Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rift brewing in New Atheist movement over Dublin elevator incident. (Update)

I was amazed to hear the aftermath of 'elevator gate' is still rippling through the atheist online community.
The atheist on-line community is a collection of generation-Yers , mostly young, who usually limit their efforts to YouTube videos, blog posts and the social media like Facebook. Over time these individuals began  to form communities and attempted to become more organized. The majority seem under 35. Infamous atheists like Richard Dawkins are not part of this community (but he does share a speaking platform with some of them).

Elevator Gate brought the decisive issue of feminism to the forefront of the atheist on-line community. Divides started to appear between those who believed atheism should naturally include feminist ideals and those who refused to self-identity with the feminist ideology. Debates raged over how to become more inclusive to women.

Eventually the group split and Atheism+ was born. Atheism+ is basically atheism and feminism :

"In the meantime, are you an atheist? Do you identify as an atheist? Then I call upon you to pick sides within our movement (not in comments here, but publicly, via Facebook or other social media): are you with us, or with them; are you now a part of the Atheism+ movement, or do you at least cheer and approve it’s values and aims (since you don’t have to label yourself), or are you going to stick with Atheism Less and its sexism and cruelty and irrationality? Then at least we’ll know who to work with. And who to avoid."
Being with or against Atheism+ | Richard Carrier Blogs

Their rather pointlessly vague founding principles are :

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,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.

 Atheist+ is rather remarkably even more obnoxious and self-righteous than the regular atheist community. Apparently people will be removed from the movement if they are deemed 'irrational' which is apparently defined as anyone who disagrees with them. Regard :

"If you mean “rational people will be making mental notes of who is irrational, then documenting it, and publicly informing their colleagues of it,” then yes. There is no other way to promote a rational society than to call out those who are irrational and denounce and marginalize them as such. No longer will we treat them as one of us. Because they are not.

There won’t be any central committee for this. Just the internet and the evidence.

Accept it or GTFO."
The New Atheism + | Richard Carrier Blogs

There is money to be made on the amateur atheist speaking tour. Conventions to attend, books to write and even the odd television and radio appearance. In one case, a girl who posted a YouTube video explaining her reasons for rejecting feminism has since removed the video in order to remain in the community.

FreeThoughtBlogs (another annoying name) is led by PZ Myers and Ed Brayton. It was intended to become  a community and gathering place for notable atheists and to help form a political movement. It is  however already imploding largely over the pro-feminist stance of the community. This is an example of the rationality you can expect to find on freethoughtblogs :-

The vlogger Thunderf00t briefly joined Freethought Blogs in summer 2012, but was quickly fired after repeatedly and somewhat incoherently blogging that those pushing for protection for women at atheist/skeptic events were wrong, or overreacting, or whatever. As a result, a large sector of the angrier, less self-aware parts of the skeptical community have decided that FtB isn't about free thought at all because something-something-something-evo-psych-something girls are stinky.
Freethought Blogs - RationalWiki

(Thunderf00t is known for his YouTube videos refuting creationism.)

In conclusion, freethoughtblogs is a failry amateur and childish affair. Their members would be better advised to join and contribute to the various humanist movements which are better established with more mature leadership. However it's implosion is interesting because we have several groups of people scattered throughout the world who met through social media and are attempting to form a movement. Once, this sort of movement would have formed in university debating halls and rarely progressed past printing a few public flyers.

Time will tell if the Atheist + movement has the same impact of the New Atheists. But I suspect the movement is stillborn.