Atheism Plus is not Good for Atheism

Apluslogo3What is Atheism Plus? I have copy & pasted this information directly from the FAQ page of the Atheism Plus website below:

Atheism Plus is a term used to designate spaces, persons, and groups dedicated to promoting social justice and countering misogyny, racism, homo/bi/transphobia, ableism and other such bigotry inside and outside of the atheist community. The idea for the name came from a comment on a blog entry by Jen McCreight wherein she discussed the need for a new wave of atheism. Jen introduced a number of logos for the project shortly thereafter. Although it was only recently given a name, Atheism Plus has been percolating for a while. (http://atheismplus.com/faq.php Last accessed: August 26, 2013)

I highly suggest anyone reading this post read through the FAQ thoroughly so as not to misinterpret my views on the organization.

So, as the title of this article suggests, I am no supporter of Atheism Plus. Although I do support many of the social justice aspects that Atheism Plus also supports, such as gender, marriage and racial equality, I do not support the linking of social justice to Atheism. The FAQ page clearly states that Atheism Plus does not represent the official stance of atheism or atheists, but I strongly disagree with any organization who promotes any agenda from a partisan viewpoint.

I do not support Atheism Plus because:

1) Atheism is not a group of people or a collective. It is not an ideology. Atheism and atheist are simply terms that define a person who does not believe in god or gods. Many view atheism through the eyes of a religious context. As if one must be confirmed or proclaim themselves an atheist to be one. Whether someone wants to associate themselves with ‘atheism’ or not, if they do not believe in a god or gods, they are an atheist. If someone is born, never taught what a god or gods are, never hears or learns of the concept of god, and never comes up with the concept of god, they are by default, an atheist. There is no further qualification for atheism. No introspection into one’s belief, no fact gathering or any thought of whether to be an atheist or not is required, although many atheists do engage in such things which ultimately have lead to their becoming an atheist. Atheism and atheist are merely semantic designators.

As a result, I do not believe that atheists should congregate under a banner of atheism. Aside from our non-belief in god or gods, we share many different beliefs about epistemology, ethics and general life principles. We can agree with each other and disagree. Other than Atheism, I do not believe it is beneficial to unite for a common cause under the banner of atheism. Many atheists believe in evolution, and we congregate to promote evolution. We do not do this a atheists promoting evolution. We do it as evolutionists promoting evolution.

So, although it might seem like a good idea for atheists to come together to promote social justice, it is not. One might say, “Well isn’t better since we’re all atheists and we all believe in marriage/gender/racial equality, we should come together as a united front?” The answer is “no, it is not.” It actually limits our ability to promote social justice. By flying the flag of atheism while we fight for social justice, we alienate those who do not wish to be a part of a partisan group but also wish to promote social justice. Any christian, for example, who wishes to promote marriage/gender/racial equality (they are out there) will feel an immediate hostility (be it perceived or real) if he shows up to a rally that is dominated by ‘Atheist Social Justice’ protesters.

2) By becoming a partisan group of “Atheists for Social Justice” we take away from the actual matter at hand. We make gender/marriage/racial equality an ‘atheist’ cause (or at the very least, we make it appear as such) and this detracts from the cause itself. We, in effect, usurp the cause and threaten to undermine it. Atheism, in itself, has nothing to do with a gay man being able to marry. If we support this cause, we should do so because we believe this man has the right to marry his love and not fly the banner of atheism while we do it.

For those two main reasons, I do not support Atheism Plus, though I do support many of the social justice causes it supports. I do not support social justice as an atheist. I support it as a human being who cares for the rights and freedoms of others regardless of my partisan beliefs.


23 responses to “Atheism Plus is not Good for Atheism

  • john zande

    Good post, and i tend to agree. The only thing atheism should be connected to secularism.

  • Bruce Scott (@skipbidder)

    Thanks. This is an important topic. I think your view is pretty spot on. We hurt ourselves in multiple areas if we push Atheism+

    We have allies in regards to Church/State separation issues (and other clearly “atheist” concerns). Some of these allies won’t share our other political views. I still want to work with these allies. If they are “wrong” on social justice issues, then we call them out on those specific issues. Not because of what we think they ought to believe or how they should behave as *atheists*, but rather as how they should act as decent human beings. Some of our allies in terms of Church/State separation are religious. We should welcome that support as well.

    We have allies in regards to social justice issues. Many of these allies don’t share our lack of religious beliefs. I still want to work with these allies. In many cases, they are leading. Some of them believe that they are doing their work BECAUSE of their religious beliefs. I’d like to think that most of these folks are doing their work because they are good people (and that they are so in spite of their religious beliefs and not because of them). However, this difference on religious matters shouldn’t prevent me from working with them on the things we agree on.

    Personally, I don’t consider myself to have generally liberal social justice views BECAUSE I’m an atheist. I consider that I have generally liberal social justice views AND I’m an atheist.

  • Alan Dempsey

    Well said. Thanks for the comment.

  • Notung

    Good points, but I do think that A+ didn’t really get off the ground. Sure, the corpse is twitching a little, but really it’s a small group of rather odd people who seem happy to confine themselves to their forum. Most ‘big names’ who supported it (including its founder) haven’t really kept it up in recent months, and the concept seems to have gone the way of the term ‘brights’.

    Here’s a post I wrote about a day after A+ was first conceived: http://www.skepticink.com/notung/2012/11/21/atheism-plus-im-sceptical-repost/

  • Alan Dempsey

    Excellent post! WIsh I had found this before I wrote mine.

  • Arkenaten

    On the other hand if we built churches we could get tax exemption, yes? ;)

  • Why No Social Justice? » A Million Gods

    […] Here we see a defence of why social justice should not be a part of atheism at least in the guise of…. […]

  • Raging Bee

    When we attach anything but our non belief in gods t atheism it makes it very difficult to actually promote the atheist cause.

    Actual events prove you wrong. Some of the most effective promotion of the atheist cause comes from exposing the evils done by religious people and institutions, and showing how morality based on non-belief is just plain better for everyone than morality based on irrationality and faith.

    You know what really makes it difficult to promote atheism? People like you who throw a tantrum whenever we try to make atheism relevant and beneficial to other people in real life. People like you who actively reinforce negative stereotypes of atheists as uncaring, selfish and amoral.

    That’s when creationists start firing off things like “Atheists believe evolution and have think morals come from this or that.”

    Creationists lie and bullshit no matter what anyone else says.

    My partisan beliefs about cosmology have nothing to do with racial/gender/marriage equality.

    You have partisan beliefs about cosmology? That might at least partially explain why your arguments are so incoherent.

    • Alan Dempsey

      None of that makes any sense.

    • Alan Dempsey

      “Actual events prove you wrong. Some of the most effective promotion of the atheist cause comes from exposing the evils done by religious people and institutions, and showing how morality based on non-belief is just plain better for everyone than morality based on irrationality and faith.”

      Atheism doesnt make any claim about morality. Being an atheist, or atheism doesn’t make us more moral. That’s silly. There are many immoral atheists and many moral theists. This is babble.

      “You have partisan beliefs about cosmology? That might at least partially explain why your arguments are so incoherent.”

      Yes, I’m an atheist. That is a partisan belief about cosmology. I have no belief in gods, which lumps me into a group of people who don’t believe in gods as well. It doesn’t lump me into a moral philosophy, an epistemological one or any other principle other than having no belief in god.

  • Raging Bee

    Atheism doesnt make any claim about morality.

    Yes, it does – it states that irrational and unverifiable supernatural beliefs are not a sound basis for morality; and that we’re better off using reason and rational inquiry to help us figure out what actions should be rewarded and which discouraged. That is, after all, how we figured out that dark-skinned people aren’t really inferior, women aren’t inherently more stupid or emotional than men, and homosexuality isn’t nearly as scary or harmful as religious people said it was.

    Once you accept that supernatural beliefs are false and groundless, that leads, inevitably, to the conclusion that whatever moral code you have cannot be based on a false and groundless belief.

    Yes, I’m an atheist. That is a partisan belief about cosmology.

    There’s nothing at all “partisan” about not letting your cosmology be influenced by groundless supernatural beliefs. That’s not a “partisan belief about cosmollogy,” that’s just cosmology.

  • Raging Bee

    PS: You really gotta deal with this flickering-comment-box problem here. Scroll-bars in text-entry fields aren’t exactly an untested innovation, you know.

  • Alan Dempsey

    No, atheism does not make these claims! Atheism is nothing more than a non-belief in god. Not believing in god can lead you to these conclusions by using the atheist model with logical reasoning. But Atheism itself has none of these things attached to it.

    “Once you accept that supernatural beliefs are false and groundless, that leads, inevitably, to the conclusion that whatever moral code you have cannot be based on a false and groundless belief.”

    This is only true if you choose to apply this type of logic to your belief. An atheist who does not found his moral code by logical reasoning will not come to this just because they are an atheist. One can decide not to believe in god but still base their moral code on the ten commandments. Or even further, an atheist can choose to have no moral code whatsoever. You are confusing atheism as a rejection of religious doctrine, rather than a non-belief in the supernatural.

    I will only say this one more time. Atheism is the non-belief in a god or gods. It doesnt have an inherent ethical code or an epistemology. It makes no claims about the origin of the universe or how a person should live their life ethically. NON-BELIEF IN GOD OR GODS! That is all. If you want to build an ethical code around your atheism, you are free to do so, but Atheism itself does not carry with any ethical or moral implications.

  • Raging Bee

    Atheism is nothing more than a non-belief in god.

    And non-belief leads to certain conslusions, just as belief in Jesus or Buddha does. And besides, non-belief in gods isn’t just an opinion in a vacuum; it’s a result of some sort of thought process, and it influences other thought processes. So it’s false and kinda dishonest to say atheism is “nothing more” than a single opinion on a single subject.

    It doesnt have an inherent ethical code or an epistemology.

    Yes, but we all have to have ethical codes and epistemologies; and once we accept that such things cannot be based on supernatural beliefs, we have to find some other basis for them. So to that extent at least, yes, atheism does indeed amke some implicit claims about ethics. If you become an atheist because you trust your knowledge and reason more than some ancient fairy-tales (a major reason for many people becoming atheist), then that leads to teh conclusion that you have to use the same faculties to decide how to behave.

    If you want to build an ethical code around your atheism, you are free to do so, but Atheism itself does not carry with any ethical or moral implications.

    There are plenty of people whose experiences and thinking are very different from yours. Why is your version of atheism more “valid” than anyone else’s?

    • Alan Dempsey

      “Why is your version of atheism more “valid” than anyone else’s?”

      Because I dont have a version of atheism. There are no versions of atheism. It’s no wonder you defend A+, like them you mistake atheism for some kind of doctrine.

      Atheism is just a term, a semantic designator. Non-belief in god or gods. Not necessarily the disbelief of the supernatural. You can be an athiest but believe that a unicorn farting created the universe and base your morality on coin tosses.

      You can be an atheist without using any kind of thought. Read my article. If you grow on a deserted island and never learn about god, never know what a god is, you are by default, an atheist. Whether you thought about it or not, makes no difference. You dont need to become an atheist. When I was born, I didn’t choose to become an atheist. I was, by default, born that way. It wasn’t until someone told me a god existed that I had to think about it.

      If the concept of god disappeared from the world tomorrow, there would no such thing as atheism, but, by definition, we would be atheists.

      “And non-belief leads to certain conslusions, just as belief in Jesus or Buddha does.”

      It only leads to these conclusions if apply that line of reasoning to it. Atheism itself doesn’t carry those conclusions with it. It is NOT like Jesus or a Buddha, these guys both made claims about ethics and epistemology. Atheism does not do this. Atheism can’t DO anything. It’s just a term that labels people who do not believe in gods or god.

      Atheism. A (alpha privative, negates the term it stands in front of) + theism (the belief in god or gods).

  • Raging Bee

    Because I dont have a version of atheism. There are no versions of atheism.

    You sound like a fundamentalist saying there are “no versions” of christianity. And the fact is, people become atheists for different reasons. (You should be grateful your reasons didn’t involve first-hand life experiences of unreason and religious madness in action.)

    You can be an atheist without using any kind of thought. Read my article. If you grow on a deserted island and never learn about god, never know what a god is, you are by default, an atheist. Whether you thought about it or not, makes no difference. You dont need to become an atheist. When I was born, I didn’t choose to become an atheist. I was, by default, born that way. It wasn’t until someone told me a god existed that I had to think about it.

    That has nothing to do with how most people in the real world become atheists; so it doesn’t support any of your claims about atheism in the real world.

    Atheism does not do this. Atheism can’t DO anything.

    Belief and non-belief do indeed do things: they guide reasoning and influence conclusions. If you hear a theist say “We should all do [X] because my God said so,” and you reject that claim because you don’t believe in any gods, that’s atheism making a moral claim (or at least a counter-claim).

  • Alan Dempsey

    I’m not the one who sounds like a fundamentalist. That fact you even equate me as such by saying that proves to me it is you who believes in some kind of denominational atheism.

    The reasons you become an atheist have NOTHING to do with atheism itself.

    “If you hear a theist say “We should all do [X] because my God said so,” and you reject that claim because you don’t believe in any gods, that’s atheism making a moral claim (or at least a counter-claim).”

    Rejecting the claim of god doesn’t mean that you are against doing whatever the person said. heres another made up quote “I think we should do [x] because god said so” “Well I dont believe in god, but doing [x] sure sounds like a good idea anyway”

    God said thou shalt not kill, well I’m an atheist and I reject god, therefore I reject his claim. I’m going to go kill people, now.

    You have no comprehension of what atheism actually is. You must have come from a religious background because you view atheism with a religious mentality.

  • Raging Bee

    The reasons you become an atheist have NOTHING to do with atheism itself.

    Bullshit. Atheism isn’t a physical object, it’s a thought, which results from other thoughts. The reasoning that leads to becoming an atheist, also leads to other conclusions, as does the conclusion of atheism itself.

    Rejecting the claim of god doesn’t mean that you are against doing whatever the person said.

    I didn’t say that; I said it meant you rejected the theist’s claim.

    You have no comprehension of what atheism actually is.

    You know who else says shit like that? Religious bigots trying to pretend they know more about atheists than the atheists themselves. And you’re wrong for the same reason they are: neither of you have any idea what I know. How can you say I don’t comprehend atheism, when I’ve been talking and listening to atheists off and on since I was twelve?

    PS: Please quit blaming others for this blog’s technical glitches — this is the ONLY WordPress blog I’ve ever seen with this problem, so you really can’t put this on anyone else but you. Have you tried changing layouts?

  • Alan Dempsey

    “Bullshit. Atheism isn’t a physical object, it’s a thought, which results from other thoughts.”

    No. It is a term. A designator.

    “You know who else says shit like that? Religious bigots trying to pretend they know more about atheists than the atheists themselves.”

    WTF? First of all, this is a logical fallacy. Second, there’s nothing more to know about atheism than non belief in god or gods.

    “How can you say I don’t comprehend atheism, when I’ve been talking and listening to atheists off and on since I was twelve?”

    Good for you. This proves nothing.

  • Alan Dempsey

    “Rejecting the claim of god doesn’t mean that you are against doing whatever the person said.”

    “I didn’t say that; I said it meant you rejected the theist’s claim.”

    reject the theist’s claim, go against doing what the person said. The theist claimed they should do something because god said so. reject the claim!

    It’s the same thing!

  • Raging Bee

    No. It is a term. A designator.

    Yes, a designator for a certain set of thoughts.

    It’s the same thing!

    No, relecting the validity of a claim is not the same as rejecting an action based on the claim.

    You really seem to be having trouble with basic logic here. You’re really not doing the “A-” cause any favors.

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