What the history of feminism has to teach Atheism+

As many of you certainly know, over the past year there has been a lot of talk within organized atheism about creating inclusive spaces – making sure that women, minorities, and LGBTQ individuals feel safe and welcome at conferences, in local groups, and in the online community. I think that one of the most important things to come out of all of this is that we need to oppose hostile environments. We need to make sure that everyone, regardless of their sex, race, or gender orientation is comfortable in these spaces.

This concern has, in the past week, generated the idea of creating a “new wave” of atheism called “Atheism+,” which would function as a sort of sub-movement within the atheist community and would be openly and avidly feminist, anti-racist, and pro LGBTQ rights, among other things. There is a lot of excitement about this idea, but I have also seen some people express concern.

I’ve written before that atheism, by the dictionary definition, is simply not believing in a god or gods. I’ve pointed out that it’s no wonder there is disagreement among atheists on a whole range of issues, because the only thing all atheists agree on is not believing in God. I’ve also pointed out that things like racism and sexism are human problems, not simply religious problems. It’s not a surprise, then, that there are all sorts of different atheists with all sorts of different beliefs. I mean, Ayn Rand was an atheist, and I disagree with her on pretty much everything.

The goal of Atheism+, as I understand it, is to bring together those atheists who agree on issues like social justice and equality. Atheism+ is to be about working toward social justice and equality and about being open and accepting of women and minorities and supportive of their rights.

But there’s something I’ve learned from feminism, and that’s that not everyone who shares common goals agrees on the nuances of those goals or about how to get there. Feminism is defined as the pursuit of social, political, and economic equality for women. What that should look like and how to get there are issues not all feminists agree on. In fact, sometimes they very much disagree.

Is pornography objectifying to women and therefore something to be opposed and eliminated, or not? Is the choice to be homemakers antithetical to the goal of economic equality and therefore something to be opposed and eliminated, or not? Feminists disagree.

And you know what? That’s okay, because, as I see it, feminism is a discussion, not a rulebook. Beyond a belief in the importance of working toward women’s social, political, and economic equality, feminism doesn’t have some sort of religious creed everyone has to sign in order to be called a feminist.

Unfortunately, not every feminist has agreed with me on this (you see what I mean about disagreement!). Disagreements among feminists – disagreements that are often not about the eventual goal of equality but rather about what that looks like and what we need to do to get there – have at times led to serious infighting, splintering the feminist movement and hampering its ability to make meaningful progress. There have been feminists who have declared that anyone who is into BDSM can’t be a feminist, or that anyone who is a stay at home mom can’t be a feminist, and so on. There have been feminists who label anyone who disagrees with their specific methods or their specific vision for what equality looks like – whether or not they support the end goal of equality – “anti-feminist,” “sexist,” or “misogynist.” And in the process, some people who do believe in the importance of women’s social, political, and economic equality have been turned off of both the label and the movement, often even closing their ears to what could be a profitable conversation and refusing to have anything to do with a movement they fallaciously see as part of the problem.

The truth is, I don’t want Atheism+ to make this same mistake.

I’m not saying I think atheists with social justice goals should have to work with misogynist, racist, or homophobic atheists – I mean my goodness, I wrote a whole post saying that I don’t see misogynist, racist, or homophobic atheists as my allies! I’m all for opposing hostile environments and for working with like minded individuals toward social justice and equality! My concern is simply that we need to find a way to do this while still allowing room for genuine, honest intellectual disagreements about the substance of feminism, social justice, and other such issues.

One reason some people have expressed their distaste for the label “Humanist” is because it is, they say, vague. I personally like this vagueness. Feminism is also vague. Being vague allows for a conversation, a discussion, and the understanding that those who share the same goals and values may still at times disagree – which is okay. And normal. And to be honest, something you should expect within a community of free thinkers.

As the argument goes, Atheism+ is not vague. It is direct. It states exactly what is believed and adhered to, and it draws a line in the sand. Richard Carrier finished his post on this topic with the following:

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 are you going to stick with Atheism Less?

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

This call to choose sides and this “us versus them” mentality makes me extremely uncomfortable. When some of Carrier’s readers called him out on this, or disagreed with him or his tone or some small point of substance, Carrier dismissed them with comments like “So, one vote for douchery. Got it” and “Accept it or GTFO” and “This is a fallacy called ‘false analogy.’ Own it or renounce it. Be rational or GTFO.” I understand the desire to disassociate from those who are racists or misogynists, but what worries me is that the comments I quote above were directed at those who simply disagreed with Carrier’s methods and tone, not against people who had made racist or sexist remarks.

My concern is that this insistence that all who agree must adopt a specific label and this sort of “with us or against us” way of thinking may result in a marginalization of those who share the same values and goals but not the label or specifics and an inability for anyone within the sub-movement itself to express dissent or disagreement, even while still sharing the core beliefs of feminism, social justice, and so on, without being pushed out, marginalized, shunned, and labeled as a bigot. My concern is that it may stifle productive discussion and result in a list of specific positions one must endorse to avoid being marginalized or called a bigot.

Any movement that does not allow for dissent and discussion is authoritarian by nature, and I don’t want to see this happen to Atheism+. I guess what I’m saying is that there needs to be an understanding that even people who have the same goals in mind can have disagreements on how to reach those goals, or what exactly those goals need to look like, and that’s okay.  I understand the need to marginalize outright misogynists, racists, and trolls, but creating a hard and fast “us versus them” mentality, condemning dissent, and calling someone a bigot at the first moment of disagreement will only lead to alienating and pushing away those who might otherwise be natural allies in this endeavor.

You Can Count Me out of Atheist Tribalism
Steve Is a Man: On Minecraft and Gender
I Have Never Seen a Supernatural Entity Create a Universe
How We Disagree
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Gordon

    I’m not sure how to disagree with the tone of “if you are not against sexism or racism then I don’t want to hang out with you” without being sexist or racist. I’m not sure why you’d want to disagree with that tone.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I was talking about the “us versus them” tone, which is especially present in Carrier’s statement which appears to indicate if someone doesn’t adopt the Atheism+ label they must be marginalized and avoided regardless of what they actually believe. It is this statement that most of the commenters were objecting too, not Carrier’s statement that he didn’t want to hang out with sexists or racists.

      • kagekiri

        Eh, I don’t read it like that at all. He says if you don’t want to be reasonable and aren’t ready to honestly debate with integrity, he doesn’t want you in A+.

        And I mean heck, I don’t want them there either. You can debate specific values, but what people in comments are saying are comparisons to secret police and fascism. You can have the same values and think the methods are wrong, but in the comments, Richard says you have to have facts or arguments for him to respond with more than a “GTFO”. Just drive-by commenting “I don’t want to be an Atheist+” with zero qualification, criticism, or explanation of disagreement is a pretty pointless thing to say.

        If you don’t want to join, I don’t see Richard saying you have to. Jen says you can stay humanists and be allies, and they’re hardly going to attack humanists for doing their own thing, but caring about social justice and rationality is just the criteria for joining this particular subset of atheists.

      • machintelligence

        I had to go over to FTB to read Richard Carrier’s blog since it is not one that I regularly follow. I didn’t read it all (what with 200+ comments) but I think I got the flavor of the discussion. I think Mr. Carrier’s problem lies with his framing of the discussion: ” If you are not with us you are against us — or a douchbag, or whatever”. He is going to lose a lot of independent minded atheists that, if given those options, will always come down on the “against” side, even if they agree with everything he says. Fortunately this is not his call to make, except on a personal level. He may support the movement, but he doesn’t own it.

  • machintelligence

    I t should be at least possible to define which prejudices or objectionable beliefs, which if held to an objectionable degree would preclude being a member. We need shades of belief, not hard and fast categories that define Atheism +. To give you an almost absurd (IMHO) example, I have seen arguments on threads over at FTB that , since we believe some rights for animals, A+ should exclude all non-vegetarians. This is quite different from asserting, based on my experience, that most women are not very good auto mechanics. This is not the same as saying that all women are incompetent auto mechanics, but you can expect that it will be read that way by both sides of the sexism spectrum. Look at the weasel words (some and not very good) vs (all and incompetent). You can almost bet that some MRA’s will chime in that they would never even order parts from a female sales person, while some radical feminist will insist that, because some NASCAR pit crews include women, I am being hopelessly misogynistic. Basically, I am in agreement that we must allow for differences of opinion, while filtering out the obnoxious extremists.

    It will be a challenge, but I am game to try.

    • jemand

      It depends on the context. If you are talking about auto mechanics, and you feel the need to just suddenly assert the (true) fact that most women aren’t very good auto mechanics, in the same way that most men actually aren’t very good auto mechanics EITHER, that’s why you go to someone specially trained but you didn’t say the second half, just decided to interject the subject of sex without previous context into a discussion of a particular skill set women aren’t encouraged to develop… then yes. Yes that is sexist. The *IMPLIED* statements are all quite sexist.

      Similarly, if you are talking about women, and you suddenly feel the need to bring up the fact that most women are not very good auto mechanics, when what you were talking about before wasn’t, actually, anything to do with auto mechanics, and it is left unstated how social constructions of femininity and masculinity gender an interest in and development of automotive skills, while furthermore still ignoring the fact that despite that truth, most men ALSO don’t develop great automotive skill… then YES, once again, that is a very misogynist statement. ALL the implications of bringing up that statement as relevant to the conversation are pretty egregiously sexist.

      If you are trying to come up with distinctions between universalizing and qualified statements, in rating one as unacceptably sexist and the other as arguable, than sure, you aren’t a sexist, the implied statements inherent in deciding that the statement was relevant and contributed to the conversation aren’t universally sexist as in the first two examples. I can’t really think of a way that in a conversation about either women or mechanics, even such a qualified statement would likely naturally arise without quite a bit of sexism being involved.

      • smrnda

        I think handling statements like this are where the movement would stand to gain or lose the most people. If someone says “women are rarely good auto mechanics” I’m not going to assume based on that (and I am a woman who actually is a good auto mechanic) that the person is necessarily sexist without knowing or hearing more in context, but I would immediately want to figure out what the person actually thinks. I’d pay attention to how the statement was made, and I think it’s worth giving people the benefit of the doubt and suggesting that they might not be intending to be sexist or racist or whatever, but that they come across that way. And to jemand, I agree, what a person does not say is a good indicator a lot of the time about what they think and feel.

        Once you hit that point, you’re going to get a reaction that will help you screen people. Decent people who care about prejudice will explain what they said, and will be willing to listen. Others will either get defensive or let loose a string of insults, or say something that actually is outright misogynistic. I think the issue is that people don’t just spout sound bytes but have conversations, and that it kind of helps to figure out what someone really meant first.

      • machintelligence


        I think handling statements like this are where the movement would stand to gain or lose the most people. If someone says “women are rarely good auto mechanics” I’m not going to assume based on that (and I am a woman who actually is a good auto mechanic) that the person is necessarily sexist without knowing or hearing more in context, but I would immediately want to figure out what the person actually thinks. I’d pay attention to how the statement was made, and I think it’s worth giving people the benefit of the doubt and suggesting that they might not be intending to be sexist or racist or whatever, but that they come across that way. And to jemand, I agree, what a person does not say is a good indicator a lot of the time about what they think and feel.
        This is my point exactly,and since I apparently have been labeled sexist and misogynistic for using that example, I will now explain my analysis.

        I suppose that I was unclear when I said that most women were not good auto mechanics. What I meant was that, although having skill as an auto mechanic was not common, it was even less common in women. This is not to say that no women are good auto mechanics (hello smrdna), but that, relatively speaking, proportionally fewer women were good auto mechanics. IMHO training is largely irrelevant to this discussion, because, while training might be necessary to be proficient on a particular brand of vehicle, it isn’t related to innate mechanical ability. This is included in the “good” part of good mechanic. To put it in more concrete terms, a good mechanic should be able (with the proper tools and manuals) to rebuild the motor on a motorcycle or a heavy truck.
        To use Bayesian analysis: Obtain a random sample of men and a random sample of the same size of women. Establish a test for auto mechanical ability and give it to the members of both samples. With the null hypothesis that there is no difference in the frequency of good auto mechanics between the two samples, one could say with some degree of statistical certainty that women exhibited more or less automotive mechanical ability.
        To run the test the other way, randomly get a sample of good auto mechanics. With the null hypothesis that there was no difference between males and females with respect to auto mechanical skill, one would expect to find equal numbers in the sample.
        I submit that I have not run the analyses, but I would be willing to wager a modest sum of money on the outcome. Does that make me a sexist, or a realist, or both.
        Please note that I am not talking about cultural values, gender based norms for behavior, or any underlying causes, just the way things are.

      • machintelligence

        My abilities today apparently do not include closing blockquotes.
        My text begins at “This is my point…”

      • Christine

        But given that the way things are is a product of cultural values and gender based norms for behaviour, I’m confused as how you aren’t talking about them. Or are you just saying “I’m aware that these root causes exist, however which of the root causes apply here is not my point, so we’ll leave those aside for now?”

      • Rosie

        Um, mach, you lost me there a little bit, but I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as “innate mechanical ability”. What may seem like that is in fact learned skills: logic, the workings of internal combustion engines, etc. all combined and distilled. The only example of “innate mechanical ability” I’ve ever run across was in a fictional character, who happened to be a woman. (That’s Kaylee of Firefly, if you’re wondering. And I’m still not at all sure she didn’t actually pick up her knowledge toddling around her dad’s shop.) ANYBODY who can read, who knows some basic physics and math, and who has the proper tools and manuals can rebuild a (relatively) simple engine. For example, an aircooled VW.

    • jemand

      Wait… do you believe *I* called you sexist, or are you referring to a conversation somewhere else? If you think I did… you need to read my point again more carefully. My point is, it’s not just the statement *itself* which bears analysis, it is the decision that a statement is “in context” and “contributes to the general discussion.”

      If the subject is “women” and it is talking about something specific to women, bringing up the current distribution of automotive skill is pretty irrelevant– and it says some not so flattering things about what you’d rather talk about than whatever the discussion originally was. If the subject is “automechanics” and one decides, rather than just talking about machines and engines and people who love them, that it’s a good time to suddenly start talking about one sex, the one that’s often been discouraged in developing mechanical skills throughout childhood, and which is generally subject to various forms of discrimination some of which car specific (i.e., stories of women being charged more, being assumed to not know anything about the fair price), and how that sex is inferior when it comes to automotive skill, than um. yeah. I would consider such a derailment of the original discussion to indicate sexism on the part of the person doing it.

      Note that I carefully said that was NOT the case where you just pulled your statement out of thin air right here and now, given that the discussion specifically is *SEXISM.* The hidden and/or implied statements in deciding this statement is relevant in discussing whether or not it’s sexist… ISN’T sexist.

      Nobody HERE, at least, has called you a sexist yet. Although your insistence that it must be something innate that makes women less good on an invention that’s less than a couple hundred years old instead of positing that the ways girls are often made fun of for expressing interest in engines while often boys are pulled kicking and screaming into at least getting some familiarity or else might possibly have something to do with it is mildly troubling, but I’m not certain if you’re really saying that or if I’m misreading..

  • http://hardofthinking.wordpress.com Derek

    Well said Libby Anne.

    I’m concerned about the us and them mentality. I’m also concerned that A+ may grow to include so many different things that no one is clear what it stands for or that people who are still growing in their understanding and position are excluded because they aren’t ready to sign up to a whole shopping list of issues.

  • machintelligence

    Jen has a new post at Blag Hag on this very topic. (It was her rant that started this whole A+ thing.) My favorite :

    4. You specifically want to exclude people, so you’re a hatemonger!

    You can’t be inclusive to everyone. If you include misogynists, you exclude women – etc, etc. I choose to exclude the assholes.

    If I may use the word: AMEN.

  • http://brucegerencser.net Bruce Gerencser

    Great post, Libby Anne, one I am in agreement with. Unfortunately, Carrier’s post, along with his eviserating response to those who disagree with him, has killed the atheism+ baby in the cradle. When I see Richard Carrier publicly rebuked for his offensive behavior, then I must listen. Until then, I am quite happy with my fellow generic atheists and humanists and I see no need to divide us into a sectarian group that demands fidelity to asset of beliefs. As I said on my blog, and others are saying, Carrier’s atheism+ has the marks of a religion. Is this really what we want?

    We don’t need a new group in order to expose bad beliefs and practices within the atheist community. We have the internet, and through websites, blogs, magazines, and the like, we can expose in our movement the very thing religions try to cover up.

    • kagekiri

      What marks of religion? People sharing values and organizing around goals? People having moral standards and condemning those who fail them?

      Let’s not give religion way too much power in our rejection of it; e.g., just because a Nazi calls the sky blue and food good doesn’t mean you should call the sky green and spurn food.

      Him saying there is no dogma and all this is totally up for debate and that he isn’t final arbiter at all? Him telling people to actually make arguments instead of just condemning Atheism+ broadly and without any supporting evidence? That’s religion like?? What religions fit that?

      I mean, shoot, have you SEEN the misogyny in atheism via all those forms of social media you cited? They really aren’t at all aligned with social justice or rationality applied to all areas of society. Heck, they’re our opponents in a lot of those categories.

      So yes, we do need a separate group within atheism, because there are sexist/racist atheists and irrational/unreasonable atheists out there who don’t care about these issues or have just horribly supported ignorant and hateful positions on them. So they can keep plain atheism; atheism+ will work on what they (we) care about.

      • Drew Hardies

        >What marks of religion? People sharing values and organizing around goals? People having moral standards and condemning those who fail them?

        The problem is that A+ is going to be condemning people based on differences of policy or intermediate goals, not end-goal moral positions. (The post’s reference to porn is a great example of the difference). And, doing this require that you have:
        1. A list of orthodox policies
        2. Some group of people who enforce the list

        This ends up with well-meaning dissenters being kicked out for questioning the official positions.

        If you allow policy dissent, and intermediate goal dissent, then the ‘sub’ movement is just a difference without a distinction. It’d be like me defining “Feminism+ ” as “Feminism plus a belief in animal rights”.

        That label would be both useless (What serious feminist opposes the idea of animal rights?) and insulting (it implies that, before I came around, feminists were OK with fox-burning as a weekend sport).

    • http://teethofthebuzzsaw.blogspot.com Leo

      It is almost like you and other people here didn’t fully absorb Carrier’s argument. Carrier also said, “We have to be as critical of ourselves and each other as we would expect anyone to be of religion, so we can be sure we don’t make the same mistakes. ” It seems to me that Carrier is fine with a certain level of disagreement, but he wants people to make rational arguments when they do disagree. Complaining about tone is not a rational argument. Neither is saying that it has “the marks of religion.” That argument has the marks of false analogy because you seem to be implying that since religion is bad, anything that seems similar to religion in any way must also be bad. When you make bad arguments like this, it is little wonder you don’t want a new group to expose bad beliefs and practices within the community. Are you perhaps afraid of being called out?

      I did also say a “certain level” of disagreement. I would think there is some level of disagreement that isn’t even worth discussing. I remember a few weeks ago Zinnia Jones posting some people (not atheists, per se) arguing that pedophilia should be tolerated. If someone tried to argue that with me? No, I’m not having that discussion. It’s too ridiculous. And I’m not going to have anything to do with such a person.

    • LaurenF

      Wow, Bruce. Arrogant much? “The atheism+ baby has been killed in its cradle!” …because some of its proponents don’t agree with you.

      You say you are quite happy with your fellow generic atheists. Given all that’s been going on recently, the threats of violence and the harassment and the vitriol coming from the (for shorthand purposes) MRA side, it seems logical to assume that the reason you dislike Carrier’s insistence on “with us or against us” is that you don’t want to be called on the fact that you’re happy with harassment and rape and death threats against people for simply speaking up and saying they don’t want to be treated like that.

      Ok, no, I don’t really think you’re like that (you’d hardly be a commenter on Libby Ann’s blog if you were, right?). But it’s still true that over the last few years, most of the people speaking up on behalf of “disagreement” are the people who are sticking up for the misogynists, the racists, the homophobes. After a long enough time of that, I don’t blame Carrier or anybody else for assuming that anybody protesting the formation of a group like A+ is somebody willing to stick up for misogyny and racism and homophobia. Is it harsh? Yes. But I’m willing to cut them some slack for it. Frankly, your post here is pretty much dripping with self-righteousness. “Oh, I’m not like THOSE atheists, who are demanding that people choose sides! MY side, the non-side-choosing-side, is CLEARLY superior and I just won’t have anything to do with them!”

      Libby Ann, you don’t really sound like you’re into atheism+, from what you’ve been posting. That’s fine. I’m not really into it either, because identifying as an atheist is not even the slightest bit important to my sense of self. But do you have to keep complaining about how they’re going about it? It seems to me it does fill a niche that isn’t being met – humanists who also want to be proud about and active for specifically atheist causes. People who label themselves humanist generally aren’t focused on atheism, they’re focused on the social justice. A+ people want to do both, and they want a label they can wear that announces that quickly.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Oh I’m not “complaining”! I get that it fills a niche. I guess that, like Rebecca Watson, I wish we could go about reforming and revitalizing Humanism rather than creating a new label, but I understand what Ashley Miller and others have said about really really feeling that the atheism label is important. In my post earlier this week I explained that I’m more willing to cooperate with religious individuals who share my social justice than are many New Atheists, and that I find the label Humanism works well for that. And in this post I wasn’t “complaining” so much as pointing out that people can agree on common goals but disagree on what exactly the end result should be or how to get there, and that that discussion and disagreement needs to be accepted – something that Jen stated openly shortly after my post.

  • smrnda

    machineintelligence – i didn’t want to criticize your point, just to point out that if i heard a man say ‘women aren’t usually good auto mechanics’ i WOULDN’T assume anything sexist about his mindset just from that. i mean, the statement is true. but here’s kind of two things that could be said:

    “women aren’t often good at auto mechanics because the female brain isn’t set up to understand complicated mechanical processes.”

    “women aren’t often good auto mechanics because it’s traditionally been a male dominated field.”

    the first statement i would look at as a sexist but not the second. another example – i taught statistics for a medical school for a while. they had a sheet of facts about minorities in health care pointing out that the % of doctors who were Black in the US has hardly increased since WWI. depending on the context, this could be a statement that could be racist, but in that context it was more about the failure of schools to reach out to minority students.

    • machintelligence

      I understand.
      But I refuse to abandon the idea that, given the degree of sexual dimorphism in humans, some behavioral traits and abilities differ between the sexes.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        I’m not denying that but in most cases it’s frequent a mix between nature and nurture and more importantly, it’s usually better (unless you are in for example the advertising business) to just go individual by individual. There are less cases where generalising is actually good than people seems to think.

        Also, the dimorphisms might be more distinctive in simple tasks like running longer, jumping higher, …. but for example a complex task like repairing a car requires very different abilities for the tasks who wouldn’t feed on the “innate” abilities of just one of the sexes and if I had to guess I would go with female (multitasking, periferical vision and being able to find a single object in the middle of many (I don’t know how to explain what I say exactly in English) for example are stuff that scientists pin more on the fair sex since they has to use that in the many tasks the woman had to do while the men hunted (some are more theoretical than others like peripherical vision). Again, individual variance is key and you can never forget the societal and nurture factors.

      • machintelligence

        Individual variance usually trumps most of the other factors, and I try to always evaluate the individual (with varying degrees of success, of course, we all have our biases, admitted or not). We are all stuck generalizing from a sample of one, and generally don’t realize how variable humans are. I can give you an example from personal experience: In one of Dan Dennett’s books he asks the reader to picture in their “mind’s eye” a purple cow. He then asks questions about it, e.g. which way is it facing , does it have spots, does it have horns etc. Most people can do this, but I cannot. When I close my eyes and try to imagine something, all I see is dark. About 3% of the population is like this. At the other end of the spectrum, some folks, when asked to picture a leopard, can literally count the spots. There is a continuous spectrum of this ability. I can, nevertheless, do rotations and reflections “in my head” and design things to build without drawing plans. I just can’t visualize them. The question is: How did I live for 63 years without realizing this? I guess I just assumed that everyone was like me and “picture in your mind’s eye” was a metaphor. This was described by Galton in 1880 (yes that Galton, the eugenics guy), but no one has done much with it since.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        Actually I think we might be pretty similar in that. I can’t visualize, I try but can’t, at most I get some imperfect feeling more than image. It’s funny because I realised this when everyone was complaining that such or the other character on a film wasn’t as they had imagined physically (taller, shorter, …) and I just said that I only had in my minds the words and kind of more like a mental construct and nothing really image-like. I don’t know if it’s the same as what you are describing. For example, I can’t picture the face of my mother or my boyfriend, I just have some colours and shapes and a lot of thoughts and feelings. I have less difficulty with other stuff than with real people like for example I can picture Mickey Mouse or the cow that appeared on a tv advert. You’ve got me curious now XP

  • http://None TheOnlyKarsh

    I have to agree and I thank you for addressing my (and others) concerns without immediately labeling us “ignorant, racist, misogynist, unfeeling, uncaring, rednecks.” These are all things I have been personally accused of and labeled as in the last week. Most of the time simply for questioning the attempt to conglomerate all of these disparate ideas and ideals into one label.

    It took me decades to find people and support for my atheism and in the last week I’ve been made to feel like the only parishioner at a baptist church who doesn’t understand the importance of a full immersion in the baptismal.

    I can support equal rights for everyone without being a feminist or a racist. I can be skeptical of a sexual harassment or rape claim without being a rape apologist. I can question affirmative action without being a KKK member.


  • Simon

    This whole ‘schism’ can be distilled down to one issue, and that is that the Atheism+ brigade, despite what they will have you believe, are pushing a particularly rigid dogma based on very subjective ideas about THE PATRIARCHY and PRIVILEGE. I have been following the evolution of this thing and it became apparent from the start that failure to agree was a sin. There was almost no willingness to listen to what dissenters where actually saying, rather a slimy and disingenuous approach of banning for ‘stupidity’, post editing or frequently the dishonest tactic of banning and then posing questions.

    The percentage of actual MRAs (as to whether that label should be a source of shame is another issue) amongst people who publicly came out against the FTB stance from serious blogs was miniscule, yet it became standard to cry MRA at the merest hint of disagreement. This same form of lie is perpetuated with the ‘rape and death threats’ claims being made to whip up the faithful and deflect criticism . The identifiable names from well known ‘hostile’ skeptic blogs have not been making death threats or rape threats and they have no desire to see women oppressed, yet they are routinely accused of such in an attempt to associate them with random nutters. It is galling to witness people who would like to see themselves as leaders so blatantly playing the victim card and getting away with it. I’m willing to bet that the likes of Dawkins get more death threats before breakfast than they get in a month.

    As for the idea that A+ is a ‘take it or leave it ‘ subset of atheism, remember that these are the people who have been trying to get their enemies fired and barred from speaking or attending events.

  • Michael Kingsford Gray

    Atheism+ is a great move.
    It will corral the crazies, the failures, the tyrants, the psychopaths, the money-grubbers under their banner, and we will know who not to invite as speakers.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      In case you missed my comment policy:

      1. Refrain from personal insults.
      2. Target arguments, not people.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    To the three above commenters: You aren’t going to garner sympathies here by negating pathriarchy isn’t a problem (including in certain atheist spaces), neither by denying that a victim has been attacked or that because another person has been attacked more they shouldn’t complain.

    I doubt you are being honest when you say you are just “being sceptical” about sexual harassment and questioning affirmative action doesn’t make you a KKK memeber but certainly doesn’t make you an ally of POC.

    Denying the reality of what was said in places like ERV, stuff like “I’m going to kick her in the c*nt”, doesn’t make it untrue and it’s people like you that make me glad this is being done.

    If you don’t like the label, don’t adopt it, with attitudes like you are still at least too green or worse but I really would think that you would tone down the anti feminist sentiment in a blog called LoveJoyFeminism, not that I have any authority here and Libby Anne loves to here dissenting opinions.

  • Simon

    Paula G. Which criticisms are you directing at me? I presented no anti-feminist rhetoric. I said that the ‘house’ brand of feminism in certain circles was highly subjective. It’s also definitely one that many feminists find abhorrent.

    In the current climate, I should think that it would be in the claimants interest to provide some form of proof. Skepticism is a little inevitable given the ever-morphing stories presented, not to mention the victim olympics nature of things.

    I am very familiar with ERV and (shock horror) the Slyme Pit and I cannot recall one single death threat or threat of rape or anyone actually belittling an actual, real instance of a threat beyond something that anyone with a presence on the internet would receive. As for “I’ll kick you in the cunt”, I presume you are thinking of franc Hoggle’s “If I were a girl, I’d kick you in the c**nt”, which he said on his own blog. You would understand the point he was making if you had actually read it in context, which was that if he were female he would be furious with Ophelia Benson’s portrayal of women as fragile, weak flowers. For his quote to be taken as a threat would require a sex-change, ignorance of the context and a total lack of comprehension. None of this has stopped Ophelia from accusing Franc of threatening her at any opportunity, even though that’s a lie.

    The amount of propaganda spread about the Slymepit is not surprising given that PZ Myers is involved. The Anthony Navarro affair is a perfect example of his lack of honesty and tendency to smear when shown to be in error and the insular, self-referencing unpleasantness of his commentariat. The reason I find the Slymepit so appealing is that the culture does not permit banning or silencing of uncomfortable input. The language may put some people off , but you will not be barred from having your say. You can have a knock-down brawl on topic A and calmly move on to topic B later.

  • Rempetis


    I just wanted to say that you phrased what the problem with atheist+ almost perfectly.

    Personally i found skepchick and ftb last month by accident. I had some time to kill since i had a few days leave of absense but i didn’t have any money to go anywhere. :( (Damn you Greek crisis). Generally i agreed with most of what they had to say in their articles but very soon i realised that there’s something weird with that place, especially the comment section.

    At first i thought that it was ALL because of elevatorgate, and people’s perceptions of what that meant. In my opinion it is a wedge issue, and (as far as i could tell by reading about it all a year later) that started the whole US vs THEM thing. I thought at the time that there were simply two sides (and several people in between) who just couldn’t communicate with each other because of that incident and so that made them polarised and created all the “drama”. I do empathize with Rebecca, i feel sorry for her that she had to go through all that (and still does), but i just don’t know why anyone would attribute that to “Misogyny in the atheist community” which should be combatted by more/better sex harassment policies in conferences. I really wouldn’t mind any place having more/better sex harassment policies, i mean: Why not? …but that’s not exactly the same thing.

    After that the more i read the more it seemed as if some people were doing a psychological experiment on how to manipulate public opinion and how to develop a herd of internet users around them to defend their dogma (their beliefs about certain things). Then i stumbled upon the Ryan Grant Long case, and what came after it when D.J. Grothe dared doubt the holy ftb blogger Greta Christina.

    If you don’t know about it and care to take a look here’s a few links (in the order that they should be viewed)…

    First there’s a site that has pictures of the original facebook incident:

    Then there’s the starting blog-post by greta: (read the comment section)

    Here’s Almost Diamonds defending her: (read the comment section)

    Here’s a blog-post by Greta again: (read the comment section)

    They manipulated EVERYTHING to get on top, and all of this while their commenters defended them without really knowing anything about the facebook incident other than what they were told. Simply repulsive, one of the worst things that i’ve seen on the internet. So, i simply left after i read that disgusting stuff.

    After that they made Atheism+. The way i see it it’s a heavily American thing. That’s because we Europeans don’t have so many problems that are connected with theism any more so we wouldn’t really be interested in making a movement like that. Surely, like in the US, theism in Europe too is connected to conservatism, it’s anti-gay etc though it’s not so much anti-abortion and it’s not so much connected to the state, not so many people are religious, and our religion isn’t used as an excuse for wars that we’re doing at the other side of the world etc.

    Regardless of all of that:

    We are…
    Atheists plus we care about social justice,
    Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
    Atheists plus we protest racism,
    Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
    Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.

    …i agree with it too. it’s very agreeable. :) BUT many people can surely disagree with the ftb/skepchick versions of most of those. Also, it must be said that what Richard Carrier said (which was very US vs THEM) has been disassociated with the A+ community but it’s not too hard to see that it’s really what all of that is about in the eyes of most people. Their main disagreement with Richard Carrier’s post is that they just didn’t want to say it like that, their disagreement is based on that it sounds bad (and that makes them look bad) not that they actually disagree with the gist of what he’s saying.

    Because i know you’re thinking it. No, i’m not an MRA. They make some valid points but i fucking hate that they blame everything on feminism. That said, it’s not hard to see why people hate on ftb/skepchick bunch and it’s not really about misogyny, it’s because they’re really REALLY not nice people. I think that i’ve explained some of the reasons very well and i bet that there are other reasons too which are equaly valid and i simply don’t know about. The people who hate on them (because they’re not nice people) simply use the easiest way that they can think to make them angry, and that’s the supreme majority of the “misogyny” that they’re talking about. If their main concern wasn’t feminism (no it’s not atheism) and was say animal rights they’d get totally different responces from the people who troll them. I don’t condone that kind of behaviour (the trolling, calling them names etc) but who i’m saying is that i understand where it’s comming from and why.

    p.s. There’s the $$ side to all of this, but i will not get into that.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I case you missed my comment policy:

      1. Refrain from personal insults.
      2. Target arguments, not people.

      Tarring everyone at ftb/skepchick as “really REALLY not nice people” steps afoul of my comments policy (and I’m also going to have to disagree strongly with you here). For disagreement to happen, it isn’t required that one side be “really REALLY not nice people,” whichever side we’re talking about. You are also painting with an exceptionally broad brush – not everyone at ftb agrees with each other on everything, after all. And besides all that, I don’t think any amount of disagreement justifies the trolling – which obviously only makes the situation worse.

      • Rempetis

        You’re right, i’m sorry. I guess i shouldn’t say that all of them are that way, i guess what i was referring to is what many would consider “the core group”.

        “For disagreement to happen, it isn’t required that one side be “really REALLY not nice people,” ”

        Didn’t say that it’s a requirement, i just tried to explain what in my opinion one side is seeing. That’s because i think that i understand them even if i don’t agree with some of their tactics.

        “And besides all that, I don’t think any amount of disagreement justifies the trolling – which obviously only makes the situation worse.”

        It doesn’t help that’s for sure, but the ftb/skepchick side misunderstanding why they’re being trolled doesn’t help either. Maybe in a perfect world the two sides could talk with civility to each other.