Now With 47% Less Emotion

Well, I got all the emotional baggage out the way with my last post about A+, so time to move on to the analytical. Emotions are interesting, no doubt, but when it comes to the heavy lifting of being a rational person I usually engage the more utilitarian side of myself. Unfortunately for A+ my practical side isn’t really excited about it either, to tell the truth. I actually think A+ has the potential to harm the non-belief movement.

The A+ movement wishes to present itself as a combination of disbelief and political ideology. They claim the disbelief ultimately leads one to embrace the more liberal side of the political spectrum, so melding the two is not only appropriate but inevitable. Too bad it isn’t wise.

There is an example of melding atheism to a political position that resulted in damage to the secularism they were seeking: Communism. Now I’m not talking about the fur-hat wearing, parade loving Ruskies (although I do kinda miss their showmanship, their costumes were fantastic!) I’m talking about all those writers, thinkers and rabble-rousers McCarthy was seemingly terrified of. Since communists were (incorrectly) believed to be wholly atheistic, during the “red scare” of the 1950’s Congress added the words “under God” to the pledge of allegiance as a defense against their influence. According David Greenberg in an article written for Slate magazine:

“The legislative history of the 1954 act stated that the hope was to “acknowledge the dependence of our people and our Government upon … the Creator … [and] deny the atheistic and materialistic concept of communism.”

It’s clear the intent was to distinguish America as fundamentally opposite of those “godless commies”. Of course 60 years later we realize we were never under any serious attack by communists in our country, but those words are still there, all because someone married disbelief with a political position. It just goes to show that given even the smallest opportunity to, the faithful in the halls of power will impose their beliefs on others, especially if they can earn political points in doing so. We shouldn’t be giving them these opportunities, because the laws of unforseen consequences will rear their ugly heads.

Additionally, considering the current Pew poll regarding faith and religiosity in America, it’s safe to say that an increasing number of young people are leaving their churches, and it’s pretty well-known that the push by churches to combine faith and politics is one of the driving forces behind this trend. They are rejecting the notion that their faith and politics are one in the same, and therefore are rejecting their churches and religion. This does not mean they are embracing disbelief, indeed they primarily self describe as being “spiritual but not religious”. But it does mean, as my friend Damion points out:

…since the “nothing in particulars” are marginally less skeptical than the general public, the only really good news here is that both of those groups are probably willing to hear us atheists and skeptics out when we try to explain to them that gods, spirits, souls, ghosts, astrology, reincarnation, faith-healing, and alt-med all fall into the same evidential category. To be sure, our mission field is expanding, but we still have to do the hard work of teaching people why and how to think critically about such claims.

Does anyone think our job of recruiting those who are leaving their churches because of politics will flock to us if we conflate our movement with politics? I think exactly the opposite, they will simply view our movement as just the same old crap they just left, only with a more “liberal” bent. These people might be open to a discussion of rationality, reason and logic as it pertains to their “spirituality”, but not if we muck up the process with politics.

Nailed it

I’ve mostly avoided getting involved on the Atheism+ debate, despite having strong opinions about it. I really thought it was a flash in the pan vanity project that would soon join its historical brethern the Betamax and the DeLorean in the scrapheap of noble but ultimately bad ideas, so I felt no real need to write about it.

But today I finally came across someone who hits the nail in the head about why I think it’s unnecessary crap. SoggyMog lays out most of my objections beautifully:

…yes it’s a bit grim to unexpectedly see someone masturbating on your walk to work – and of course what the homeless man was doing was illegal.  On the other hand, I couldn’t work out why McCreight seemed to have taken it as such a personal attack on her rights, as in her own words all that had happened was that she’d seen him masturbating while she was “walking by”.

I totally acknowledge that had I been in McCreight’s place there probably WOULD have been a moment of “ew, gross” when I saw this homeless man and registered what he was doing.  I’d also probably have got the hell out of there in a hurry.  But I’d like to think of myself that once the initial shock had subsided I’d have felt at least a “little “concern for this man, for his safety and well-being.  If I witnessed a homeless person shrieking in conversation with himself at the top of his voice, or engaging in self-harm, or doing anything else that most mentally-healthy people do not do in public, I would have felt uncomfortable and probably scared… but I would also have felt compassion. Why does this not apply because the particular eccentric behaviour this man was displaying happened to be sexual in nature?

Then I saw this tweet:

“Heaven forbid I want to walk to work without someone watching me as they masturbate without my consent

…and suddenly I got it. The reason McCreight expressed no sympathy or concern for the homeless man is that, in her world, “everything anyone does within the scope of her perception is about her”.

This has been one of my problems with the entire Elevatorgate/Atheism+ boongogle: it’s so selfish. From the first poor fool who assumed a pretty standard “No Thanks” to his clumsy attempts to mate was an abject rejection of all he was, is, and will be in this universe to the gals complaining that satirical jewelry was “harassment”, this entire boondoggle has been all about the “ME, MYSELF AND I!”

This is the inevitable raction of those suffering from what I like to call “Purple Participation Ribbon Syndrome”. We’ve bred an entire generation (perhaps even a couple of them) of overindulged, spoiled narcissists who think the entire world is only relevant as it pertains to them personally.

These people were raised with the idea that we’re all special; terrific in every way and deserving of credit for and praise for every feat ever attempted. They get good grades simply for trying really hard, toys as rewards for doing chores, trophies for coming to half of scheduled practices. They’ve been showered with accolades for every little thing they’ve ever done and it’s warped their minds so they can only see the world in terms of “What’s in it for me?”

They see every event, statement, idea, or activity through their own personal lens, constantly seeking the answer to the only question that’s relevant: “How does this effect me, and if it doesn’t, how can I make it effect me?” Worse yet, current definitions for words are wholly inadequate to describe their personal wonderfulness, so they make up new words to delineate themselves from the masses, which leads to the seemingly obsessive need to force everyone else to acknowledge their “specialness” by insisting we all refer to them by these new definitions. It’s maddening.

I have no objections to the stated goals if A+, I support all of them. But I do understand why folks find the execution icky, mostly because the attitudes of the organizers are icky. This is just one of my problems with A+, stay tuned for part two.