Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A+, the Boa Hancock of Atheism

Recently, the atheist community has been on a ruse due to a new atheist movement, Atheism Plus or A+ for short. Endorsed by big name PZ Meyers, it's a movement that wants to create a group for civil rights that expands upon atheism and fights issues as:
  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Transphobia
  • Ableism
  • Classism
  • Ageism
  • Neurotypicalism
  • Animal welfare
  • Environmental issues
  • Political issues (Health care, crime, drug laws)
And wants to put this fight in practice by:
  • 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 event planning resources and ideas
  • Providing a diverse speakers bureau
  • Encouraging conferences and groups to increase speaker and topic diversity
  • Holding workshops about social justice and diversity at conferences
  • Organizing national events around progressive issues (for example, getting as many groups as possible to participate in gay pride parades)
  • Working alongside other existing organizations that share our values (like humanists!)
  • Writing blog posts/press releases about relevant issues
  • Providing a safe, moderated community for discussion – Facebook, forum, blog comments, r/atheismplus

Sounds like a good thing at first glance, but it crumbles apart when I think about it for a bit. The first being what some A+’ers (there should really be a better adjective) say. I’ll quote one of them, Richard Carrier:

In the meantime, are you an atheist? Do you identify as an atheist? Then I can’t insist, but I do ask that you to defend these goals and values (not in comments here, but publicly, via Facebook or other social media): are you with us, or with them; are you with the Atheism+ movement, or do you at least cheer and approve it’s values and aims (since you don’t have to label yourself), or are you going to stick with Atheism Less and its sexism and cruelty and irrationality?
Then at least we’ll know who to work with. And who to avoid.
We cannot make progress on anything good if we do not distance ourselves from liars and douchebags. We cannot defeat sexism if we remain allied to sexists. We cannot defeat racism if we remain allied to racists. We cannot defeat homophobia and transphobia if we remain allied with homophobes and transphobes. We cannot defeat cruelty if we remain allied to the uncaring. We cannot defeat hypocrisy and lies if we remain allied to liars and hypocrites. We cannot defeat irrationality if we remain allied with the irrational.
If you do not realize this, then there is something seriously wrong with your ability to reason logically.
Don’t you agree?
Secondly, a culture has to define what’s destructive to its own ends and what is beneficial or even necessary to its own ends, otherwise it will self-destruct, and never make progress toward greater human happiness.
So either you endorse the values and aims I have laid out, or you do not. If you do, just join the cause and stop fretting over being part of a culture whose values you embrace. But if you don’t endorse these values, then you are our enemy, in one fashion or another–because you will be endorsing, supporting (even if only through apathy and inaction), values that will ultimately destroy or undermine the human good. You are then in our way, the same way Neonazis and anarchists and UFO cults and churches and right wing think tanks and so on, are in our way, and what we will denounce and disown. You can be among them, or among us. It’s that simple.

Did I just hit my head and woke up on Bizarro’s World? Non-spiritual atheism with a dogma?

I’ll make clear what my atheism means for me: my lack of belief in deities and other supernatural phenomena makes me also lack a predefined code of belief to follow in order to become a productive member of society that are provided by religions. In smaller words, my atheism makes me lack a dogma. That means I have to build my own set of principles to follow, a set that doesn’t necessarily have to coincide entirely with the law. Mind you, I’m not advocating for anarchy in any way, but certain laws just don’t sit well with my principles, like not allowing adoption by gay couples or allowing gas to have two taxes that almost amount two thirds of the original price (Portuguese laws, by the way).

That said, although my atheism allows me to have my own set of principles, I deem the two concepts independent. I’m not pro-gay rights or anti-misogyny because I’m an atheist, it’s because it’s what I think it’s the correct conduct to have. The closest atheism has to do with my principles is my will to question religious dogma that many times is wrongly weaved in non-religious concepts as laws, politics and ethics, but that is my power of critical thinking that may have spawned my atheism, not the other way around.  So, for me, activism against things like obligatory religious acts in public schools, the US “In God we Trust” fiasco and other similar acts fits right in with atheism, since they’re acts based on critical thinking that allow atheists to not be subjugated to religious dogma.

Now A+’ers want to steer clear of religious dogma by creating a dogma of their own. Just… why? Is it a “fighting fire with fire” thing going on? If so, it doesn’t make sense to me. Atheism is purely a negative claim, how does that warrant a dogma of its own? It’s not like I don’t concur with what’s within the dogma, which I actually do, but there’s no need for it. Although I relate more to people with similar principles as my own, as anybody else, I don’t consider myself a better atheist for being pro-abortion or anti-racism or sexists and homophobes lesser atheists. Of course I’ll ask why they are sexists and homophobes, but if they consider themselves atheists, they’re atheists. I think this is a simple attempt of elitism within atheism, which, to me, is childish. Is one an atheist because s/he thinks critically or because s/he wants be a Boa Hancock wannabe, looking down on all other people so much they start to look up? Well, that’s the first problem I have with A+.

The second problem is the exclusion vibe A+’ers are giving me. This “with us or against us” mentality reminds me of what George W. Bush used to justify the Second Gulf War and, of course, the concept of heathens and heresy from religious dogma. As an atheist, I know things aren’t black or white so I find ridiculous people within A+ think that, just because we’re not joining them, somehow we’re supporting chauvinistic pigs. It’s already hard having theists throwing grossly inaccurate statements about atheists, now non-A+ atheists get the same kind of statements from other fellow atheists? This is mind-boggling self-defeating within the atheist community! I find it almost miraculous atheism managed to gather a good, somewhat solid community considering it’s based on a negative premise and the last thing it needs is such a division. It’s perfectly fine that not every atheist has to agree with everyone, but A+ going Protestants on us is really a bad idea, which leads me to my third and final problem with it.

A+ is simply what wacky theological apologists salivated for: a dogmatic atheism. Atheism, although a bubbling cauldron of ideas, none of them but atheism itself can be attached to it, so theistic accusations like atheism acting like a religion and thus being a bunch of hypocrites for criticizing religion were unfounded. Well, now we have a dogma, which is pretty much the spine of religion. Trust me, once A+ gets on full speed (that is, if it gets there, which I have my doubts), theological apologists will pounce on it as a pack of rabid wolves, trying to twist dogma into religion and, in the public eye, they’ll succeed on the twist. And I do not condemn those apologists on a theoretical level, because why would A+’s dogma be better than Christian dogma, for example?  That’s the beauty of atheism, the lack of dogma make atheists (usually) better at judging if a certain dogma is suitable or not and having a dogma will clearly create bias.

As a summary, I understand why people might like the idea without being bewildered elitists, but I think atheism as a whole can accommodate the kind of activism A+ wants to do without creating dogmas or partitions.

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