Jacobins have always been around, and always will be around

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanSep 5, 2012 9:46 AM


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Recently I stumbled onto to something called Atheism+, which seems to have issued out of Freethought Blogs. Here's an assertion that caught my attention:

“What do you atheists do, besides sitting around not-praying, eh?” 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. It speaks to those of us who see atheism as more than just a lack of belief in god.danielmchugh summarized how I feel perfectly:

As for the next steps on how to get rid of that garbage, I’ll make another post with my ideas soon.

As others have stated Atheism+ seems to be a reemergence and rebranding of an old strand of anti-religious thought (secular humanism updated for the 21st century). More specifically, that element which is strongly attached to cultural radicalism, and seemingly to utopianism. Radical utopians aren't always wrong. The Jacobins abolished slavery. But in the process of making an omelette they do have a track record of breaking a lot of eggs. I went to an atheist meeting in Berkeley a few years ago where a card-carrying Communist showed up. I don't agree with Communism (you shall judge them by their fruits), but it's a forcefully articulated world-view. In contrast many "freethought activists" tend to focus narrowly on church-state issues and what not. There are other ideologies which have mixed atheism with a philosophy of life, such as Objectivism. Atheism+ may be the home for those with a more explicit self-conscious far Left cultural outlook. And as with most anti-religious ideologies Atheism+ espouses "critical thinking and skepticism." This didn't seem to work out too well for Objectivism, and I wish Atheism+ (or New Atheism, or whatever) would really just get off it, because there are some things that are obviously not going to be subject to critique or skepticism. If you do subject those things to critique, you'll probably be called a "douchebag." Atheism+, like many of the new atheist movements, seems to be attempting to generate a "thick" system of values to supplement spare anti-religious sentiment. Those values, norms, are outside of the process of critical rationalism. It's pretty obvious if you are outside of those values, but not so obvious if you're within those values. Finally, going back to some of the Greek city-states, Mozi in China, and down to the early modern period with the French Revolution and the assorted Left and Right "political religions" (Marxist-Leninism and Fascism), there have been plenty of attempts to jettison what visionary great minds perceived to be "garbage." The truth seems to be that one man's garbage is another man's fertilizer. Remove the fertilizer and sometimes the flowers don't grow. Reduction and reconstitution is great in science. I'm not sure that it's so great as a philosophy of life.

Religion is responsible for generating and sustaining most of the racism, sexism, anti-(insert minority human subgroup here)-isms… it gave a voice to the bigotry, established the privilege, and fed these things from the pulpit for thousands upon thousands of years. What sense does it make to throw out the garbage bag of religion yet keep all the garbage that it contained? I can’t help but see social justice as a logical consequence of atheism.

I’m for getting rid of all the garbage.

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