Aug 222012

It is good to have wider acceptance that “atheism” isn’t an end-point, and that much more is needed. Here are some of the recent posts about “Atheism+”:

But why isn’t the discussion under one of the following names?

  • Secular Democracy +
  • Humanism +
  • Social Justice +
  • Human Rights Advocacy +
  • LGBT-Acceptance +
  • Feminism +
  • Skepticism +
  • or an extension of any other worthy position?

Why should atheism appear to be the starting point? Although it is clearly a personally-important position to many people, for the world as a whole it is  less important than others. After all, if everyone treated religions as hobbies, we could probably have peaceful coexistence and tackle the other problems even while only a minority of people on the world were atheists.

Perhaps “atheism” is being considered so strongly to be the starting point because most of the advocates of “Atheism+” are in the USA, where simply being an atheist is a big deal. But in Europe atheism is often rather boring! A discussion about human rights is likely to generate much more emotion.

I am a scientifically-literate atheist. Guess who I would rather have as neighbours:

  • On one side: a scientifically-illiterate arts-teacher who believes in pluralism and human rights and representative government, or an authoritarian scientist who favours restricting people’s rights in order to censor objections to research.
  • On the other side: a privately-religious tolerant secularist, or an intolerant totalitarian dogmatic atheist.

Even scientifically-literate atheists need better measures for societies, organisations, and people than how scientific or atheist they are!

The measure I promote is “Enlightenment”, and I use “Dimensions of Enlightenment“. I like to think of Enlightenment as an umbrella for all of those worthy positions above. At the “enlightened” end of the 4 dimensions (cognition, knowledge, empathy, and governance) people are moved towards those positions.

A 100% enlightened person would be an atheist. But who is 100% enlightened? An 80% enlightened person may be a good neighbour, be a secular democrat, yet privately be religious. If the latter doesn’t affect the rest, who cares?

If “Atheism+” raises awareness that “atheism” is not an end-point, then it will serve a useful purpose. But it is too narrow, and not inclusive enough. It really appeals to the “atheist community” (which is more important in the USA than Europe), and may not have wider appeal.

I am not the only one with some skepticism about Atheism+, of course:

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