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About two weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled “Crashing the wave: Feminism and Atheism+” which was about what I thought of the inception of the Atheism+ movement and the role feminism plays within it. I spent a lot of time talking about why I don’t think feminism is a good thing, and not actually much about Atheism+ specifically. This was mostly because Atheism+ was and still is in its early days, and the focus of the piece was on how it has the feminist ideology at its core.
There was a substantial amount of criticism in the comments which I attempted to answer in a nutshell, but I wanted to do a piece regarding some of the questions that were raised to give a proper and full response, and at the same time use that as a springboard to make it clear how I feel about Atheism+.
You can see the full original discourse on the blog, though there’s a bit to read through. I haven’t edited, deleted or withheld any comments.
- Why Atheism+ is divisive (in a bad way) when other groups that use moral distinctions aren’t?
I’m assuming this is in reference to the comment that says groups that support, for example, indigenous rights, and do not tolerate people who view Aborigines as lesser beings are divisive. The reason Atheism+ is divisive is not because they exclude certain people, but because they make a point of it, calling people to ‘pick sides’ and actively spouting their self-righteousness. This is the same ‘us-vs.-them’ attitude that is causing a schism. Right now, all that’s really doing is creating malice and arguments where there need not be any. Name calling, burning bridges between people who would otherwise work together, etc. A good example of this is Anna Johnstone’s comments on Greta Christina’s blog post, “Atheism+’s First Project: A+ Scribe!” You can see that she raises some calm criticism about respecting intellectual property. She gets piled on, called an asshat, labelled as disingenuous and threatened with the ban hammer. Anna came to the project with good will wanting to help work on it, and after that she was done with the accusations and negative assumptions being hurled at her and said “Good luck, I’m off.”
This atmosphere of ganging up on people that raise even the slightest concern about the direction of the movement (or in this case of one project) encourages groupthink—agreeing with the people in the group and making decisions as a group without listening to individual concerns. Their attitude is that they don’t tolerate unfair criticism—but they also think that any criticism of their moral justice system is unfair. In effect, they distance themselves from any criticism. I don’t think I need to explain why this is unreasonable.
- How Atheism+ is an extension of feminism in any sense that distinguishes it from its other focuses?
Jarrah said, “Of course feminism features prominently due to the recent events of the last year but it is not the core focus of atheism+. The forums are filled with discussions on animal rights, immigration, ecomoics, male circumcision, racism, Iran, mental health, atheism, etc. Looking quickly at the first page of the 25 topics, less then ¼ of them are on feminism. “[I]mplying that it’s the same ideals of feminism at its core PLUS the focus on intersectionality”. This is in one light true, but it would be just as true to say that it has racial rights at its core PLUS the focus on […]”
Firstly, the inception of Atheism+ was prompted by Jen McCreight’s dissatisfaction with the response to feminism in atheist circles. She says, on her blog post entitled “How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism”, “I was welcomed with open arms. Until I started talking about feminism.”
The idea of starting a new movement began there, with feminism, by feminists. Feminism is not one of its focuses; feminism is the base ideology that tints the lens through which all of their focuses are viewed. I think ‘feministic-social-justice-ism’ is a much better description than ‘Atheism+’.
It was described as a “new wave” of atheism, “just like there were different waves of feminism.” Jen describes the third wave of atheism as “a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men””. Jarrah says, “Atheism+ was inappropriately initiated as a third wave of atheism but that is not what it is or what it now claims to be.” I would have to agree. Evidently, atheism is only a peripheral part of Atheism+.
As I said in the closing of my piece, it really depends on where Atheism+ goes from here. If they truly are keen on skepticism and rationality, then feminism will be dropped. I think by that point the group would break down though, because feminist ideology is the basal structure upon which all their contentions rest.
- Why Jen can’t justify her fancy new label even though she has written numerous blog post doing exactly that?
She can do whatever she wants—what I said was that I personally didn’t think the original reasons she gave for the inception of the movement were legitimate. A lot of people raised questions such as “Why not Humanism?” which prompted her responses.
- Why you believe Jen is lying?
I’m assuming this is in response to where I reinterpreted Jen saying “Whatever, I just want change,” as “I really want people to join my movement, but I can’t justify my fancy new label.” I don’t think she’s lying per se. She definitely wants change, but of course only the kind of change that she is pushing for. She doesn’t care if people call themselves something else, as long as they agree with her and are working towards her goals. In other words, she wants people to join her movement, but doesn’t care if they don’t adopt her label.
- Why possessing a certain moral code which wont tolerate certain actions is acceptable in some circumstance but not in this?
I basically covered this in #1, but as a rule of thumb, moral codes that don’t tolerate certain actions are only acceptable if those actions are unjustifiably infringing on the rights of others. We don’t have a right to not be offended.
- Whether or not you understand that saying “man up” is actually diminishing to women and therefore understand that feminists wouldn’t use such terminology?
I think this is in response to where I say in my piece, “Feminism exploits and perpetuates the covert misandry that runs through society […] like when boys are told to “man up and get over it”.” It hasn’t stopped them; there are pieces of feminist propaganda that use the phrase “real man” to exploit this dynamic.
- Why you think that feminists are being deceptive even though all the examples you have provided are taken from sources where they describe and justify what they are doing?
Presence of a justification doesn’t automatically make it justified. There are good reasons to be skeptical, for example when feminist advocates reference statistics that don’t exist, are taken out of context, or are simply made up, and also the history of wilful deception and lies that come from that side of the fence. In the context of my post, I linked to the sources so that others can read that for themselves and come to their own conclusions. I don’t, as a rule, think feminists are deceptive. To go to the example I think is being referred to, when a feminist says “Women can’t be sexist to men,” most people are going to disagree because they’re assuming the normal definition of sexism-discrimination based on sex. However, by bringing in that statement and using a different definition of sexism, sexism = prejudice + power, they’re committing an equivocation fallacy. It boils down to “if you know what I’m talking about, then don’t re-use my word with a different definition to refute it. That’s deceptive.” This alternative definition of sexism is also just a way to deflect accusations of sexism, by employing this equivocation fallacy.
- Why you believe that things like A+Scribe and the fact that less then ¼ of forum posts are related to feminism doesn’t suggest that feminism isn’t taking a superior role in Atheism+?
Jarrah’s statement was “I simply question your assertion that atheism+ is a direct extension of feminism.” (From my blog post, “Atheism+ is an extension of feminism; the next logical step in the expansion of their movement.”)
Feminism is an ideology; there isn’t much to talk about with regards to feminism itself that isn’t already covered by “Feminism 101”. To draw an analogy, going onto a forum with a Christian ideology at its core, let’s say “Christians for World Peace”, you wouldn’t expect all the threads to be talking about Christianity itself. They would, perhaps, talk about their goals and problems, as like-minded people, through the lens of Christianity.
The fact that they do something that is not overtly feminist is not proof of anything.
- Why you believe that your experience of being able to avoid insult and oppressive attitudes means that everyone should be able to? Why is this not just a bonus of being privileged?
I don’t. I was talking about how we routinely avoid people that make us, as individuals, feel uncomfortable (with the implicit assumption that I’m only talking about cases where it’s possible), and that this shouldn’t be extended to the group level. By that I mean groups should not have a hive mind. What offends one person need not offend everyone.
The important issue here is “feeling oppressed” does not equal “being oppressed”. For “avoiding oppressive attitudes” to be meaningful, actual oppression must first be demonstrated. If my kid has a temper tantrum in the store, I don’t announce on the loudspeaker “can everyone kindly do everything my child wants, he’s feeling unavoidably oppressed by privileged adults.”
- What other justification have got for brushing aside certain attitudes beside the NTS informal fallacy or how you rescue the NTS fallacy?
When I invoke the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, I’m not trying to make an argument from logic. I’m making a comment about how some feminists weasel out of guilt by association with other feminists who don’t share their exact views. They respond to criticism by saying “Oh, but real feminists wouldn’t say/think that. We’re against that!” – like in criticism #6: “feminists wouldn’t say “man up””. Maybe feminists need to start criticising these “fake feminists” more pro-actively instead of using them for strength in numbers then calling “strawman!” when criticised. The exact same thing happens in Christian groups. Statistics are used to show just how many Christians there are, you know, how they’re the majority and everything, but as soon as one says something out of line, “Oh, they’re not actually a Christian. Christians wouldn’t say that, because it’s against Jesus’ message of love.”
- Why you think that FtB can be perpetrating groupthink despite the fact that the bloggers voice the other side of the argument? And that attitudes are supported by evidence- a process generally considered to be opposed to groupthink? Why is your blog not spouting groupthink in the same sense or are you just opposed to any group that has large readerships?
The definition of groupthink is: “The practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.” We all do it- to some degree- when we get in close groups. Whether they voice the other side of the argument is almost irrelevant. Nobody wants to be “that one person” that disagrees with “the group”, in fact they’ve effectively shown what happens in that situation (i.e. Thunderf00t, Anna Johnstone, and other commenters.)
One person starts a movement and the others hop on the bandwagon. I haven’t seen any remaining writer on there really criticising Atheism+. You could say it’s sort of an unwritten law that they’re not allowed to. Or that your individual opinions or thoughts are not going to go down well against the majority of writers there. That is groupthink.
- Why law and many other groups can institutionalise moral norms (often with sever penalties) whilst Atheism+ is wrong for doing so?
Jarrah’s original statement was, “The institutionalization of moral norms is common place in law and unless you are to claim that laws which prevent people from acting in certain ways are unjust then you would need to distinguish between why as a country we can condemn rape or hate-speech but as a social movement it is inappropriate,” which was in response to where I said institutionalised avoiding of people is cult-like. What usually happens is one person takes offense to something Person X says, or Poster X says, tells everyone else in the group how bad X is, which spreads again and again until nobody knows why X is bad any more. Example is the poster teardown extravaganza, where they ripped down innocuous AVfM posters because they were ‘hate speech’.
I don’t suppose you think that Christian interest groups are in the right to enforce their particular moral norms (e.g. intolerance of homosexuality) on others?
The law is not a self-righteous fringe group dictating what is right or wrong: special interest groups are not required to have a self-regulating mechanism that (in theory) ensures fairness for all.
- Why it is when you attack FtB you don’t feel that your attacking Greta? And why you don’t believe she is a dominant voice despite the fact that she blogs on those issues more often?
For starters, I don’t read her blog as often. In my opinion, Greta takes a more accommodationalist approach. She eases into things more calmly rather than making wild calls to arms (like Carrier.) She talks about a lot of other things besides A+. And she’s not the most aggressive dogma-pusher of the pack.
- Why you believe it ok to assert speculation as fact?
I think it’s understood that anything that isn’t linked to a source cannot be taken as a fact. Just as a matter of convenience, I’m not going to precede every other sentence with “In my opinion,” on an opinion piece. I did acknowledge the valid criticism that you wanted more sources, so I’ll be doing that.
- Why you believe having someone call you out on lying is subtracting from the conversation?
I don’t. What I do think is subtracting from the conversation it arguing about how I use the word “is” in a sentence.
- Why you don’t think Cris demonstrated that speculation is rubbish and derogatory?
Speculation is speculation. It’s what is being speculated that determines whether it is rubbish and/or derogatory. I also think ‘speculation’ is a defamatory word when describing opinions.
- Why you think in a moral discussion the discussion of morality is off topic?
I said “A lot of the issues you now raise are morality ones, and that is more towards philosophy which I won’t get into right now,” because morality was not the topic at hand. Without even commenting on the moral philosophy of the feminist ideology (which is misandric rubbish) it is already evident that A+ is digging its own grave. The original piece is about the workings of Feminism and Atheism+ as a movement, why it’s a bad idea, and why it isn’t working. The subject of the piece was not “A+ is wrong and morally bankrupt.” I just feel that there is so much to tackle before even stepping into morality.
- Why you believe that presenting a position and then providing ‘proof’ of it doesn’t count as an argument and only a discussion.
The only time I mentioned ‘argument’ was to say “I’m not here to win an argument,” and “There’s a difference in [sic] responding to criticism and continuing an argument in order to win or lose.”
To answer the question, I see the difference between a discussion and an argument like this: a discussion is a way of presenting facts on the topic to conduce thinking. An argument involves an investment in one side, emotional attachment, and the notion of “winning”. Both involve presenting positions and providing explanations (or “proof”.)
- Why you believe that in a discussion one person cannot be wrong?
I don’t know where you got this from; of course one or any number of people can be wrong in a discussion. I merely say that nobody “wins” in a discussion. The point of discussing is to explore a wider gamut of information. If we all shared the exact same opinion, discussion would be depressingly fruitless.