Friday, September 7, 2012

Atheist Heretics?

Most organized religions consider atheism heretical. That's nothing new, but this is. The burgeoning atheist movement has apparently now developed its first schism. Given all the arguments by atheists over the years to the effect that their lack of belief in no way constitutes a religion, the irony is almost comical. The idea that one could somehow not believe in God the wrong way? Absolutely priceless. It just goes to show that while atheism is not a religion in the typical sense, it does constitute a metaphysical belief structure - its metaphysics are just based on the formal interpretation of the scientific method. Also, religious beliefs or not, humans are fundamentally tribal creatures. Our concept of "tribe" can include more individuals than that of our great ape cousins because our brains are more complex, but the essential impulse has millions of years of evolution behind it.

The cause of this freethinking furore? A new movement called Atheism+. According to its website, “Atheism+ is a safe space for people to discuss how religion affects everyone and to apply skepticism and critical thinking to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, GLBT issues, politics, poverty, and crime.”

A+ was born when Freethought blogger Jen McCreight (the mind behind Boobquake) made a passionate call for a “third wave” of atheism, one that extends atheist activism into progressive politics and calls for a part of the movement to be one where women can exist free from the harassment that has plagued women publicly involved in the atheist movement.

The founders of Atheism+ say clearly that “divisiveness” is not their aim, but looking through the blogs and voluminous comments in the two weeks since A+ was mooted, trenches have been dug, beliefs stated, positions staked out and abuse thrown. A dissenting tweeter is “full of shit”, while, according to one supporter, daring to disagree with Atheism+’s definition of progressive issues and not picking their side makes you an “asshole and a douchebag”.

Remember Jen McCreight? She's mighty. Her "boobquake" nearly devastated Taiwan, even though she insisted she had nothing to do with the earthquake that struck just off the coast on the appointed day. And despite my snarking above, Atheism+ is at least in part a response to a number of situations that have arisen over the last two years or so in the atheist community highlighting a profoundly problematic attitude toward women who are involved in the movement. While a politically conservative atheist might disagree on some politically progressive issues, it seems to me that "douchebag" is a pretty good description of anyone looking to entrench that particular attitude rather than address it. But then, I'm a sorcerer. It's not like the atheists on either side are about to take me or my opinions very seriously.

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