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There’s a New Religion in Town – Atheism Plus

I visit the Free Thought Blogs network from time to time, mostly to read one blog I like. While there, I usually click on another blog or two. Most of the writers are very long-winded.  They fill pages and pages without presenting any new ideas or expressing old ideas in new or interesting ways. Their writing isn’t horribly bad; it’s just not very good.

But for the past year I’ve watched the overall tone of the place deteriorate into an ever expanding hissy fit, a perpetual competition over who can be more politically correct. I’ve seen more restraint and less drama among hyperactive twelve-year-olds. It has become more amusing and appalling with each visit.

And as far as I can determine, it started with someone offering someone else a cup of coffee.

Late one night, in an elevator at skeptics convention, someone asked Rebecca Watson if she’d like to come up to his room for a coffee. She blogged about it, and it blew up into a shit storm, much to her delight.

Later, at a different convention, a swinger couple propositioned another woman, asking her to join them for a threesome, giving her a card with their contact information, and leaving.

This resulted in a protracted debate/argument/brawl about sexual harassment of women in the skeptic/atheist movement. D. J. Grothe, who (up until then) was widely respected in the atheist movement, came up with a simple, perfect solution – report it. If someone is really being harassed, report it to the security people at the convention. They take such things very seriously, and they’d deal with it.

This resulted in D. J. becoming the target of attacks, despite the fact that he also used this as an opportunity to encourage more women to get involved in the movement.

Here’s a free clue for anyone, of any sex, going to any convention, anywhere. Among the thousands of people there, there will be a subset who want to get laid. A subset of them will go about it in a gross and sloppy way. This has nothing to do with the fact that it’s a skeptic and/or atheist convention. It happens at Sci-Fi conventions, automotive conventions, comic-book conventions, Real Estate conventions, Star Trek conventions and even (or perhaps, especially) at religious conventions. Yes, it’s a problem, but it’s not unique to skeptic or atheist themed gatherings. It doesn’t justify the ham-fisted response of trying to create a whole new movement.

***

Many years ago I set out to learn about Humanism. I read their manifestos and agreed with quite a few of their ideas, although I was put off by their disdain for capitalism. Since what people say is often different from what they do, I visited a few Humanist forums to get a better idea of where they were really coming from.

It wasn’t at all what I expected. The majority of people in the forums were truly, madly, deeply in love with Big Brother. The idea that society and government were two different things wasn’t just foreign to them; it was a concept they were incapable of even considering. Any suggestion that was even slightly liberty-minded was met with a vehement response, compete with tiresome flinging of inaccurate labels. (Randian, Faux News Watcher, Dittohead, etc.) Most were hard-core socialists who were extremely hostile to anything outside their political ideology. They had given up their belief in an all knowing, all loving, benevolent Deity and replaced it with blind obeisance to The State. All we need to do, they argued, is get The State to stop doing the horrible things it does and we’ll be left with an entity that will dispense justice and equality for all.

It was a religion I wanted no part of, so I didn’t hang around very long.

***

Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens have earned the nickname “The Four Horsemen.” They are regarded, and rightly so, as the primary movers and shakers of the atheist movement. Yet over at FtB they’re being condemned for being old, white men. In the world of Political Correctness being old is bad, being white is horrible, and being male is the ultimate sin. Put the three together and you’ve got evil raised to the power of three.

Of the four, Hitchens is my personal favorite. (Now he’s dead, making him a “dead white European male”, the epitome of evil among PC Perfectionists.) He was smart and witty and smooth and one of the best writers of my generation. Even when you disagreed with him, you had to admire his class and style and his way with words. Reading anything he wrote, even on the most trivial and unimportant subject, is a sublime pleasure.

And…cut to just about any article over at FtB.  You can easily imagine the writer wiping the spittle from his or her bearded chin as they tap out their latest juvenile screed. It’s not exactly impressive. Compared to anything crafted by any of The Four Horsemen, it’s downright embarrassing.

***

I wouldn’t have bothered writing about any of this if it hadn’t boiled over into something that could have a detrimental affect on the entire atheist movement: the A+ label, an attempt to intentionally create a rift among atheists.

Atheism is all-inclusive. You don’t believe in a god? Cool, you’re an atheist, let’s have a beer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican or a Libertarian or a Green. Your race and gender are not important.  Your sexuality is not an issue. Your taste in music or movies or art are immaterial. Your stance on specific political issues is something we can have fun discussing, especially if we disagree. The only requirement for joining the club is not believing in a god.

Atheism Plus attempts to change that by creating a sub-group that demands everyone adhere to several morals clauses. If you disagree with any of them (or just disagree with their version of them) you don’t measure up.  You’re despicable and we will shun you.

Lest I be accused of misinterpretation, here’s a verbatim quote from one of the FtB authors:

 There is a new atheism brewing, and it’s the rift we need, to cut free the dead weight so we can kick the C.H.U.D.’s back into the sewers and finally disown them, once and for all…I was already mulling a way to do this back in June when discussion in the comments on my post On Sexual Harassment generated an idea (inspired by Anne C. Hanna) to start a blog series building a system of shared values that separates the light side of the force from the dark side within the atheism movement, so we could start marginalizing the evil in our midst, and grooming the next generation more consistently and clearly into a system of more enlightened humanist values.

Impressed? Me neither. I don’t like the religion of Humanism. I consider the religion of Star Wars entertainment, not enlightenment. “Grooming the next generation” and “evil in our midst” are creepy phrases that belong in a fundamentalist tract, not an atheist’s column. If you read other articles on the site you’ll see the inclusion of progressivism (i.e. socialism) in the mix. Any atheist who disagrees with any of this dogma is should be disowned and “kicked back into the sewer.”

Very few political issues are also atheist issues: the separation of church and state (including the plethora of religiously inspired laws), preferential government treatment of religious institutions, governmental discrimination against atheists, and…that’s pretty much it.

Hang with any gang ‘o atheists and you’ll find most of us agree on most political and moral issues – but that doesn’t make them atheist issues. Gay rights are not an atheist issue. Women’s rights are not an atheist issue. The man-hating version of feminism is not an atheist issue. Racism is not an atheist issue. Foreign policy, drug policy, immigration, capitalism, corporatism, capital punishment, the Federal Reserve and gun control are not atheist issues. Atheists discus and debate and argue these (and other) political issues without ever mistaking them for atheist issues. A+ intends to change that. Although they only include a few of these issues now, mission creep is inevitable, especially among people as pompous and self-righteous as the A+ gang.

Use the big red atheist “A” to spell “atheism” and it’s still “Atheism.” Do it with the modified A+ logo and it comes out “A+theism,” the very opposite of atheism. This is the birth of a new religion, and that’s never something to celebrate.

When theists claim Atheism is a religion, we enjoy pointing out their error, noting that there is no dogma, no creed, no central authority, no founding documents and perhaps most importantly, no punishment for anyone who disagrees with beliefs that are common among atheists. But with the birth of this new movement, they can counter with “What about A+” and we’ll have to kick at the ground and say, “yeah, well…um.”

How should rational atheists react to this nonsense? Should we shun the shunners?  Should we try to enlighten them?  Should we hope they grow a brain cell and realize how silly they’ve become? Should we point out that this really isn’t atheism, and then listen to their inevitable retort about the No True Scotsman logical fallacy? Should we just ignore them and wait for their movement’s inevitable collapse?

I’m not sure.  My gut instinct is to treat them the way I treat other religious extremists – point and giggle and make fun of their ignorance – but that’s not a good solution either.

Suggestions are welcome.

Additional Commentary

A+ (atheism plus), For A Third Glorious Age of Total Agreement

If You Are Tired of the Free Thought Blogs Drama…

Atheism Plus: We’re Atheists… But We Behave Like Christians! (Lots of Links that prove the point.)

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29 Comment(s)

  1. Dave

    People love central authority, they love dogma, they love rules. Without them, they have to think for themselves, which is hard. Especially when they are confronted by others to explain their behavior and thinking.

    This is the main reason people join a gang/tribe/church/religion and this will never change. Those that didn’t like to join a tribe were eaten by wild animals.

    Eur van Andel | Sep 1, 2012 | Reply

  2. Dave —

    I suspect we will continue discussing this idea till about the day we die and the A+ people will continually fail to recognize how much I do not care about being part of their group.

    Libertarians and Atheists have something in common, get three of us in a room and there will be 3 sides. The reason atheists and libertarians are going to be stuck in the backwaters is that we don’t group willingly. In any group, though, there will be those scoundrels in the wings who see an opportunity to create their own group. There will always be enough people in ungrouped groups wanting to be part of a group.

    brad.tittle | Sep 1, 2012 | Reply

  3. We are, deep in our DNA, tribal animals.

    Modern man isn’t limited to the tribe of his birth, but we’re still tribal. Now we pick and choose our tribe, and most of us belong to many different ones. I’m part of the atheist tribe, the libertarian tribe, and the cigar smokers tribe, to name a few.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with tribes, as long as we can choose them freely and come and go as we please. Problems occur when one tribe decides they’re superior to another and attacks them. We don’t use pointed sticks any more, but many tribes use something far more dangerous – government, the ultimate purveyor of deadly force. The Nicotine Nazi tribe, for instance, has been very successful at attacking the smoker’s tribe. They don’t have the courage to do it themselves; instead, they get Big Brother to do it for them. They cheer as businesses close and lives are ruined. In their tiny little minds it justifies their violence-by-proxy and lets them feel good about themselves without actually accomplishing anything useful.

    This story doesn’t rise to that level, of course – there’s no force involved. It’s just another sad example of pure nonsense from people who claim to be rational. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Considering how many atheists are lefties, and how many are far lefties (a position that can’t be supported by reason) perhaps the only surprise is that it hasn’t happened sooner.

    Dave Hitt | Sep 1, 2012 | Reply

  4. South Park, the prophecy!!!

    Ancel De Lambert | Sep 2, 2012 | Reply

  5. @ In any group, though, there will be those scoundrels in the wings who see an opportunity to create their own group.

    Was this in reference to the couple that propositioned a person for a threesome, or the sickos that are creating a new cult?

    @ Among the thousands of people there, there will be a subset who want to get laid. A subset of them will go about it in a gross and sloppy way.

    If offering someone coffee or handing someone my card is gross and sloppy, I need to change my shtick. It’s a shame, because I like coffee.

    Durr Herder | Sep 2, 2012 | Reply

  6. I happen to be a smoking, christian Libertarian. I find some Athiest cultish. I have had this conversation with Dave on facebook. Some Athiest fight to have any public display of religion claiming that the first amendment means “freedom from religion” while purchasing billboard space pushing their cult.

    http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/03/06/10595033-atheist-billboard-hits-snag-in-hasidic-neighborhood?lite

    And
    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/for-the-holidays-an-atheism-billboard/

    The Video’s associated with the following are interesting.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/07/american-atheists-myth-billboard-brooklyn-jewish-rejected_n_1327527.html

    Marshall Keith | Sep 3, 2012 | Reply

  7. Cultish…No. I grew up in a cult, and know more about cults than any other subject. ‘Taint a cult. Not even close. It’s not even a religion, except for these A+ fools. And even with them, it’s barely a religion, kinda-sorta a religion.

    Atheists get upset about religion that’s paid for by tax dollars. I’ve never heard of a complaint about privately funded religious displays, and the displays you’re talking about are also privately funded. Nothing wrong with letting everyone have their say.

    Dave Hitt | Sep 4, 2012 | Reply

  8. Dave, don’t you think it was just a tad bit dishonest when you left out a key piece of information when mentioning the swinger couple incident? What you left out was that the couples card included nude pictures of them? That’s far beyond a Clumsy pickup attempt and crosses the border into inappropriate behavior. But I guess since all conventions have their crop of weirdos, we should just not do anything about it and just ignore the people who don’t appreciate that behavior. After all, your rights to expose everyone to your sexual appetites without solicitation trump other people’s rights to have an enjoyable time at a convention they paid major bucks to attend. Yes other conventions have weirdos and creeps, but conventions usually also have rules and codes of conduct. If you’re handing out naked pictures of yourself to random strangers, it’s not unreasonable for convention security to throw your ass out. This isn’t about preventing all future instances of inappropriate behavior at atheist conventions, it’s about actually doing something about it when it happens as opposed to the recent policies of doing jack shit.

    Shitting is a perfectly natural activity. There’s nothing wrong with it. We need to do it to live. But that doesn’t give you the right to drop your pants and take a hot steaming dump on my restaurant table when I’m out in public. I have to share that space too and demanding that I be confronted with your hot stinky turds without my consent is not by any stretch of the imagination a reasonable expectation. I fail to see the difference between handing strangers nude photos of yourself and taking a shit on their table.

    Brian | Sep 4, 2012 | Reply

  9. I never pretended to know all the details of every event, Brian. I’ve been watching this event casually and from afar.

    Your diatribe is so full of basic logical fallacies and stupid assumptions I don’t know where to start. I don’t think I’ll bother, because my regular readers are smarter than average (and Smartenized, as well) and can do it for themselves.

    If you’re handing out naked pictures of yourself to random strangers, it’s not unreasonable for convention security to throw your ass out.

    And that’s exactly what the recipient should have done. That’s what a reasonable person would have done. But no, they didn’t do that. Instead, they whined and bitched and now they’ve helped create a faction of PC atheists doing a little superior dance.

    I’m quite familiar with the “right to shit” argument. I’ve been hearing it for the past twenty years from nicotine nannies. It’s their second favorite argument; the first being “peeing in a pool.” I’ve seen it so often, and am so familiar with the type of people who make it, that I have a theory, which is mine, which I have. Brontosauruses are very…oh, wait, wrong theory.

    Everyone goes through a scatological phase, when they’re somewhat obsessed with urine and feces. This usually starts around the age of three, and most kids mature out of it by the time they’re five or so. But some unfortunate souls never mature beyond this five-year-old mind-set. They love to compare people doing anything they don’t like (and it’s always a very long list) to peeing, shitting, etc. It doesn’t impress real grown-ups, but they never seem to catch on to that.

    Anyhow, that’s my hypothesis. It’s unproven, but I will gladly accept a grant (six figures at least) to study it to death and figure out if it’s true or not. Please make all checks payable to Dave Hitt.

    Dave Hitt | Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

  10. You all get upset pretty easy. Let me see if I got this right. Some folks (names not given) think that Ayn Rand Libertarians should not be part of their idea of atheism?

    I have heard this business of our only issue is separation of government and religion. Build the wall. But you fail to understand that all those other issues you mentioned as not being part of the atheist movement are also issues involving the religion in government.

    Women? Contraceptives and abortion are religiously based issues.

    Racism? Once again, religiously based issue. Need proof? When Virginia was ordered to integrate its schools, all the good little WASPs in the state took their children out and put them into sectarian schools.

    Like most conservatives, you equate any criticism of capitalism as socialism. Too bad you never learned the definition of socialism. State owned means of production. Advocating for public schools or health insurance for all is not socialism, just good pro-human rights policy. And all pro-human rights issues makes them a part of humanism. Not a humanist, that is your right. You want to support gay bashing cause the bible tells you to, I have a problem calling you a atheist.

    Peter | Sep 10, 2012 | Reply

  11. Another A+ supporter and another post that just reeks of stupidity in nearly every sentence. I’m seeing a pattern here.

    You really don’t belong on this blog – it’s designed to help smart people get just a bit smarter, not for ignorant people to spew their ignorance. Stupidity is entertaining, but only to a point, and only for a little while.

    For instance, Ayn Rand has nothing to do with Libertarians. She hated ’em. This fact comes under the heading “common knowledge.” The only people who make that mistake are fools who parrot what they’ve read on lefty sites. Thirty seconds on Google would have spared you displaying that bit of stupidity.

    If you were in possession of a clue, you wouldn’t follow a definition of socialism with an example of Public Schools – a state owned means of production. Duh.

    If you were in possession of another clue you’d never make the mistake of calling me a conservative.

    And your final sentence is so full of such an incredible amount of stupid I really can’t think of any reply. I’ll just let it stand on its own.

    If you haven’t already, I suggest you go sign up with the A+theism folks. With your bitchy attitude, imagined superiority and deeply ingrained ignorance, you’ll fit right in. You certainly don’t belong here with the grown-ups.

    Dave Hitt | Sep 10, 2012 | Reply

  12. @What you left out was that the couples card included nude pictures of them? That’s far beyond a Clumsy pickup attempt and crosses the border into inappropriate behavior.

    But it doesn’t cross any imaginary boarder. It’s still just a clumsy pickup attempt. Even if it were inappropriate, it is not a reason for philosophical divergence and poop metaphors. I’d like to avoid saying “Grow the F up”, but am afraid that I cannot find better words.

    Durr Herder | Sep 10, 2012 | Reply

  13. This whole thing arose because some of the “SkepChicks” got a pile of harassing and threatening emails. Instead of realizing it was internet trolls and ignoring it, they concluded that the atheism community was filled to the gills with racist, sexist guys ready to rape at the drop of a hat. Seriously, think of the worst racist caricatures that came out of World War II propaganda, but make it for old, white male atheists and you have a good idea.

    Meanwhile, somewhere out there in Intertube-land, a few trolls are laughing their fool asses off at what they have wrought- sending a bunch of allegedly academically elite scholars into a civil war.

    And D. J. Grothe was exactly right about just reporting these things. If the SkepChicks really got rape and death threats, why did they not report any? Even asking that question gets you branded as the worst hatemongering sexist, racist, whateverist over there.

    Hell, I would ask simply out of curiosity if the FBI actually followed up on these things very often.

    As for Ayn Rand, the Left makes it a habit to group her with libertarians. That way they only have to construct intellectually bankrupt stereotypes for one group instead of two.

    PaulQ | Sep 20, 2012 | Reply

  14. Peter as I stated earlier, I am a Christian Libertarian, Your comment; “You all get upset pretty easy. Let me see if I got this right. Some folks (names not given) think that Ayn Rand Libertarians should not be part of their idea of atheism?”

    Many of us libertarians are fans of Ayn but the feelig was not mutual. Ayn’s Objectivist movement was a bit cultish in its own right. If you did not strictly adhere to her beliefs you were out.

    Then you go on to say: “I have heard this business of our only issue is separation of government and religion. Build the wall. But you fail to understand that all those other issues you mentioned as not being part of the atheist movement are also issues involving the religion in government.

    Women? Contraceptives and abortion are religiously based issues.”

    For one thing you don’t understand the Constitution. The separation you refer to simply means that the government can’t promote a particular religion. An individual is free to practice their faith, yes even in public. It does not mean freedom from religion. On the issue of contraception it is up to the individual to decide whether or not to use them based on faith or not. The government does not have the right to weigh in one way or the other. On the issue of abortion, I disagree with many libertarians. I believe that life begins at conception and as such deserves all use of force against it that every other human being is due. As a libertarian I believe that you are free to do as you please as long as you don’t violate some one else’s rights in the process.

    Marshall Keith | Sep 20, 2012 | Reply

  15. Speaking solely on the Ayn Rand issue, you can’t deny that a lot of Libertarians are open admirers of her. Although objectivism is not libertarianism, they are at least ideological cousins. Libertarianism is Objectivism minus the “it’s totally okay to be a selfish asshole” part.

    Brian | Sep 21, 2012 | Reply

  16. I am a Libertarian and an admirer of AYN. Your perception about. “Libertarianism is Objectivism minus the “it’s totally okay to be a selfish asshole” part.” is outright stupidity and shows your leftist ignorance. Looking out for ones self interest is part of the natural law and hardly selfish. I suggest you listen to the following exchange between Milton Friedman and Phil Donahue.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A

    Marshall Keith | Sep 21, 2012 | Reply

  17. Enlightened self-interest doesn’t require anyone to be a selfish asshole. It is taking care of your own needs/wants, and the needs/wants of your family, first. But the next step is considering, and perhaps taking care of, the needs/wants of your friends, community, and causes you believe in. The far left ignorantly paints libertarians as selfish assholes who want people to die in the streets, and no amount of explanation can change their minds. (Believe me, I’ve tried. Now I seldom bother.)

    Rand hated altruism in any form, and that’s the primary difference between Objectivism and Libertarianism. Calling them ideological cousins is fairly accurate, but that one difference is huge. Objectivism teaches that any kind of charity or altruism is evil. Libertarianism only thinks its evil when it’s forced on us by government. There is a great deal of voluntary cooperation among libs. Objectivism vilifies this. Libertarianism celebrates it.

    I have two other problems with Rand. The first is less important – she was one nasty bitch. She seems to have hated everyone and everything, and had utter contempt for anyone who disagreed with her, even a little. Randians seem to share her anger and contempt, while Libertarians are a much happier, joyful lot.

    The second, which is huge considering her chosen profession, is that she was a lousy writer. He bad guys are all cardboard cutouts of each other. In Atlas Shrugged, when something goes wrong, most of them spend pages and pages giving the same “it’s not my fault” speech. And John Gault’s final speech is 92 pages long. When performed it takes three hours to complete. How many great, world changing speeches were three hours long? Approximately none.

    The front and back covers of her books are way to far apart.

    Dave Hitt | Sep 22, 2012 | Reply

  18. DH: “Rand hated altruism in any form, and that’s the primary difference between Objectivism and Libertarianism. Calling them ideological cousins is fairly accurate, but that one difference is huge. Objectivism teaches that any kind of charity or altruism is evil. Libertarianism only thinks its evil when it’s forced on us by government. There is a great deal of voluntary cooperation among libs. Objectivism vilifies this. Libertarianism celebrates it.”

    Your leaders though don’t agree with your assessment. F’r instance, take the nations labor laws. I believe that individuals should have the right without government interference to unite in the workplace to obtain better pay, benefits and working conditions than the individuals could negotiate for themselves. But from Ron Paul, his son Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, all Libertarians only recognize the right of the companies to reject their employees bargaining rights in the workplace and pass laws to ensure that the employees cannot use their Constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and speech.

    Question: as a Libertartian do you agree with the Libertarian position that state governments should have the right to require that no union should be allowed to bargain for the right of those who do not wish to join the union but still benefit from a contract that they pay a fee to uphold that the pay and benefits they receive?

    Peter | Sep 23, 2012 | Reply

  19. Peter, you assume that the non-union member didn’ get a better contract. If he got a better contract should they be required to pay a fee? Also when it comes to public sector unions should they be able to lobby in elect the very politicians that they will be negotiating against!
    http://peoplesrepubmadison.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/496/

    Marshall Keith | Sep 23, 2012 | Reply

  20. Dave, I enjoyed Atlas Shrugged. I agree with you on the John Galt rant, that chapter could have been compleatly removed without hurting the book, as a matter of fact it would have improved it. I would have to disagree on the point that she hated all altruism. She believed in volentary cooperation as illistrated in this 1959 interview.
    http://veritasvincitprolibertate.wordpress.com/constitutional-republic/

    Marshall Keith | Sep 23, 2012 | Reply

  21. Of course people should be able to get together and negotiate for better wages or working conditions. But…employers should also be able to fire people who don’t show up for work, and replace them with people who will.

    If those negotiations result in better pay for all, great, but that doesn’t justify the use of force on someone who isn’t a member of the union.

    While Rand paid lip service to voluntary altruism, I do think she regarded it as evil. I don’t recall any of her characters ever doing anything that could be considered charitable.

    Dave Hitt | Sep 26, 2012 | Reply

  22. Hi Dave,
    I thought I would address some of your points right here in the comments, although I did mention some things I agree with on the facebook wall.

    First, you seem to leave out many important inconvenient details concerning the events leading up to the creation of A+.

    A+ people didn’t just throw a “hissyfit” because someone offered Rebecca Watson coffee. That is a straw man. Rebecca Watson said she was creeped out by a guy in an elevator, and simply said “don’t do that” in a talk the next day. There were arguments over how appropriate this was, and this escalated over time. While I can’t defend the way many A+ people conducted themselves, Rebecca Watson, as well as many of her female defenders were threated with violence, including rape. This is absolutely unacceptable, and helps explain why many A+ers have an allergic reaction to criticism.

    Second, the quote you pulled from Richard Carrier’s blog was actually disavowed by Jennifer Mcreight, and RIchard Carrier took back much of what he said and apologized.

    Third, I don’t see anyone saying that all atheists must believe the same things as A+ people in order to be atheists. Atheism is still “all inclusive.” A+ just seems like an attempt to bring atheists with shared social and political goals together. While you may think that “it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican or Green,” to many atheists, these are more important than lack of belief in God, so I find them entirely justified in trying to unite with those with shared interests and foster change.

    Fourth, political correctness seems to be clearly not the goal of A+. Blogs like Pharyngula and Ed Brayton’s blog are not PC at all. There is a push for more diversity among atheists, with more women and minorities, but this is not the same thing as being PC. Your statement that A+ people condemning those for being “old, white men” also seems to be a misrepresentation. Old, white men are not being condemned, atheist groups are being criticized for being made up only of old, white men. It’s a lack of diversity being condemned, and fairly so.

    There’s more I could say because you wrote so much, but the main point is that I think you are casting A+ in the worst light possible. I don’t support everything about them, but I think criticism should be fairer, and hug the facts more closely.

    Nolan | Oct 9, 2012 | Reply

  23. Nolan, it should be clear from the tone of my post and my subsequent replies to comments that I don’t consider myself as an expert on this movement. That would require far too much time reading the long-winded and dull posts that characterize FTB.

    As I said in the article, it started with the elevator incident (again, as far as I know), and exploded into the mess it is now.

    If the bulk of FTB condemned Carrier’s hate-filled spew, it wouldn’t be an issue. One person saying he was naughty doesn’t change anything. Nor does an apology change the fact that he was expressing his true feelings of utter contempt for anyone who doesn’t march in lockstep with his politics. He advocated shunning, which is the single most identifying characteristic of a cult. (Having been raised in a cult, I know a bit about them.)

    I just went back and looked for that apology, and didn’t find it. What I did find was a subsequent post that said anyone who mocked and made fun of A+ was an asshole. Then he repeated the “chucked into the sewers” line. Nice guy.

    Politically Correct, in this case, refers to the far-left socialism combined with the man-hating version of feminism that comprises the core belief system of A+. The “old white men” reference can be found on several articles there – just search FTB for “old white” and see what pops up.

    Yes, people with common goals should band together and try to get things done. The common goals of atheists should have to do with atheism, not the plethora of other concerns that have nothing to do with non-belief in a deity. If someone wants to promote humanism, fine, go for it, just don’t call it A+, or any other variation of atheism. If someone wants to hop on the “men are scum” bandwagon, enjoy the ride, but don’t pick a name for yourself that will imply all non-theists agree with you.

    As I said in the article, there are several political issues that directly involve atheism and atheists, and they are huge and important. But marrying atheism to any other political ideology is a stunningly rotten idea. For instance, I’m a small L libertarian. If someone were to start an atheism/libertarian movement, give it a name that included the word atheism and announce that anyone who disagreed should be shunned and ignored, I would be just as vehement in my opposition to it.

    Dave Hitt | Oct 9, 2012 | Reply

  24. I think I somewhat agree with your criticism of linking atheism with political issues. I don’t really see atheism as logically implying any specific view besides not believing in God, so I wouldn’t be too happy to center my whole movement or social group around atheism.

    As for Carrier, he did apologize for some insults he flung, but not all, then he wrote a post where he explained when it was okay to insult etc.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/2289/

    I don’t know how reasonable his apology is, but once again, his comments were disavowed by the person who is credited with beginning the A+ movement, so I think that should have some bearing. In a movement with no leaders, I would also expect some people to miss the point.

    Your use of politically correct is kind of strange. I don’t know how being politically correct is supposed be the same as being a socialist or hating men. Most of the FtB bloggers are men, and the “man hater” Rebecca Watson has a good relationship with the members of the Skeptic’s Guide, so it sounds like a clear misrepresentation to say A+ members or FtB bloggers hate men.

    I saw a reference to “old white men” where Jennifer McCreight says “Dear smug humanists, my critique of the atheist movement included you. Your groups are infamous for being mostly old, white, men.” Is this what is seen as man hating? Sounds like a criticism of the lack of diversity in what is supposed to be a multicultural, gender neutral movement. This is a fair critique, because homogeneity seems to show that large social groups are being left out.

    I still maintain that your representation of A+ is not really accurate.

    Like I said, I share your aversion to unifying politically around atheism, but members of A+ seem to see atheism as an important defining characteristic of themselves. They also hold certain social values and political goals that, while not related directly to atheism, they resonate with. I don’t see that much of a problem with people uniting around a group of ideals they hold.

    While I don’t know if A+ is an optimal way of approaching things, and while I find many of the overreactions to criticism by A+ members pretty low, I don’t have much of a problem at all with people trying to unite around groups of shared beliefs.

    Nolan | Oct 11, 2012 | Reply

  25. I think this “atheism is only about whether or not a god exists, period” attitude is short-sighted. There are other issues that affect all of us, and if all atheists ever did when we got together was vote on the existence of God and go “yep, we’re still unanimous, good convention, people!” there really wouldn’t be much of a movement.

    But there are a lot of issues that affect us, and touch on atheism.

    Yes, there are atheists who are anti-gay, but the vast majority of atheists are not. Why? Because nearly 100% of anti-gay sentiment has religious justification. Without that religious justification, there just isn’t any logical reason to hate gay people, or to deny them equal rights.

    The same goes for gender inequality. The attitudes that keep women down, from the 1950’s “get back in the kitchen” mentality here in the US to the “lie down and let us cut off your clitoris” mentality in other parts of the world ultimately stem from religious, or otherwise logically unjustified, beliefs.

    I don’t think anybody can deny that most people who self-identify as atheists are atheists as a result of their thought processes. We, largely, became atheists because we are empiricists and endeavor to apply skepticism in our lives as much as we can.

    Atheism does have implications in social policy, attitudes, and values, and I think atheists should recognize that. Colloquially, atheism IS more than just “I don’t believe a god exists.” It has more to do with “I don’t believe nonsense,” because the technical “atheists” who build their lives around nonsense (i.e. Buddhists, Raelians, etc.) don’t typically identify as atheists, anyway. Words can have meaning beyond their etymological roots.

    Brian | Oct 13, 2012 | Reply

  26. Anti-gay comment — here is my potentionally anti-gay comment — If all men were gay, the species would likely die out.

    There is some percentage of gay people in the population above which it becomes immoral. Immoral means “likely to cause the species not to survive”. Practically speaking we aren’t anywhere near that level.

    Practically speaking, though, if homosexuality is a genetic difference, letting homosexuals be homosexuals, will likely work its way out if we let it be “free”. Ironies of religious idiocy. Suppressing homosexuality increases the chance of future homosexuality.

    brad tittle | Oct 26, 2012 | Reply

  27. Dave,

    I realize I’m really late coming into this conversation, but reading the comments, there’s something I felt compelled to point out…

    (First let me start by saying that I agree with the OP 100%. I think you’ve said a mouthfull.)

    But in comments, you said this about Ayn Rand: Objectivism teaches that any kind of charity or altruism is evil.

    This is simply false. She explicitly stated that one can desire to be charitable and that it can be perfectly appropriate – but she was careful to distinguish that from altruistic ideology which states that it is the duty of man to serve other men.

    Check out her addressing this exact point in this video, starting about the 50-second mark:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUwTHn-9hhU

    Also, you said: Randians seem to share her anger and contempt, while Libertarians are a much happier, joyful lot.

    I do agree she seemed to be an angry person. And i agree that orthodox Randoids tend to emulate that anger and hostility. But I would submit that not all who appreciate her contributions to philosophy fit that description. In fact, i recently learned of an entire community of “objectivists” (with a lower-case ‘o’) whose entire association is based on the idea that Rand, while brilliant, was quite human and fallible.

    If course, this immediately disqualifies them from being part of the “Objectivist” movement… but still gives them common ground in which to associate. And I can tell you as sure as I’m sitting here that you won’t find the hostility and anger that you seem to believe characterizes most admirers of Rands ideas.

    That place I’m telling you about is called “Objectivist Living”, in case you’d like to fact-check what I’m telling you. http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php

    Anyway, I’d be curious to know what if or how things I’ve shared with you here tonight impact your view of Objectivism in general. I realize there’s nothing I can say to make you appreciate her writing style, but that’s a different topic…

    Kacy Ray | Mar 4, 2013 | Reply

  28. Sorry that your comment sat in moderation for a few days before I saw it. When there’s more than one link in a comment it goes into a moderation queue – that’s a spam fighting measure.

    Thanks for the clip – that was interesting. But she’s redefining altruism and using the word differently than most of us. In a libertarian society charity would have to take the place of many government programs, and while she pays some lip service to it here, in most of her writings (the ones I’ve read, which isn’t all of them by a long shot) she seems to despise charity.

    My opinion of objectivists is hardly scientific – it’s simply based on the ones I’ve known. I’m glad to see there are some happy objectivists out there. Objectivists and libertarians have a great deal in common. Too bad Ayn despised libertarians. But then, she despised just about everyone.

    Likewise, my opinion that libertarians tend to be happier is also an unscientific opinion based on libs I know and have known. And my personal sample sizes don’t match; I know far more libertarians than objectivists.

    As for her writing style, I find it cumbersome and repetitive. But debating taste or style is a waste of time. To those who like her writing, more power to them.

    Dave Hitt | Mar 5, 2013 | Reply

  29. @Peter

    ‘Too bad you never learned the definition of socialism. State owned means of production’

    That isn’t the definition of Socialism. There are, just for instance, various flavours of syndicalism that would oppose State ownership or control.

    Best not to lecture other people in such a patronising way when you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    David Jones | Dec 1, 2013 | Reply

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