Monday, 27 August 2012

One more post about Atheism Plus, then I'm going to try to leave it alone.

Hello again everyone.

If you've followed me here from Twitter, you probably know that I've been coming down pretty hard against Atheism Plus - in fact, the more I learn about it and the more I talk with its proponents, the more against it I become. Yes, I am deeply ornery and prone to fighting against things that demand my complicity just on principle. Ask my boss. It's more than likely that's part of my problem with the whole idea, I won't deny that - but that in itself is kind of the final point I want to make.

(Just a note before I continue, to clear up something I've been hearing a lot from people who don't like my anti-A+ stance. Do I think there is a problem with sexism (and racism and homophobia and transphobia, although sexism has been mentioned far more) within the atheist community? Absolutely; if it's happening at all - and it is - it's a problem. But in case you hadn't noticed, it's a problem fucking everywhere, among all communities. People are still being killed for being the "wrong" of the wrong race, gender or sexuality. This - rather obviously - is not OK. When I object to A+, I object to their methods, not the the ideology behind them.)

My partner has a career that has made him supremely talented at managing people (or has just revealed the talent. Either way.). Dwight Eisenhower described good leadership as "[t]he art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it". That's my partner; he's a genius in the specialised field of making people feel invested in what HE wants them to do, and therefore inclined to make a greater effort.

When I've asked him how he does it (there are occasions when I think it would be a useful skill, such as when I'm talking my way out of getting sacked for being an unmanageable bastard), I've got the impression most of it is just instinctive and probably related to being one of those special people who just like other people. One thing about it that he has been able to distill and articulate for me, though, is that people respond best when they're made to feel good about themselves.

This, in a nutshell, is why Atheism Plus is getting shot to shit on Twitter and elsewhere.  The fact is that you cannot label your group new and improved without by extension labeling everyone else old and inferior. You cannot call yourself morally superior without telling everyone else they're morally inferior. You can't pronounce yourself moral arbiter without telling everyone else their opinion matters less than your own (or not at all, if you're Richard Carrier). Thus - INSTANTLY - Atheism Plus has made everyone who wasn't involved from the very beginning feel misjudged, wronged and vilified. At this point, it barely matters what your intentions were (although I'm astonished that no one behind this little clique realised just how insulting is was to every other non-believer, secularist and humanist in the world); you're asking people to join a movement whose opening gambit is to tell them they're not good enough. Very few people are going to respond favourably to that.

There's one other problem with assuming someone is a tosser until they prove themselves otherwise (and it's multiplied when the only criteria you'll accept is to be exactly the same as you and willing to submit to your definition of a decent person).  You are making an unfavourable assumption about another person based on no information. If you are right, you are as unfair and prejudiced as they are. If you are wrong, you are worse than they are. There is no way in which this can be said NOT to make you unjustifiably judgmental and prejudiced.

So that's my piece. I've been tweeting vociferously about this over the last week or so, and long since reached the stage where I physically cannot respond to every question and shriek of indignation I receive.  Apologies to anyone who's tweeted a question and not received a reply (if you've tweeted to call me a bigot for refusing to presumptively label other people bigots - well, up yours, quite frankly. Are you seeing how this works yet? Note though; I WILL NOT block someone for giving me stick, disagreeing with me or calling me names.  That's both cowardly and unbearably self-important coming from an internet nobody with a blog. I don't have any sort of right not to hear opinions I don't like.).

If you like this post or any other I've written about Atheism Plus, please feel free to refer people to it; however, I'm going to take on my own combative (read argumentative tosspot) nature and try very hard not to get involved any further in this particular argument - I will still be blogging and tweeting about other stuff, though.  It's just that I kind of need to eat, sleep and earn money occasionally!

Peace, yawl. Chill your beans.


  1. "You cannot call yourself morally superior without telling everyone else they're morally inferior."

    Weeell, I'm not convinced that's necessary a deal-breaker, because Christianity became popular in spite of that.
    But what the Atheism+ clique is doing, from what I've seen, is to actively tell people their no good if they object at all to their course of action. Unfortunately Richard Carrier isn't the only one doing it.

    The latest Youtube Hangout of PZ, Rebecca and Jen shows how exaggerated their views are. Or maybe you'll disagree with, I don't know. If you have the time and interest watch this critique by integralmath of only a bit of that hangout /watch?v=HY2itRcgkSM

    1. Richard Carrier was being a divisive jackass at the end of his post on Atheism+. He apologized and retracted his divisive statements. You're still fixating on his mistake pre-apology, why?

      Maybe this recent quote from PZ will help clarify things: "’s what a lot of us have been saying all along. I really don’t care what label you attach to it — secular humanism, atheism+, ethical atheism — as long as you support the values behind it."

    2. You think Carrier's the problem? Then you haven't read all my comments on A+.

      Carrier is just a relatively high-profile example of the problem. Since stating my opinion that I shouldn't need to label myself A+ to have the right to be assumed "not a dick" until/unless I prove otherwise, I've had hundreds of rageful, spiteful, vitriolic tweets and messages calling me antiprogressive, bigoted, misogynist, antifemale and all the rest of it.

      To be clear; I've had these as a result of saying "please don't assume I'm a colossal jerk just because I don't feel the need to wear the label YOU want to apply to me to show I'm a decent person". The irony is beautiful.

      As I'm sick of saying, I DO support many of the values of A+. That's why I've been a humanist for years. The reaction I've been getting from them is NOT DUE TO MY VALUES (or if it is, it's due to unfair and inaccurate ASSUMPTIONS about my values), it's about the fact that I don't feel I need the approval of some randoms on the internet to be considered a decent person.

    3. I was under the (apparently false) impression that the US v.s. THEM types were a minority. Well, maybe they are, but they're clearly vocal and belligerent.

      I'm sorry you've had to put up with that shit.

  2. Great analysis of the attempts to make A+ a movement.

    We are seeing what happens when people that aren't truly thinkers try to start a movement.

    There's a lot of thought that has to go into the making of a successful movement, to make it appealing, to make it work.

    And when thinkers point out flaws and weaknesses, vitriol is not the response that a successful movement will respond with.

    Thanks again for your perspective

  3. Agree. It's idiotic, empty, confusing, meaningless and unnecessary.

  4. With all respect, I don't see much intellectual content in the Atheism+ movement. It's seems very superficial to me

    Maybe it could be useful to people who are just learning about Humanism + Atheism?

  5. Your post tells it like it is better than all the previous tweets and blog posts I have read on this subject combined. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, I'm glad it makes sense. And all the positive feedback I can get is a bonus at this point!

  6. Their Logo for their new website ( both hilarious (unintentionally) and alarmingly honest & accurate:
    At least they admit that they are a pure cult.
    They are currently "auditing" clears to act as moderators.
    I wonder when Tom Cruise will join?

    1. No fucking way. Seriously? Could you send me a link please?

  7. I'm bewildered by the extent of negativity towards Atheism+.

    Here's the narrative I see:

    Much of the impetus behind Atheism+ is a desire to disengage from the people who disagree about Elevatorgate and sexual harassment policies, at least on those particular issues, and go on to create movement spaces where those protections can be assumed. It's a declaration that "ok, we're done trying to convince you of the necessity of this, so we're just going to go over here with the people who agree and do it."

    I really don't see the problem with that. I don't agree with Carrier - as I've blogged. He's moderated some in his last post, but his approach is still overzealous in my opinion, and I certainly won't be adopting it.

    "When I object to A+, I object to their methods, not the the ideology behind them."
    When you say "their methods", what are you referring to?

    1. The ones that involve calling me a bigot, a misogynist, a gender traitor, a privilege supporter (I don't really even know what that last one means!) and various other nasty names for objecting to the demand that I label myself according to THEIR definition of a decent person whose opinion is worthy of attention.

      That's it, really; I should not be required to label myself "not a dick" for their convenience. I have the right to be assumed not a dick until I prove otherwise.

    2. I'm not into name calling. I think a lot of people are really overzealous about that (on both sides of this) and that it escalates things unnecessarily. It also doesn't communicate very much information because if the person who was being called say, a bigot, for example, understood why what they were doing/saying qualified as bigotry then they probably wouldn't have done it.

      I want to address your "privilege supporter" question. I'm still learning a lot of the 101 myself, but I want to take a stab at it, and draw your attention to what I believe is a legitimate problem with something you've said.

      First, I want to make sure we're on the same page with privilege itself. The word has more than one meaning, and in the context of social justice, this is what it's referring to:

      I'm going to assume that you already knew that, or that you read it and understood. Moving forward. Here is a sentiment that you expressed in the comments of one of your other entries on this topic:

      "I suspect I'm not hypersensitive (or sensitive enough depending on POV) to sexism, be it accidental or deliberate. I also suspect that's why I don't attract misogynists and abusers. Am I saying it's not OK to denounce something as sexist if it is? Well, no - but the fact that so many feminist bloggers have ended up dealing with little but deliberate abuse because they're women and feminists suggests to me that it might be sensible to pick ones battles. If I went mental at every male atheist who told me I'm good-looking or that I'm "one of the most intelligent women" they've encountered, maybe I'd be attracting lunatics and trolls too."

      When you unpack this, it basically says one of two things:

      Either that these women who are receiving death and rape threats have themselves to blame for not ignoring the more continuous, low level sexism. If they were better at keeping their head down, they wouldn't be getting shot at.


      These women who are receiving death and rape threats have themselves to blame because their reactions are completely over the top ("mental"). This implies again that if a woman is receiving these threats, then the problem rests with her.

      This sentiment places blame on the victims, and reinforce the silencing power of the men who think that issuing death and rape threats is an appropriate way to respond to women who say things they don't like.

      Now, I don't think this means you're a horrible person. I think it's a mistake; I think you don't realize that this sentiment is present in your statement - probably because you haven't thought about it in these terms before.

      While I'm not specifically familiar with the term "privilege supporter", I suspect this is the kind of thing they're talking about, just from the context and the individual meanings of those words.

      Imagine instead that the context was Christians making comments about how "you're so nice for an atheist", and someone who had pushed back against that was receiving death threats. Can you imagine the community response being that perhaps this atheist should not be so quick to speak up against Christian prejudices?

    3. The mentality behind those that feel driven to send people death and rape threats escapes me completely. I imagine that there is probably a lot of anger and resentment bottled up that is just looking for an opportunity to vent. Maybe some are victims themselves and are looking for a way to exercise some power that is otherwise lacking in their lives and maybe some are simply arseholes.

      When a schoolkid gets it into their head to send an anonymous death threat to a teacher, which teacher are they more likely to choose - the one that sneers and shouts at them when they make a mistake in class or the one that gently shows them where they went wrong and points them in the right direction?

      Neither teacher need let the mistake slide but there are clearly some ways of dealing with mistakes that are more effective all round than others.

    4. Hi guys.

      Prepagan, I'm with you in having not the smallest idea of what would drive a person to make such threats. The only possibility I can come up with is that they really are just trolls looking for a reaction, and that's why they target people who they can see from previous posts are likely to give them that. If I'm right that doesn't make it OK, but it suggests a change of tactics might be in order - however, I saw a long thread on Twitter with Greta Christina the other day in which she explained at length why "don't feed the trolls" doesn't work with misogyny (I didn't see why the specification was necessary, maybe, but still) and I don't think the A+ movement is likely to be persuaded of that.

    5. Heretic, I do - sincerely - see why you've arrived at those two mutually exclusive options based on what I said, but I think your reasoning is a little too black-and-white. Here's a more accurate representation of what I think might be what's happening:

      Premise 1: Trolls and miscellaneous dicks exist.
      Premise 2: People who write blogs with a femimist slant are going to attract trolls and dicks. It's not right, but it happens. And it's a phenomenon not limited to feminists either, by the way.

      From there; the writers of feminist blogs get targeted by trolls and dicks. I'm NOT saying this is OK, by the way, I can't stress that enough.

      Writers of feminist blogs - because they're human - become sensitised to sexism and/or misogyny. That's NOT a criticism, we all do it. If I were receiving rape threats, I'd probably be bit more finely tuned to misogyny than I am.

      Some bloke makes a comment or observation in which he betrays a sexist bias he didn't know he had or even just says something thoughtless or clumsy.

      Because feminist bloggers and their regular readers/supporters have experienced rape threats etc. they overreact to a bias the male commenter didn't even know he had or a clumsy comment he made.

      Male commenter feels he has been disproportionately criticised, and in some cases finds himself accused of fostering an environment in which people who make rape threats etc. can flourish (I have seen that accusation many times).

      As I have commented before, it is a very human instinct to defend ourselves when we feel wronged. 99% of men are probably horrified by rape threats, yet they find themselves accused of contributing to them - in some cases, of doing so simply by virtue of being male.

      Three effects will arise from this; men who have been genuinely misrepresented and are not sexist will withdraw their support. Men who ARE a little sexist deep down (and very few of us are completely free of prejudice, although of course we should always work to learn and improve ourselves on that) will lose the inclination to fight that since they're being categorised with people who make rape threats anyway. And more deliberate trolls and genuine dicks will be attracted. It spirals, that's what I'm getting at, and with every comment and nasty name each side digs more firmly into its own territory.

      Do I think correcting people when they inadvertently betray sexist thinking is a good thing to do? Absolutely (and for clarity, I have never tried to say that the feminist bloggers shouldn't be able to say whatever they like to whomever they like. They have that right, of course. I just contend that other people have it too).

      But there comes a point where you have to make allowances for intentions, and take a moment to ask yourself if the person who said X really meant to be a dick or has just been thoughtless. If someone has betrayed a sexist bias by accident or mere thoughtlessness (and that happens frequently, although for me personally it's more common IRL than online), telling them they're fostering and supporting a mentality they themselves almost certainly find abhorrent is not the way to win them over or help them understand why they should take more care. It's basic human psychology, people just don't work that way. Why would you tidy your room if you've already lost your pocket money?

    6. Bloody hell, sorry Heretic - sodding word limit on my own blog! Here's the rest:

      A+ has adopted a "with us or against us" attitude, that's the centre of the problem. I've been branded antifemale, misogynist, antifeminist etc. etc. essentially because I don't have a big enough problem with (older, white) men, even though I share all the values of A+ and in fact thought it was a good idea when I first encountered it.

      Essentially, I have now fallen under the same wheels as the well-meaning men I mentioned earlier; I'm not willing to sign up and submit to what this particular group of feminists see as the solution to the problem, so I am assumed to be supportive of people who make rape threats. That is simply not the case, and - because I'm human too - I find it difficult to value the moral judgment of someone I already know is capable of getting it completely wrong and throwing entirely undeserved accusations around.

    7. I really like your narrative on "what might be happening". The whole 'person inadvertently reveals their prejudice and then gets excoriated by sensitized feminists/etc.' thing happens ALL THE TIME, and it destroys thoughtful, respectful discussion amongst people who often share the same values.

      I didn't understand how this could happen until I started reading enough comments on blogs that discuss feminism or racism; some of the commenters initially seem 'sexist but benign', but then they quickly become hostile, dismissive, or just plain disgusting. After enough exposure to that, even the slightest appearance of prejudice sets off the 'raging bigot!' alarms.

      I also take your point on Atheism 'Plus' being inherently exclusionary. From the get go, my take was that if someone said they were an Atheist, that's all that that meant, and if they said that they were an Atheist Plus, I'd take the expanded meaning. It's always been clear to me that plenty of people share Atheist Plus values who don't care for the label - but it wasn't clear to me that simply establishing a 'plus' movement carried an inherent (though minor) insult to anyone not-affiliated.

      Question - if the label had been "AtheistQ" or "Aetheist" or anything else without an inherent positive, would you be a proponent?

    8. Blimey, I'm not sure. I don't think it's the "plus" specifically I object to, but it's possible it's a factor. I should note - again - that I was actually all for the idea when I first read Greta Christina's blog on the notion, and it has certainly acquired the "plus" by then.

      On balance, I don't think it matters what you call yourself; when you're setting yourself up as the moral arbiter of everybody because a FEW people have treated you badly, you're going to get backs up - you're effectively telling them without you to moderate their behaviour, you'd be off raping an pillaging in no time. When you respond to dissent, honest criticism and even sincere questions with rage, name-calling and shrieks of "misogynist!" (and especially if that's ALL you shriek about after setting yourself up as warriors again racism, homophobia, transphobia etc.) you make exactly the kind of unfair assumption you started out objecting to.

  8. @"Much of the impetus behind Atheism+ is a desire to [demonize, vilify, and hijack the atheist community into ostracizing] the people who disagree about [their petty, parochial tempest in a teapot,] Elevatorgate..."

    Fixed that for ya.

    "When you say "their methods", what are you referring to?"

    Their methods are, in a nutshell, "If you don't agree with our bullying and hysterics over elevatorgate and our preposterous, fallacious Dubyan 'you are with us are against us' false-dichotomy ultimatums to all atheists at large, you are 'douchebags, psychopaths, trolls, misogynists,scumbags, priviledge-defenders (whatever the hell THAT ludicrous term means), anti-feminist, anti-gay, transphobic, bigots, people who hate social justice (which sounds conspicuously like theists' "people who hate God"), other miscreants, priviliedged, old, white, hetero, cisgen miscreants' and The Enemy of All Good Atheists".

    Yeah, it's rather bewildering that atheists at large wouldn't embrace their "new and improved" vowel movement....

    1. I just tweeted your comment about vowel movement. That made me howl!

    2. People think that elevatorgate was a 'tempest in a teapot' have just missed the boat - it revealed a vast lack of understanding of and sensitivity to feminist issues within the atheist community. It made visible the gulf between a truly feminist-friendly movement and the the reality of the current Atheist movement, and that was both shocking and upsetting to feminists within the movement. It also revealed that feminist atheists are often no better at taking criticism or arguing rationally than their theistic counterparts, which was shocking and upsetting to rationalists within both movements.

      Let me clarify - it wasn't that it revealed a cabal of rapists at conventions, it was that it revealed a large group of atheists who would make tired, bogus arguments in an attempt to shut down efforts to address sexism and harassment that exists at conventions. For example, people said things like:

      "I'm a woman & an atheist blogger, & never experienced sexist abuse from fellow atheists. Maybe because I don't assume they're misogynists?"

      The *most* charitable reading is probably something like: 'having a chip on your shoulder is a good way to start a lot of fights'

      That said, even in the most charitable reading there are some serious flaws in the argument:

      "I'm a woman & an atheist blogger, & never experienced sexist abuse from fellow atheists."

      This kind of assertion is regularly used to justify ignoring claims of mistreatment. The idea is "see, *this* woman/minority/whatever hasn't been mistreated - so your claims of mistreatment must be unfounded.

      In this case Lucy was tying this claim to her behavior (not assuming that people are misogynists) - so we've moved from 'derailing for dummies' to victim-blaming.

      An objective interpretation (i.e. non-hostile) of her argument is something like "People experiencing sexism have themselves to blame, because they committed the sin of assuming that their fellow atheists were misogynists"

      This is clearly a bogus argument - and probably another example of twitter being a shitty medium for discussing complex ideas.

      One of the frustrating things about these discussions is their tendency towards verbosity - It takes 8 paragraphs to deconstruct a sentence of 140 characters.

    3. " it revealed a vast lack of understanding of and sensitivity to feminist issues within the atheist community. It made visible the gulf between a truly feminist-friendly movement and the the reality of the current Atheist movement"

      To be honest, what I saw was a bunch of people questioning the dogma of feminism and feminists, and demanding evidence by applying the skepticism they apply to other claims to feminist claims.
      THAT'S what feminists consider not being friendly or sensitive, because they're used to having everything they said accepted without question.

      "The idea is "see, *this* woman/minority/whatever hasn't been mistreated - so your claims of mistreatment must be unfounded. "

      And a very easy way to counter that is to provide clear and specific evidence showing mistreatment, which is something that almost never is done.

      And mistreatment is not endemic to the feminist bloggers, Dawkins and other bloggers get hate mail with death threats very often.

      What I think the "I'm a female blogger and ..." argument is trying to say is "I don't think this problem is as prevalent and encompassing as you make it sound". And then the feminists scream "yes, it is!" and then the atheist and skeptical community answers "then show us the evidence" and the reply is "Victim blaming, victim blaming!" or "Privilege", and evidence is not produced.

      Lastly, I don't think the movement has to be "feminist-friendly". It should be "Human-friendly" or "people-friendly". Because apparently many feminists need to be reminded of the shocking notion that men are people too.

    4. "THAT'S what feminists consider not being friendly or sensitive, because they're used to having everything they said accepted without question"

      This is patently untrue. Ask any feminist if they're "used to having everything they said accepted without question."

      Your writing indicates a foundational misunderstanding of the nature of sexism and harassment. There's often no "clear and specific evidence showing mistreatment." If there were, this wouldn't be a problem.

      E.g. you may never see the hand that grabs your ass, and you certainly don't have a video recording of it. If a woman reports being goosed at a conference, responding with "Provide clear and specific evidence showing mistreatment or we will not take your claim seriously." is actually further harassment - the victim is put in an impossible position.

      "And mistreatment is not endemic to the feminist bloggers, Dawkins and other bloggers get hate mail with death threats very often."

      You're begging the question.

      "What I think the ..."

      See above. The demand for evidence that doesn't exist _due the very nature of the problem_ is irrational. Let me ask you a few questions:

      Do you think that victim-blaming exists?

      Do you think that privilege exists?

      "Apparently many feminists need to be reminded of the shocking notion that men are people too."

      You can find extremists in any movement, but the vast majority of feminists are well aware that 'men are people too.'

  9. I'm afraid I read way too much of the vitriol that was being pumped out by current proponents and supporters of the A+ movement during the so-called 'Elevatorgate' debates and the 'thunderf00t scandal' to believe that the "+" will actually add anything very positive to the broader atheist movement.

    I'm definitely with Lucy on this one.

    1. Thank you, I appreciate that. On that subject though, do you have a blog or could you recommend a source where I could learn more about the whole elevatorgate thing? I suspect it's laughable, but don't feel I know enough about it at this stage to make the call fairly.

    2. "I suspect it's laughable"

      Well, you're wrong. Rebecca Watson made a perfectly uncontroversial, off hand remark as part of a video blog on another subject, and a whole bunch of people (well, men mostly) went off the deep end at this obscene and oppressive example of radical feminism, or something. It was that group who created the "controversy" and that group which sustained it.

    3. No, I think Lucy is quite correct. It *IS* laughable that a comparatively mild and well mannered message in a video blog gave rise to such levels of hate and spite on *BOTH* sides of the debate. I don't think anyone who engaged in that exercise came out of it very well.

      I think that when they started calling for a boycott of Richard Dawkins' books after he dipped his toe in the water and attempted to inject a sense of proportion on the issue they demonstrated that, regardless of how reasonable their initial position might have been, they had seriously lost the plot.

    4. This seems to be a fairly detailed summary of ElevatorGate:

      It includes many parts of the story that in my opinion counter the very short and inexact summary posted by the Captain up there.

    5. Prepagan, in my opinion, the plot was lost even before that, when Watson attacked Stef McGraw for the crime of not agreeing with her.

      I happen to think that Watson worded even her initial mild message in a wrong way that sounded like a command that applied for all men and all women instead of a polite request that applied only to her, but that only warranted a "meh" reaction.

    6. Altair:

      "I happen to think that Watson worded even her initial mild message in a wrong way"

      I might agree with you but then again I'm an old white guy and apparently not eligible to have an opinion :-)

    7. Captain Fluffy Duck is misrepresenting the complexity and nuance of the elevatorgate kerfuffle.

      To portray the whole incident as simply a reaction to Watsons original comment is disingenuous. IMO Watsons orginal comments were simply a spark that ignited more incendiary tinder.

      For example many people were criticizing Watson for her treatment of Stef McCraw (Watson called her out for "parroting misogynist thought" on stage at an event McCraw was in the audience for).

      Of course, Watsons actions there were at best questionable, and IMO fairly unpleasant. Much better to just say that everyone was pissed off cause she said "guys don't do that".

      Richard Dawkins comments, similarly are often portrayed as a response to Watsons original comments, but they were not. The "Dear Muslima" comment was in the comments discussion of Myers blog, where the elevator incident was being referenced in much more extreme terms, as a case of vile misogyny, and ideas like "Schroedingers rapist" were being bandied about.

      Of course, if you are honest and explain what Dawkins was replying to, it looks a lot less over the top than if you go round telling people Watson said "guys don't do that" and then Dawkins went on the "Dear Muslima" rant.

  10. Here's a pretty comprehensive "timeline" of Elevatorgate:

  11. I'm in love with you. I would love you to be lesbian.

    1. Assuming you're a woman, you're very sweet. If you're a dude, more unsettling than sweet.

      However, declarations of love always welcome. xx

  12. I couldn't agree more with this post. I went back and read some of Carrier's stuff after you mentioned it and found some of it rather distasteful, especially this line: "We are simply not going to let the Atheism movement become like ..." ( As if Carrier, McCreight, Myers, etc., own atheism. Bah.

  13. I think it's really telling that you're so against A+ and think Elevatorgate is 'probably laughable' when you don't know anything about it.

    One of the main goals of the people gravitating towards A+ is to educate. Telling us that we're all as vitriolic as Richard Carrier is equal to me saying that all men are misogynists, except, I've never said that, because I can see a much broader worldview than that.

    1. Do you really? I think it's telling that

      1: You've interpreted my honest admission that I "don't know enough about it ... to make the call fairly" to mean I "don't know anything about it".

      2: While being totally able to concede that I don't know enough about elevatorgate (see above) and in fact not even finding reason to mention it at all except at someone else's prompting and then with a request for more information, I am still able to find myself thoroughly insulted by the A+ movement. I submit that the fact that THIS rather trivial part of my posts is the bit on which you've chosen to challenge me betrays more bias on your part than it does on mine.

      3: Evidence if any were needed that you haven't actually read and/or understood my posts. Not only have I not said all A+ers are as vitriolic as Carrier, but if you look through you'll see I've been pretty neutral about Jen McCreight and relatively complimentary of Greta Christina - and that's in spite of McCreight's rather nasty assertion that "Dear smug humanists: My critique of the atheist movement included you..Your groups are infamous for being mostly old, white men". Since humanists align with A+ers on most points of equality and social justice, this is equivalent to saying "I don't care if your opinions and values are praiseworthy, I'm still going to have a go at you for being old, white and male".

      As a young female, I've never felt even remotely excluded by humanist groups. Quite the opposite, in fact, as you'd know if you'd read my recent post on the Ancestor's Trail. Forgive me if I don't think deliberately switching the groups of people who're being attacked and excluded makes you morally superior. Especially since, to quote Greta Chistina, your movement is founded on getting people to understand "how painful crap [abuse and marginalisation] like that can be". Apparently old, white men don't have feelings and are wrong by default in their opinions.

  14. You are being discussed:

    1. Yes, I saw - thank you.

      I think my favourite part is the assumption that Dawkins should give a crap that he's "disappointed" some randomer on the internet who's already declared his opinion invalid by virtue of his being older, white and male.

      McCreight makes a statement like this: "Dear smug humanists: My critique of the atheist movement included you..Your groups are infamous for being mostly old, white men" and then has the gall to some over all hurt and baffled when an older, white man with humanist values ain't exactly champing at the bit to support her little revolution?

      It's just plain delusional.

    2. Jen McCreight is not saying that there is a problem with being an old, white man. I mean, I don't know if I qualify yet, but I'll be old one of these days. The problem is having a bias towards old white men. She's looking at the low level of diversity in these conferences generally, and saying "Hey, what can we do about this?" Part of that answer was that we should take seriously the need to help marginalized groups feel less marginalized at our events so that they feel comfortable coming to them. This has been controversial, largely because there is disagreement about where the line is, so to speak.

      Honestly, if the proposals were just hysteria, I don't think that they would resonate with so many people. I gather that you don't feel those proposals are necessary, but I think you've already expressed that the sort of run-of-the-mill sexism that one encounters daily doesn't really bother you very much.

      I agree with your tactical points regarding how to approach someone who is doing harm without ill intent. There's a lot of rhetoric that tone and intent do not matter, and that has never been my experience at all. Part of talking to a person - really talking to them - is to try to understand where they're coming from, and how to approach your points in a way that their worldview would be able to absorb.

      On the flipside, I can understand why some of these veterans of social movements would have lost their patience with people who are making their lives harder and are happily oblivious about it.

      There was a pretty heated but civil discussion on Dan Fincke's No Hate thread regarding this, but no agreement was reached. I'm in the civil camp, but it's also become clear to me that the people who are in the "hostility is valid and effective" camp are not just being hysterical and hateful. Their perspective is different from mine because their experiences are so different from mine.

      I still think that the sentiment you expressed above contains an element of "Well, that's what you get." that is inappropriate. Do they draw ire by being loud? Yes. That's part of why being a social activist requires some courage. MLK Jr. was killed, not because he was hateful or indelicate, but because he was a loud proponent of challenging a power structure that was favorable to others and enforced with power and fear. Something similar is going on here, and I honestly think that the loudest proponents of women's rights are going to receive this kind of abuse regardless of their precise methods. Greta Christina is a very reasonable and fair voice, and she receives this nonsense, too. It's about visibility, which comes with the territory in activism.

    3. People who are wrong can be just as loud as those who are right; loudness alone doesn't prove anything.

  15. Word of warning: just like many, many other women you may find yourself at the end of the most grotesque campaign of defamation by these bloody fools. You can see what they did to Abbie Smith, a far better woman than any of them. You can see what they are now trying to do to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And this, I might also add, shows that they are lying that their desire is to "diversify" the atheist movement. It is simply a hatred of anyone who is capable of making any real contribution. It's a dead giveaway that people like McCreight are fixated on physical characteristics over intellectual ones.

  16. Comments here have expressed, essentially, that concern over something like ElevatorGate is frivolous. That it's the product of an over-sensitive brand of feminism that mostly just needs to STFU so we can all get back to being awesome atheists without having to hear them whine about the inconsequential.

    I get it. I really do. I felt the same way not very long ago. When I first read about ElevatorGate I thought "That's the whole complaint? WHO CARES?" Truly, I see your viewpoint.

    I believe I was mistaken, and I believe you (that's the general you directed at various commenters ) are mistaken too. I would like you to read this:

    If you're like me when I first read it, you're probably going to think that some of that is over-sensitive. "Who is this woman who thinks I can't even talk to a stranger to find out if maybe she finds me interesting? How is that supposed to work?"

    Now I would like you to scroll down, if you haven't already, and read the gushing comments from women who agree.

    Some of you who previously thought that this idea was ridiculous may now be pausing to consider whether these women simply have a different perspective than your own. You may be considering that your social privilege might have previously blinded you to a real problem, caused you to dismiss it. Or you may still think it's ridiculous.

    Here's the thing. The people who have these concerns (and others) and want to share them, and the people who are willing to take those concerns seriously - we want to shape a community where that kind of respect is commonplace, where it can be assumed. The assumption wouldn't be that no one would fuck up. Our privilege (we all have it in one form or another) virtually guarantees that we will fuck up, because it gives us a great big blind spot that prevents us from seeing how our actions hurt others. When this happens, someone is going to tell you that you've fucked up, and your gut reaction is going to be "What? I don't even see the problem with..."

    And now you have a choice. You can either:
    1) Trust your intuitive response and tell this person to stop whining about inconsequential, over-sensitive hysterics. (Because if you can't see the problem, there must not be one.)

    2) Bite your lip. Listen to what is being said. Consider that you may have a blind spot here. Assume that this person's experience is as valid as yours. Make the effort to recognize your mistake, absorb the lesson, and change.

    Option 1 is what people naturally do. Option 2 is harder, but worthwhile. It results in personal growth, and in the development of a mutually respectful community.

    When advocating for Option 2, threads more or less invariably turn into this one, in which these concerns are minimized and mocked. That is why Atheism+ is being formed. That is also why A+ must be, to some extent, exclusive of people who do not agree with this approach. We cannot have a positive environment that works to be inclusive, and to support marginalized groups, if a sizable fraction of the community is constantly minimizing and mocking their concerns, and wants to argue incessantly that things are fine the way they are.

    ElevatorGate is a pretty good litmus test. If you can challenge your own worldview and come to a place where you can say "Ok, I can see why Rebecca Watson was coming from, and that 'Guys, don't do this.' was pretty good advice." then you would fit in well with Atheism+, if you so chose.

    If you think that she's being over-sensitive, then your attitudes are part of the problem that Atheism+ is trying to address. That isn't a jab at you. I get it. Privilege is no picnic to recognize and overcome, but until you do, you are literally the problem we are trying to address.

    Atheim+: because the status is not quo.

    1. Heretic:

      "Atheim+: because the status is not quo."

      You might want to check what 'quo' means. As it is your little motto is just gibberish.

      I think you are also missing the point of ElevatorGate - ElevatorGate has less to do with a plea for male understanding of women's sensitivities and more to do with the ensuing frenzy that was generated when anyone with an alternative viewpoint was routinely demonized and alienated.

      When Richard Dawkins had the temerity to suggest that female genital mutilation (I think that was the example he gave?) may be a more serious issue than a guy making a pass at a woman in a hotel and was promptly on the receiving end of more vitriol than he'd probably got from any number of creationists I think it was pretty clear that ElevatorGate had gone way beyond Rebecca Watson feeling uncomfortable.

      Just out of curiosity, what has non-acceptance of the existence of gods have to do with educating men in the sensitivities of women?

      Why not have Atheism plus Roadside Assistance for when your car breaks down?

    2. "the status is not quo" is a lighthearted reference to Dr. Horrible, which is a bit of silliness that I recommend.

      Making the community more friendly to marginalized groups has two main purposes that I can see:

      1) Social justice is a morally good thing to be doing, and many of us want to be doing it. Much of our argument about religion is centered on moral outrage. Fighting for social justice comes from that same impetus. Skeptical thought is also relevant to it, because of the challenge of thought that is overcoming entrenched ideas about various social groups. (Are black people in America really just lazy? What do the data say about this?)
      2) There are vast numbers of potential unbelievers out there, and presently their ratios in atheism do not reflect their ratios in society. This asks questions of us: why, and what can we do about it? An athiest community that is friendlier to these groups helps grow atheism.

      If that isn't your thing, dictionary atheism isn't going anywhere, so no big deal.

      I think we could have atheism mixed with anything that there is a critical mass of people interested in. If you want to start Atheist Roadside Services, be my guest. I won't join, but I'm not going to obstruct it, either. When our numbers are large enough, there will be atheist everything, and when they are larger still, we'll stop even mentioning the atheist part, because it won't be necessary anymore. Wouldn't that be nice...

    3. Heretic

      >>"the status is not quo" is a lighthearted reference to Dr. Horrible, which is a bit of silliness that I recommend.<<

      Apologies, I obviously exposed my ignorance here, I'd never heard of Dr. Horrible before.

      >>There are vast numbers of potential unbelievers out there<<

      I agree, but I can't help thinking that bundling support for disbelief in gods up into a package with leading edge feminism, LGBT rights, pro-choice, positive discrimination etc will be too big a pill to swallow and will alienate potential converts with a comparatively conservative mindset from seeking support for the initial baby steps they may need to make on the long road to enlightenment.

      >>I think we could have atheism mixed with anything that there is a critical mass of people interested in.<<

      Atheists are already engaged in a whole range of social issues from feeding the homeless to supporting gay marriage. They do this because they are moral human beings not because they are atheists.

      >>When our numbers are large enough, there will be atheist everything, and when they are larger still, we'll stop even mentioning the atheist part<<

      I'm afraid I still can't understand why it needs to be mentioned in the first place other than as marketing idea from a small group of bloggers who have a better track record of divisive rather than inclusive behaviour.

      >>If that isn't your thing, dictionary atheism isn't going anywhere, so no big deal.<<

      Except it is a big deal when I'm being tacitly labelled a dick, douchebag or whatever for not wanting to be part of the FtB's new club.

    4. "will alienate potential converts with a comparatively conservative mindset"

      Well, folks such as Dawkins and yourselves who support the idea of equality but are basically advocating the status quo are certainly still going to be present in sufficient numbers. Indeed, I would expect this to be the loudest and most dominant segment of atheism for some time to come; vanilla New Atheism isn't going anywhere.

      And for the overt douchebags who are considering atheism, there appears to be plenty of that, too. Maybe they could call it rapetheism or something. Snark aside, we span the spectrum of humanity. There's something for everyone here.

      "Atheists are already engaged in a whole range of social issues from feeding the homeless to supporting gay marriage. They do this because they are moral human beings not because they are atheists."

      Yes, I see what you're saying here. A few points:
      1) As previously mentioned, this isn't just about advocacy but about creating atheist spaces that are safe for atheists that are marginalized in other ways.
      2) I think there is a correlation between skepticism and social justice, because these movements are challenging popular conceptions and assumptions, intuitive worldviews, etc.
      3) For straight, white men in particular I think atheism provides a unique opportunity to experience privilege from the marginalized side when dealing with theists who want to assert their Tyranny of the Majority. This realization can be a stepping stone to seeing privilege in other places, and particularly in themselves. Atheism and skepticism can make a good mirror (some polishing required ; )

      "divisive" I will leave to Greta:

      And while we're talking about versions of feminism, your best arguments are being solicited for the sort libertarian tact that seems to be popular in these comments.

      "I'm being tacitly labelled a dick," Yeah, well I don't really like all the labels that are being applied to me for supporting A+, either. I just believe in this. That doesn't make me McCarthy or something. (I really did wince at that, Lucy.)

    5. Heretic

      I'm getting a little tired of this debate now and feeling that I'm becoming increasingly repetitive so I'll sign off from this discussion with a final couple of observations regarding what you've said.

      >>And while we're talking about versions of feminism, your best arguments are being solicited for the sort libertarian tact that seems to be popular in these comments.<<

      I followed your link and found that rather than arguments being welcomed, reasonable and moderately expressed arguments were being met with the usual FtB vitriol and scorn such as:

      "I NEVER FUCKING SAID THAT, YOU FILTHY STRAWMANNING ASSHOLE.....Do you have no fucking integrity? Can you not fucking read? Seriously–what the fucking fuck?!"

      Personally, I think I'd rather steer clear of your fellow travelers thank you very much.

      A final thought regarding divisiveness? Have a look at -

      If A+ was being formed by people like you I'd be wishing it well - the way in which you express yourself does you credit and that you genuinely want to help make society better in a compassionate manner is clear - I just think you deserve better company.

    6. You'll find no argument from me that Carrier is being an ass, particularly in his comments. If he were the center of A+ I wouldn't have anything to do with it.

      Happy travels.

    7. Heretic, I have absolutely 0 problem with respecting personal boundaries of anyone. I have 0 desire to say "no you can't have that boundary". The following addresses other points.

      From your link about Schroedingers rapist:

      "But do you think about it all the time? Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is."

      I'll ignore she's claiming "women" (not "I") think about being attacked all the time.

      Firstly, men are more likely to be assaulted by a stranger (and in total) than women are. They are also more likely to be murdered, both by strangers and in total. In fact the only violence men are less likely to be subjected to is rape, and thats only if you don't count prisons.

      Men only face physical danger/worry about violence in war zones? What unrealistic, stereotyping, patronizing shit is this?

      Why should I be shocked at the idea of constantly worry about attacks if I'm more likely to be attacked? Shouldn't I be worrying even more (proportional to my risk)? Someone who thinks I don't worry about being attacked is either ignorant of my risks, or thinks my risks don't count so I shouldn't worry as much as women.

      The only explanation I can think of is A) women are more fragile than men and therefore being attacked is multiple times more traumatic for them B)men's physical safety is less important than womens because they can defend themselves better.

      Both of these seem sexist notions. I'll happily listen to a non-sexist explanation. One without special pleading for group status would be nice.

      If this is actually about risk and safety, address the double standard. If its just about being uncomfortable, be genuine and say "this makes me uncomfortable" and not "this makes me uncomfortable because rape/danger". Comfort should never be confused with safety.

      Secondly if you think about being assaulted or murdered all the time you have an anxiety disorder, and you need CBT. I say this as someone who has had CBT for anxiety disorder(s). there is no evidence thinking about being attacked all the time makes you safer, you're just making your life worse and NO ONE should be encouraged to live like this. The fact more people aren't saying this and are simply saying "right on!" is deeply concerning and shows a strong ignorance or callousness around anxiety disorders, and a tacit encouragement of unwell people to stay fearful/anxious/unwell. Not treating her anxiety problem is a much greater risk to her health than potential rape. This person thinks they HAVE to worry about something all the time. If you know anxiety disorders you know this is never true.

      "The fifth and last point: Don’t rape."

      Don't you see how this attitude is incredibly condescending? The vast majority of men, let alone in the atheist movement have never and will never rape anyone. I also highly doubt anyone who does/has raped would be dissuaded by "don't rape", I'd love to see evidence they would.

      There's no empirical evidence I've seen presented that such "Don't rape" messages do anything to reduce incidence of rapes. Which indicates its more about emotional validation than actual harm reduction.

      They (should) know that telling rapists not to rape isn't going to stop anyone. By definition rapists don't stop when you say "don't"/"stop". They're using "don't rape" as a means of implying anyone who disagrees with the rest of the comments disagrees with "don't rape". It's a clumsy and patronizing debating cudgel. That its referenced as persuasive rhetoric is worrying.

      Wrapping up, I haven't cited sources for convenience, but if you agree that if the stats are right my conclusions are right I will. However if you would disagree even if the stats are on my side I won't bother.

  17. What about option 3, bite your lip, listen and then decide you don't agree with their positions, and decide that you think that Schrodinger's rapist is a bigoted sexist piece of tripe that is easily dismantled by changing man to black person and rape to mug or assault?
    If I were to a white supremacy site and talked about Schrodinger's black mugger, I would get a torrent of gushing comments of people who agree, but that doesn't make it right.

    You posit a false dichotomy between having a knee-jerk non rational reaction and accepting the other person is right and you're wrong.

    In my opinion, that's where you and A+ fail. If it were merely defined as a community of people who agree with certain views, I think most people would have no problem with it, but your options 1 and 2 are showing the mindset behind it, you either agree or you're having a knee-jerk reaction that says the other part is being hysterical over sensitive and therefore are being a bigot and misogynistic jerk.

  18. Critically, the white supremacists talking about Schrodinger's Mugger would not be a marginalized group. That changes the scene entirely.

    It's possible to disagree, obviously. It's also possible that the person is really wrong, so there's still an Option 3. It's easy to mistake Option 1 for 3 though, so it's worth thinking carefully about what's been said if someone who is in a marginalized group raises a complaint with you.

    1. I disagree. The status of the group making a claim has no bearing on the truth value of the claim.

      But if you prefer, then let's change it to Schrodinger's brutal cop, all black people should be able to demand police officers change procedures to stop them because in the past some black people have been beaten up by police officers. Now we have a marginalized group talking, and it sounds equally silly to me.

      And if option 3 is so obvious, why wasn't it included in your first post?
      I'm still not convinced, and I still think schrodinger's rapist is a bigoted sexist piece of BS.

    2. I shall endeavor to answer this weekend. I really must go to bed now.

    3. Please endeavor to answer this.

  19. @Heretic,

    "I get it. I really do. I felt the same way not very long ago. When I first read about ElevatorGate I thought "That's the whole complaint? WHO CARES?" Truly, I see your viewpoint."

    Actually, my whole complaint is that while these wretched nonentities have been complaining they have firstly been ignoring the very real struggle for women's emancipation, and have been lying about and smearing far, far better people than they. For all their whinging about "privilege" it is they that are the pampered, spoiled, well-off brats who turn their back on those who are fighting real oppression. To the devil with the lot of them.

  20. Atheism+ is atheism plus genitals. Genitals, of course, are the most important thing in the whole bloody world, and we ought to be consumed with interest in them.

  21. "the very real struggle for women's emancipation"

    In the U.S., what you think this entails?

  22. (or the western industrialized world generally)

  23. WTF.... Having had no internet connection for a while I just spent the last hour trying to work out what this debate is all about. And I'm still a little bemused. The whole thing has now become so complex as to be inaccessible to anyone who isn't already heavily involved - and therefore, I doubt that anyone outside what appears to be a very, very small community cares.

    Frankly, I feel like bashing all your heads together. Both sides are making some good points, both sides are making negative assumptions about the other side, and both sides have sent this whole thing way out of proportion.

    Did any of you see the South Park featuring "Richard Dawkins"? My gf found it hilarious (she's sick of me ripping religion apart) and she especially loved the bit where the atheists were fighting a world war between themselves. I thought that was just daft but this argument just reminds me of that.

  24. Bravo for an incredibly incisive post.

    It's nice to see someone bring an analysis of social dynamics instead of just going for the more obvious comments.

    Thankfully the same things that would make A+ a problem if it became popular are exactly the same things that will stop it from ever being popular.

    Making accusations of misogyny against/excluding anyone who disagrees with your group has a handy cure built into the sickness, that pretty soon you're not going to have anyone left to shout at.

    I'm not actually convinced A+ is a bad thing. Well, for its stated goals it is, but for the health of wider atheist community(s), it might be a good idea if people who refuse to accept any dissent or skepticism against their sacred cows hide away in their own intellectually incestuous enclave.

    Something tells me however that they won't be satisfied with that, and that their idea of a "safe space" involves still attacking other atheists while hiding behind their "safe space".

  25. Quite right to separate the message from the methods.