Archive for the ‘racism’ tag
In December 2006, Christopher Hitchens wrote a column with the above headline in quotes, which included a sub-headline reading, “The pernicious effects of banning words.” He went on to describe a short-lived interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, in which he explained the evolution of the word “stupid” as it relates to politics, noting that John Stuart Mill once referred to the Tories as “generally stupid.” I couldn’t locate a reference to a quote from Mill that actually used these three words in this sequence — ”the stupid party” — so I’m not sure if Hitchens was paraphrasing or referring to an actual quote in some dusty volume.
In any case, the moniker apparently stuck, since eventually, the Tories actually began referring to their party in this way. The late Hitchens has proven himself prophetic beyond his years in this regard since in November 2012, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal challenged the prevailing anti-intellectualism that had run amok in his own party:
“… Stop being the stupid party. … It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that. It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.
Near the end of his explanation on MSNBC, Hitchens sucked the air right out of the room when he dared suggest that the word “stupid” may have taken a similar evolutionary journey as other words like “nigger” and “queer,” “and I might have added faggot,” Hitchens informs us in parenthesis. For this insult to the sensibilities of the MSNBC staff, he was quickly hurried off camera and told that the interview was “extremely over.” Taking the case of the former word, he said that while white people have not been afforded the ability to use the word, “nigger,” in any context whatever, however benign, and must always defer to the cowardly N-word, black folks have turned the discriminatory and racist undertones of the word on its head:
If white people call black people niggers, they are doing their very best to hurt and insult them, as well as to remind them that their ancestors used to be property. If black people use the word, they are either uttering an obscenity or trying to detoxify a word and rob it of its power to wound them. Not quite the same thing.
Note the distinction that Hitchens makes in this essay between white people calling blacks derogatory names with the intent to harm versus using “nigger,” “queer” or “faggot” in an explanatory or historical context that I am doing right now.
This brings me to more recent news in which the Associated Press has announced that it will no longer use the words “illegal immigrant” to describe — clears throat — illegal immigrants, and it has for years advised journalists to avoid the borderline derogatory labels “illegals” and “aliens.” This step by the AP is one of numerous ways that it suggests people shy away from labels and focus more on behavior. Presumably, we must now refer to undocumented immigrants by the laborious “people who are living in a country illegally.”
Howard Kurtz today on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” called the change “a bit too politically correct.” I have to agree. While I have and do avoid “illegals” or “aliens” because of their derogatory connotations, banning “illegal immigrant” seems like splitting hairs to me, and while words that journalists use to describe immigrants carry nowhere near the malignant baggage of “spik,” “gook, or “nigger” or any other words racists have embraced to disparage our fellow human beings, AP’s change represents the latest example — add censorship on radio and TV to the mix — of language’s power over us rather than the other way around.
If you don’t know by now, ESPN analysis Rob Parker was suspended this past week — and rightly so — because of the comments he made about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. Here is a video of Parker’s odious remarks:
Now, watching this, several questions immediately surface. First, as one of the other announcers wondered: Why was Parker even asking the question about whether RG3 was a “brother” or a “cornball brother.” What difference does it make? Would Parker be less of a fan if it was, in fact, the case that Griffin was a “cornball brother” — I understand that to mean a black guy who is not authentically black, whatever that means.
Examples here would be Tiger Woods or TV‘s Carlton Banks from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Parker raised this particular concern based only on these two assumptions: that Griffin might be a Republican and that he has a white girlfriend. Parker also said that the braids in Griffin’s hair were a plus in his book toward authenticating his blackness. Braids. Really? Parker does realize that white guys are perfectly able to don braids themselves. Does this make white people who have braids black poseurs? What about Adam Duritz (pictured at right)? I’m pretty sure Duritz would scoff at being called a black poseur.
Second, what the hell is “the cause? And is it asking too much of a 22-year-old freshman quarterback to even have a “cause?” In any case, I agree with Stephen A. Smith, another black analyst on the show who, after Parker’s nonsensical and borderline racist comments, said he was uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation:
First of all, let me say this: I’m uncomfortable with where we just went. RG3, the ethnicity or the color of his fiancee is none of our business, it’s irrelevant, he can live his life in whatever way he chooses. The braids that he has in his hair, that’s his business, that’s his life, he can live his life. I don’t judge someone’s blackness based on those kinds of things. I just don’t do that. I’m not that kind of guy.
In fact, Griffin’s actual comments on race, to which Parker was referring, actually sound more intelligent and grown up than Parker’s. Here is Griffin:
For me, you don’t ever want to be defined by the color of your skin. You want to be defined by your work ethic, the person that you are, your character, your personality. That’s what I strive to go out and do. I am an African-American in America. That will never change. But I don’t have to be defined by that.
After the U.S. Census Bureau reported earlier this year that white newborn babies were now in the minority camp, the agency is now indicating that whites as a whole in America will be a minority by 2043, a reality that, while it certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, will no doubt raise anxieties among some white folks, especially in the South.
Witness some of these odious responses on the News-Sentinel website:
TOLDYOUSO: Oh goodie, then we can race bait like jesse and al.
GOJO: Then whites will get preferential treatment as a minority.
transplantedhillbilly: There goes the neighborhood! Now they will be burning crosses on OUR lawns!
activehollow: white history month…finally!
ragebucket: When whites are no longer the majority, can we have white pride month?
As Matthew Yglesias pointed out in May after the report on newborns, the actual figures related to demographics in America aren’t as black and white as we might believe. People technically of Hispanic origin but have lived in the United States since infanthood may be just as well feel comfortable checking the “white” box if other branches of their family tree find their roots in say, Eastern Europe, like Yglesias. What about people with Hispanic origins whose families have lived in the United States for multiple generations, and they have no immediate connection to Mexico, Cuba or elsewhere.
Here is Yglesias:
As books like How The Irish Became White and How Jews Became White Folks: And What That Says About Race in America make clear, whiteness in America has always been a somewhat elastic concept.
It’s conceivable that 40 years from now nobody will care about race at all. But if they do still care, it will still be the case that—by definition—whiteness is the racial definition of the sociocultural majority. If the only way for that to happen is to recruit large swathes of the Hispanic and fractionally Asian population into whiteness, then surely it will happen.
… The future of American whiteness will likely evolve to include a larger share of ancestry from Asia and Latin America, just as in the past it’s expanded to include people from eastern and southern Europe. The idea that every single person with a single non-white ancestor counts as non-white will look as ridiculous as Elizabeth Warren’s past claim of Cherokee identity.
Mitt Romney seems to be resolute in his delusion about the election and why he really lost.
This week during a conference call with some big-money supporters, he threw plenty of blame around, most of it involving charges that Barack Obama offered various “gifts” for certain segments of voters, like women, blacks and Hispanics.
According to this New York Times article:
“In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said, contrasting Mr. Obama’s strategy to his own of “talking about big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.”
This statement is contemptible for numerous reasons.
First, rather than Obama’s policies being viewed through a lens of necessity and obligation to move civil rights ever forward in order to actually help people — rather than, you know, merely giving lip service to the idea that you care about average Americans — Romney casts Obama as some kind of political profiteer, and indeed the whole election as just one big sales pitch. This approach not only dehumanizes politics; it dehumanizes and trivializes the candidates as well as the voters.
Romney’s statement above also happens to be a wild misrepresentation of what really happened. Obama didn’t just focus on civil rights and immigration during the debates and speeches leading up to the election, and Romney didn’t have anything new to offer on jobs, foreign policy or military strategy. Regarding employment, he said that he would create 12 million jobs in four years, true. But Moody’s Analytics has estimated that 12 million jobs will be created through 2016 regardless of who is president. Job creation estimates are based on policies that have already been implemented. This was Romney’s only substantive claim about job growth.
Further, during the final debate, other than the obligatory Republican call to expand the military, we couldn’t really tell how Romney was any different than Obama on foreign policy and the military. According to this Reuters article:
Monday night’s foreign policy debate between the Republican presidential nominee and the Democratic president was striking for the frequency with which Romney aligned himself with Obama’s strategies rather than distancing himself from them.
So, what was this “strategy” Romney was talking about that was focused on the big issues? On most of the big issues other than health care, he more closely aligned or even agreed with Obama’s policies.
I don’t make a practice of watching a lot of MSNBC because I think that would make me no better than FOX News viewers who tune in every day to have their own views confirmed, but Al Sharpton (He should not be a TV host for many reasons) did have an interesting segment tonight in which he featured a previously unreleased audio recording of Lee Atwater outlining what he thought should be the more modern GOP strategy for taking advantage of white bigotry in the early 1980s. Here is one of the more offensive parts:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
Romney, Bill O’Reilly, Paul Ryan and others within the GOP have essentially used this strategy to cater to the uneducated, white vote in the South and other rural parts of the nation. While they can’t say anything approaching the offensiveness of “nigger” anymore, they can play on the same white fears that they have for the better part of a century. It’s a hideous but effective strategy.
— Thomas Lavin (@TomLavinNH) November 12, 2012
Interestingly but not surprisingly, among the petitions for various states to leave the union, South Carolina’s petition is the only one that does not include the word “peacefully.” Apparently, the spirit of 1861 is alive and well.
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.
FYI, there are 36 bloggers at FtB, and most of them haven’t even commented on A+. There’ve been a few who have even written about why they do not support it, such as Al Stefanelli. It seems that there are about half a dozen there behind this.
I presume that Rilasciato was referring to two parts of that previous post. This passage:
It seems to suggest that this very small group of people (Free Thought Blogs and their supporters) are preparing to carry the banner of social justice for the rest of us, and for a group of people that inherently eschew cliques and in-groups and chafe at being told how they should think or act, this is contemptible.
On a final note, I think it’s telling that nearly all of the Free Thought Bloggers, from Miller, Christina, McCreight to P.Z. Myers and others are all supporting each other, which to the rest of us, smacks of provincialism if nothing else and speaks to me personally that not one of them are capable of independent thought.
I have waded through all
36 35 Free Thought Blogs and have attempted, as best as I can, to surmise which bloggers support Atheism+ and which have either made no public statement about it or have voiced their opposition. I will admit here that saying that “nearly all of the Free Thought Bloggers” may have been an exaggeration, but I think what I’m about to show indicates that a significant number of FtB’s (more than a dozen) have publicly hopped on the bandwagon. The number could very well be more if they had written anything about it. Two have spoken against it and a couple more were either vague or seemed to be on the fence.
For brevity’s sake, I did not attempt to sift through any comments that may have been left by the bloggers in response to readers that may assert support or opposition. I just stuck with their posts. For each individual page, I went back through the archives from Aug. 18, the date of McCreight’s original post (“How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism“) to today.
Someone may ask: isn’t this a waste of time? Why bother? Sure, but so is playing video games or watching movies. I put some effort into this because:
- I did make a serious claim that Free Thought Blogs was filled with people who hopped on the bandwagon, and I actually found that the figure appears to be more than one-third of the all bloggers at FtB. Again, the figure could be greater, but some either have remained mum or post so infrequently that it’s hard to gauge where they stand.
- Rather than speculate, I thought it would be instructive to throw out a more concrete figure.
- Since Atheism+ has become such a divisive issue the last few weeks, I thought readers would be interested to see a rundown on where the bloggers stand. Personally, I would like to see where all the Free Thought Bloggers stand on the issue because hell if the blowback from this thing can compel McCreight to quit blogging altogether, the public obviously has some strong feelings about it, even if some idiots who can’t tell the difference between blasting a person’s arguments versus demeaning the person.
That said, here is the format that I used. Again, this is a best effort on my part. Any corrections or additional information is welcome.
Name — Stance on Atheism+ with link showing support or dissent
Ed Brayton — Has made no statement that I am aware.
P.Z. Myers — a supporter but says he’s not an official “member.”
Chris Rodda — No comment that I am aware.
Stephen Andrew — No comment that I am aware.
Cuttlefish — Seems generally supportive even if not willing to adopt the label.
Reasonable Doubts — An infrequent podcast show; has made no comment.
Comradde PhysioProffe — Seems to be a supporter since he reposted part of McCreight’s original post from Aug. 18 with the title of his own post, “Skeptical D00ds Are Not Skeptical About Their Own Gross Misogyny,” included in the title is an apparent reference to Thunderf00t.
Assassin Actual — Hasn’t posted since Aug. 2.
Daniel Fincke — Supporter.
Deacon Duncan — Supporter.
Greta Christina — Supporter.
Hank Fox — Possibly a passive supporter. He speaks on the perceived motivations behind the ”movement” and about a “Beta Culture,” which seems to be a similar alternative.
Jason Thibeault — Supporter.
Jen McCreight — Inventor in chief.
Dana Hunter — Supporter.
Al Stefanelli — Not a supporter.
Martin Wagner — Supporter.
Brian Lynchehaun — Supporter.
Justin Griffith — No statement.
Kylie Sturgess — Not a supporter.
Maryam Namazie — No statement.
Blackskeptics — No statement.
Richard Carrier — Alientating, overly enthusiastic supporter.
Edwin Kagin — Seems skeptical about Atheism+.
Mano Singham — No statement.
Natalie Reed — Not a supporter.
Chris Hallquist —No statement, moved to Patheos.
Brianne Bilyeu — No statement.
Taslima Nasreen — No statement.
Zinnia Jones — No statement.
Ashley F. Miller — Supporter.
Cristina Rad — No statement. Only two posts since McCreight’s Aug. 18 introduction to Atheism+.
AronRa — No statement. Only three posts since Aug 18.
Still trying to improve the introduction and production. Feel free to leave your comments here or on YouTube:
I never really thought this would be the case in the first place, but as it turns out, not all females are buying into this whole Atheism+, hyper-sensitive, reactionary brand of "social justice" that folks like Jen McCreight, Rebecca Watson, P.Z. Myers and others are peddling over at Free Thought Blogs.
This is refreshing for many reasons, not the least of which is because it shows that quite a few members of the atheist community do indeed think for themselves and don’t just dive in head over feet into a “movement” because some influential atheists, and females at that, say they should. Further, this speaks to the fact that McCreight, Watson and Co., don’t speak for all women in the community nor should they. I’m sure there are many others, but I’ll quickly highlight three women who have provided a intelligent arguments against this “movement” for social justice, which is really just a repackaged version of humanism (See: On Atheism+ and humanism: part 2).
Here is Renee from over at Belief Blower, who seems to have a particularly sharp grasp of reality that seems to be woefully lacking in Atheism+ circles:
… What is more distressing and pertininent (sic) to women is that there are 3 women beind (sic) the "movement": Jen McCreight, Ophelia Benson, and Rebecca Watson.
Normally, I wouldn’t give 2 shits about these women or the movement. But they are actively and divisively stripping apart atheism and attempting to bring together a happy little club of women and sycophantic men under the guise of being more socially responsible. Nothing could be further from the truth. These women are simply angry that they’ve been slighted/harassed/sexed in some way, shape, or form and feel their best course of action is to create a "special snowflake" clique.
Ladies, I’m here to tell you that your tiny fucking "slights" or sexist remarks are part of the real world. Each and every one of you spend an astronomical amount of time on the Internet and when you aren’t chatting it up on your computer, you’re off talking to groups that have organizations *begging* you to be there and willing to pay for your constant mini-vacations. I would be happy to swap my childhood and early adulthood with *any* of you. I know what real sexism and misogyny is. All three of you are so quick to throw around the word "misogyny" and yet not one single one of you can correctly identify the true meaning of the word.
Let me clue you in – it means "hatred of women". Do you understand this phrase? HATRED of women. Not bullying, not chiding, not sexist and/or inappropriate remarks. It is the hatred of women.
Here are two YouTubers, BionicDance:
At the expense of repeating myself, I’ll take some time here to explore some of the other components, criticisms and responses to Atheism+ that were not covered in this post. I have wanted to write a follow up post on this for quite a few days, but it has taken awhile to gather my thoughts.
Here I will show in fuller detail why Atheism+ is not only redundant but why it’s actually corrosive to the legacies of atheists and freethinkers who have done important social work under the old banners and who did so bravely and under conditions that were far from friendly or accepting.
First, Greta Christina (“Humanism Is Great — But It’s Not Atheism Plus“) and Ashley F. Miller (“The difference between “atheism+” and humanism“) have suggested with all the fervor they could muster that Atheism+ is not secular humanism. In Miller’s case, she appears to be on board with Atheism+ because she feels the old label, atheism, suffers from an irreparable stigma. As she describes it:
There is a difference between a self-defined humanist doing something good for mankind and a self-defined atheist doing it, simply because of the massive amount of stigma associated with atheism. Proving that atheists care about other people and making the world a better place is important. I think that “atheism+” is a way to bring the philosophy of humanism more strongly to the fight for atheist equality, and vice versa.
Calling myself part of the atheist — +, humanist, or otherwise — movement is a meaningful political act, and one not worth dropping to join something incredibly similar, but different.
To make one point abundantly clear: atheism is not a movement, and it is emphatically not political. In the wake of Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris and the like, one may easily come to think of atheism as a movement, and at one point, Hitchens even said he wrote his book as part of a “pushback” against religion, but it’s not as if the so-called new atheists met prior to writing their books and made some collaborative effort to produce a string of publications on the perils of a religion as a deliberate exercise. After Sam Harris published “The End of Faith” in 2004, these books and the subject matter just caught fire and the works began flying off the shelves. While the new atheism label may have been an unfortunate consequence of the new attention paid to atheism and freethought, “there is nothing new under the sun,” to borrow a line from Ecclesiastes.
Indeed, Tom Flynn traces the genesis of the “movement” that was never really a movement to begin with because, as I previously noted, atheism has hundreds of years, if not millennia, of thought and free inquiry behind it. Susan Jacoby’s excellent work, “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism,” explores some of the heroes of American freethought, including Thomas Jefferson, Tom Paine, Robert Ingersoll, Elizabeth Stanton and many others.
Flynn said that after the release of Harris’ book, “something new was afoot:”
… but it was only this: for the first time, uncompromising atheist writing was coming from big-name publishers and hitting best-seller lists. You could buy it at the airport. In consequence, people who had never before experienced atheist rhetoric got their first exposure to arguments that had formerly been published only by movement presses. One of these newcomers was Wired’s Gary Wolf. Encountering sledgehammer assaults upon religion that he had never seen before, knowing nothing of freethought’s rich, enclaved history, he thought he was seeing something genuinely new. And the New Atheism was born—out of ignorance, ironically enough.
But it was nothing new.
Flynn’s conclusion is so important to my point that it deserves a full mention:
The triumph of Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, and Hitchens was to take arguments against religion that were long familiar to insiders, brilliantly repackage them, and expose them to millions who would never otherwise pick up an atheist book. That’s no small achievement. But too many commentators lacking the requisite historical background have treated them as though the horsemen invented atheism. Not so!
That’s why I think it is important to recognize that there is no New Atheism. There are no New Atheists. There is atheism, and there are atheists. A spectrum of national atheist, freethought, secular humanist, and religious humanist organizaztions already stands prepared to serve unbelievers of many inclinations, without the need for any New Atheist group to hang out its shingle. Atheism and its companion life stances can be proud of roots that extend far, far deeper than (snicker) 2004.
The so-called Four Horsemen deserve admiration for exposing millions of contemporary readers to refutations of traditional religion that our movement has been burnishing for decades, sometimes centuries. We need to do a better job of sharing the rich literary and organizational history out of which these ideas sprang. At the same time, secular humanists need to do all they can to encourage people newly drawn to atheism to make the added journey to the fully rounded, exuberant lifestance we call secular humanism. (italics mine)
So, while the new atheist label was bestowed on Dawkins and Co., unwittingly, and while they, perhaps, adopted it to some degree, nothing new has actually occurred between 2004 and now. Atheism is just atheism, a disbelief in the existence of a god. It has no new definition and entails no new set of morals or principles, and indeed, no set of principles at all. For that, we need humanism, but more on that later.
The second point inherent in Miller’s argument is that “atheism” has become such a stigmatic and disgraced word in modern society (Or, maybe just in America; it’s not quite clear) that its image needs to somehow be repaired. Again, I don’t sense much of a grasp of history here. Atheists and freethinkers have been marginalized, persecuted, and in some extreme cases, killed for hundreds of years, and so long as religion persists, they will continue to be treated with a certain level of contempt and as subhuman in some circles, when, in reality, unbelievers are more alive than the most pious among us. They and we see the world without blinders and without walls. They and we see the world as it is and as it should be: no heaven and certainly no hell at the end of the tunnel; we see a marvelously wide and interconnected universe. We have no lights to guide our path but our own mind, our own consciences, our own sense of empathy for others and our human solidarity. No light; just life.
If others can’t accept that for what it is, it’s their loss. But for nonbelievers to now suggest that we need to change, or perhaps, evolve atheism into a “third wave” called Atheism+ that will address such things like feminism, ableism, racism, misogyny, etc., and “prove” that atheists “care about making the world a better place” not only does a disservice to the past freethinkers, like Ingersoll and Stanton, who did indeed prove it with the testimony of their lives that atheists can stand up for important causes and move society forward under the banner of humanism, it also kowtows to critics. Essentially, it is the pitiable admission that the very words “atheism” and “humanism” have become so defiled by dissent that there is no choice but to start again by making atheism seem more positive and socially acceptable to the layperson. This is an admission, in other worse, that we have lost.
This is also the part about Atheism+ that, I think, rubs many nonbelievers the wrong way. It seems to suggest that this very small group of people (Free Thought Blogs and their supporters) are preparing to carry the banner of social justice for the rest of us, and for a group of people that inherently eschew cliques and in-groups and chafe at being told how they should think or act, this is contemptible.
As for Christina, she attempts in her post to answer the question:
Isn’t ‘Atheism plus social justice’ just another term for humanism?”
She then explains:
Humanism is also more engaged with creating secular replacements for the rituals and structures of religious communities… and while many atheists are cool with this idea and are even engaged with it themselves, there are many other atheists who are profoundly turned off by it. And many humanists are actively hostile to the word “atheist.” It’s not just that they don’t choose to use the word themselves. They don’t want anyone else to use it, either. So that puts another damper on the whole “Atheism Plus is just humanism re-branded” thing.
She goes on to say that, in effect, atheism is a more “in your face” brand of nonbelief, while humanism is more subtle and that many people don’t even know what the term means. Later in the post, she discusses the necessity of keeping the word “atheism” alongside the “plus:”
We see value in it (atheism), and we don’t want to abandon it. We want to form a subset of it that makes it better: a subset that is specifically devoted to making atheism more welcoming to women, people of color, poor people, working class people, trans people, and other marginalized groups, and that is specifically devoted to doing work in the places where atheism and other social justice issues intersect.
Again, atheism needs no improvements or additions to make it better, and attempts to do so actually blacken the legacy of atheists who did work and are working to make the world a better place because of their love of humanity. A disbelief in a god does not include a moral or social stance whatsoever. Atheists are free to be kind and loving toward their brothers or they are free to be assholes and suffer the legal and social disadvantages of ridicule, isolation and chastisement. They are free to be Democrats or Republicans, prolife or prochoice, misogynistic or not, as long as they are willing to live with the consequences of their choices.
In all this, Christina never quite gets around the explaining the clear difference between Atheism+ and humanism. The best she can apparently do is this conclusion:
… And I can’t tell you how many humanists I’ve talked with who have been total douchebags about feminism: insisting that humanism is superior to and more important than feminism, that feminism is exclusionary and anti-male, that they “don’t see gender” and anyone who does is the real sexist, and that the best way to make sexism disappear is to ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist.
Humanism in theory is on board with social justice — but the practice can be very different indeed. If every atheist who’s sick of sexism and misogyny in the atheist movement picked up their stakes and moved to humanism, it wouldn’t make these problems magically disappear.
There is a great deal of overlap between humanism and Atheism Plus. They are very similar ideas, very similar visions. There is great value in both. I suspect that many people will call themselves both, and I look forward to the two movements working in alliance for many years to come. But I don’t think they’re the same. And I think it’s reasonable for some people to identify primarily as one, and some primarily as the other.
So here again, like Jen McCreight, we have a Free Thought Blogger relying on anecdotal evidence (“total douchebags about feminism”) to describe what is wrong with the humanists she has met and why Atheist+ is going to be so much different and better. She is, apparently, judge and jury.
If I have to point this out 10 more times for it to stick, I will happily do so. If a humanist is not concerned and committed to stamping out hate, racism, bigotry, misogyny, anti-gay sentiment and other social ills, he or she is not a humanist. Plain and simple. I consult the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s entry on humanism about active virtue:
The emphasis on virtuous action as the goal of learning was a founding principle of humanism and (though sometimes sharply challenged) continued to exert a strong influence throughout the course of the movement.
Here is Leon Battista Alberti from “Della famiglia:”
As I have said, happiness cannot be gained without good works and just and righteous deeds. . . . The best works are those that benefit many people. Those are most virtuous, perhaps, that cannot be pursued without strength and nobility. We must give ourselves to manly effort, then, and follow the noblest pursuits.
And Florentine humanist Matteo di Marco Palmieri:
… the true merit of virtue lies in effective action, and effective action is impossible without the faculties that are necessary for it. He who has nothing to give cannot be generous. And he who loves solitude can be neither just, nor strong, nor experienced in those things that are of importance in government and in the affairs of the majority.
And the last sentence from Britannica:
Endorsements of active virtue, as will be shown, would also characterize the work of English humanists from Sir Thomas Elyot to John Milton. They typify the sense of social responsibility—the instinctive association of learning with politics and morality—that stood at the heart of the movement. As Salutati put it, “One must stand in the line of battle, engage in close combat, struggle for justice, for truth, for honour.” (italics mine)
The idea of social justice, then, is built into the word humanism at the core. Regardless of who knows what humanism means or not is inconsequential. The word, the idea, the philosophy has existed for hundreds of years, and it contains within it everything, and in better and less provincial form, I might add, than what has been presented as Atheism+ thus far.
On a final note, I think it’s telling that nearly all of the Free Thought Bloggers, from Miller, Christina, McCreight to P.Z. Myers and others are all supporting each other, which to the rest of us, smacks of provincialism if nothing else and speaks to me personally that not one of them are capable of independent thought. McCreight, Watson and others have some bad experiences with some brutish individuals, so McCreight decides to invent a new “movement.” And no one had the balls to say, “You know what, guys? This sounds really similar, if not the same, as humanism. It seems too similar to justify any kind of ’new wave’ of atheism. Maybe we can work within the framework of humanism to discuss our concerns.” But no. That’s not what happened is it? After McCreight’s original post, every single one of them cooed in agreement and passively followed like lemmings off a cliff. That’s not the moral courage, and that’s not intellectual courage.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave a comment below.