“If you’re not with us, you’re against us. Huh. If you’re not an apple, you’re a banana…”
Terry Pratchett, “Thud!”

I’m a bad atheist. I don’t read all the trendy atheist blogs, I don’t subscribe to “freethinker” magazines, I rarely attend rallies and I don’t keep up on atheism-related current affairs. That’s why this article on Atheism+ came as such a surprise. At first, I couldn’t quite believe what I’d just read. Then I spent several minutes staring at the screen and muttering “no no no no no”…

Why? Read the article to get a quick 411 on the issue. The tl;dr version is as follows: a number of prominent atheists designed a movement “for people to discuss how religion affects everyone and to apply skepticism and critical thinking to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, GLBT issues, politics, poverty, and crime.” (source) What exactly does this mean? In the words of the blogger Greta Christina, it’s quite simple: 

I am not saying that atheists who don’t care about social justice are not true atheists. I’m saying that atheists who don’t care about social justiceshould care about social justice. Logically, and morally. (source)

Sounds mostly harmless, right? PZ Myers, arguably the Internet’s most prominent atheist blogger, clarifies it further in this brief but poignant kinda-sorta-not-really FAQ: The movement “is only starting to coalesce. There are no leaders, no organization behind it, no money, no coercive power at all. It’s entirely spontaneous. Currently it’s little more than a label. […] There’s no religious mentality at all in Atheism+” but “[p]eople who are embracing Atheism+ as a label think atheism ought to similarly incorporate social values.” (Conformity doesn’t sound like religion at all…)

If you think that simply not believing in God is enough to be an atheist, “that’s just stupid. There are lots of atheists who take this blinkered stance that atheism is just one specific idea about rejecting god-belief, and it has absolutely no philosophical foundation and should have no political or social consequences.” 

In response to the accusation of a “you’re either with us or against us” mentality, Dr.Myers assures us that “[i]t’s entirely opt-in.” My favorite part is where he says that “If you agree with that [ Atheism ought to be a progressive social movement in addition to being a philosophical and scientific position, because living in a godless universe means something to humanity.], you’re an atheist+. … And if you don’t agree with any of that — and this is the only ‘divisive’ part — then you’re an asshole.”

To sum this up, if you don’t want to be an activist atheist and if mere lack of belief in God is enough for you, you’re “just stupid.” And if you don’t want to join the cool kids’ club, even if you have reservations and valid arguments, you’re an asshole. Either with us or against us. Black and white. Duality. Fallacy. Not a good way to make friends or convert the undecided, especially when addressing the people who encounter more than enough hate and ignorance on daily basis as it is.

What’s my take on it? I’m an atheist and I’m a progressive person – I believe in equal pay, equal rights, the right to marry whomever you want, etc. I volunteer in my community, go to political protests to fight the good fight and will vote for the progressive presidential candidate in November. With that said, I do not want to be part of the Atheism+ movement. Why? Because I don’t need to join a movement in order to continue doing what I already do. Because I will gain nothing from joining their group. Because it would be redundant – I’ve been a progressive atheist for a long, long time before they came along and I’ve been doing just fine. Because I shall not join any group whose spokesperson (and that’s what Dr.Myers is) sees his constituency in black and white and uses petty schoolyard insults to insult those who dare disagree, regardless of their motivation. 

There are many other reasons – this is just off the top of my head. I support efforts to educate the public about atheism. Hell, I even wrote an e-book for that very purpose! I do not support divisive tactics and “with us or against us” ultimatums. I agree that there are atheists who are bigoted, close-minded or not very bright, but to paint all of your opposition in one color and declare them to be stupid assholes? That’s just ridiculous. I’ve just realized one final – and biggest – reason I shall never join any atheist organization that uses divisive tactics or otherwise limits its membership: any sufficiently large organization loses its focus and becomes corrupt. The Catholic church and its pedophile scandals. The Democratic party and their willingness to compromise on torture. Even charities aren’t immune – here’s a list of the 25 highest-paid charity CEOs. It’s entropy, pure and simple. It’s inevitable. Show me a single large organization that’s been around for a few decades and hasn’t succumbed to corruption. Show me just one. Atheism+ is just another such organization: a group with admittedly noble motives and undeniably foul-mouthed champions; a movement that divides as it attempts to unite; a good idea poorly executed.

I wish Atheism+ the best of luck but I won’t be joining them. I agree with their long-term goals but I won’t be associated with George W Bush impersonators. I’ll just keep doing my progressive work by myself, thank you very much. But then again, what do I know? I’m just a stupid asshole.