I got into a discussion with Richard Carrier in his comments section on a blog he posted on FTB on the issue of the new attempt at creating a group known as; “A+”.
“A+” people would be atheists who are also humanists. The impetus for creating this group came from a perceived problem in the Atheist/ Skeptic community where many of those professing to be skeptics were not being very skeptical.
I must say that this is not a new idea. Back in 2010 when the Mosque at Ground Zero hysteria blew up we saw what was the first serious schism in the loosely formed Atheist movement.
The American Right Wing did their best to use propaganda, lies and appeals to emotion to create an atmosphere of anger and hate that they could take advantage of.
I was alarmed by how easily certain elements in the atheist/ skeptic movement at the most adopted and encouraged the Right Wing rhetoric (to their channels’ great benefit) at the least merely turned a blind eye to the fallacious arguments presented by the anti-Muslim Christian Conservative Right in America and didn’t speak out against what was clearly a political attack to gain power.
I was new to the movement then and my protests went largely ignored.
I pointed out that correcting others on their lies and false claims about Muslims did not equal support of Islam. I warned that if we did not use skepticism and reason to examine and address the claims of anti-Muslim rhetoric we would suffer a dire cost in the days to come.
It is three years later.
I walk down the streets of my beloved midtown Manhattan and see soldiers patrolling the Port Authority while carrying automatic weaponry.
We have a literal secret police force who have been active for six years now in doing investigations of Muslim citizens on the Eastern seaboard. These investigations by the NYPD are in violation of so many laws on so many levels I cannot even begin to contemplate them all. All I can think about is;
“If they can violate their rights illegally and no one complains, what’s to keep them from violating mine?”
So I look back on my protests and warnings then and what has come about now and I feel no satisfaction in being proven right.
Yes, I acknowledge freely that if the entire Skeptic/ Atheist Community had used logic and reason to fight against the atmosphere of fear the Right Wing was creating we would almost guaranteed have gotten the same result but still;
I often wonder.
If we had spent more time working together to fight against the enemies of skepticism and freedom and less time fighting each other could we have brought about a different result?
Would we not have a Secret Police operating within the borders of America today?
What you may ask, does all this have to do with the; “A+” movement and Richard Carrier.
While I sympathize with the desire of a group of people to establish themselves as a new sub-group in the community, one that does not support beliefs that fly in the face of their own?
I also wish to make clear that just because I as a humanist, a skeptic and an atheist might share similar ideologies to these people it does not make me one of them.
An ideology is a statement of belief however behind that belief lies a mission and an intent.
It is; “How” you enact the policy that comes about due to that ideology that is important.
So when you present people with an either-or fallacy such as this;
“Do you reject any of the values stated in my article? If so, which ones, and why?
If not, in what way aren’t you a part of Atheism+ movement?
Either you reject some basic human values here, or you are irrationally denying what you are…So which is it? Are you simultaneously admitting to being A and not being A (and thus violating the basic logical law of identity that A = A), or are you rejecting one or more of the values that define Atheism+?
Be honest and say. “
Then you are doing exactly what I suggested you are doing in your comments section.
You are seeking to set you and your movement up as the leaders of humanists and atheists everywhere and as leaders you would dictate policy and action.
If we are not with you then we must suffer from some flaw or be part of some secret agenda which makes us an enemy of the “A+”!
You are in essence claiming that all Scotsman must be members of A+ to be counted as true Scotsman.
I can give you a number of reasons why I am wary of becoming a member of this new; “A+” group.
The first being that many of the leaders of first wave atheism turned out to be such a disappointment so forgive me and others if we do not rush to join your newly minted movement but instead remain distant and skeptical.
Secondly; I for one do not agree with your interpretation of what constitutes a violation of what would be “humanist doctrine” as given later on in your blog post.
“Indeed, as the Surly Amy story shows, there are clearly many of us who disregard the happiness of others just to hurt them, mocking or insulting (or even threatening) them merely to please one’s own vanity or self-righteousness, in complete disregard of the pointless misery it causes another human being. That is fucking evil.”
This alone would make me pause before joining a movement you’re a leader in.
While I would go so far as to characterize Harriet Hall’s weekend clothing protest of the SkepChicks to be extravagant, in poor taste and petty; “Fucking evil” strikes me as a skewed response that definitely precludes me from joining your group.
I would be worried about the damage you might do in addressing other issues of contention between skeptics in our community. Or perhaps Atheists and those outside our community.
Because I have sat by and suffered the collateral damage that has come about from the work or lack thereof that came about from the anti-Muslim political talking points that has brought success to those who made use of it while many of us sat by and did not speak out in the interest of preventing the house from becoming divided.
And now that I see a repeat of those days in the form of the FTB wars?
I reserve the right to remain strict and demanding in my judgement of not only who does or does not have my support but also what they can and cannot dictate is proper interpretation of my beliefs.
So while I wish you luck with your A+ group’s success I would ask that you do not characterize us atheist-humanists who do not join it as dishonest or that you belittle our concerns.
Because at last recollection?
That’s exactly how this whole thing got started.
A bunch of people belittled the concerns of a woman who felt intimidated in an elevator at a convention.
Richard Carrier’s post on FTB
The Results of Six years of unfetter NYPD Secret Investigations of Muslims on the Eastern Seaboard.