, and this shit becomes a torrent. Is this the sort of behavior you want the atheist and skeptic movements to be known for? Is this behavior not “divisive”?

        I want to separate myself from that. I want to move the conversations forward, without the hyper-skepticism and “just asking questions” that stagnates any progress.That is why I am excited about Atheism Plus.

        • The Captain

          Oh my… someone said horrible things on an internet chat board. Quick sound the alarms! 

          • Robby Bensinger

            Roughly one out of every five women in the United States has been raped at some point. Abuse and threats directed at women are also disproportionately common. And many of the bloggers being threatened in this way have their real names and other personal information readily available, and associate on a regular basis with the very group of people who make these threats.

            I’m not criticizing you if you don’t want to join A+ or some other feminist organization; no one asked you to. But I don’t think it’s setting a very high bar for people of sense and compassion to expect you not to mock or dismiss the concerns of people who have been threatened in this way. Threats and hate speech said online are not automatically harmless jokes, any more than are threats and slurs made in person or by letter.Seriously. Not a high bar.

            • The Captain

              Here’s the problem. Most of those rapes in that survey where done by people they knew. Not by people on the internet. 

              But I”m sorry, I haven’t seen all these cases of atheist female bloggers getting raped because of what they said on the internet. So until that time, this is just an irrational fear. And it’s a biased irrational fear. Your saying because more of assume crime is directed towards your group by anther (even though make rape is very close) that you can justify begin afraid of most people from that group. Bullshit. 

              This is no different than someone saying they are starting Atheist-W, to be a “safe place” for white atheist to talk about stuff since most crime is done by blacks and whites and some black people said mean stuff to them on the internet. 

        • A3Kr0n

           Hi 1K Needles! Any word if your A+ logo won the big prize?

      • Peepants

        Wait wait wait….we have someone asking Marlo for a “citation” and you go and make a HUGE claim….

        “Woman after woman has been subject to sick amounts of harassment and sexism from self-identified skeptics and atheists”

        Now, YOU go and get the proof of this happening. Not anecdotal; not hearsay; not what you want to believe happened. Give us PROOF. Until then you are just tossing out emotion-based statements designed to do nothing but trigger a victim response. 

        THIS is what Atheism+ represents – bullshit, lies, misinformation and an oppressive and anti-male agenda.

        • Darryl

          And yet you sound so reasonable. Hmm.

        • Patterrssonn

          Anti-male agenda? Why does atheism attract such sad whiny fucks,

        • 1000 Needles

          Waitaminute. First you tell me that sexism and harassment aren’t happening.

          Then you accuse me of:

          tossing out emotion-based statements designed to do nothing but trigger a victim response.

          So which is it? Is sexism not a problem in the atheist movement, or are there victims of said sexism that I might accidentally trigger?

        • 1000 Needles

          Also, see my reply to The Captain.

          And I’ll ask you the same question I asked them: How much documentation is enough for you? At what point should we listen to the experience of women themselves rather than your dismissal of their accounts?

          • PeeWeePantaloons

            Sweetheart, none of your little cut-n-paste links are proof. They are hearsay, one-sided and represent an incredibly small amount of harassment. So again, you stated that woman after woman suffers, yet you offer NO CONCLUSIVE PROOF.

            How about this:

            Poster and male after poster and male have been abused and verbally chastised for merely daring to express a counter point to the agenda of atheism+ and the co opting. This has caused untold suffering and the abuse still continues.

            Now, try giving that some thought. It operates on the same rhetorical level as your unfounded accusation. And your heroes, the penis-hating, self loathing PZ Myers and Great christina who is more concerned with her vagina than anything else may be able to convince you of something without hard fact or proof, but I remain a skeptic and above all, a proud white male.

            • 1000 Needles

              Exhibit A:


              penis-hating, self loathing PZ 

              Great christina who is more concerned with her vagina than anything else

              Thank you for revealing yourself for the world to see. I’ll add you as a data point.

              Exhibit B:

              They are hearsay

              Are they hearsay? Let’s find out! HERE is the very comment where Greta was called a “fucking feminazi slut.” NOT hearsay. Of course, if you had actually looked into the evidence I linked, you would have seen that.

              So what can we conclude from this? That you aren’t actually interested in evidence. That you will immediately dismiss accounts of harassment as “hearsay” even when they are not.

              Checkmate, PeeWee. You aren’t a skeptic; you’re a denialist. 

              • PeePeeleFirtz

                You give yourself way too much credit little one. I am not checkmated. In fact, you once again construct a big ass strawman (say, you haven’t been at the Burning Man lately have you?) that does not address the alleged “woman after woman” being horribly and scared by horrible atheists and skeptics. No, instead you offer up the fact the mighty Great “Vag” Christina was called a name. Oh horrors….while you collectively grasp at your pearls and feign the vapors, you do nothing but act like a petulant child not getting her way.

                Name calling is not proof of the horrors of this alleged “woman after woman” nonsense taking place within the atheist community.

                You do not address any of the VERY valid points I brought up, instead trying to distract and (in true character to your new little ‘movement’) play the victim card.

                I am interested in evidence, and what can be safely concluded is that:

                1) You do not have any evidence of your terrible allegation

                2) You choose to believe in false facts and fantasy

                3) Would rather act shrill and loud rather than look for actual proof versus the name calling. 

                If your hero is so delicate that name calling gets her woozy then your hero has no backbone or spine.

                I do not think you can provide any actual proof of your initial claim and are going to simply bang the drum loudly until you convince yourself and others that your “left” is actually “right”.

                Shame on you.

                You have lost any credibility and should now just accept the fact you promote a nonsensical and hate filled agenda based on lies and conjecture. How very proud you must be.

                • julie

                  “What? Women aren’t being treated poorly on the internet! Show me proof!”
                  *proof shown*
                  “Sweetheart, showing me the sexist internet comments totally isn’t proof of sexism on the internet. I’ve decided that no matter what you show me, I’ll say it’s not proof and call you condescending names the whole time too, ignoring that I’m proving your point.”
                  *Very specific, horrible instance of sexism shown*
                  “Little one who is so beneath me, I’m going to accuse you of a straw man argument even though I obviously don’t know what that means. Also, it’s not sexism if Greta Christina is called a fucking feminazi slut because she *is* one! So all those times where women are called horrible sexist things and told to stfu, it’s not actually sexist because they deserve those names and they *should* stfu. Problem solved!
                  I won’t consider your evidence.
                  Shame on you for having no evidence.
                  See what I did there?”

            • amycas


              • Pee Pee le Fritz

                Yes honey?

      • The Captain

        I love how ya’ll are justifying the entire movement and all your actions towards anyone with internet troll post. 

        Come back when you all grow up.

        • Patterrssonn

          Come back when you’re capable of making sense.

          • The Captain

            What doesn’t make sense for you? 1000 Needles gave as their entire example of all the “hate” and “harassment” and reasons they feel they need to be kept “safe” as two internet blog post that grown ups call Trolls.

            • 1000 Needles

              I gave one example, and I clearly indicated that it was one example. But this is the sort of stagnating hyper-skepticism that I was talking about.

              For people like you, we can’t have a conversation about the harassment unless we’ve clearly documented every example, all over again, at the start of each conversation.

              Good thing Rebecca Watson documented the behavior toward her at about this time last year.

              Good thing somebody kept track of the hate directed at Surly Amy.

              Good thing Greta Christina writes post after post after post after post after post after post about the epithets thrown at her by other atheists and skeptics.

              How much documentation is enough for you? At what point should we listen to the experience of women themselves rather than your dismissal of their account?

              • The Captain

                None of this shit is actual “harassment” For fucks sake it’s all internet trolling and some name calling. What the fuck is wrong with you people? Are you that fucking sensitive that someone calling you an name on the internet is now “harassment” Grow the fuck up.

                Whats really sad is that while you cry about name calling as “harassment” that little group you follow tried to get a guy fired in RL for tweeting he didn’t like Free Though Blogs. That actual harassment!

                • Andrew S. balfour

                   Are you the arbiter of what is and is not harassment? How did you get that job? Does it pay well?

                • PeePee

                  That door swings both ways. Who is A+ to decide what is and is not harassment. Luckily we have something known as a set of laws and rules that determine what is and is not harassment. 

                  We also have laws that help prevent false accusations of harassment via libel, slander and false arrest or prosecution codes.

                  But, you opened the door of doubt with the query as to who is and is not the “arbiter [sic] of what is and is not” so I ask you, are you the arbiter [sic]?

    • Anonymous

      Come on, people. We’re supposed to be skeptics and such, right? So I have a very simple question for Marlo:


    • Patterrssonn

      You need to be a little more clear, it sounds like you’re referring to A+ instead of thunderfoot or the Slimepit gang.

      • The Captain

        Thunderfoot never dropped any docs. The Free thought Blog clique though sure as hell tried to get a guy fired from his RL job because he made a tweet that said he didn’t like the Free though blogs. These are the kinds of egotistical children you all are following.

        • Patterrssonn

          He threatened to release personal information about a female blogger who’d received numerous rape threats and threats of violence. In my world that’s a little more serious than complaining about a “couple of trolls”. These are the kinds of hate mongering bags of shit you’re defending.

          • Pee pants

            Anyone can cry wolf. You know what would be better than releasing personal information? Releasing the alleged rape threats and messages indicating the threats. Until THOSE get released this is nothing more than hearsay and conjecture. IF she releases the threats and they prove to be valid, then you bet I defend the public announcement, but without the proof, it is a witch hunt and mean-spirited campaign to promote an agenda. And it falls under “suspect”, losing all credibility in the woman crying wolf.

            • amycas

               Of course, because those damned womenz lie all the time about getting rape and death threats. They’re probably just PMSing and want to get some attention.


              • Pee Pee le Fritz

                Civilized people ask for proof before commencing with the burning at the stake.

                And if you think it is out of line to ask for proof prior to commencing to destroy someone’s reputation, then the problem is you.

                • Patterrssonn

                  “The problem is you”. Of course she’s the problem, she’s a woman. To MRA turds like you women are always the problem.

            • Patterrssonn

              Umm they’re online you sad MRA fuckwhit. Are you completely fucking stupid, or just fantastically erm stupid? Is this the first time youve waded into this. Have you never read thunderfuck’s blog? Have you never read the comments of the weasely bags of shit that follow him? Have you never visited the Slimepit?

              Even if they weren’t easily found online, your post would still come across as the rantings of a turd.

  • Haberdasher30
  • advancedatheist

    Apparently “Atheism+” means “agreeing with PZ Myers in all matters.” 

    PZ can talk about “science” and “freethought” all he wants, but his perverse blindness towards the empirical basis of patriarchal beliefs shows that he doesn’t really care about empiricism, evidence and free inquiry as much as he claims. 

    • 1000 Needles

      Let’s see. I identify with the A+ label. I don’t always agree with PZ Myers.

      Bam, claim debunked! That was easy.

    • Darryl

      Empirical basis for patriarchal beliefs? Yeah, us atheists are ALL about finding rational reasons for that!

    • shiny 1

      I’d love to examine you empirical data concerning the superiority of men, I’ve just got too much hate-groupin’ to do…

    • Bo Tait

      Yes! Truth bombs! Man you sure shed some light on this one.
      I’m so glad someone was able to fill the gap that “Guest” left. Keep it up. We’ll all be lost without your revelations.

      Please tell me more about how this group started by women and (largely, but not only) for women is relying on a man to tell them what to believe.
      I can’t wait for the next bomb to drop!

    • Antinomian

      I have the feeling that you’ll soon need to improve your sammich making skills..

  • fullmeasurefill

    A+ could use a dash of humility. IMHO. 

    • Darryl

      I think they could use some support and encouragement, myself. I don’t always love what they say or do. But their opposition has been so much worse. (I don’t see how anyone following this fight for the last year could fail to see this.) They’re under siege. I’m not surprised that they get angry or defensive.

      What would an appropriately humble A+ look like to you? At what point might you shift to a place of support?

      • fullmeasurefill

        I fully support any and all reasonable attempts to shed light on or take action against the ignorance that is woven into the very fabric of civilization. I wish A+ all the best.

        When your brand of ‘shtik’ encompasses name calling and attacks on personality, you might lack the sufficient amount of humility that encourages growth. Yours and your ‘opponent’s’. 

  • Santiago

    “Toto, I have a feeling ….”

  • Teleprompter

    If you’re a decent human being: when you have a chance to be more inclusive, you take it. A+ is that chance. Don’t make silly excuses about tone or false equivocations that serve your own prejudices. Be honest, stand up for compassion and equality, and move on with your life. The people who are so upset by A+ are under no obligation to join, and I am content to let them stand back on the wrong side of history. Just know where you stand.

    • amycas

       You know, I would have supported you against those who send you death and rape threats and the others who claim that it’s not “real” harassment, but then you went and used a naughty word against somebody who harassed you. Now I’m not so sure…

      • Robby Bensinger

        Just to be clear, my criticism of some of A+’s rhetoric isn’t meant to overshadow the fundamental importance of what they’re fighting for. It’s just meant to help us refocus the debate so we can get more done. The less careful you are with how you say things, the more time people waste arguing about how you said something.

    • SketchSepahi

      So now I’m on the wrong side of history if I don’t join A+? Glad to know. If you really believe that then that’s one more reason for not joining.

      • Drew M.

        Between this tripe and Richard Carrier’s asshatted blog post, I will never feel either compelled to join nor welcome if I did.

        Which is unfortunate, because I agree with their values. Just not their with-us-or-against-us attitude.

        EDIT: “This tripe,” referring to Teleprompter’s “wrong side of history,” not your reply, SketchSaphi.

        • Robby Bensinger

          I’m inclined to say that this entire page of comments testifies to the urgency of the recommendations I made above. In my article, I distinguish ‘third-wave atheism’ (which is simply a combination of atheism and caring broadly about human rights, including women’s rights and minority rights) with the specific new movement ‘Atheism+.’ But because so many people have failed to precisely define A+, some people (like Teleprompter and Richard Carrier) largely use it to just mean ‘third-wave atheism,’ which takes myriad forms. Others then see this as a condemnation of those who dislike the label or organization, and not a condemnation of those who dislike the values themselves.

          This failure to unequivocally distinguish the A+ brand from its underlying values is causing some amazingly destructive misunderstanding. It’s horrifyingly unnecessary.

          • PeePZPeePee

            I would say that “A+” is horrifyingly (adverbs are bad) unnecessary. But PZ and Greta need something to direct their hatred of penises at, so, hey….

  • DaveDodo007

    It’s a good job that you American atheists can afford all the infighting and splits at the moment. It’s not like you have an election coming up where one party wants to send women’s rights back to the 1950′s, persecute gays and turn the USA into a Christian theocracy,  oh wait. Lol.

  • Vanmanagain

    If anyone’s interested in an outsiders view… I started following Atheism+ blog posts because I was intrigued by a new movement whose values matched my own.  I didn’t follow any of the founders’ blogs previously, so I’m not particularly familiar with the history behind all the animosity.  I stand behind every stated principle in the original post, but I have some concerns over its implementation.  Here’s the short version:  The sentiment I get from some follow up commentary, Richard Carrier’s in particular, is that anyone who does not proudly wave the banner of Atheism+ and actively advocate for each one of its tenets during every waking hour is a “douche bag.”  While I agree that sexism is abhorrent and it looks like there is a problem within the larger atheist movement, I’m not comfortable identifying with a group that gives the impression of intolerance of dissent.  By all means, kick the misogynistic assholes to the curb, but make sure it’s a consensus after open discussion and not an authoritarian declaration.

    • PeePee

      Well said and smarty put.

    • Tria MacLeod

      Richard Carrier’s original post was a bad beginning and he has since retracted and apologized for some of his more thoughtless words.    Right now we do basically have two camps going on within A+  Those of us who want more inclusion but will no longer deal with the bigotry and sexism.  And those of us who (for various reasons) immediately close up and shout GTFO to anyone who pokes A+.     I would expect these two camps to continue to battle it out for a few weeks yet.   Once the dust settles ‘I’ personally believe cooler heads will prevail and A+ will become a safe haven for people who want to be known as atheists but who fear the general animosity they see on reddit, YouTube and other areas of the atheist community.    I am certain that eventually A+ and Original A will work together in the future, but not until some of the people in Original A understand that there is a problem with how they treat/ignore certain sections of our population.    That really is the biggest rift I see between the two forms of A.  One realizes there is a problem and wants to fix it, the other doesn’t even see the problem.  But when it comes to things like elections and legislation we all pretty much agree on what is beneficial to the atheist movement and what is not so I don’t see this ‘rift’ as being a river, more of a creek.

      • LV426

        This post actually sums up my biggest problem with this whole A+ thing. It’s the implication that by simply not labeling myself as “Atheist+” that I am consciously choosing to join this other side you call “Original A” that promotes or is willfully blind to all these problems, and that’s just not the case. I agree that we have a problem with sexism within the atheist community, a problem which has become much more evident since this whole thing started, and seriously needs to be fixed. The social issues (LGBT rights, feminism, etc.) that matter to the A+ lot matter
        a great deal to me too, and I resent the idea that they think they can
        tell me otherwise just because I don’t have the time to read all the blogs they do. It’s unnecessarily divisive, sectarian even. You talk about the “rift between the two forms of A” and that bothers me. The way you talk about it – rather than Atheism+ being a community within the community trying to solve our internal problems, A+ is choosing to abandon these problems and cut itself off to be a different community. This “rift”, be it river or creek, is one of your invention.

        I don’t mind the idea of A+. In fact, I quite like the idea of a sector of the community being focused on inclusivity and social justice. It’s a good thing, and important for the progress of the community. The first few days the idea of the A+ label was being tossed around I thought it was a decent thought. A bit faddish maybe, perhaps a little superfluous, but a handy shorthand none-the-less. It seemed useful for the people who wanted to use it and harmless to people who didn’t. But then the bigots came out of the woodwork in opposition, and instead of recognizing that as the problem they were here to solve A+ seems to have responded by closing the borders, declaring independence, and deciding that anybody who doesn’t carry their label and wear their insignia is “the enemy”. And once you start this in-group/out-group “if you’re not with us then you must be against us” nonsense then I’m afraid you’ve lost me. Just because you started your own club doesn’t make everybody else part of the other club. The other club doesn’t even exist. There is no “A+” versus “Original A”. There is no “Original A”. There is only A, and A+ only exists as a PART of A. I haven’t got any problem with people identifying as A+, but by acting as if everyone who doesn’t actively identify as A+ is either a misogynist or willfully blind to sexism you’ve set yourself up a false dichotomy. I don’t appreciate being lumped in with the bigots just because I don’t call myself Atheist+ any more than you’d appreciate being called a racist just because you’re not an active member of the NAACP. This false dichotomy is, by far, A+’s biggest problem.

        I’m afraid I’ve rambled on quite a bit here. I’m kind of spewing out all the thoughts I’ve had on this issue since it started (So don’t take any of it too personally. I’m sort of spraying words in the general direction of the whole debate here.) and as a result I’m becoming less coherent and more disjointed by the second, so I’ll try to wrap this up as best I can.

        Atheism is not a church. I didn’t join some institution the day I realized I didn’t believe in God. So please, if you’ll forgive the metaphor, just because you choose to identify yourself as a Protestant, don’t assume I’m a Catholic.

        To be honest, and I’m sure I can’t be the only one, this whole thing makes me feel like I’m being pushed out of the atheist community as a whole. I don’t have the energy or patience to sit in the middle of the room being hated by everyone on every side for no good reason. I got enough of that in bloody high-school, and if that’s the name of the game then I’m just not going to play. I’ll go sit in the corner on my own if I have to. The atheist community can play “Axis and Allies” all it wants, I’m gonna go play Switzerland now, just to bug everybody else. Call me when the war’s over.

        Woe betide anybody new to unbelief and stumbling fresh into the atheist community only to find they’re immediately being forced to choose sides in a war they knew nothing about.

  • PoopieDoopie

    Ahh yes, “Atheism+” – the PETA of the atheist community….

  • Paul_Robertson

    I particularly agree with #1 and #3. Often, these problems work hand in hand. My observation is that this ambiguity is often deliberate and self-serving on the part of the A+ crowd. They take an extreme view when they are called upon to justify the need for A+: “Don’t you care that atheists are being threatened with rape?” (for the record, rape threats are not cool and I shouldn’t need a plus sign to distinguish me from people who feel otherwise) but at all other times, the definition of A+ becomes as broad as they wish. This implication that one either supports A+ or one supports rape is fallacious and destructive. These sorts of silencing attacks should have no place in a movement that prides itself is rationality, questioning and openness. And yet, the people playing this card nevertheless presume to claim the moral high ground?