Atheism+ … just 7 days old and already rapidly growing


It was just seven days ago that a new movement was started, and as explained by an article in the New Statesman

Less than a week old in its current form, Atheism+ is the brainchild of Jen McCreight, a Seattle-based biology postgrad and blogger at the secularist Freethought network. She has called for a “new wave” of atheism on that “cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime.”

And the response so far has been a mix of …

– “Hell yes, I’m in” … that is where I stand, I blogged that two days after Jen’s post.
– “But … but … but … that’s just Humanism” … well actually no it is not. Jen responds on that issue here and also answers other similar questions that are popping up.

Now, what is nice about the New Statesman article is that Nelson Jones (the author) does appear to get it … he writes …

…this is just the logical culmination of the huge upsurge in interest prompted by the so-called “New Atheists” and the growth over the last few years of a recognisable community or movement based around ideas of atheism, scientific scepticism and a progressive political agenda. While atheism is, by definition, no more or less than a non-belief in God, in practice it clusters with a variety of other positions, from pro-choice to campaigns against homeopathy …

… Atheism+ is, at its most basic, an attempt wrap things together more formally, to create a movement that prioritises issues of equality  and does so from an explicitly non-religious perspective….

Exactly right … non-belief, atheism, is just that, the rejection of god claims due to a complete lack of evidence, and nothing more, that is its entire scope. However, what is indeed interesting is that once you reject dogma, you also reject the overtly irrational prejudices that come packaged with it. For example, the bible boldly asserts that being gay is an abomination, but once you abandon bronze age texts and start to deploy reason and logic for ethical decisions, you quickly discover that there is no rational justification for such a stance. As a consequence, most (not all) non-believers also support gay rights, gay marriage, and oppose homophobia. This is a pattern that repeats itself across a wide and quite diverse range of topics that includes the obvious such as racism and feminism.

So how do you then express that reality? You do it by recognising that the consequences of non-belief soon lead to other things.

It is Atheism plus other things as well … Atheism+.

In other words …

  • I’m an Atheist … plus a skeptic because I’m learning to be skeptical about many other crazy irrational things that also have no evidence at all and do real harm
  • I’m an Atheist … plus a feminist because treating woman as a commodity and not as humans leads to some horrendous human rights abuses
  • I’m an Atheist … plus a secular humanist  because humans are not inherently evil, and can successfully deploy reason to make good ethical decisions

I’m using the above as quick examples, and so they quite clearly do not in any way encompass the entire scope.

The New Statesman article also correctly identifies the motivation for this rapidly rising banner. Because atheism is simply the rejection of supernaturalism, the atheist crowd can be a rather diverse bunch that not only includes some truly inspiring individuals, but also some completely obnoxious pricks. One example cited concerns a well-known young woman who, when attending an atheist conference, was propositioned in the elevator late at night while going to her room. In a later YouTube clip she was talking about other things and just happened to mention this in passing and added the comment, “Guys, don’t do that”. This resulted in a complete shit storm of abuse from some supposedly fellow atheists and included rape threats directed against her. Many within the community were quite rightly horrified that some could behave in such an abhorrent manner. This is just one well-known example, others exist.

From this there has risen to the surface a very natural inclination to create a space between those who simply reject god claims, and those who also wish to embrace other additional ideals.

The New Statesman article sums it up quite well and takes a rather positive outlook on it all …

“Atheism plus”, the natural reading, implies incompleteness: that other, associated principles need to be added to the core idea to produce a rounded philosophy. But it can also be read as “Atheism positive”, going beyond the mere negation of belief. Time will tell whether McCreight’s initiative leads to permanent changes in the atheist and sceptical movement, or to the formation of a new and distinct nexus of atheism and progressive politics, or is soon forgotten. But I’d bet against the latter. Whether or not the name sticks, there is an energy behind this new wave that makes it hard to ignore.

Indeed yes, Atheism+ is now here, is just one week old, and is already hitting the headlines and making waves. Many, who only one week ago were greatly discouraged due to the divisiveness within the community, and now instead greatly encouraged because they can finally see a very positive way forward.

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