+

In case someone’s actually wondering, i’m focusing on other things.

Meanwhile, this conversation has been fascinating.

I’ve been tempted to disassociate myself from the Richard Dawkins Foundation since Mahergate and the hit-and-run Muslima comments — not that i’ve ever been affiliated; i just use the Zapfino A. I kept my little A because, in the non-event that someone comes across my writing, it’ll be obvious that i’m a proud atheist.

The same reasoning now applies. Looks good, sounds good. I’m provisionally on board, negligible implications for the immediate future notwithstanding (i.e. i’m busy).

One concern, however.

A comment by MroyalT from a separate conversation clinched a basic humanist (“supra-atheist”?) point for me. To align policies with wishful thinking rather than reality is both oppressive (the net effect being to exacerbate disadvantage) and unreasonable (the understood goal being to improve people’s lives).

I caught a bus back from DC recently. The driver called me out on my 67-pound suitcase (in unintentional spite on my part of a 50-pound limit). I had to wait outside the bus for a while before someone could charge me the $25 fee. Meantime, the driver was crass and insulting, but since he was a bus driver i made a moderate and successful effort to stay polite.

Another waiting passenger didn’t. He wasn’t inflammatory; he just talked back. For example, for whatever reason the driver got on this passenger’s case about carrying a third item: “You’re not gay, and you’re not a woman, so you’re not carrying a purse,” the driver bellowed a few times. The passenger tried to eke out his rebuttal a few times: “How do you know that? How do you know I’m not gay?” (Never mind the gender norms that obscured the alternative of introducing doubt as to his gender, or the likelihood that a gay man in his situation would broadcast such.)

The driver was black, and a bus driver. Even if, by some hyper-principled lurch, i had felt it my place to speak out against stereotyping women and gay men, i would not have felt entitled to call out a man whose accident of birth had beset him with his own burden, and who held down a job that paid only slightly better than my graduate stipend, on bigotry.

I of course do not have my morals finely tuned here. Anyway, this raises a question for me.

How does Atheism+ address bigotry born of inequity?

More generally, how does a campaign premised on a flat threshold of decency make allowances for inequitable access to the essentials of decency?

This might be easily resolved. The same objection could be made to Atheism — more so, it seems to me. Atheism is a conclusion, which can take quite a long time, of empiricism and skepticism. Atheism+, in contrast, posits rather obvious premises and leaves room for disagreement when evidence is unavailable (which should then narrow as evidence is exchanged). More importantly, these inequities are of explicit concern to the campaign, in tandem with the more glaring inequities that build its appeal.

It is worth making the distinction that the campaign consists of far fewer people (atheist champions of the identified values) than concern it (everyone), whereas the Atheist movement concerns itself largely (i would argue primarily) with the welfare of its own members.

Objections have of course been raised.

vjack offers a list of reservations, which i’ll work my way through before relaxing my own — though they seem so far, like his own, either to miss the point or to mischaracterize it.

A salient exception is Alonzo Fyfe, who seems to raise the following objections to his own inclusion: that he does not emphasize atheism enough; that the campaign’s central values are too narrow; relatedly, that the residual unreasonable baggage we all carry disqualifies any of us from establishing certain thresholds for collaboration; and that participation in Atheism+ precludes us from ever collaborating with people who don’t meet them.

The first certainly is good reason for him not to participate; this is a pro-atheism, borderline anti-religious campaign, in the spirit of the Out Campaign itself — the especial complicity of religious institutions in systemic oppression will be not only recognized but emphasized.

The other objections are less tractable. First, Fyfe seems to interpret the campaign wholly in terms of Jen McCreight’s original brief manifesto. It may be that McCreight intended her quintity of values to stand pentolithically for all time; but it would never have been so, as Richard Carrier has already demonstrated. Next, it is important to notice, especially from within a movement that has systemic problems attracting and maintaining diversity, that certain thresholds of inclusivity and stances on social justice issues are of greater urgency in maintaining the movement than the suite of moral issues that are ultimately just as important. Finally, Atheism+ is a campaign, not a lifestyle, and no Atheist+ is likely to be demonized for collaborating with sexists (or, indeed, Christians) outside the campaign. (They could never attend TAM!, for instance.)

One concern of Fyfe’s is common enough to address at the (my) outset, an apparent false false dichotomy:

There has been some talk suggesting that, for atheism plus, an individual who does not join this group is a friend to sexist, racist, homophobic trolls. This, of course, is a false dichotomy. It follows the pattern of, “Either you are with us, or you are against us,” that makes no room for, “Or you are working on something else that is also a legitimate concern.”

I’ve seen a few participants display this with-us-or-against-us attitude, but they are clear enough that it has not to do with one’s self-identification or level of involvement but with whether they embrace the posited values. I am (again, provisionally) delighted to join a campaign that explicitly disavows the apathy and destructive contrarianism that has undermined so much of the conversation lately.

I’ll still be sleeping on this. However i feel tomorrow, i’ll watch this project develop with interest.

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