Thursday, 6 September 2012

The detractors of atheism+ show why it's needed

I have a friend, who I met through twitter a long time ago. He's a Christian, but he's disillusioned with the church, so he started a little group of his own; he calls it Occupy Jesus. The goal of his movement is to take the politics, the fearmongering, the divisiveness, basically the 'religion' out of his religion. He doesn't even include things like the supposed divinity of Jesus in his platform, nor even the idea that the man necessarily existed. His entire idea, whatever your beliefs, or lack thereof, is that we really ought to all be living by the ideals that Jesus supposedly preached.

Now, he and I disagree on a lot of things, including the dubious morality of some of Jesus' supposed teachings. But his message, the one he's trying to popularize, cuts down to the deepest level of it. He's saying that whatever you believe, whoever you are, whatever you think of gods or the supernatural, the world would be a much better place if we'd all start treating each other with the respect and decency that Jesus supposedly preached.

I have not joined his movement. For me, personally, the fact remains that I can do all these things without doing them in the name of Jesus, and the inclusion of that name is a barrier to me; the name of Jesus is still incredibly conflated with the supernatural, with gods, with being 'saved', with miracles, and so on down the line. So Occupy Jesus is not for me. And my friend is just fine with that. He recognizes that we share the same ideals, but have different ways of going about them.

But I still think it's a great idea. He's encouraging people to be better, to themselves and to each other. If people want to do that in the name of an ancient Jewish preacher, what do I care? They're still striving to improve themselves. I applaud my friend's efforts, even though I disagree with them.

All this, of course, really puts what's going on with atheism+ and its detractors right now in a certain light. Disagreeing with us is fine. As I said in a recent post, if you don't want to identify with atheism+, I certainly won't get in your face about it. You want to call yourself a secular humanist? An ethical atheist? Just a plain old atheist who happens to be into social justice? Even a member of Occupy Jesus?

Dandy! No problem here. We're all striving for the same thing; the name we do it under really sort of fails to matter. I personally love the label, because it simultaneously identifies me as a nonbeliever and one who refuses to ignore social issues. It works for me.

But there are those who call us divisive, or arrogant, or whiners, or flouncers, or a myriad of other things. They think the label we've chosen is an attempt to make anyone who hasn't joined up look inferior. And so, in response, they heap vitriol and bile on the proponents of this new movement; the sheer volume of this that has been sent Jen McCreight's way has caused her to need a break from her blogging.

And still they don't stop. A torrent of threats, insults, and other hatred flooded this woman's inbox, and now that she has responded by needing a break from the vomit being spewed at her, she's accused of being a crybaby. A whiner. A sympathy whore. Such things as "Good, one down seem to indicate that this was the goal, and that such tactics will be used against others to achieve the same effect.

And these people dare to call themselves rationalists. These are the tactics of a five year old. This is not how adults get things done. This is not how civilized society behaves. Do we not deride others for using these tactics? Do we not, many of us, call the Republican party out for its use of rhetoric rather than reason? Do we not accuse the pro-life crowd of being more interested in using shocking, false pictures than in looking at reality?

How can we look at women complaining about the torrents of abuse they receive, just because they're women, and respond to that by doubling down on the abuse? How can we do that and in any way honestly still call ourselves reasonable? Rational? Again; there are those who don't like atheism+, who will never identify with this label, and that's absolutely fine. I don't identify with Occupy Jesus, either. But this abuse, this harassment, this flood of hatred is below us. As atheists, as rationalists, and as human fucking beings.

Disagree with us all you like. Be vocal about it. Give your counterpoints, and your arguments. But stop with the threats, the rhetoric. It's disgusting.

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