I’m quite put off by this new movement of atheists who feel compelled to add a social and political agenda to their non-belief in the supernatural. Clearly there are issues that affect all of humanity; causes that are worth fighting for. But why would anyone want to equate marriage equality with not believing in gods? What has truly impacted me negatively is the holier than thou vibe coming from these so-called atheist-plus people. Respected, outspoken atheists have not only embraced this concept of piling all manner of unrelated causes and topics onto their atheism, but have turned ugly and even venomous toward atheists who find this concept unsettling.
As someone who only recently made the final leap to atheism and then to coming out of the proverbial closet, I’m still excited enough about what I’ve learned and continue to learn that I want to share and be vocal about it. But I suddenly find myself pulling back my horns as I find this new movement cringeworthy. Greta Christina recently wrote excitedly about A+, including adding logos and even suggesting wearing pins. She describes A+ thusly:
When people ask stuff like “What do you atheists do, besides sitting around not-praying, eh?”
Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia
In my view, none of these things is any way related to being a nonbeliever in the supernatural. Of course I care about women’s rights, but I do so because I’m a human being, not because I don’t believe in god. I’m opposed to slavery, rape, child abuse and all kinds of things that should outrage any human being, irrespective of whether or not they have a belief in the immortal soul, the afterlife or that perhaps there is something other than the natural world we can touch and see and test and observe. Bundling all these issues with atheism and then creating groups, meet-ups, agendas and activism gives me an uneasy feeling. I can envision a real backlash of negativity as atheism becomes tied to hot button issues that are already divisive.
I’m an anti-theist to the extent that I want to ensure the religious are prevented from impacting science education and legislating their beliefs. The law in the United States is already clearly on the side of secularism, so vigilance, a watchful eye and the occasional legal action is what is required and already occurring. I support this wholeheartedly. But I am unwilling to join with groups of people setting political agendas on issues unrelated to the separation of church and state and calling it an extension of being an atheist. Hell, I could even be a religious person but support the Constitution of the United States and fight for the wall of separation to be maintained.
I do belong to a group called the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry and I contribute financially to the American Humanist Association. My activism in these groups is very limited and will likely stay that way. I insist that my charitable contributions have no religious association and I find the solace anyone would find in knowing there are other nonbelievers in a very religious part of the United States. That’s about as far as my involvement goes.
Being an atheist in the United States makes me a feel a little edgy, like something of a rebel. I like that feeling honestly and don’t even mind the generally negative reaction people get with they first find this out about me. I can reasonably and rationally explain why and how I’ve come to this position and at least occasionally, give a believer something to think about. The last thing I want to happen because I say that I’m an atheist is that someone thinks I’m also a tree-hugging liberal who ties themselves to a tree to prevent the destruction of a nest of spotted owls.
I’ll see how things play out, but if Atheism Plus gains any traction, I will likely no longer even use the term atheist to describe myself, choosing instead to call myself a non-theist to avoid being associated with the plethora of issues the “plussers” are sure to wrap their atheist flag around.