When it comes to labels, should you call yourself an atheist or something else?
Here’s what one prominent activist once wrote:
Identifying as an atheist, as opposed to some other descriptor, is a very important form of activism, in part because it helps those who cannot come out. Atheists who are unable to identify as such are inhibited by the bigotry we all understand, for any number of reasons, and bigotry is based on ignorance. Using atheist lets you fight bigotry by associating the word with a face, possibly for the first time (depending on the listener). This promotes an awareness and humanization of atheists, which attacks the church-taught bigotry that keeps others in the closet head-on. So, by specifically using atheist as an identifier, you educate the public about atheism, attacking bigotry one listener at a time.
… when an atheist uses a label such as agnostic or humanist, an opportunity to teach is averted, and the atheophobe walks away thinking, “What a nice person. At least they’re not an atheist.”
That’s from David Silverman‘s book Fighting God.
And now, just months after the American Atheists president was accused of sexual assault and fired from his position with AA, he’s apparently started a new group centered around atheism.
He’s just not using the word.
So much for Firebrand Atheist or Bust…
While the site was full of content yesterday, much of it has since been deleted, leaving behind a bunch of 404 pages. However, the group was incorporated as a non-profit earlier this month in Seattle. It’s a thing.
What do they do? We have an inkling based on what was published online yesterday:
Transformative Humanists of America is a nonprofit educational service which seeks to unify the political left and center of America based on understanding, inclusion, love, and activism. We seek to make the world a better place via modernized Humanism, effective discussion tools, and reality-based morality.
One of the main areas in which we will be useful will be how we allow people on the Left to genuinely see past their minor (yes, minor) differences with their allies, because they will understand that differences come from a combinations of good intentions and different backgrounds, not ignorance and negativity. We will provide a means for redemption and forgiveness, because people who want and try to do better should be rewarded for that effort, not punished forever for their crimes. We are a force for a reunification of the Left and cooperation with the middle, using logic, compassion, and a return to big picture thinking.
It’s big on forgiveness, which Silverman no doubt wants. But I’m not sure the people he worked with for so long are ready to extend it to him.
The site also stresses the importance of getting past polarization on all sides… though I would argue polarization is absolutely necessary when one side is committed to hurting the lives of people who don’t look or think like them, especially people of color and immigrants. There’s no room for compromise when it comes to our basic humanity. That said, the site notes that the focus is on uniting the left and center, not the right. (That would be another departure for Silverman, who notoriously attended CPAC with American Atheists.)
PZ Myers noted that the website also lacked “mention of major social issues, like racism or misogyny.” However a source associated with the site (not Silverman) told me those topics were included under the umbrella of dehumanization. White supremacists, for example, are dehumanizing people of color.
As for who’s working with the organization or even supporting it, we have no idea. Not publicly, anyway. There’s no indication of it. There’s one additional name noted on the incorporation documents, but the person’s role is unclear.
I’m not surprised Silverman is starting something new. That itch was apparent earlier this month when he spoke with the Washington Post. But because he’s still persona non grata for many in the broader world of organized atheism, he’ll have to start this group from scratch since I doubt he’ll have much support from already established groups.
That doesn’t mean it won’t get off the ground. But the question will remain whether it should with him at the helm.
Forgiveness requires more than words. Silverman has always been a gifted talker, but a lot of us are waiting to see action. Even then, I don’t know what amount of action and what kind would be enough.
(Screenshot via YouTube)