If you’re reading this, it can be of no surprise to you that Atheism Plus has come up as a topic of conversation again. As usual, I have an opinion, and am here to share it. Let me start by providing a run down of my understanding of Atheism Plus.
Atheism Plus is a relatively new movement which seeks to go past a simple lack of belief in gods, and into the realm of social justice. They tackle issues such as homophobia, transphobia, feminism, misogyny, racism, and basically every form of bigotry or “ism” you can imagine. How they actually group together to counter any of these things I admit I do not know and do not understand, outside of online forums and Twitter.
My personal opinion on Atheism Plus is that it is not necessary. The majority of atheists I’ve come across are vocal about LGBT rights, many are feminists, and I’ve yet to meet a racist or homophobic atheist. I can support equal rights for women and preventing bigotry and homophobia without labelling myself as belonging to a group. I don’t care if others want to be a part of some group, but personally, I don’t see the need for it, and in my experience, all it has done is successfully fractured the atheist community into an “us and them” mentality. It says on the atheism plus website that this is not the intention, and I believe it- but many of the Atheism Plus members I’ve come across have immediately cast me and other non- A+ members as being unsupportive of the “issues”. I have had several A+ people come to me out of nowhere, badly misunderstanding and misconstruing things I’ve said, and labelling me as they see fit without bothering to listen to an explanation. This is the first way in which I’m reminded of theists.
People have gotten very upset at me for “painting all of Atheism Plus with the same brush”. The fact is, when you identify as part of a group, the actions of the individuals within that group reflect back onto the group as a whole. Is this fair? Probably not. But it’s reality. That’s the trouble with groups like this. The idea itself isn’t a bad one- more people working towards equality can’t be a bad thing. But trying to put so many individuals with so many opinions into a single heading just doesn’t work. My interactions with Atheism Plus members have been 100% negative, and as such, this has coloured my opinion of Atheism Plus as negative. Add to this the fact that they don’t seem to do anything I can’t do on my own, and the entire thing seems wholly useless to me.
Up until the block bot came out, I didn’t even know what Atheism Plus was. This is a whole different pile of horse shit that I struggle to know how to address because it’s so fucking stupid.
The block bot is a service created in conjunction with Atheism Plus, which adds unsavoury people from Twitter to one of three levels; Level 1 (most severe), for “stalkers” and “doxxers”; Level 2 for “assholes”; Level 3 for “annoying people”. Users can opt in to Level 1 only, Level 1 and 2, or all three levels, and the bot will automatically block the list of users the blockers have deemed fit into each level.
Now let me be clear- I don’t actually hate this idea on the surface. I can’t begin to imagine the harassment transgendered individuals in particular probably face from a plethora of dickheads on the internet. That happens. If the purpose of this bot was actually to target just these relentlessly harassing individuals in order to prevent LGBT or others from being harassed, then great. I can absolutely see a place for it among people who are constantly targeted with relentless attacks on Twitter. The trouble is the people who are allowed to add people to the block list are apparently power hungry idiots who have completely ruined the interesting premise of the bot by adding people they simply don’t like to the block list. I was added to Level 2. Was I being an asshole? Definitely (That’s kind of my MO). I committed the mortal sin of speaking up that the block bot adding @secularbloke to its block list was downright fucking ridiculous- because it is. @secularbloke and many others (myself included, now) were added for either having a disagreement with the bot creators, for voicing a dissenting opinion about the bot itself, or saying something “rude” about Atheism Plus. Please explain to me how any of these things are considered “harassment”. If you cannot, then the premise of your bot has utterly failed. Silencing your critics rather than listening to their criticisms shows incredible immaturity, and in this case has ruined whatever good intentions there may have been with this bot. The inability of the creators to have a civil conversation or accept criticism for their idea has completely sunk the idea and turned it into a playground farce and pissing contest. This idea could have worked, if the blockers had a shred of integrity or maturity. Sadly, they did not.
I’ll only briefly mention the incredible irony of being a group of “free thinkers” and letting someone else’s judgements, biases, and personal vendettas decide who should be on YOUR personal block list. Like I said, I understand the purpose if it were to prevent relentless attacks from transphobic assholes. But to allow someone else to decide who is “annoying” and let them be blocked on your behalf shows an unbelievable amount of laziness. If you do have a bad experience with someone, guess what you can do? You can hit the block button yourself.
To illustrate how ridiculous their blocking decisions are, I’m going to go ahead and note some people who have been added to the list, that I know, follow, and think are excellent tweeters and better people- and none of whom are harassers, homophobic, transphobic, misogynists, or rape apologists. Certainly none of whom seek out LGBT, feminists, etc to harass them.
This is by no means an exclusive list but some I happened to notice while looking at the block list (http://www.theblockbot.com/?page_id=35)
One in particular I’d like to mention is @Lenn_Len. I haven’t followed him for long, but all reports and my own witness have shown him to be nothing but an absolutely lovely person. Recently he got into a discussion with one of the block bot creators, at which point he tweeted something that was VERY badly misinterpreted, to the point where the block bot creator decided it was fair to label him a rape apologist. This, quite plainly, is fucking bullshit. To make such a character judgement based on 3 tweets, all of which were innocuous to anyone who understood what Len was trying to say, is a perfect example of how this A+ block bot nonsense has gotten completely out of hand. I can assure you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Len is NOT a rape apologist, no matter how many holier-than-thou A+ idiots try to paint him as such based on a misunderstood tweet. It’s been explained ad nauseum, and those involved refuse to listen, and refuse to even attempt to understand what happened. This is the kind of shit that makes A+ look bad. It’s the behaviour of these people that sour the entire concept for me and a fair few others. To see how the A+ group refuse to listen to sense and simply label people as rape apologists, misogynists, transphobic assholes, etc illustrates a disturbing level of group think that I haven’t seen since my exit from religion. To see people like @secularbloke, @damnedandromeda, @fieryskulldiary, @francosoup and @jennaugust on this list, among the others, shows exactly how fucking ridiculous the whole thing is. It shows that the creators of the bot and the other A+ individuals I’ve spoken to really seriously don’t give a shit about helping to create a “safer” environment on Twitter- they simply want to make themselves feel powerful and special by publicly shaming and blocking people they don’t like, or who have criticized them, and as a result, have created an incredible divide among atheists on Twitter.
So my conclusion is that, despite intentions that may have been good, personal egos, silly vendettas, and holier-than-thou attitudes have made the block bot, and the greater Atheism Plus movement, a complete and total laughing stock. Things have spiralled so far out of control that I can’t imagine how anything good can come from this. For me, I’ve decided to take my own advice and just block those people who I don’t care to talk to. And can you believe it- I’ve managed to do so without the help of a bot.