An atheist is traditionally described as somebody who doesn’t believe in God or other deities. Some of the most prolific atheist writers were actually ancient Greek philosophers such as Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucretius. However, a new movement in atheism is taking over Western nations by storm- Atheism “Plus.”
So, what exactly is Atheism Plus? Atheism Plus is a more active form of atheist. It’s a movement focused on social justice and reform inside and outside the atheist community. Members who follow the Atheism Plus movement tend to be social justice warriors who are focused on breaking down patriarchal views of society such as sexism, homo/transphobia, racism, and standing up for groups who religious organizations have historically repressed.
The movement officially started in 2012 when the famous blogger, Jen McCreight, started writing about how atheists should play a more active role in the world. Instead of just allowing atheists to be content in their disbelief, McCreight insisted that atheists should go a step further and “fight back” against organized religion. Although the movement is relatively new, I’m going to do my best to break down exactly what Atheism Plus is, its main goals, and how it differs from traditional atheism.
Atheism Plus: A New Movement For A New Era
The past decade has seen a huge international movement in the overall acceptance of different lifestyles. Just 50 years ago, topics like homosexuality, LGBTQ rights, and gender roles were “hot button topics” that most people avoided talking about. When they were discussed, it was usually in a rude joke or in a manner that downplayed the struggles of these groups.
Today, however, people are fighting back against “the patriarchy.” The United States (and much of the world, for that matter) has traditionally been patriarchal. By definition, that means that males have had more influence, traditionally hold more power, make the rules, fight the wars they start, etc. In patriarchal societies, other groups (including many women) tend to be marginalized, ignored, and thought of last.
As you might think, many of the groups who are marginalized by patriarchal religions such as Christianity or Islam tend to be very anti-religious and lean heavily towards atheism. Of course, this a general statement, and there are certainly exceptions to this rule. However, I’m merely making a statement about why Atheism Plus has become so popular in these marginalized communities.
Now that you know a bit more about the basics of why the movement started let’s take a quick look at some of the top questions about Atheism Plus and how it differs from other schools of thought.
How Does Atheism Plus Differ From Traditional Atheism?
Traditional atheism is a relatively simple school of thought. Atheists simply don’t believe in God. In addition to their disbelief in deities, most atheists also deny the existence of a human soul, intelligent design, and the possibility of an afterlife or reincarnation. Although some atheists might pray or practice New Age spirituality, these individuals aren’t as common and are more commonly classified as agnostic atheists.
Apart from their disbelief, most atheists are relatively quiet about their beliefs. You won’t find a “church” where atheists meet, atheist conventions, or atheists speaking out about their beliefs on major platforms. In general, they tend to keep to themselves and attend the occasional theological debate in order to discuss their ideas.
However, Atheism Plus is almost the exact opposite. These individuals tend to be very outspoken on their beliefs. Not only do they not believe in God, but they vehemently challenge organized religion and the perceived harm that it causes marginalized communities and women. They are commonly found standing up for LGBTQ+ and transgender rights, participating in women’s marches, and being very strong participants on the social justice front.
How Does Atheism Plus Differ From Traditional Humanism?
Humanism shares some characteristics with atheism but tends to be a bit more hopeful. Humanists traditionally don’t care about whether or not God exists. They’re of the opinion that time spent debating God and participating in organized religion is time that could be better spent helping the human race through education, compassion, and social justice.
In this way, Atheism Plus is very similar to humanist. In fact, I would go so far as to say that many participants in the Atheism Plus movement would identify as Humanists.
The main difference between Atheism Plus and Humanism is that atheists are a lot more focused on sticking up for marginalized groups of people, while Humanists traditionally care about all groups of people.
What Are The Primary Goals of Atheism Plus?
The main goals of Atheism Plus are to cultivate an organization and a movement where social justice warriors can network and create platforms where they can speak out against organized religion. Although the movement is still budding and is constantly evolving, its core principles are pretty much the same.
Here are the primary goals that followers of Atheism Plus are focused on in 2021.
Ableism is the discrimination of individuals who aren’t “able-bodied.” Traditionally, individuals who suffered from birth defects, mental health issues, and other disabilities have been marginalized by certain organized religion sects. Many religions viewed birth defects as a curse from God or treated mentally disabled individuals as possessed by an evil spirit in the old days.
Atheism Plus seeks to bring awareness to this issue and create a safe haven for non-able-bodied individuals to feel safe from religious groups’ judgment.
Most of the world’s oldest religions are traditionally very sexist. Although modern religion is becoming less sexist than it was in the past, proponents of Atheism Plus believe that the change isn’t happening as fast as it should. They believe this is a reason why women should avoid religion.
Defending LGBTQ+ Rights
Religions such as Christianity and Islam have traditionally been very outspoken against gay rights and transgender individuals. Atheism Plus points out the hypocrisy in this thought pattern and calls out organized religion for their propagation of hate and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.