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Rose
user 53882812
London, GB
Post #: 109
Oh dear.

I seem to have arrived at this discussion a bit late. I've only just noticed that we've moved on from talking about Radio 4's God spot. I've just had to read through the whole thread in one go - no mean feat for a person with my visual impairment. Yeah, yeah, I know it's my own fault - I should have paid closer attention - but I'm in a grumbling mood, because...

The name R.E.A.L. leaves a bad taste in my mouth for several different reasons:

The point about atheists only discovering the - ahem - other atheist group has been well-made elsewhere, but I'd like to add that, had I been one of those atheists, while it would not have pushed me back to xianity, it would have left me feeling even more disaffected and isolated.

What if changing the name attracted theist members?

The word "atheist" in the name was part of the reason I came to this group. Yes indeed, not all atheists are rational, and not all rational people are atheists, but hanging out with self-labelled atheists tends to be quite a good kook filter. Had the group been called "R.E.A.L", I would have thought "Hmmm, so this is not per se an atheist group? It'll probably have members with all kinds of crazy ideas about what consitutes "rationality". And they value equality over, say, skepticism or science? Does this mean that they're postmodernists who believe in not calling religion out on its bullshit and cruelty? Maybe I'll give it a miss." Then I would never have met you guys, and once again, disaffection and isolation would have followed.

It's obvious what "London Atheist Activist Group" means. It does what it says on the tin. What does a group calling itself "Reason, Equality, Actuality, Liberty" do, exactly? In fact, what are they for???

I know you, Ginny, have said that you don't advocate that the group, or any members of the group, stop using the label "atheist", but even concealing it like this seems a little sheepish to me. The world is full of folks who think that all atheists are immoral / nihilistic / self-centred / communist / nazi / goodness knows what else. But how do we change such perceptions? By being out and proud loudmouths!!! Just two days ago, I casually mentioned to some people I was having lunch with that I was interested in visiting Austin, TX, because it's the atheist capital of the world. The result? A lively, half-hour-long discussion, in which I got to educate both my companions about what the deal is with atheism, and one of them revealed her moral bankruptcy to the other by defending Catholic pedophilia. RESULT!!! Imagine if, instead, I'd pussyfooted around with lame terms like "rationalism" and "liberty". They likely wouldn't have known what the fuck I was talking about.

I'm well accustomed to identifying with labels that have negative connotations. There are people who think that all autistic people are morons with behaviour problems, and that all transsexuals are sinister perverts. I'm doing my bit to dispel these perceptions by unapologetically associating myself with these labels - and, boy! - it's such a good feeling when someone looks at me incredulously when I tell them that I actually like being an autistic transsexual, and I get to educate them. The way to deal with negative labels is to OWN them, not to shy away from them.

Lastly, there was an organization whose podcasts and community-building efforts inspired me to actively seek out other atheist in the first place. What was the name of that group again? Oh, I remember: The ATHEIST Community of Austin!!!

I understand the pragmatic arguments, and pragmatism may indeed be the wiser path. It's just that I fell in love with this group because it had an uncompromizingly atheistic attitude that no other group in London did (well, except one). I guess I'm just not very good at being a pragmatist.

As has been pointed out, the majority of you guys seem to think that REAL is a better name than LAAG. As a committed believer in democracy, I have to respect that, but that doesn't mean I'm happy.
Georgi L.
Guffaw
London, GB
Post #: 979
Hi Rose,

Thanks for your constructive thoughts, as always.

Would anything but an atheist group really start its name with 'reason', let alone include 'equity' and 'liberty'? I doubt many could think so actually, but of course leaving out atheist or nonbeliever does lack the immediacy. It's not ideal, but apart from reason being the first word, we had thought that the tagline 'ethics from reason, not superstition' would also clarify both its raison d'etre as well as that it is for nonbelievers (i.e. however you wish to denote your atheism ...unfortunately also including those somewhat irrational types that deny they're atheists at all, and ONLY call themselves humanists , agnostics etc). But still not ideal, I know.

So all 3 of us organisers agree with you. That's why we choose an assertively confident atheist name in the first place. We wanted to get the word atheist 'more in your face' so we included the word 'activism' as well - this actually puts some atheist but namby pamby types off this group, and that's how we wanted it ...a group for confident but rational atheists! So the name change isn't for accommodation for its 'negative' connotation as far as we're concerned! ...but, it has become apparent in the 6 months that we've been running this group that there are considerable downsides to having such a name that really limit us for what we can do outside and 'officially'.

I can't really go fully into what the outside issues are on a public forum but I'll email you.

I don't really get how the group NAME impacts on the example you give about the lunch conversation ...it's not as if we'd be saying we're R.E.A.L, lol...it's not an identifier like 'brights' or 'humanists' ...you'd still have the conversation as an atheist, surely?

If we are going to be a group that talks amongst itself and gets in atheist speakers but is significantly made impotent from contributing to change, then we can leave the word atheism in ...and yes, maybe there is enough value in that because we can nuture this habitat for those atheists who do also want to encompass rationalism. No final decision has been made EXCEPT that we do need to change the name to least lessen the liklihood of confusion with the disaffecting atheist group.
David S
hyponitrite
Shepperton, GB
Post #: 20
On name change -

If the word "Atheist" makes potential (and significant!) allies uncomfortable, why not go for the equally provocative "Secularist" label.

The opposition seem not to differentiate between "militant atheism" and "militant secularism"; in fact I believe that the latter is now the more common form of attack because they fear being side-lined more than being opposed.

"Progressive Secularists" could carry much many of the implied ethos of "Atheist Activists".
Rose
user 53882812
London, GB
Post #: 113
Would anything but an atheist group really start its name with 'reason', let alone include 'equity' and 'liberty'?

Yes, they would! How many people do you think self-identify as being irrational, or against equality, or against liberty? Not many. These words are lowest-common-denominator labels that say nothing of substance about who we are and why we do this. It is precisely the fact that so many shy away from the word "atheism" that makes it such a powerful tool for those who are willing to embrace it.

I don't really get how the group NAME impacts on the example you give about the lunch conversation ...it's not as if we'd be saying we're R.E.A.L, lol...it's not an identifier like 'brights' or 'humanists' ...you'd still have the conversation as an atheist, surely?

Yes indeed I would continue to be out as an atheist and have these conversations regardless of what our group's name is. My point was not that the conversation would not have taken place had the group been called REAL; My point was that this conversation demonstrates the power of owning negatively perceived labels. I think we should own the word "atheist" as a group, as well as individuals.

we do need to change the name to least lessen the liklihood of confusion with the disaffecting atheist group.

On that point, you have my whole-hearted agreement.
Georgi L.
Guffaw
London, GB
Post #: 985
I think we should own the word "atheist" as a group, as well as individuals.

I'm not sure if you've read my email yet, but I think you're missing the point somewhat, Rose. The reason for suggesting a name change isn't from not wanting to own the term, but because our allies, including even Dawkins, are not able/willing to join forces with groups whose ONLY visible objective in the name, is atheism. This is why neither Dawkins' site title nor strapline mentions atheism! Sam Harris' activist platform is also under 'the reason institute'. Do you suppose they did that for 'the greater good' of being able to get through to people, or because they didn't want to own atheism as a term?

So it comes down to this: stick rigidly to the label and call our selves only atheist, rather than rationalist or something more 'positive' (which encompasses atheism anyway!!). And be impotent, except on a small scale

Or

If it means it frees us up to be active on a far wider scale to actually drive change, then accept that reason encompasses atheism anyway, so the joke's on those who think we've 'renounced' the term atheism. The 'about us' would still focus on atheism anyway, and make it clear that the group wasn't for theists. With something like:

xyz group welcomes rationalists. Reason leads to atheism, for what is the biggest obstacle to reason today if not religion? Non-believers/ atheists derive their ethics through reason, not superstition. Equity, and liberty of thought and expression, are democratic rights for the 21st century that shouldn’t be allowed to be eroded by the bullying of religion....


Personally, I'm not hung up on labels anyway; who cares what we're called if it means we can get a stronger voice for reason and atheism. But do suggest alternatives if you don't like REAL. Apart from being able to work with allies, the objective is also that we differentiate from the disaffecting, socially unaware and autocratic perception of atheism that has unfortunately been created by the other group for so long, and convey instead friendly, positive, active, social that this group is.... In other words to give a sense of a positive, empathetic community as an alternative to that which religion gives, but with reason instead of bollocks!

Hence the group name could be something else that includes 'reason/rationalist' and any/some/all of the following concepts"

friendly, equity, science, critical thinking, liberty, empathy, ethics from reason, community

... or even, as David Steveson suggested ...secularist/ism. Though thinking about it, secularism would imply that deists could be included, and that would be misleading to the objectives of the group.





David S
hyponitrite
Shepperton, GB
Post #: 21
Good point about deists, Ginny.

On children ...

As many commentators have pointed out, there are no "catholic", muslim" etc children, only those born to parents of those faiths.

But all children are born without faith and while you may quibble about calling them atheist by default, they are certainly infidels, by definition.

They must therefore be put to death under Sharia.

Praise be unto Allah, the un-foresighted and unto Mohammad, his somewhat confused prophet.
Clive A.
user 48030052
London, GB
Post #: 4
Ginny,
Thanks for replying to my earlier post. The reasons given on the thread for the name change (in no particular order) are:

a) To avoid stigmatisation associated with the word atheist.
b) to avoid being shunned by other organisations if atheist is in the name
c) to avoid appearances of religion bashing because atheist is in the name

a) It is true that Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, P Z Myers and the like have left the word Atheist out of the names of their organisations. However I cannot see any evidence that this ommission has protected them from being labelled atheists. On the contrary, Richard is usually and regularly introduced on TV and radio as the most famous atheist in the world. The fact that he is a world class scientist is somehow overlooked. Anything he says, especially concerning religion, is characterised as strident and shrill, because he is an atheist. He is attacked from both sides by religious and non-religious alike. Even Neil DeGrasse Tyson has had a pop. Why is Dawkins so universally revilled? Why did the ommission of the word atheist from RDFRS not produce the magic shielding from demonisation, vitriolic attacks and vilification? Maybe the magic would have worked if he had called his organisation ....(insert your own magic word here!) instead of RDFRS. Maybe. You never know. If you become a leading figure in the atheist pantheon do you think you will be treated any different?


b) Those who are skeptical of religious claims including Humanists, Secularists, Agnostics etc are often accused of being too nice, and of adopting a softly, softly approach on religion. No amount of explaining will prevent the move to drop the word atheist, from being seen as part of that softly, softly approach. I accept that it may allow the group to work with a wider range of other groups. However if the word atheist is tucked away in the definition of the headline word that is adopted, such as in REAL, but promoting atheism is the actual aim of the group, is this not deceitful? What will happen when REAL are asked to take part in an event and the atheist perspective is openly presented? Consider also that even though Richard Dawkins is the most famous Atheist in the world, being an atheist has not prevented him from working with other organisations.

c) There is a behavioural phenomenon whereby if you know that there is censorship concerning a particular topic, you will tend to self-censor anything you have to say on that topic. There must be a fancy word for it but I don't know it. As it pertains to religion, it is one of the features of accomodationism. Religion has a way of influencing people to become nicer to religion because this position is portrayed as being more palatable to religionists and the wider populace. As soon as an accommodationist stance is adopted, religion has won a major victory. Dropping atheist from the name is an attempt to be kinder, gentler, softer on religion, therefore it is an accommodationist move. Religion wins again.

Just like the Terminator in the first movie, religion is relentless, it cannot be reasoned with, it cannot be bargained with, it will not stop. It has to be terminated! (I watch too many movies.)
Georgi L.
Guffaw
London, GB
Post #: 988

a) It is true that Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, P Z Myers and the like have left the word Atheist out of the names of their organisations. However I cannot see any evidence that this ommission has protected them from being labelled atheists.

Clive, but that is exactly my point! We're not trying to be stop being called atheists, only presenting atheism within a wider remit so that we cannot be accused as being only about bashing religion, but instead about trying to further reason, which naturally includes atheism.

b) However if the word atheist is tucked away in the definition of the headline word that is adopted, such as in REAL, but promoting atheism is the actual aim of the group, is this not deceitful?

No, because atheism is our view is the biggest factor hindering reason isn't it?. We will, as we are now, also be about reporting on/celebrating science's progress, the natural world and ethics from reason...in short, about rationality. No change.

Consider also that even though Richard Dawkins is the most famous Atheist in the world, being an atheist has not prevented him from working with other organisations.

Again, that's exactly the point! He isn't prevented from other organisations etc, because he is clever enough to make his organisation about a wider remit.

c) As soon as an accommodationist stance is adopted, religion has won a major victory. Dropping atheist from the name is an attempt to be kinder, gentler, softer on religion, therefore it is an accommodationist move. Religion wins again.

This is exactly the opposite of what we are suggesting, Clive! It is in no way about being nicer or more accommodating to religion, but quite the reverse. It is about finding a way that will allow us to take them on, head on, by them having to be in the defensive position instead. How will they defend against reason... will they say they are against it?

Just like the Terminator in the first movie, religion is relentless, it cannot be reasoned with, it cannot be bargained with, it will not stop. It has to be terminated! (I watch too many movies.)

Couldn't agree more.
Rose
user 53882812
London, GB
Post #: 114
Ginny,

Is your objection to the current name that it mentions atheism, or that it only mentions atheism? If the latter, I have a suggestion for a name:

PEARL = Positive Equal Atheist Rationality, London

Advantages of this name:
1) It includes atheism, so still has honesty and guts;
2) It includes the other words we've been tossing around, so presents the kind of image we want to present, and attracts the kind of atheists we want to attract;
3) It spells a word that is interesting, and makes people look twice;
4) It has connotations with value. This group is certainly valuable to me, as it makes me feel less alone;
5) It has connotations of finding the pearl in the oyster, ie finding rationality in an irrational world.

Just came to me.
Rose
user 53882812
London, GB
Post #: 115
Oh, and I forgot to mention: No, I haven't read your e-mail, Ginny, as my e-mail account is refusing to work atm. Maybe we could talk on the phone about this sometime?
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