Last night a young lady said she was gonna stop blogging. I didn’t ask for this personally, but apparently some people wanted to hurt Jen McCreight with their words. Not cool. I don’t like it, but it happens. I’ve hurt people with my words. People have hurt me with their words. It’s par for the course with language, sometimes. Still. NOT COOL. I may disagree with what she had to say, but I’d fight to the death for her right to say it. Mostly cuz I enjoy a good debate, but also cuz she has a right to her opinion, even if and especially if her opinion differs from yours or mine.
Well. Okay. I say she has a right to her opinion, but i honestly don’t know. I don’t believe it. I like to think she does. I feel we all have a right to our opinions. Opinions are like assholes, but I can’t prove it. More on that later. (insert eerie foreshadowing music here)
She had been weathering personal attacks for awhile now, apparently. I only know about this stuff peripherally. I don’t go out of my way to understand all the ins and outs of Free Thought Blogs. I went there a couple times and didn’t like what I saw so I surfed on. Didn’t dwell. I knew it had something to do with PZ Myers and since he and I have a mutual agreement to disagree, I didn’t bother with it. Not enough time in my day to hang where I’m obviously not wanted. Got too many other places I’d rather be. Free Thought Blogs didn’t hit my radar again until this #AtheismPlus crap started littering my Twitter feed.
Let’s get this straight. Jen McCreight was receiving verbal abuse “for saying how nice it would be to be nice to people for a change.” I like to think Douglas Adams would have been impressed by her for putting up with their shit as long as she had. I say “their” but i may be counted among “their” number, which annoys me cuz I don’t like to belong to “their” anything. Slinging poo just stinks up the place for everybody, and it’s not necessary. Stick to the issues, and cut out the personal attacks. If you’re slinging poo, you stink. Hit the showers.
As for the issues, there are already “atheist organizations” that exist, and many of them do positive things for their community and the world. you can choose to join them or ignore them. I don’t go out of my way to police them. I only care about stuff when it slaps me in the face, really. So far as I can tell these organizations don’t set themselves apart from other atheists, nor do they attempt to define atheism or add beliefs and credos to what being an atheist is. Atheism is a lack of faith in gods. That’s it. If you do good things or bad things or indifferent things to people, it’s not cuz you’re an atheist. It’s cuz you did those things. As Matt Dillahunty recently tweeted, “Who said there should be an atheist movement? Some atheists. You don’t have to be a part of it, you can just benefit.”
By the way here’s Matt talking about this more. His brain is cool. You should check it out.
As it has been explained to me, #AtheismPlus goes out of its way to claim it wants to “discuss and not dictate” atheist dogma. Then it turns around and lists atheist dogma you have to subscribe to if you want to consider yourself among their number, like a favorable approach to “sexism, racism, GLBT issues, politics, poverty, and crime.” Social Justice is a noble cause, but you don’t have to be an atheist to agree to it, and not all self-described rational minds naturally come to this conclusion as a direct result of atheism.
The “Plus” is the key. They have since back-pedaled a bit, but it’s in the name. They are taking a doubt and adding beliefs to it. And they don’t see a problem with this. They really don’t.
Particularly, those behind Atheism Plus are adding bits and pieces from other movements they happen to like such as feminism and LGBT issues. I happen to agree so far with what i’ve heard, but that’s not the point. If there was something on the list I didn’t agree to, I’d be double plus ungood for challenging it. And I’m ALL FOR challenging stuff, but Atheism Plus hedges its bets so if you feel as a rationalist or absurdist or whateverist (and not atheist) its your duty to challenge any belief slung your way like poo, they have sacred cows you shouldn’t touch unless you want to be dismissed or banned or otherwise, well, shunned. We’ll get more to that towards the end. Ooh. More foreshadowing! (doo doo doo doo)
Atheism Plus has also been accused of attacking old white men. Speaking as an old white man I haven’t personally experienced that yet. I don’t feel attacked for being old or white but I do feel the atheism rug has been ripped out from under me.
From their perspective, if you approached being atheist with a rational mind, naturally you must also agree that all human beings are to be treated fairly and equally. This leads to other conclusions they feel should be obvious to anyone who is atheist; perhaps anyone who has a heart. If you don’t naturally take the same mental paths they took, you’re effing stoopid.
I had many of these obvious conclusions back when i was a southern Baptist. It’s one of the reasons I’m not a baptist anymore. Gays were frowned upon. Women weren’t always treated equally. It wasn’t always in-your-face but even when i was a kid I could see there’s a chicken pecking order going on and old white men are on top for some reason. This is wrong. I get that. I got that long before I gave up completely on faith and belief. Actually, come to think of it, being a nonbeliever is causing me to challenge even these humanist like assumptions of equality and this privileged assumption about human beings. I mean I am human so naturally one would think I should subscribe to an assumption that humans come first before all else. However, objectively that’s not what reality is showing us. That’s not what science shows us.
As I learned from Neil Tyson awhile back, over 95% of the universe wants to kill us. Solar flares and radiation, the cold vast emptiness of space. Black holes. Stars going nova. If you have humanist leanings, you must cede that outside of Earth, we’ve yet to find an hospitable place for carbon based life. That’s not encouraging data to someone claiming humankind deserves to be treated special, and we should treat one another with dignity. It’s more like humble pie. Even here on Earth, the weather lashes out at us at random intervals, volcanoes erupt with little to no warning, Shall I go on? Gravity itself is constantly waiting for us to slip up, like a ninja assassin. You can drown in your own bath tub if you’re not careful. The universe is NOT on our side.
We’re not the end all be all of evolutionary progress. In fact, if anything, we’re just another rung on a ladder that isn’t finished being built yet. However, we’re also not the only thing evolving. All animals and plants are constantly evolving too. Why are there no talking horses? Cuz if one showed up we’d probably freak out and kill it. With every generation, small permutations are happening, and in an historic geologic time scale, this glacial pace leads to new species. It has led in the past to new species living and dying. That’s evident in the fossil record and animal and plant genomes. We’re special in that we’re different from other species but we’re not different from everyone else.
This is why some people become vegans. Cuz if we should treat all human beings equally, and our genetic structure is over 95% like that of other primates, we should be treating all chimps and gorillas and orangutans the same way! As you explore more species, the differences appear obvious to us, but on a chemical level these differences are very minute and trivial. We humans are more alike to mice than to dogs, but we’re still talking a homology of over 90%. And COWS..?? So if I were to “rationally” follow these thought processes to their “natural” conclusion, I could never eat a Whopper again, and I’m here to tell ya, I’m gonna eat a Whopper again. Even fish and chicken, while maybe not 90% or over, are still genetically pretty close to us. We’re all essentially related. And why should we single out plant life? They use DNA too. Why do we think we’re superior to them? Just cuz we can play canasta and drive a moped? If you don’t eat animals cuz you feel a kinship towards them, genetics feels a kinship towards all life on this planet. You’re still a cannibal you damned vegan. Shame on you! I’ve been challenging a lot of assumptions humanity has historically made about itself and the universe, and objectively we’re not coming out of it smelling like a rose. There’s truckloads of assumptions I have yet to even touch on. This no longer believing in belief shit is not an easy process.
However, it would never have been my intention to see this sweet lady give up. Where’s the fun in that? I wanted her (or somebody) to prove me wrong. Where’s the proof? I’d like to argue with her. She’d probably kick my ass, scholastically speaking.
There were others who turned this into personal attacks towards her and others. I notice someone call her “blaghag” and thought that was derogatory. Turned out that’s a nickname (*innocent look*) but there were other things people called her that were far worse. Enough to upset her and have her crawl into her shell. I been there. I got a shell too. I keep it under the kitchen sink with my booze. In my limited experience on this planet, I’ve observed that when we resort to name calling and slinging poo, it means we lost the argument back there somewhere, or more pointedly, it means neither side is listening to the other any longer.
One person may challenge another’s opinion which has no evidence to back it up, and their response is: “you suck!” or “you’re a fucking idiot asshole retard” or “I know you are but what am i?” I’m guilty of that. Just last night some guy told me to fuck off. I told him in turn to go fuck himself. And then we ended the argument. This is one way I agree to disagree. It reminds me of Captain Kirk on Star Trek Four the Voyage Home. Some guy cussed him out for jaywalking, and Kirk was like, “oh yeah? well, double dumb ass on you!” this is normal. it’s natural. it’s all part of being human.
But personal attacks that go beyond that and threaten or intentionally hurt people don’t help anybody. They don’t help our arguments. They don’t help the discourse. We aren’t helping each other. Likewise, demonizing someone by questioning whether or not they adhere to your same belief system of ethics is akin to calling someone a communist, or a witch, or questioning their manhood, or questioning their humanity. This works both ways. I was looking forward to someone proving me wrong. I’d like to see someone prove to me that human beings are actually worthy of superiority to other species and worthy of equality to one another. However, when i got someone to argue the actual issue with me the best they could do was essentially, “well if you don’t believe as we do then you’re just the kind of person we should ignore.”
Shunning. Nice! Didn’t I just do a whole blog post about how entire villages used to respond via fear and shunning was one of their big faves. This illustrates the problem with adding beliefs to a doubt, so they proved my point for me. It makes #AtheismPlus no better than any other belief system that is elitist and exclusionary. Religions shun people too. It’s one step backward and two steps back. If you want to sling poo and walk backwards, that’s fine. Don’t claim to be “plussing” atheism when you do that. Cuz you ain’t.
Still, I hope Jen McCreight comes back, and soon. Tho I disagree with her, genetically she’s practically a sister. I’d be honored to sling ideas back and forth with her. We’ll leave the poo slinging to our distant cousins the chimps.
When we hurt each other, we hurt ourselves, too.