Atheism+: My Take

by Squiddhartha

The sub-movement called “Atheism Plus”, or “Atheism+”, or “A+”, is pretty much brand new; it has its genesis in a blog post a couple of weeks ago by Jen McCreight that boiled down to “I wish other atheists didn’t hate on me and some of my blog colleagues just because we’re also feminists.”  The comments went nuts, over 900 as I write this, and there was heavy grassroots support for commenter Pteryxx’s suggestion of “A+” (though the original name suggestion to go with it was “inclusive atheism”).  Jen liked it as well, and as she phrased it in a followup post:

We are…
Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.

The immediate results?  A ton of blog posts and tweets, a ton of support, a ton of opposition.  People were taking issue with the name even in the original post, and have continued to complain about it since.  It was seen as unnecessary, or equivalent with humanism, or as a smug or arrogant name.  Alternatives such as “affirmative atheism” or “positive atheism” were offered.

To a first approximation, it appears to me that those who already followed Jen’s blog and/or those of her colleagues, and were sympathetic to their experiences, embraced the notion; those viewing it from a distance saw it (despite clear statements to the contrary) as an attempt to redefine or rebrand the term “atheism”, or to conflate atheism with social justice issues rather than to carve out a subset of proponents of both atheism and social justice.  One of my own Internet friends views it as “entryism”, an effort to infiltrate and subvert the existing movement to different ends.

A portion of the opposition went over the top into outright attack and harassment, to the point that Jen McCreight has stepped away from blogging, at least for now — the event that pushed me to open this blog for business.  And by that action, you can probably tell that I’m sympathetic to the goals of A+, perhaps because I was one of those who had followed Jen and her colleagues for a long time.  I already know they’re not trying to co-opt all of atheism.

So where do I stand?  Although I think I prefer the name “positive atheism,” I’m not afraid to call myself an “atheist plus”, since, as my friend hapes put it, I am a liberal/progressive/whatever person who happens to be an atheist, and I unequivocally condemn the harassment cataloged by Stephanie Zvan.  If, as time passes, a different label emerges as the primary one, or it becomes unnecessary to label oneself in opposition to harassers, so be it.