As I am sure many of you have heard by now, there’s a new kid on the block of progressive social movements and its name is Atheism+. As you can glean from the title of this post, I pretty much signed up to it immediately. The reason is simple. The whole notion of this broad progressive social movement as laid out by Jen McCreight, which ended up being dubbed Atheism+, encompasses everything I’ve long felt was important to me. Like many within the wider atheist community, I am more than just a person who denies the existence of supernatural beings. But to describe everything I stand for, I had to use a whole barrage of labels, such as skeptic, secular humanist, freethinker, feminist, etc. Just look at my twitter bio for reference*. Atheism+ makes it clear that I am, that we are, about so much more than just denying the existence of deities. After all, how long can you do that before it gets boring. “There is no god.” There. Done. What should we do next?
As Jen describes it,
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.
I love this description because I think it really catches the essence of my own position. These are all issues I care about in addition to being an atheist. Of course this isn’t a comprehensive list at all and doesn’t claim to be. And that’s the other thing I like about Atheism+, the openness, or rather open-endedness. There is virtually no limit to issues we could potentially add to the movement. There might be issues out there that we aren’t even aware of yet or issues that haven’t yet arisen. I think it is safe to say that our societies will continue to change in the future. It’d be great to have a social movement that is not static and therefore capable of taking on new issues as they arise. The only static thing will be that we approach every new issue with an open mind and with a commitment to free inquiry, rational thinking, and open debate.
Of course there are already the naysayers, who will even go so far as to accuse those at Freethought Blogs of trying to create a new religion. There is some honest, legitimate criticism of the idea of creating a new atheist movement, but a lot of it simply seems to come from those generally opposed to anything coming from FtB. You know, the kind of people who use the #FTBullies hashtag for everyone on FtB and everyone who dares side with them. (By the way, is there a name yet for those anti-FTBullies? If not, can we start calling them Thunderfooties?) And you know what, I think it’s sad. Not that someone would criticize Jen’s idea, I totally welcome that. But that someone would do it because of the blog network that she is associated with. One of the things that always made me proudest of this atheist movement of ours was that the loudest and sharpest criticism of any popular atheist always came from within our own movement. Think Sam Harris when he said those stupid things about profiling at airports. It wasn’t theists who pointed with glee at Sam Harris for being wrong, it was various atheists, skeptics, etc. who took him to task for what many perceived where logical errors in his argument. That’s the thing about our movement. We may have leaders. We may have people that many within the movement look up to. But we have no idols. We have no deities. No one is beyond being questioned. No one is beyond reproach.
Unfortunately some within our movement seem to be willing to dismiss the ideas of a person based not on the merits of the idea itself but on that person’s gender or affiliation or what have you. From there it’s not far to the opposite, unquestioning loyalty to some supreme leader. If that’s what I wanted, I’d join a religion. But I don’t. I want open-mindedness. That includes the possibility that one might be wrong. I want to be in a movement with people who are open-minded enough that they will entertain the possibility that atheist gatherings may not be spaces where women or people of color feel welcome, even if he or she doesn’t perceive, let alone intend, it that way. A movement, where such things can be discussed calmly and rationally, without someone throwing their hands in the air and yelling “Oh shut up, you feminazi!”. I think Atheism+ can be this movement. I’m very, very excited!
* I will likely keep using many of these labels, since, as Greta Christina has pointed out (amongst others), they are not mutually exclusive with Atheism+. But I will likely use Atheism+ a lot henceforth as a better (i.e. more inclusive) signifier of my position.