As I discussed in last week’s posting A+ & F-, there is a very ugly backlash against the nascent Atheism-Plus idea. I’ve taken to calling those people the F-.
However, I’d like to clarify who I’m talking about when I refer to the F-. I am not referring to people who aren’t interested in A+, or think it’s a waste of time. I’m not even referring to people who think the name or idea has potentially bad side effects that outweigh any good it might accomplish; I think those people are wrong, but that’s not sufficient to earn you your F- blazer badge and lapel pin in my eyes.
I’m totally okay with you people, and welcome your input. No, I’m talking about people who indulge in personal attacks intended to be hurtful against the people involved, or even associated with people involved, in atheism plus. A sterling example came up yesterday.
Jen McCreight, who has been putting up with harassment for a long time now arising from her support for the idea of having anti-harassment policies at major conferences, was the spark point for the A+ idea of a separate group/designation for atheists who were also interested in activism for social justice issues. After that she (among others) was subjected to furious onslaughts of truly awful bile, being called every once-unprintable name under the sun with special emphasis on the more misogynistic ones, and having sockpuppeteers spoofing her identity in order to make explicit sexual comments. It drove her into a depression and she has taken an indefinite leave of absence from her blogging.
Yesterday her dad posted on his own much less well known blog to say that he wished people would be civil and leave his daughter alone while she recovers some peace of mind, and expressed just a bit of his own anger at how she has been treated. He did this off his own bat, it should be noted, not through any prompting from Jen. Can you guess what happened?
One of the mavens of the F- crowd, Kristina Hansen (aka “Woolly Bumblebee”) wrote a post mocking Jen and her dad for that, sneering at Jen’s ‘weakness’ and her dad’s parenting skills. She and an aggravation of trolls descended on his blog to post their most well-reasoned and insightful analyses of the McCreights’ shortcomings, stuff along the lines of “YOUR DAUGHTER IS A SLUT!!!!!!!!!!! That’s right, you raised a SLUTTY SLUT SLUT OF A SLUTDAUGHTER!!!!”
Go ahead, check out those links. Bring a barf bag, though.
I had my own far less intense run-in with the same mindset on Facebook. One of my casually-added FB friends expressed his opinion that atheism+ was a bad thing, because atheism should be just atheism and atheists concerned with social justice issues should just call themselves humanists. Fair enough.
I expressed disagreement, saying that the word humanism had in its practical usage very different connotations; it has been frequently appropriated by liberal religionists, for example, and many people don’t even realize that it is a nontheistic belief system. The use of Atheism-plus lets people like me be very open and up-front about our atheism while still expressing that our worldview is not limited to simply the negative of no god-belief.
After that the conversation became increasingly deranged. This fellow insisted that associating anything else beyond simple dictionary atheism with the word “atheism” detracted from the crystalline purity of atheism and that pollution of the word would cause a backlash that would destroy decades of work spent in building up the atheist community. I protested that it was easy to see the distinction: atheism is no god belief, atheism-plus is no god belief plus other stuff. (I must admit I was the first to use salty language: I opined that the very structure of the name made it “fucking obvious” that atheism-plus included concepts that were not strictly part of atheism. I stand by that.)
This guy became increasingly agitated as I refused to see the ineluctable truth that a sub-group of atheists using the word atheist as part of their name was a hostile takeover of atheism itself, and would lead to a massive backlash against all atheists everywhere, that we would become *rightfully* associated with Maoism because we’d failed to keep social values well separated from mention of atheism, that theists must be “laughing their tits off” at people who supported it because it would doom us all, that proponents of A+ were making all of atheism into just another religious cult.
And all that would have been okay with me, too, but when I refused to back away from my position that I didn’t believe there was any reason or evidence to make me think that all those terrible things would happen, he got increasingly abusive toward me personally. I was an ass, a dick, a tool, and a bloody fool, with a theist’s brain and a treacher’s heart.
He did start to calm down when I said that if I did turn out to be wrong that I would make my mea culpa very publicly. (I think he took that to mean I was coming around to his way of thinking, though I explicitly said I was not.) Then, however, he discovered that I’d quietly removed him from my friends list in the interim, and he flew off the handle again. Mind you, I was still politely engaging him on the public forum, but apparently it was just awful of me to remove from my list of ‘friends’ someone I really don’t know at all, who considers me an ass, a dick, a tool, and a bloody fool, with a theist’s brain and a treacher’s heart, and is willing and eager to say so to my face, or at least my Facebook.
I don’t understand sociopathy like that, but I know how to grade it. F-.