If you are unaware, there has been deep divisions among various groups of skeptics, freethought folks, and atheists.  For over a year, following a series of issues and non-issues, fueled by the real and imagined, and bringing out the worst and best, infested with both the justifiable as well as the bizarrely abusive, there have been fights.

These fights got bad – really bad – and many of the players and the spectators and the peripherally involved have finally had it.

Out of this emerged the idea of “Atheism Plus” – an intersection of atheism, skepticism, freethought, and social justice.

The following is a comment that I made in response to this comment on a blog post by the Atheist Experience (slightly edited for clarity).

The level of sexism – wherever you go on the internet where atheists and skeptics gather – is pretty terrible. That’s not particularly unusual, but it’s still annoying. Some have gotten attacked pretty terribly, and want to carve out their own swath of space without being accused of being hijackers whenever they talk about it.

Depending on the brand of “moralism” you’ve been indoctrinated into (or others around you have been indoctrinated into); that brand of religious morality is likely to be completely counter to social justice. Women’s rights and gay rights have been directly and brutally hampered by many extremely popular theologies. So, some see their atheism as a rejection of that.

It’s a harder sell to say that atheism somehow LEADS to social justice stances (there is usually an emphasis on acting on empathy, but in a very strict sense that has holes), and that’s where humanism comes in.

In the end, once the religious dogma is removed, “moral” stances actually require examination instead of automatic adherence. So, the task is then to examine the “moral” stances that religion provides – including the sexist and anti-gay ones. So, even though social justice is not (philosophically) a consequence of atheism, it is literally, for many people, a consequence of their atheism.

Unitarian-Universalists tend to see it more as you see it [that social justice is theological in it’s groundings] (they are a heterogeneous group, so opinions will obviously vary) and many have begun calling their group “post-Christian” and they merit Christianity, as well as other religions, for their core moral stances in their focus on social justice.

Secular humanism shies away from being adamantly atheist and isn’t inherently skeptical, so that doesn’t quite fit the bill either. It also is involved in creating “church like” social structures, which some atheists are not on board with.

So, there is an unfilled niche.

I think A+ is a wonderful idea, but with all tools and branding it can be problematic in it’s implementation, however it makes sense for anyone invested to simply point out when/if A+ is taking a bad turn to keep it on the narrow instead of squash the idea before it develops due to what *might* happen.

I’ve already seen “A-” used as a bit of an insult; and I can see how people might find that distressing who value cohesion. However, I think cohesion went out the window a while ago. At some point, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to stay in the same house as those you find abusive. I’ve had to leave an interest group because of similar problems before – after YEARS of grinning and bearing it, and trying to convince myself that I was better and stronger for being able to stay and take it. So, I see the appeal of essentially saying – screw you guys, I don’t need you, bye bye.

The A+ folks are inevitably going to be blamed for “creating” a schism by developing a “brand”; but let the record show that they were PUSHED out and “othered” and that A+ was a reaction to that and not the cause of it. At least that is my intuition from what I have been reading. I’m sure it is more complex than that, but the reverse is also equally (and very likely more) untrue.

I think it is a good thing for people like you [who do not feel as though you could join A+] as well, that we’re no longer stuck in a painful conversation about identity where the general term “atheism” seems somehow up for debate about it’s meaning. What does it *mean* to be an atheist? – now has an answer. What it *means* to be an atheist = not much of anything, in fact, the lack of something. That’s it. If A+ doesn’t appeal to you or interest you, than that’s the end of it. There is no need to fight over A+ if you aren’t invested in it. That doesn’t mean you (or anyone) is stopped from discussing it or even criticizing it; but it’s no longer a fight about you and your identity, but about a different group of people that you simply share a few key opinions with – just like most secular humanists and many Unitarian Universalists.