Once again: Is New Atheism dead?

Reader Diane G. (and later a few others; thanks to all) called my attention to a piece by Scott Alexander in Slate Star Codex called “How did new atheism fail so miserably?” It’s the usual stuff about Dawkins and the rest of us alienating the Left, and cites an even weirder article in The Baffler called “Village atheists, village idiots,” by Sam Kriss, a journalist who just got into trouble—and suspended from the Labour Party—for sexual harassment.

Kriss’s piece is simply unhinged, spewing out invective and then atheistsplaining that the New Atheists—among whom he wrongly includes Neil deGrasse Tyson, who doesn’t even like being called an atheist—have literally been driven insane by repeating their godless litany over and over again. Get a load of Kriss’s style and contentions:

SOMETHING HAS GONE BADLY WRONG with our atheists. All these self-styled intellectual titans, scientists, and philosophers have fallen horribly ill. Evolutionist faith-flayer Richard Dawkins is a wheeling lunatic, dizzy in his private world of old-fashioned whimsy and bitter neofascism. Superstar astrophysicist and pop-science impresario Neil deGrasse Tyson is catatonic, mumbling in a packed cinema that the lasers wouldn’t make any sound in space, that a spider that big would collapse under its own weight, that everything you see is just images on a screen and none of it is real. Islam-baiting philosopher Sam Harris is paranoid, his flailing hands gesticulating murderously at the spectral Saracen hordes. Free-thinking biologist PZ Myers is psychotic, screeching death from a gently listing hot air balloon. And the late Christopher Hitchens, blinded by his fug of rhetoric, fell headlong into the Euphrates.

Critics have pointed out this clutch of appalling polemic and intellectual failings on a case-by-case basis, as if they all sprang from a randomized array of personal idiosyncrasies. But while one eccentric atheist might be explicable, for all of the world’s self-appointed smartest people to be so utterly deranged suggests some kind of pattern. We need, urgently, a complete theory of what it is about atheism that drives its most prominent high priests mad.

His explanation, which is just plain dumb:

These New Atheists and their many fellow travelers all share an unpleasant obsessive tic: they mouth some obvious banality—there is no God, the holy books were all written by human beings—and then act as if it is some kind of profound insight. This repetition-compulsion seems to be baked right into their dogma.

Under the correspondence model of truth—the one favored by scientific rationality—a true statement is a thought-image that mirrors actual events; truth is just a repetition of the world. But as anyone who’s spent time with the mad knows, there’s something dangerous to one’s sanity about doing the same thing over and over again.

It would be hard to maintain, I think, that Dawkins, Tyson (not a New Atheist) and Sam Harris are mad, much less people like Anthony Grayling, Dan Dennett, or even me (I’ll pass by Myers without comment). But let it be said that everyone mentioned is engaged in other activities, and hardly spends even 15% of their time promoting atheism. Richard is promoting his books and lecturing about evolution, as well as answering people’s questions (often about atheism) in public lectures, Tyson is popularizing astronomy and cosmology, Sam has largely given up talking about atheism in favor of his podcasts that cover a huge diversity of subject, Dan is writing popular philosophy books, and I’m back to writing books about science as well as a children’s book, and am more interested in free will than in atheism.  Kriss’s piece can be ignored largely as simple raving by someone who, for unspecified reasons, doesn’t like New Atheism.

Alexander’s piece is at least sane, but he makes the same accusation as does Kriss: the Left doesn’t like New Atheism. I’m not sure that’s true in general, since those who like it aren’t going to write articles about it, but it’s clear that many Leftists not only criticize New Atheists (see Salon, for instance), but also assert that New Atheism is a failure.  The former bit is true, but the latter is not. First the reasons for our failure:

According to Alexander, New Atheism has failed because

  • New Atheists were right, “but in a loud, boring and pointless way.”

Nope. The “Four Horsemen’s” books were all big best-sellers, and they continue to attract crowds wherever they go.  When Dawkins (or even I) give a talk, even about evolution, most of the questions are about religion, whether it comports with evolution, or simply about atheism itself. When I go online to answer questions from college classes about Why Evolution is True, about 70% of the questions are about religion and atheism, even though I don’t bring it up! Maybe Alexander was bored, but a lot of other people weren’t—and aren’t.

  • Other progressive causes, like feminism, environmentalism, and anti-Trumpism were, says Alexander, are guilty of the same thing, but New Atheism is special in that it alone has been demonized by the Left. According to Alexander, that might be because it “failed to make the case that New Atheism was socially important”, or maybe because we “just didn’t know how to stay relevant”:

“Trump resistance always has new tweets to keep its attention. Social justice always has a new sexist celebrity to be angry about. Sure, a few New Atheists tried to keep up with the latest secretly-gay televangelist, but most of them kept going about intricacies of the kalam argument that had been done to death by 1400 AD. This is just an example – maybe there are other asymmetries that are more important?”

There may be some truth here, as the New Atheists have had their say and there isn’t much more to add. I myself have argued that, over the next 15 years or so, until the next generation needs educating, we don’t really need more atheist conferences. But, as I’ll argue below, New Atheists did achieve their goals, and, knowing this, and knowing that it will take time for society to change, have moved on to other things.

  • And Alexander adds this: “Maybe the New Atheists accidentally got on board just before a nascent Grey Tribe/Blue Tribe* split and tried to get Blue Tribe credibility by sending Grey Tribe signals. At some point there was a cultural fissure between Acela Corridor thinkfluencers with humanities degrees and Silicon Valley bloggers with STEM degrees, and the former got a head start on hating the latter while the latter still thought everybody was on the same anti-Republican side.” [See bottom for the definition of these “tribes”.]

That I don’t get, as New Atheist books and talks were attended by members of both tribes.

Finally, Alexander hits on one point that, I think, does account for some pushback against New Atheism: the fact that even liberal nonbelievers have a sneaking sympathy for religion, and don’t like people going after it. Or that there are more liberal feminists than liberal atheists, so success for New Atheism was bound to be smaller than for other liberal causes:

  • “And the cynic in me wonders whether New Atheism wasn’t pointless and obvious enough. There are more church-goers in educated liberal circles than Trump supporters, climate deniers, or self-identified racists. Maybe that made the “repeat platitudes to people who already believe them” game a little less fun, caused some friction – ‘You’re talking about my dear grandmother!’”

The thing is, I don’t much care about these articles that demonize New Atheists (except insofar as they slander my friends), for in the main we won. New Atheist books (especially The God Delusion) were huge best sellers, thousands of people wrote in to people like Harris and Dawkins thanking them for helping them give up their faith. And who can argue persuasively that New Atheism didn’t play any role in the increasing secularization of America? To paraphrase Dawkins on Darwin, the New Atheists made it intellectually respectable to be a nonbeliever.

There’s little more to say now: the arguments against God, never really “new”, have been made, and will need to be reprised for the next generation, and America continues to lose its religion. In most places save the South you are no longer ostracized for saying you’re an atheist. The only problem that remains is one that Diane G. raised: “Why is a movement that has been so successful also been so hated by the very people who should adhere to its claims?” Why do so many Leftists, including nonbelievers, rail and fulminate against not just the famous New Atheists, but against New Atheism itself?

Jealousy is one reason, I think, and so is a secret softness for religion—perhaps the view that society needs belief in God to remain cohesive (the “Little People’s Argument”). In the end, articles like Kriss’s and Alexander’s may raise questions about psychology, but what they haven’t demonstrated is their main premise: that New Atheism has failed. Hatred of a movement’s proponents is no sign that it has failed. Were that true, you could argue that the Civil Rights movement failed in the American South.


*The Blue Tribe is most classically typified by liberal political beliefs, vague agnosticism, supporting gay rights, thinking guns are barbaric, eating arugula, drinking fancy bottled water, driving Priuses, reading lots of books, being highly educated, mocking American football, feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it, getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots, marrying later, constantly pointing out how much more civilized European countries are than America, and listening to “everything except country”.

(There is a partly-formed attempt to spin off a Grey Tribe typified by libertarian political beliefs, Dawkins-style atheism, vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, eating paleo, drinking Soylent, calling in rides on Uber, reading lots of blogs, calling American football “sportsball”, getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, and listening to filk – but for our current purposes this is a distraction and they can safely be considered part of the Blue Tribe most of the time)


  1. Posted October 26, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Interestingly (and telling) is such pro-religosity tripe can get published in the wink of an eye (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean?) but thoughtful atheistic writings get published once a year on World Atheism Day.

    More alarming is the daily drum beat of support for baseless claims (our culture needs a foundation of belief, etc.) that support a religious worldview.

    religion is a tool used by a small minority to oppress the rest and enrich their lives (not ours). The first cities were run by religious cliques (for religious cliques, etc.). Nothing has changed over the roughly 5500 years we have been “civilized.” If you do not belief that religion is a political tool of oppression, explain Donald Trump and The American Evangelicals.

  2. Posted October 26, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Why do so many Leftists, including nonbelievers, rail and fulminate against not just the famous New Atheists, but against New Atheism itself?

    Easy. Because New Atheism says that Islam is harmful.

    Thinking that Christianity is harmful? No problem! But Islam? Oooh, you *racist*!

    • J. Quinton
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      That was what the first comment in Alexander’s post said.

      • Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        I deliberately avoided reading any of the comments. Good point, though.

        • Posted October 26, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

          Probably wise to avoid the comments. If you follow them you’ll see the idiot who brought up ‘Elevatorgate’ thought Dawkins was the guy in the elevator; another refers to Dawkins’s ‘pedophilia comments’ and leaves it hanging there, giving the impression Dawkins was advocating pedophilia.

        • danstarfish
          Posted October 26, 2017 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

          Like the comments here, the comments at Alexander’s site are better than most places (though admittedly that is a low bar). He also has an associated subreddit on reddit where people comment on his posts. This post generated a lot more discussion than a typical one. As someone who normally reads his posts, I thought this one was probably less thought out than normal and felt just a little out of character for him.

          On the subreddit, some of the highest upvoted comments were that New Atheism was disliked because they wouldn’t get on board when progressives decided Islam should not be criticized. Another popular answer was that New Atheism were actually more successful than Alexander gave it credit for. A third popular answer was that progressives are still fairly religious even if in less traditional ways and so they don’t like new atheists challenging their beliefs. Atheism+ and elevatorgate came up, but the discussion of that went in lots of different directions that would be hard to summarize.

          The reddit discussion is here if anyone is interested.

    • Ryan
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      This was the first comment on SSC and by far the best answer.

      Atheism and Islam don’t get along, and Islam is number one through three on the list of the Left’s priorities.

      Nothing and nobody on the left is be permitted to be critical of any minority group.

      The silver lining to the whole mess is that any group that jettisons its smartest members is doomed to failure. That’s why science eventually won against religion, and its why the left is already starting to rot.

    • Craw
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      That was my thought too. I was struck that Alexander, who is usually very sharp indeed, didn’t think of it. It seems the simplest explanation of all the things that puzzled him.

      It’s all the more remarkable since he just posted this long bit about people who tell the truth in the face of a socially accepted fiction!

      Tell me the New Atheists are not pointing out the Islamic lightning!

    • darrelle
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      That seems pretty plausible to me.

    • Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Christianity has had to endure a couple of centuries of Protestantism, Enlightenment and just over a century of evolution.

      2001 marked a point when most people started congealing their ideas. By 2006, the marketplace for atheism would never be the same. Islam has barely had enough breathing space to digest any of it and liberal secular (mostly) Millenials in America, who were brought up to try not to hurt anyone’s feelings, are finding it difficult to understand how to force some sort of (in their view) relativistic moral compass on other people.

    • Posted October 27, 2017 at 4:48 am | Permalink

      I think the Islam factor is powerful, but I also think that Alexander is correct when he points out that some members of the atheist community say “You’re talking about my dear grandmother!” when New Atheism suggests god belief is ignorant.

  3. Razib
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    not a new atheist, but i think scott is off-base here. i think new atheism is not as relevant cuz religion is less relevant


    (at least in the USA)

  4. Harrison
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    If you read the SSC comments and take a drink every time someone accused New Atheists of being smug faux-intellectuals in a way that is itself brazenly smug and faux-intellectual, your liver would fail before you got halfway down the page.

    • Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      Critics accusing atheists of being smug remind me of Catholics and sex. They’ll grudgingly agree it is sometimes permissible to be right but you should do so only in private, take no pleasure from it, not discuss it in front of the children, and feel suitably ashamed of the whole grubby business.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

        So they get smug quickly, with the lights out, in the missionary position, for procreative purposes only?

        • Posted October 27, 2017 at 5:04 am | Permalink

          I think most of them only experience being right alone, over the internet, hoping their mother doesn’t walk in just as they are about to reach a conclusion.

  5. Posted October 26, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I’m reminded of Michel Foucault’s writing: “You know the difference between a real science and a pseudoscience? A real science recognizes and accepts its own history without feeling attacked.”

  6. Jake Sevins
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    I think one element in the speaking manner of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens is their air of intellectual superiority. Now I, in particular, love the fact that I can listen to people who are smarter than I am, but to others it’s deeply off-putting. (Conservatives are particularly put off by the “intellectual elite”, but liberals are sometimes turned off as well.)

    Dawkins will sometimes speak in very condescending tones to those he disagrees with, Harris has a few times said “let me put training wheels on it for you” to his interlocutor, and Hitchens would sometimes demean his “unlettered” adversaries (such as Sean Hannity). Though I would say Hitchens was perhaps the most universally embraced as a non-elite because he smoked, drank, cursed and would associate with just about anyone (regardless of class or status), often endearing him to pretty much everyone, including his opponents.

    In any case, I don’t mind someone reminding me that he’s smarter than I am, but others find it off-putting and I think it fuels these silly screeds against New Atheism.

    • Harrison
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Sounding condescending is one thing and maybe they can make the argument that, intentional or not, Dawkins and Harris come across as smug, but far less defensible are the insinuations by many critics of New Atheism that these men are unhinged. Regressives love to project their own angry, shouty attitudes on these men who rarely even raise their voices.

    • Craw
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      I remarked here once that Tyson was a *dreadful* face for New Atheism.

    • Posted October 26, 2017 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      When liberal “agnostics” attack atheism, methinks they protesteth too much, thus hinting at a secret proclivity for nonexistent forces. I agree that jealousy of the quite impressive intellect of Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, et al is definitely at work.
      When people are faced with irrefutable evidence and arguments that don’t jibe with their personal prejudices, the instinct is to accuse their intellectual superiors of all kinds of other crimes. I have never perceived a sign or small hint of condescendence on the part of Dawkins,who in the face of vile smears retains his civility and respect for others and never indulges in personal attacks (unlike his attackers). Liberals may not be theists but they are determined to be as tolerant of believers as they are of radical violent Islam. But they are faster to make radical judgments about atheists than about
      Muslim terrorists or fakes like Reza Aslan or witches like Linda Sarsour. This is moral relativism: denigrate your own culture and values, and tolerate those who knock it down.

      • Jake Sevins
        Posted October 26, 2017 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

        Calling your group “brights” is a little supercilious, I think. And Dawkins has said many condescending and demeaning things about people who don’t believe in evolution (for example). He has a famous quote along the lines (paraphrasing) “If you don’t believe in evolution then you have to be insane or stupid.”

        While that is perhaps true, it’s a terrible way to bring people to your point of view. New Atheism has always done a great job of convincing people who are already atheists that they are right, but not such a great job of bringing believers over to our side (there are certainly THOUSANDS of former believers who are now non-believers, but I believe a softer approach would have been more effective).

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 27, 2017 at 12:27 am | Permalink

          ““If you don’t believe in evolution then you have to be insane or stupid.””

          You left off the most important adjective, one that I believe he listed first–“ignorant.” While most people probably don’t find it especially agreeable to be called ignorant, Dawkins has explained that it’s possible to be ignorant through no fault of one’s own. He is both aware and extremely critical of the conservative US politicians’ attempts to prevent the the teaching of evolution in the US.

    • Wotan Nichols
      Posted October 27, 2017 at 6:24 am | Permalink

      *cough* Brights *cough*

  7. Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    ‘ Social justice always has a new sexist celebrity to be angry about.’

    And one of the latest is Sam Kriss!

  8. BJ
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I am sympathetic to one of Alexander’s explanations: New Atheism’s rejection by the left is one of Blue Tribe rejecting Grey Tribe. New Atheists are far more concerned with the truth of a claim than whether or not a claim may have the potential to hurt a special interest group, political cause, etc. People from a specific political tribe, be it red or blue, are far more concerned with whether or not a claim will hinder their ideology’s goals. People who are concerned with truth above any other concern do not make very good political allies, as they’re far less malleable and cannot be easily molded to support any and all actions and dogmatic proclamations.

    Alexander didn’t expand on the grey tribe/blue tribe idea in the manner above, but some people in the comments did, and I’m inclined to agree with this assessment.

    • Craw
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      Follow his link about the grey tribe to a brilliant essay. I linked it here once.

      Otherwise, tag!

      • BJ
        Posted October 26, 2017 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        As soon as you mentioned there was a link, I guessed the post.

  9. ploubere
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    How tedious. Atheism is not new, and it’s not a tribe or political movement. It’s not even an idea, it’s simply not accepting some bad ideas.

  10. Paddy
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, I don’t mean to derail, and I know this is probably more relevant to a recent but different post, but….

    “atheistsplaining”. When did patronizing and condescending become ____splaining? From Mansplaining to Whitesplaining and now atheistsplaining.

    I just can’t

    On topic, the argument against so called “New” atheists may have been of interest 10 years ago. May as well complain about acid washed jeans and mullets. Dang “New” Coke.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      Just wait for athiestsplaininggate to come around (and swallow its own tail).

    • Taz
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      When did patronizing and condescending become ____splaining?

      It seems to have devolved from patronizing and condescending to “disagreeing while being”.

  11. Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    The reason the Left turned against New Atheism begins with an ‘I’ and ends with a ‘slam’.

    New Atheists were fine when they stuck to mocking creationists in the US or denouncing Catholic kiddie fiddlers but they became an inconvenience when they pointed out the clear and unambiguous link between terrorists killing people in the name of religion and that actual religion.

    • Harrison
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Ironically the effect of this has been for the left to backtrack on much of its Catholic-bashing. Yeah yeah there’s still all that kiddie diddling, but isn’t the new pope so progressive and kewl?

    • BJ
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      But isn’t that really an extension of the blue tribe/grey tribe issue, and the fact that any political group will find a group more devoted to truth than ideology inflexible and, therefore, not useful at best (and oppositional at worst)?

      Many atheists (or people with highly systematized thinking in general) won’t accept many of the left’s arguments for Islam for the same reason they won’t accept sham statistics or arguments from ideology.

  12. Historian
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    “There may be some truth here, as the New Atheists have had their say and there isn’t much more to add. I myself have argued that, over the next 15 years or so, until the next generation needs educating, we don’t really need more atheist conferences.”

    One reason that political conservatives have been so successful in the United States is that they have been relentless in expressing their message, even though they say nothing new. They do not rest on their laurels and take a break from proselytizing because they are momentarily successful. From a strategic point of view political liberals and atheists need to follow suit. The enemies of atheism will not pause in their attacks. People already inclined toward atheism need to be reinforced. Younger people need to be convinced through reason and rational argument that the religious dogmas they are exposed to are based on delusion. Both atheists and the religious have nothing new to say, but, that is irrelevant. The issue is which side is the more persuasive. The religious repeat the same message over and over again. Atheists must do the same. In the war of ideas between atheism and religion, there can be no truce or armistice. Atheists must realize that the war is not over and will go on for at least many decades. The trend towards non-belief in America does not mean it will continue. Complacency will result in the undoing of decades of work.

    • Nell Whiteside
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Hear, hear!

      May all the New Atheists, Old Atheists and every other sort of Atheist continue with their good work. May the people learn to THINK.

      • DiscoveredJoys
        Posted October 26, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        From my comments on slatestarcodex:

        And despite a few unsuccessful attempts to form a ‘tribe’ the ‘New Atheists’ don’t exist as a tribe, don’t act as a tribe, so can hardly be held up as a ‘movement’.

        Atheists have only disbelief and New Atheists merely articulate that pint of view. I’m afraid that without flash mobs, hashtags, or teams of aggressive counter-protesters the ‘atheist movement’ has no social recognition. Which is probably a good thing and encourages more and more people to identify as ‘nones’ without being swayed by mob behaviour.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      I agree. We have to keep talking about the reasons that atheism is the truth. There are new people realizing it all the time and they need support and information. We can’t just ignore the subject and come back to it.

      The problem is, once you become an atheist and learn all the arguments there isn’t a whole lot of new stuff to engage with. I think that’s why the original New Atheist leaders have basically moved on. Atheism isn’t like theology where they’re always making up new stuff.

      And atheism isn’t a field of study in its own (though atheists can be). The New Atheists are also professionals in other fields – and in those fields there are new areas of interest to engage the mind.

      But atheism is something that is just there. For those who’ve just seen the light it’s really exciting to have your mind freed, but it eventually becomes part of the background. Once you’ve worked it out you don’t really need to keep re-examining it ad infinitum. It’s just there.

      • Historian
        Posted October 26, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        You make a good point. In contrast to the clergy, there are few if any professional atheists. Atheists only spend part of their time, and usually a small part, engaged in talking about their non-belief. This gives the religious a big advantage since all the clergy does is speak about their faith. Of course, there is also an army of non-clergy who attack atheists. One can make the argument that atheists and/or non-believers have been remarkably successful considering the odds stacked against them. This momentum must be continued to thwart efforts by the radical religious right to establish a theocracy in the United States and elsewhere. If the old New Atheists want to move on to other things, they must be replaced by newer New Atheists, who will continue the efforts of their predecessors. These efforts must include writing articles and books, giving talks, refuting religious claims whenever they are made, and, most importantly, engage in political efforts to keep church and state separate. It would be a shame if the trend towards non-belief were reversed because atheists are getting tired. Rest assured, the religious do not get tired.

      • darrelle
        Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        I agree as well. Also with your additional points.

      • Blue
        Posted October 26, 2017 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

        In re “once you become an atheist and learn all the arguments there isn’t a whole lot of new stuff to engage with,” this same sentence substituting for “an atheist” the two words “a feminist” then, is true as well.


        • Heather Hastie
          Posted October 26, 2017 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

          Yes, It’s the same for a lot of things that are simply logical positions to take. There is no valid reasons, for example, to treat gay people less well than anyone else either.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 27, 2017 at 12:44 am | Permalink

      I couldn’t agree more. One only has to observe the constant outreach and media presence, the attempts to influence politics, the continued battles over ground the nontheists mistakenly think they’ve won (remember all those who though Dover would be the nail in the creationist’s coffin?), the cradle to grave indoctrination–all that organized religion trumpets never-endingly–to realize how eternal this battle has always been and will be.

      It would be a huge mistake to consider any victories against these zealots permanent.

      • Posted October 27, 2017 at 4:46 am | Permalink

        Quite right. We still have an established church in Britain, and deference to religion is shown daily on the BBC in the form of Thought for the Day on Radio 4; Bishops are still in the House of Lords, and so on. Philosophy of Religion, and apologism, has seen a resurgence in the last decade or two, perhaps in response to New Atheism.

  13. Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    “the kalam argument that had been done to death by 1400 AD”

    This is B.S. The “Kalam Argument” is brought up by believers in nearly every online discussion over the non-existence of god(s) I’ve ever seen.

    This guy, like many other, as you have pointed out Jerry, needs to get out more.

    • Harrison
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      S.A.’s point isn’t that it’s not relevant but that it’s played-out. He’s hypothesizing that fresh novelties win more support than retreading old ground, and that might have a bit of truth to it.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted October 26, 2017 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        But it’s not atheists who bring it up. They respond to theists. It’s the basis of most apologetics of any religion with a creation myth, and many think it’s their best argument. You can’t expect atheists to just ignore it because some git thinks we’re being snippy for pointing out the hole in the argument.

        • Harrison
          Posted October 26, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

          I’m not saying it’s fair, nor do I think Scott Alexander is. He seems more sympathetic to the New Atheist position than most if you read his article in full.

          Scott’s stating the Is position, not the Ought one.

        • BJ
          Posted October 26, 2017 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

          But people do get tired of hearing the same arguments over and over, no matter who starts them.

          • Posted October 27, 2017 at 6:56 am | Permalink

            Well, how many ways are there to say: “Your imaginary friend? He doesn’t exist.”

  14. Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Critics who complain that the New Atheists have become boring by persisting even when the battle has been won – against Christianity at least – are the kind of people who stop taking antibiotics as soon as the symptoms have ceased.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      Worse. They are the kind of people who stop taking antibiotics at the first hint that the symptoms are reducing.

    • BJ
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      Scott isn’t saying it’s right that people tire of hearing the same things over and over, he’s just pointing out something that is true. If someone is advising a political campaign, they shouldn’t be telling you what’s fair for the public to think, but what the public actually thinks.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 27, 2017 at 12:58 am | Permalink

        I see only (smug) opinion, not data, in his post.

        • BJ
          Posted October 27, 2017 at 8:24 am | Permalink

          When I said he’s pointing out something that is true, I meant the fact that New Atheists don’t seem to be reaching anyone new, and are reviled by much of the left (especially in media). He makes it very clear he is giving his opinion regarding reasons for New Atheists’ issues on the left.

          I also don’t understand why anyone would find him smug. That’s a very strange claim to me.

      • Posted October 27, 2017 at 5:09 am | Permalink

        But if theists keep coming up with the same arguments how are you supposed to respond? You can’t keep coming up with novel responses to the same bullshit.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 27, 2017 at 12:54 am | Permalink

      Perfect analogy!

  15. busterggi
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps mush of the Left can’t handle the skepticism that usually accompanies the New Atheism. Even w/o a god many folks seem to need spirituality and other woo.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 27, 2017 at 1:01 am | Permalink

      Probably a typo, but I wonder how tough it’d be to turn “mush of the left” into a viral meme…?

  16. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    From what very little I know of the guy, he is very young. Perhaps when he grows up he will know something. He is a psychiatrist so maybe he needs some patients to get his mind off of us mean old atheists?

    • BJ
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      You should learn more about Scott Alexander. Scott tends to theorize about reasons for phenomena. He’s suggesting reasons atheists may be losing ground and, by extension, suggesting ways to ameliorate the situation. What, exactly, is it that Scott doesn’t know (and that you do)?

      It seems like a lot of people here are reading Scott’s as if he believes that the possible reasons people don’t like or listen to atheists as much as they used to or should are valid. Scott is just working through various possible reasons for the current climate, not endorsing them as just.

      • Craw
        Posted October 26, 2017 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

        Plus one. Er, tag.

        Some people seem incapable, really just incapable, of imagining that anyone could give weight to an argument against their own belief. Richard Hofstaeder called it the 100% mind.

      • Posted October 27, 2017 at 5:17 am | Permalink

        He’s an intelligent guy but he wildly extrapolates from incomplete data. For instance he’ll do a post on autism and visual illusions but his data comes entirely from surveys of his own readers. I’m guessing the IQ of his readership is pretty high. The average IQ of autistics is pretty low. People like myself – on the spectrum but easily capable of reading Scott’s blog – are a small minority and you can’t generalise from our voluntary self-reports. He’s smart enough to run stats on the numbers but not smart enough to design an experiment that actually means something.

        • BJ
          Posted October 27, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

          I agree with your first two sentences, but he regularly admits when he’s just giving his opinion, always tells his reader what data he’s using, and often marks posts with a note reading “Epistemic Status: [place adjective conveying uncertainty or outright lack of confidence here]”

  17. Posted October 26, 2017 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    James Bloodworth, the normally reliable journalist, informed me the other day that the bloody awful writer Sam Kriss is a Stalinist. I hadn’t spotted that, having spent…ooh, 12 minutes of my life tut-tutting through the look-at-me daftness of his writing style.

    I’m still amazed that Stalinists exist post-1989. It really is like worshipping Zeus.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      Hey, woah! Don’t go knocking Zeus! You want a thunderbolt coming at you? But seriously, I bet there are a lot of Stalinists out there. Once out of Pandora’s box, they don’t go back in.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      Stalin is very popular in Russia these days. They see him as a symbol of a powerful Russia. According to one journalist people are saying things like, “he purged my family, but I admire him.”

      The Russians have recently built a statue in Crimea commemorating the Yalta conference based on the famous pic. Churchill and Roosevelt are gazing admiringly at Stalin.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 26, 2017 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

        Hell, we have a Joseph Stalin fan among the semi-regular commenters here, although I did once get him to concede that Uncle Joe may have gone a smidge over the line with the terror-famine murder of 10 million Ukrainians during the Holodomor genocide.

        • BJ
          Posted October 26, 2017 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

          Holy crap, he actually used the words “a step too far.” Yikes!

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted October 26, 2017 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

          Reading that thread blew me away! I’ve had issues with him, but saying, “purging the party was a good idea” and “Moving various ethnic groups across the country made a lot of sense” etc is horrific and shocking!

          • Craw
            Posted October 26, 2017 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

            Unfortunately I don’t think it’s a Poe either.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted October 26, 2017 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

              No. He comments regularly and sometimes even makes sense.

          • Posted October 27, 2017 at 7:08 am | Permalink

            It was Scott Adams making those comments. Just listen to his talk with Sam Harris.

            If you get to the top, then you are “Great” and “Right” (and probably even “Righteous”).

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 27, 2017 at 1:18 am | Permalink

          Your part of that interchange was brilliant. And thanks for pointing it out again; we do need to remember just what sort of, er, illiberal we’re more and more frequently dealing on this site…

          • Diane G.
            Posted October 28, 2017 at 4:40 am | Permalink

            “…dealing with…”

        • darrelle
          Posted October 27, 2017 at 7:35 am | Permalink

          Holy shit. (spoken with reverence) I missed that post somehow.

    • Richard Sanderson
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Quite a number of the old atheist movement, now deemed “regressive left”, are rather fond of varieties of Communism, Stalinism, Marxism, etc.

      Quite bunch of them hang around regressive lunatics like Steve Shives, Dan Arel, Kristi Winters, Peter Ferguson, with their display of the hammer and sickle, and “anarchist” labels. The reason these regressives hate “new atheists” is for the same reason Corbynites hate “Blairites”. The moderate, centrist, sensible wing of atheism, is actually “extremist” in their view, or like “Nazis”, in the view of antisemitic filth like Dan Arel.

      And I haven’t even got onto the stream of loons that hang around ** *******, who include liars such as Johnny “Israel Lobby” Spooner, Sacha Saeen, “Tom Bloke”, Peter Moloney, Alex Katz, etc. who will retweet any BS involving “new atheists”.

  18. Posted October 26, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    I get some grim satisfaction from imagining Myers spluttering response to finally being listed among the Horsemen now he has spent the last few years denouncing them as rapey racists.

    It’s interesting that even Kriss couldn’t trump up grounds on which to criticise Mick Nugent.

    • Richard Sanderson
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      It is ironic for PZ Myers to label others as “rapey”.

      If you know what I mean.

      • mrclaw69
        Posted October 27, 2017 at 2:13 am | Permalink

        Not being obtuse, but I don’t get it. In what way is it ironic for Myers to “label others as “rapey””. Not a Myers fan BTW – I consider him basically a troll.

        • Posted October 27, 2017 at 5:24 am | Permalink

          I think Richard is referring either to Myers’s own blog post on how he was once accused or to the post in which one of his commentators (who still posts there) admitted to sexually assaulting children but that he was over it now and other commentators responded by saying how brave ha was for speaking up now and that they would be willing to trust him with their kids now that he’d seen the error of his ways.

          To be honest the guy sounds like a fantasist and the drip drip nature of his confession, which got worse the more readers encouraged him, sounded very much like the confabulations of those supposedly subjected to satanic abuse a few years back.

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted October 27, 2017 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      He’s having an masturbatory ego orgasm by being included in such company.

  19. DrBrydon
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I think that, to some extent, New Atheism has not gotten much support on the Left, because in the West, religion has ceased to be the partner of the state. Atheism was a true radical cause in 1641 and 1789. On the other hand, atheism also impicitly attacks New Ageism, and I think that people on the Left are just as uncomfortable without a spiritual safety net as religious people are. They may not want a Pope, but the fairies at the end of the garden are adorable.

    • Historian
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      As hard as it is to believe, Trump is the dream come true candidate of the religious right. It is now making an all-out effort to ban abortion and possibly even birth control. Those on the Left who bash atheists, may realize soon that they need them as allies. Under Trump, religion as a partner of the state has probably never been closer since the nation’s founding. It is strange indeed that as the nation has been becoming more secular, the religious have never had more power in national affairs.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      “people on the Left are just as uncomfortable without a spiritual safety net as religious people are.”

      Bingo! Yes, people need meaning (or at least the illusion of meaning) in their lives. It’s a human instinct. Whether they find it in religion or in a Cause.

      The fact is, that most peoples’ lives are pretty meaningless, except to them or their immediate families. But that’s a very uncomfortable thing to contemplate.

      “They may not want a Pope, but the fairies at the end of the garden are adorable.”

      Quite true. I always think a lot was lost when society did away with their comfortable household gods in favour of the psycopathic megalomaniac Big-Brother-is-watching-You sky daddy.


  20. Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    If “there is no god” is such an obvious banality, why are theists such an overwhelming majority?

    • busterggi
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Because ignorance is easy, even willful ignorance is easier than learning something one doesn’t wan to learn.

      • Posted October 26, 2017 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        That’s true, although my point was that Kriss’ objection to atheists who repeat arguments for an “obvious banality” could only have been made by someone who hasn’t really ever had to contend with the theistic juggernaut.

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 27, 2017 at 1:32 am | Permalink

          And your point is well taken. I thought the Kriss article, and Scott’s as well, were insufferably smug and condescending.

  21. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    1) Lots of movements have been pronounced dead that were simply hibernating!!

    2) The media often picks up on the most dramatic of Richard Dawkins’ soundbites in a way that gives a slanted impression of him.

    3) To say that many segments of our society use belief in God to remain cohesive doesn’t mean that such is necessary for such cohesion, simply that belief in God has in fact done so

    4) I am surprised Mr. Alexander didn’t get into the NA’s lack of knowledge of history of religion. This is IMO partly true, but often the evangelical’s knowledge of the history of religion is far far worse!!

    5) I had to look of “fug” in “fug of rhetoric”. It turns out to be a mainly Brit slang for stale or suffocating air. (I thought it was a word Norman Mailer made up for “The Naked and the Dead” since he wasn’t allowed to say ‘phuque’). Hitchens was never stale or suffocating.

    • Posted October 27, 2017 at 5:27 am | Permalink

      1) Lots of movements have been pronounced dead that were simply hibernating!!

      Quite. You’d think that a Left obsessing with the supposed rise of the Fourth Reich might recognise this.

  22. darrelle
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    The saddest thing about all this, to me, is that the term Gnu Atheism didn’t stick.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

      What, exactly, did ‘Gnu’ stand for?

      (Aside from Gnu’s Not Unix, which was a completely separate thing and of which I am a fervent practising adherent 😉


        • darrelle
          Posted October 26, 2017 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

          Don’t know how that pin image ended up at the end of that link, but just click on that pin to go to the intended image.

          • darrelle
            Posted October 27, 2017 at 7:44 am | Permalink

            Now that I’m able to see it on something other than my phone I see what is actually happening. There are two images at the link. The intended image has Gnus in it.

      • Posted October 27, 2017 at 8:07 am | Permalink

        It was intended to poke fun at the term “New Atheism”, because most often, when people used it, they were trying to delegitimize what prominent atheists were saying by implying they just wanted to garner fame by being leaders of a movement.

  23. Ash
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Modern progressives labeling of all things Islamophobic, (homophobic, racist, etc) is a symptom of the issue, but what’s really going on is that 3rd/4th wave feminism and identity politics are anti-science and in are a modern day religion based on a shaming culture that runs antithetical to skepticism and atheism.

    Listen and Believe as well as Intersectionality: Are these catechisms feminist, catholic, or atheist?

    Penis: Man’s original sin.

    Patriarchy: A devil.

    Liberalism, Feminism, Modern Politics gets by, requires religious thinking and a suppression of skeptical thinking.

    The naming of Islamophobia is a symptom, not a cause.

    Gedanken Experiment:

    Tomorrow in Washington DC, Scientists announce that they can take all preemies (or any other healthy fetus) from 6 weeks on and deliver healthy normal babies. Economists at the press conference say this is terrific news since every healthy individual in a society contributes greatly to the economy.

    At the same time in Rome, the Pope announces that to curb hunger and over population the Catholic Church has changed its view on abortion for Catholics. In fact, abortion is not no longer a bad, abortion is a good since it relieves suffering.

    How sensitive a chronometer is needed to measure the interval it takes for Amanda Marcotte to renounce atheism and eat the wafer?

  24. Ash
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Shorter me:

    New Atheism succeeded because modern politics at the time benefited from scientific, atheist-like thinking.

    New Atheism has now failed because modern politics now benefits from religious-like thinking.

    • Posted October 26, 2017 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      I’d say it’s because the Left benefited from skepticism a while ago that atheism is successful (politically, at least). Now it’s being demonized by both sides because the Right needs their fundamentalist religion, and the Left needs their identity politics, AND their fundamentalist religion.

  25. James Walker
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    As a colleague in my academic field once said, after people had been questioning why you have to keep repeating findings to the public that the field accepts as truisms, Crest toothpaste doesn’t say, “We told you back in 1954 that Crest fights cavities!”, they keep advertising.

    Atheists who live in academic/journalistic/internet bubbles may not need to hear the message, but there are plenty of people who are trapped in or coming out of religious upbringings or social situations who do. Given the generally negative view in which much of society still views atheists, for these latter people, seeing people being open with their non-belief is heartening.

    It’s like the gay white men living in urban bubbles who say we don’t need to talk about gay rights anymore …

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted October 26, 2017 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      I totally agree. The case for atheism needs to be repeated early and often to stay relevant. It is not yet politically acceptable in the U.S., for example, and so there is more that needs to be done.

      I think there is a problem with continuing to call out-of-the-closet atheism ‘New Atheism’, since giving atheism a voice is not ‘new’ any more. Lets’ just call it…

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 27, 2017 at 1:38 am | Permalink

        Strongly agree with both your points.

  26. yazikus
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Re: Grey Tribe/Blue Tribe
    How do we know which one we fall into? And when did certain vegetables become property of certain tribes? What if we like soccer and sportsball? What if we like our coffee black, and our politics lefty-lefterson?

    • Lagg
      Posted October 27, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      You can guess by taking a look at the descriptions above. It’s not meant to be an exact science, but just like you can predict whether someone votes Democrat or Republican based on their ironic mustache and thick framed glasses, you can guess what tribe they’re in once they match a few descriptors.

  27. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    That Kriss guy – what a —-ing moron! (That was my immediate reaction. On sober reflection, I see no reason to change that view. I could restate it in more ‘parliamentary’ terms, but that would just amount to saying the exact same thing in a more elaborate way).

    There is no similarity between his rabid in-yer-face ravings and Alexander’s piece.

    Re Alexander’s point, that much of the Left doesn’t like New Atheism – I think that’s almost inevitable. Much of the modern ‘left’ seems to be fond of one sort of fuzzy feelgood or another – gaia, consensus, feelings, druids, ancient mysteries, various sorts of woo – (and wishy-washy Church of England style religion is a similar sort of thing) – and so, pointing out the errors in those things seems unduly harsh and impolite to them.


    • phil
      Posted October 27, 2017 at 1:25 am | Permalink

      The “wishy-washy Church of England” in Sydney donated one million dollars to the “No” side in the same sex marriage debate in Oz. Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies said, “I don’t think the views expressed have been telling anyone what to believe. I won’t tell you that either, OK? That’s not my job.”

      Sneaky and dishonest might be accurate descriptors for the “wishy-washy Church of England”. Maybe they are just blind to their own hypocrisy.

  28. Posted October 26, 2017 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I start with a lame hedge and end with an unbeaten bush. It’s impossible to explain the reasons adequately in a comment.

    New Atheism was never popular with the columnists who jumped on any rationalization as long they could ignore the substance. One time it’s stridency, another time it’s tweets, now it’s something else. These are battles over hegemony of interpretation.

    The main reason why New Atheism is in decline is Intersectionality*, its secular successor in the American blue tribe zeitgeist. Islam is only one facet of many (there are several serious disagreements, many of them substantial, between Intersectional US atheism and New Atheism/atheism elsewhere)

    But Intersectionality is a stealth movement nobody really talks about, where conversion is cult-like, silent or sudden, and which typically sneaks around in disguise. Matt Dillahunty promoted it as generic humanism. Aron Ra, PZ Myers et al advanced it as generic feminism, and virtually the whole American lot touts it as generic “social justice”. In reality, it’s Critical Race Theory, Intersectional Feminism (quasi Critical Gender Theory) and Intersectional Social Justice. It was also Atheism Plus Intersectionality.

    The typical US conference activism middle-management is either Intersectional, or indirectly in support as believers-in-belief. Most of the time they pretend it wasn’t there, as if Safe Spaces, Microagression, Lived Experience, Cultural Appropriation, and so on were perfectly normal ideas that where always around.

    The “movement” once was a “big tent”. The arrival of Intersectionality changed that. As always when it meets critics, it caused a massive inflammation and then scar tissue. This jaded and burnt out a lot of people.

    In addition, the “movement“ lost support from an international audience because Intersectionality is mostly, but not exclusively, an American phenomenon. Most wanted atheism—skepticism to be roughly grounded in sensible philosophy and science, not Critical Race Theory. Most people don‘t want to discuss rape culture and gender expression every day for years. It‘s always a topic, but seemingly never enough for Intersectionalists.

    The only positive that could be said is that American journalists are equally clueless or dishonest. Just like the atheists, one half promotes a bizarre version of Critical Race/Gender Theory, in a typically confrontative way that places all emphasis on the accused party (which is why Intersectionality is the unseen crowd around the stage where someone is quartered, drawn or burnt). The other half of journalists report about such matters with their nose glued to the pavement, utterly incapable to connect a few dots. There were half a dozen -gates from Shirt to Games to Elevators, a campus situation fills the pages; yet journalists are still not able to see the massive, yet strangely unseen Intersectionality* even when it stares them right in the face and tries to get them fired, should they utter the wrong words.

    Take MythCon. Here an intersectional inquisitor enters the stage, sets the topic, even (remarkably) brings up intersectionality, and yet, as always, the focus is almost entirely on the accused.

    Americans, Is there really nothing to argue about a postmodernist, anti-enlightenment, psychoanalytical ideology that places emphasis on “storytelling”?

    I leave it at that, and only note that it is absolutely astonishing that people who claim to debate and discuss ideas, or who want to persuade others manage to beat around this bush for years.

    * Intersectionality here means a twisted tumblr version of Critical Race Theory.

    • Ash
      Posted October 27, 2017 at 12:08 am | Permalink

      > Intersectionality here means a twisted tumblr version of Critical Race Theory.

      I think you’re not giving it or its inventor enough credit.

      wiki for Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw

      > Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (born 1959) is an American civil rights advocate and a leading scholar of the field known as critical race theory. She is a full professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, where she specializes in race and gender issues.[1] She is known for the introduction and development of intersectional theory, the study of how overlapping or intersecting social identities, particularly minority identities, relate to systems and structures of oppression, domination, or discrimination.

      She’s active on twitter, and though I don’t follow her, I’ve never ever heard any statement from Crenshaw that Tumblr/twitter/Salon intersectionality and all its overreaches and blunders isn’t what she had in mind.

      • Jim Smith
        Posted October 27, 2017 at 1:56 am | Permalink

        Religious nuts call it apologetics.

      • Posted October 27, 2017 at 3:19 am | Permalink

        Neither have I, but I also haven’t covered all corners and bases. Kimberlé Crenshaw is credited with it, and Intersectionalists understand it as some kind “minorities unite against our common oppressor (the ‘white male’)”. The internet version is hardly more complicated than that. Or to quote Vox, “Intersectionality: a big, controversial word with a simple, tough-to-argue-with meaning”. The devil is in the detail, and screamingly ironic. Wikipedia is also at least misleading.

        Original intersectionality is in principle a similar critique as that levelled against Regressives. Crenshaw argued in a legal (esp.) context, but also pointed out how activism was set up such that women of colour fall between some cracks, especially regarding black-on-black domestic violence.

        The tumblr version of Intersectionality puts a Sharia-loving Regressive to the top, and for reasons Crenshaw argued against in her original.

    • Jonathan Dore
      Posted October 27, 2017 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      Superb summary Aneris, thank you.

  29. Jim Smith
    Posted October 26, 2017 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    The conflict is between the libertarian left and the authoritarian left. Liberals vs neo-Marxists.

    • Jonathan Dore
      Posted October 27, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      Not sure many liberals would appreciate being called a libertarian. I certainly don’t.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 27, 2017 at 11:25 pm | Permalink


        I can’t say I identify with either of those categories.

  30. Diane G.
    Posted October 27, 2017 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    To whomever Jerry actually quoted* (and we know he gets so much email, it’s hard to keep all the senders straight), I apologize for receiving the undeserved attribution.

    *”Why is a movement that has been so successful…,” etc.

  31. barael
    Posted October 27, 2017 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    I didn’t read Scott Alexander’s piece as agreeing very much with the alleged “failure” of New Atheism. It mostly talks about how New Atheism has gotten so extraordinarily maligned rather than how it failed. From the ending paragraph:

    >”I don’t know. The whole problem is so strange. For a brief second, modern culture looked at New Atheism, saw itself, and said “Huh, this is really stupid and annoying”. Then it cast New Atheism into the outer darkness while totally failing to generalize that experience to anything else.”

    I guess in a sense that is a failure but it also implies that New Atheism has been held to a double standard of sorts.

    • Posted October 27, 2017 at 5:36 am | Permalink

      I agree. Alexander’s article appears to be a dispassionate analysis of the failure of “New Atheism” but is also a lament about how other ideologies have escaped being held to the same standard. Rather than being a list of failures I read it as a list of possible reasons for failure, but not necessarily ones that he agrees with. Your quote from his final paragraph misses out the concluding sentences:

      “Why would it do that? Could it happen again? Please can it happen again? Pretty please?”

  32. Posted October 28, 2017 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    Regressive Leftists were bound to hate New Atheists simply because the New Atheists deal with facts, no matter where it may lead to. On the other hand, for the Left, people must be manipulated to serve their agenda and interests. So if religion can be used to advance their agenda, then they will take a liking to that religion, and defend it from the New Atheists. So Islam, the most reactionary and primitive ideology of significant following today on earth, cannot be criticized in the counter-enlightenment opinion. Thus New Atheists who interfere with their victimhood seeking and obfuscation project to use Muslims as cannon fodder, are in their black book.

    The two articles mentioned at the start are such insincere reactionary regressive calamities that it reminds me of some of the stuff put out by ultra-right fascists. One of them even called ‘atheism’ a religion – the charge of ultra-right religious fanatics.

  33. Posted October 28, 2017 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    “Why do so many Leftists, including nonbelievers, rail and fulminate against not just the famous New Atheists, but against New Atheism itself?”

    ‘Jealousy’ is certainly not the explanation.

    The issue is political foremostly, and then also humanistically/spiritually.

    Politically Islam has been successfully imbued with anti-west values and it has always been anti-democracy and anti-liberal. These are attributes that the Left needs in society and among followers to arrive at power. New Atheists typically either do not share these values or are too level-headed to go for ideologies. New Atheism have had the effect to combat religious ideology, mostly in Islam, and the regressive Left considers this part of the 1st world hegemony project.

    Humanistically, there has been a historic intellectual schism between the humanities folks (1st culture) and the science-based folks (2nd or 3rd culture). This schism is getting deeper as we continue with technological progress, and as the lies, deceptions and fake narratives of the humanities world are revealed and exposed one by one. The Left is no more progressive on this matter of human intellectual identity and ethos than the most reactionary of religionists. This causes them to go in bed with the religious types, against the New Atheist, and against scientific values in general.

  34. Jackson
    Posted October 28, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Thank you for writing the book Why Evolution is True.

  35. Jason Nyberg
    Posted October 28, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Notably absent in the “debate:” GOD. And it’s the ATHEISTS who are having trouble getting their message across?

    Curious how self-proclaimed “authorities” have attained their qualifications to pontificate on GOD’s behalf…

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