August 30th, 2012


Why Not AtheismPlus

This is written as a response to Jen McCreight's recent post calling for a new wave of Atheist Movement, as well as some followup posts by her and Greta.

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Summing up:

  • Some of the problems this effort would address are real and worth addressing
  • Using third-wave theory, discourse, and social institutions is a bad way to deal with the problems
  • We would do better to do mild reforms to existing groups rather than create new radical groups; the proximity to people one disagrees with helps keep groups stay sane and doesn't create large islands of otherwise worthy culture that are inaccessible to people because they don't like the specific theory
  • Anonymous trolls will troll, but they're not solvable with these means and just need to be ignored
  • Intersectionality is dangerous when it draws in commitments to groups that demand validation rather than tolerance/acceptance; criticising such commitments on grounds of divisiveness is valid

Some terms: Toleration, Acceptance, and Validation

This may be a restatement (I don't recall if I've written about this publicly or not)

A trio of terms that I hold to be pretty distinct and important to structure how we think about activism:

  • Toleration - Recognition that some particular variation exists in humanity (not necessarily on its own terms) and should not be stomped out (in the immediate sense) or outlawed, nor subjected to violence (strict sense), intimidation, nor discrimination in employment
  • Acceptance - Tolerance plus recognition that the group will probably be around for the long term; lack of desire to use strong social pressures to diminish the group (like shunning), presence within the variability within the variety in a pluralistic society, usually with some amount of instutitional support for what's needed to live a meaningful, reasonable life
  • Validation - Acceptance plus a belief that the choices or particulars of the group in question are reasonable/decent solutions to live a life and within the realm of good decisions or desirable status. We usually don't offer criticism of or state dispreference towards variation that is within the realm of valid even if our particulars differ. Some forms of validation extend into validating a group's preferred theory/framework.
I hold that these three statuses, plus the implied 0th status (of intolerance) all should be populated; we should not try to validate everything, accept everything, nor tolerate everything. I hold that some social movements should aim for tolerance (or should only expect solidarity at that level), some should aim for acceptance, and some (maybe) should aim for validation. Sometimes how we rank some group or practice along this scale will impact how we rank some other group or practice. We can't make everyone happy, nor can we coherently try.

I hold that social movements are at their best when they aim for tolerance or acceptance, and that validation (particularly when it comes to theory/framework) is rarely desirable as a goal for activism.