I’ve been watching, and occasionally kibitzing on, the misogyny on various atheism blogs and then watched the misogyny get carried over into the atheism plus discussion, which gets its own flak. It seems that some people, self-described atheist or not, self-described skeptic or not, sure get their panties in a wad when they don’t get their way and the external validation they evidently desperately need. (BTW, I post on the freethought blogs as hexidecima since for some weird reason some of the blogs won’t accept my wordpress credentials). What I’m writing now is based on 10,000 foot view of what the situation seems like to me, not one in the trenches. I may be wrong on exactly how things started but where things have ended up is pretty clear. And when it comes to seeing a hero of mine dissed and dissed carelessly, I do love to get my teeth into the issue.
First, we had some atheists getting in a snit over someone being called on their various bad behaviors and the request for policies standing against sexual harassment at real world events (this post seems to be a good rundown on how things started). You know, in the 21st century, I’d think we’d at least be having more of a clue on how to treat people, even if we still don’t have personal jet packs. If someone doesn’t like you, or does not want your attentions, and tells you to stop, that’s what you do. You don’t whine that the person has no right to tell you want to do or no right to complain; you admit you are wrong and learn from it. Maybe next time, you’ll act like a human being and not have such trouble getting positive attention that you must revel in the negative. I got enough of this crap in the gaming and historical recreation communities.
Then, Jen McCraight said that she thought it would be a great idea if atheists could declare themselves as atheist “plus” something more aka “atheism +”. Dana over at Es Tequila Es Verdad has a decent list of more about the whole thing (and also has about my geology post, yay). I’m an atheist quite vociferously and I am other things, so I thought that this was a good idea since I support women’s rights, LGBT(and whatever other letters there are to be added since I’ve lost track) issues, equality, etc. But since I preferred to debate theists more, I just nodded my head and watched. And was rather amazed at the results. I shouldn’t have been. Humans <sigh>.
Of course, telling people that they are wrong does get them angry and especially if this fact threatens their perceived ownership of a “cause”. It’s like a bunch of college freshmen who have suddenly decided that the first “philosophy” they’ve read that wasn’t religious simply *must* be right. They now have the keys to the universe and are above anything like courtesy, empathy or sympathy. Certainly no one could tell them they are wrong, because since they’re certain this is the “right way”, they must be right about *everything*. They stop at that one realization and dig in their heels about everything they also think is true. Any other possible interpretation, other than the one *they* have decided on, is WRONG! Theists are the usual poster child for such behavior, but we tend to forget that we’re all human. I certainly hate to be told I’m wrong, so I do all I can to make sure I’m right by finding out about things, paying attention to that very human empathy. That’s worked well for a number of years now, so I’d recommend it. Prevents a whole lot of misery.
It’s come down to where I get to see posts like “the dissenting views toward atheism + aren’t unreasonable”. Oh really? If this was phrased “the dissenting views toward atheism aren’t unreasonable”, I’d just have to laugh and then require the reason and fact that supports the “dissent”. And wait and wait and wait so more. So, given equal consideration, what is the opposite, the dissenting views that would be placed against atheism + e.g. the idea that atheism + means that one is concerned with atheism AND equality, etc? Well, let’s see. If you don’t like atheism plus, and think that you are against it, that would mean what? That you are against the +, not the atheism, right? Because I think I’m safe in assuming that we do all agree that there are no gods. So, instead of being for equality, you have decided that you are for inequality; instead of being for the respectful treatment of humans, you are against it. I’ve seen some try to claim it’s not this simple, but I think it is. Eleanor Roosevelt said “What you don’t do can be a destructive force.”
I don’t see that there is a neutral point in this debate, and here’s why. There is atheism, an idea that is supported by facts and the lack of facts for the other side. That, everyone agrees on. It’s a position, not a movement since there is no change required. We also have “atheist anti-religion”, “atheist accommodation”, and I’m sure a bazillion other variants on atheist and what they want change in. Then there is “atheism plus” which is something different than those, but still wanting change and they all are movements. You could call it “atheism plaid” for all I care. Note the “plus”, right here in letters or symbol format. So, by handy convention, it obviously does not mean “atheism”. So we are left with those who do not like and who attack “atheism plus” as only attacking the “plus”; they want atheism plus to go away, they want *that* movement. For want of a better name, it seems that this is “atheism minus”, minus the concern for other humans and for, well, whatever that type of atheist wants. That certainly does come through in the various posts directed towards those who support atheism plus. No one put those words in the mouths or fingers of those who posted such things. They chose to do so. Any claims that their targets “deserved” any of their reactions is just transparent attempts to remove the responsibility from themselves.
Rather than saying “I disagree and I find I only support “atheism anti-religion”(or whatever flavor). Goodbye.”, they *chose* to call women vile names, wish violent attacks on anyone who disagreed, make up lies about various people, etc. Nothing so much confirms that such a division in the atheosphere was needed as their actions. They *are* correct in one thing that was mentioned early on, atheism has nothing to do with feminism, or equality or fairness. But, if there is a choice to be made, then I sure want to be an atheist who does have a lot to do with such things as those who would be an “atheist plus”. I do not want my atheism to be seen as a reason for why I have decided *not* to support such things. Despite being a dyed in the wool misanthrope with romantic tendencies(humans are largely annoying, humanity has great promise), or perhaps because of this, I find that atheism compliments a concern for humanity quite well, since it is religion, based on very human feelings of greed and fear, that opposes such things. Atheism, at its root, assumes we are alone except for each other.
But this fact doesn’t mean we have to accept humans, even fellow atheists, with no question. I have seen some people claim that all opinions should be blindly accepted as equal by atheists, that “free and open thought” is some sacred cow to be beloved no matter how wrong that thought might be, and that is *ridiculous*. Yep, people have the right to say whatever diarrheic dribble that their brains may produce. They can rail to the skies, but that never guarantees them that they will never be countered. Sometimes people *are* wrong, and no invoking of the sanctity of “personal opinion” will hide the fact that some opinions are wrong, are harmful and selfish, and should be stood against with all possible vigor. The claim that no one can call out an opinion or an action, reeks as much as the creationists who claim that their opinions must be heard too, “teach the controversy”. I don’t buy that nonsense, that every opinion is somehow magically equal. I have no reason to cease being skeptical that there is any acceptable time to accept a threat of rape as being okay. I can use my reason to say it never is, and no we don’t have a right to act like lazy selfish assholes if we feel like it. That’s just cheap nihilism.
It is unfortunate that those who have used the vitriol I’ve seen haven’t the decency to feel ashamed for what they’ve done and continue to do. But it is not unexpected, not in the least. Once a position is staked out, it’s very hard to retreat from it. Again, no one likes to admit that they are wrong. And it is not to anyone’s shame that they were unable to withstand such scurrilous abuse. That’s human, to be unhappy and hurt when you discover people whom you thought were compatriots, of one degree or another, were not. It hits some harder than others. But, to those who need to take a step back, don’t be afraid that there are no more to take up the fight. Any out there who wish to call names at me are more than welcome to do so. On my most recent look at how things have been out in the ‘sphere, it seems those that are sure that they and only they are the “true atheists” have only limited characters to use which seem awfully poetic to me. I don’t twitter so I do expect more effort if you care to cross swords with me.
As a final bit, I’d like to personally thank the person who posted that atheism plus was doing a “superb Neil Armstrong impersonation” when attacking the concept of atheist +. You, my dear whatever-your-name-is, got me to pay attention more than before. Mr. Armstrong was an excellent human being. He did not seek fame, or fortune for doing his job and the right thing. His actions showed that he cared about being fair and honest. He was brave and considerate. He was a good man, not perfect, but good. Comparing the atheism plus to Armstrong is a lovely compliment. Not that you meant this at all, apparently taking glee in his, and its supposed, death. I don’t agree with atheism plus completely in scope or in action, but as Mark Twain said (paraphrased) “The report of its death is an exaggeration.” And if it has to be a choice between which side to be associated with, well, I know where I want to be. It may be that I’ve read far too much heroic fiction, but I want to be standing with Mr. Armstrong, Mark Twain, Captain American and Captain Kirk when it comes down to it.
Postscript – Oh and to any theists who are watching this kerfuffle with self-satisfaction, I’ll have to say “dudes, atheists don’t have anything on you guys for vicious internecine warfare. And yours has been over whose version of your imaginary friend is the best.” I’m still more than happy to be rid of your particular excuse to harm other human beings.
Update: just found the comments that Richard Dawkins wrote about what he thinks about sexual harassment concerns at cons of various types. He has made himself seem to be nothing more than one more bit of evidence that atheism doesn’t mean you have a clue beyond accepting the lack of evidence for a god. With his attempt to denigrate the concerns of women in first world countries by trying to claim we should have no problems *as long as no one is hacking at our genitals*, he shows he is willfully ignorant about the issue, as willfully ignorant as any creationist might be about evolutionary theory. And this makes me wnat to support atheism + evn more. How sad that Mr. Dawkins uses something as pitiable as a strawman attack in order to excuse his fellows and attempt to ignore the concerns of both women and men. .