Episode 2.21


Beth, Jen and Tracie are joined by Greta Christina, LIVE at the Atheist Alliance of America national convention in Denver!

  • J. Goard

    With all due respect (and no doubt of your sincerity), I’m floored by the notion that pushback to the “A+” concept is mostly coming from people advocate a thoroughly stripped-down atheism where otherwise absolutely any positive belief is fair game. I’m not any kind of insider, nor informed on all of the grisly details, so I’m just going to speak for myself and let you make of it what you will.

    Very simply, I’m inclined against “A+” because of many of its initial proponents’ attitudes toward evolutionary psychology and treatment of those who have more respect for it than they do. This attitude seems to run so deep that it makes me believe these people are more religious than they are scientific or skeptical.

    Not only am I not against incorporating social justice into an atheist movement, I consider many social positions to follow quite naturally and to be key in appreciating one of the principle functions of religion throughout human history. (In Marx’s apt metaphor, to stick a flower in the prisoner’s chains.) I can hardly imagine being a bare-bones atheist of the sort many have described.

    Strong anti-harassment policies are great. Taking a strong stand against violent threats ought to be a universal position.

    My own problem with “A+” as it seems to be taking shape is simply a scientific and skeptical one. I simply think that there are major claims arising from the feminist movement that are empirically unjustifiable, and have become popularized largely through a profound mischaracterization of alternative views and through processes of spreading belief that are not rational, skeptical or worthy of respect. The idea that the primary causal factor behind most rape is misogyny (rather than opportunistic satisfaction of sexual desire), for example, is utter bullshit that has never been given anything remotely resembling empirical proof. Is it so hard to understand that I wouldn’t want to be around people who would label me a misogynist or rape apologist for saying so, especially when I think that those very same people are so committed to dogma that they’re not willing to honestly investigate important truths?

    I want atheism plus LGBT rights, plus women’s rights, plus a liberal internationalist foreign policy, plus a bunch of other things. But one of those things is a scientific perspective on human nature, and academic feminism (despite its immensely laudable political achievements) has a lot of housecleaning to do in that respect. An A+ which dismisses all of evolutionary psychology with a derisive chuckle, because it conflicts with second wave feminist dogma, isn’t my kind of social justice or my kind of plus. It seems like a religious technique to me, and (very simply) that’s why I’m apprehensive.

    Hope you all can appreciate my sincere reaction. I appreciate all of your hard work for both atheism and for human rights in general.

    Sep 13, 2012 at 8:24 am
  • microbiologychick

    I’m very iffy on evolutionary psychology, but I am willing to look at the evidence. One of the problems I see with it is the difficulty of doing studies. It often seems like “just-so stories.”

    Sep 13, 2012 at 2:40 pm
  • Benjamin Fredrick Monette

    I’ve been reading through the atheism plus forum and it seems that any questioning of feminism dogma results in being belittled and accusations of supporting rape and misogyny. I’ve read a post where they were congratulating each other for tearing down the incredibly benign posters put up by a a mens rights advocate. I can’t support a group that actively advocated censorship regardless of how much I may or may not agree with something being said.

    Sep 13, 2012 at 9:58 pm
  • Ophelia

    As someone who lives in Tennessee, I think the reason why you can’t buy wine in a grocery store is because they sell beer (beer and wine cannot be sold in the same store). I have seen liqueur stores with little “convenience” stores right next to the main store where they can sell beer.

    Sep 14, 2012 at 12:15 am
  • J. Goard


    Honest question: did you get that impression from reading the primary literature of Cosmides & Tooby, David Buss, Margo WIlson, etc., or did you get it from reports by people in the social sciences who are hostile to EP?

    “Difficulty of doing studies” is an inevitable result of dealing with a phenomenon as complex as human behavior within a social context. Yet these scholars find a way to do good science despite these obstacles. It’s simply not fair to disparage this work in comparison with comparatively controllable research in biology, while leaving the account of human social behavior by default to social constructivists. EP accounts of violence or deception or mate selection or rape don’t need to be contrasted with microbiology’s levels of proof — they need to be contrasted with the levels of proof given for alternative hypotheses about those same complex phenomena. So tell me, where are the rigorous, tightly controlled studies to justify the widespread notion that rape has little to do with sexual desire, and is instead a cultural manifestation of misogyny?

    In any case, the relevant point I’m making with respect to A+ is separable from the argument about the beliefs themselves. I’m suggesting that a lot of smart and decent people are turned off, not because they think no other views whatsoever should be connected with atheism, nor because they don’t care about social justice or want to go around being assholes, but rather because they think some of the major figures behind the A+ concept tend to be seriously unscientific and irrational when it comes to social phenomena. In other words, the “dictionary atheist” they’re talking about so much looks like a straw man; don’t use it to dismiss more serious objectors.

    Sep 14, 2012 at 3:42 am
  • J. Goard

    In light of Benjamin’s comment above, I just want to say that I don’t consider myself a “men’s rights advocate”, and that although I think some of the points they seem to be raising are valid moral concerns, they also seem to have at least a vocal minority of really disgusting people. My objections to many second-wave feminist ideas (many still very current) is not at all that “men are being oppressed”, but rather that truth is not being honestly and intelligently sought, which I think is to the detriment of women and men.

    Sep 14, 2012 at 3:59 am
  • Muz

    J.Goard. Ev Psych isn’t represented by Tooby and Cosmides. It’s represented by yards of nonsensical extrapolations from evolution (supposedly, anyway) that far overstate what the concept can say with any certainty into ludicrous garbage like women like pink because the behaviour was selected for picking berries. It’s true it’s not fair to discard the whole thing because of all that stuff, but honestly the core of it seems particular to the point of uselessness most of the time. Interesting, but couldn’t really give much insight into behaviour once it’s been reduced as far as it needs to to be accurate. Some people are old school social science types, but if you put a good case I don’t think the A+ crowd could reject it (I’ve also never heard anyone, feminist or otherwise, say sexual gratification had nothing to do with rape. Only that power is a big part of that and that patriarchal constructions have made it tacitly permissible, at least in the past, and some are worried it could again -but I don’t know about that last part personally-. I do think you could label most serial rapists as misogynists. It’s a tacitly misogynist culture that permits the more casual sort, is the general argument.)

    Sep 14, 2012 at 6:07 am
  • m6wg4bxw

    Muz, you said, “I’ve also never heard anyone, feminist or otherwise, say sexual gratification had nothing to do with rape.”

    For what it’s worth, someone stated this on Hemant’s blog about a month ago. Others agreed. The idea is out there.


    Sep 14, 2012 at 3:31 pm
  • astro

    @ J Goard I’ve been following the progress of A+ very closely since it first showed up. I have never ever seen or heard any take on evolutionary psychology ever mentioned…. ever. not once. not til your comment. care to link to a source of that? Or are you just playing ‘guilt by association’

    Sep 15, 2012 at 6:04 am
  • Tax

    Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think that the contention around atheism+ may be partially manufactured by outside groups. I’m not part of an atheist community so I don’t get to see any of this firsthand, but in all of the atheist blogs/websites/podcasts I read regularly, most of the complaints are coming from people that I had never seen comment on atheism/athiest issues previously. The rest were written by well known contrarians, the types that were already weary about being part of an atheist group.

    Some governments, particularly China, and a lot of ideological groups pay people to promote specific ideas on the internet, or even in real life. All of the debate forums I go to for example have a couple of people that will respond to every post where China is mentioned and tell you how great China is. If somebody posts a negative news story about China, or the Chinese government, they will continue to respond and attempt to rebut every criticism until the topic dies regardless of how much support they are actually getting on the forum. The ending result is, we don’t discuss China even though it’s doing a lot of things that have a big impact on our world, and the environment in particular. Wikipedia has an article on it.


    There is nothing in my mind that is objectionable about atheism plus. It’s hard for me to understand that someone could honestly be against it and feel like it was a big enough of a deal to do something about.

    Sep 15, 2012 at 5:01 pm
  • Brandi

    If you have some good evidence that what people on the A+ forums are saying is factually incorrect, then you should head on over there with your citations and post about it. I keep seeing people bouncing around blog posts on the A+ topic and protesting when they really should go and take it up in the appropriate forum. There is no better place to take these arguments than to the place where everyone actually knows about A+. Of course, if you show up criticizing their ideas and have nothing relevant to back up your case, prepare for the wrath of the interwebs.

    Sep 16, 2012 at 1:17 am
  • Muz

    m6wg4bxw: (a name for copy-paste if ever there was one) Hmm, cheers. One or two do seem to be taking the meme a little too literally there. It’s hopefully not too widespread. I can sort of see how it got stuck. It sprung, I think, from a need to assert that rape wasn’t just unrestrained lust from a man who misunderstood the signals, in a climate where that sort of thing was forgivable. That rape is an act, but there’s a whole creepy spectrum of psychology at work in the concept (and from all this ‘legitimate rape’ business lately, that misunderstanding is not quite as over with as I once thought). But yes, I think even if people are sticking to their message for a while, generally when pressed they’d say that personal gratification is entwined in there somewhere.

    Sep 16, 2012 at 4:50 am
  • cityzenjane

    The paranoid idea that this ferment is not native to the movement…. any movement which has oppressed minorities in it…will have those voices. Do you deny that there are atheists who are women, POC, LGBTQ…. Why aren’t there more participating?

    My atheism comes directly from my experience as a woman in Catholic culture.

    I wish people would think more before speaking up on the net. It’s seriously stupefying to read these type of comments over and over.

    White men are not the default human.

    There is a world of experience of religion which is not available to be personally experienced by straight white dudes.

    Anyway…I wish all well intentioned people well. This is a learning curve….and a steep one….I was on it as a white person…and still am. I was on it as a mostly straight person and still am…. Just admit there is a learning curve and you are on it.

    Or as Hawking said -

    The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.

    Sep 16, 2012 at 10:13 pm
  • Feanor

    The problem with A+ is characterised perfectly on this thread:


    One guy wrote: “Because I am male I am treated as a potential rapist. ”

    A moderator, unhappy with this and other fairly innocuous things he said, responded:

    “Not legitimate lack of privilege. It is because men are overwhelmingly the aggressors in violent crimes, and particularly in rapes, that women have to assume you COULD be a rapist until proven otherwise. That isn’t a lack of privilege on your part.”

    There are other threads where it’s made clear that anyone questioning something considered a “101″ concept risks being banned at worst, or their post being deleted and them being referred to the “Education” section of the forum at best.

    This is hardly skepticism - in fact it reminds me of certain Communist systems, where if you don’t agree you need “educating.” I quite like the idea of Atheism plus morality etc but in this case a small group of people seem to have become the moral arbiters of what moral Atheism should be and that is something I simply don’t want to be a part of.

    Sep 17, 2012 at 1:13 am
  • NotInOrbit

    I’d just like to share my take on the atheism/atheist label.

    My atheism is nothing. It only adresses something specific that I lack. Which of course means that I’m not just an atheist. I can’t be just an atheist. And in my view, no one is just an atheist. But I would extend that to say that no single label satisfyingly describes any individual, including the labels that describe something, rather than something that isn’t there. Although those labels would do better at describing someone, than the like of atheist.

    The significance of me labeling myself an atheist, which I don’t do unless the subject is brought up, is in how many people there are who are theist. The more people who are atheist, the less significance in the label. It’s similar to how people who are not heterosexual, end up having to specifiy it far more often than the heterosexual have to state their heterosexuality. My hope is that one day the atheist label will be far less significant than the various sexuality labels are or should be. Not that I have something against asexuals, but I doubt they will ever be a major group. And the rest of the sexuality labels actually say something about the person and what their interests are, rather than what they lack and are not.

    I don’t like the label atheism+, atheist+, because I don’t pretend that there is anything to my atheism, while it seems to me to be that the people behind the A+ movement want there to be something to it. I’m not primarily an atheist, and I don’t see how anyone can be primarily an atheist. I can see being primarily an anti-theist, or anti-religion, with opposing and taking on theism and/or religion being what you spend most of your hours on. As I can see being primarily a theist. Or a feminist. Or a church-state-separator/secularist. All those are about something.

    What I like about the label atheist, is just how little there is to it, how accurate and yet inclusive it is. If you don’t believe in gods, you’re an atheist. That’s it. And it shows just how irrelevant theism truly is, or can be. Plenty of people do entirely fine without it.

    Sep 17, 2012 at 4:06 am
  • NotInOrbit

    I have to add, labels are ultimately irrelevant. It doesn’t help how many labels that are applied. If you want to know an individual, you have to make an effort of getting to know them on a personal level. You can’t go by the labels, especially as we may understand the labels differently from each other.

    Sep 17, 2012 at 4:18 am
  • Catherine

    Feanor, as the person who started that thread, the reason it was there is for people to post about the effects of not having privilege, that post was at best off topic as men do have privilege. Also that post was being heavily moderated due to the amount of trolling happening on it.

    Sep 17, 2012 at 8:40 am
  • Mohammed-Jihad

    I thought I’d share this cartoon. I have nowhere else to post this without fearing for my life. It seems that even the US gov. is trying to sensor these types of cartoons.

    Sorry I even had to use a Fake email.

    Your fan, Anonymous


    Sep 18, 2012 at 1:27 am
  • Anders

    I find it amusing to hear that some say we don’t need the ‘extra baggage’ of feminism and LGBTA movement. Have they seen the polls? It’s the feminists and the LGBTA movement who should be worried! Unless we form an alliance with the child-eating slave-owners we won’t be tarnished by anything…

    Sep 18, 2012 at 2:18 am
  • BV

    Your shows get better and better. Keep it up!

    Sep 18, 2012 at 3:28 pm
  • Warburton MacKinnon

    well,I thought that looking at the comments wouldn’t stop the podcast..I was wrong. The question I hve is why do you call yourself bitches? Granted all men will be at some point at least be assholes,and all women will at some point be bitches. Is there a specific reason you call yourselves bitches?

    Sep 21, 2012 at 12:13 am
  • Fredrik Levander

    Warburton MacKinnon: i think they talked about it in the first or among the first episodes.

    Sep 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm
  • BV

    lol, looks like someone hack the site linking to mo-ji’s image.

    Sep 23, 2012 at 12:14 am
  • Bigwhale

    I think NotInOrbit is completely missing the point of A+. It’s precisely because atheism is a vacuous label, not entailing other views, that a new label is wanted. Atheism plus is not a replacement for atheism. Atheist is still the inclusive label you’ve known and loved.

    Also, if labels are not so important to you, why would you object to how others are choosing to label themselves? It is you who is making the discussion about labels instead of letting labels go and moving on to issues. It’s a straw man to think labels are ultimately relevant, but they do have some use, and to that extent, A+ is useful.

    Oct 4, 2012 at 4:11 pm
  • Bengt

    Traciiii, I have a very fair suggestion to you. If I can have a godless bitch, you’ll get a bitchless god. How about it?

    Oct 5, 2012 at 1:34 pm
  • mikekoz68

    You have such a good podcast here with a good ensemble of voices, even better after they’ve been drinking(I’m looking at you Tracie lol) so I would hate to see it die off. You went from weekly to bi-weekly to ? once a month, I know its free so I can’t complain but…. I’m complaining, How about another podcast, soon, please?

    Oct 7, 2012 at 4:10 pm
  • Tax

    When are the Godless bitches going to discuss Nancy Drew, how it’s shaped women’s views, and how it’s changed over the years? I mean, how many secular characters are there out there that are designed to appeal to young women and promote critical thinking?

    Oct 19, 2012 at 10:23 am
  • mikekoz68


    I think at this point we’re going to have to hire Nancy Drew just to find the Godless Bitches.

    Oct 23, 2012 at 10:45 am
  • fenchurch

    Congrats to Greta Christina for reaching her goal for fundraising for the healthcare/living costs– sorry that you do not live in a country with universal healthcare :-( Best wishes to her for a speedy recovery.

    Oct 29, 2012 at 12:44 pm
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    Dec 26, 2012 at 11:34 pm

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