By Jimmy Palmer
President of RU Secular Humanists
RU School of Engineering Sophomore

Secular Humanists have a place at the table when Atheists are discussing their having certain values. This has started up on FreeThoughtBlogs (FTB) and has gotten dissent from other online Atheist personalities. I take what they say with a grain of salt in fields that are not of their training (while I’m not claiming to be an expert). They may have good natured ideas but whether or not these ideas are applicable is what concerns me.

Atheism plus logoA good example is the concept of Atheism+ (pronounced like ‘Atheism Plus’) which is a part of the Atheist values arguments that have gone on.

This first came to my attention when a man aliased as IntegralMath posted a video on YouTube exclaiming his disagreement with the post from Jenna McCreight on FTB entitled ‘How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism’. She argued,

”I don’t feel safe as a woman in this community – and I feel less safe than I do as a woman in science, or a woman in gaming or… walking down the… sidewalk…”

“…I don’t want good causes like secularism and skepticism to die because they’re infested with people who see issues of equality as mission drift. I want Deep Rifts… I want to be able to… say that I feel safe in this movement I want the misogynists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and downright trolls out of the movement. ”

This sums up nicely the reason she sees a need for some sort of ‘new wave’ of Atheism which she names as Atheism+.

I share the same values that are against racists, homophobes, etc, so don’t read too much into my opposition. McCreight states reasons for why she feels unsafe in the Atheist movement which may not support her claim. I see a lot of these as red herrings, some as outlier internet behavior, or basic satire. She showed no data of why she should feel unsafe. Her feminism may have made her more vulnerable to being harassed this is mainly because many see it as an ideology juxtaposed on top of her skepticism.

On her next post she makes the summary of what she means by Atheism+. I would rather critique her more full thought out fourth post entitled “‘Atheism+: It’s time to walk the walk’.

“This is our chance for progressive atheists to come together and deal with issues that we see as a natural part of our godlessness.”

“Providing basic anti-harassment policies that can be adopted and adapted by secular groups

Providing “101 educational primers on privilege, intersectionality, proper language, etc

Providing guides for making your groups and events more welcoming, diverse, and accessible…

Providing a diverse speakers bureau

Encouraging conferences and groups to increase speaker and topic diversity…

Providing a safe, moderated community for discussion…”

So, again, the main goal is one I mostly agree with.

However, people should realize secular arguments for progressive issues. There are already groups that do this like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU, just as some examples. The twist with Atheism+ is that these people just so happen to be atheists. This can be safely stated to be more of a ‘Progressivism+’. No matter what these progressives ‘feel’ their progressivism has not yet been shown to come from their Atheism.

Where does this leave me and other pragmatists/moderates?

People who think Progressives or Feminists may hold some faulty views in their umbrella term. Each political claim needs their own justification in order to hold the belief.

Rhetorically: say this Atheism+ lifts off in the consciousness of our reactionary religious conservative rivals. Well they already hold this ‘strawperson’ as an atheist religion. To make the strawperson come to fruition as Atheism + makes it harder to have the stance that Atheism doesn’t necessarily lead to other principles. When trying to convince moderates that Atheism isn’t a religion I wouldn’t give religious reactionaries an easy job of showing one of being a dogmatic liberal in their eyes.

I hope Humanists can agree that the political discourse of Progressivism should not be a wholesale takeover of the term Atheist. I am a Humanist but may not be an Atheist+ because I don’t take on McCreight’s view that an Atheist’s, for example, pro-choice view comes from Atheism. Whereas a conservative atheist could arguably say Atheism leads to being pro-life.

If you want to see what concerns people who have so far chosen this label I suggest Atheism+ Forum where you can read on what these political animals are discussing.

By Jimmy Palmer
President of RU Secular Humanists
RU School of Engineering Sophomore

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  1. Ammar Hakim says:

    I personally would not attach the “plus” to my atheism. The issue I have is that a label which is supposed to be inclusive and “socially conscious” has proponents who appear as the very extremist trolls they mean to oppose. I also notice that this is becoming an “us versus them” mentality. If one does not agree with the “label” it seems that one is immediately accused of being unwelcoming to marginalized people. This concept of marginalized itself seems problematic to me. Aren’t we all marginalized due to our opposition to the leading irrationality of the day? Further, it appears that with this there is an attempt to create a creed which one needs to believe in. Most of us have spent a huge amount of time dismantling just such creeds. I have no need for such creeds, and priest who enforce them. Safety is important, of course, and so is social conciseness. Not sure if the extreme rhetoric one hears, specially in the comments this generates on blogs is really providing a safe and troll-free place.

    • Eiji says:

      Just to play devil’s advocate for a moemnt, you can’t ask people what the meaning of their life is, and then, when they answer, dismiss it as meaningless horse manure. Because that would say that you weren’t really asking in the first place; it was a rhetorical question for the sake of hearing yourself talk. Just sayin’. I’ve recently had some discussions with some atheistic or agnostic or whatever-ic people along these lines; I believe some of them would answer that life doesn’t have to have meaning, it just is. (That’s not something which would work well for me, I’m just restating what I heard.)I wonder if Life thinks about Lady Gaga.

  2. sjjr says:

    I just got to this part: “McCreight states reasons for why she feels unsafe in the Atheist movement which may not support her claim. I see a lot of these as red herrings, some as outlier internet behavior, or basic satire. She showed no data of why she should feel unsafe.” It is because she has a vagina. Women are sexually victimized more often than men are. The fact that some atheist men can’t recognize the universal fact that women must ALWAYS be on guard against rape is what caused this faction in the first place.

    • Barry says:

      I think it’d be horse maurne (incidentally, is that maurne for horses, to make them grow better, or generated by ? No, don’t answer that.) if it was a kind of unthinking response on their part, just sort of drivelling along. But if it’s a well-thought-through response, if fulfilling one’s self , for example, really *is* the meaning of their life, then it’s horse maurne on your part to dismiss it as such. Your question is a rhetorical question if you are unwilling to accept anything as an answer that’s not in line with what you consider to be self-evident; even if you do not know what answers are coming, if you’ve already pre-determined that there *is* no other answer than what you would give yourself, the question becomes rhetorical.As for meaningless-life atheists and playing by the rules, good question

  3. mkb says:

    A few thoughts. First, it’s Jen or Jennifer, not Jenna. Second, I’m sorry that you don’t take her feelings of being unsafe seriously. She has since given up her wonderful blog because of the relentlessness of the attacks on her. Third, I am surprised that you identify as a Humanist if you do not consider yourself progressive. All of the founding documents of Humanism are very progressive statements. I think most Humanists see Atheism+ as mostly a rebranding of Humanism, not something coming from the left. Fourth, Atheism+ is not saying atheists are necessarily progressives (unlike Humanists who I would have thought were) but rather for those atheists who do see their lack of belief leading logically to progressivism, there needs to be a place to come together. That’s why there is a “+” and it’s not just atheism.

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