A+ vs. A- vs. Abolishing the Grading Imperative

A+ vs. A- vs. Abolishing the Grading Imperative

The atheistic internets are all aflutter over Jen McCreight’s excellent post on Infiltrating the Boys’ Club, which gave way to the A+ initiative, what at first seemed to be a new “wave” of atheists and now more specifically seems to be an actual organization that Jen is setting up, focused on issues of social justice like misogyny and racism. I’ve been commenting a lot behind the scenes, but I realized I haven’t commented much in front of the scenes. Or on the scenes, or whatever the equivalent metaphor may be. So!

I agreed with pretty much everything in Jen’s initial “Boy’s Club” post, although the word “agreed” may not really be strong enough to convey how hard I was nodding my head while reading. Her experience was very close to mine, in thinking she had found a safe space in skeptical and atheistic groups, and then realizing that they weren’t once she had the audacity to suggest people stop talking about her breasts.

I also love the idea of a third wave of atheists. It’s no secret that I think the second wave of mostly rich old white men was great in its way but has pretty much served its purpose.

And I love the idea of getting progressive atheists riled up and ready to make some change, whether or not that involves collecting under a new name.

My criticisms of what’s now happening are so minor and ill-formed they should probably be ignored completely, but I want to mention them if only because I find my ideas and opinions only become fully fleshed out when I start writing about them.

My first pause was when Jen described the first wave of atheists as such: “It’s time for a new wave of atheism, just like there were different waves of feminism. I’d argue that it’s already happened before. The “first wave” of atheism were the traditional philosophers, freethinkers, and academics.”

Through my admittedly limited study, the freethinkers who emerged during the 18th and 19th centuries were exactly the type of people who would happily join Jen’s idea of 3rd wave atheism. People like Robert Green Ingersoll, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Emma Goldman, Frederick Douglass, Margaret Sanger, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Susan B. Anthony didn’t just bloviate about how the Bible was obviously wrong and Christians are idiots – they fought religious intolerance because they saw how it affected the basic human rights of themselves and others. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of a single famous freethinker who wasn’t actively engaged in real social justice activism – not just writing essays and books, but actually attempting to enact legislation and provide protection for marginalized groups.

To call them “traditional” and lump the general term “freethinkers” in with “philosophers” and “academics,” I think, does their legacy a disservice. They were radicals who changed the world. They helped get black men the right to vote, and then they helped get all women the right to vote. They got women the right to own property. They dismantled the religious arguments that gave support to oppressors. They fought viciously for the oppressed.

That’s not to say they were without their faults. Many early women’s rights activists like Stanton, for instance, balked at the idea of black men and “idiots” getting to vote before women, with no real thought or consideration for black women. Ingersoll was a teetotaler, heaven forbid (he was okay with wine, though, and probably still a bit of fun at parties). But ultimately, they were concerned with the same things that progressive atheists today are concerned with, and anyone joining a new wave of atheism focused on social justice should become familiar with those early freethinkers and their often successful tactics.

So again, it’s really a minor point to pick on one sentence in a long blog post I agree with, but I wanted to put that out there.

My one other concern, ever since the “A+” branding has caught on, is for humanism. You see, personally, I’m happy to leave atheism to the misogynists and the racists, and continue to define it as a simple lack of religion. I’ve long seen atheism as a broad and somewhat boring label, and I’m content to continue seeing it that way. And I’ve long seen secular humanism as the natural path for those atheists who are ready to move beyond the conclusion that there’s no such thing as a god: “Sure there’s no god, but what are you going to do about it?”

“Well, there being no god means that this is the only life we have. And that means that we should try to make it a good life for as many people as possible. And I have the ability to work towards that goal, so I will.”

Bam: secular humanism.

As I was writing all this, Jen posted this on Facebook:

Dear smug humanists: You realize my critique of the atheist movement included you too, right? I’ve spoken at many humanist meetings, and they are consistently overwhelmingly old, white men who tell me I should be a “humanist” instead of a “feminist” because we’ve already achieved equality and feminism is about man-hating. You have a huge diversity problem too. Stop acting like you’re already perfect.

And she’s absolutely right. I’ve had many people ask why I’m a feminist instead of a humanist, as though the two things are mutually exclusive. I’ve also looked at the profile pages of people who send me rape threats on Twitter and YouTube, and many times I’ve found the word “humanist” in the description.

This fits in with what my ideal scenario would be: leave atheism alone and work on fixing humanism, because it’s actually already in pretty good shape. Unlike atheism, it already has many organizations working on social justice issues, like the British Humanist Association and African Americans for Humanism. And unlike atheism, that social justice goal is already built into the accepted definition and scope of humanism. So it would be nice, I think, if we could work on kicking the assholes out of humanism and helping the humanists march forward on all these issues we find important.

But hey, if wishes and buts were clusters of nuts, we’d all have a bowl of granola. Atheism currently has a bigger audience than the humanists, and A+ is catchy and fun and has people excited. There’s a lot of momentum, and Jen is going to do something great and positive with it. Humanism won’t die out, and A+ could become a handy bridge for atheists to cross over and start doing something positive with their philosophical outlook. What more could I ask for?

Featured image from our line of feminist freethinker buttons on Skeptical Robot!

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

78 Comments

  1. Perfect! You wrote almost exactly what I was thinking. Jen’s post really resonated with me. I too was one that thought “Humanism encompasses this.” But I too felt her criticism of Humanism had a ring of truth to it. I think the A+ thing is a great way to at least start championing the social justice issues that need addressing. And if it puts pressure on ‘humanists’ to actually think about the label they’ve put on themselves, then all for the better.

  2. I feel exactly the same but found it hard to express myself. So many people have made snarky comments about what Jen is doing, not realising it’s a choice and not mandatory for them to agree.

    • Exactly, Haley. So many people are claiming A+ is redefining atheism, that it’s splitting the movement, that it’s mission creep, that’s it’s automatically labeling people who don’t agree as bigots and misogynists. If you don’t like the idea behind A+ just don’t participate.

      • Yeah, but if they admitted that was true, they’d have to go back to having intelligent, positive discussions amongst themselves instead of just screaming ‘Won’t somebody think of the children?!’ – and I think you can spot the flaw in that particular plan…

      • I really don’t get the splitting the movement argument. From what I can tell, they don’t want us. Why would it bother them if we split off? I think they’re worried our parties will be more fun. :D

        • Well of course. That’s because our parties ARE more fun!

        • They’re worried because they know all the people who write about interesting things aren’t going to cater to their desire to just write about evil/stupid religious people anymore, and they can’t stand that because they’re desperate to feel better about themselves.

          • Maybe having these activists write about, and work on things in addition to working against religious encroachment is exactly what the movement needs to grow. I think a lot of people see atheists as shrill, or singly focused. Perhaps a little diversity of issues can get people who might not be interested in protesting churches to say, “I think I agree with these other things, these atheists aren’t all that bad…”.

        • It’s like someone trying to prolong an abusive relationship. “Don’t go. You won’t survive without me! I’m the only one who will put up with you.”

          An A+ movement could be the best thing to come out of this whole mess.

  3. H+ is pretty catchy too and is visually appealing – one could make a great looking logo from those elements.

    http://warpanda.com/stuff/hpluslogo.svg

    Obviously, it’s just a quick sketch (about ten minutes in iDraw) and the colours aren’t good.

    • H+ also already has a meaning: Transhumanism. Which isn’t quite the sense this is going for.

      • Well, crud.

        Can we do superhumanism, then? We could be H#!

  4. i always feel weird about using the word humanism because of what it seems to imply about non-human animals. Then again that was only my takeaway from “straw dogs” by
    john gray.
    kinda like this:

    http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/articles/why-i-am-not-humanist

    • Interesting article, though personally I feel he’s describing a form of humanism that no longer exists. Or, if some humanists do feel they ascribe to that definition, that definition does not apply to the larger humanist organizations, and it certainly doesn’t apply to me.

      • I see what you mean, but isn’t that problematic for humanism? That it means different things to different people? I think atheism is pretty clear in it’s diffiniton, so I’m not sure what it would even means if I said H+ if I’m not even sure what humanism entails? Certainly not being free of religion, since religious people can be humanist. Racists can be humanist, sexists can be humanist, etc.

        • The word Humanist has been used in many senses since it was invented in the 18th century and those who use it in “our” sense cannot claim a monopoly on it. That said, ours is a well established and defined use that applies to a non-religious, freethinking, ethical lifestance.

          The point about the word Humanism is not to adulate Man (in over 50 years in the humanist movement I have never come across any humanist taking that view) but to make a contrast with those who derive their values from gods and religions.

          Humanists cannot by definition be racist, misogynist etc (OK, you may find the odd racist/misogynist etc who calls him/herself Humanist, but that does not change the meaning of the word.)

          It is only since Humanism began to make an impact that the churches have started trying to label themselves as humanist – “Humanism with added God” – but this also cannot change our meaning of the word.

          I would strongly defend the use of this name for us. Atheism has a very clear meaning (not believing in gods) – but atheists who can be racists, tyrants etc: the word has no ethical implication Freethinker means no more or less than it says and does not rule out religion. Secularist should be kept for supporters of separation of religion and politics – and they include many religious people. Agnostic has the same narrow reference as Atheist and in addition covers everything from the distressed would-be believer to the total unbeliever who wants to make a point about not being able to prove a negative. Sceptic covers too wide a field of doubt and includes religious people. And so on.

          So, having in effect invented the term Humanist / Humanism and given it “our” meaning, why not use it and defend it?

        • I think the Humanism being described is what humanism would look like if it followed a top-down power hierarchy the way that patriarchal religions do.

          Top-down power hierarchies need something at the top, either God, or Man (or Woman). Humans (especially men) have a compulsion to try and fit social structures into a top-down social power hierarchy. This is what non-feminists do and so impute that feminists want women at the top of the top-down power structure rather than their being no top-down power structure and decisions being made from the bottom-up.

          • Humans (especially men) have a compulsion to try and fit social structures into a top-down social power hierarchy.

            Citation needed.

          • Will, that is the whole point of the patriarchy. The patriarchal leader is at the top, and then people are arrayed below him in the patriarchal hierarchy.

            That is what a military command structure is. That is what a management hierarchy is. That is what religious hierarchies are; God, Pope, Archbishop, Bishops, priests, believers, believers of other faiths, heretics, agnostics, atheists.

          • Sure, but not all human societies are patriarchal. To claim that there is some innate drive towards hierarchical structuring of social groups seems overly universalistic to me.

    • I like the linked article (“why I am not humanist”), especially the comment about “Freethinker” not being the same as “atheist.”

      As someone who finds that just about every religious or non-religious group has some core belief that I just can’t go along with, I’ve been looking for a word that would get across my general contrariness in these matters.

      Unfortunately, it seems like most of the people who use the word “freethinker” seem to use it as a euphemism for Atheist-with-a-capital-A. I get the impression that anyone who called him/herself “freethinker” but had something good to say about religion would get the hairy eyeball pretty quick.

      BTW, I think the A+ (or H+ or whatever) idea is great. My core “religious” belief is that how you treat people is the most important thing. I don’t care how or whether you pray or believe or what, I only care whether you act like a Mensch or like a jerk.

  5. Great post Rebecca.

  6. I like the labels atheist and feminist because they seem to be such useful yardsticks when conversing with new people. Often people’s reaction to either label is really informative (even if it’s just to highlight how little the other person is aware of the issue). Humanism on the other hand seems to mostly make people shrug (which is fine, but not as informative).

    Also both atheist and feminist seem to be bolder declarations of intent then humanist, but maybe that’s just me.

  7. Thumbs up, Rebecca. Jen deserves a lot of credit for stepping up to initiate this.

  8. HAHAAAAA I really hope that granola thing was a Joffrey Jellineck reference. Even if not, made me laugh…

  9. One label is as good as another, I don’t care. All I care about at this point is excluding the pro-harassment crowd. Until that is accomplished no label is going to do us any good.

  10. I think the Atheist +/Humanist thing is wroth discussing. I found myself very excited and interested in Atheism +, when I have been not-at-all interested in calling myself a Humanist. I think that comes down to a feeling that atheists might be asked to leave something at the door when joining a humanist organization. I know there are a lot of humanist groups out there that identify as or with atheists, but there are plenty that don’t want the taint of atheism offending or scaring away their religious or spiritual members. A year or so ago I was working at an atheist table at a community event where I was hassled by a UU minister who identified himself as a secular humanist. He was mad that we were calling ourselves atheists because he found it to be offensive. No one else hassled us while I was there. Some people may say that if we’re atheists and we care about social justice, why don’t we all just be humanists. If we were to do so, I’m not convinced there wouldn’t be pushback from the humanists.

    • Yes, I completely agree! Secular humanism seems still too close to religion for me to be completely comfortable using it as my main identity. I don’t want to be hassled about my atheistic beliefs, and I also want to be open and accepting of anyone else who doesn’t happen to believe in a god. Atheism plus is the right term for that.

      I like the UUs, but many of them do believe in a deity or deities. I can’t quite feel completely comfortable with many UUs, knowing that we may disagree on something so fundamental.

  11. I’m very excited about Atheism Plus. As a brand it’s inherently intriguing, (“Atheism plus what?”) as a statement it makes atheism more attractive to those interested in social justice, and as a definition it excludes the more pedantic and apathetic members of the atheist community. I also like that it retains the much-maligned but powerful “A” word, potentially furthering the goal of rehabilitating it the way the “Q” word was rehabilitated.

  12. [begin small quiet almost-whisper voice] I like atheism. I like humanism. I like secularism. I like feminism. A+ seems more expedient in inpatient company than saying atheohumanosecularfeminist, pass the cheese please.[end small quiet almost-whisper voice]

    As a signifier of a point in time to move forward from, the A+ idea works as a cultural marker of community cohesiveness around the idea that the hate, misogyny, and disrespect within the grand over-reaching atheist and skeptic movement(s) that is blatantly directed towards its own very members needs to be…must be…spotlighted, rallied against, combated, and with perseverance hopefully stopped.

    …at least that is how I am perceiving this to be evolving at a very basic level…it’s my working hypothesis and I’m still taking in data :)

    And here’s to the radicals of yesteryear! May they continue to inspire the radicals for equality today and be a foundation for those radicals to come.

  13. I had the same thought about “freethinkers” when I read Jen’s post, and almost made the same point. I should have, because I write a column for The Freethinker, so I should be like an ambassador sort of thing. Or at least PR rep. Freethinkers rock.

    An outstanding humanist outfit is the International Humanist and Ethical Union, IHEU. They back Leo Igwe’s work. Roy Brown also rocks.

  14. I’m with this: http://themagusworkshop.com/?p=400

    Basically, A+ is about atheists, not those outside of atheism. Plus, let’s not forget that Christians can be secular humanists, too.

    • Why thank you :D.

      So yeah, I said my peace there. I think that A+ isn’t about non-Atheists and has little to do with Humanism in that regard.

    • No they can’t – they can be secularists (supporting separation of religion and politics) and they can use the word ‘humanist’ in a weak sense to suggest they are concerned about human welfare, but “secular humanist” is a term that can only refer to non-religious people in the humanist movement. Otherwise we are into Wonderland with Humpty Dumpty: `When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

  15. @Rei Malebario: The abbreviation “H+” is AFAIK already in use (by transhumanists).

  16. I’m starting up an A++ movement. It’s just like A+, but we add objectivism.

    • Do you mean Randian objectivism? *HISS*

      • Do you mean Randian objectivism? *HISS*

        Not really. It’s just a coding joke. C++ is C with objects. I have a hard time imagining the group I just described.

        • Dude! I totally thought that too, object oriented atheism. ;)

        • I tried so hard to come up with a dynamic cast joke out of this but realized (a) I am not that good, (b) only 3 people would get it and (c) I would make a fool of myself when all 3 of those people told me exactly how I screwed up the joke/C++ reference.

          nErdcred–;

          • Aw man, and now WordPress screwed up my joke. That was supposed to be minus minus, but looks like on of those minuses got removed. Clearly WP doesn’t like C++ jokes…

    • No, this’d be bad. Eventually Microsoft will rebrand Atheism as part of Humanism and call it A#.

      Also, I think it’d be Objectism, not Objectivism. I’m really not sure, thoug, ’cause Object-Oriented Programming is a very different logical beast than philosophy generally handles.

    • Graham Harman has been working on object oriented philosophy for some time now. It’s sort of an outgrowth of speculative realism and Heidegger’s phenomenology.

  17. How does this relate to “Gnu Atheists”?

    I am an atheist, although I don’t go to TAM or really associate online with atheists.

    I really just wish to ask or say that regardless of my support for atheism, I truly dislike anyone using “Gnu” for anything not associated with the Free Software Foundation.

    I think it is confusing, I think it’s unfair to them and to Richard Stallman (even though I suspect Richard Stallman is also an atheist), and I know online atheist groups can be just as clever if not more so. I was really disappointed when I started reading about Gnu Atheism and some paltry rationalizations of why it was okay.

    • I assume you’re kidding, but one can never be too sure these days…

    • The preferred term, as far as I know, is GNU/Atheism.

  18. What’s wrong with being a teetotaller? :(

  19. The spittle-flecked ranting and bizarre distortions from those who this entire subgroup is aiming to distance itself from is more than a little confusing; they seem to neither want to be criticised nor be separated from – to them our options are limited to one: sitting down, shutting up and pretending that atheists are one big happy family.

    Sucks to be them I guess. Maybe one day they’ll realise that they have the option of not reading blogs by and not attending conferences catering to those who choose to identify as A+.

  20. Humanism is a 19th century idea and is probably best left there. I don’t see how it or A+ can deal with modern philosophy of ethics or cognitive science.

    There is no self.

    You do not have free will.

    Folk Psychology is false.

    I don’t see how Humanism can deal with that. In fact, I’d say it categorically *cannot* because Humanism still maintains a dualist metaphysics and that just isn’t going to work any more.

    We need to get beyond the base-line dualist assumptions that everyone, even atheists, shares today. Like the idea that you are a self in a body.

    Humanism requires a subject who interacts with other subjects. But neurologists today tell us there is no subject, no *person* to be found. How then can Humanism be of any help? I don’t think it can.

    • err… the point of none of this is debating philosophical garbage.

      • How is that philosophical garbage? It’s pretty important for rational thinking…

  21. I have just posted to my blog:
    “Enlightenment” is better than “Atheism+”.
    http://blog.barrypearson.co.uk/?p=2399

    I wonder whether “Atheism+” is taking off because so many of the advocates are in the USA, where atheism is a big deal? In Europe it can be pretty boring!

    I don’t object to atheists extending their viewpoint, but atheism isn’t the only valid starting point, and from a global point of view isn’t the most important. If we all treated religions as hobbies, (which is really what religious practices are), the other problems become far more important than religions.

  22. I wish the A+ people all the very best, and won’t be joining them. I’m not much of a joiner as it is, and don’t really consider my atheism important enough to craft an identity around.

    I write a probably quite dull blog post about it:

    http://repatriated.posterous.com/atheist-with-a-lowercase-a

    • That sort of privilege must be very nice.

      • I acknowledge my privilege fully and did so in the text of my blog post.

        • This is what you said, which is very non-commital:

          Perhaps this is a privilege thing, and if such I hope I’m honest enough with myself to examine my views with the skepticism I value so much.

          Perhaps, huh? And maybe you’ll examine your privilege… Maybe. I guess if you suddenly become non-apathetic. Somehow, though, I doubt it. Why would someone who just babbled on about their apathy for over a dozen paragraphs?

          You know … I just don’t really give much of a fuck, to put it bluntly, and I’m not sure anyone here does, either.

          It just comes off as condescending, even if that’s not your intention. It just doesn’t add anything to the discussion. So, you’re apathetic? Oookay. Thanks for sharing for over 12 paragraphs?

          It’s just weird when the apathetic seem to care just long enough to talk about their apathy (for over 12 paragraphs!).

          You know, it is okay to not like labels. I, myself, am not that great with labels. I am an atheist who is very interested in skepticism and I am involved in the local LGBQT community. I’ll call myself bisexual but I hate it — I’m more comfortable with queer or, hell, “I like people!” I tend to float between groups a lot. Labels are good for general use, but not always for personal use, and that’s okay. (I AM, however, a proud feminist.)

          dr. dr. professor, I also wouldn’t call you apathetic. You’ve contributed a lot! CLEARLY you care. I mean, you spend time and care on your responses, and I’ve definitely seen passion in you. :)

          Just because you’re not a very social person doesn’t mean you are apathetic.

          • I think you might be confusing my not wanting to to be part of a movement with apathy. I’m not apathetic about these issues, and while I obviously haven’t committed as much of my life to them as others have, I am aware of them and I have taken what action I could when I could, even if in many cases that has only been words or financial support.

            What I was trying to say (and if this didn’t come across I take full responsibility for it) was that in my case I don’t think another group with another name is going to help.

            There’s a Liz Feldman line about equal marriage where she says “I parked my car. I didn’t gay-park it”, and without meaning to steal a slogan from another cause I think that speaks to my attitude to whether I should be a member of this sort of movement.

            I’m opposed to inequality, rape culture, misogyny, transphobia, and the war on women. I’m not atheist-opposed to these things.

            If this movement is helpful to other people, if it gives them a sense of identity and community and motivates them to join, then I’m all in favour of them joining and I’m delighted they have it as a safe space. I look forward to standing alongside them at the causes we share.

            The fact that I’m not joining doesn’t mean I don’t care.

            Not that you should feel obligated to give a shit about that.

          • So why go on for over 12 paragraphs? It just comes off as super condescending. Also, I’m not sure I like that analogy. PRIDE is still a necessary event, for instance.

            Without the ability for like-minded individuals to band together, progressive movements would never ever get anywhere. We would be drowned out by our opressors.

            Labels and groups are nothing new. So I am not sure why people are acting like it is. It baffles me.

            It is similar to when people ask why we must have African American history. Or women’s studies. Without them, their voices wouldn’t be heard.

            How to you expect progress without organization? And passion? It is fucking impossible without it!

            But hey, it is super nice that your future is secure wihout the need to organize so that your voice is heard and your needs are taken care of. I am not that lucky.

            But thanks for sharing with us your privilege! It was super helpful to the discussion and sure added a lot! /s

          • But thanks for sharing with us your privilege!

            I want to add something: If you had actually spent time to *explore* your privileged, I probably wouldn’t be giving you nearly as much sarcasm. But i twas almost like you just added it on there because it was EXPECTED of you. Because you *knew* someone would point it out. So now you get to say, “But I totally owned up to my privileged! SEE! I said it! Twice, even! I am awesome, aren’t I? Come on, pat me on the back!”

            But saying, “Perhaps I hold some privilege doesn’t actually SAY anything. Not to mention the “perhaps” — you aren’t even *sure* about it. Yet I’m supposed to totally pat you on the back and tell ya good job?

            This kind of stuff drives me batty, honestly. It’s SO FRUSTRATING.

            You don’t get some sort of extra credit for throwing in the word “privilege” a few times. It doesn’t work like that.

          • I wasn’t asking for any kind of backpatting or reward. I was replying to a blog post and sharing my thoughts. I didn’t say it was a bad idea, I didn’t say it wouldn’t work. I didn’t way it was pointless. I said it wasn’t for me. Getting yelled at isn’t warming me up to the idea, either.

            If I offended you by sharing my blog post, I’m sorry. If you found it wasted your time, I’m sorry. I didn’t post it looking for an argument or looking for praise.

            Maybe it was a mistake posting here at all.

          • This is a BLOG. This is where we DISCUSS things. If you post something expect people to comment on it. You shared it. You did not have to do that. In fact, there was no need. It was pointless. I rather think the blog post itself was pointless, but it’s your personal blog, so write whatever you want!

            That said, waving your privilege around like a flag and making no attempt at ALL to explore it? Well, thanks for sharing, I guess.

          • And you didn’t offend me. Can we PLEASE stop throwing that word around?

          • “Getting yelled at isn’t warming me up to the idea, either.”

            And OH dear. I am SO sorry! I am so very, very sorry that I pointed out your privilege and your lame attempt at admitting your privilege (though I’m still not convinced you understand what privilege even *is*).

            I’m oh so sorry for getting annoyed at yet more examples of condescending privilege. How dare I!!!!

    • Yeah lamuella, I actually agree with you about labels.
      I’ve never been to an atheist, humanist, or skeptics meeting, and I don’t plan on ever going because I’m not that passionate about my lack of belief.

      What I would consider myself though is a feminist, because I think that label is really worth something and it’s universal across belief systems.

      I think however that A+ will be a concept I’ll bring up when sexism/racism/homophobia comes up in any liberal or non-believing company as a way to frame how stupid and irrational such hateful thinking is.

    • Also, I don’t really craft that much of an identity around my atheism, and I’m not sure everyone in the community does, either. It’s a part of me, of course, especially because I live in such a religious culture. I mean, I live in Arizona. And I’m a woman. At least I’m white.

      See, I can’t afford to not care. Jan Brewer is incredibally pro-life and homophobic. She has gone out of her way to do some shitty things to women and LGBQT citizens. ALL in the name of God.

      Here, read this:

      http://www.towleroad.com/2009/09/arizona-governor-takes-away-state-domestic-partner-benefits-says-god-has-placed-me-in-this-powerful-.html

      “A bill signed by Gov. Jan Brewer redefined a ‘dependent,’ canceling the rule change made by Gov. Janet Napolitano that allowed domestic partners to receive benefits. Also eliminated are children of domestic partners, full-time students ages 23-24 and disabled adult dependents.

      For the record, her son is a DISABLED ADULT DEPENDENT WHO RECEIVES STATE BENEFITS.

      “Gov. Jan Brewer said Wednesday that she believes ‘God has placed me in this powerful position as Arizona’s governor’ to help the state weather its troubles. In a wide-ranging speech on the role of religion in politics and in her life, Brewer detailed to a group of pastors of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church how she relies on her faith and in prayer to deal with many of the issues she faces as the state’s chief executive.

      So, you know. I can’t be apathetic. Having her as my governor is DANGEROUS for me. Her pro-life views lean on the extreme.

      But, you know. Cool. You’re apathetic. Great! I am so fucking happy for you.

      • Oh and I just want to clarify, I believe most of that shit went through. Heh. It’s too depressing for me to verify right now, but I will if you need me to.

  23. It’s the alternative to the alternative.

  24. This may be trite, but one of the threads running through this discussion seems to be: An atheist is a person, and a person is always going to be much more than an atheist.

    If atheism grows the more varied that “more” is going to be.

    I think another thread is the existence of different underlying models about what the growth of atheism means.

    One idea seems to be that simply shrugging off of theism is sufficient. We rid ourselves of these undesirable invasive species and leave the rest to nature, whatever that might be.

    Another seems to be that after weeding out a non-theistic space for ourselves we have to decide what we want to cultivate in it.

    Between these you also find the view that we can’t talk about this now because the cleared non-theistic space is still way too small, the weed of theism to aggressive and prevalent, for us to do anything but keep weeding, keep enlarging the free space (I think of this as the “Fuck the purslane, or planting anything, just keep pulling up the Canada Thistle” camp [Boom Boom, ROW ya bastids]).

    There may be other variants, and like anything else its common for someone to be ambivalent between them, but my point is that everybody who is “in” atheism has one of these models in mind when they imagine what they’ve joined up with.

  25. I am very much in favor of the kind of movement Jen described*, and A+ appeals to me. I don’t have any particular beef with Secular Humanism, however, and I respect those who share the same goals whatever they prefer to call themselves.

    * I was at a theater performance, checking Twitter at intermission, where I saw Greta Christina link to Jen’s post. I read it intently and had to supress the urge to yell, “Fuck, yeah!” in the middle of a crowded lobby.

  26. Over at Jen’s site a commenter mentioned that she’d love to see a podcast dedicated to skepticism and social issues. I responded with this, which I thought needed to be posted over her on your turf…I’m sure it’s done more than cross your mind.

    I’d love to see Rebecca Watson do something like this.
    I really have felt for a while that the SGU guys aren’t very excited about her issues…they say the bare minimum of supportive things but seem unwilling to get active about them, or seriously bring them up on the show.

    Might be nice to see Rebecca go out on her own (not quitting SGU to do it!) and use what she’s learned to do her own kind of show, focusing on these issues.

    A+ podcast, Rebecca?

  27. Partly due to Rebecca’s post, I’ve updated my thoughts on A+
    917 words later, my conclusion is here:
    http://emilyhasbooks.com/growing-pains-labels/ See update after the image break, or read the whole page if you haven’t already. Comments welcome.

  28. I spend all day typing and making zero mistakes, and then I go online in the evening and my fingers no longer want to cooperate. Haha.

  29. Wasn’t this a South Park episode?

  30. Speaking from down here in America’s Taint…

    Personally, I tend to use “humanist” as something of a code word. “Atheist” tends to spur conversion conversations, wherein I either get snarky, hostile, or simply obstinately repeat a variation on “please shut up, I am not interested.” So, while I like a lot about Atheism+, it would be unwise for me to get the scarlett A just yet.

    And, FYI, so far as I can tell, the @atheismplus twitter account is a troll.

  31. Sure, there’s lots of people out there who use the word “humanist” are yet are hateful imbeciles. Just like there’s hateful imbeciles in any other self-identifying group.

    I also wonder about conflating humanists with humanism. It’s a little like conflating scientists (who are imperfect and, sometimes, assholes) with science, which is an ideal structure to which one aspires.

    Being male, I make absolutely no claim of “understanding” feminism in any deep way, except that I strive to treat everyone exactly the same.

    That being said, I still think A+ is a fascinating idea. I just hope we don’t end up over-thinking it.

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