Sonntag, 9. September 2012


This is a copy of a forum post I made on ThinkAtheist:

I support A+. As I understand it, A+ is
  1. a collection of people who came together as atheists but are also for (several) social justice issues
  2. a safe place for discussions where trolling and certain derailing techniques are moderated perhaps more quickly than in other places
  3. an expression for any atheist who is also for social justice, even if they don't take the label
The history of A+ is rather longish, and I can only tell you my recollection.

In the distant past several people involved in atheist blogs and conventions noticed a lack of women participating and tried to both find out why and try to bolster those numbers. One of the reasons mentioned was the atmosphere in many atheist forums and communities which some women considered too hostile to women, to dude-bro-ish, and not welcoming to their input - ie. being dismissive, mocking, trolling (maybe as part of dude-bro-culture, I don't know. I just know that I like a dude nerd culture very much, but only to a certain point and certainly not as the only nerd culture.

There is nothing wrong with that culture as such, but if it's the only one and dominating and excluding other cultures, say, female nerds, that community may not be as much fun for women).
When it comes to conventions or general active participation online (blogs for example) many women were trolled, harassed, impersonated and sometimes even threatened. Every blogger who writes about religion, against creationism and such gets those threats, but usually from christians. Many women bloggers also got them from fellow atheists, especially when writing about feminist issues.

Many complained and usually found lots of support with many fellow atheists, but there were and to this day are quite many atheists who either don't believe that trolling and such is happening, or if it is, that it's no big deal and part of being on the internet (i.e. dismissing and mocking victims of this abuse).

There is proof of that harassment, trolling and threatening. There is a threat that started to document it (most of it is rather newish).

Many discussions on many blogs and in many forums had taken place over the last year about the problem with lack of women in atheism and secularism and, of course, the thing that made everything explode: Elevatorgate.

Again, too many people reacted with dismissal, mockery and trolling. People continued to complain about these reactions and other problems like the lack of anti-harassment policies at conventions. The general reaction was good, but even with such a rather simple thing many questioned the need for such polices, dismissing, mocking and trolling those who argued for it.

In the debates, just like with the occasional christian who comes to a forum and thinks they invented debate when they start with "You just don't believe in God because you want to be immoral, if you'd just read the Bible you'd become a believer" or similar nonsense that's already been debunked about a hundred times, some critiques just repeated nonsense that (at least to our satisfaction) had already been explained ad nauseam (like feminism 101, privilege 101).

So that's where A+ as a label, the idea and the forum started, as a place where they can participate without having to worry too much about people "just asking questions" that have already been answered (they get a link to links to educate themselves) or dismissing, mocking and trolling them (they get then moderated very quickly).

If I understand correctly the main issues people have with it are:
  1. The leadership
  2. Concepts that we consider established, like feminism (in general, not every position) "privilege" or "rape culture"
  3. The name
  4. The message or impression we give of in general
  5. Questioning of the need of such a thing
  6. Divisiveness of Atheism+

1. Well, first, there is no leadership. There really isn't. Not Jen MCreight, not Greta Christina, not Richard Carrier, or anyone else. They are certainly influential and have participated. There is no official authority or or spokesperson who speaks for the movement. There is also no real official agenda or goal beside the bit vague "for social justice, for equality" and so on. There probably will be, but since we don't have any leaders that may take some time.
I am also no official spokesperson, I don't represent A+. I'm not even as involved as others.
2. Some concepts like "privilege" are accepted and defended as a source of the dismissal, mockery and trolling - and of much of the doubting - that we have encountered.

In simple terms:

There is a lot of harassment, mockery, trolling and threatening happening that you don't notice.
Either because you weren't there when it happened, because it happened per email or behind doors, or because you don't consider it problematic. Not every blogger keeps records of those things, and I don't blame them, because even if they produce evidence there is a lot of reaction of "That's just a troll, ignore it".

We don't want to have to. In the A+ forum is a special subsection, the Educational Forum, where anyone can ask basic questions, and get answers and links for self-education.
Is there widespread misogyny in our general culture? Yes, but it's often subtle.

It's similar to religious influence. You might debate a christian and they might be mighty surprised if you tell them that there is religious discrimination in the U.S., simply because they don't suffer from it, just not notice it or consider it, consciously or not, normal.

The privilege of religion permeates our whole society, if often in a subtle way. Christianity is, in the U.S. and many other countries, the privileged religion. They are so privileged they can cry "persecution" when they don't get to dominate anymore.

The same thing happens with some privileged men when they're told they're not the standard anymore (and that their opinion on something may not be very relevant because they lack experience on the subject). And just like the Churches some men (and fewer women, or when it comes to race, white people, and so on) don't like being told that they shouldn't eat all the slices because other people want to have pieces of the cake, too and they now have to share.

Our culture was and still is heavily influenced by religion, especially but not only Christianity.This can manifest itself as
  • subtle peer pressure to baptize babies (or circumcise them)
  • ignorance about people who are not in the dominant group, especially unbelievers ("But you have to believe in SOMETHING?" "So, you worship Satan?")
  • acceptance of hierarchy, reverence for authority figures of faith
  • dismissal of victims of sexual abuse by religion's figures (victim blaming)
  • not too subtle sexism when it comes to gender roles
  • more subtle racism
and so on. We atheists grew up in that culture and even if we don't believe (or never believed) or aren't part of churches and congregations, a lot of Christian (or other religions) influence is still everywhere and we grew up with that, so normal that sometimes we don't even notice it.
And we atheists are not immune to that indoctrination. We usually shed the belief in god(s) if we ever had it, but other beliefs might still be in our heads (for example acceptance of "teach the controversy", "science can't explain everything" in non-believers or cultural christians who go to church for the feeling and marry in  Church because of tradition).

A lot of those still-influencing-us remnants of religious indoctrination are tackled by feminism. There are atheists who believe men are more rational and women more emotional (and thus hysterical, overemotional and imagining things) without noticing the origin of that belief.
Why can't women be priests again? Because we aren't as rational as the men.

Why can't women simply be believed when they say they were harassed? Because we aren't as rational as the men and that way you'd put the word of a woman over the word of a man.
Why do (not as bad as in the past, but still bad enough) too many not believe it when a woman says she was raped? That she must have an agenda (see Assange)? Because we aren't as rational as the men and thus hysterical, overemotional and imagining things. The poor dears can't help themselves.
Now, if you had told me a year and a half ago I would never have believed that a substantial part of atheists would either believe that sh*t or make excuses for those that did. But that's exactly what happened during Elevatorgate.

Why did I think until a year and a half ago that feminists weren't right and didn't really have anything worthy to say anymore (after all, we have equal rights, don't we?)? Because I thought they were hysterical, overemotional and imagining things (because my experience didn't match theirs - yet).
Notice the pattern?

So, whatever you may think about feminism in general and certain theories/concepts/explanations in particular, there is lots of good and true stuff in it. But much of it is depending on your experiences to notice those patterns and recognize those concepts when they show themselves in Real Life.
3. The name

Yes, atheism is only a disbelief in god(s) and nothing else. No morals, no ideas, nothing follows. Just as theism is just the belief in god(s) and can mean anything, atheism is the opposite and just a lack of belief.

Atheism is part of my personality, but I am also other things. I usually like atheists because they can usually talk about the same things I like, and many can tell me stuff I didn't know before (because they are usually well educated) and it's just nice to know people who don't go to church either and I don't have to justify why.

It's normal to try to find people who share our interest because, well, it's nice?
Nothing follows from atheism. Not even being against religion.

But I am. I want religious domination to end, I want equal rights for everyone and religious beliefs are often still in the way of that. I am, kind of, an atheist activist.

I am more than just an atheist. Atheism+ has "Atheism" in it because we all started in an atheist community and identify as atheists. There are other communities or even organizations that are more than just atheists and have "atheism" in their name. American Atheists, atheist meetup-groups, atheist forums, atheist blogs, and so on.

This forum is on a page that calls itself "thinkatheist". 

What does the "about" say:
Think Atheist is a social networking site focused on current events and building a global Atheist community. Our goal is to create a space where people from all over the world can connect and share their Atheist experiences and/or their conversion stories.
Nothing follows from atheism but lack of belief in god(s). So from atheism social networking doesn't follow, a global community doesn't follow, sharing stories doesn't follow.

Now imagine someone came along and protested the use of "atheism" in your name and told you you were divisive end excluding people who maybe don't want a community or social networking, and you being for all that means "everyone who isn't is lacking something and/or a bad person" somehow. (Yeah, it doesn't make sense)

So, why is having atheism in our name a bad thing again?
4. The message or impression we give of in general

I don't really understand this problem but apparently there is one.
The message "we" want to give out is, in my estimation, essentially "we are people, and we have feelings, and we are part of the movement/society too, and we don't want to take this abuse anymore so come join us if you want, we have coffee and cookies. If you don't want to play with us that's nice but then leave us alone and in peace (and stop shitting on the lawn)"
5. Questioning of the need of such a thing

Is there a need for such a movement? Well, apparently some people want there to be one. People want an atheist movement, too. Shouldn't they have one just because atheist is only disbelief in god(s)? Maybe they want to join a community of like-minded people. It's so nice if you don't have to justify yourself all the time but instead have people around you who know what you mean and support you.

I can tell you I'm tired of being dismissed as overemotional, especially when I'm angry because people tell me to "just ignore the trolls" and "it's just the internet". Internet is part of Real Life and online abuse is still abuse.
6. Divisiveness of atheism

KarenX has written wonderfully about this, so I'll leave you the links.
In short:
Guess what? The movement was already divided.
Now that I've written so much I might just make a blog post out of it.