Thursday, August 23, 2012


"Atheism Plus" is here, and I'm in.

For those of you unfamiliar, there has been a rift in the "atheist movement", centered around whether diversity and equality are important issues to us, or if we wish only to promote the obvious-to-all-of-us assertion that gods are not real.

In a way, that description is too generous.  The "atheism movement" generally opposes all sorts of nonsense - homeopathy, psychics, alien pyramid construction crews in ancient Egypt, and so on.  The movement has not genuinely restricted itself to the lack of belief in gods.

Nor should it.  The same skeptical values and thought that have led us to reject bad assumptions about Yahweh and Brahma have also led us to reject supernatural claims in general.  I would list those values as humility, honesty, integrity, and curiosity.  It isn't just a question of skeptical values, though.  Skepticism is also a skill - it's being able to evaluate our beliefs, even especially our dearly held beliefs, based on the evidence.  It's being able to change those beliefs, however personally uncomfortable that might be, when we realize that we were wrong.

Skepticism leads us to reject Big Foot - a creature that would actually be pretty plausible except that there is no evidence for it. That is the standard; we must follow the evidence wherever it goes.  Quantum is thoroughly, maddeningly ridiculous, but we know it is true because the evidence is there.

The atheism community, particularly the New Atheist movement, has been pretty outspoken about the importance of this skepticism.  Religious people are often told that they need to be able to apply these skeptical values and skills, and to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if it means abandoning a belief structure that their entire social and moral life is built around.  A lot of atheists are very comfortable with this narrative, but there's a hypocrisy there, because some seem unwilling to challenge their own dearly held beliefs and assumptions when it comes to questions of social equality.  Some of us mock those who are unwilling to examine their worldview against the evidence, while remaining unwilling to examine our own worldviews against the evidence.  That is what this schism is really about.

I'm not into demonizing people much.  My style is softer than that, which is what I intended to convey with the label "Heretic with a Heart."  I really believe that most of the evil in the world is done by people who mean well, people who are just oblivious to the implications.  It's important to have voices who will deliver the "slap in the face", and it's also important to have voices who will calmly say "I think you're wrong, and this is why."  My voice is the latter.  Many of the voices in Atheism+ are the former, but I agree with their values, so I'm in.

A few posts on the topic:
Jen McCreight (the origin of A+)

Greta Christina

Richard Carrier   (This post is long but includes a discussion of the values of Atheism+)

Carrier's sentiment is a little more "you're either for us or against us" than I'm comfortable with.  I think it's important to treat people as complex beings who can be right about one thing, and wrong about another.  I want to give both credit and blame where they are due.  I want our disagreements to be both passionate and civil.  That can be hard, but it's worth doing.  I'm not in because Carrier has called on people to declare for a side, but because these are my values, too, and I explicitly support them.

Is this our official logo?  I'm not sure.  I also feel like there must be an A++ joke in there somewhere, but I just can't come up with a quip about object-oriented-atheism.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe not an A+ joke, but an A doubleplusgood one?