Atheism Plus is a good thing.

I've come to the conclusion that Atheism+ is a good thing for the skeptosphere but not for the reasons most would think. Lets start by examining their FAQ. I will be referring things outside of the FAQ without linking to them. The reason for this is that the links would be to sites that get ad revenue and I don't want them to get paid for their behavior because too many people don't use ad-blocking software.

By the way, here's a challenge for FreethoughtBlogs and Skepchick. Prove that you are not just stirring up shit to get revenue generating traffic. Put up mirrors with no revenue generating ads.

And now, to the FAQ.

What is Atheism Plus?

Atheism Plus is a term used to designate spaces, persons, and groups dedicated to promoting social justice...

While forests have been felled to justify this term, Hayeks objections to it still apply. How does is it different from normal justice? What does the adjective add? When the positions of the people who use the term are examined, it boils down to «Social justice is what we want—what we want is social justice.»(I'm going to use «» for paraphrases.). It is usually brought up to dismiss actual identifiable injustices perpetrated against actual, identifiable individuals under the policies/programs advocated by users of the term. It's nothing more than a rhetorical trick.

...and countering misogyny, racism, homo/bi/transphobia,...

Another rhetorical trick. Who but the most extreme outliers would claim these motives. By framing themselves as being the ones who are opposed to these things, they give themselves the means to tar anyone who disagrees with them as as a foo-ist or bar-phobe.

...ableism and other such bigotry...

So now even questioning someones ability engage in an activity before one decides to work with someone in said activity is bigotry?

Does A+ represent the official atheist position on social justice?

Again with the Social Justice nonsense.

...There are as many perspectives on social justice, its meaning, its import, the current state of its various aspects, and how best to promote it (if at all) as there are people....

And the writer has just demonstrated the meaninglessness of the term. For a term, be it a word or a phrase, to be useful, it needs a specific, agreed upon meaning — something beyond the mere expression of self flattery.

...All are welcome to start, support, oppose, or ignore groups like Atheism Plus. However, supporters of Atheism Plus are not obligated to provide a forum for their opposition....

True enough, but it rings hollow coming from the people who demanded a forum for their interest group agenda at every skeptical event they might wish to attend, while conspiring to blackball those who had the temerity to disagree with them, see Ed Brayton, Greg Laden, PZ Myers.

What if I don’t want to participate?

Those who choose not to use the Atheism Plus designation are not automatically considered supporters of bigotry....

Really, Richard Carrier, for instance.

...An “us and them” understanding is implicit whenever a group of any kind forms, but the “them” in this case is not monolithic....

But the "us" sure is. The more narrowly you define "us" the broader the "them" becomes. Consequently those who oppose/ignore you is going to be far from monolithic.

...This position should be understood as distinct from the “with us or against us” position endorsed by some early proponents of Atheism Plus–a position which has been rejected by general consensus....

A weak prebuttal attempt. Richard Carrier let the cat out of the bag too early and now they are trying to cover their asses. Is there one person behind A+ who hasn't called someone a "misogynist", "privileged", a "neckbeard", "asshole", rape apologist", "gender traitor" or"douche(bag)" for merely disagreeing with them? Has any one of them explicitly and unambiguously admitted that there are people who disagree with them that aren't bigots? I'm sure this will continue, to be borne out when we see how they moderate their board.

...Anyone who decides to do so may attempt to speak for Atheism Plus, but whether their ideas find any support with the rest of the group is a different matter.)...

Again the truth of this will be shown in moderator actions. There's the rub. It is a moderated forum. Moderators are chosen by someone. If the moderators censor someone before the group (Who is in the group? Is it anyone who chooses to open an account, those who already have proven sufficient orthodoxy or those who have proven sufficient orthodoxy and maintain it?) has had a chance to see and discuss them, it isn't the ideas failing to find support. It's the leadership throwing dissent down the memory hole.

What if I think this is a bad idea?

...Those who oppose the goals of Atheism Plus (eliminating misogyny, racism, homo/bi/transphobia, ableism and other such bigotry inside and outside of the atheist community)...

Employing the framing trick mentioned above.

...are also welcome to their opinions, but repeated interactions with them on blogs, forums, and social media has shown that they tend to derail the conversation....

Aiming a skeptical eye at your assumptions is not derailment.


I'm not going to defend that one, if there are any real threats, but implying threats where none exist is an all too common tactic used by the A+ crowd.


That all depends. "You are a dick", unacceptable, "You exhibit the reasoning skills of a creationist", fine.

...empty mockery,...

Does that include phrases like "What about the menz?"?

Another prediction about moderator behavior, It will be tolerated when directed at those who disagree the A+ positions but not at those who agree with it.

...time-wasting demands for reiterative explanations,...

When your articles of faith are questioned and evidence demanded repeatedly, it usually means that you have failed to make your case. It's time to question your faith.

...uninformed reactionary rhetoric,...

Too nebulous a term. Could be real the real thing or just a catch phrase used to dismiss those who disagree. I'm betting the moderator behavior will prove the later.

...charges of Nazism,...

I assume the charges are a metaphorical term used for intolerance of dissent.  Which has been clearly demonstrated on FreethoughtBlogs.  A pattern which I predict will continue on the A+ fora.

...and castigation for not giving equal time to unrelated or opposing viewpoints are too-common responses by atheists who don’t want these subjects discussed....

Why would someone who wants to weigh in on a subject if the don't want it discussed? Clearly they do want it discussed — fully. They just don't want the discussion limited to an exposition of an orthodox position.

...It is up to the individuals who control the various venues associated with Atheism Plus to decide for themselves how to identify and deal with voices that are unhelpful, disrespectful, disingenuous, or unreasonable.

Fine, your house, your rules. But you are going to be judged on the rules you set. Don't expect to be considered a free thinker if you only allow orthodox opinions to be expressed.

Isn’t this an attempt to redefine atheism?

Atheism Plus does not attempt to conflate atheism with feminism or any other ideology....

This may be their official stated position but the history of the people behind it shows otherwise.

The interesting thing here is that they decry "derailment" after the attempt of feminists to derail larger skeptical groups to their pet causes, that are, at best,  tangential to skepticism, are met with resistance.

Why tack ideologies on to atheism?

...But if there is no supernatural caretaker and no post-death justice, conscious beings concerned with the plight of other conscious beings must take the initiative to promote justice, equality, fairness, empathy, compassion, and understanding in the here-and-now....

There is the self affirming/congratulatory language again. Remember if you are opposed to the A+ agenda you are opposed to justice, equality, fairness, empathy, compassion, and understanding.

Just look at how they respond to people who point out that it is unreasonable to place more effort to oppose FGM, which is rare and condemned by all civilized and most uncivilized people, while MGM is common and widely, casually accepted.

...Additionally, many believe there is a problem with bigotry and a lack of diversity within the atheist community....

There is. But it's not the diversity they mean. How many Republicans are on the panels or invited to give talks? How many Libertarians? How many MRAs?* Or any other groups that have a lot of atheists in their midst? They only want people who think like them to have a voice, but they want them in different colors. If their idea of diversity was applied to cars the world would all be driving different colored Priuses. If it were applied to music, we'd all be listening to a racially/(pan/tran)sexually/abley diverse singer song writers on acoustic guitars earnestly singing about how the corporations are evil, man,...I mean woman, er person of non-specific sex or sexuality.

...By creating a designation for a subset of atheists dedicated to taking action against bigotry...

Again implying that those who oppose them are bigots and that bigotry exist within the skeptsphere. Their only evidence is demographics and the complaints of people trying to get more paid gigs for themselves.

...By clearing spaces for communication, it is hoped that discussions about privilege will help bring to light such hidden attitudes....

Ah, yes. I knew this was coming. The "You can't see it because you are the wrong demographic." argument. Yes, privilege exists. Almost everyone has some privilege at some time or another. Yet shouting "privilege!!" isn't argument or data. Using it as an argument is just a hybrid of the ad-homonym and personal experience fallacies.

...people who are most often the victims of such bigotry. In drawing from their unique experiences, marginalized people can offer insights into privilege that mere philosophizing might never have revealed....

Insights, may be nice to have but you still need to provide evidence, and no, gossip doesn't count.

Doesn’t Humanism cover this stuff?

I never cared for humanism much, so the distinction between A+ and humanism is about as important to me as the difference between the Lutheran World Federation and the International Lutheran Council, so what they wrote here is equally irrelevant to me.

Isn’t this making a religion out of atheism?

The answer here is pretty much a summing up of the preceding with the exception of:

...There is no hierarchy, just a number of people whose words have proven helpful in clarifying the need for such a movement, and whose consistently enlightening contributions have engendered a certain level of trust....

This is clearly false. If for no other reason that hierarchies are pretty much unavoidable. The belief that A+ is non-hierarchal is probably just naiveté on their part. Jen McCreight is presumably the boss. Everything I can find on the site is unsigned, and the domain was registered anonymously, so I can't be sure. Not that this is an indicator of shenanigans, but it does make correct attribution difficult.

After Jen McCreight comes the mods. These are people who are in charge. They are the ones with power that others don't have. They are the one who determine the tone. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, pretending it isn't is.

The only difference that matters is whether a heirarchy is explicit or not. Explicit is better. It gives clear scope to responsibilities and authority of the people involved and consequently accountability. Without such explicitness, people engage in too much sheisty behavior, specifically, claiming that one instance of bad behavior represents the consensus of the group while at the same time claiming that another instance is just an aberrant case.

As a humorous aside, here is a David Mitchell rant on the subject of hierarchies.

Considering the history of the A+ crowd, with it's invective, hyperbole, the use of numerous fallacies, mocking without addressing issues, Mean Girls style attempts at exclusion, polarizing rhetoric, and double standards, it is fair to say that they are not skeptics. This does not mean that they should be kicked out of any "community".

The way to do this is what has being done, calling them on it, every time. People who are correct don't need to resort to their tactics. In open debate, the truth will out, and they will learn or leave, either way — result!.

So basically, if they are unable to face skeptical examination of their beliefs, let them take their ball and go home.  And this is why it is a good thing.  By doing so they are tacitly admitting that their agenda isn't a skeptical one.  Let them go with the Truthers, Cryptozoologists, and victims of alien abduction.  The skeptosphere is better off without them.

I do not recommend trolling their forum unless you are very good at it. Good trolling isn't just stirring up shit, and I don't recommend going there just to do so. Good trolling is baiting people to show their true colors when they are deliberately being obfuscatory. Sadly, this is a skill I lack.

What I do recommend is simply engaging them honestly and forthrightly, calmly, without resorting to their tactics — and documenting everything. Screencap your post before it is edited to mean something other that what you posted or disappears down the memory hole. If they engage in the shenanigans I expect, post the evidence in any forum in which you choose to participate.

Phew!  It turns out that writing is work.  As wrong as the A+, FtB, skepchicks are, I have to hand it to them for getting out as much well written content as they do as fast as they do.

If I can get this read.  I'll start following the A+ fora and post a followup on whether or not my predictions turn out to be correct.

*This is not meant to be an endorsement of any of those listed, nor is this sentence meant to be a condemnation.

1 comment:

  1. Your predictions already match observations I've made on their forum. I've not been explicitly taking data, so that's anecdotal, I suppose.

    Should be pretty easy to find "check your privilege" and whether or not its uses are as ad homs or not.