Boy, did Be Scofield catch the Atheism Plus bus about three months too late.
In his column, “Why Atheism+ Should Lead to Interfaith Dialogue,” he rehashes how Jen McCreight called for a “third wave” of atheism and how the A+ “movement” has caught fire online. Of course, he failed to mention that A+ is about as done as burnt toast at this point. Skeptically Left summarized the beginning of the end quite fittingly with this gem:
Its (Atheism+) fate was sealed when optimistic supporter, Matt Dillahunty, President of the Atheist Community of Austin and Host of Non-Prophet Radio got banned from the A+ forums in an attempt to show that those forums were fair to outsiders. To make a long story short, he quickly found out that they weren’t.
In any case, in Johhny Come Lately fashion, Scofield proceeds to tell us how Atheism Plus, and presumably atheists at large, should welcome a partnership with “progressive religious organizations” to move social justice forward:
I applaud all of those who have already laid out their visions and ideas about where this movement can go. There is, however one important question that has yet to be addressed. The answer to it could have profound ramifications for the future of atheism in all of its expressions. How will Atheism+ affect atheists’ relationship to religion?
Well, that is certainly is a question that I don’t think has been asked up to this point, mostly because many nonbelievers like myself have not only moved on from religion, but have moved past it. Way past it. Of course, to understand why Scofield raised such a question to begin with, one must understand that Scofield has been working on a master’s of divinity from Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley. I don’t know what a master’s of divinity is either, other than a faux-degree that has no meaning or value in a world free of religion and theology.
Atheism Plus’s slow demise makes most of Scofield’s article completely irrelevant, but let’s pretend that it doesn’t for a minute. Or, better yet, let’s pretend that instead of talking about A+ specifically, let’s just say that he might, in similar fashion, call for cooperation on social justice issues between “progressive” believers and run of the mill atheists, freethinkers or secular humanists. What then? What would such a partnership look like? Scofield asks us to consider a few questions:
Will (atheists) … be willing, in the name of social justice, to form new alliances, coalitions and networks with progressive religious organizations and people who are interested? Engage in interfaith dialogue? Explore the rich justice based traditions found within most any religious group? Soften the antagonistic rhetoric to advance the common good? Learn about the liberation based and prophetic teachings in religion and why they matter to people resisting injustice?
“Justice based traditions” found in most religions? Does he mean human sacrifice? How about stoning? Or eternal punishment by fire and brimstone for ever and ever? I can’t speak for everyone, but I dare say that even Atheism Plus supporters chafe when considering the “justice” of most religions. And what is that about the “liberation based and prophetic teachings” of religion? What does that have to do with issues of social justice? Certain religions teach liberation from this world, but most of the time, it is a type of liberation at the damning expense of millions of others who don’t follow that particular denomination or sect. Does he mean enlightenment ideas found in Buddhism? Maybe, but that’s more about personal enrichment than helping people on a broad scale have more fulfilling lives and supporting egalitarian principles. Further, how could the phony prophetic teachings of religion add anything to the conversation about social justice?
Atheism+ is an exciting movement. I’m looking forward to seeing it grow and evolve. We can use this opportunity to bridge divided worlds, build interfaith coalitions and make social justice campaigns stronger. Imagine the Atheism+ movement and progressive religious groups united in solidarity against the real enemies: oppression, injustice and indifference!
Atheism+ is about as exciting as a rendition of “Taps.” In some ways, “progressive” or “liberal” Christians or other religious people are worse than evangelicals because while evangelicals are at least being honest when they tell you straight up that you are bound for an eternity in hell, progressive Christians want to gloss over the nasty bits about their religion, or redact them altogether, to make themselves and their faith appear less brutal and arcane than it actually is. Of course, Scofield’s last sentence is almost laughable since religion has at one time or another (indeed, throughout most of its history) gleefully supported both oppression and injustice, so for it to now make an about-face seems like a stretch. I certainly would hope that these “progressive” believers continue on a path more focused on social justice than dogma and divisiveness, but that will take place in spite of religion, not because of it.