"With Us or Against Us"

The main forum for discussing social justice and the "plus" part of Atheism Plus.

"With Us or Against Us"

Postby NateHevens » Thu Aug 30, 2012 8:47 pm

I just want to point out that the first attempt was deleted by accident. It was not on purpose.

So anyways...

This is something that has been bothering me a little bit. I'm posting this because of Natalie Reed's recent post "Clarification" over at FtB. She spent about a paragraph on A+ (and a particularly small paragraph, at that), and this part in particular stood out to me:

There are also elements that I find uniquely troubling, such as the “with us or against us!” approach that has been explicitly forwarded by certain proponents. When people force me into that position, I usually pick “against you” (so…you know… please don’t force me into that position).


She is not the first one to point this out, but with her pointing it out, it is slowly starting to come to the forefront.

Acknowledging that this is not a majority of A+... um... people? (What's the name for each individual A+ person? Have we figured that one out, yet?)... it does seem to be an issue that is turning people who might otherwise be allies or even potential joiners themselves away. And that bothers me, to be totally honest.

A good example is Richard Carrier. Now, I do think he's being taken out of context by some people, but the criticisms accusing him of fostering this "With Us or Against Us" attitude are not completely off the mark. While he makes a strong case for what being with or against A+ means, he doesn't leave any room for the "neithers". He suggests that being against A+ means you're against social justice, which is very simply not necessarily true. Secular Humanists, Ethical Atheists, and so on also care about social justice, but might not want to be part of A+. And some people who care about social justice simply don't want a label. They are most certainly not "against us".

One of the many things that made me hate Bush II with a seething passion was the "with us or against us" bullshit he offered post-9/11 to justify his incredibly idiotic (and completely unrelated] revenge war in Iraq. I remember having the "with us or against us choice" pushed on me, and when I chose "neither", "against us" was chosen for me; and this is a very small part of the reason I refuse to participate in 9/11 memorials.

That little aside is to point out that I know what it's like to be up against such a "choice" (and it isn't even a choice at all, quite frankly). And I hate it. With a passion. It pisses me off to no end, in fact.

There are people who will join us. There are people who will declare themselves against us. Then there are people who won't take either choice, but opt for a third option or even no option at all. And it is not up to us to take those in the third category and lump them in with those who are "against us".

Criticism, when it's constructive, is a good thing. We should not only welcome it, but we should ask for it. And, to be honest, it seems to me as if, for the most part, we are. This "with us or against us" thing is a tiny minority right now. However, it's a minority vocal enough to potentially turn off allies, like Natalie Reed. So it's an issue that needs to be dealt with, and fast. Because the "with us or against us" mentality will only foster fanaticism, and fanaticism will be the death of A+.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby Stephen T » Thu Aug 30, 2012 9:12 pm

He suggests that being against A+ means you're against social justice, which is very simply not necessarily true.


He's dialled that back in the later post. And have a look at the comments on Greta's at

http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/ ... isiveness/

There's a difference between being for social justice, but not wanting to be involved in A+, and being actively against the principles A+ stands for.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby Stephen T » Thu Aug 30, 2012 9:57 pm

From Greta's post...

If you’re wary about Atheism Plus and want to see where it’s going before you decide whether to get involved… that’s fine with me. If you understand the motivations behind Atheism Plus, but prefer to align with another segment of the godless community, such as secular humanism… that’s fine with me. If you can see why people would want to form Atheism Plus, but personally prefer to keep your activism focused on more traditional atheist issues… that’s fine with me.

But if you don’t want to get involved with Atheism Plus — and you don’t want anyone else to, either? If you’re vociferously objecting to Atheism Plus and are actively trying to talk people out of it, because it’s “divisive,” because it will “weaken” the community and “splinter” us?

Listen up.


I've pasted the above into notepad and saved it. I'm seriously thinking of just pasting it as a reply in any forum/blog where someone says A+ is going to be divisive, or it's a 'with us or against us' thing, then telling them to go and read Greta's post AND the comments. (Especially the one from Josh, Official Spokesgay)
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby hyperdeath » Thu Aug 30, 2012 9:59 pm

As far as I'm concerned, the people who say and mean "I'm for all those things, but I still think that Atheism Plus is stupid" are our allies. It's what people do that matters, not what labels they use. Atheism Plus should be rallying cry, not statement of conformity.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby maiforpeace » Thu Aug 30, 2012 10:06 pm

A friend of mine said it brilliantly.

There is no 'atheist community'.

There are, however, communities with atheists. Some have developed rallying around their favorite atheist celebrity, their favorite atheist organization, one of tens, maybe even a hundred atheist facebook groups, on Reddit communities...you name it.

That's what we are. Another community with atheists.

We are gathering together with a shared interest in Atheism PLUS humanism PLUS skepticism PLUS social justice.

We are not against anyone. We are against bigotry, and the 'ism's' - like sexism, racism, ableism, ageism, etc. that harm other human beings.

Why is it a bad thing for us to do this? Why don't you join us?

And, in case you missed it the first time.

Atheism Plus, and Some Thoughts on Divisiveness by Greta Christina.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby Tinjoe » Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:44 am

As far as I'm concerned someone has to be actively working against the principles of equality for me to consider them "against us"

I do consider trolling to be part of that, because it's noise that prevents the rest of us from moving on.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby NateHevens » Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:14 am

I read Greta's post almost immediately after reposting this thread. I haven't commented on it (yet), but I pretty much cheered while reading the whole thing.

It was Teh Epicness.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby Nathair » Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:52 am

NateHevens wrote:A good example is Richard Carrier. Now, I do think he's being taken out of context by some people, but the criticisms accusing him of fostering this "With Us or Against Us" attitude are not completely off the mark. While he makes a strong case for what being with or against A+ means, he doesn't leave any room for the "neithers". He suggests that being against A+ means you're against social justice, which is very simply not necessarily true. Secular Humanists, Ethical Atheists, and so on also care about social justice, but might not want to be part of A+. And some people who care about social justice simply don't want a label. They are most certainly not "against us".

And his remarks have supplied welcome ammunition to the A+ hating crowd;

From http://www.centerforinquiry.net wrote:I don’t have time to read hundreds or thousands of blog posts or chats or you-tube. Instead, I’ve gone straight to the top: the Atheism+ website. What I should see on the very fist page in giant letters is: RICHARD CARRIER HAS BEEN SPREADING DISINFORMATION THAT IS EXTREMELY DAMAGING TO ATHEISM+. IGNORE HIM. HE DOES NOT SPEAK FOR US.

That would be solid information from an official source that would settle it once and for all with no room for doubt. But I don’t see that. Why is that?


I think someone needs to prominently and "officially" stamp on the head of "with us or against us" once and for all.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby NateHevens » Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:13 am

Nathair wrote:
NateHevens wrote:A good example is Richard Carrier. Now, I do think he's being taken out of context by some people, but the criticisms accusing him of fostering this "With Us or Against Us" attitude are not completely off the mark. While he makes a strong case for what being with or against A+ means, he doesn't leave any room for the "neithers". He suggests that being against A+ means you're against social justice, which is very simply not necessarily true. Secular Humanists, Ethical Atheists, and so on also care about social justice, but might not want to be part of A+. And some people who care about social justice simply don't want a label. They are most certainly not "against us".

And his remarks have supplied welcome ammunition to the A+ hating crowd;

From http://www.centerforinquiry.net wrote:I don’t have time to read hundreds or thousands of blog posts or chats or you-tube. Instead, I’ve gone straight to the top: the Atheism+ website. What I should see on the very fist page in giant letters is: RICHARD CARRIER HAS BEEN SPREADING DISINFORMATION THAT IS EXTREMELY DAMAGING TO ATHEISM+. IGNORE HIM. HE DOES NOT SPEAK FOR US.

That would be solid information from an official source that would settle it once and for all with no room for doubt. But I don’t see that. Why is that?


I think someone needs to prominently and "officially" stamp on the head of "with us or against us" once and for all.


Actually, I think it'd be easier if people just stopped assuming that he is the chosen public face of A+. Jen McCreight started it. Ophelia Benson and Greta Christina have picked up the baton. Why the fuck does anyone think Richard Carrier "speaks" for A+? This is something I just don't understand.

We all speak for A+, but if it has to have a "public face", I can't think of three better people than Jennifer McCreight, Greta Christina, and Ophelia Benson.

How's about listening to them, for a change?
Last edited by NateHevens on Fri Aug 31, 2012 3:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby Setar » Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:17 am

NateHevens wrote:
Nathair wrote:
NateHevens wrote:A good example is Richard Carrier. Now, I do think he's being taken out of context by some people, but the criticisms accusing him of fostering this "With Us or Against Us" attitude are not completely off the mark. While he makes a strong case for what being with or against A+ means, he doesn't leave any room for the "neithers". He suggests that being against A+ means you're against social justice, which is very simply not necessarily true. Secular Humanists, Ethical Atheists, and so on also care about social justice, but might not want to be part of A+. And some people who care about social justice simply don't want a label. They are most certainly not "against us".

And his remarks have supplied welcome ammunition to the A+ hating crowd;

From http://www.centerforinquiry.net wrote:I don’t have time to read hundreds or thousands of blog posts or chats or you-tube. Instead, I’ve gone straight to the top: the Atheism+ website. What I should see on the very fist page in giant letters is: RICHARD CARRIER HAS BEEN SPREADING DISINFORMATION THAT IS EXTREMELY DAMAGING TO ATHEISM+. IGNORE HIM. HE DOES NOT SPEAK FOR US.

That would be solid information from an official source that would settle it once and for all with no room for doubt. But I don’t see that. Why is that?


I think someone needs to prominently and "officially" stamp on the head of "with us or against us" once and for all.


Actually, I think it'd be easier if people just stopped assuming that he is the chosen public face of A+. Jen McCreight started it. Ophelia Benson and Greta Christina have picked up the baton. Why the fuck does anyone think Richard Carrier "speak" for A+? This is something I just don't understand?

We all speak for A+, but if it has to have a "public face", I can't think of three better people than Jennifer McCreight, Greta Christina, and Ophelia Benson.

How's about listening to them, for a change?

Because Richard Carrier is male.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby maiforpeace » Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:24 am

It's been suggested that I have joined a cult by being here. This is getting so unreal. :shock:
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby lillake » Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:38 am

I really think Greta's post summed it all up perfectly. I want to print it out and hand it to people who complain about divisiveness .

That said, I really don't mind a little "us vs them" attitude. Because, really, for this to work there is no way we can be all inclusive. If we let in the people who want to make rape jokes, it is going to push out a lot of people who feel angered/hurt/disgusted by them. What I've seen personally, and this is completely just me, a lot of the people complaining loudly about "us vs them" are the ones that are mad there isn't another forum they can run into and take over with racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia/etc... So I've felt a little "damn right its us vs them!" I see way too many "them" and not enough "us" in the atheist groups I look at online.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby WowbaggerOM » Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:45 am

NateHevens wrote:Why the fuck does anyone think Richard Carrier "speak" for A+? This is something I just don't understand?

I'd say because it confirms their biases and gives them an excuse to not read what people are actually saying and engage with it.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby NateHevens » Fri Aug 31, 2012 3:19 am

maiforpeace wrote:It's been suggested that I have joined a cult by being here. This is getting so unreal. :shock:


The Kool-Aid is on it's way.

Setar wrote:Because Richard Carrier is male.


Actually, I toyed with this idea myself, and very nearly wrote it into the post you responded to; but then I remembered something...

PZ Myers

If they're so intent on listening to the men and not the women (to this day I still can't understand why), then why the fuck did they choose Richard Carrier over PZ Myers? Granted, PZ Myers has done nothing but echo Jen, Greta, and Ophelia, so they'll basically just be getting them, but still...

lillake wrote:I really think Greta's post summed it all up perfectly. I want to print it out and hand it to people who complain about divisiveness .

That said, I really don't mind a little "us vs them" attitude. Because, really, for this to work there is no way we can be all inclusive. If we let in the people who want to make rape jokes, it is going to push out a lot of people who feel angered/hurt/disgusted by them. What I've seen personally, and this is completely just me, a lot of the people complaining loudly about "us vs them" are the ones that are mad there isn't another forum they can run into and take over with racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia/etc... So I've felt a little "damn right its us vs them!" I see way too many "them" and not enough "us" in the atheist groups I look at online.


"Us vs. bigoted assholes who also happen to be atheists" is fine. That's the whole point of A+.

It's the whole thing that a few (like Richard) are doing in basically saying that anyone who chooses the option of "neither" is against us, even if they support the same social justice goals that we do. It's alienating to the unsure and potential allies, and turn people who would actually agree with us against us. And that is very, very bad.

WowbaggerOM wrote:I'd say because it confirms their biases and gives them an excuse to not read what people are actually saying and engage with it.


This may be true for those that are actually intent on defining themselves against us, but what about those who are unsure and/or would otherwise be allies or even potential future atheists+ themselves? Why are they listening to him? Why are they believing him?

A great example is Natalie Reed herself. I think we can all agree that Natalie is someone who would, at the very least, be a wonderful ally for us. And yet even she is worried about the "with us or against us" mentality, and Richard is the only person really pushing it (though I've seen it parroted in comments). Why would Natalie Reed think Richard Carrier speaks for A+?

It's the people like Natalie who have me baffled. This isn't at all how we are (or should be) presenting ourselves, yet some potential allies have that impression.

if it was someone like Thuderf00t, then I'd say "yeah... it's his fault". But when it's coming from someone like Natalie Reed, it scares me, because it means the fringe that are fostering this idea are actually having traction... and that is bad... really bad...
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby Subtract Hominem » Fri Aug 31, 2012 4:57 am

I still don't see how not self-identifying as A+ means one is necessarily opposed to it. That's like saying that lack of membership in FFRF implies a lack of desire to be free from religion. I think this would be true even if Richard Carrier's post were representative; it would just mean that A+ needs to straighten itself out in regard to false dichotomies.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby WowbaggerOM » Fri Aug 31, 2012 5:33 am

Subtract Hominem wrote:I still don't see how not self-identifying as A+ means one is necessarily opposed to it. That's like saying that lack of membership in FFRF implies a lack of desire to be free from religion. I think this would be true even if Richard Carrier's post were representative; it would just mean that A+ needs to straighten itself out in regard to false dichotomies.

At this point there is no shortage of people opposing A+ who are so closed-minded and dishonest that it wouldn't matter if Carrier retracted everything he said and bowed out of A+ entirely, we'd still be hearing "But if you interpret what Carrier said in the way that I'm interpreting it, he's calling us all assholes for not pledging allegiance!".

There's really only so many times we can say the same thing. I think we just need to move on.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby SallyStrange » Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:00 am

Personally I am rather sympathetic to Carrier's approach. I don't really much care if it provides ammunition to the haters. They'd find something anyway, and if they didn't, they'd invent it. At least this way there is an actual source that can speak for himself. And Carrier has a point: the values of A+ are GOOD values. If you're actively opposed to A+, then yeah, there is something fucking wrong with you. If you're ignorant about it, whatever. If you know about it and you're apathetic then it doesn't reflect well on you. That's just my personal judgment. I don't fucking care if that offends anybody.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby Xanthë » Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:08 am

Nate,

It's the people like Natalie who have me baffled. This isn't at all how we are (or should be) presenting ourselves, yet some potential allies have that impression.


perhaps you really wouldn’t be that baffled if you looked from my point of view, which I’ll summarise here, because I saw the way she was initially courted by some of the slyme-pitters when she started her blog at FTB, and when they discovered she wouldn’t let them take up residence and peddle their usual crap, then the invective and hatred against her started in earnest over at ERV. Calling her ‘Natalie Screed’, using transphobic slurs, misgendering her, ridiculing her on a regular basis.

Most of the vitriol chucked her way seems to have been owing to the fact of where she is blogging — i.e., the same blog network as many of the main targets (PZ, Ophelia, Greta, Jen, Stephanie, Jason Thibeault) — rather than what she was blogging about, most of the time. It could have been any other trans woman or transgender or genderqueer person who was chosen to blog on the FTB network about trans* issues to increase the network’s diversity, and if the person so selected had chosen not to have the slyme-pit crew as buddies then it would have been them rather than Natalie who’d have been a target of hate for the last few months. In that sense it didn’t matter who Natalie was, but that she was a convenient target by association: the hate machine has been kept well stoked for a year now, and so every so often one of Natalie’s posts would be targeted for ridicule.

The final straw was Thunderf00t’s threat on Twitter to release her private emails, which would have the effect of revealing her private name, since ‘Natalie Reed’ is a nom de plume. The ‘All In’ post makes it clear she’s had it with the post-Elevatorgate shitfighting, and is going to concentrate on the things that matter to her. This was never her primary battle — transfeminism and skepticism are primary concerns for her rather than struggling over the definition of atheism — and she has been very unwillingly been co-opted into it this year.

So you’re asking someone in her shoes — one of the most vulnerable of the bloggers on the network — to agree to continue being harassed by those jerks if she were to opt into A+ by writing about it on her blog in the same way that Jen, PZ, Greta, and others have. As she has sworn off taking sides in intra-atheist conflicts owing to the last six months of shit that she’s had to put up with, she is not opting in — and if opting in were to be made mandatory, then that is no longer ‘opting in’.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby dimitris.batis » Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:31 am

SallyStrange wrote:Personally I am rather sympathetic to Carrier's approach. I don't really much care if it provides ammunition to the haters. They'd find something anyway, and if they didn't, they'd invent it. At least this way there is an actual source that can speak for himself. And Carrier has a point: the values of A+ are GOOD values. If you're actively opposed to A+, then yeah, there is something fucking wrong with you. If you're ignorant about it, whatever. If you know about it and you're apathetic then it doesn't reflect well on you. That's just my personal judgment. I don't fucking care if that offends anybody.


The problem with your approach is that you are neglecting the fact that the decision to support or join a movement must take more into account than just the core values of the movement. One might agree with the strategic goals of a movement but have objections on the tactics used to support these goals. For instance, one might be for the ethical treatment of animals, but decide not to support, or even be explicitly against, PETA for their offensive and sexist advertisements. One may support a US non-interventionism foreign policy, but that certainly does not mean he supports any terrorist groups who happen to share the same long-term goal.

Another example would be that most political parties in the western world, despite their political philosophy, would claim to be supporters of democracy and freedom. Judging merely by their very high-level abstract goals would provide no solid basis for differentiation.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby marinerachel » Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:38 am

maiforpeace wrote:It's been suggested that I have joined a cult by being here. This is getting so unreal. :shock:


Apparently you cut ties elsewhere BECAUSE of atheism+ JUST LIKE A MEMBER OF A CULT! Atheism+ MADE YOU DO IT!

I'm pretty sure you rid yourself of accounts elsewhere because you didn't want them any longer. Atheism+ came about around the same time.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby WowbaggerOM » Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:31 am

I don't blame Natalie Reed at all for not wanting to endure any more harassment by putting an additional A+ target on herself; the cowardly scumbags who oppose it would no doubt relish the opportunity to make her more miserable with the extra ammunition they have.

And I do hope she'll give us the benefit of her opinion when she feels comfortable doing so – but I'm not going to condemn her if she doesn't.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby SubMor » Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:52 am

I just want to point out something very important with respect to the "A+ is divisive because they say everyone has to be with them or against them" trope: the overwhelming majority of commenters in this thread, and of all A+ supporters in other spaces like it, reject this false dichotomy. As much as a group of people can be truly unanimous about anything, this movement is unanimous in its message that someone does not have to identify using the label to be considered an ally. Anyone who thinks otherwise just isn't looking very hard.

I've detailed my thoughts on the matter here, by the way. (Although I'm very leery about self-promotion, so I provide this link only with reservations.)
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby maiforpeace » Fri Aug 31, 2012 11:46 am

SubMor wrote:I just want to point out something very important with respect to the "A+ is divisive because they say everyone has to be with them or against them" trope: the overwhelming majority of commenters in this thread, and of all A+ supporters in other spaces like it, reject this false dichotomy. As much as a group of people can be truly unanimous about anything, this movement is unanimous in its message that someone does not have to identify using the label to be considered an ally. Anyone who thinks otherwise just isn't looking very hard.

I've detailed my thoughts on the matter here, by the way. (Although I'm very leery about self-promotion, so I provide this link only with reservations.)


I'll promote you then SubMor.

A well written piece worth reading folks.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby Nathair » Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:12 pm

NateHevens wrote:Actually, I think it'd be easier if people just stopped assuming that he is the chosen public face of A+.

It would be easier, but the strategy of "just sitting around waiting for people to start being reasonable" doesn't have a very good track record.
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Re: "With Us or Against Us"

Postby NateHevens » Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:46 pm

Xanthë, you misunderstood me about Natalie Reed, but I'll grant that this was mostly my fault, largely because the word "baffled" was the wrong word (or the context was wrong; either way, the miscommunication was mine).

I'm NOT baffled that Natalie has chosen to not be/do/whatever A+. I know that Natalie is a supporter of social justice. So the fact she has chosen "neither" doesn't bother me in the least. I respect her decision, and we all should.

What bothers me is that she appears to be under the impression that we have a "with us or against us" attitude. If it were just coming from people like Thunderf00t, then there would not even be a reason for this thread. But when it's coming from people like Natalie, that makes me sit up and take notice. That makes me think that maybe we do have a problem with this, and so I wanted to address it.
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