A+: Purge or Publicity Stunt

Here are some excerpts from another promo article for “atheism+”

Any community, new or old, has its tensions, and in the past year the atheist/sceptical community has been rocked by a divisive and increasingly bad-tempered debate over sexism and, more generally, a sense that the dominant voices have tended to be white, male and middle-class.  On the one hand, there have been suggestions that atheism and scepticism are philosophies disproportionately attractive to men. Indeed, the stereotype of the atheist as white, intellectually overconfident male – as Richard Dawkins – has long been a favourite among religious apologists. More seriously, there are definite feelings of exclusion, especially on the part of younger women.




            The first item on the Atheism+ agenda, then, is a cleansing one. McCreight herself says: “We need to recognize that there’s still room for self-improvement and to address the root of why we’ve been having these problems in atheism and skepticism.” Greta Christina has gone so far as to devise a checklist of goals to which atheist organisations should aspire, including anti-harassment policies and ensuring diversity among both members and invited speakers. “To remember that not all atheists look like Richard Dawkins.”


Imagine that.  A purge.


That sounds like, at least party, a negative programme – “getting rid of the garbage”. Yet the name – or at least the symbol – is pleasingly double-edged. “Atheism plus”, the natural reading, implies incompleteness: that other, associated principles need to be added to the core idea to produce a rounded philosophy. But it can also be read as “Atheism positive”, going beyond the mere negation of belief. Time will tell whether McCreight’s initiative leads to permanent changes in the atheist and sceptical movement, or to the formation of a new and distinct nexus of atheism and progressive politics, or is soon forgotten. But I’d bet against the latter. Whether or not the name sticks, there is an energy behind this new wave that makes it hard to ignore.


It looks to me like atheism+ is evolving into some anti-Dawkins movement, which is ironic given it looks like Dawkins owns the A+ symbol.   Does the future hold another law suit?

If you ask me, the author of this article is a tad bit naïve.  A bunch of pajama-clad blog postings don’t exactly count as “energy.”  In fact, for those who remember, there was more “energy” when the Gnus wanted to be known as Brights.  And we see how well that went.

To determine whether this thing truly has traction, we are going to need people like Dawkins and Harris to respond.  So let’s have it.  Is Dawkins A+?  Is Jerry Coyne A+?  Is Sam Harris A+? Is Victor Stenger A+?  Is Dan Dennett A+?  Is Jason Rosenhouse A+?  And what about the presidents of various atheist and skeptics organizations?  If they all claim that they too are A+ while offering up platitudes, it will become clear the “A+ movement” is just a publicity stunt to help rescue the PR disaster that Gnu atheism has become.  It would mean the new wave of revolutionaries have been complaining and arguing about ghosts.

On the other hand, if there are Gnu leaders who do reject the A+ label, or refuse to comment on the new designation, it tells us there may indeed be a new subset gnus.

I’m goin’ out to get some popcorn.

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11 Responses to A+: Purge or Publicity Stunt

  1. Crude says:

    I want to see how this manifests at this next atheist convention. Will someone be denied the right to speak because they’re not A+ material? (Is Dawkins on-board with A+? Because the tone of that article seems to strongly suggest it’s partially an anti-Dawkins reaction to begin with.) Will an anti-A+ faction rise up? I can’t imagine that Thunderf00t guy is all that thrilled with what’s going on here. I can’t imagine the libertarian/objectivist atheists are thrilled with this either.

    I’m starting to see how the French Revolution could have turned the way it did.

  2. Crude says:

    Just to add on, the celebrity aspect of things… I wonder how Bill Maher will fit in with this group. How about Penn and Teller? Sam Harris seems to be the guy in the freaking targeting sights lately because of his international policy views.

    I mean, there’s just so many unintentionally hilarious/potential landmine angles to this.

  3. chunkdz says:

    Dawkins should start the A++ movement.

  4. apollyon911 says:

    “I’m starting to see how the French Revolution could have turned the way it did.”

    Yep…remember what happened to Robespierre? Maybe Dawkins is up for the guillotine.

    “In fact, for those who remember, there was more “energy” when the Gnus wanted to be known as Brights. And we see how well that went.”

    Seems to me only betas give themselves a nickname. If they were ‘bright’ the label would be given to them. What I see is first a bunch of nerdy, white, socially-challenged men (who are essentially ‘anti-seducers’, i.e. repellent to women as a rule) and second, an undercurrent of resentment from the lesser members of the ‘movement’.

    One would think athiests would want more women, especially younger women, to join, but i suspect their (the old guard’s) hate and resentment are too strong to overcome.

  5. The Deuce says:

    So, basically, some of the Gnus are trying to expel the rest of the Gnus for not being sufficiently open and welcoming. The mind reels.

  6. eveysolara says:

    I am an atheist plus a theist

  7. Michael says:

    Here’s a funny one from another atheist:

    Since we atheists are apparently adding symbols to the end of the letter “A” to signify what kind of atheist we are now, here are some suggestions:

    A$$: for those who see the profit potential in Atheism; it’s atheism dollar dollar bills, y’all. In gold we trust.

    AK: for those atheists who like to not only pack heat, but also demand the sort of firepower usually reserved for frontline soldiers


    A*: for atheists who aren’t really atheists; perfect for those who believe in “spirituality” or just love going to church, even though they know there’s no god

    A&W: for atheists who like their root beer in a frosty mug

    A++: for people who want to be even snootier than those at FTB

    Am: for young atheists (get it… it’s a music pun on “A minor”)

    AP: for young atheists who are taking college classes in high school

    Ah-ha: for atheists who just realized that they don’t believe in gods

    A-: for atheists who don’t think things are going to get any better

    A™: a wholly owned subsidiary of Godless Inc.

    A?: for people somewhere between atheism and agnosticism

    A∑: for talking about all atheists as a whole, added together

    A1: for atheists who enjoy steak

    A. : for those who are just an atheist, period


  8. Thanks for the repost, Michael.

  9. stcordova says:

    “it tells us there may indeed be a new subset gnus.”

    I think it will become a subset. The fact that Dawkins didn’t lead the charge but rather a busy post doc (rather than an established name) tells me the movement doesn’t have depth.

    Dawkins will be caught between a rock and hard place since he’s PZ’s friend, but then, the Fems hate Dawkins. Harris already has issues with PZ.

    Rosenhouse is a great mind (maybe the brightest of the lot), but he has no following. Coyne? That’s the wild card.

    But lets not forget the one girl that doesn’t like the Fems: Abbie Smith. She hates Jen McCreight. I doubt Abbie will sign up to be an A+, neither will Harriet Hall, imho.

  10. stcordova says:

    Looks like the splinter group has already splintered a bit. Richard Carrier was chastised by the Popess Jen McCreight for being too divisive. See the acconts at the Thunderf00tdotorg website.

  11. Fnord says:

    It’s interesting that those who call for “diversity” within the Atheist community are only looking at skin color/gender/etc but apparently diversity of ideas and opinions regarding issues tangential to the atheist ideas we do agree on, can’t be tolerated.

    Is this just political correctness run amok? Non-believers always have and always will have a variety of opinions on just -how- to achieve a lot of things that people generally think are Good Things. However, it seems that failing to have the “correct” opinion on the issues, according to some undefined someone somewhere, means that you must be “purged” and ostracized. And, conveniently, that “correct” opinion seems to align with a rather narrow political view and social philosophy as well.

    Ever been to a Humanist gathering? I was at one where I thought the libertarian wing and the socialist wing were about to come to blows. We really don’t need this. If you want to take Atheism and run in your favorite direction with it, fine. But that’s no reason- practical, political, or even moral- to heap abuse on others for having different experiences and different opinions.

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