If Atheists Really Cared About Social Justice…

Despite all the drama surrounding “Atheism Plus,” and regardless of whether or not you personally want to use that label, many of us care a great deal about social justice and helping those in need. We see what religious groups do in response to these matters and we feel that we are just as capable of making things better.

But what does that mean?

What would it look like in action if atheists became more involved with issues beyond the existence of gods?

Here’s my partial list of issues our community can (and should) take action on right now:

  •  Marriage Equality: This is near and dear to my heart because my state (Washington) will be voting on this issue in November. Voters in MaineMaryland, and Minnesota will also be voting on same-sex marriage this November. I can’t speak to the details about efforts being made elsewhere, but here in the Evergreen State, things are ramping up: People are needed to 1) volunteer at a phone bank to reach undecided voters, 2) host fundraising parties, 3) raise Millions for Marriage, 4) canvas local neighborhoods with signs that say APPROVE Ref. 74, and 5) talk to businesses in their neighborhood and ask them to support Ref. 74 and the freedom to marry.
  • Support groups: When atheists are suffering, they need our support. Whether they’re recovering from religious abuse or have just lost a loved one, having a network of people to lean on is powerfully important. Some organizations have started to do this and Vyckie Garrison created the Spiritual Abuse Blogs Network. And a commenter suggested a link for secular therapists.
  • Atheists in nursing homes: Have you ever been to a nursing home? They can be pretty depressing and lonely. Many church groups make a point of visiting elderly residents in their local nursing home who are Christians. But who visits the atheists? Imagine how much joy you could bring to someone by just stopping by to say hello.
  • Lobbying: This is a huge category and really deserves its own post. There’s so much brokenness that can most efficiently be fixed through changes in legislation — not just with what the laws say but how things are funded. Organizations like the ACLU, FFRF, and the Secular Coalition for America are already doing amazing work. If you want to help in this area, you can volunteer your time, donate to these and other organizations, or contact your own representatives and talk to them directly.
  • Young atheists: Groups like the Secular Student Alliance do so much good! And they keep getting better. Anything we do to support the next generation in a positive way gets extra gold stars.
  • Comprehensive Sex Education in Public Schools: First, we need laws requiring that all sex ed that’s taught in schools must include medically accurate information about contraception and abstinence. Second, we need to fund those programs. Easier said than done, but if this is a topic you’re passionate about, go volunteer with Advocates for Youth.
  • Creating & maintaining a directory of secular health care providers: I’ve done some looking and I haven’t found a good resource for this but our community needs this. I’m hoping to be able to make this happen locally in my area in the next year but we need it everywhere.
  • Quality public education: So much of the social justice issues we fight for are rooted in problems of poverty and opportunity. Education is the great equalizer. If you give people the opportunity to succeed with a proper education, you raise the bar for everyone; whole communities thrive. But the way we fund public schools today creates so much disparity in quality. A student’s education is based on where their parents can afford to live, and thus the cycle of poverty and disadvantage continues.
  • Prison reform: We have the highest documented per capita incarceration rate in the world. That is a symptom of a very broken system. To bring down this rate, we have to attack the problem from many angles (improving education, reducing poverty, decriminalizing cannabis, truncating the power of prison worker labor unions, rehabilitation, etc.) Instead of solving the problems that put more people in prisons, we just keep building more prisons. There’s also the problem that prisons are used as captive audiences for preachers. Atheists generally don’t reach out to help rehabilitate those in prison. This goes for people stuck in the juvenile detention system as well.
  • Foster care reform: First off, there aren’t nearly enough parents who are taking on foster kids. Additionally, if there’s any chance a kid will return to their parents, social services won’t let them stay with any family for very long for fear that they’ll get too attached and will have difficulty going back to their parents. That results in the average foster kid getting bounced around a lot. There’s no stability in that, no real home for them during their formative years. And many of the kids have issues with anger (honestly, do you blame them?) and many parents just don’t know how to handle them. They’ll have a kid for a few weeks and then just bring them back. Think about what kind of psychological damage that would do to a kid. Coupled with all of this is the fact that many foster parents are very religious. I had a conversation with one such parent who bragged about how many foster kids she converted to Christianity.  We need more people willing to be foster parents and we need more programs for these kids to give them stability and help working through all the awfulness that life has thrust upon them.

I know that’s a dense list but it’s far from exhaustive. As for Atheism Plus, I don’t know if it will grow or fade away. But I know I’m going to keep pushing hard against the broken things I see around me. What should I add to this list?  What are you pulled into action to fix?

About Ericka M. Johnson

As a lover of science and reason, Ericka M. Johnson has an affinity for evolutionary biology and is the president of Seattle Atheists. She revels in any opportunity for a thoughtful debate on the meaning of life, the universe, and everything (especially over a pint.) Follow her on twitter @ErickaMJohnson

  • bob

    FLASH (florida atheists and secular humanists) already does several of those things listed:
    we have student affiliates, we have participated in many of the other items listed… Anyone who desires to help, join us!

  • Tainda

    I don’t equate my social activism with my atheism but the hot topics that I support financially and give as much time as possible are women’s rights, the children’s hospital I work for and separation of church and state (though I suppose this one IS in relation to my atheism ;)

    HUMANS need to be more involved in helping others.  Once that happens we won’t have to do it as much as the problems disappear.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gwydionfrost Daniel Parker

    Wait– you mean active participating in our society doesn’t just mean “consume and produce, repeat as necessary”…?

  • Pete084

    I don’t think we need to match, or better, the charitable works of religious groups, I don’t do good because of my atheism, I do good because I’m a caring person.
    I’d rather give to a secular or religious charity than try to compete. I don’t think I’m better because I don’t believe in superstitious nonsense, and I don’t think my charity is any better either.

    I do however draw the line at funding bible distribution or preaching to the needy.

    Do good for goodness sake, not for one upmanshiip.

  • Kim

    Women’s Rights, feminism, lbgtqh

  • Donna

    For the most part, my thoughts line up with Peteo84.  There is, however, one explicitly atheist social outreach organization I support that other Texas atheists might be interested in, Atheists helping the Homeless (http://www.facebook.com/atheistshelpingthehomeless).

  • C Peterson

    As an atheist, I care nothing about social justice. Indeed, as an atheist, I care about nothing at all.

    Perhaps we need a new movement: people who don’t believe in unicorns need to organize to fight oppression everywhere! Because that follows naturally from a lack of belief in unicorns, right?

    As somebody who would like to see atheism spread, I can see nothing but harm in atheist organizations getting involved in social issues.

  • Coyotenose

    If we look at lists like this, doesn’t it become clear that atheism without addressing social issues means basically nothing at all?

  • Vicki Williams

    Homeless Teens:  The problem of LGBT teens being kicked out of their homes because of who they are is widely recognized.  I’ve also heard of teens being kicked out for being an atheist.  I volunteer as a math tutor with a local homeless youth shelter (http://www.youthcare.org/) and occasionally help cook lunch.   There are many ways to help organizations like this one.  Just dropping off some school supplies or a winter coat is a big help to a kid in need.

  • A3Kr0n

    I volunteer my time and money, but I don’t do it as an atheist. I do it as me. I just don’t see why people would go around doing things as atheists, just like doing things as non-psychics, or joining the national alliance of non-republicans.

  • Grizzz

    Being a misanthrope and lover of the wilderness and wildlife/animals – I spend much of my allotted activism time dedicated to animal welfare/critical habitat preservation issues. I am helping set up a non-profit in South Africa (near Skukuza, in Kruger National Park) that brings in students from around the globe to give them an immersion course in many aspects of wildlife preservation.

    I also dedicate time to Alaskan wilderness/land/wildlife issues as I grew up in AK.

  • Grizzz

    COuld not say it better myself. Well stated, and very succinct.

  • Grizzz

    I should say though, that I do this as a wilderness lover and animal fan, NOT as an atheist. I am an atheist because I find no evidence to be anything but. Also, as Bill Maher has said so perfectly (and to which I agree), “I am an atheist because it requires so little of my time”.

  • Grizzz

    I am not sure I agree with that in total. I find most humans distasteful and not worth my help or efforts. 

  • Sick of Tumblr and Reddit

    As an atheist, I don’t care at ALL about social justice issues, especially the ones championed by opinionated, obnoxious tumblr users, but the issues you listed seem pretty important.  

    Just not related to atheism at all.  
    As an atheist, the only thing I care about is combating religious presence. As a person, I care about marriage equality, prison reform, etc, but not all feminist ideas I agree with — especially things like “body positivity / fat acceptance”, issues that seem superfluous — and when I state things like that I’m endlessly attacked for, apparently, being a “bad” atheist.

    And that sort of oppression of my opinions leads to a feeling of indignation towards the whole ‘social justice’ community’s presence in atheism.   Agree with everything or you’re labeled a bigot or a troll.

  • http://twitter.com/pkej Paul K Egell-Johnsen

    I am happy to say I visited an elderly man who was atheist. He was well read, full of life and stories. Good times.

  • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

    I guess I just don’t understand this perspective; I understand that “atheism” in and of itself is not a movement, but the fact of the matter is that atheists are people, with all of the varied priorities that people tend to have.

    “I can see nothing but harm in atheist organizations getting involved in social issues.”

    This, truly, is baffling to me. Atheism + isn’t a designated organization – it’s just an opt-in label that atheists can choose to self-identify as non-believers who care about social justice issues, so it’s not even a formal organization, which seems to be the thrust of your criticism.

    If you have two hundred atheists in a room, and one half affiliates with atheism +, you STILL have 200 atheists in the room. Social justice priorities don’t take away from that.

    …and working to fix social justice issues, like marriage equality or justice reform or pro-choice issues, or whatever it is, can ONLY cause…harm? How? By making known that atheists support equality for all, and working to limit the unnecessary harm done to others? Who is harmed here?

  • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

    Good thing you’re not one of them, huh? Humans, man, blegh…

  • Thenoodly1

    I hope that one day secular humanists (which is what I hope all atheists are) can completely take the place of religious charities. We’re certainly working on that here in Raleigh, NC. Triangle Freethought Society, in addition to being a VBB member organization, is also a part of Human Beans Together, a locally-organized group of humanists dedicated to helping alleviate homelessness and hunger: http://foundationbeyondbelief.org/node/1264

  • http://twitter.com/Outcast_Kyle Edgar

    IN my case I’m an evolved species, homo superior if you want to give it a name. So yeah, I think humans are disgusting creatures.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dario.impini Dario Impini


    I’m baffled by your post.  Atheism by itself means a-theism — the lack of belief in gods.  Why does that mean “nothing at all” to you?

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Please don’t think the wording above implies that I think our goal should be to compete with religious organizations. Often, the best way to affect change is to work with organizations that happen to be religious. Other times, it would be better to establish our own efforts because a non-theistic approach would best (like taking care of foster kids without proselytizing to them.)

    I do good work because I see things needing being done, not because I’m trying to compete.

  • anon101

    Of course, no mention of Syria because it is just stupid worthless Muslims dying. No mention of the millions of children that die in Africa every year because of dirty water, starvation and treatable disease. Aren’t we glad that we have nice laundry list of luxury first world problems at our hands so that we don’t really have to get them dirty?

  • ErickaMJohnson

    That’s awesome! Do you have a link you can post for people in your area?

  • jdm8

    As far as I can tell, it’s basically secular humanism, which isn’t a new concept. Have you found the advancement of secular humanism to be a problem?

  • C Peterson

    Exactly! Most of these social issues are closely aligned with the beliefs of humanists (not just secular ones, however). And I’d expect humanist organizations to be interested in addressing them. But these things have nothing at all to do with atheism, and conflating atheism with any sort of assertive beliefs at all is harmful, IMO.

    Certainly, not all atheists are secular humanists.

  • jdm8

    Did you miss the last line?  “What should I add to this list?”

    That’s a civil war. External interference in a civil war usually yields more dead people, on the part of the country in question, and the outsiders that interfere.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Nothing but harm in helping people? Thank makes no sense.

  • C Peterson

    As I noted elsewhere, when you conflate atheism with any sort of active beliefs, you end up alienating people. There’s no need. As you note, atheism isn’t a movement. It carries no expectation of any philosophical views at all.

    There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with atheists as individuals supporting any or all the social issues described above. In my opinion, doing so is laudable. The fault lies in supporting them because of atheism, or in any way tying atheism as an idea to any political action.

    In my view, a person who is motivated by their atheism to engage in political action doesn’t understand what atheism even is, and needs to step back and spend some reflective time.

  • MichaelD

    The whole list was just generally centered on the US’s problems which is probably because people have a tendency to focus on the problems directly around them before others.

  • Grizzz

    Watch out for coyote nose Dario – she has this habit of just going stark raving crazy with spittle, bile, anger and name calling for any reason she pleases. Even your beign post is sure to release her inner bitch-hulk.

    Cue coyotenose’s spittle in five….four….three…two….and cue

  • http://www.facebook.com/BrianCharlesWallace Brian Wallace

    Hospice, Hospice, Hospice. It’s crucial that we have have more secular Hospice volunteers. 

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Many find it refreshing to be surrounded by those who won’t judge them for their non-belief and who won’t try to coerce them into praying while they are volunteering. This is why, for some, volunteering through an atheist organization can be the best fit.

  • walkamungus

    My primary concern has always been free speech, not atheism.

  • jdm8

    There is no 1:1 mapping, but I think there is considerable overlap between the groups.

    I was asking about your belief in some kind of harm. When Hemant talks about gay rights from the perspective of an atheist, do you think atheism is harmed?

  • http://www.facebook.com/raeat Dglas Raeat

    I am pulled into action to prevent prescriptive ideological demagoguery (like religious dogma, radical feminism, or even my own cherished humanism) from undermining descriptive enterprises (like atheism, skepticism and science).

    I am pulled into action to support the practical need for diversity of opinion, and the free and open inquiry necessary to advance any given subject matter – no subject matter was ever advanced by bobbleheading, much less enforced bobbleheading.

    I am pulled into action to combat FtB-style ideological orthodoxy requirements enforced with secular shunning (something Atheism+ seems to take no issue with and, indeed, endorses). 

    I am pulled into action to prevent people like Shermer from redefining skepticism to limit its scope of inquiry and equate it with libertarianism. I am pulled into action to prevent people like Myers from redefining freethought so that there is no longer any freedom of thought involved or even permitted.

    I am pulled into action to tell sanctimonious, holier-than-thou guilt-trippers precisely where to …

    None of these are ideological consequences of atheism itself, but without many of them, atheism will become just another ideology, just another religion.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    If you think items on my list are pretty important, then you do care about social justice. It sounds more like you have an aversion to that phrase rather than what it actually implies because of rudeness from some of those who champion it.

    Everything I listed above is opt in. I’m not going to call you or anyone a bad atheist for not caring for each of these issues as much as I do. (Really, I’ll only think you’re a bad atheist if you start talking seriously about ‘energy’ or souls.) 

    But if you do care about some of them, I’m going to encourage you to take action. Messed up problems don’t get fixed without passionate, compliant people stepping up to conquer them.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    P.S. Marriage equality is about combating religious presence. I’ve been phone banking for marriage equality and every person I’ve talked to who opposes the freedom to marry for everyone lists their religion as the reason. Churches are fighting marriage equality because they want their religious definition of marriage to be law.

  • C Peterson

    I’m all for helping people. I support most of the causes you list, and am outspoken about some of them. But that view doesn’t come from atheism. It can’t- atheism has no logical or rational connection to any of them.

    If we make it a point of being politically involved in these kinds of things because of our atheism, or if we get atheist organizations involved in them (of course, as a separate point, I’m largely opposed to the existence of atheist organizations at all), we hurt atheism. I think that makes perfect sense.

  • BuildUpNotOut

    For the last time – not all atheists hold progressive or liberal values. To say “we atheists can act on these issues we care about” is ridiculous and painting with a broad brush. I myself am very liberal and progressive n my politics and world views, but this does not come from my atheism. There are tons of secular and humanist groups who do good things and fight for progressive values. Atheists who want to do these things should support such organizations, not taking the lack of belief in a god and turn it into a mirror image of a religious organization. I know if the shoe was on the other foot(if I was conservative or libertarian), I would oppose something like Atheism Plus even more.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    P.S. Marriage equality is about combating religious presence. I’ve been phone banking for marriage equality and every person I’ve talked to who opposes the freedom to marry for everyone lists their religion as the reason. Churches are fighting marriage equality because they want their religious definition of marriage to be law.

  • Vicki Williams

    Clearly, atheism is simply the lack of a belief in gods.  As a atheists, we can come together and form organizations and we decide what we want the vision and mission of those organizations to be.  If my local organization decides that it wants to take on certain issues that we care about as people, that doesn’t change the meaning of atheism nor does it mean that other atheist groups need to do the same.  It simply means that this is what my community cares about.

    It has been pointed out that this list is focused on US problems.  I think that is fair, but I don’t think we should jump to assume prejudice behind that.  As a person who cares about the rest of the world, I’ve done a lot of work on bringing clean drinking water to developing communities.  I spent 3 months in rural India working on rainwater harvesting.  When it came time to add to this list – I mentioned a local charity that helps homeless teens.  The reason?  The latter is something my community can take on with me.  I don’t expect everyone is my local group to hop on a plane for India.

    That said – let’s add fundraising for international aid to the list.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    You strategy is not remotely effective. Listing issues that need our attention while draping them with a sarcastic accusing tone will not get people engaged in the topics you are most passionate about. People react to this tone with disdain and aversion & are much less likely to want to work with you to make the world a better place.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Yes, you’re right. My list certainly shows my American bias. But I’m not afraid to expand it. I’m already compiling an update to this post with topics brought up in the comments. 

    Oh, and if you have a link, please feel free to include it!

  • Jeffrey Walker

    Ericka – In reading some of your article, you seem bright, but totally lost about the Creator (God, Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ). As you dig deeper into the facts of science, you may find that there is a lot of knowledge once thought as truth is totally false, specifically Darwinism. Just curious, have you ever read the Bible? As a true Believer in Jesus Christ, I know what you think and why….Non-believers or whatever you call yourselves, have never read what I think  is Absolute Truth, the Bible. You have bought into a lie, whose lie is dragging you down, obviously. Most of you or your like thinkers have been hurt/abused by a non-practicing/acting Christians…don’t let that hurt warp your thinking in seeking the truth. What can it hurt? God Speed!

  • Tainda

    You do realize that most atheists have extensively read the bible (and other holy books) and can probably quote passages better than most Christians, right?

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

    This is so stupid. No one’s saying you have to do all these things. No one’s saying you need to make atheism a part of everything you do. This is just for the many people who *want* to do these things. And if people want to do these things as atheists, why make a fuss about it? They’re helping other people and they’re changing the public’s view of atheists. And people complain about this??
    One of the main things I hear is that it will distract the atheist movement from the “real” issues. Well for one thing, a huge real issue is the public perception of atheists. It’s great to see all those “Good without God” billboards, but it’s even better to actually see people being good without a god.
    But also, it’s not like this stops people from working on the “real” issues. It’s not like people concentrating on church/state issues are suddenly going to drop it because we’re saying they have to concentrate on these issues now. The people who deal with these issues will be people who care about them and have the time and passion for them. No one will be forced to do any of this if they don’t care or don’t have time or support it, but just don’t feel like it. And the best part? These people are still atheists. They still care about church/state issues and keeping creation out of schools. Just because they want to help out in other ways doesn’t mean they’re distracted from these issues, any more than taking a cooking class or having a book club means they’re distracted from atheism.
    You might see atheism as simply not believing in a god, but don’t keep others from expressing the way atheism changed their lives and using that to change the world for the better.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    No, that doesn’t make sense at all. Atheism is just not believing in gods. How can volunteering for good causes hurt atheism? You think people will magically start believing in Thor if they lobby for funding for comprehensive sex education in public schools? Your logic doesn’t follow.

  • The Captain

    “In reading some of your article”… I have a strong feeling you in fact read none of the article.

  • Grizzz

    Dude, I have read your user manual, and I have to tell you, it is some pretty nasty shit. You would think the Big Three would be able to hire a better HR department to write up the manual as the grammar is atrocious, the stories lacking and the character development quite sucky.

    As for Evolution (you see, we do not call it Darwinism) yes Virginia, there is a Santa CLaus. Evolution has been held up under the most scrutiny of any scientific study ever. And it is fact.

    Want proof? Go watch bacteria evolve into drug resistant strains over the course of a few years….you know what that is punkin’? EVOLUTION.

  • Grizzz

    You bet! The First Amendment is the most important thing to uphold. We must endure that we find the most despicable in order that we may be able to exercise our rights to free speech as well.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    I certainly don’t want to alienate people. 

    1) I want to work to make the world a better place. 2) I don’t want to do it alone. 3) It’s refreshing to volunteer with people who aren’t thanking god for everything or trying to get me to pray.It’s the most natural response for me to look to do work on important issues with other non-theists. But I’m certainly not going to not work with someone because they happen to believe in a god. 

    Anyone who is passionately working to help others in the world is my ally.

  • Grizzz

    Ericka, come on. You know that is not what he said. You seem ike you have a brain on your shoulders, so read the actual content, not the projections you wish to place. C. Peterson said nothing of the sort. And even if he did, what difference does it make to you? He would have the right to feel and act that way.

    But, that is not what he said and you know it.

  • http://twitter.com/Duke_Barclay Duke Barclay

    If atheism is not a movement, who is being alienated and from what are they being alienated?

  • The Captain

    “If you have two hundred atheists in a room, and one half affiliates with atheism +, you STILL have 200 atheists in the room. Social justice priorities don’t take away from that.”

    Well for one, you could have the 100 A+ atheist call them others names/act superior too/alienate the others, for not being on their “side” and drive them out of the room.

    You also may have another 300 atheist outside the room who would like to come in, but do not carer about the social justice stuff, and now think to do so means they have to care about the social justices stuff too to be an atheist.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    I think you’ve misunderstood my point. Yes, of course, we should work with secular and humanist groups to combat these problems. And we should even work with religious organizations if that happens to be the most effective way to make a difference.

    AND, I want to see more atheist organizations stepping up to do this as well. Not because anyone’s bullying them but because members in those organizations see problems that they want to fix and they’d like some help in fixing them.

    The brush I’m painting with only hits those who want to be included. All of this is opt-in.

  • Grizzz

    Actually,  your logic does not follow because going out and parading the flag of atheism for your particular flavor of causes may piss off some atheists. In other words, you simply cannot speak for all, when the atheist community is full of all sorts of different world and political views.

    Why is it you feel it is necessary to tie atheism to causes? Why not just go and fight your battles without labels? THAT seems much more logical and beneficial.

  • Grizzz

    And that is noble, but leave out the labels. Just go do it without usurping “atheism” in your causes. I agree with much of the things you do but not all, and when you try to tie in atheism to that, it pisses me off because you are not speaking for me as an atheist. 

    Do your good work without the labels. It is better for all concerned. 

  • Grizzz

    Marriage equality is about civil rights and nothing more. There happens to be a large and vocal religious contingent that fights against equality, but by no means is marriage equality a religious issue.

  • jose

    Um, if you read the post carefully you’ll notice five of the items described are directly related to atheism. I won’t point them out to you because you’re not stupid and don’t need it, just read the post again, you’ll see.

  • Grizzz

    I agree, humans BLEGH. And the places I have been; things I have witnessed; people I have had to deal with all tell me just that. Humans are blegh.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    He said he sees nothing but harm in atheist organizations getting involved in social issues. That makes no sense. How can there be harm in us working for marriage equality? Or visiting lonely senior atheists in nursing homes? Or doing more to support the Secular Student Alliance. Or raising money for cancer research? These are all social issues. 

    I think what he’s arguing is that if organizations get involved with things like this, it would hurt those organizations but that too makes no sense.And of course he has the right to feel and act as he likes! I never suggested otherwise! My vocally disagreeing with him in this public forum does nothing to deny him his rights.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    I’m not talking about parading a flag of atheism. I’m not saying we should do this as a part of “atheism visibility.” I’m saying we should do good in the world for the sake of making the world a better place. I’m not trying to get brownie point here.

  • kagekiri

    The heck? Labels matter.

    Calling yourself an atheist currently means Christians will look at you funny and come to all sorts of ridiculous conclusions, as dictated by their scripture.

    So YES, labeling yourself as atheist and then doing social work with other atheists has its place. It proves the whole “good without god” line, and helps reduce anti-atheist bigotry.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    I will not stop calling myself an atheist because it will make you or anyone else feel more comfortable. If you don’t want to be engaged about some of these issues, that’s fine. But I’m not going to hide my atheism when I volunteer.

  • The Captain

    As an atheist and secular humanist (not related) I have to ask, why can ya’ll not come help out with the secular humanists community instead of starting your own? Does everything you do have to be under the banner of “Atheist” for you to feel good about it? Can you not sit in a room, or volunteer for something if a religious person is also there or helping out? Are you that insular that you can only do things with other atheist? Do you have a problem with the current leadership of the secular humanist movements?

    I’m not trying to be insulting, I really want to know what role this is all filling that secular humanist are not?

  • BuildUpNotOut

    The difference is there isn’t a group of atheists getting together to start “Atheism Chefs” and focusing solely on Italian food. The point others here are making is that if atheists want to do good deeds join EXISTING secular organizations focused on your beliefs and politics. Why the need to interject atheism into it? It’s divisive and confusing to the general public who already are uninformed as to what atheism actually is.

  • kagekiri

    Uh, what do you mean “Exactly!”?

    The fact that secular humanism currently defines itself with atheism as one of its founding principles counters your whole “how dare atheist + associate anything with atheism” idea that you seem to like to repeat EVERY time that atheism is mentioned in conjunction with any other belief.And how are atheists harmed by people trying to associate good things with them? Right now, the common atheistic mental associations are all bad: atheists can’t have meaning, atheists are just believers who are lying and actually just want to sin, atheists can’t be moral and are untrustworthy, etc. Why do you think we have to counter with lines like “good without god”?Religious people don’t think it’s possible: I’ve had my father accusingly question my morality and love when I told him I was an atheist. So worrying about horrible connotations and mental associations with atheism misses the point by quite a margin.

  • Grizzz

    Kage, I do not know where you are from, but this idea that “labels matter” is very American. It is not a worldwide phenom.

    And no, labels really do not matter one iota.

  • Grizzz

    In fact, it is funny; within the US you see label “differences”. Go to the east and you see cars with huge amounts of bumper stickers and University Name stickers plastered all over the auto. 

    You do not see this level of labeling in the west. 

    This labeling is even regional and is not important. 

  • C Peterson

    Atheists are being alienated. As individuals. And alienated individuals are less likely to become involved in the sort of movements that most atheists see as positive ones- humanism, skepticism, secularism, anti-theism.

  • Grizzz

    Right, I agree, go do good for the sake of doing good and don’t yell out “look world, atheist here….doing some good!”

    It is the “look at me in the pretty dress” syndrome and it really diminishes the good being done. 

  • C Peterson

    I’m not suggesting hiding your atheism at all. I’m just arguing against getting involved in political activities because of atheism.

    Your view on these social matters doesn’t follow from your atheism. It’s just the opposite: your inherent rationalism and humanism produced both your atheism and your social attitudes.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Jeffrey, I was never hurt by Christians. I liked being one and prayed fervently (and repeatedly) that the Lord would come into my heart and be my Savior. I prayed that I would want what He wanted me to want. I’m not an atheist because of trauma or pain. I’m an atheist because He never showed. (Oh…and I thought about stuff too.)

    How could your god really be moral or worth worshiping? He sees raping a woman as equivalent to stealing a man’s property and says slavery is A-OK. Your god is evil. Yes, I’ve read your Bible. Please go back and read it again. Genocide is always wrong, even when done by your god.

  • Grizzz

    “He said he sees nothing but harm in atheist organizations getting involved in social issues. That makes no sense.”

    Well, yes it does.

    I feel there needs to be equality between the sexes but I do not support most of the feminist agenda because it is not there to promote equality – it in fact tries to push down men. 

    This is one small reason why atheism needs to be left out of the mix. You go out and undertake many causes that you feel are worthy but you do not get to say you speak for the atheists. You are not the Lorax of Vagina or whatever it is current hip and trendy to promote. Do your work that you feel is needed but do not speak for atheists because we do not agree with all causes all the time.

    What we do agree on is that we have no belief in god(s).

    BIG BIG difference there.

  • Guest.

     You remind me of the Christian trope that atheists are nihilists if they are without god.

  • C Peterson

    Well, this is where we disagree. I do think atheism is “just not believing in gods”. Nothing more. And I think it is key to the ultimate acceptance of atheism by society that it not be treated as anything else.

    Many atheists are attracted to humanism, to secularism, and to other movements that are well positioned to engage in social and political movements. As they should. And I think that’s how you should have presented your position. Not “if atheists really cared about social justice”, because there should be no expectation of that. Rather, as a list of good causes for humanists, or rationalists, or any number of other affirmative belief systems.

    Do you not see that the very title of your piece alienates? An atheist who does not feel strongly about the causes you list, or even opposes some, is going to feel disenfranchised. How can they not?

  • Paul Crider

    I like your list. Thanks for including prison reform. It should bother secular humanists (and fellow travelers) deeply that we keep so many human beings in cages in the US.

    I would add migrants and the global poor to your list. It should be just as absurd to restrict your ethical considerations to people of your same nation of birth as it is to restrict them to people of your same skin color or sexual orientation.

  • C Peterson

    I thought my meaning was clear enough, but let me state my view more accurately. I see nothing but harm to atheists and societal acceptance of atheism from atheist organizations getting involved in social issues, or even from individuals doing so because of their atheism.

  • The Captain

    “All of this is opt-in.”

    Something about this sentence bothered me, but I could’t put my finger on it until halfway through my lunch. This is what religious people say when they make everyone around them pray in public.

    When a person gets up on the mic before a friday night football game (or sunday NASCAR event) and ask everyone in the crowed to bow their heads and pray, we as atheist get a bit annoyed with that. And we righty should. I’ve always said that other than strictly constitutional reasons, the pre-game crowd prayers is wrong since it serves the purpose of reminding that there are differences between the christians/no-christian fans before an event that they all came to to celebrate a shared commonality of. In short, fans all came there to share their common bonds of fanship over a sport, only to have their religious differences highlighted first. For no good reason other than to do it and make the leaders of the prayer feel more powerful. 

    We all know as atheist that while these prayers are “all opt-in” they have the effect of alienating those that do not. These social justice issues are starting to sound a lot like the atheist/skeptics pre-game prayer. And as a liberal atheist I don’t understand how hard it is to see that non-liberal atheist, or those that do not share these concerns would feel alienated by this push. Even if “All of this is opt-in.” for them.

  • JRB

    Wait, so the proponents of Atheist+ come up with a new label because they recognize that being an atheist doesn’t automatically make you an advocate for social justice.  And by distinguishing themselves from other atheists (the ones who don’t wish to combine atheism and social justice) they are some how giving the impression that you need to care about social justice to be an atheist (even though they have formed a separate group because they recognize that this is not reality)?

    If this is the best argument you can come up with for opposing atheism+, you might want to avoid voicing your opposition publicly.

  • kagekiri

    I’m from California. I see tons of university alumnus license plate covers both in NorCal and SoCal….so I’m not sure why you think that’s East-coast exclusive.

    And so what if it’s just local phenomena? I’m not getting your point. It’s not global, therefore it doesn’t exist? You don’t like it, therefore no atheist should do something and associate it with their atheism? My atheism does inform my morality and world-view; maybe yours really doesn’t, but that doesn’t change my morality.As for usurpation, I wonder if you hate American Atheists? Or any other group with the name “Atheist” anything? “How dare they be so regional! Not all atheists are in America!” What about sub-groups makes them “usurping atheism”?

  • C Peterson

    It comes down to how an argument is presented. I don’t really see Hemant presenting his ideas about gay rights from the perspective of an atheist. I see him presenting himself as a secular humanist, as an advocate of state/church separation, as a rationalist and skeptic, and an opponent of the sort of silly thinking that theism and religion tend to produce. (Hemant… correct me if I’ve mischaracterized you). His atheism is a natural consequence of these other, active beliefs. When he speaks about gay rights, he isn’t doing so from the perspective of an atheist, but from the perspective of a person with a complex, well developed philosophical world view that stem from all of the above factors. And that’s a very positive way to address the issue.

    What would be harmful would be a position readily interpreted as “because I’m an atheist, I’m in favor of gay rights”. I don’t see that coming from him, or from very many atheists. But I think that’s the implication of Ericka’s article, and of much of the A+ stuff, and I don’t think that view is a healthy one.

  • JRB

     I’m assuming you are as vocal in your opposition of the way people seem to conflate atheism and skepticism and the number of atheist organizations who seem to think it is appropriate for them to be a part of the “skeptic” movement.

  • C Peterson

    No, I don’t see that at all.

    The only cause that it makes sense to me for an atheist to get involved in solely because of her atheism is one which seeks to increase social acceptance of atheism, and to fight discrimination against atheists. The other causes are associated with humanist, secularism, and actual assertive philosophical world views.

  • kagekiri

    Uhm, Atheist + is in fact a subgroup of atheism, so crying about them taking away the meaning of atheism is utterly misguided.

    You’re not an Atheist + person, we get it. Personally, I think gender equality is only going to work if we boost women more than men, because that actually achieves the equality. Not sure who’s actually advocating “pulling men down”, or what evidence you have for such worries, but I’m pretty skeptical.

    Who’s dragging you into Atheism+? It’s like a month old, what horribleness have you experienced or are you expecting? Do you rail against atheist associations in countries, because they’re not representative of all atheists world-wide and worry about local goals and local issues? What about this particular sub-group freaks you out so much?

  • Coyotenose

    Atheist activism involves combating religion’s influence on society, law and politics. That influence is largely responsible for the acceptance and furtherance of bigotry, racism, classism, sexism, and many other issues. An atheist who isn’t concerned with those issues has little reason to oppose religion. And even if religion was eradicated, as long as its symptoms and fallout persist, it still wins.

    Complete analogy fail. Try, “People who don’t believe in unicorns need to organize to fight oppression instituted on behalf of people who do believe in unicorns.” And yes, that DOES follow naturally.

  • Coyotenose

    Would you like a checklist of all the activist atheists so you can make sure they turned in their kilts and bagpipes until they bow to your intellect?

  • Coyotenose

    So the concept that “There is no higher power to fix things later, therefore we have to do so now” doesn’t exist?

  • Coyotenose

    Meanwhile, in Reality, approximately one blog post by one person early on contained even a fraction of the vitriol you assign to those one hundred people. Straw Man much?

  • C Peterson

    Sure it does. But it has nothing to do with atheism.

  • Coyotenose

     Atheism also doesn’t have anything to do with opposing other people controlling you on behalf of their religion.

  • C Peterson

    I don’t believe in the concept of “activist atheists”. If somebody tells me that’s what they are, I just assume they don’t understand what “atheism” even means. But I do think they are harming atheists and atheism by choosing such a label.

  • Coyotenose

    It’s demeaning to say that people who join groups to do charity work are primarily interested in publicity.

    Also, you may want to rethink the condescending wording of that syndrome remark.

  • SJH

    I agree with a lot of your opinions though many of those issues do not seem to be related to atheism.  It seems odd to me that atheists would group together in the way that you are describing since not all atheists agree with you. I know liberal atheists and conservative atheists. Historically, Ayn Rand stands out as a famous atheist/extreme conservative. So why would atheists organize together if they believe in different directions? If they do organize, then it is not explicitly an atheist organization but a liberal or conservative one.

    Can’t atheists disagree on whether or not a particular action is good versus bad for a society? Or how to solve the problems within a society? Example; of course we must have a more just prison system but how do you achieve that and what does that have to do with God? And why do atheists have to organize versus individuals with common beliefs. Maybe a Christian agrees with you on a particular issue why not team up with them and come up with an appropriate solution?

  • C Peterson

    Skepticism is a legitimate philosophy, as well as a “movement” if that means people acting together to advance it. Skepticism frequently leads to atheism. That is a natural progression. Atheism does not lead to skepticism. So yes, if somebody were to say that atheists should be skeptics, I’d take exception to that.

    Again, this is one reason I’m generally uncomfortable with atheist organizations, because they don’t usually represent atheism, and seem to serve little purpose. (Do not confuse this with organizations with actual missions, such as encouraging skepticism or state/church separation; they will disproportionately attract atheists, but are by no means “atheist organizations”.)

  • Coyotenose

     If everyone else thought so, there would be no reason for atheists to gather and they would lose badly in society because the organized opposition would demonize them no matter what they did individually.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Your view on these social matters doesn’t follow from your atheism.

    Correct. By talking about my desire to do good in the world here on an atheist blog, I am hoping to connect with and resonate with those who feel as I do and happen to also be atheists. 

  • C Peterson

    I don’t accept the concept of a “subgroup of atheism”. That’s where A+ starts to fall apart for me.

    People keep saying that A+ is a matter of choice; if you don’t like it, don’t identify with it. But that overlooks the fact that some of us believe that tying “atheism” with any sort of social or political viewpoints at all is harmful.

  • Coyotenose

     Ah, there we go. At first I hoped that the “pretty dress” remark was just a poor choice of words. But no, it was a conscious use of her gender to paint her as shallow and unintelligent. Curse me for suppressing my inner cynic; I was almost surprised.

  • Coyotenose

    There is no non-religious argument for discriminating against gays. Therefore, as a result of being an atheist, an atheist should not support discriminating against gays.

  • C Peterson

    I keep bringing it up because the arguments haven’t changed. You think these things are good. That women should be treated equally. That gays should be able to marry. But they are not good in any absolute sense. They are matters of opinion, and not all people see them as good. Not all atheists see them as good. Atheism doesn’t lead one to have these views. It is implicit in A+ that as an atheist, one should support these things… because they are “good”. Of course, if you don’t support them, that makes you “bad”.

    Tying any political views to atheism hurts atheism and it hurts atheists. Why would you not tie these views to the underlying, active belief systems that happen to frequently produce atheism as a byproduct? That would be rational.

  • Coyotenose

     You’re really, really stretching now. You can’t possibly not see what’s wrong with that statement. By that logic, NOTHING is a religious issue, because it’s *also* something else in society.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    I don’t think I quite understand your point. You’re saying it makes sense that only harm would come from atheist organizations getting involved with social issues and then you change subjects to talk about how feminism has been derailed to oppress men. I think you’re missing a piece in your argument because that doesn’t quite follow.

    And I have never suggested that I speak for all atheists of for ‘atheism.’ I am speaking to what many atheist feel. I have never said everyone feels the same way and I have never suggested that those who disagree with me (or just aren’t as passionate) are bad people. Disagreeing with each other seems to just be what atheists do. And that’s ok.

  • C Peterson

    Which is the same reason that I also participate on what might be called “atheist blogs”, although most (including this one) are far from that.

    And that’s just fine. There are many communities that attract atheists, and using their forums to share ideas is good and proper. But I think the way you presented your ideas was improper (the ideas themselves were fine). Again, look at your title. Look at your assertion that atheists should get involved in these things. I can’t see these as anything other than harmful… even hurtful to some.

  • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

    Because that follows naturally from a lack of belief in unicorns, right?

    How many times do you have to have this explained to you? Atheism+ doesn’t claim that social justice issues follow naturally from atheism We are simply atheists who also happen to care about social justice issues. Stop straw-manning people you don’t agree with. That’s a creationist’s job.

  • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

    This. Is. Not. Conflating. Atheism. With. Anything.

    Yet another point that you need explained to you time and time again. Atheism+ is a sub-group. It’s not redefining anything. It’s not rebranding anything. It’s a group of atheists who care about X, Y, and Z, and want to collect together to discuss and act on those issues.

  • C Peterson

    In general, I agree that there are few reasons for atheists to gather. I don’t agree with your view that this would result in a societal loss. Quite the opposite- I think atheists gain social acceptance when people see that we have no consistent beliefs, but rather, are simply people who don’t believe in gods. People who otherwise have as wide a range of viewpoints as anybody else.

  • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

    To C Peterson, atheism is this priceless artifact that must be treasured, handled with care, and cherished. It’s this sacred term that nobody else can use without permission from all other atheists globally. It’s a word that carries so much power that “Atheism+” just tears him apart emotionally.

    Hey, don’t like the straw-men, do you CP?

  • Coyotenose

    Now you’re arguing that if some people on this board learn that they like cleaning garbage off the highway, make a different website to organize it, and occasionally mention it here, they’re somehow pressuring you to join them or be an outsider and made to feel uncomfortable.

    The Plussers haven’t been the least bit aggressive on any topic save one: they don’t want bigots and misogynists. That’s it. The rest is cake. They don’t care for people with a negative stance on differences of gender, race, orientation or whatever. If that comes across as alienation, despite the many, many times they have already addressed that and cleared it up, the problem isn’t actually theirs.

  • Coyotenose

     Other arguments and insults here aside, that is really cool. There would be a lot less wilderness without people that tend to like animals more than humans.

  • C Peterson

    Of course there are non-religious arguments. You may believe that a society made up of man/woman families is best. You may consider homosexuality to be a biological aberration or illness. You may believe that children grow up to be better adults when raised by a mother and father. You may prefer the nature of a “traditional” society. You may be grossed out by same-sex relations.

    The fact that the bulk of arguments against homosexuality are based on religion does not mean they all are. The fact that most atheists reject those arguments doesn’t mean all do.

    Again, it is a question of confusing cause and effect. The same things that cause a person to become an atheist are likely to cause him to support gay rights. That doesn’t mean atheism leads to supporting those rights.

  • Vicki Williams

     Some people prefer the label atheist for a variety of reasons and so they are already organized (or want to become organized) around that label.  If that is the community you are in, and your community wants to take on an issue like freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples – you should be able to make that choice.  I have no objection to working with secular humanist, freethinker, skeptic, whatever groups – even atheist friendly religious group – on a cause we all care about.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Oh! Thank you for that critique of my word choice!

    I certainly do not intend to make people feel alienated or excluded if they’re not interested in being involved with issues like these. My goal is to inspire those who are volunteer-oriented and passionate about issues like these to step into action. My sense is that the represented a decently sized minority of our community but I could be wrong. Regardless, this isn’t about peer pressure and I’m sorry if my tone or language would have suggested otherwise.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Then let’s bring the scientific method in here. I’m going to test that hypothesis of yours. I hope to have data to report back on within a few months.

  • Vicki Williams

     I don’t look at it as interjecting atheism into certain causes.  Rather than “interjecting” I would say it is more like rallying people together who already care about these causes and who are already identifying as atheists so that we can work together and thereby be more effective.

  • The Captain

    No straw man at all. The person I responded to gave an imaginary example (200 people in a room) and asked a question. I then game two examples of how that question could be answered for their imaginary example. Learn what a “straw man is before you throw the accusation around. 

  • C Peterson

    Sorry, I don’t see your point. If we redefine “atheism” to mean something new, or to make the existing meaning fuzzy, is that beneficial?

    I believe that words have value. I believe in using words with precision. If “atheist” stops meaning “somebody who doesn’t believe in any gods”, what will those people call themselves? I have no problem publicly identifying myself as an atheist, but I would if the public started making inaccurate assumptions about my social and political views from that label alone.

  • The Captain

    Well if you can’t see that the A+ movement has been off putting to many people then it’s your head you need to remove from your ass. Or you can continue to act the arrogant part and fein ignorance of whats going on around you so you can claim to be smarter.

  • C Peterson

    I disagree. It is entirely reasonable from the name to assume that the A+ people see a connection between atheism and a range of social issues. It is entirely reasonable to believe that non-atheists will see in such things a sort of activism that should not be tied to atheism, and come to believe that atheism itself is associated with particular social and political views.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Ah, I think I finally get what you’ve been bothered by. When I said atheists should take on these issues, I wasn’t saying all atheists, just those who feel pulled to action. (And here’s a partial list to get things started.)

    This is a bit of semantics but it’s an important point to make. I’m sorry if my language was not clear enough. I think more atheists should get involved with these issues but my saying that doesn’t mean I expect all atheists to do so.
    I’m sorry if I cause you or anyone harm or hurt anyone’s feelings.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    One of the main reasons, I became an atheist is that I noticed the damage done in the name of religion.  

    Let’s take gay rights for instance.  You might ask what does atheism have to do with that?  Well, in the majority of the cases the suppression of their rights come form opponents religious beliefs.  If you just fight religion without addressing the problems it causes, then it is a meaningless fight.    Also long as there is a connection between religion and persecution, then there is a connection between atheism and fighting those injustices.  

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    The problem is not supporting these causes will disenfranchise some,and alienate others.   There is no way of getting around not alienating someone.  So it comes done to who are you going to alienate.  For me, I would rather alienate those who have a problem social justice, than those who are trying to improve the conditions.  

  • C Peterson

    Sounds good to me. Don’t forget the controls, and the blinding :)

  • Coyotenose

    So you don’t have any trouble as an atheist with religious people trying to force their beliefs on you, then. Nobody should think, “Oh this thing is imaginary,” then extend that to, “imaginary things should not be the basis of law and privilege,”, then “this thing needs to be stopped,” then “stopping this thing requires organization and activism.” Likewise, only military personnel should ever oppose war and independents shouldn’t vote.

    What folks aren’t getting, I feel, is that the dictionary definition of atheism has consequences. It does not exist in a vacuum. I, and probably most of us, are familiar with the pattern of compartmentalized thinking that pervades religion and politics, where people don’t grasp that their one idea that sounds good leads to less pleasant outcomes in other areas. We know that when we see it, so why aren’t we catching on that if people listened to the argument “We shouldn’t do things as atheists, alone or in groups”, then we would be demolished by the “other side” pretty goddamn quickly through slander and libel, no matter what we actually accomplished as Rugged Individualist Dictionary Atheists?

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Yes, I’m already mapping out these details in my mind. Also have to think about sample size and how find proper peer review. 

  • jose

    I used to volunteer at a local religious center that offered food and shelter to the homeless, plus a little literacy. I was there just because there wasn’t any other groups doing it.

    But now with the financial crisis, there’s a new type of poor: people who give every euro they make to the bank in mortgage, and then some they have to borrow from friends or parents. They look middle-class because they live in a house and have jobs, but they can’t even buy food. They’re poor. So a new nation-wide volunteering initiative called food bank (“banco de alimentos”) was created to help the new poor.

    The point is this one is secular and you can notice the difference. It’s just makes things easier for me because I don’t have to repress thoughts about all the nonsense around me for the sake of the good work being done. You’re not an Other. I think if you can connect better with your fellow volunteers and the character of the organization, you get a lot more work done… and gladly!

  • The Captain

    “Now you’re arguing that if some people on this board learn that they like cleaning garbage off the highway, make a different website to organize it, and occasionally mention it here, they’re somehow pressuring you to join them or be an outsider and made to feel uncomfortable.” Yes. And don’t act like this is done “occasionally”, every 4th post is about something like this now. And not just here. I know that this is something YOU want, and have a hard time seeing anything from anyone else perspective, but that’s why I made the analogy with public prayer. Xtians also see no reason why they shouldn’t “occasionally” ask for everyone to come to pray with them. But I still bet you get mad when they do it.
    As for the rest of what you said. Bullshit and you know it. There has been way too many “with us or against us ” comments to support you assertion. Also you seem to conveniently define ” bigots and misogynists” as anyone who doesn’t follow lockstep so….

  • Coyotenose

     Not all political issues are logical outcroppings of atheism. Some, especially the very ones you cite, are. That some atheists don’t get that is a fault in their reasoning. That fault can’t be glossed over as a “difference in opinion”* or hidden behind the Objectivity Pillar.

    *As a tangent, every racist I’ve ever talked to has fallen back on the “It’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it!” defense. You’ve probably seen them do it also, because it’s common enough that other people mention it online.

  • Coyotenose

     Homo Superior?

    … like Magneto?

  • ESC_key

    The Captain, I think I would like to answer your question, at least from my perspective(forgive me if it becomes too long-winded):

    I do not believe in gods, the afterlife, a higher power whatsoever. Therefore, I consider myself an atheist.

    If I were presented with compelling evidence to believe otherwise, I’d like to think that I have the capacity to change my mind. I also do not know, (and I’m not sure it’s possible to know) that there are definitely no gods. Among other reasons(which I won’t go into), I’m comfortable with agnostic atheist.

    I believe that I most likely have only this life, and only the people around me and of the world, to make connections with, learn, love, make a difference, until one day I die and its all gone. I consider myself a humanist. 

    I believe that the laws and customs of religion have no place in the governments of the world, due to the fact that in order to have a government truly representative of its people, all religions and (non-religion) must be equally respected by being left out. I therefore consider myself a secularist. 

    And I believe it is important to distinguish myself from other secularists and humanists, since I would like to believe that if I were religious, my secularism and humanism would still remain a part of me. Indeed, when I considered myself liberally Christian, when I considered myself Taoist, when I considered myself Unitarian, I was still a humanist, a secularist, and I cared about social justice and equality. Sure, the reasoning has changed a little bit here and there, but my basic beliefs about the world have remained the same.

    This is why I think I’m okay with the label atheist+. It is important for me, personally, to distinguish myself from other secularists and humanists in the sense that it’s okay to be an atheist and still care about the world around me and all of its people.  I want to show the world that  I can be an atheist and still partake in helping to make a difference. And yeah, I guess it’s cause I’m lazy, cause then I can just say “atheist plus!” when appropriate instead of saying all this^^

    I dunno if that helps or just makes things worse, but for tl;dr:

    I consider myself a secularist and humanist. I care about my lack of belief and want it to be more accepted in society. I also think that some my my other beliefs followed from my atheism. I think I’m okay with calling myself atheist+ to distinguish myself from other secularists and humanists, and help remove some of the stigma from atheism altogether.

    What do you think?

  • Ibis3

    Ericka, I don’t like the implication in your title that atheists *don’t* really care. Obviously many of us really do.

  • jose

     Given that the word “atheists” is explicitly mentioned in those five items, the only conclusion is you are actively refusing to see it. Nobody can force you to acknowledge that those items refer specifically to atheists, of course, so it wouldn’t be productive to try to make you do it. Good day :)

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    If a secular humanist group has theists in it, but those theists don’t bring their religion into the work, I would be inclined to join and help.

    Where I live in Western Canada that’s pretty common, so there’s no problem. Theists making a fuss over their faith and gods and We Are The One True Way appears to be a more frequent occurrence in the U.S., so I could understand why an atheist wouldn’t want to work with even a secular humanist group if it was populated by religious believers.

  • Ibis3

    Oh, and on your point #3, this might be of interest:


  • Coyotenose

     People have been saying that about Darwin for 150 years. Meanwhile, millions upon millions of data keep piling on in support of Evolutionary Theory. Anyone who could disprove “Darwinism” would be an overnight millionaire, and yet none of the millions of people around the world who compete for scientific recognition have been able to take it out. Consider why that is.

    Most of us have read the Bible. Many of us were brought up in religion. Whether we were or not, we have the work of countless others available to us on the magical Internet. It’s a nonsensical sham. Not a whit of evidence has ever been produced for any supernatural claim in it. Even most of the mundane claims are unsupported or disproven.

    The Bible was written by Bronze Age herdsmen in a particularly provincial part of the world, who didn’t even know that germs and not demons cause disease. Their story of the creation of the world would come as a complete shock to the Sumerians, who were brewing beer at that time, and the worldwide Flood was a surprisingly small inconvenience to the numerous civilizations that would have experienced it (which is, all of them). Even the fabled enslavement of the Hebrews is just that, a fable. There’s no record of anything like it outside of one mythology tome known to be full of fallacies.

    Claiming to know what people “really” think is condescending at best, and that’s being charitable.

  • Coyotenose

     So you can’t possibly imagine why an admittedly incomplete list would consist mainly of general issues that we can affect personally and in small numbers?

    I didn’t see you mention baby rape just now, so by your own logic, you’re fine with baby rape.

  • Sunny Day

    Does anyone else find it Disconcerting that Erick Johnson is posting so much in the comments defending her POV and trying to tell us how we really didn’t get it?

    You’ve had the  entirety of the above article space to get your message across. 

  • jose

     No. blogs are not podiums or altars, a good blogger is often a participant and responds to people’s comments.

  • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

    Folks are getting upset that social justice issues might get intertwined with atheism and hence, sully atheism by associating a particular ideology with atheism. This doesn’t seem quite consistent with the trajectory of current practices and beliefs within atheism. 

    The most recent wave of atheism in western nations is strongly associated with anti-theism. The most vocal people in atheism are currently intertwining a simple lack of belief in deities with the ideology that religion is bad and should be done away with. Most of the big names in atheism have tended to be anti-theists.

    Furthermore, few people seemed to have an issue with Richard Dawkins’ call for publicly ridiculing and mocking religion. So, we not only have an ideology intertwined with atheism, but also a form of opprobrium intertwined with it as well. The more vocal parts of atheism are applying social pressure to religious people in order to accomplish the long term goal of marginalizing religious practice and thought. Thus, atheism is coming to be associated with the goal of marginalizing religion and using abusive tactics such as ridicule in order to do so.

    However, not all atheists are anti-theists and not all atheists are interested in engaging in public ridicule and mockery. In spite of that, anti-theism and it’s associated actions have a strong presence in current day atheism. One could say that atheism has deeply intertwined itself with the currently popular ideology and practices of anti-theism. I don’t see many folks complaining about this conflation… at least not in public spaces such as the internet or the Reason Rally.

    In spite of already making atheism more than a lack of belief in deities, a sizable subset of atheists are now upset that atheism might alienate others by corrupting atheism through associating it with a set of ideologies surrounding social justice.

    I have a really hard time taking this seriously.

    When I see people actively calling for divorcing anti-theism and its associated practices from atheism, I’ll take the nay-sayers of atheism plus and social justice more seriously. Until then…

  • The Captain

    Weather or not you “intend” to make people feel alienated or excluded, at this point you (as in the social justice movement)  have to admit you are. 

    t’s not your word choice, it’s the sentiment. We as atheist in the US have all lived under a culture that has had soft social pressure to conform to the christian worldview. Be it moment of silences, open prayer, saying grace, ect. All of these things have rightly driven us nuts because they server as a reminder to everyone in society that we are different from them, and no matter how nice they go about it, they always treat us differently because of it. The atheist/skeptic community has traditionally been a haven for those that all felt alienated a bit by this christian social pressure. A place for all atheist to show up and share in our commonality of being atheist. But now there is a bunch of people suddenly asking we all say a secular humanism grace before we eat diner. Sure, you don’t have to say it. Your just asking for those that want to be a part. there’s no pressure to do so. But for far too many atheist we’ve heard all this before. We have evidence it’s not going to be that way. No matter how niece you claim to be about it, dinner is going to be awkward. But just like my christian aunts, I guess as long as you get your way before dinner, you’ll be happy and content and see no problem (how could there be they just want to “inspire” those that believe in christ to prayer?) no matter how awkward you made everyone else feel.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com/ vjack

    The one thing I’ve been surprised to see absent from many lists of social justice issues is poverty.

  • MichaelD

    I know and I’m not really criticizing its just something I’ve really noticed lately as a Canadian who reads a lot of American blogs. I also think its unfortunately fairly normal for people to focus on the problems they see more directly around them then problems which are more distant. Course this could also be somewhat helpful too as blundering into a problem you don’t understand probably won’t get much good done.

  • BuildUpNotOut

    If people already care about these causes, then they shouldjail ready be part of these organizations or be made aware of them. There is no need for it to be a sub group of atheists to do so. It is indeed interjecting atheism as it uses the name as a thing, not an attribute.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    I really do appreciate your input. I don’t want to alienate people and I’ll be thinking more about what you’ve said and the points you’ve made.

    I do know that many who would be a part of the atheist movement are alienated because they go to atheist gatherings and are put off by how so many people just want to rag on religion. I’ve met plenty of people who feel that way locally and we’ve been trying to diversify our events to cater to all of the atheists in our area.  

    Making everyone feel welcome is a tricky thing especially when we’re all so different and so opinionated. I’m not perfect at it myself and am grateful for constructive criticism on how I can improve.

  • JRB

    I’m not claiming to be smarter, I’m pointing out that what you are saying makes no sense.

    And since you’re (oddly) demanding I act from anecdotes instead of bothering to give me any evidence of damage actually being done, I will say that if I were on the fence about joining or not joining the “atheist movement” (however you want to define that):

    i) seeing that a self-selected sub-group of atheist are working to make atheism inclusive by merging their atheism with social justice as a reason for me to join;

    ii)  see people who consider themselves to be part of “mainstream” atheism threaten people with sexual violence for voicing their belief as a reason for me to stay as far away as possible.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Marriage equality is about civil rights and the separation of church & state. Many churches want to impose their definition on other churches and establish it in our laws. Over and over again when I talk to be who are opposed to marriage equality, they list their religion and their church as the reason they’re opposed.  That does make this a religious issue.

  • JRB

    So if I started a skeptic organization with like minded individuals dedicated to advancing the idea that there are no Bigfoot(s?), you’re cool with that; however,  if I start an atheist organization with like minded individuals dedicated to advancing the idea that there are no gods, you’re not cool with that?

    Because skepticism is a “legitimate philosophy” and atheism isn’t?

    I’m really not trying to be smart here, I am actually feel confused by your statement and I’m curious how you arrive at this distinction.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Well, atheism is and has always been tied to political and social viewpoints. Either we, as atheist, decide to actively   associate with certain causes, or the opponents of atheist will tie us to certain beliefs and causes.    

    I would also like to say that if any one thinks that supporting equal rights for homosexual, women or minorities is harmful, then they really should fuck off.  The association of those people with atheism would do and does far more harm to the image of atheism than any one in A+ could ever do.  

  • The Captain

    Well, I think this is all a bit superficial self centered to be honest (and I mean that in a constructive criticism way, not a snarky one).

    “And I believe it is important to distinguish myself from other secularists and humanists, since I would like to believe that if I were religious, my secularism and humanism would still remain a part of me”

    I think this is where we disagree. You give examples of how you where a secular humanist even as you held different religious positions. So then the atheism really has not much to do with the secular humanism, for me then I don’t see the point of adding the atheist label along with it, any more than adding any other label that refers to some arbitrary belief you hold outside of secular humanism.

    “It is important for me, personally, to distinguish myself from other secularists and humanists in the sense that it’s okay to be an atheist and still care about the world around me and all of its people.” why would it be important to distinguish yourself from them in any sense? It’s O.k. to care about the world around you no matter what your religious beliefs. As you say you want to show the world you can do this as an atheist… so its a pride thing? Are you really saying you can’t help the world out without showing out at the same time? 

    I’m sorry, but I really see this as a lot of potential secular humanist just refusing to join the larger SH community out of wanting to show themselves off as more special than the rest of us SH people. It’s just an impression I get, but I get it none the less.

  • Jim_Lahey

    Many groups of like minded people organize events to help their communities. I see no reason for atheists not to. A friends flying club is an example. It’s not just because of common belief in the joys of flying. But they use that common connection and the network it creates to achieve goals. It doesn’t hurt for atheists to do likewise. It also serves to dispel some peoples opinions of us godless heathen.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    I think the point he (or she?) is trying to make is that some atheists do make a point of drawing attention to the fact that they’re atheists doing good as a way of saying, “Hey everyone! Atheists do good stuff too!” And I understand his discomfort with that. It can backfire and make our efforts look hollow.

    I feel that our good deeds will show our character without us having to always draw attention with a big banner to the fact that we’re atheists.

  • Grizzz


    Go back and take a look at your title here….

    You do realize how alienating and condscending that is to many many atheists don’t you? That mere statement in title suggests that unless atheists adhere to some doctrine like yours they do not truly “care” about social justice. 

    In fact, that title says it all. Believe like we do, do as we say, and do not cross this line or you do not care. That is BS. 

  • JRB

    Going back to the top and reading more of what you’ve written, I have a follow up question.

    me and you were both surfing enthusiasts would you be really angry with
    me if I started a “Surfers for Social Justice” organization?

    mean, the only thing that makes me a surfer is the fact that I surf.  I
    don’t think surfing can be called a “legitimate philosophy”, and yet
    there are hundreds of surfing clubs that run the gamut from a small
    group of people that meet at bars to talk about surfing, to large clubs
    who go out into their communities to encourage more people to become

    Surfing certainly isn’t  related to, or informed by
    social justice.  But what if I was really passionate about surfing and
    really passionate about social justice and I combined the two.

    you be really mad at me for driving away other potential surfers?  For
    doing damage to surfing by bringing in an unrelated issues?  For tying
    surfing to a political action?

    Would I not understand surfing
    because if I did, I’d realize that my surfing isn’t informing my social
    justice and therefor forming a club that deals with both issues at the
    same time is wrong?

  • Tom_Nightingale

    Thanks for your post Erika.  I fully support your desire to spur some positive action with this post.  This issue is not simply a philosophical one or a semantic one.  It’s a moral one, and that’s why you should totally conflate atheism with these issues!  It is hurting no one, and until it does keep it up!

  • The Captain

    Please don’t take my comments as specific criticisms of you. This seems to have morphed into yet another discussion of social justice within the atheist community I was mostly criticism that movement not you personally. 

    I know it’s hard to keep a diverse crowed around for anything outside of sports it seems. 

    For my own part, the social justice issues become a bit annoying to me since I already talk about those at other sites and events. I’m getting fatigued of them seeing them here too. Just like I love Josh Wedon I can only talk about for so long so if my motorcycle club started to have “Buffy” days I would just stop going.

    And I also do not want to see those who have no desire to partake in the social justice issues leave either. That’s what really worries me. I like talking to them about atheist things even if they have no desire to talk about social justice or Firefly.

  • The Captain

    It’s actually highly considerate of her to do that. It’s called a “discussion” and involves two way communication. It’s how you learn things!

  • BuildUpNotOut

    Of course – but that doesn’t mean atheists support marriage equality or LGBT rights at all for that matter. Again, there are many organizations out there for equality issues – so why do we need an atheist-based one?

  • BuildUpNotOut

    In other words, you support secular humanism?

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.vonpaul Paul von Paul

    Just because the USA is broken doesn’t mean that atheists all over the world need to subscribe to the version of A+ that is being bandied about there.

    Social justice? Fantastic concept. But why should I need to (re)label my social commitment based on the massive fail that is the USA?

    Frankly, prison reform is your own damn problem. You fucked it, you fix it. That crap has zero to do with most (international) people’s social justice agenda. So why should it be conflated with mine?

    My time will be better spent supporting the countless millions of underprivileged/undernourished/under-educated other people on this planet that are not inhabitants of the USA.

    I m not an asshole or a douchebag for not making my priorities YOUR priorities.

    But A+ has already declared me so…

  • ErickaMJohnson

    (It’s actually Joss Whedon.)

    My hypothesis is that the best thing we can do to keep people from leaving is to diversify what we do to appeal to our inherent diversity. That’s what I’ll be working on in the next couple of years locally.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    For the same reason we need a Catholic-based one and a football athlete-based one and a politician-based one. This needs to happen and that’s not done with just one person.

  • The Captain

    D’OH! That’s what I get for writing two things at once. Spelling “Joss” wrong.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I love people, and I always look for the positive in them, even if it’s just their potential for the positive. People can and do grow and improve. I try to remember to coax the best out of them instead of just condemning the worst in them.  Some of them can be frustratingly dense, selfish, shortsighted, bitter, and cruel, and sometimes they can break my heart by the way they squander their intelligence and reject opportunities to give love, but I cannot let that discourage me. I could not continue living if I succumbed to cynicism and pessimism. If I lost hope in people, I would lose hope in myself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.vonpaul Paul von Paul

    yeah…., because as you can see in my last post, A+ and these new calls for the same are closed-minded USA-based thingymajigs…

    there are poor people in the USA but poverty is not really a major problem there…

    consequently it is ignored by “caring atheists” and the A+ movement in general.

    if this new social justice theme actually gave a half an ounce of a shit in the greater scheme of things ON THIS ENTIRE PLANET then they would be concerned about the alleviation of poverty and other 3rd world (that kinda stuff doesn’t happen here so we don’t give a shit about it) problems.

  • crden

    I’m going to go ahead and add to one of your categories as a friendly post.

    With education, I think it’s important not only to support the K-12 system but also to support the community college system. This system is frequently overlooked, and it offers many adults a second chance at access to quality education that they did not receive for whatever reason. I work at a CC and the sacrifices I watch many of my students making to learn absolutely floors me. We tend to think about K-12 and four year colleges, but as of 2011 43% of undergraduates were enrolled at two-year schools.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    I have not declared you so. And I want to hear about your priorities. Tell me more about the issues you are passionate about.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Bullshit. Grizzz, enough. I have NEVER said or inferred that people have to agree with me. Stop trying to associate me with some other argument you had with someone else. I’ve responded to your posts repeatedly in this thread making it clear that I do not intend or want atheists to be alienated by what I’ve written. This is a call to action to those who care about these issues. There is not a drop of doctrine in what I wrote. I even end the post with, “Hey, this isn’t everything. What do you want to add?”

    When you see my title, you’re reading into it. You’re projecting extra meaning that I didn’t put there.  “If you care about social justice, here’s a list of things we can start working on now.” That is the thesis of this post. You are bringing baggage from other conversations to this one and putting words in my mouth. Enough.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    I touched on poverty under education and prison reform but you’re right. It deserves it’s own bullet point.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    We absolutely need to address poverty. Personally, I’m a bit overwhelmed with the issue and honestly don’t know where to best apply my efforts. I know access to quality education is extremely important and that’s part of why I talked about in my post.

    But I am serious when I say I want people’s feedback. Other than improving public education and reforming the prison system, what more do we have to be doing to make real change happen to end poverty?

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Yes, I concede that it could have been worded more effectively. Nuance of tone is often lost when put into text. “For Atheists Who Care About Social Justice” would have been more clear. Thanks for the link; I’ll add it shortly.

  • Grizzz

    No Ericka, that is nothing more than a semantic shell game you are playing to try and bypass the condescension and alienation taking place.

    You say that you are not trying to alienate anyone, yet look at this thread. Here is the proof that you are alienating people with this line of thought. And yes, the title does say “If Atheists Really Cared About Social Justice….” they would do what you say they should do.

    It does not work that way. Now, I am willing to accept the fact you may have used improper wording or made some typographical errors, but as it stands, the title reads that if you care you must do as I say.

    How is that healthy?

    As an atheist, no, I don’t give a good god damn (pun intended) about social issues. As a human, I care about those I feel are necessary. But the two are not conjoined, and applying campus feminism, or other such notions into atheism does absolutely nothing for the atheist community.

    I am an atheist because there is no reason of empirical notion to be otherwise. Nothing more and nothing less. All of the other issues I take on is because of my passions or notions of caring.

  • Grizzz

    I could give a good damn if YOU of all people think this is cool or not. In fact, I would prefer you don’t even think about me or respond to me. All I ever see from you is unfettered vile, bile, spittle, anger, name calling, insults and bad logic. If there is anything I do not need is a whacko telling me what I am doing is cool. I know it is cool. I don’t need someone like you telling me so.

  • brianmacker

    I don’t care about “social justice”. I care about justice.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    It’s ok, it’s an easy typo for your fingers to do. Plus, you can edit your original post. And I can edit my previous post to take out the correction. Then no one will know!

  • BuildUpNotOut

    Indeed. As much as I disagree with the premise of her article and the notion of “Atheism+”, I commend her for repeatedly coming back to the comments to respond and further the discussion.

  • BuildUpNotOut

    It might have been a more clear title, but still sounds condescending to atheists out there who do share those values but don’t want to be pigeon holed into this new view stemming from a segment of the atheist community.

  • http://twitter.com/Outcast_Kyle Edgar

     Would be cool, but no. There’s no superpower, just a mental upgrade which releases us from indesirable human traits, like emotions. It’s still a transitional state so we could only discard weaker emotions, like love, compassion, etc. But right now we’re better than those pitiful humans. We see them just the same way they see ants or cockroaches.

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

    I think Dr. Richard Carrier said it best when he made these statements(1) on his FtB blog:

    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. 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.

    This, truly, is baffling to me. Atheism + isn’t a designated organization – it’s just an opt-in label that atheists can choose to self-identify as non-believers who care about social justice issues, so it’s not even a formal organization, which seems to be the thrust of your criticism.

    Yep, sounds really like an opt-in label to me.Reminds me of this kind of nonsense.————————————————(1)I would assume that the infamous FtB backchannel was just sizzling after Carrier posted this as a while later he edited his post, with no indication of when or what he changed in the post, to try and cover up the fact that A+theism is solely based upon vilification and marginalization of those who don’t toe the line.(2)(2) And before any calls me an MRA, misogynist and rape apologizer (which is the usual fate of anyone who disagrees with A+theism in any manner) please be aware that I think that many of those issues listed are worthy of my support. Others not so much. But I won’t tell you which ones those are.(3)(3) Because it isn’t any of your business what I support or don’t support.Benny C.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    This is very frustrating. I never wanted people to feel pigeon holed or talked down to with what I wrote. I wanted this post to energize those who burn to do good in the world and to give them ideas of where to apply their energy and time. We can’t pray, we can only do.  That’s where I’m coming from.

  • Vicki Williams

    Thank you for saying that, and I completely agree.  I don’t know where I would be without CC.  I was raised in a crazy fundi household and homeschooled with textbooks from Bob Jones.  My mom didn’t stick with any sort of curriculum that could have earned me and by-mail high school diploma.  I took the GED, learned science (a foreign concept in my house), and built a transcript at the local CC so that 4-year schools would talk to me.

  • Vicki Williams

    This isn’t saying anything about what doctrine you have to adhere to.  It is a simple tautology that if you really care about something you will do something about it.   What people care about and how they choose to act on those passions is, and should be, a personal choice.

  • smhll

    I think R. Carrier said pretty clearly that if you cheer for those causes,  you are not a CHUD. So, if you were worried, you don’t have to be.

  • Vicki Williams

    This American Life (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/364/going-big?act=1#play) did a bit about this course for parents in Harlem that is teaching them how to raise children that can break out of the cycles of poverty.  I agree Ericka, it is such a big problem.  One other thing is access to contraceptives.  A pregnancy as a teen is a hard obstacle to get past in trying to get an education.

  • C Peterson

    A surfing organization makes sense, because surfers have a common interest Atheists don’t, so atheist organizations are kind of silly.

    Society understands that surfers form a cross section of ideas and beliefs. Everybody understands that they are religious or not, liberal or conservative, vegetarians or carnivores. Nobody expects them to behave in a particularly stereotypical way, and their position is not threatened because they happen to enjoy surfing. So nobody would be surprised by a group of surfers getting together to support some cause.

    Society doesn’t understand atheism. Atheists have no common interests that define them. There aren’t many vocal ones, so when a group of atheists supports something, misunderstanding is sure to ensue. As society becomes more aware of atheists, it is very easy for wholly inaccurate stereotypes to form… stereotypes which do not advance the goals of atheists at all.

  • C Peterson

    I would agree that skepticism is a philosophy, and that atheism is not. Skepticism comes with “rules”: a pattern of thinking and behavior. Atheism does not.

    I don’t really know what it means to combine “atheist” and “like minded”. There are no beliefs that atheists stereotypically share.

  • Anonymous Atheist

    How about “Things Atheists Can Do Now For Social Justice”

  • C Peterson

    I can’t think of a single logical outcropping of atheism.

  • JRB

    “Not all atheists see them as good. Atheism doesn’t lead one to have these views.”

    Exactly!  Hence Atheism+ was born.  It exists so people who do hold these views and want to explore the intersection of their atheism and social justice can distinguish  themselves from atheists who don’t want to do that. 

    “It is implicit in A+ that as an atheist, one should support these things…”

    Nope.  It’s implicit in Atheism+ that being an atheist does not mean one will/should support these things.  Hence the creation of Atheism+.

    To paraphrase what others have said, if an Atheist Knitting Club popped up in my neighborhood I would not assume that its existence implies that as an atheist I should embrace knitting.  Rather, I’d recognize it as a space for people who want to combine atheism and knitting to do so.

  • JRB


    It seems pretty rich to claim that atheists don’t share any common interests on a blog where hundreds of atheists gather to read and discuss topics they all seem to have at least some interest in.

    And also your “society doesn’t understand atheists”, so we should avoid taking stands on issues makes me feel very sad for you.

    And finally, how do you go from “Atheists don’t have any common interest so organizing them together is silly,” to “…do not advance the goals of atheists at all.” 

    Which is it, are atheists all individuals with no common interests and goals and no need for organizations.  Or do atheists have a shared stake in how society perceives them and should perhaps come together in organizations to discuss this shared interest and work to bring about collective goals?

  • JRB

    If I can be of like mind with someone because neither of us like football, I can sure as hell be of like mind with someone because neither of us believes in gods.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carmen-Finnigan/841528248 Carmen Finnigan

    That is a brilliant list.

  • amycas

     Except for the “no higher power” part…

  • amycas

     So you think that atheists will be sterotyped in a harmful way if there are atheist groups in favor of social justice? I’m sorry, I just don’t see the harm done if people start equating atheism with social justice instead of equating it with a lack of morality (which is still all too common).

  • ErickaMJohnson

    One other thing is access to contraceptives.  A pregnancy as a teen is a hard obstacle to get past in trying to get an education.

    Yes! How did I leave that out!?

    And thanks for the link. It will be going into the post update as well.

  • C Peterson

    Atheism means not believing in any gods. That’s not an interest.

  • C Peterson

    I think atheists will get negatively stereotyped simply by creating organizations centered on atheism.

  • C Peterson

    I don’t really see that.

  • JRB

    Really? Denial through willful ignorance? You’ve totally got me convinced!

  • ESC_key

    Yeah, I think the way that I explained it does sound pretty self-centered, I think part of my point was that it is a label I have chosen to identify with, personally, but I sure didn’t mean it as a “ooh ooh look at me! All atheist-y and being good!” That was definitely miscommunicated :/ I think we do disagree slightly on the secular humanism bit: You’re right in suggesting that my atheism didn’t have much to do being a  secular humanist at first. But I do think that becoming an atheist dramatically strengthened my resolve to do right by other people, if that makes sense. 

    Here is the most important bit, though, and something I should have made clearer in my first response (I’m still new at this): I am not planning on forming an “atheist+ club” and refusing to join the secular humanist organizations near me. Rather, I think it is more important to consider the atheism+ a label, and happily join in with the larger secular humanist community in that regard. Maybe that’s where the discord is coming from? Anyways, I appreciate the input and honest, open discussion. It’s always so much more rewarding to be able to discuss these things with someone who disagress, and can do so intelligently and civilly. 

  • Grizzz

    so someone who does not support nor agree with those causes is a CHUD?

    Nice. How non judgmental and progressive. 

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Thanks. And please let me know if there’s something you think needs to be added to it. I’ll be writing another post in a week or so to expand on what I’ve written here.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty



  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    *cough* Speaking of “unfettered vile, bile, spittle, anger, name calling, insults”, what in the actual fuck do you call what you’ve been spewing at people here, especially coyotenose? Your responses have been far worse than anything xe’s said!

  • JRB

    Sure it is. I’m interested in how I came to not believe in any gods. I’m interested in how you came to not believe in any gods. I’m intersted in why other people haven’t given up on believing in gods. I’m interested in how people who don’t believe in gods are treated. I’m interested in how people who don’t believe in gods are perceived by society.

    All of these are interests that stem directly from my atheism. Judging by the fact that this blog regularly touches on these topics, I share at least one of these interests with many other people who come here.

    Also, I like how you just avoided answering how atheist can be individuals with no common interests or goals and at the same time have some sort of collective goals and interests that can be harmed.

  • amycas

     “It is implicit in A+ that as an atheist, one should support these things.”
    No, it is implicit in A+ that it a label for those who do support those things and call themselves an atheist.

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

    No, Carrier said that unless you toe the A+theism line exactly then you are an enemy that is to be vilified and marginalized at every occasion and then totally ignored after the smear campaign is accomplished. (And C.H.U.D. is the least offensive term you will be called.)

    Anyhow, I  could give a rat’s ass whether Carrier approves of what I support or don’t support and wish not to have anything to do with that hateful, spiteful, morally and ethically challenged organization.

  • jose

    Okay? Don’t help atheist organizations then?

    Such a fuss over the things you don’t like… geez.

  • brianmacker

    Yeah, and if you stick to the Nazi dogma, or the Communist dogma….

  • brianmacker

    Europe isn’t broken?

  • OregoniAn

     Geez Grizzz . . .  Pull that underwear outta that crack o’ yours and get on with your life.. Ericka is going waaaaay out of her way not to alienate anybody. You’re taking this far too personally, captain “super-sensitive”.. Keep it up and I’ll be forced to call shenanigans on you!

  • Grizzz

    Because you, coyote nose and Patterson do nothing but circle like vultures around here and spew out bullshit, nonsense, anger, aggression, accusations and illogical rhetoric. You have hair-triggers and are basically just vile gutter-cu**s.

    I have no respect for you three and simply put, I do not need something like coyotenose telling me what I do is cool.

    No piss off and go shake you gutter cu** vulture.

    I have taken abuse, and nothing short of absolute vile harassment from you three and I have no tolerance for any of you. You little gutter cu**s would not last five minutes in one of my days, so you do not have any respect from me whatsoever. The only thing you three and I have in common is that we are all carbon based.

    Do not respond. I do not wish to lower myself any further by talking with something the likes of you. That clear enough for you shakes?

  • ImRike

     “Atheists are being alienated.”
    Oh my! Did you know you don’t have the right not to be alienated? Who are you, to tell me I’m not allowed to alienate you?
    If I feel that some of my social priorities are caused by my atheism, who are you to tell me that it isn’t so? For example: if I’m a christian, I don’t have to do good deeds, since there is a god who can take care of that. As an atheist, I can’t pray to a deity to help the homeless, I have to do it myself! So, I do it BECAUSE I am an atheist. And if there are any alienated atheists because of that, don’t worry, I won’t come looking for you at Alienated Atheists+ (or -).

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Oh, it’s YOU. *spits*

  • ImRike

     Wow, Ericka, do you see what he’s saying? If you are getting involved in social issues, don’t you dare mention to anybody that you might be an atheist, since that would harm the atheism movement that does not exist.

  • ImRike

     It seems like you couldn’t lower yourself any further than you already did.

  • ImRike

     Ericka, thank you so much for the list AND your perseverance. Reading through these posts, I must say, if I was in your place, I would have given up long ago. Unfortunately, that would play right into the hands of people like Grizzz, The Captain and Peterson. Today I decided to become an Atheist+ member, since there, you could make your suggestions without having to put up with the senseless negativism they seem to think is necessary to be an atheist. Thanks for sticking it out!

  • Elizabeth Walls

    What is the best way, to your knowledge, to become a volunteer visitor to atheist nursing home residents? I couldn’t believe I’d never considered that until you mentioned it–I suppose because where I come from, most elderly people are some kind of religious–but that sounds like something that would be very much needed.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Usually just calling the main phone line of the nursing home will be enough to get the ball rolling. If you’re part of a local atheist group, you can mention that. But you’re basically just asking if they have any non-religious residents who’d enjoy a visit from a volunteer.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    What Carrier wrote was awful! I was disgusted when I read what he wrote.

  • AxeGrrl

    when you conflate atheism with any sort of active beliefs, you end up alienating people

    Actually, seeing atheists do good things usually has precisely the opposite effect, no?

    I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard an atheist in the US say something like “when my co-worker found out I’m an atheist, he said ‘but you’re so nice!‘”.

    The point being that when people know that the ‘nice person’ they’ve been interacting with is an atheist, it often changes their perception of atheists/atheism.  Much in the same way that people’s conception of homosexuality is often changed for the better when they know a gay person.

  • AxeGrrl

    So YES, labeling yourself as atheist and then doing social work with other atheists has its place. It proves the whole “good without god” line, and helps reduce anti-atheist bigotry.

    You nailed it.

  • AxeGrrl

    If humanist groups all welcomed atheists with open arms, that would be wonderful…..but it’s often not the case.  So why would those atheists want to join those humanist groups?

    Tracie Harris did a great job getting into this in a recent episode (2.20) of the ‘Godless Bitches’ podcast.

  • AxeGrrl

    JRB, this is one of the best/simplest explanations on the subject I’ve come across.  Kudos

  • AxeGrrl

    long as there is a connection between religion and persecution, then there is a connection between atheism and fighting those injustices

    You nailed it :)

    This point is so simple and clear, I’m a little baffled by the fact that some people seem to have a problem ‘getting’ it.

  • AxeGrrl

    Where did she say that “marriage equality is a religious issue”??

    Her point is pretty much the opposite of that statement; namely, that religion has played a huge role in working against marriage equality.

  • AxeGrrl

    There are tons of secular and humanist groups who do good things and fight for progressive values. Atheists who want to do these things should support such organizations

    Once again, if all secular and humanist groups were completely embracing of atheists, this would be perfect advice.  But sadly, they’re not.

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with a starting a group that basically says “we’re atheists and we support these issues/causes (which doesn’t necessarily mean that ALL atheists do)”

  • AxeGrrl

    No one’s saying you have to do all these things. No one’s saying you need to make atheism a part of everything you do. This is just for the many people who *want* to do these things. And if people want to do these things as atheists, why make a fuss about it? They’re helping other people and they’re changing the public’s view of atheists. And people complain about this??One of the main things I hear is that it will distract the atheist movement from the “real” issues. Well for one thing, a huge real issue is the public perception of atheists. It’s great to see all those “Good without God” billboards, but it’s even better to actually see people being good without a god.

    Nail. Head.

    Why on earth are some people having such a problem ‘getting’ this?

  • AxeGrrl

    As an atheist and secular humanist (not related) I have to ask, why can ya’ll not come help out with the secular humanists community instead of starting your own?

    Check out episode 2.20 of the ‘Godless Bitches’ podcast. They touch on this very issue.

  • AxeGrrl

    Theists making a fuss over their faith and gods and We Are The One True Way appears to be a more frequent occurrence in the U.S., so I could understand why an atheist wouldn’t want to work with even a secular humanist group if it was populated by religious believers.


  • AxeGrrl

    You’re complaining about someone actively responding in a discussion they started and clarifying their points?


  • anon101

    Atheists Really Cared About Social Justice… they would lobby for a military intervention in Syria. Since this is soooooo obvious the fact that no atheist does simply means that atheists don’t care about social justice.

  • YoRpFiSh


  • C Peterson

    I think Ericka expressed my view very nicely elsewhere in this discussion:

    I feel that our good deeds will show our character without us having to
    always draw attention with a big banner to the fact that we’re atheists.

    Atheists gain respect when people discover they are ordinary people just like themselves. Your example points this out- they are first seen as good people, and only later found to be atheists. This is a natural way of accepting differences. This isn’t the way that people are exposed to atheism when their first experience is with some politicized group.

    However, my point was never that atheist groups taking political viewpoints might be damaging to atheism in the eyes of non-atheists. My complaint is that I see it as damaging to atheism amongst other atheists.

  • Adam

    As a person I have many interests is the realm of social justice.  As an atheist, I am mostly concerned with supporting new atheists and fighting for the acceptance of atheism in the larger culture.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Supporting new atheists is really important. We’ve started an ambassador program locally so that we have people to welcome everyone who comes in the door of our events. It’s already made a difference.

  • Another Anon Athiest

    Hi! Just dropping by to tell you what you’re doing is cool, your work is appreciated, as are you.

  • Alexandra

    Peterson, from my interactions with you and reading your comments, I get the impression that you are exactly the kind of atheist who Atheism+ wants to distance themselves from. 

  • Alexandra

    Yes, there are atheists who are being alienated.  The ones that Atheism+ doesn’t want to be associated with. 

  • DLong

    You’re wrong. If someone labels themselves as religious in secular Western Europe they stand out. If they do or say something bad it reflects on their religion. Why shouldn’t the same ‘guilt by association’ apply to atheists in the US? Unfair, of course – but that’s politics for you.

  • http://twitter.com/magicthighs Magicthighs

    “In my view, a person who is motivated by their atheism to engage in political action doesn’t understand what atheism even is, and needs to step back and spend some reflective time.”
    Funny how people only say that when confronted with atheists who care about social justice issues, and not for instance when atheists are combating creationism being taught in public schools.

  • http://twitter.com/blamer ɹǝɯɐןq

    You can heard cats to water but you cannot text them into drinking. Let’s show, not tell.

  • Celia Jane

    As an atheist, I’m amazed every time I dip into the ahteist bloggosphere.  Where does all the energy for this mental masturbation come from?

  • Liam Martin

    K well let me start out by saying I’m not gonna be that one moron who goes on a rant and makes other people who share his views look like morons. I just won’t. I kinda just want to know why it’s such a big deal if there’s a cross memorial in remembrance of something of the sort. I’m sure not every atheist making it there lifelong goal to make such a petty argument as this and ones similar to it. And I get that a cross is a Christian symbol and all, but I don’t understand why some organizations are so in your face about taking down religious symbols and all. I mean, yeah I guess somebody could be offended somehow. But what if I’m offended when a group demands that a memorial to 9/11 be taken down because it’s in the shape of a cross which is formed from the beams of a fallen building? It’s kinda ridiculous when I hear about it, you know. So what do you guys think of these groups? And if you agree with them, why?

  • Liam Martin

     Also, I like you’re Ideas here on this post, equality is something to cherish.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002145102471 Zainab Ahmad

    im still a kid, but i’ve been thinkin about doin foster care when i get older, it just breaks my heart hearing stories of kids with abusive foster parents and the kids gettin bumped around a lot. I guess i just really really wanna help out.