It seems that there is a lot of fuss being made in the atheist community regarding an apparent sub-culture known as "Atheism-Plus."  I've noted a few pieces here and there on Atheist Nexus regarding it, though I don't know as any particular consensus has emerged out of A|N on the topic.  I DO know how I feel about it, and a few weeks ago, I shared my point of view on Reason Being's blog, to wit:

My personal evolution to atheism was a long and slow one, probably starting with the first time I read Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land back in the late 60's though 9/11 and finally being emboldened by seeing atheists speak out on a discussion board I participate in. Somewhere in all of that I came to the conclusion that I was an atheist and began to strengthen myself in that position and become more vocal myself.

Long before then, I recognized that the GLBT community was getting the short end of the stick, that the environment was getting mucked up by indiscriminate pollution, that a woman's right to choose should remain solely HERS and not be at the whim of either government or religion. These and a lot of other issues were on my mind and I had arrived at what I think of as positive positions on them decades before my attitude toward atheism resolved itself. ALL of those positions were the result of my observations on how things were happening in the world and my own rational processing and analysis of them.

For what I understand, atheism-plus wants these issues and others to be bound together into a supposedly necessary superset of atheism. To me, this is an artificial and manipulated association of issues. I base that assertion on the fact that those positions came together within me ON THEIR OWN, not because of some supposed relationship between them but because they were all part of my own personal bent and attitude. Indeed, my position on these issues is more a product of my approach to them - rational, thoughtful, and informed - than it has been a product of any one of them, atheism included.

I am an atheist. I am also a supporter of my friends who are gay or Lesbian or bisexual or transgendered.  I support women's rights and am very conscious of environmental and other issues I care about. To me, each of these issues has one thing in common - ME. Otherwise, they have as much in common with each other as a fish does with a bicycle.

I don't associate them with each other ... and I Will NOT Be TOLD that I have to.

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Comment by Loren Miller on February 5, 2013 at 5:19am

Ruth, that statement was made by Sentient Biped, not me.  If you're going to take shots, make sure your scope is aligned.  And for the record, I'm 62.

Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on February 4, 2013 at 11:55pm

Loren, when you say

I had a fast reaction to A+ when one of the first things I read was disparagement of "old white guys".  Which means disparagement of me.

I think you aren't hearing the difference between criticism of particular behavior and criticism of the whole person. Feminist Atheists aren't against old white men, they are against particular behavior toward women which old white men tend to exhibit. Many of us are deeply in love with old white men, along with men of other colors and ages. And we hold them in respect until they say things which tear us down (often without malicious intent or even realizing that they are doing so).

In fact it's just because we love them and respect them that their mysogeny is so damaging to us. We just need the tearing down to stop. We seek change in behavior. Lots of men find this demand, for more just considerate treatment emotionally equivalent to an attack on their person. We realize that change isn't easy. It's human to resist noticing that ones behavior is hurtful. Nevertheless, we need to be treated with respect and it's our right.

Comment by SteveInCO on February 4, 2013 at 11:40pm

Indeed Harris is good on many things; He is at his best when whaling the tar out of religion.  (Letter to a Christian Nation is a gem; never have I seen an absolute spanking more politely administered.  And the politeness might just cause *someone* in the intended audience to read it and *think* about it.)

I based my synopsis of his point on my memory of a video of a talk he gave at some conference or other in 2007; I certainly couldn't literally quote him on that basis.  If I recall correctly, he went on to urge that we stop using the word, but since I had just got through saying the opposite, I felt no need to comment on *that* bit of it but rather the part I could somewhat sympathize with... if only to point out that it was fallacious/irrelevant.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on February 4, 2013 at 11:29pm

Fair enough.

I like Harris. Disagree on this issue. I dont know if that quote captures his objection but it is equally strong as a defense of the word atheism.

Comment by SteveInCO on February 4, 2013 at 11:12pm

Steve, I reacted to what you said, "the organizers of the atheist party would be better off dropping atheist from their name since most people still have a very negative image of atheists." Using the label atheist or not is an issue broached here by Loren (if I recall accurately) among others. Sam Harris agrees with you. For the reasons already given I think it is a mistake to change or avoid the word.

Ah, I see.  But I was thinking of a different angle than that when I wrote that sentence.

Basically the "Atheist Party" is really just a bunch of progressives verging on socialists; the atheism is quite tangential when you read their platform, most of the planks to which don't logically follow from or precede atheism (another instance of the thinking we are calling out here on this thread).  So atheism is not a primary to them, but they named their party the Atheist Party! It seems to me if they want to attract as manyu like minded progressive/left people (the more such people they find, the more effective the party will be), they should call themselves by some name that indicates where they lie on the political spectrum rather than using the word "Atheist." It simply alienates many of the folks who would otherwise sympathize, for no added value. Rightly or wrongly, but it does.  If you want to advocate for certain issues, don't bring in irrelevancies that give people who'd otherwise be sympathetic a reason to disagree with you.

It would be like the Republican party renaming itself the Ford Truck party, yet keeping its platform.  All they'd accomplish is to piss off the people driving Chevy trucks.

Now by contrast, a group whose primary goals are expressly atheist should not hesitate to wear the "A-word" proudly.  If I gave you reason to think I believed otherwise, then I apologize for lack of clarity. 

(Not that Sam Harris doesn't make an interesting point when he says it's a bit crazy to organize around something we are not, but unfortunately it's not that silly: we need to do so to defend against people who hate us precisely because of what we aren't.  We need to work towards a future where it will be just as odd to be in an atheist group as it is to be in a non-stamp-collector group.  And NO, a coin club is not a "non stamp collector group!")

Comment by Steph S. on February 4, 2013 at 10:29pm

I enjoy reading your thinking regarding Atheism Plus - you get us to think critically. Thanks.

Comment by Loren Miller on February 4, 2013 at 10:01pm

Frankly, I'm not following A+ at all, nor do I have any inclination to do so.  As I stated in my post above, I have no association between my atheism and any of the ancillary causes which Atheism-Plus seems to thing are necessary to its structure.  If my post was triggered by anything, it may have been by something I saw here (though I don't remember what, precisely), plus an interest in restating an opinion I initially registered on Reason Being's site.

I also want to restate my own evolution as regards this business, particularly in that The LAST Element to Enter My Equation Was ATHEISM.  With that said, how is it that atheism should be essential to or necessarily associated with women's rights or gay rights or environmental awareness?  I remain insistent that the conjoining of all these separate issues into a combined front is ARTIFICIAL.  I am not in favor of it, nor will I participate or promote it.  Ultimately, I see Atheism-Plus as being divisive and a distraction from the Church v State issues which should be the focus of any atheism-based movement.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on February 4, 2013 at 9:56pm

Steve, I reacted to what you said, "the organizers of the atheist party would be better off dropping atheist from their name since most people still have a very negative image of atheists." Using the label atheist or not is an issue broached here by Loren (if I recall accurately) among others. Sam Harris agrees with you. For the reasons already given I think it is a mistake to change or avoid the word.

Critical thinking results in atheism (philosophically it can be argued atheism or agnosticism).It also results in rejection of religious stances imposing discrimination against women and gays. I agree that your rejection of discrimination against gays and women is not a consequence of atheism. It is no great feat of ratiocination to reject religious bigotry. In fact I argue that critical thinking will invariably lead to this result. Just as it results in atheism.

For new apostates the presence or absence of god may be the paramount issue in their world view. Once acceptance of the unknown and or the godless universe is given the question becomes how do we improve civilization. And if an atheist group can make the association between atheism and "progressivism" more power to them. 

Incidentally there is a strong correlation between atheism and the absence of bigotry. Also between religiosity and bigotry. Atheists who question god also question the "teachings" of relgion. And finding it wanting abandon it. Theists are "taught" to accept the "teachings" of religion. The greater their religious conviction the greater their bigotry. 

Comment by SteveInCO on February 4, 2013 at 9:05pm

And I strongly disagree with steve re the word atheism. Belt it out to show your opposition to the ugliness of religion. For those who consider it divisive or offensive to believers, I say fuck em, believers did not cringe when burning heretics and a million other ineffable offenses.

I am scratching my head on this one.  Where did I say this?

Ah, I see.  I didn't say this, but I didn't say the opposite either.  I committed an error of omission.  I listed two things I think atheists groups can rightfully do without pissing off some atheists, and clean forgot the third.  Of course an atheist group should bitch like hell about the evils religion causes, in addition to handling church state issues and trying to increase understanding and acceptance of atheism in society--it's the flip side of the same coin.

But I do know that those issues you cite have something of greater significance than your  stance.  And that is they are wrongly decided by tea bagging right wing pieces of human garbage and have their origins in religion.

I am assuming here in this paragraph (which preceded the one I replied to) you are addressing things that Loren Miller said, not me.

I tend to agree that people should not be treated as subhuman simply because they have different plumbing or do different things with their plumbing than I and my GF do with ours.  That is (at best) judging them by nonessentials. 

But do I think this as a consequence of my atheism?  Nope.

But that doesn't correlate with atheism; not all bigots are bigots because they think god told them to be, and not all godbotherers are bigoted assholes (at least not in this regard--they'll generally go after atheists).  And honestly I see no reason to conflate other issues with atheism.  Or conversely to assume that these sorts of bigots are such because they are religious.  Your statement, I think, is probably an unfair generalization--in fact I know that it is running the other direction, as I know a number of tea partiers who don't have a bigoted bone in their body.

Comment by Loren Miller on February 4, 2013 at 7:59pm

@Napoleon - EXCELLENT quote, guy, an absolute keeper!

@Pat - Your piece was one among a couple which I saw.  Pretty obviously, I agree with you that Atheism-Plus is NOT something I want to associate myself with, certainly not when they want to make mandatory something which, while I agree with most of their positions, I do NOT agree with that "mandatory" aspect.

I just hope that what I hope is nothing more than a fad can fade into the background so that we can focus on more important issues.



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