Atheism+ Defenders are Very Irrational

by idebunkforme

I haven’t blogged much lately, due to work being exhausting. But I still tweet regularly, since that takes very little time and concentration.

On Labor Day, September 4, 2012, I took one PZ Myers to task for a hypocritical stance he had. In a post titled I’m back, PZ says:

It was weird. I kind of expected that at some point the audience would start tapering off or even saying “no,” and they didn’t. They got louder (which was also due to getting warmed up, I’m sure.) Here I was, all prepared to talk about the importance of each of those, and they just rolled over and made it easy for me. In the Q&A, I was later asked, in response to my suggestion that atheist organizations ought to have more prominent special interest groups to pursue specific sub-goals of the movement, if that wouldn’t dilute the focus of the whole organization, which was a reasonable concern, but that was the only reservation I heard. See, weird…from all the pushback we see on the web, you’d think there’d be more objections. I’m pretty sure it’s not my awesome personal charisma that overwhelmed any dissent.

Later in the talk, a similar thing happened. I showed a slide with just this on it:

The audience erupted into applause before I even said anything! I really missed an opportunity — I should have just done an Atheism+ talk and gotten wild accolades. I actually didn’t say a lot about it: I was making the case that the strong response to this idea should be telling every atheist organization something…that there is a huge swell of interest in their potential membership in making social justice issues a much bigger part of the movement.

After reading that, I tweeted to PZ:

#WTF @pzmyers. You take @Thunderf00t to task for using a poll of his readers, then do an informal one of your audience?

PZ replied:

Do you see me making quantitative claims about it? RT @idebunkforme: take @Thunderf00t to task for poll, then do one?


.@pzmyers Pointing out the “See, weird…from all the pushback we see on the web, you’d think there’d be more objections…” in your post.

And me following up:

.@pzmyers Want objections? How about, if there’s no hierarchy/leadership, who decides what “Atheism+” means and who can use it?


.@pzmyers Or, would Atheism+ concern itself with animal rights? To what degree? Could PETA’s level still be Atheism+?

Even more:

.@pzmyers Who gets to decide whether there’s an official Atheism+ event? What if more than 1 track for Atheism+ wants to exist at an event?

And more:

.@pzmyers And, of course, why invoke atheism to social issues? Why can’t Xians be able to help with the social issues you want to improve?

Hitting it back to his court:

.@pzmyers In other words, how do you see Atheism+ as anything other than an emotional kneejerk reaction that is divisive?

PZ’s reply to this:

.@idebunkforme The only knee jerking is yours. You’re practically frantic in your efforts to invent objections.

That’s it? Well, not really. Instead of addressing these objections that PZ pointed out weren’t there during his panel (likely of people who wanted to see him and not stir up the animosity PZ and other Atheism+ supporters show to anyone who dares object to it), he provides a very poor analogy:

I don’t like football so I don’t watch it. Is football divisive? RT @idebunkforme: Not divisive at all?

I corrected his analogy to better fit what Atheism+ advocates do:

.@pzmyers Bad analogy. Better analogy: The new wave of baseball fans must only appreciate the NL rules over the AL rules.

Why do I allude to “Atheism+” being the new wave? To quote Jen McCreight:

It’s time for a new wave of atheism, just like there were different waves of feminism. I’d argue that it’s already happened before. The “first wave” of atheism were the traditional philosophers, freethinkers, and academics. Then came the second wave of “New Atheists” like Dawkins and Hitchens, whose trademark was their unabashed public criticism of religion. Now it’s time for a third wave – a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists. It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime. We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.

This would become Atheism+. So the person who created the name and pushed for others to join her says it’s a new wave of atheism. But it really isn’t. It is secular humanism that puts “atheism” front and center, but in the worst possible way. To get rid of the assholes these people don’t want to associate with, they have become bigger ones themselves.

To continue with PZ’s irrational spree:

Who decides what atheism is about? Who decides what skepticism is about? RT @idebunkforme: Who decides what Atheism+ is about?

Revel in that level of utter inanity. Atheism is a term that has been in use for centuries. Same with skepticism. These are well-defined concepts. Atheism+, though, is an invention, fairly new, that is completely vague about what “social justice” issues it will focus on. I pointed out one giant one in my objections, which were called “bizarre.” See, Wikipedia lists 66 organizations for animal rights and 116 organizations for women’s rights. More than half as many groups looking out for animal rights as women’s rights. That’s major enough to warrant some consideration, one would reckon. And what happens when people want animal rights to be part of Atheism+? As I ask, to what degree should it be Atheism+’s concern?

PZ then shows the divisiveness that so many object to:

Screw attitude. Are you an asshole atheist? RT @idebunkforme: It’s not the views. It’s the attitude.

To PZ, there’s no middle ground. You’re either Atheist+, or you’re an asshole atheist. And he, Christina, McCreight, Carrier and others cannot, or don’t want, to see this.

PZ then replies:

.@idebunkforme Mere disagreement does not make you an asshole.


WRONG. RT @idebunkforme: you disagree with people for their views, and thus they are asshole atheists.

Yet, as I pointed out in this tweet:

.@pzmyers You can have a personal choice. But even you say that you are Atheist+ or you’re an asshole.

Where PZ lays it out exactly that disagreeing makes you an asshole:

If you agree with that, you’re an atheist+. Or a secular humanist. Whatever. You’re someone who cares about the world outside the comforting glow of your computer screen. It really isn’t a movement about exclusion, but about recognizing the impact of the real nature of the universe on human affairs.

And if you don’t agree with any of that — and this is the only ‘divisive’ part — then you’re an asshole. I suggest you form your own label, “Asshole Atheists” and own it, proudly. I promise not to resent it or cry about joining it.

I just had a thought: maybe the anti-atheist+ people are sad because they don’t have a cool logo. So I made one for the asshole atheists. A*

And he doubles down:

If you disagree with that quote, you’re an asshole. RT @idebunkforme: .your own post: The last three paragraphs.

The full quote?

And what should those goals be? Because I’m an atheist and share common cause with every other human being on the planet in desiring to live my one life with equal opportunity, I suggest that atheists ought to fight for equality for all, economic security for all, and universally available health and education services. Peace is the only answer; extinguishing a precious human life ought to be unthinkable in all but the most dire situations of self-defense. Ours should be a movement that welcomes all sexes, races, ages, and abilities and encourages an appreciation of human richness. Atheism ought to be a progressive social movement in addition to being a philosophical and scientific position, because living in a godless universe means something to humanity.

And I disagree. Atheism is not a worldview, a social movement, a scientific position, nothing. It is, and will continue to be, a stance of skepticism on only one thing: claims of the existence of deities. By PZ’s logic, that therefore makes me an asshole.

One can be an atheist and support all those positions. But what Atheism+ wants to do is pull atheism into being much more than atheism, rather than calling for atheists to support social justice issues. THAT I would support. But I would also call for religious persons to do that. Agnostics. As many people as possible. Believe it or not, there are Christians who fully support most, if not all, social justice issues, and they can still believe in a deity.

The irrationality, of course, never stopped:

.@idebunkforme If you don’t like it, fuck off. You don’t get to tell people what they are allowed to believe “under the banner of atheism”

That was in reply to my tweet:

.@pzmyers Which comes back to, who decides what the banner of “Atheism+” stands for?

Notice that? I asked “who decides what the banner of Atheism+ stands for?” and PZ replied that I’m trying to tell what people are allowed to believe “under the banner of atheism.” Apparently, one can invent what someone else says in order to defeat that argument, for PZ.

We have more.

After that, PZ not only blocked the @idebunkforme account, but also my personal account which had been following him, but was not tweeting him this day. He’s free to do so. But when he states that he was surprised there was no objections to Atheism+, then goes completely irrational when someone brings him valid objections, it shows why people in person don’t bother. Because being at the end of someone so unable to rationalize his position and can’t defend it to the point he attacks the person rather than the argument, what will happen with a room of people who follow him?

Then, there’s Greta Christina’s weird rebuttal to my post from a week ago:

“Greta Christina argues that Atheism+ is a better term to use than humanism because “atheist” and “atheism” are better known terms and invoke more energy in supporters. This is not a great defense for why people should be labeled one thing instead of another.”

No, no, no, no, no. I said nothing of the kind. That is a serious misrepresentation of my views. I said that Atheism+ and humanism were *different* terms, with overlapping but different meanings and implications, and that it was reasonable for people to identify primarily as one or the other depending on which term they found more inspiring, and which term most accurately reflects who they are. Please do not misrepresent my views so grossly again. Thank you.

So, I responded:

And then there’s the matter of public perception, and public understanding. The word “atheism” is clear. It’s confrontational largely because it is so clear. People know what atheism means. They have myths and misconceptions about its implications — but they basically understand that it means “person who doesn’t believe in any gods.”

The word “humanism” isn’t nearly as well-understood. Lots of people don’t even know what it means.

Sounds like you’re arguing that atheism is more known to those outside of the areas where these terms are used?


The reality is that people — especially young people — have been rallying under the banner of “atheism,” in a way that they simply haven’t been under the banner of “humanism.” Atheism is getting lots of people excited, invigorated, mobilized, and motivated to take action. Humanism has been doing this, too — but not nearly as much.

So, could you please explain how your quoted text of mine “grossly” misrepresented your views? I don’t see how I have.

She never replied.

What on earth is it with this “new wave of atheism” that makes them so unable to defend what it should be, what it is, and how it works? Why is it that they are using it to do exactly what many of us object to: getting rid of undesirables.

If they can’t recall, atheists for most countries are the “undesirables.” The New Atheists pushed for better education of what atheism is, who they are, and why atheists reject the notion of deities. That atheists can do good. That atheists are charitable, compassionate, educated and more.

Atheism+ is a 180-turn from that. It’s all about secluding people into a group who think alike and don’t want to associate with anyone they don’t like based on views, ideals, etc. It takes what secular humanism is, and turns it into a vicious, divisive “us-versus-them” clique pretending it’s atheism, and the new wave of atheism to boot.

And if you don’t agree, not only are you an asshole, but you’re against what they stand for.

So, to add a good measure onto PZ’s perceived “win,” he included a passive-aggressive, one-sided post about what happened on Labor Day. He states that he removed the pseudonyms to “protect the stupid,” while crapping out these idiotic screeds:

Like, umm, the word “atheist”? There is a straightforward dictionary definition of that word, of course, but one thing you quickly discover if you actually interact with a lot of atheists is that the meaning in practice varies a lot. I have met atheists who believe in reincarnation; atheists who think Chopra is on to something with his ‘universal consciousness’ claims; atheists who are activists and atheists who just want to be left alone; angry anti-religion atheists and atheists who want to build a church of atheism; stupid atheists and smart atheists; philosophical atheists and pragmatic atheists. We’ve got Atheist Alliance and American Atheists and CFI and the American Humanist Association, all promoting atheism with subtle differences in emphasis.

That would be because “atheist” is a person who has the philosophical view of atheism. That is, they do not accept any claims of any deity’s existence. What the hell does this position have to do with reincarnation? With Chopra’s “universal consciousness?” You can be an atheist and believe stupid things. Because being an atheist just means you take one position. The rest is beyond that label.

Does that make atheism meaningless? Of course not. I’ve been telling people for years that there is a diverse world of atheism out there, with different causes and different consequences. And I’ve been against this contrary and irrational effort to pretend they’re all the same.

No one’s saying otherwise, PZ. But to take the word “atheism” and suffix a plus sign, then get completely pissed off when people object to how those who advocate for Atheism+ act and argue in support of it, does make Atheism+ completely meaningless. As I pointed out, if there’s no one saying what Atheism+ is, then it is completely without meaning. It’s atheism. With a plus sign. So someone has to make that decision. And if there’s not a hierarchy, someone or someones declaring what that label means, since it’s not a dictionary term at all, then how does one know whether Dr. X’s label of Atheism+ is the same as Dr. Y’s label of Atheism+?

All the groups you mention have a hierarchy. They have people deciding what that organization will focus on, where to devote time and resources, what it means when people wear its logo or name. If Atheism+ is just “atheists who care about social justice issues,” then why not just adopt “secular humanist” which is already out there, and then, like New Atheism, educate people on what it is to be a secular humanist.

To keep telling people to fuck off, that they’re getting Atheism+ wrong, that they’re idiots, stupid, that they hate Atheism+, that they’re against the ideals of atheist+, is how irrational people deal with criticism. It is how creationists fend off logic and reason to protect their beliefs.

The people advocating for Atheism+ the loudest are making it worse and worse. So many outside of FreethoughtBlogs are voicing their objections, most of which parallels what I’ve been saying, and getting called similar names, dismissed, and otherwise ridiculed or told what they believe or who they are for it.

It’s not a movement. It’s not a new wave. It’s a clique, born out of emotional need to distance people from others who aren’t nice. The world’s full of these people. You know what strong, intelligent, better people do? Educate. Like the New Atheists have done. Not one of them ever said, “You either agree to be vocal about atheism and spread what it means to be an atheist, or you’re an asshole.”

If you can find someone who did, please post a link. I’d like to see that.