Just a Theory Plus (the requisite Atheism Plus post)

So, Atheism+. All for it.

I think everything that should need to be said about it in terms of justifying its existence and distinguishing it from straight humanism has already been said. So I’m going to do something I enjoy doing instead, and draw some analogies. If you consider yourself a good person, but don’t understand the importance of atheism+, continue reading.

You know how annoying it is when yet another person trots out the “It’s just a theory” bullshit with respect to evolution? You know how enraging it can be when people talk about irreducible complexity like it hasn’t been disproven a billion fucking times? Or shit like the banana argument, first cause, etc, etc?

The Ray Comforts, William Lane Craigs, Ken Hams, etc, of the world, by all appearances, trot those things out knowing full well that they’re bullshit. However, there are plenty of earnest, curious people, who simply don’t understand why those arguments don’t hold water. They don’t have the education necessary, or they’ve had the bad arguments relentlessly drilled into them by others, or they haven’t been able to take the time to take a truly critical look.

If you spend much time in the atheist community, you’re the opposite of those people. You get a continuous education into the principles of evolution, the arguments against deities, etc, by default. You have to know those things to explain why theist arguments don’t work. Atheist bloggers explain and re-explain the fallacious reasoning that goes into Point Refuted a Thousand Times (PRATT) arguments all the time. That’s why they’re not called Point Refuted A Couple Of Times Last Wednesday arguments. I can’t count the number of things I’ve read on the Kalaam Cosmological “Argument”, or how atheists can be moral without a deity, or why we shouldn’t just keep our atheism to ourselves. I know a number of different ways to address the problems with each. I’ve known a number of them for years.

There’s a divide. Atheists on side A, and on side B, people who buy into PRATT arguments because they genuinely don’t get it—they don’t have this constant stream of education on it that we have. I have sympathy for the earnestly questioning people who just haven’t gotten there yet.

Thing is, that doesn’t change the fact that no matter who I hear it from, the “just a theory” argument pisses me the fuck off. Because what rock have you been hiding under that you don’t realize what’s wrong with that? How can you live in a modern-day society with access to all of the world’s information at the click of a button and still be so woefully, astoundingly ignorant? Are you really so oblivious about the utter inanity of your points and the magnitude of the case against them?

There’s an inferential distance gap large enough that, very often, both sides can utterly fail to understand how the other side can possibly think what they think.

The point of all this is the following: if you’re a straight white cis male and you don’t get why the issues atheism+ brings up are worth talking about, there is a good chance you are, in this equation, on side B (with the earnestly ignorant theists). There is a good chance that you lack sufficient knowledge and experience to form a useful opinion on the subject. You may even lack sufficient contextual knowledge to realize that you lack sufficient knowledge and experience to form a useful opinion on the subject. We’ve all known religious people like this. It shouldn’t be hard to imagine that on some issues we, ourselves, might be in the same spot.

With respect to feminism (to pick the example I’m most familiar with), when you say things like, “Why do you hate men?”, “All men aren’t rapists!”, “Really, YOU’RE the one being sexist.”, “I never see discrimination!”, and, of course, “Why are you feminists so angry?”

Please, please, please take a step back, and think about how you feel when you, as an atheist, hear things like, “Why do you hate God?”, “Not all believers act like that!”, “YOU’RE the ones taking away OUR religious freedoms!”, “I never see discrimination!“, and, of course, “Why are you atheists so angry?

Think long and hard. Consider the fact that there are good, honest, curious theists who will say the above things.

Consider that you may be a good honest, curious person, and be just as hugely wrong as they are. Consider that if you’re arguing with a member of a marginalized group about the nature of their marginalization, you are the equivalent of a theist arguing with an atheist about theirs. You are the feminism equivalent of “It’s just a theory”.

Understand that when feminists get aggravated with you, it’s often for exactly the same reasons you get aggravated at people who spout, “Just a theory”, as though it’s a bulletproof takedown of the last 150 years of biology.

The solution to your problem is the same as the solution for “Just a theory” theists: educate yourself. I promise if you do, eventually you’ll be able to pick apart your own misconceptions just like so many of us have learned to do with religion.

8 comments on “Just a Theory Plus (the requisite Atheism Plus post)

  1. You link at the top a post by Stephanie Zvan, addressed to me, which you suggest gives a good distinction between A+ and Humanism. I don’t see anything in her post which addresses that question. What do you see as the essential difference (apart from the name, obviously)?

    • Yeah, Stephanie Zvan’s post only touches on it briefly. Parts of the four other do get into specifics more. In a nutshell, though, I think the main distinctions are that atheism is much more specifically and in-your-face-edly nonreligious, and that functionally, atheism+ is not just about being pro-diversity, etc, but proactive about it, which is a very important distinction to me. Humanism is not immune to the issues atheism+ is about, and having a specific, proactive focus on those issues is an important thing..

      There certainly is a huge amount of overlap, but there’s also a huge amount of overlap in, for example, communities that identify as queer vs LGBT vs trans, etc. But there are plenty of people who simply feel more comfortable in particular ones. I think that’s fine. Good, even, if it means more people feel more comfortable in the spaces they choose to spend time in. Especially if it means, and I think this is the case with atheism+, that more real work will get done on some of these issues if this particular space for addressing them is carved out.

      As Greta said in the post of hers I linked: “Atheism is getting lots of people excited, invigorated, mobilized, and motivated to take action. Humanism has been doing this, too — but not nearly as much.”

      • I think that’s a fair response. I essentially read your comment as accepting that it’s essentially a branding issue. You don’t articulate any actual values which A+ people have which Humanists don’t, but stress the difference in identity which the A+ name offers. And I agree, that’s fine. But I still don’t see a distinction in actual values.

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