Saturday, September 8, 2012

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+.

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