Atheism+, schisms, and the wrong way to criticise.
I don’t know how many of you know anything about Atheism+, but if you read this post you probably know why it exists. To know first hand, go to the site here. But the gist of it is captured in the manifesto below.
Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.”
And so far, it’s generated massive support, built it’s own website, and already has a project combatting ablism in the community – A+ Scribe, where significant videos in the community are transcribed for the hard-of-hearing. First comment, by “miller”:
“Sweet! Transcriptions are one of those “universal design” things–they work for people with or without disabilities. Sort of like how those curb ramps at crosswalks are good for everyone. I’m not hard of hearing, but I would still use transcriptions.”
In short, it’s been successful and productive; two of the things that all movements should look to be. And yet the first reporting I see of it, in any kind of press, is in the UK, and it’s this:
Now, disclosure: some bits of the article are OK. Some bits – the “useful but unsavoury body parts” line – were quite funny. Some bits – the unfortunate fact that this may constitute a “schism” – are also true.* The rest of the article? Wrong.
I want to call this guy a few nasty names, but I won’t, because that would prove him right. And especially as the formation of Atheism+ is, in part, to remove the part of the equation that pours poisonous spam-based bile on everyone else from the equation, yelling at him doesn’t seem like a positive move.
But, to be clear, everything about the way he wrote this article is the wrong approach.
First off, the way he phrases it, he never makes it clear that the difference in opinion spreads from disagreement over political opinion – not over religious ones. We’re all still atheists! As such, a bunch of people get the wrong impression, and you get comments like these:
I’m not going to rise to that – beyond linking it to appropriate tropes – I’m going to instead say that some of this inanity could have been avoided with an article that spent more time portraying facts and less time making Monty Python jokes.
In fact, the author makes a lot of jokes at the movement’s expense. And frankly, I think that’s a bit cheap. It’s not good enough to stand on the sidelines and snipe about “how these atheists love each other” without discussing whether you have a stake in who is right or wrong. At no point does the writer say what they believe about religion, or women’s rights, or privilege, etc. So even if they have a fair point on any of those matters, the article just comes off as juvenile and snide.
When it comes to these issues, you have to actually do something, and couching your terms in ways to make it seem like civil rights are all subjective issues and someone else’s problem (“your progressive politics”, “Ameican Atheism”**) doesn’t change that fact. It’s completely detrimental to any progress at all, in fact.
Meanwhile, Atheism+, for all that I hate the factioning, is doing something, being proactive about issues. That’s what I’ve always seen atheism, plus or minus, to mean, and that’s what it always should mean – not just being, and remaining unchanged. Fix this world, this movement, this instant!
* * *
[For those who may or may not get my alignment in this… *sigh* schism: I agree with Atheism+. Wholeheartedly.]
[Honestly, I don’t even see that anything’s changed. I sure haven’t.]
*What does that change? Christianity’s had more schism’s than I’ve had hot dinners – that hasn’t changed how true it is (i.e. “not at all”).
* I think this is the first time I’ve thought it might actually be valid to refer to one’s nationality as “the internet”, because I have more in common with “american atheists” than with the feeble “everyone’s a little bit agnostic” feeling I get in the UK.