Friday, 31 August 2012

Final word on Atheism+ - Part 2

Still blogging on my phone, I'm afraid. I wonder just how many parts this post will consume. Onwards regardless.

Notwithstanding the considerable abuse of rational and sceptical atheists thus far, a post I have just read by Greta Christina gave me some hope. She has always been one of the more responsible voices in gender and sex equality, in addition to her atheism. And it is with that in mind that her comments on Atheism+ were not lost on me. If she feels that there is benefit in incorporating non atheistic - but allied - issues to atheism, then I wish her and her co-pilots all the best. By her own admission, though, it is a monumental task that to my mind suggests that the abandonment of compartmentalism is a realistic way forward.

Atheism+ appears to be a genuine attempt to rally like minded people to become activists on all issues that have a common egalitarian goal. This in itself is nothing to be sniffed at, but in doing so, the activists that work 24/7 across the globe to promote equality for atheists, are being asked to take on even more responsibility. This, in effect - and if each atheistplusser subscribes to the same selfless goal for all - means that all arguments for positions under its banner are compromised. Certainly, a possible weight of numbers may make up for this dilution, but I fail to see that the divisiveness it has engendered is anything worthwhile spending any time on.

If Atheism+ were nothing more than an umbrella under which differing activists could organise, I would have no problem with it, but I foresee two major flaws.

The first is that if an umbrella group is all Atheism+ is, then why name it after one aspect of the group: especially if it excludes those that we may wish to bring to our way of thinking - namely theists? Also, in spreading each person's involvement across numerous disciplines and issues, the gravitas of each individual's efforts is compromised by introducing ideas each might have less experience with, further diluting their message's value. Would it not simply be better to form a similar minded group that allowed each specialist activist to continue their work to the best of their ability, in an environment where there work can be shared amongst people that share the same egalitarian goals? We could call it Equality+, because that is the common goal, right?

The second, following on from the first, is in diluting atheism into shared and worthy goals, we ignore the fact that if theism is compromised and diluted, race, sex, gender and other social justice issues will begin to crumble. I don't wish to say that atheism should form the backbone of a wider movement with similar goals, but that the goals we strive for in atheism have clear benefits for our brothers and sisters in other areas of equality. There is, to my mind, a clear benefit to specialisation in our fields: it gives our voices the weight of authority our goals deserve.

They are secular issues.

They are social justice issues.

They are each issues worth our attention.

Speaking as an atheist who is a secular activist, I see real value in what I understand FtB's initial goal was - giving a voice to those that feel they lacked one - but my observations of a number of those that have aligned themselves with the burgeoning Atheism+ movement (but by no means all of them) have been divisive and ill-considered.

I am sure, if feminism hasn't deliberately set out on a wedge strategy to piggy back on atheism's successes, that few would disagree with me if they are to be honest.

We do have a common goal, but Atheism+ is not a constructive strategy (such as it is). We all want to work towards equality, and we don't want people who undermine our shared goals to subvert us from our causes, but if we are to be an effective force to be reckoned with, dividing ourselves against ourselves is hardly a constructive path. Is it?

We are all responsible for calling out trolls and bigots on our respective platforms, and we need to be more vigilant, but blindly blocking and harassing people for asking relevant questions (in what is, for all intents and purposes, a sceptical community) is nothing short of activism suicide.

Remind me. Where does it say something about divided houses falling?

Part 3 to come. Oh dear. This is becoming an epic.

Your thoughts so far?

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