Sunday, September 30, 2012

In Defense of Blasphemy

Today Sept 30, 2012 is International Blasphemy Day.  This is a day dedicated to raising awareness about the encroachment upon free speech rights by anti-blasphemy laws around the world.  Generally there are two reactions that I hear against Blasphemy Day: "We don't want to be offensive.  Free speech is about being respectful of diverse ideas and opinions." and "You are just using the banner of free speech to disguise your hatred and mockery of God."

As I've explained before, the second response is just nonsensical, since I can't hate something I don't believe in.  However, the first response does give me pause and I'm very sympathetic to that attitude.  I would consider myself to be a first amendment absolutist in the sense that I believe all people should have the right to have their voices heard, but that also means that all people must have a right to voice a contrary opinion.  Free speech means nothing if people are not free to say things that may offend us.  That is why I am diametrically opposed to any legislation that would seek to curtail our most important right, whether domestic or international.

I recognize though that not everyone shares my views on the centrality of the first amendment to our democracy.  And while I think we should apply the principles behind this critical right around the world, it has no legal authority beyond our borders.  As such, I would like to put forward a laundry list of reasons that I support Blasphemy Day (and why you should too).

1. There is no clear line between religious dissent and blasphemy.
A Christian who denies that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet blasphemes Islam by her very existence.  A Jew denies the divinity of Jesus, and hence blasphemes against Christianity.  Every single one of you reading this post is a blasphemer or a heretic to someone's religion.  By following a different religion than your neighbor (or by following none) you are blaspheming against other religions.  The right to blaspheme other religions underlies religious liberty, as we see in countless cases around the globe.

In Saudi Arabia, people voicing religious opinions not sanctioned by the government (including Shi'a Muslims) are being tortured, beatendetained, deportedpersecuted, and sometimes even sentenced to death for professing or even secretly holding a faith other than the Saudi's narrow interpretation of Sunni Islam.  Hamza Kashgari has been charged with blasphemy over 3 very mild tweets that he made earlier this year and under current law could face a death sentence.

According to a 2009 report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, "The government of Iran continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused."

In Ireland, the constitution requires a blasphemy law to be on the books and in 2009 such a law was passed stating that: "A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding 25,000 euro."

An 11 year old Christian girl in Pakistan was accused of burning pages from the Koran.  A mob wanted to burn her alive, citing Pakistan's blasphemy laws as legal justification.

The list goes on and on, and that's just in the past decade.  Think of all the books that have been burned, people executed, and religious groups persecuted throughout the millennia all for the victim-less crime of blasphemy.

The freedom to disagree on which religion to practice or not to practice is in jeopardy around the world and blasphemy laws like these are appearing with increased frequency all over the globe.  The freedom of religion depends on the freedom to disagree with other religions, and blasphemy laws disallow that freedom.

2. Opponents of free speech have learned to use the language of religious tolerance against us.

I have no desire to go out of the way to offend people and never do anything with offense being the central goal.  But opponents of free speech have learned to speak the language of tolerance and mutual respect and turn it against that attitude.

Every year since 1999, a group of UN member countries has put a resolution "Combating defamation of religions" before the Human Rights Council.  Here are some excerpts from the March 2008 incarnation of the resolution that actually passed:
"Also urges States to provide, within their respective legal and constitutional systems, adequate protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from the defamation of any religion, to take all possible measures to promote tolerance and respect for all religions and their value systems and to complement legal systems with intellectual and moral strategies to combat religious hatred and intolerance;"
Sounds reasonable right? I want to respect everyone and don't like hatred and intolerance and it makes sense to encourage their protection right?  Well let's read a little further:
"Emphasizes that respect of religions and their protection from contempt is an essential element conducive for the exercise by all of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;"
Note that they are again talking about the freedom of thought and conscience, but what does protection from contempt mean?  Protection from people disagreeing?  Let's read on:
"Emphasizes that, as stipulated in international human rights law, everyone has the right to freedom of expression, and that the exercise of this right carries with it special duties and responsibilities, and may therefore be subject to certain restrictions"
Subject to certain restrictions? What restrictions are those?
"...prohibition of the dissemination of all ideas based upon racial superiority or hatred is compatible with the freedom of opinion and expression, is equally applicable to the question of incitement to religious hatred...the use of printed, audio-visual and electronic media, including the Internet, and of any other means to incite acts of violence, xenophobia or related intolerance and discrimination towards Islam or any religion;"
So it starts by telling us that we have to be tolerant and respectful of all religions but ends with telling us what we can and cannot say about them and limiting our free expression.

If you still think that this resolution has good intentions behind it and is promoting an agenda of tolerance and free expression, take a look at who voted for the resolution, who thought this resolution aligned with their goals and ideals:

China, Cuba, Indonesia, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and others.
All countries with great records on freedom of expression

The United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Switzerland all voted against the resolution.  40 human rights groups petitioned against the motion because they saw through it.

They were trying to put a blasphemy law at the heart of the UN.  If you're wondering why you've never heard about it on ABC, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, or any other major news network it's because they didn't cover it.  That's why blasphemy day is so important. It draws attention to and starts a conversation about the slow and steady erosion of free speech rights around the world.

Just this year, the European Union made a joint statement with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League and the Commission of the African Union which contains even stronger language than the UN resolution.  Michael Nugent summed up the situation perfectly:
We are in danger of conceding the step between the state respecting somebody’s right to believe what they want, and the state automatically respecting the content of the belief itself – and insisting by law that citizens do so also. - Link

3. Blasphemy laws are an appeal to force that limit our ability to question religious ideas

Blasphemy laws spread the idea that it is OK to allow ideas to be defended by laws prohibiting their critique than allowing them to stand or fall on arguments and evidence.  The moment you make an idea illegal to criticize you remove all accountability from its adherents.  Religion is already uniquely armored against criticism because it lacks a reality check.  Adding legal protection from reproach only increases their resistance to new evidence and ideas.  It sends the message that censorship and intimidation is a valid and effective way to win an argument.

And it is effective.  Think back to the infamous danish cartoons of Muhammad.  The fear of reprisal from the extremist Muslim community was so widespread that Yale University press censored the cartoons from the book The Cartoons that Shook the World.  Why? "The decision rested solely on the experts’ assessments that there existed a substantial likelihood of violence that might take the lives of innocent victims." In a media that is dominated by images, we are not being allowed the freedom to view and judge the cartoons for ourselves.

When you are dealing with people who are using the Law to force you to respect your beliefs, history has taught us not to expect respect in return.  Just as the wall of separation between church and state is not a one-way wall, tolerance is not a one-way street.

4. Not only should we be allowed to criticize religion, but religion needs to be criticized.  

Not all religious people are opposed to contraception, LGBT equality, gender equality, stem cell research, assisted suicide, the teaching of science in schools, and more.  But the driving force behind the opposition to each is overwhelmingly religious ideologies   If we as secularists, and perhaps more importantly liberal believers, are not allowed to voice contrary opinions because of deference to religious beliefs, then we will never escape the gravity well of those ideas.

5. The response to hate speech is not suppression, it's more speech.

In recent weeks a horribly produced and horribly conceived video called The Innocence of Muslims has sparked worldwide controversy and has been used as an excuse to instigate violence.  The appropriate response is not to ban the video and imprison the people who made it.  The correct response is to speak out against the video and make it clear that we don't support its content or its quality.  President Obama's address to the UN on the issue gave me hope that we can move in that direction.

"...the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete.  The question, then, is how do we respond.  And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence.  There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents.  There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy.  There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn down a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan. 
In the modern world with modern technologies, for us to respond in that way to hateful speech empowers any individual who engages in such speech to create chaos around the world.  We empower the worst of us, if that's how we respond." 12:50

But beyond our ideals, history should teach us that suppressing hateful ideas is a poor way of combating them.  Holocaust denial is probably one of the most pernicious and widespread negative memes still present in Europe.  Austria has actually banned the idea and recently arrested British historian David Irvine for the possibility that he would deny the holocaust.  Yet holocaust denial is more prevalent in those countries that ban it than those who allow open discussion and critique of the position.

6. Blasphemy is fun.

This reason is admittedly more self serving, but it's not hard to recognize this statement as true.  If you laughed during Monty Python's Holy Grail or Life of Brian, DogmaRowan Atkinson's extended version of the water to wine miracleThe Babelfish Argument from Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyMr. Deity on the Naughty Bits, The Book of MormonGeorge Carlin on religion, Ricky Gervais on Noah's Ark, Magic Man Done It, Touched By an Atheist, Tim Minchin, or the picture below, you acknowledge that blasphemy has some aesthetic value.

Sometimes you just have to appreciate something for itself and blasphemy can be very entertaining. To a non-believer, it's much like having a mirror-smashing party on Friday the 13th while walking under as many ladders as possible.  Blasphemy is a victim-less crime, and even if by some off chance God is real I think he could take care of himself.  Why should his followers need to step in to defend their all powerful deity?

Your thoughts?

Cooperative Quadrotor Ball Catching!

Researchers at IDSC, ETH Zürich have developed an algorithm that allows three quadrotors to work together using a net to throw and catch balls. Using an optimal model of the system and motion tracking, they are able to throw and catch the balls to themselves either straight up or to the sides. In order to adjust for real world conditions and improve throw accuracy, a machine learning algorithm was implemented that within only 3 iterations had corrected the throw.

(Via Robots Dreams)

Samuel Jackson has Endorsed Obama

And no, it's not safe for work.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks out against recent attacks in Lybia

Ayann Hirsi Ali has been a vocal critic of Islam and more importantly its political spinoffs around the world.  This is an excerpt from an article she wrote in response to the recent attacks in Libya.
"Utopian ideologies have a short lifespan. Some are bloodier than others. As long as Islamists were able to market their philosophy as the only alternative to dictatorship and foreign meddling, they were attractive to an oppressed polity. But with their election to office they will be subjected to the test of government. It is clear, as we saw in Iran in 2009 and elsewhere, that if the philosophy of the Islamists is fully and forcefully implemented, those who elected them will end up disillusioned. The governments will begin to fail as soon as they set about implementing their philosophy: strip women of their rights; murder homosexuals; constrain the freedoms of conscience and religion of non-Muslims; hunt down dissidents; persecute religious minorities; pick fights with foreign powers, even powers, such as the U.S., that offered them friendship. The Islamists will curtail the freedoms of those who elected them and fail to improve their economic conditions."-Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"We" the people of earth

I just realized how often I use the pronoun "we" to refer to all of humanity.  "We figured out that evolution happened." "Yes we were wrong about geocentrism but we moved past that."  "We know that global warming is happening."

I'm beginning to think that language is too inclusive, considering how many people in America disagree with some of those statements. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Romney made millions from abortions

(Via NowPublic) Thanks to Dave for the link.
Turns out that in all my talk about Planned Parenthood and the money they make from abortions, I neglected a very interesting tidbit: Mitt Romney was a major beneficiary of the industry.
Truth is stranger than fiction. You can’t make this stuff up because nobody would believe you. Mitt Romney’s business record is his chief qualification to be President, he says. Did you know that Mitt Romney’s business was the abortion business, from which he made $50 Million burning aborted fetuses through his company Stericycle? - From NowPublic Article
The pro-life community has made such a big deal about the Blood Money and big profits raked from abortion that I have to ask once again, why would they vote for Mitt Romney?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Walmart makes 51% of its income selling lemonade!"

Alright, not really but imagine the following scenario: in light of the recent heat wave Walmart decided to open up lemonade stands right outside every store providing a cheap drink and tasty treat to dehydrated people.  A week later, Walmart reported that over all of its lemonade stands, 51% of the income came from lemonade, 39% from cookies, and 10% from lemon crumb bars.  The New York times headline the next day read "Walmart makes 51% of its income selling lemonade!"

I won't insult your intelligence by pointing out exactly how misleading that hypothetical headline is.
With that in mind, take a look at this real headline from

Planned Parenthood: 51% of Its Clinic Income Comes From Abortions 

The article lays out results from a report put out by Stop Planned Parenthood (STOPP) intended to combat the fact that 3% of Planned Parenthood's services are abortions.  If the name alone wasn't enough to raise skeptical red flags, a look at the site raises enough to cover Texas. Here's just a sampling so you get an idea of the source:
The STOPP Logo
Part of their "Plan to Defeat Planned Parenthood":
First, you must understand the basic underlying philosophies that drive Planned Parenthood's work. These are contained in Humanist Manifesto IILink
Oh no! HUMANISM! Run for the hill!

At least they're up front about their inspiration:
The basis for fighting Planned Parenthood follows the realization that Planned Parenthood supports ideas, philosophies and actions that are completely opposed to the Ten Commandments given to us by God. If people would live their lives according to those Commandments, Planned Parenthood could not exist. Thus, a large part of our work is to spread the word of God in our communities. To understand how to do this, we encourage you to read, and re-read often, the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 10Link
As to their views on sexuality, I think you can guess:
Planned Parenthood will ensure that sexuality is understood as an essential, lifelong aspect of being human and that it is celebrated with respect, openness, and mutuality. [stated goal from Planned Parenthood's 25 year plan]
So, there you have it, the primary goal of this self-proclaimed health organization is to teach people about the "joys of the flesh." Certainly, Margaret Sanger would have been proud to know that, 36 years after her death, the organization she founded was still pushing her primary philosophy as its major 25-year goal.
Yes, they are actually mad at the idea that sex should be considered a part of humanity.
I could go on but I think I'm kicking at an open door at this point.

Still, even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Let's examine the claims made in the report.
“Planned Parenthood continues to claim that abortion is three percent of its services in the 2010 report. By comparing the number of condoms, birth control pills, and other low cost items distributed to the number of abortions it commits, Planned Parenthood intentionally misleads the public and those in charge of providing government funding for its grisly business by painting a grossly inaccurate picture of what its business is all about,” the group says. Link
 I don't know about intentionally misleading the public.  Take a look at the chart from the 2010 report.
Abortions make of 3% of the services, but STOPP claims the number is deflated by including every condom and pill that PP hand's out.  Even if we do remove the entire contraception category, the total number of abortions rises to just 4.6%.  Still, they have a point that a small number of expensive services could account for a much larger chunk of income.
It adds: “By comparing PP’s abortion income with its clinic income, we get a much more accurate picture of Planned Parenthood’s business model. In 2010, Planned Parenthood’s abortion income was 51.5 percent of its clinic income.” Link
This is why I started with the Walmart example.  STOPP has removed everything that Planned Parenthood does that isn't related to abortion by just looking at clinic income.  They're ignoring the Walmart store and just looking at the lemonade stand.  Even then, the 51.5% figure is based on STOPP's own estimate.  I could not judge the veracity of the number because I couldn't find the original source, but I'll be generous and assume they're right for the sake of argument.

Now let's do a little math using only numbers that STOPP acknowledges.

(3%*10,943,609*$400)/$1,197,300,000 = 11% of PP income from abortions.

So, clearly the implication that a majority of PP's income comes from abortions is wildly misleading.  I've been incredibly generous and given STOPP as much advantage as the facts will allow and they still come out wrong.

That was the headline, but the article doesn't stop there.
STOPP says: “Taking into consideration the fact that Planned Parenthood provided prenatal services to a mere 5,398 women and adoption referrals for only 841 women, while PP committed 329,445 abortions, 98.14 percent of the women seeking pregnancy related care at Planned Parenthood are now sold abortions—up from 97.6 percent in 2009.” Link
They seem so surprised.  I'm not, because I actually read Planned Parenthood's about us page:
These health centers provide a wide range of safe, reliable health care — and more than 90 percent is preventive, primary care, which helps prevent unintended pregnancies through contraception, reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections through testing and treatment, and screen for cervical and other cancers. Caring physicians, nurse practitioners, and other staff take time to talk with clients, encouraging them to ask questions in an environment that millions have grown to trust. Link
Planned parenthood  doesn't do very much prenatal care because that's not their stated purpose.  Their focus is in preventing unwanted pregnancies and providing sexual healthcare.  Women get their prenatal care from their doctors, not PP.  Also, this 98.14% of women being sold abortions seems like another lemonade stand effect.  First of all, Planned Parenthood reports that 31,098 women received prenatal care in 2010 (nearly 6x the STOPP number).  Second and more importantly, by ignoring the 3,685,437 women provided with contraception, 1,596,741 screened for cancer, 1,113,460 given pregnancy tests, and 4,179,053 men and women screened and treated for STIs, STOPP is essentially saying "98.14% of women who came in to get abortions got an abortion."

They go on complaining about the lack of prenatal care for several paragraphs and then close the article with this:
“One of the cornerstones of STOPP’s plan to stop Planned Parenthood has always been to cut off its government funding. Planned Parenthood’s 2010 annual report underscores its growing reliance on government funding. Elimination of that funding will result in the collapse of the abortion giant. Government funding for Planned Parenthood must be attacked on local, state, and federal levels,” it concluded.
So again, STOPP's entire existence is predicated on destroying Planned Parenthood any way it can.  Great unbiased source you got there

Your thoughts?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Arbitrary Milestones

The total number of pageviews for Lots of Tiny Robots just passed the population of my hometown.  Granted that's only about 5,800 people but still it's a lot more than 0.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Atheism+ Round Two

My recent post on Atheism+ drew some enthusiastic criticism from Nate last week.  I opted to post the original critique in full so that I could respond in a more public forum.  Having conversations like this in public is critical to free inquiry, as is mutual criticism and civil debate (as Nate rightly pointed in our private correspondence).

There are three main topics I'd like to address in response to Nate: my usage of the Atheism+ label, my opinions on the Atheism+ "movement", and the current state of feminism and men's rights activists (MRAs).

First, it's clear that my use of the atheist+ label has brought along some baggage that I'd like to shed.  I really like the label and the basic ideas it represents.  Nate has attributed a lot of ideas to me that I don't espouse and actively combat in many cases (mostly because of experiences he's had with other "A-plussers").

I am an atheist.  Being a vocal, civil, moral, and public atheist is very important to me because I grew up surrounded by people taught since birth to believe such a person doesn't and cannot exist.  But long before I was an atheist, I was a skeptic, a rationalist, an evidentialist, a science geek, and many more things.  Since becoming an atheist I have also become more heavily involved in Marriage Equality and other civil rights issues, in no small part to the collapse of the religious arguments against them.

This has led me to a personal identification crisis though, as I alluded to in my original Atheism+ article.  Improving the public opinion of atheism requires actively identifying as an atheist, but as many of the opponents of A+ have correctly pointed out atheism is simply a lack of belief in god(s).  I think Edwin Kagin (of FreeThoughtBlogs interestingly enough) puts forward the best articulation of this position.  Bald is not a haircolor, not collecting stamps is not a hobby, and atheism is not a religious or worldview.

The plus in A+ allows the atheism aspect of my identification to remain separate and center stage while acknowledging that I work towards many other goals that aren't a part of atheism.  That's why I love the label so much.  It instantly incorporates all of my labels without sullying pure "lack of belief atheism" with any of them.

Second, I also agree with Nate that the birth of the A+ "movement" has been a very messy one.  I often find myself supporting the principles and core elements of skepticism, feminism, and social justice while disagreeing with how other A+ people have portrayed it.  Richard Carrier, for example, has been going  overboard in his support and quick dismissal of critique.  PZ Myers has been one of the primary driving forces behind the movement and has regularly portrayed it as a rejoinder to the religious nature of some in the Humanist movement.  At the same time though, he argues that changing his personal identification is not at all divisive:
I was trying to be very explicit about the fact that identifying myself as a social justice advocate and humanist as well as atheist, does not in fact entail excluding you from movement atheism for mere disagreement about those things.-PZ Myers
I'm less frustrated by the us-vs-them mentality than I am by the fact that folks like PZ seem either oblivious to or not at all concerned by that approach.  As a result, I am withholding judgment on whether or not I will get involved in the Atheism+ "movement" as it were.  Still like the term though.

Finally, there's a lot of critique about modern feminism.  There are certainly aspects of the modern feminist movement that I cringe at, such as when Greg Laden says "the male brain is just a female brain that has been damaged by testosterone."  I also have said before that some modern feminists have played fast and loose with the term harassment and made mountains out of many a mole hill.

But to take those incidents and then make the claims below is so far removed from reality as I experience it that I'm not even sure how to respond.
"'Male privilege' is an illusion,"  
"Crimes overall against men are exponentially higher than that of men on women," 
"Men and women are not -- and never will be -- equal.  Sexual dimorphism is what evolution produced for us..."
"Today's feminist movement looks to control men as a sort of payback it seems and to only paint them as horrible members of society unless they're willing to suck the tit until their death, and making basic social orders difficult for men to access so that some women may reap the benefits (custody battles, WIC, government programs, healthcare)" 
-Nate Thomas
Unfair double standards is one thing, but men are hardly being subverted by feminists.  Women consistently earn 70-80% of what men make for the same jobs.  Women make up only 7% of the prison population.  I don't even know what to do with the third statement.  Will never be equal?  I hope you mean will never be the same or identical, because the other way to take that statement is that minor biological differences dictate that gender equality is not even possible or desirable.  This is a more egregious a statement as the likes of Laden and Rebecca Watson have ever made, throwing away the goal that all humans are to be considered equals.  And finally, how do feminists attempt to control men as payback?  Please point me to examples because I have never seen anything remotely like this in the feminist movement, and the feminists I know would be the first to speak out against such blatant inequality.

I'll stop there for now.  I have more to say but this post is long enough already.

British humor is best served sacrilegious

Just came across this great old skit from Rowan Atkinson.  Love it!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I get mail: Nate Thomas responds to Atheism+

Not too many people have read my post on Atheism+ yet, but already I have received some very energetic feedback.  Nate Thomas sent me this message via facebook and agreed to let me post it here in its entirety so we can have a public discussion about it.  I'll withhold my commentary for a later post so he can make his argument without interruption (other than to note that this was a response he wrote to some other "A-plussers" that he forwarded to me).
Nothing wrong with [men] asking for equal social justice: leaving our genitals alone at birth, being handed equal prison terms, being afforded the same opportunity to available mental and healthcare, not restricting men's sports in the name of "equal number of athletes" (see Title IX), not being vilified (nearly always wrongly) for being male. It's that sort of thing.

The feminists of yesteryear fought nobly and hard for social justice, something with sticking power, something with substance. Today's feminist movement looks to control men as a sort of payback it seems and to only paint them as horrible members of society unless they're willing to suck the tit until their death, and making basic social orders difficult for men to access so that some women may reap the benefits (custody battles, WIC, government programs, healthcare). This whole war of genders is out of control. If we afford one aspect or right to one gender, then the other must indisputably also be included. It's a simple equation, really.

"Male privilege" is an illusion. Men and women are on different ends of the same spectrum so each side can make equal argument of "privilege" to the other. Crimes against men by women go largely unreported or further pursued by law enforcement. Unsubstantiated crime allegations against men is also notably high. Crimes overall against men are exponentially higher than that of men on women. Men are humiliated in movies by women, but never the other way around -- that would be -- gasp! -- sexist! Genital humor is always at the expense of men, not women. If a man doesn't protect his family, he is a coward; but if a woman doesn't, she's in distress. If a man commits suicide (which is 3x higher than women) he's a coward. If a woman does it, it must be illness. If a woman is scantily clad, sitting on a car, it's rape-culture objectification, but if David Beckham launches his tightly-hugged member across a billboard it's savvy and acceptable. The double standards in America concerning our genders is disturbingly exceptional. Healthy white males are the least protected class in America, so this "privilege" garbage is meaningless rhetoric.
People need to accept that certain genders excel at different tasks, and that if there is a social stigma or issue for one gender, it likely hits the other gender in just as remarkable a nature.
To claim that MRAs are assholes is nothing shy of demonstrating the ability to be shallow, caused by the callousness of being told that to think otherwise makes you inferior and a sexist, much like in the same way when someone disagrees with a political stand made by Obama, that person is labeled a racist, rather than someone merely having a different political view.

Men and women are not -- and never will be -- equal. Sexual dimorphism is what evolution produced for us, and because we're just moving away from the tree tops, we're not very close to a single unification of equalness.
(And I can't think of one movement within atheism that took a stand on MRA. You are, however, confusing that with this sexist-inspired A+ with which I KNOW you have to be intimately familiar. A couple of bloggers wanted a little more clout in the community, and on the successful run atheism has been having in America, they decided to attached their lady bits on the heels of atheism's success. But you have to agree even THAT is stupid. Atheism is nothing more than thinking life is a natural byproduct of biological and cosmological occurrences that were not transpired by the power of a god. To attach anything more to it is without merit. MRA isn't anti-female, by the way. ) 
The failure of A+: 
A atheist woman's perspective on MRA: 
Dispelling myths of men and women:
-Nate Thomas 

My response post is finally up. Link

Why I support Atheism Plus

It's been a while since I've had a chance to post, getting settled in at a new university this week.  So, I'm coming a bit late to the Atheism+ party, but I'd like to record my thoughts on the whole issue.

Atheism+ is a new label proposed by Jen of Blag Hag about a month ago which immediately took off.  The piece that most stuck in my memory (yay for parallelism!) was from her followup article: Atheism+.

We 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.
-Blag Hag 
This is the sort of descriptive label that I have been seeking for a long time.  Identifying as an atheist is very important in a world filled with people who openly discriminate against people for simply being atheists or try to protect students who are.

Coming out for me was only a little bit painful, mostly because of the pain it caused my immediate family.  Still, coming out is one of the most important actions any atheist who can should take.  Coming out matters.

Coming out matters because people who know (and more importantly know that they know) atheists are less likely to buy into the stereotypes.
Coming out matters because there are those who can't come out, and every person that comes out helps make it possible for those people to come out as well.
Coming out matters because if we don't we will continue to be ignored by politicians and denigrated by pundits.
Coming out matters because staying closeted is draining: draining on your time, your integrity, and your emotional well being.

I could go on.  Identifying as the A-word is important to me for all of these reasons and more.  Unfortunately, I also agree with people like Edwin Kagin who argue that "atheism" is simply a lack of belief in  god(s) and nothing else.  Atheism is not a worldview.  No new conclusion can be reached using atheism as a starting premise, which forces me to adopt a host of other labels as well to incorporate the things that I do believe and care about: humanist, skeptic, empiricist, feminist, freethinker, secularist, etc.

What many people forget however is we live in a world filled with conclusions built on the premise that god exists: "God will never again destroy the earth with water," "LGBT people are evil because our all loving god says so," "Everything that is wrong in the world is due to original sin (brought on by a WOMAN) and only Jesus can fix it."  As an atheist, we can conclude that these arguments are built on unsupported premises and must therefore be discarded.  Again, no new conclusions are reached but many existing paradigms can be challenged from the small-a atheist position of "lack of belief and nothing else."

Atheism+ as a label gets the best of both worlds.  It puts the atheist identification front and center and literally  allows me to add on all of the issues that I care about which are related to but don't logically follow from Atheism.

That is why I love Jen's phrasing of "We are atheists plus we care about social justice."  Atheism doesn't logically lead you to caring about social justice; just look at Ayn Rand's philosophy!  But many atheists (like me) do care about social justice and need a way to say that without sacrificing any of our other goals.

I am an Atheist+.