Atheism Plus

Personally, I find the Atheism Plus group refreshing.
As a theist, I obviously disagree with their basic position, but my particular version of theism requires that I respect others, and treat their arguments fairly. It is on these grounds that I am pleased to see this movement come about. They seem to lack most of the problems I see in the New Atheist movement, and I often find myself hoping that they will eventually eclipse it.

For starters, they believe in actually helping people.
While I have always agreed that there is no reason to think that religious people are any better than the non-religious, I’ve often found some of the New Atheist comments hard to swallow. They have frequently claimed moral superiority, but never seem to get around to doing anything in their communities other than shout insults at religion.
Atheism Plus, however, seems much more interested in letting their actions do the talking, and are even willing to partner with church groups if it means helping those who need it.

New Atheist response to Atheism PlusFor those who don’t know, this group was formed in response to several female New Atheists’ sense that there was a strong misogynist tone in the fervent atheist crowd. Failing to find support over this issue, they eventually left to create their own group.

This gave them a unique perspective which, in my mind, is the reason why they put their collective finger on a very key problem in the group. It was in reading one of their blogs that I ran across a statement that explained almost everything about the New Atheists that confused me. They have pointed out that, for many, atheism is a way for straight, white, middle-class men to feel like the victimized, oppressed heroes of their own narratives.
All the better, they can do this without actually suffering much of anything.

That struck me as very consistent with my experience, and definitely made sense of a few things – not the least of which was why such people were so passionate about attacking religion. I’m sure many have had terrible experiences, but most couldn’t name much at all when asked. This seemed a very plausible explanation.

The Atheism Plus group seems to take the idea of being an oppressed minority as something less than desirable. They seem to want to fix the problem, rather than wallow in it. Much as I’m not one of them, I can agree with that. Definitely, this is an easier group to respect.

I’ve made many wrong predictions, and won’t venture a declaration about what will come of this. But I do hope that future atheists more closely resemble the Atheism Plus crowd than their misogynist predecessors.
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20 responses to “Atheism Plus

  • myatheistlife

    Clearly, you have not read many, if any, other comments about atheism plus.

    • debilis

      I’ve read quite a few.
      If you are referring to those that are critical of the movement. I’m open to having my opinion changed, but am, thus far, unconvinced by them.
      Perhaps you could point me to one that you find particularly persuasive?

      • myatheistlife

        You speak like atheism plus is a replacement? Wrong, it’s near stillborn and is not atheism. Go and see what happens if you go to their forum and be the least bit critical of it. Censorship is your reward for questioning anything about them. They/It are not a functional group that can accept membership from across the spectrum. They are very much accepting of whining folk that feel like they deserve something special and are eager to hit the censor button and cry that they are being persecuted. The backlash against the founders et al was more than well deserved.

        Equality is not simple nor easy and achieving it will cause pain to all concerned. The atheism plus group has no idea what they are doing. Everyone else can see that all they’ve done is start a private club for cry babies and put a lock on the door to keep all the bad people out. Elitist? They tried to assign a world view to atheism – bad move.

        So, come back and let us know how the questioning of their movement worked out – join their club and ask about it, maybe even be slightly critical of how they are going about things… see what happens?

    • debilis

      I have been critical of them. Yes, they react abrasively. And, yes, their vision is overly simplistic.

      My point was not that they are perfect or amazing in their practices. Rather, my point is that they seem to be a step up from the New Atheists. On that note, they have been no more abrasive nor oversimplified than their predecessors. Voicing criticism of the New Atheist movement at, say, richarddawkins.net is met with all of the same consequences you’ve named.

      So, I agree that atheism isn’t a worldview. However, both the New Atheists and the Atheism Plus groups are pushing particular worldviews. I’m not a supporter of either, but, in any way in which the groups differ, I prefer Atheism Plus.

      • myatheistlife

        I’ll grant you all that. Personal choices are .. .well, personal. I don’t demand you justify it. I just think they are not going to be a valuable representation of atheism. They will at best be a faction, and their focus is not atheism, it is everything else – atheists doing other things for social justice. That kind of combination should make you leary, but to each his own. I won’t try to defend all atheists… I make a point to not do so. I don’t speak for them, because I’m an angry anti-theist and nobody speaks for me. I hope that you find a niche that suits you best, and wish you much good fortune.

    • debilis

      In that case, thank you! I’ve definitely found my niche in Christian theism, as I think that is the most reasonable option.

      I don’t quite understand why people feel the need to participate in atheist activism, but both the New Atheists and the Atheism Plus groups seem to be doing it. The fact that I think it is all based on a series of misunderstandings, however, shouldn’t prevent me from seeing the good side of what the Atheism Plus groups do.

      But, mostly, I tend to think that the anger and abrasiveness of the debate on the internet isn’t conducive to accurate understanding. All sides seem more interested in activism than genuine logic.

      • myatheistlife

        Let me try to explain. I’ve always said that I don’t speak for others, but perhaps I can shed some light on this particular topic in a general way. I don’t know what makes each person angry but I know a general litany.

        Imagine that you were refused the ability to hold public office because of your faith.
        Imagine that you were shunned at work becaue of your faith.
        Imagine that you were disowned by your family because of your faith.
        Imagine that you lost a job because of your faith.
        Imagine public figures as high as the president saying they doubt you are a citizen or even human because of your faith.
        Imagine being told that you can’t marry your lover of decades because of your faith.
        Imagine not being able to be with your lover when they died in hospital because of your faith.
        Imagine that everywhere you turn are people that hate you because of your faith.

        This is how Christianity treats those with no belief. They got tired, fed up. The law prohibits this kind of discrimination but Christianity has gotten away with it for so long that it is taking very vocal, very activist people to change society and set things equal for all. They do not get active because there is no reason to be, just on a whim, or just to persecute believers. They do it because they are being oppressed.

        Whether you believe the discussion should be more gentle or not does not matter. The Atheists have been speaking kindly since 1963. It has done no good and in cases made things worse. There is no option left but to be activist and vocal. The idea of equality does not have time to consider your feelings on the matter. Yes, angry things will be said… even when they should not be. If you wish to stop that, act now to get Christendom to behave better… atheists will get your back. It is not the abolition of belief that they struggle for, but equality under the law both in the letter and practice and in the real world day to day life. You can make a difference, but asking the oppressed to be more kind is not an effective method and all the new atheists, even atheists plus will not put up with that. Equality or no surrender. Like liberty or death it is the mandate, and compassion, fairness, and human essence demands that such equality as is being demanded be given up to all, not simply those that believe the ‘right religion’.

        If you have trouble understanding that, you should study up on the situation a bit more. Try harder to see why atheists are making such a fuss.

    • debilis

      Yes, I’m aware of these sentiments.

      However, of the things you name, all of them have either happened to me, or are not happening to atheists. I’m all for equality, and agree that people on all sides are not as kind as they should be, but see absolutely no reason to think that atheists are nearly so marginalized as this.

      But, I need to make something else clear. My complaint was not that the discussion is too angry and divisive (though it is). My complaint was that, because of an angry attitude, the discussion is too irrational. I make no excuses for theists who say irrational things, but it strikes me as particularly ironic that a group of atheists who claim to be the defenders of rationality are letting giving rhetorical, rather than rational, arguments.

      • myatheistlife

        Hold up buckaroo, the things I asked you to imagine ARE things that are happening to atheists on a daily basis. Back off your rocking horse and think about this. I asked you to do so already, yet you are simply back into the fray with claims that you are being done wrong… and you want to know why atheists are so vocal… well, you’re a poster child for the problem. Wake up!

    • debilis

      Yes, many of those things are being done (though I don’t seem to recall news of any person being refused hospital visits on the ground that he/she was an atheist) .

      But most of the things you name are things that are happening to everyone involved. It’s not important that I’ve experienced them myself. It’s important that it isn’t only atheists who are experiencing them.

      This is hurtful, yes. And I definitely understand why people get angry (even though that isn’t helping). But, reread my comment. I wasn’t confused by that. I was confused by the fact that this so often adds up to throwing out reason in the process.

      If a particular atheist claims to have a reason to be angry, I have no reason to argue. If, however, some group claims be proponents of rationality, I do take issue when that group consistently uses fallacious reasoning. And, it seems to me, this is being done by the New Atheist movement.

      • myatheistlife

        Are yo not able to see the debilitating dehumanizing effect of being told that your love for your partner is not good enough, that you can’t marry, that when your partner is sick you can’t be in the room because only family are allowed … are you really that thick? That does not happen to religious heterosexuals. The ONLY people that don’t want GLBTQ people to marry are Christians/monotheists. YOU are the poster child for this problem.

        “Poor little christian kid gets picked on and mocked because their belief demands that they be bigoted and hateful to others. Oh, please won’t you think about and take a care for the poor christians – nobody supports them.”

        You’re not making it any easier to try to like you.

        “Tell those uppity atheists to be quiet while they complain that we are oppressing them and suppressing the rights of other citizens. How dare they make a fuss! It simply is not helpful for them to be so angry. Don’t they know how to complain properly?”

        This is what I and many other hear when you plead for a more gentle discussion. There is no discussion while you and your ilk think you are being persecuted when all that is being asked for is actual equality – the very effing thing that you cannot seem to allow. Well, all you have to do is admit everyone deserve equality and then start telling your birds of a feather to pipe down and start supporting equality for all. Until then you WILL be tarred with the same brush. You are known by who you hang out with – so the saying goes. You’ve chosen to hang out with bigoted hate mongers. Your pleas for gentleness will go unheard as long as you are seen as the problem in the first place.

        I really don’t know how many ways I can tell you that. What will it take for you to get it?

    • debilis

      I’m aware that this is an awful feeling. And, as a matter fact, I agree that this is completely wrong. However, that has nothing to do with atheism. That is a sexual orientation issue. I’ve never known anyone to be denied visitation rights on the grounds that he/she is an atheist.

      Beyond that, I’m not trying to make it easy for you to like me. I’m not complaining about my life. It has been very good. Rather, I’m saying that atheists and Christians need to use logic in their debates. I’m bothered by the fact that so many are either unable or unwilling to do so.

      At what point did I tell atheists to be quiet? I have no intention of silencing anyone. I’m only perplexed that people who insist that they are rational can make such irrational arguments.

      So, I’ve now read what you hear in my words. At this point, I suggest you read my actual words. I’ve never claimed that Christians are persecuted; they are not. Nor, for at least the third time, am I complaining that the discussion is too angry. I’m complaining that it is too irrational.

      To that end, do you take issue with my actual statement? Are you of the opinion that debate doesn’t need to be rational? When is it acceptable to drop the logic out of your statements?

      My answer is: never. And everyone in this discussion, whether they prefer to be calm or shout, ought to make sure that their statements are rational.

      • myatheistlife

        Which leaves us with a big issue – is belief in a god with no credible evidence that one can exist, never mind credible evidence that yours does exist, a rational position for the discussion? So if you want to step back or away from a discussion about the harm that such belief causes and talk only about logic, there we are. How can belief in the imaginary be a rational position for reasonable discussion?

    • debilis

      Much better!
      Now, logic would point out that this is a circular argument. You’re assuming that God is imaginary in order to prove that it is irrational. As such, this is not a rational objection to God’s existence. Angry or not, it is not a serious point in the discussion.

      It is, however, reasonable to ask about evidence. But, so far, no one who’s done this with me has ever been able to make this criticism while using a consistent definition of the term “evidence”.

      Personally, I define the term “evidence” to mean any fact which makes a given idea more likely to be true than it would have otherwise been. By this definition, however, there is quite a bit of evidence for God. The only question would be whether it has more evidence than competing views (including secular views).

      So, by what definition of evidence do you claim that there is no credible evidence that any god can exist?

      • myatheistlife

        Go on, pedantic argument is fun. I do not object to the existence of a god. I object to the very claim that a god can exist. Lets start there. Show me the credible evidence that a god can exist. Proof would be better, but lets start with a low bar… just some credible evidence. Anything else is waffling delusion without that. Lets hear the credible evidence that you alone seem to have… nobody else seems to have it so it must be special and particular to you. All the world is waiting for it. Bring it on out.

        I do not give two shakes about your definition of evidence. I’m not asking you to prove it to yourself. That’s just delusion. I’m asking you to prove it to me and every other doubting person, all the adherents of other religions that think your god does not exist as well. Show us this special evidence that only you have that is proof that a god can exist. I’m waiting.

        No, I don’t want anecdotal evidence. I want credible evidence that is testable, repeatable, and can be shared among different peoples.

        If you don’t have that, all you have is delusion and wishful thinking. So, lets see it… trot your god out here for all to see. Lets get him down to the mall for some photo ops. Where is this credible evidence that any god could exist?

    • debilis

      That is trivially easy. The possibility that any god (or anything else) could exist is the case until we can show logically that it cannot possibly exist. The simple fact that no one has been able to produce an air-tight argument that no god of any kind exists is, itself, evidence that theism is possible.
      If you are making the bold claim that no god can possibly exist, you need to give some kind of reason why people ought to believe it.

      That is, you can’t claim that something is impossible until you’ve given a reason to think that its impossible.
      Well, I suppose you could say it, but you’d be making a bald, unsupported assertion.

      As far as evidence goes, I’ll assume you agree with my definition until you offer another.

      As such, almost any position can be evidenced, and the only question is over which position has the most evidence as support.

      To offer a few examples:
      -Hinduism is more likely to be true given that so many people claim to have experienced these gods than it would otherwise have been.
      -Christianity is more likely to be true given the truth behind its prediction that the universe was regular enough that modern science would work than it would otherwise have been.
      -The claim that no god exists is more likely to be true given the fact that some people don’t seem to have spiritual experiences than it otherwise would have been.

      All of these points are, properly, evidence. We could list a great many more for any of them, but it should become clear very fast that the point isn’t “Is there evidence?”. There is. The point is, “Which position has more evidence?”.

      But, you referred to a difference between “anecdotal” and “credible” evidence, describing the latter. But, personally, I don’t see much “credible” evidence for secular views on ethics or meaning in life that can be “repeated, tested, and shared among different peoples.”
      As such, could you also provide some “credible evidence” that your answers to the big questions of life are true? I’d like to see if it outweighs whatever evidence I can present for Christianity.

      • myatheistlife

        You twist again. I said there is no reason to even think that a god can exist and I would like to see evidence for thinking that one can. It is you who makes a claim that a god can exist via the claim that your particular god does exist. There is no sane reason to think it possible that gods can exist, never mind think/claim that one does, as you do by claiming to be a Christian.

        If you are going to start off by saying you cannot prove the existence of your god nor provide credible evidence then there is nothing to talk about. By virtue of your proclaimed belief you have claimed that a god exists. You have no credible evidence on which to base that claim. You wrote:
        “”In that case, thank you! I’ve definitely found my niche in Christian theism, as I think that is the most reasonable option.””

        I have not said that it is impossible for a god to exist, but then I did not claim that one does. The burden of proof is upon the claimant making a positive claim – in this case that is you claiming positively that the Christian god exists. The statement that you think it more likely than anything else is not credible evidence, it’s a hunch. Given all the evidence is is far more likely that no gods exist, or at the very least the Christian god does not exist.

        I gave you a suitable criteria for evidence in this case, waffling philosophical arguments about probabilities is not it. You either have credible evidence or you don’t.

        ==Christianity is more likely to be true given the truth behind its prediction that the universe was regular enough that modern science would work==
        That is not predicted by Christianity. It’s your interpretation. Christianity predicts that magic works, that demons can inhabit the bodies of humans and can be cast out into pigs, that witches do exist,. Your Christianity claims much but you have no credible evidence to back it up.

        No, it’s not about which proposition seems more plausible. Either you have evidence or your claim that a god exists is false. I don’t claim that gods do not exist. That claim relies on the presumption that gods can exist. I see no evidence that they can, so any claim that a god exists needs to show that one can – then we can discuss which, if any, might exist.

        It would be oh so much simpler if you simply would trot out your god, take him out of hiding and let us all see him for ourselves. You know the kind of thing – a meet n greet down at the mall with photo ops and handshaking and magic tricks and healings and stuff like that. Omniscience and omnipotence makes all that easier done than said. Lets get some first hand accounts into the evidence records, put this argument to rest once and for all. Go on then, won’t you. Show us your god.

    • debilis

      You say that the person making the positive claim has the burden of proof, but you are claiming that God’s existence is impossible without proof – or even evidence.

      And, yes, Christianity does predict that science will work, which is why modern science was invented by Christians. That is evidence in its favor.
      Also in its favor is the fact the universe is contingent (and therefore needs to have come from somewhere), and the fact that the value of life is well explained by it.

      But, no, I can’t “trot out my God”. I don’t control God and can’t order him around. We’re going to have to get used to that.

      Last, it IS about which view is more reasonable. I don’t know why you seem to think that your view can be horribly irrational in every respect, and still be the thing that we should accept unless I can convince you otherwise. That is hardly a reasonable approach.

      If you can’t support any of your answers to life’s big questions with evidence, you have no reason to act so scandalized that other people don’t have more evidence than we do.

      I’m not claiming to be able to prove anything beyond doubt, but I’ve given evidence. I’ve not seen a shred of evidence for your position.

      That being the case, why should I believe any of the things you’ve said?

  • mtemples

    Well, you know me. As soon as I ran across the phrase “social justice” within the first three sentences, I knew what their agenda was. Here’s one atheist who’s not a Marxist.

    • debilis

      I’m glad for that last. I respect Marx, but can’t bring myself to agree with much of what he said.
      In any case, I don’t claim to side with everything this group stands for (obviously, I don’t). However, they seem to be an improvement from their predecessors, and I’m apparently intent on seeing the silver lining.

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