I was planning to write a response tonight to a Conservapedia article proclaiming that Pat Tillman was not an atheist. It’s about as judgmental and closed-minded as you would expect the article to be. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten myself caught in all the Atheism+ (A+) drama over the past few weeks. I’ve spent countless hours (far more than I should) reading blogs from both sides, visiting the A+ website, and watching a few YouTube videos, not to mention some Twitter comments.
I expressed come concerns over the future of the atheist movement in my last blog, but now, I am at my wit’s end. For a bunch of people who generally pride themselves on logic, skepticism, and evidence, I find very little of any of it in what I’ve read.
I pride myself on trying to give people a fair shake, I try to be open-minded about ideas, and treat people with civility and respect. I’m far from perfect at it, but I think I give people the respect they’ve earned, and I try to disagree in a respectful manner. Apparently, this is not shared by many.
I have, in recent blog posts, been an outspoken opponent of A+, not so much for its core values, rather for (1) the attitudes pouring out from it, (2) its implementation – possibly the worst roll-out of a new idea in history, and (3) the use of the word atheism, which has very little, if anything, to do with it.
Nonetheless, I have been soaking in as much as I can, and I’ve seen some disturbing things from both sides, albeit mostly from the A+ side. First, there is an incredible lack of civility, maturity, and respect. A+ers have been using (and often misusing) buzzwords and phrases like “misogyny,” “privilege,” and “MRA.” Frankly, until recently, I didn’t even know what MRA was, let alone that it existed. A+ers have also been quick to call opponents of A+ assholes, dicks, scumbags, and other unwarranted terms. I was commenting on a blog, in which I partially agreed with the blogger, and in part, I disagreed. Another commenter called me a “clueless asshole,” and left it at that. No reason was given. (If you are just going to insult someone without adding any value to the discussion, why bother?) I was unable to defend myself, as I was blocked. I made no derogatory comments, no name calling, nothing.
(NOTE: This was not a response to my tweet – just an example of childish behavior and name calling on Twitter.)
On the non-plus side, I have seen people calling some women cunts and other derogatory terms. (FYI – I HATE the word cunt. There are two words I will never speak – that and the “n” word. I find them both abhorrent.) I consider these types of name calling incredibly immature and uncalled for. What’s most appalling is that some of these people, so called “leaders” of atheism, are degreed professionals, as am I (I have a master’s degree from a top-tier grad school), and yet they stoop to name calling and vulgarities.
Another problem I have with all of this lunacy is the sweeping generalizations made by both sides. For example, A+ers seem to think that those who disagree are misogynist assholes. Of course this is not true of all, but I’ve seen the phrase used over and over by A+ supporters, dozens of times. I’ve been called one (twice), based on fairly innocuous comments. Considering that the word misogyny means “hatred of women,” there’s going to be a pretty steep burden to prove that. Simply disagreeing with a woman, or even making a rude comment, does not make someone a misogynist. Hatred of women is a general state of mind, and a single statement to a single person is highly unlikely to establish a person’s misogyny. I can’t tell you how sick of that word I am.
On the other side, I’ve seen the term “feminazi” used a lot. I think I can go without that phrasing as well. It’s just childish. And don’t harass people either. I’ve seen at least one non-plusser on Twitter who is seemingly obsessed with harassing Rebecca Watson. Hey, I don’t necessarily agree with everything Rebecca has to say, but seriously, let it go. Don’t waste your life trying to destroy someone else’s. Take a computer break, go outside, get some sunlight, talk to some actual human beings, and get some exercise. Obsession is not healthy.
Lastly, I’m sick of the threats and the games. I haven’t seen too many threats, but I don’t doubt there are more than what I’ve seen. I’ve been banned (once) simply by disagreeing. For people who advocate free thought, there sure is a lot of censorship going on. Granted, freedom of speech is not granted by individuals (or blogs), but by the government, so private censorship is legal; however, it is clear that certain blogs and twitter feeds are only willing to preach to the choir – aka, groupthink. There’s no free thought or open discussion there. On my blog, I welcome dissenting opinions, but I think I’m in the minority. So many bloggers simply want confirmation of their own ideas, without question, and will attack (or block) any dissenting opinion. That’s ridiculous. Where’s the open discussion of ideas?
So to those of you out there on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, A+, wherever – just grow up. For a group of people who sees themselves as intellectuals, for many of you, it’s closer to pseudo-intellectual. The insults, obsessions, name-calling, generalizations, overuse of buzzwords, f-bombs, etc., has got to stop. For someone who is relatively new to the atheist “community,” I am supremely unimpressed. If this “schism” is indicative of how the atheist community really works, why be a part of it? I see very little coming out of this. So you know what? If you’re one of these people I’ve described, I’m ashamed to share the word atheism with you.
BTW – Twice, I called people out on Twitter for name-calling and childish behavior (including PZ Myers). No responses…