Some Observations About Atheism Plus

August 27, 2012

WARNING: This post contains mild language, constructive criticism, occasional reasoning, and no invective (except by way of parody).

Atheism Plus (hereafter A+) has arrived with a bang—it was just five days from Jen McCreight’s first post on the subject to recognition in the New Statesman. Congratulations to Jen McCreight (hereafter JM) for putting forth an idea that struck a responsive chord.

Of course, that response has been somewhat short of universal acclamation.  Indeed, some reactions have been very negative. My view is that some criticisms of A+ may be justified; some not. This brings me to my first observation.

1.General Attitude to New Ideas Most humanists and atheists champion critical reasoning and the scientific method; we should welcome new ideas that question our accepted beliefs and practices. Therefore, it’s not a valid criticism of A+ to say that it may cause some disagreements and disputes. A challenge to the status quo may be warranted. That said …

2. Was Its Initial Launch Ideal? JM’s initial post on her “new wave” of atheism came in the context of a semi-biographical sketch of her disgust with the “Boy’s Club” that allegedly held (holds?) sway over the secular/skeptical movement. In this post she rang the now familiar changes of the Elevatorgate controversy, the kerfuffle over D.J. Grothe’s remarks about sexual harassment complaints and attendance at TAM, objections to Paula Kirby’s comments on “feminazis,” and so forth.  There are two problems with this approach. First, by positioning the launch of A+ within the context of these disputes, it’s likely she immediately lost part of her target audience. “Oh, this is just the latest installment of that thing,” was probably the annoyed reaction of some.

Second, she was at least impliedly suggesting that one’s position on these various issues determines whether one would be welcome as part of the new wave of A+ or be condemned to “circle jerk into oblivion,” as she rather colorfully put it. Do the advocates of A+ really want one’s position on Elevatorgate or Grothe’s remarks to be the litmus test of whether one is sufficiently progressive to be part of this new wave of atheism?

Let’s be clear: People who make hateful, threatening comments to others should not be part of any segment of the secular/skeptical movement. Amy Roth’s recent series of posts from various movement leaders leaves no doubt that this is a principle with virtually unanimous support. But if someone thinks, for example, that Grothe’s remarks may just have been ill-advised or poorly worded as opposed to intolerable, that shouldn’t result in the person being lumped together with the haters.

A+ as outlined by JM and Greta Christina in later posts has some laudable features. Atheists should get more involved in public policy questions, for example (see discussion below). It’s regrettable that this part of the proposal may be overlooked because of how the proposal was initially presented.

3. Exactly Who Is Welcome? JM made it clear that she believes the secular/skeptical movement needs to be more diverse.  I doubt whether any leader of the various secular/skeptical organizations would disagree. We need more women and minorities. One, we want more people, period; two, we want to ensure our groups are representative and that we get the benefit of the perspective of a wide range of people.

However, whether intentionally or not, the way JM first expressed the need for diversity came across more as a lament about the abundant presence of old white men in the movement. This was exacerbated by a tweet she sent in which she apparently said, “Dear smug humanists: My critique of the atheist movement included you. Your groups are infamous for being mostly old, white, men.” 

Hmm. First, I don’t think that’s really an accurate description of humanist organizations currently. CFI has 200+ campus groups affiliated with it. Lot of women, and a lot of people under 30.

Second, leave the white male issue aside for the moment. Is being old an intrinsically bad thing? This would be a strange position to take, especially as combatting “ageism” is one of the explicit goals of A+.

Aggravating matters was a blog post by Richard Carrier that appeared two days after JM’s initial post which was—how to put this— a wee bit strident.  References to enemies, kicking people to the sewers, and a closing call for “everyone now to pick sides … 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 and its sexism and cruelty and irrationality.”  Effectively, Carrier’s message was: Decide Now! Decide whether you are with us or against us! 48 hours after the first tentative unveiling of A+ and before discussion of any sort of detailed program or plan of action. Decide Now—or be kicked to the sewer like the scum-sucking enemy of the people that you are.

Whew. I think Carrier may have had one too many 5-hour energy drinks that day.

So the first impression of some was that this was going to be a group more focused on exclusion than inclusion. Understandably, there has been some pushback.

The good news is that in a post on Thursday afternoon, JM clarified matters a bit. She expressly stated that her focus is on diversity and inclusion and she has nothing against old white men. (I also assume, although I don’t know if she has stated this, that Carrier did not coordinate with her when he composed his post.)

We should give people the benefit of the doubt and be charitable in our interpretation of their remarks. So unless subsequent remarks show otherwise, we should assume a person’s race, age, and gender are not relevant to how welcome they are in A+.

4. Why Don’t You Call A+ Humanism? JM is pushing A+ because she wants to do more than just refute religious claims. She wants atheists to be active on social justice and equality issues.
As some have pointed out, there already are atheists and agnostics who go beyond critiques of religion. They’re humanists.

But JM doesn’t want that label. She gives reasons, which you can read for yourself. Whether one finds these reasons persuasive really doesn’t matter. One can’t force someone to use the label “humanist” if they don’t want to, and I don’t care what JM or other advocates of A+ call themselves, nor am I concerned whether they’re using the humanist model without giving appropriate acknowledgment to humanism. We’re not Apple and Samsung.

5. So What Is the Precise Content of the “Plus”? As indicated, I don’t give a fig for nomenclature. I do care about the secular movement and its direction. I do care about whether it uses its resources efficiently. I do care about whether we remain sufficiently unified to achieve the objectives we presumably all share.

So I don’t care whether JM dislikes the label humanist, but I’d like her to explain where she would go beyond the issues on which CFI and AHA (and some other organizations) are already working.

CFI has long been active in supporting LGBT equality, in supporting reproductive rights, in supporting equality for women, in opposing suppression of women and minorities, not just in the US but in other countries, in supporting public schools, in advocating for patient’s rights, including the right to assistance in dying, in fighting restrictions on the teaching of evolution, in opposing religious interference with health care policy, in promoting the use of science in shaping public policy, in safeguarding our rights to free speech, and in protecting the rights of the nonreligious. We focus on these issues because: 1. they are the issues where religious dogma and/or pseudoscience continue to have significant influence and, therefore, they’re the issues most closely related to our mission as a secular/skeptical organization; and 2. we have limited resources of money and staff time; we can’t do everything.

So do the advocates of A+ believe some or all of these issues are not worth spending time on? If so, why? What other issues will A+ be focused on? What are the connections between these other issues and atheism? Where will A+ find the resources to focus on these other issues?

Social justice is great. After all, who’s against social justice? It’s when one starts to fill in the details that disagreements arise.

As of now, A+ is a proposal in search of a program. It’s probably unfair to expect more of it at this stage; it is less than two weeks old. But precisely because it’s in its infancy, it may be premature to consider it the new wave in atheism.

Conclusion I hope my observations will not be considered unduly critical. It is difficult to put forth a proposal such as A+, as we atheists and humanists tend to be an unsparing bunch of critics; JM should be commended for her willingness to submit this proposal for consideration. As indicated, I think there have been some missteps in the presentation of A+, but at least to some extent these can be corrected. The bigger challenge may be in specifying exactly what A+ adds to the movement. I look forward to the further elaboration of A+ so we can consider and discuss in a calm, rational manner exactly what its implications are. I sincerely hope that it turns out to be something that strengthens the movement.


#51 Booker (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 5:59am

@Dennis #45: Could you explain what you mean by “new stale feminists”, and how does their message differ from those of other civil rights activists? I’ve read most of the blogs in question and I would say the objection to them is that they are speaking up at all—that is what turns them from being women to being “radical feminists”. Nothing they’ve said is radical.

#52 LadyGrey (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 8:53am

Quote: “The bigger challenge may be in specifying exactly what A+ adds to the movement.”

Because it adds nothing to secular humanism (except a certain added arrogance and dismissive tone).

#53 jamesemery (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 8:57am

Oh, LadyGrey, the IRONY.

#54 Kalim (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 10:44am

I do not understand why atheists want to create group after group, movements within movements and schisms after schisms. All of this sounds very much like the hundreds of religious sects, all at each others throats on minor matters of doctrine. Worse, it sounds like a petty high-school fight, with all the cliquishness that goes with it. Please, people, grow up. Does it matter if we call ourselves Atheists, Humanist or Atheist+, Atheists++ or Atheist#? This proliferation of labels and the fragmentation of the already small community is ridiculous.

It is very strange to see people split hairs over labels and try their best to exclude those who do not *exactly* think like them, when there are so many important problems to worry about. Has anyone of these “labelers” spent even 1/100th of the time on women’s issues in countries like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan etc. as on “Elevatorgate”? All of a sudden we have created a perfect decoy to divert attention from issues of genuine concern for women all around the world.

#55 Nathair (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 11:19am

“Does it matter if we call ourselves Atheists, Humanist or Atheist+, Atheists++ or Atheist#? “

It matters because those are not merely different ways of describing us all. The names mean something. They are handles for different groups with different principles, different goals and different agendas. That the groups overlap to some extent does not make them homogeneous. What you are suggesting is like complaining that it is meaningless to invent names like mastiff and poodle and chihuahua because they are all just dogs.

#56 justme (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 12:28pm

The difference is that Atheism+ isn’t being presented as a group or club within atheism (which it actually is), but as “THE” New Wave of Atheism.

Atheism itself doesn’t have a hierarchy.  Atheism+ does.  “All you pro-feminism, anti-racism, pro-social justice atheists out there?  You now have a name, you now have a logo, and you now have leaders.  Accept this or suffer the consequences as our enemy.  One or the other.  Your choice.”

That’s bullying.

#57 Kalim (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 12:34pm

“What you are suggesting is like complaining that it is meaningless to invent names like mastiff and poodle and chihuahua because they are all just dogs.”

However, these different breeds do not use these labels to rip out each other’s throats. Also, *we* label dogs and not dogs themselves.

What I see in this proliferation of labels is that it essentially divides people who otherwise would agree with each other on most things. Homogeneity is not required or desired. Creating labels to just say the “other” has terrible morals (witness the early nasty blog posts on the new Athesim+ label) and painting everything in black-and-white is not a desirable thing. Ron’s point about being less strident is very important. Lets not get carried away in label mania.

#58 Nathair (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 12:44pm

“All you pro-feminism, anti-racism, pro-social justice atheists out there?  You now have a name, you now have a logo, and you now have leaders.  Accept this or suffer the consequences as our enemy.  One or the other.  Your choice.”

That’s a complete straw man.

#59 Nathair (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 12:51pm

“it essentially divides people who otherwise would agree with each other on most things. “

There is one, and only one thing upon which all atheists would agree and we can only agree with that as long as it is presented in very broad terms.

If you believe that all atheists agree on things like feminism, equality, social justice, important issues all, then you just have not been paying attention.

#60 Dorion on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 1:41pm

...which is why atheism is atheism and the other things are what they are. Rolling them all into one big ball will fail. Massive communications, organizational fail. Will do no good for the world, which presumably is something of interest.

#61 jamesemery (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 1:45pm


I’d challenge you to provide any of these ‘nasty blog posts’ you’re referring to- there have certainly been some nasty COMMENTS, and already plenty of misogyny thrown at the idea.

As to division, it seems pretty obvious already from most of what I’ve read here and elsewhere that the only people really trying to divide anything are those that are so adamantly against having a new organization.  Considering oneself part of A+ does not preclude one from being a CFI member, nor a member of any other club/group.  Being a member of another club/group does not preclude you from being part of A+.  The only division going on here is with the people that insist there must be some sort of division.

A+ will probably focus mostly on feminism and other social justice issues, and that’s not going to hurt/destroy anyone else’s group.  The only people who might be excluded from A+ are those who choose to exclude themselves, for the most part.

#62 jamesemery (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 1:50pm


On what basis do you make this lofty assertion?  Would a club for Christians who also like to knit likewise fail?

#63 sally (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 3:37pm

“Would a club for Christians who also like to knit likewise fail?”

If some club of atheists who also like to knit promoted itself as THE NEW WAVE OF ATHEISM and demanded all atheists take sides - “you’re either with us or against us” - I’d oppose it.  And I’m an atheist who knits.

#64 jamesemery (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 3:53pm

Sally, no one has demanded that you take sides.  If there’s a new wave, it doesn’t mean the old one is gone, or that other types are no longer valid.  That’s just full of strawman.

#65 Dorion on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 4:13pm

That’s how it feels to me. And if I’ve learned anything over the past few months it’s that, as a woman, how I feel about something is what matters, more than intention, context, verifiability, or documentation.

#66 sally (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 4:34pm

“no one has demanded that you take sides.”

As Carrier and who knows who-all else has been busy scrubbing their blogs, it’s easy to say something didn’t happen and make accusations of strawmanning.  Dishonest, but easy.

#67 jamesemery (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 5:21pm

I wasn’t even aware of Carrier’s existence until this thread.  He seems a bit strident, but most people with a passionate cause ARE. I don’t know where exactly he falls into this, but claiming that people are ‘scrubbing their blogs’ seems strong.  Did you screencap something that’s no longer there?


All I have to say is this:  It’s sanctimonious dogma to want an anti-harassment policy?  It’s sanctimonious dogma to not want to be propositioned inappropriately?  THAT is what they’re pressing for.  If that’s bigoted… Nevermind.  Just not going there.

#68 Jan Kees (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 5:33pm

Looking at this whole A+ debacle from across the Atlantic, I am reminded of the 3 Great Premises postulated by Charles M. Pierce in his book Idiot America:

(1) Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings or otherwise moves units.
(2) Any thing can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
(3) Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

#69 CarolAnn (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 7:22pm

Ironically, considering the driving event behind all of this, women don’t even agree on a definition of feminism.  My moher was part of the 1960s movement and she and I are light years apart in our ideas of feminism. 

As far as RW goes, my position was that she was expressing her discomfort with a situation she would rather not have been in.  She felt threatened and needed to make it clear what threatened her.  Where things got out of hand was where other women perceived that she was speaking for them.  I admit I took it that way as well…my first thought was “I don’t have a problem.”. Well, chances are good that I deal with life - and men - a little differently than other women do, and if all it takes is some guidelines like my employer has then so be it.

About that point it went haywire.

I am very distressed to see that some feel the need to wear a different label.  What I continue to see, though, is that the whole point continues to be missed.  Each side says that what is important is what they perceive amd feel, but the other side doesn’t get the same consideration.

Everyone loses.  It’s sad.

#70 Makis (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 7:46pm

I do agree on the basic list of things that Jen said.
I didn’t agree with them on what the elevatorgate thing meant, but i do feel sorry for Rebecca for all of what she’s going through because of it.
I didn’t agree with them on Ryan Grant Long or about D.J. Grothe.
I agree with them on thunderf00t.

Also, i don’t like the US vs THEM climate that they’ve been cultivating over there since elevatorgate. Some may say that the post that Carrier made was his personal opinion, but if you take a look at their commenters on ftb and skepchick you’ll see that it’s the opinion of the majority of the people who’re part of A+.

So, what does this mean? Is A+ an idea or a little club that people can join? Where does that leave me?

Normally since i agree with the basic principles of the movement (the “we are…” list) i could be part of it, but this doessn’t seem to be the case. I am simply not convinced that it’s not a club, and i dislike some of the people that are involved in the club. (The Ryan Grant Long incident is a great example of the reasons why i dislike them). Also, i have the sneaking suspicion (i really hope that i’m wrong on this) that their attacks against Dawkins and Harris are a “I want to be Caliph instead of the caliph” iznogood type of behaviour.

Thanks for the article Ronald, i enjoyed it.

#71 Dennis (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 8:38pm

@Booker #51: Even in your comment here I see the type of “reasoning” that has been so pervasive during this skirmish. Among the comments to just this article are numerous other whoppers:

—“gnu atheist…..with extra added egalitarianism” as though the ingredient were self-evidently missing,

—“wave of cheery unabashed sexism” (not just a wave, but a cheery and unabashed one!),

—“I feel a need for the + as a quick way to make the point that the atheism movement….shouldn’t include rude hostility to women” (How about the “-” as a quick way to make the point that the movement should exclude ALL things we don’t like?)

And these gems:

—“Of course, we’d like to believe that people would be against threats and abusive behaviour. But some people simply just aren’t”, and

—“as a woman, how I feel about something is what matters, more than intention, context, verifiability, or documentation.” (Replace “woman” with “man” and imagine the response so laughable a pronouncement would get!)

In your comment, notice the way you ask how “their” message differs from those of other civil rights activists, implying that my complaint is with feminism rather than the particular kind I cite as deserving of disdain? Why not leave it at “What do you mean by stale feminists?” There is simply no acknowledgment that there can be a type of feminism that is poorly reasoned. If one is on the right side of an issue, one can never be wrong; conversely, if one is (perceived to be) wrong they must not truly be on the right side! There is only right feminism, only correct atheism, only proper liberal progressivism. In the matter of just how pervasive a problem we have, objections to comments are objections to “speaking up at all”. Objections to bad reasoning are really objections to the larger cause. Disagreements over how widespread the problem is are met with suggestions that “some people simply just aren’t” against threats and abusive behavior.

It has been said many times during this debate that doubters “don’t get to decide what is offensive to women”, an absurd idea which recalls the “politically correct” atmosphere of many years ago. However, those setting this nonsensical rule DO get to decide what is offensive, and they cannot be mistaken! It is a chilling atmosphere, where dissent isn’t allowed because it is already wrong simply for being dissent.

What do I mean by “stale feminists”? I mean that what I have described just now is very similar to what happened before. Read the book I mentioned in my earlier comment, by 2 feminists who were strong supporters of science and reason at a time when many called such things “male constructs”. Their dissent was considered traitorous, so stifling was the atmosphere at the time, even though by any reasonable measure they were correct. And heaven forbid a man should have dissented! How dare a person of “privilege” be so audacious?!

It may very well be that I have missed some enormous “wave”, but I have not missed the extraordinary amount of faulty reasoning among those who speak of it; I’d simply like to see the evidence, and vehement disagreement is not evidence.

#72 Alice (Guest) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 at 10:41pm

This is a well considered piece of writing.  The questions you pose point to your being outside of the culture and group that prompted the creation of A+

So far as I can work out A+ is an alternative to the culture of generic atheism in the US based online community.

There are many groups and communities that have arisen over the years, with different names, that all share and promote similar values.  Utilitarian, Humanist, Naturalist, as well as Skeptic, New Atheist and so on.

I think that new groups arise due to a need in the proximate community.  It’s an organic evolution of the secular movement generally.  I don’t see it as any threat - just a group who have been having bad experiences wanting to split off and differentiate themselves to provide a safe space for them to discussion and share.  No big deal.

#73 Jay (Guest) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 at 1:29am

I’m out on of the whole A+ idea because having read the FTB clique since it’s inception I have come to the lurker conclusion that many of the ringleaders involved are odious hypocrites.

The context, launch and subsequent rhetoric from FTB has simlpy dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s.

#74 Harley A brown (Guest) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 at 2:05am

About 15 years ago the NJ Humanist Network had a mini symposium to which we invited Ellen Johnson of the AA, Annie Laurie Gaylor of FFRF, and Margaret Downey of the Philadelphia Freethought Society to discuss why there were so few women in the movement and how we could get more of them to our meetings. The speakers talked about women heroines and acknowledged the deficit of women in the Atheist and Humanist movement. No one, that I remember, raised the issue of women being kept out of the movement or feeling that humanists were male chauvinist pigs, but rather that meetings were too philosophical and anti religious. There were suggestions to make meetings more community oriented. There was some discussion about whether American society, religion,and discouragement of science education for women was part of the problem. After the meeting NJHN made a concerted effort to make a more community based program. We even invented a humanist holiday, HumanLight. It helped to make our ratio of women higher than other groups we knew, but there were always more men.
The larger numbers of people joining NJHN and the new group Lehigh Valley Humanists that I helped start recently is exciting and includes many women. Perhaps the women’s movement has changed the background from which women are coming, and also the effect of the internet with facebook and meetup, but the influx of women and young people is definitely different. However, there are still more men than women. I tend to think that this is societal rather than an indictment of humanism and the national associations.If some women don’t like what is going on in humanist events or in national associations the most effective way to deal with these problems would be to take up leadership positions in these groups and change them rather than carping about them from the outside. If a male humanist says something you don’t like, then call them on it, but blaming it on humanism and starting a new humanist organization with a different name doesn’t seem productive. Harley Brown

#75 Fey (Guest) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 at 2:45am

Thanks Dennis! Very thoughtful comments.
A+ is a W for the Trolls. If atheists could derail the religious community as much as trolls have derailed secular, wow.

I am tired of all the female exceptionalism. Social norm breakers face blowback. That is a fact. More men were murdered in the Civil Rights movement than women. More men have been murdered in abortion clinics than women. I am much more worried about David Silverman or the remaining horsemen than I am of boutique secular bloggers being hurt. I don’t hear frontline secularist in speeches and discussion panels speaking about all their death threats over and over again.

“I have no intention of going back to TAM because I don’t feel safe there. I don’t feel confident that D.J. Grothe takes threats of violence against public figures in this movement seriously: especially gender-based, sexualized threats of violence against female public figures”.  Greta Christina

Why Greta? Why sensationalize this situation?
Since when did trailblazers depend on 100% safety?

A couple of female bloggers have spoken about being emailed or commented rape and death threats indicating premeditated crimes.
H1: They are trolls-can’t stop them, can not feed them :(
H2: They are disturbed people informing their targets of the planned crime-a Conference Harassment Declaration won’t help :( There is nothing anyone can do accept pay for expensive forensic profiles based on the communication. Imagine the power that gives the trolls.
I just feel so bad about the split. If the A+ers feel they are so enlightened and we are all a bunch of Heman woman haters, and female pawns, why are they leaving us? Why don’t they stay and try to improve the situation?

#76 Alice (Guest) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 at 3:53am

@#75 Fey

I think it’s fine that some people want to discuss issues without getting death threats - even if those threats are only hollow threats from trolls.  Why put up with it?

I haven’t followed the whole thing from the start - I tend to avoid places where there are lots of trolls and name calling and other abusive language.  Which is why I’m interested to see how it goes with the A+ forums.

#77 Reba Boyd Wooden (Guest) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 at 4:48am

I have known Jennifer McCreight since she started the Purdue NonTheists, I have had her speak at CFI-Indiana, and I have much respect for her, what she has done and what she is doing as a very intelligent young lady pursuing a scientific career.  I also agree with her ideas about A+. However, I don’t think she is as familiar with the work of organizations like CFI, Council for Secular Humanism, and Freedom From Religion Foundation which are already doing much of what she is suggesting with A+.

I agree with Ron Lindsay and I think the answer is to work within existing organizations to accomplish even more in this regard.  If the organization you are involved in is not doing that, then get involved and make it happen.  Jennifer Hecht has said that atheists not only need to come out of the closet, we need to get out of the house.  I would add and into the community, nation, and world. 

The people who sit at their computers and write nasty remarks about others need to get out from behind their computer screens and keyboards and get involved in a positive and proactive way to make things happen.  That is what I have tried to do ever since I started the Secular Humanist group in Indiana in 1999 which has now become CFI-Indiana. 

Get a copy of Free Inquiry and read the following:

August/September 2012 Issue of Free Inquiry Spotlights Activism—The latest issue of Free Inquiry contains a special section on “Secular Humanism With a Pulse: The New Activism—From Confrontation to Community Service, Finding Ways to Engage.” You may read the introduction to the section by Lauren Becker, Vice President and Director of Outreach, online.  CFI-Indiana Executive Director, Reba Boyd Wooden, has an article on page 34 titled, “Not Enough Marthas.”

#78 Zed the apostate on Wednesday August 29, 2012 at 12:21pm

I have been a CFI member for around ten years and have volunteered and contributed hundreds of dollars to CFI programs but, when I mentioned that this FTB kerfuffle and arguing resembles the Southpark Atheist War episode I got my comments and my account deleted.
A+ is divisive, elitist and bigoted. I stand by my words, and deleting what I have to say is proof that it is.

#79 guest (Guest) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 at 1:14pm

I don’t know about any Southpark Episode (I’ll have to look for that) but Atheism+ was honest from the get-go that their intention was to be divisive.

The atheism community is to become two separate communities.  The terms I’ve seen so far are Atheism+/Atheism Less and Light (good) Side/Dark (evil) Side. 

If one does not declare for the former, one is the latter by default.  Or so the Good Side has informed me.

#80 Innocent Bystander (Guest) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 at 3:16pm

I wanted to thank you for the well-written article about Atheism+.  This new “movement” is disconcerting to some degree, and I share your criticisms and concerns.

I would add that I find it curious that they refer to themselves not as a group or an organization, but as a “movement.”  This have begun as an effort not to create a subset of atheists, but to become the new “New Atheists.”

Mr. Carrier has since written an article on FtB which clarifies that they really only want to be a subset of atheists, who also care about some other issues.  But, that is not the way it came through in its first few days.

The atmosphere has been “alright! enough! we’ve had it!” and then a clarion call went out and battle lines were drawn—you’re either with us, or agin’ us. Civil war declared.

This kind of thing—giving orders—is what will result in a large part of any group of humans resisting and saying “go pound sand” just to stand on the principle that they don’t take orders from whoever is giving them. Nobody likes to be pushed around.

Also, what the Atheism+ folks seem to miss almost universally is that people can, in fact, have differences of opinion as to whether conduct X, Y or Z is harassment, hatred, misogynistic, sexist or even improper.  However, it seems that with each new “incident” that we’ve been confronted with over the past year or so, if you don’t immediately accept that the allegation (whether it be a t-shirt, or jewelry, or a come-on, or a swinger card handed out, or whatever), if you don’t agree that such incidents are gross violations of proper conduct, misogynistic, and “hatred against women,” then the reason must be because you don’t care a wit about hatred against women, sexism and misogyny, etc.

These Atheism+-ers need to realize that people CAN differ as to whether a t-shirt is improper or proper, and they don’t necessarily hate women.  They can care about women’s equality, and not think that every breach of etiquette or discourteous incident is sexism and misogyny.

Lastly, the biggest hurdle that the Atheism+ folks will have to get over is the likability factor.  To a person, the ones heading up this effort are just not likable.  They seem mean, arrogant, self-important, self-righteous, moralistic and moralizing.  They aren’t people I want to be in a club with, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with them.

#81 Dorion on Wednesday August 29, 2012 at 5:50pm

@78 Zed, your CFI site login was deleted? Unless you made a comment that got scrubbed before I saw it, I certainly don’t remember you saying anything nasty enough to warrant that. Worrisome.

#82 Nathair (Guest) on Thursday August 30, 2012 at 5:09am

“If one does not declare for the former, one is the latter by default.  Or so the Good Side has informed me. “

Citation please.

#83 Bill (Guest) on Thursday August 30, 2012 at 2:26pm

Ophelia Benson’s comment really sums it all up. Someone disagreed with her so she claimed she was called a witch.  Outrageous !  Except she wasn’t called a witch, she was simply referred to as an old white woman, which she is.  She made up the witch comment entirely.  How much more of this so called misogyny and name calling has been made up I wonder? She also stated “that’s what WE are talking about” and abruptly left the discussion.
I found the above article refreshing and to the point and I agree with much of what was said. I do find it troublesome however, that as soon as one of the FTB supporters of A+ appears the overwhelming message is the same as Carriers, no dissent or discussion allowed. In fact it is apparently sexist to even dare to disagree. Reading all the comments so far and much of the discussion on other blogs it’s clear to me that A+ will eat itself alive from the inside. Up to now the only thing they seem to be talking about is who is “Excluded” from the club. This old white man chooses exclusion please.

#84 Nathair (Guest) on Thursday August 30, 2012 at 2:54pm

“she claimed she was called a witch.  Outrageous !  Except she wasn’t called a witch, she was simply referred to as an old white woman, which she is.  She made up the witch comment entirely.”

That’s not how I read it at all. She says she was called an old white woman and her own comment on that description, in parentheses, was (a witch). Although I did not (and still do not) read it as an accusation that someone had actually called her a witch I can understand how you might have. Either way though, that one person might have said one thing which you think misrepresents what one other person said has sweet duck all to do with the purpose or validity of the A+ idea.

“as soon as one of the FTB supporters of A+ appears the overwhelming message is the same as Carriers”

That’s just not true. Carrier’s stupid open-mouth-insert-feet comments have been disavowed constantly since the moment he made them. He had no right to speak for anyone else and was not right in what he said. What more can you ask for? He was nastily wrong in his remarks and arrogantly wrong to think he was somehow in a position to make them. End. Of. Story. That, days later, everyone is still harping about Carrier’s remarks just demonstrates how ridiculous they were, and how non-representative of the people involved.

#85 Bill (Guest) on Thursday August 30, 2012 at 3:17pm

I agree that Carrier’s comments were stupid, however I haven’t seen or heard any of the proponents of this A+ thing say that. Please point me to where they have disavowed his diatribe.  My point was that Carrier is not alone in his views and Benson showed that with her abrupt and terse response. You either have to agree to the dogma they prescribe or you’re obviously not welcome. My bet is that Benson will now claim she was called a witch. Oh and add in a few death and rape threats just for good measure.

#86 Nathair (Guest) on Thursday August 30, 2012 at 3:48pm

“I agree that Carrier’s comments were stupid, however I haven’t seen or heard any of the proponents of this A+ thing say that. Please point me to where they have disavowed his diatribe.”

Moving the goalposts a bit eh? Now we’re at “Sure, only Carrier said it but now you have to show me who denounced it!”

Well, since the comments here denouncing Carrier have not made any impact on you try this;

“Much of the commentary and controversy about Atheism Plus has focused on Richard Carrier’s original post about it, and the “not one of us” sentiment in it. He has since clarified this point, both in an update in the final paragraph of that original post, and in a new, separate post dedicated to this clarification. He has also written a lengthy post apologizing for and re-thinking some insulting language he had originally used in comments on that post. If your concerns about Atheism Plus were focused on Carrier’s vision and perception of it, please read these updates. If you have been publicizing those concerns (via Facebook or Twitter), it would be nice if you would spread these clarifications/ corrections/ retractions/ apologies with equal fervor.”

(From Greta Christina’s blog, Aug 27th, “Atheism Plus – The Site Is Here! Plus Some Updates”.)

#87 sally4th (Guest) on Thursday August 30, 2012 at 4:07pm

“Carrier’s stupid open-mouth-insert-feet comments have been disavowed constantly since the moment he made them. He had no right to speak for anyone else and was not right in what he said. What more can you ask for? He was nastily wrong in his remarks and arrogantly wrong to think he was somehow in a position to make them.”

Where did Carrier get those “wrong” notions?  Or did he just make it all up out of whole cloth?

#88 Nathair (Guest) on Thursday August 30, 2012 at 4:30pm

“Where did Carrier get those “wrong” notions? Or did he just make it all up out of whole cloth?”

That came right out of Carrier’s own overheated head. It was his just own clumsy, over-emotional, ill-conceived, nastily worded, ham-handed, preening reaction to the A+ idea. The real question is, with the hundreds (thousands?) of blogs posts, video chats, comments and conversations from hundreds of other people presenting a completely different perception of the thing why is it still Carrier’s one post of fumble-witted remarks from a week ago that is constantly held up as being representative?

#89 Nathair (Guest) on Thursday August 30, 2012 at 4:32pm

Read “just his own” for “his just own”.

#90 Bill (Guest) on Thursday August 30, 2012 at 5:24pm

“That came right out of Carrier’s own overheated head. It was his just own clumsy, over-emotional, ill-conceived, nastily worded, ham-handed, preening reaction to the A+ idea. “
I beg to differ….  he merely said what the rest on FTB didn’t dare to say.  He’s on FTB so it’s natural to assume he wasn’t speaking for himself. FTB is the epitome of groupspeak.  So of course Greta is doing damage control as are all the rest of them including Carrier. Frankly I think he hit the nail on the head as to what A+ is all about.  They’ve proven it over and over on all their blogs and others.  There is no discussion, no dissent, no straying off the path. Disagree with anything and you are instantly a misogynistic woman hater.  I have experienced their vitriol on FTB and I must admit I was initially shocked at how closed minded and vindictive they ALL were.  Now I just accept that very sad fact.  The FTB gang certainly don’t accept explanations or apologies.

#91 sally4th (Guest) on Thursday August 30, 2012 at 6:09pm

I don’t have time to read hundreds or thousands of blog posts or chats or you-tube.  Instead, I’ve gone straight to the top: the Atheism+ website.  What I should see on the very fist page in giant letters is:  RICHARD CARRIER HAS BEEN SPREADING DISINFORMATION THAT IS EXTREMELY DAMAGING TO ATHEISM+.  IGNORE HIM.  HE DOES NOT SPEAK FOR US.

That would be solid information from an official source that would settle it once and for all with no room for doubt.  But I don’t see that.  Why is that?

#92 Zed the apostate on Thursday August 30, 2012 at 6:46pm

Carrier’s Law: An Atheist+/FTB rant so over the top you can not tell if it is a parody or sincere vitriol without the author either acknowledging or hinting their intention.

#93 Zed the apostate on Friday August 31, 2012 at 4:39am

Hi Sally,

My searches only find a newly minted forum for Atheism+. Can you post a link?

It also begs the question, who is the US that Carrier does not speak for?

#94 Guest (Guest) on Saturday September 01, 2012 at 1:06am

@Zed:  I assume “US” means the members of Atheism+?

However, I found that forum too, and I see there are some who agree with Carrier and feel he does speak for them.  Looks like the owner(s) of Atheism+ might be trying to walk a fine line:  Satisfy one group by denouncing Carrier’s statements - but only mildly and not very publicly, so as not to alienate the other group (or Carrier himself).

Fascinating to watch this all play out.

#95 Zed the apostate on Saturday September 01, 2012 at 3:17am

“Fascinating to watch this all play out.”

Oh, absolutely. This is the birth of a new cult. Its got it all, persecution, enemies, dogma, holier than thou leaders, exclusion of apostates. This would make a grand sociological study project as they are self documenting on the web. You now just need to infiltrate the back channel e-mail list where all the back stabbing is happening.

The US I am asking about is who is the review board to vet who is good enough to join, and to purge apostates?

#96 Guest (Guest) on Saturday September 01, 2012 at 4:04pm

I have no interest in infiltrating anything.  It’s fascinating enough reading their forum. 

Someone in there has pointed out that they’re (unintentionally or not?) using the A+ logo belonging to Dawkins’ ‘Non-Believers Giving Aid’ project.  They don’t seem to care too much.  I wonder if Dawkins cares.

#97 Zed the apostate on Sunday September 02, 2012 at 5:52am

For the logo see:

I doubt they care about accrediting others IP. They boosted secular humanism which, is the subject of this blog post.

#98 Taqiyya Mockingbird (Guest) on Sunday September 02, 2012 at 9:01am

” Kean, your very act of dismissing the claims of those wrongs is misogynistic.”

Congratulations for being a trite and predictable Plusser, strawmnning Kean for practising good and sound skepticism. This is precisely the sort of outrageous behaviour Kean was calling out. Well played.

  “Note that I’m addressing your action here, and not calling names.”

Liar.  You are calling KEAN a misogynist for challenging unsupported claims made by fiat.

  “I have a feeling this will fall on deaf ears, but I was there too, once.  It’s hard letting go of privilege and yanking one’s fingers out of one’s ears.”

Privilege?  FFs, this is the New Plusser-religion’s version of Original Sin, isn’t it?:  “I was an atheist too, once. It’s hard to let go of sinful ways, listen to the Good Word, and drink the Kool-Aid.”


#99 Jason G (Guest) on Sunday September 02, 2012 at 3:29pm

I haven’t been swung to A+ yet by what I’ve read thus far through blogs and exchanges. I’m not necessarily opposed to people creating and defining a new title for what they want to call themselves or trying to drop less progressive people out of their circles but I haven’t heard anything persuasive enough to motivate me to call myself such name nor have I understood their need for such a thing.

You can’t kick the vile people out of the human race but you are still a human and can be a good one with a meaningful life.  One doesn’t need another biological classification to distinguish themselves from the other vile humans. Atheist doesn’t mean one is moral and one should not expect someone to be so simply because they are. The same as someone shouldn’t expect a vegetarian to not eat meat due to ethical concerns…they could not like the taste otherwise have no issue with killing animals. Atheist by definition is the lack of belief in a god and does not denote moral beliefs (positive or negative) so it doesn’t come to reason that one should ascribe moral beliefs to a word that by definition and by its roots have nothing to do with morals. Atheists don’t have to be moral…by definition, they just have to not believe in deities. There is already another word to describe secular progressive moral beliefs….(secular) humanism.

It was mentioned that people don’t know what humanism is and it comes off softer than atheism. This may be but it doesn’t stop someone from being an atheist and a secular humanist (keeping your “strong” anti-theist title). Atheist + is more unknown than secular humanism so why start with something more unknown if being known was your original motive? Also, even if A+ is established, you will still be an ‘atheist’ by definition. So now you will have to explain to the public that yes, you are both an atheist and an atheist+ and hope that they will retain the difference or just remember the key work…atheist. I also find it peculiar that the big name atheists embracing atheist+ speak of a lack of public understanding in regards to humanism but I don’t recall a big push from those big name people for public education about it….maybe my memory fails me. Most television appearances and debates consist of defending atheism, saying atheists can be good people, and pointing to absurdities in religion. I don’t recall a concerted effort to define and explain that atheism simply means “that one does not believe in a god(s) and that it does not define ones moral beliefs but that humanism does define a general outline of beliefs and this is what humanism is…”

Also, I fear people, not wanting to be associated with ‘atheist’,  leaving the word to defend itself or giving it a bad stigma themselves from the non-theistic side will further encourage theists that they were right in their assumption that ‘atheist’ is something negative or associated with negative behaviors. I contend that we must still rally around the word ‘atheist’ regardless if some of those who benefit from that are misogynists, etc just as we humanists fight for equal social and civic rights of all people from all religions though we may not agree with their religions. Those atheists whose actions are not aligned with humanism will be irrelevant to defacing the word ‘atheist’ if everyone gets on the same page in a concerted effort to explain that atheism doesn’t define moral beliefs/behaviors any more than a person not believing that the Easter Bunny is real would define someone’s moral beliefs/behaviors.

The atheist logo doesn’t have to go. When someone asks you if you believe in a god then you say you are an atheist. When they ask you about your morals then you can say that you’re a humanist (or secular humanist but it is implied if you’ve already stated that you’re an atheist). I’m not saying they have to use the label of humanist, I’m just saying that there is already a word for what I believe they say they believe in (I have not heard them say that they disagree with any of the principles of humanism nor define principles not already encompassed in it). Social justice, diversity, women’s rights, and evidence based reasoning are all encompassed in the Humanist Manifesto III. Also, the comments about “Humanism is also more engaged with creating secular replacements for the rituals and structures of religious communities” seems to describe Unitarians more so than any humanist community that I’ve encountered. Yes, humanists groups put on speakers, community service events, potlucks, etc for local secularists and humanists but there are no rituals of recitation/incantation as one would assume from the aforementioned description. These groups help to encourage and strengthen atheists and others who feel isolated in their communities amongst many other things and contribute very positively to the atheist movement. If an atheist is so anti-established/organized anything that they do not wish to attend or believe in the purpose for secular community building, then they don’t have to go. They can still be an atheist and still be a humanist as their is no rule requiring one to attend (not church)....but it’s peculiar gathering online and specialized meetings for A+ is somehow ok or different than local humanist gatherings.

It is still early in the development of A+ but it will be interesting to see how they define, if they try, their social beliefs differently than secular humanism and if it is worthwhile to expend resources to this movement instead of cleaning up and re-organizing marketing/public education for the existing movements which has been done well for the non-believers but not so much for the general public in understanding the terminology.

I plan to post on Freethought Blogs as well to get more varied feedback.

#100 Kean (Guest) on Sunday September 02, 2012 at 4:43pm

Thanks for defending me TM! I appreciate it. I had seen jamesemery’s inept response. “He” represents exactly the kind of sycophantic fan-boy that infests the FtB and Skepchick blogs.  They know nothing about logic or sceptical analysis.

What operational definition are “he” and “his” allies using for misogyny?  Because their ill considered, illiberal use of it renders the word meaningless. To these sycophantic fan-boys, misogyny has come to mean that one disagrees with a woman. If one doesn’t agree with every word out of mouths of one of their heroines, then he is a misogynist. If one dares to dispute one of their concocted narratives, then he hates women.  That’s the definition of misogyny james:  hatred of women-all women!  Merely despising or disagreeing with one woman or some women, is not misogyny.  Opening a dictionary once in a while instead of compulsively commenting over and over, like a tyrant, trying to force your opinion on everyone else would be a novel approach.

I’ll try to give jamesemery a lesson in scepticism.

He says: “Obviously, I’m a guy.”  No, there is nothing obvious about that.  What is obvious is that you know nothing about scepticism. One of the first lessons of scepticism, achieved through observation of human behavior, is that human beings can and do lie.  Is is possible that jamesemery is lying?  Yes, that is certainly possible (I’m not alleging that is the case). Could jamesemery be a female, Christian trolling atheist blogs to incite dissension within atheist ranks?  The same answer applies.  Those are questions that any true sceptic would ask.  Those are the same kinds of questions that Rebecca Watson, Ophelia Benson, Jennifer McCreight, Stephanie Zvan, Ashley Miller and their gullible “white knight” male defenders within the ranks of FtB should have but failed to ever ask.

Ms. Watson, puts some text on a screen, claims that it is a rape/death threat sent to her by a male atheist and that she has verified this (How, you might ask? [Well, she says that the sender was friends with other atheists/sceptics.  Walla! Hand waving. Therefore, PROOF!])

That’s all that the 28,000 so called sceptical enquirers of the Skepchick kind need. I’m sure that my hundreds of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu friends would be absolutely astounded to learn that they are atheists due to their mere association with me.  Could sceptics possibly fail more completely than these posers have? I think not.

I would just like to know when one of these so called sceptics is going to take these “hundreds” of rape/death threats to the police?  I suspect that will never happen because the “threats” are either trivial trollish behavior or it could be one of their sycophants providing the logs for the flames of outrage and they all know it. But it is doing one very specific thing that they do all love and depend upon-fueling blog hits, which mean money in their pockets and thus we can depend upon these baseless assertions to continue.

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