Michael Shermer’s take on the question “Is New Atheism dead?”

The haters, shade-throwers, and draggers continue to publish articles saying that New Atheism is dead because the “self-appointed leaders” are all old white males who are alt-right-ish and bigoted, and because the movement itself, having failed to wed itself with social justice and embraced misogyny and conservatism instead, has driven away its adherents.

As I said yesterday, I think these accusations are arrant nonsense. I asked three of the surviving Horsepersons, Sam Harris, Dan Dennett, and Richard Dawkins, as well as New Atheist Steve Pinker, to weigh in on the question “Is New Atheism dead?”, and I posted their answers yesterday. (All said “no”, but some say it’s simply moved on or been absorbed into mainstream discourse.)

As part of my non-assiduous but continuing effort to document atheists’ answer to the question above, I also asked Michael Shermer, who sent the answer below. He’s quite keen to tout the contributions of Vic Stenger, who he thinks should have been included in the Gang of Four. Michael:

There are actually a lot of “new atheists” out there besides the “four horseman,” not the least of whom is you! To the list I would also add the late Victor Stenger, not just because his book God: The Failed Hypothesis also made it on the New York Times bestseller list in 2007 around the same time as the others, but because he brought physics into the question alongside philosophy (Dennett), biology (Dawkins), neuroscience (Harris), and journalism (Hitchens). It was always a mystery to me (and to Vic too, as he revealed to me) that he wasn’t considered one of the club, although I suppose for journalistic style reasons the “five horsemen” didn’t have the right ring to it.

A lot of us in the organized skeptical movement had been writing on God and religion for many years before the so-called “new” atheists, such as the philosopher Paul Kurtz (see especially his magnum opus The Transcendental Temptation), who was one of the founders of the modern skeptical and humanist movements. And, most notably, George Smith’s 1974 classic Atheism: The Case Against God is still in print (by Kurtz’ publishing company Prometheus Books).

I have been defending atheism and religious skepticism since we founded Skeptic in 1992, both through the magazine and in my books, and have continued the tradition throughout my nearly 18 years as a Scientific American columnist, for example on the rise of atheism.

. . . and the death of God. 

One problematic aspect of the “atheist” label is that believers and “faitheists” (as you so effectively call atheists who believe in belief—for others, of course), is that we allow others to define us by what we don’t believe. That will never suffice. We must define ourselves by what we do believe: science, philosophy, reason, logic, empiricism and all the tools of the scientific method, along with civil rights, civil liberties, women’s rights, gay rights, animal rights, and moral progress as a result of these components of our worldview, which might better be described as humanism or one of its variants: secular humanism, Enlightenment humanism, or as I’m now suggesting, Scientific Humanism, the subject of my final Scientific American column.

Defining ourselves by what we do believe prevents believers and faitheists from calling us “atheists” and then attacking whatever that word means to them, instead of what it means to us (namely, a lack of belief in a deity, full stop).

40 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 16, 2019 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    interesting points

  2. Anonymous
    Posted February 16, 2019 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    As I am sure all of the writers mentioned would agree, the very term “atheist”, whether new or old, should be superfluous by now. We don’t call skeptics about the existence of flying dragons “aflyingdragonists”. It does not require a philosophical seminar to reject an offer of shares in the Brooklyn bridge.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 16, 2019 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I would certainly agree however, those civil rights and liberties must be stated to mean a freedom from religion as well. Religion apologist for everything from violence to unequal treatment of humans must be called out and criticized where ever it exist. Remember, the faithful seldom if ever calls out another religion for doing despicable things but atheist can and do.

    • Posted February 16, 2019 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      “the faithful seldom if ever calls out another religion for doing despicable things but atheist can and do.”
      I get the feeling in part, they don’t do so (call out despicable things) for it only confirms that they have the right god and faith. It reinforces their faith as the correct ‘choice’ bringing on the warm n’ smugness of conceited joy that not all faiths are equal. Snigger but don’t criticise, afterall faith in god will prevail.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 16, 2019 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

        I get the idea sometimes it is a code between the religious. Of course it is very prominent with our authoritarian left concerning Palestinians but also in general with all of them. It is so easy to start another sect when you don’t get along, that becomes their release every time an argument pops up. So many varieties of Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, you name it. They don’t get into wars anymore, just separate.

        • Posted February 16, 2019 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

          True; but they are all too happy to make common accord with other variants, sects or even entire religions, rather than with secularists or with (clutches pearls) atheists. We hear all sorts of assertions that such-and-such an issue must be dealt with by ‘people of all faiths and none’, but when it comes to possible options, somehow the ‘nones’ find themselves left out of consideration.

  4. rom
    Posted February 16, 2019 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I think one of the things atheism misses is a sense of the face to face community. I went to the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Imagine conferences … they were excellent. My wife enjoyed them even though she is not into religion bashing. And frankly there was not a lot of religion bashing there … On the whole the conference was positively framed. Yet with the low attendance rates the conference series was not sustainable. The conference was mainly hosted in BC the most atheistic province of Canada? In ’17 the conference was moved to the Toronto area, this conference did not break even also.

    Anyway it was Jerry’s fault I ever knew about nevermind attended. Got to meet Jerry at two of the conferences albeit briefly.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted February 16, 2019 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    When it comes to Michael Shermer, I would recommend reading everything he’s written{(as your lifestyle/schedule allows)a quick check on his books&articles available tells me I’ve only read about 60%} .I also appreciate his ability to eloquently debate and calmly explain the scientific scepticism necessary to quash some of the mythical woo being splashed about these days. His hat tips to Victor Stenger and others illustrate how there are plenty of brilliant skeptics to read, yet sadly (isn’t this the 21st century?) too many people still don’t understand. Shermer (in “The Believing Brain” IIRC) helped me to be more effective in conversing with True Believers®. If Robert Ingersoll were around today, I bet he’d enjoy seeing the rapport (plus cross-checking) folks like Dr. Coyne, Dr. Shermer and their colleagues share.

  6. Matt
    Posted February 16, 2019 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I read Atheism: The Case Against God by George Smith almost 30 years ago and it was eye-opening. It felt thrilling to see my doubts addressed so honestly and thoroughly. Smith covers all the usual arguments I’d read and even some I hadn’t. This was the first book I’d read that openly attacked the god question; prior to this I had read pro-Christianity books (e.g., by Josh McDowell) looking for a satisfying justification for Christianity but they just didn’t ring true because they relied too much on faith. I didn’t want to BELIEVE, I wanted to KNOW. So I decided to go all in and face my doubts head on. I highly recommend this book.

  7. Matt
    Posted February 16, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Re-posting, first post didn’t take.
    —————————-
    I read Atheism: The Case Against God by George Smith almost 30 years ago and it was eye-opening. It felt thrilling to see my doubts addressed so honestly and thoroughly. Smith covers all the usual arguments I’d read and even some I hadn’t. This was the first book I’d read that openly attacked the god question; prior to this I had read pro-Christianity books (e.g., by Josh McDowell) looking for a satisfying justification for Christianity but they just didn’t ring true because they relied too much on faith. I didn’t want to BELIEVE, I wanted to KNOW. So I decided to go all in and face my doubts head on. I highly recommend this book.

  8. Posted February 16, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    While we are at acknowledging atheists: Gore Vidal sounded like a New Atheist a decade earlier, but alas was completely overlooked. I am not keen on venerating peoole, he just provided some New Atheist quotes a decade ahead. Here are a few:

    “God is a blackmailer. God is a warden of the prison. […] this is a God I don’t want to have any traffic with at all.

    The idea that good behaviour only depends on the fear of what will happen after you die; that you will be punished, that excludes all of philosophy. It excludes Plato. It exclues the mystery cults of ancient Greece. It excludes the Roman idea of what is a good man—there goes Marcus Aurelius. There goes Epictetus, Stoics. These are all better thinkers than anything the Christian church has come up with in two-thousand years. […] that’s why I am atheist, not an agnostic. We are all agnostics, but I am against this.” — Gore Vidal, in a TV debate circa 1999

    “I believe it’s my pastoral duty to convert friends to atheism.”

    “Ultimately, totalitarianism is the only sort of politics that can truly serve the sky-god’s purpose. Any movement of a liberal nature endangers his authority and that of his delegates on earth. One God, one King, one Pope, one master in the factory, one father-leader in the family at home.”

    “The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal — God is the Omnipotent Father — hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates.”

    “Once people get hung up on theology, they’ve lost sanity forever.”

    • Robert Bray
      Posted February 17, 2019 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for this post on Gore Vidal’s atheism (and his unmistakably eloquent voice in declaring same). I would only add that a number of Vidal’s novels, especially ‘Live from Golgotha,’ complement the trenchant criticism of religion found in his essays and interviews.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted February 16, 2019 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    …and how about atheists who are NonHorseGentlemen? How about ordinary people who are non-believers but you never hear about them because they haven’t written books or been on TV or have a blog or such? You may well have bumped into such people – the woman at the checkout counter at the little dairy store, the maintenance man at your local nursing home, the volunteer who collects for the March of Dimes, that fellow on the motorcycle – we’re out there but you don’t see us because we aren’t on horses, we’re NonHorseEntities.

    And we’ve been there a long time. Nothin’ new about atheism. Godlessness has been around forever (someone in the bible gripes about fools who say there’s no god), and yes, Sam is right about the appearance of books and the way the subject has entered mainstream conversation more than before. Still, I’d say there’s nothing new about actual atheism.

  10. Laurance
    Posted February 16, 2019 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    …and how about atheists who are NonHorseGentlemen? How about ordinary people who are non-believers but you never hear about them because they haven’t written books or been on TV or have a blog or such? You may well have bumped into such people – the woman at the checkout counter at the little dairy store, the maintenance man at your local nursing home, the volunteer who collects for the March of Dimes, that fellow on the motorcycle – we’re out there but you don’t see us because we aren’t on horses, we’re NonHorseEntities.

    And we’ve been there a long time. Nothin’ new about atheism. Godlessness has been around forever (someone in the bible gripes about fools who say there’s no god), and yes, Sam is right about the appearance of books and the way the subject has entered mainstream conversation more than before. Still, I’d say there’s nothing new about actual atheism.

  11. Laurance
    Posted February 16, 2019 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Re-posting too. My post didn’t take twice…
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    …and how about atheists who are NonHorseGentlemen? How about ordinary people who are non-believers but you never hear about them because they haven’t written books or been on TV or have a blog or such? You may well have bumped into such people – the woman at the checkout counter at the little dairy store, the maintenance man at your local nursing home, the volunteer who collects for the March of Dimes, that fellow on the motorcycle – we’re out there but you don’t see us because we aren’t on horses, we’re NonHorseEntities.

    And we’ve been there a long time. Nothin’ new about atheism. Godlessness has been around forever (someone in the bible gripes about fools who say there’s no god), and yes, Sam is right about the appearance of books and the way the subject has entered mainstream conversation more than before. Still, I’d say there’s nothing new about actual atheism.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 17, 2019 at 3:27 am | Permalink

      The evil daemon who controls WordPress is excelling himself at the moment. First Matt’s first post disappeared without trace – until he hit ‘post’ on his laboriously typed replacement. And now he’s done it to you – twice.

      cr

  12. Posted February 16, 2019 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    The haters, shade-throwers, and draggers continue to publish articles saying that New Atheism is dead because the “self-appointed leaders” are all old white males who are alt-right-ish and bigoted, …

    On the topic of self-appointed leaders of New Atheism, who wrote the following?

    [OK, I admit, this is a horribly unfair edit, but I can’t resist, I’m a bad person.]

    “Another problem with the Four Horsemen analogy is the number. […] what about me? You know, I’m as atheist as those others and I’m probably “atheier” than some of them. […] So I’m going to … declare myself a fifth horseman … I’m waving a great big banner that has the words, “The Internet” on it. That’s me. … I don’t think any apocalypse is complete without the Internet in there somewhere, and so I have to fill that vital role.”

    Source.

    • Posted February 16, 2019 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      PZ Myers always complained about the “hero worshipping” and somehow pinned that to Dawkins et al, even though Dawkins and the others demonstrably moved on and wrote some other books. They only had the temerity to continue as public persons, and opine on their own platforms.

      The “movement” (USA), meanwhile, was dominated by Freethought Blogs speakers and their friends. There was always Matt Dillahunty, Aron Ra, or Seth Andrews somewhere on the line up. Or Greta Christina, Richard Carrier, Ophelia Benson or PZ Myers himself as speakers. SkeptiCon was filled with the same clique of “The Orbit” bloggers: woke, illiterate, and ponderous, but who since faded into obscurity.

      When atheism was discussed at Slate, Guardian or Salon, it was always one of that group that was quoted by their journalistic friends, Adam Lee, Phil Plait or Amanda Marcotte, usually to smear the more famous authors. They’ve crafted an interesting bizarro universe based on their own circular opinions about what happened.

      • Rich Sanderson
        Posted February 16, 2019 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        What an awful bunch of shites you listed there, excepting Dawkins, Seth, Aron, and to some degree, Matt.

        There is some abusive hack known as Phil Torres, who has taken up the role formerly held by regressive no-talent hacks Adam Lee, Plait, and Marcotte. He’s also chummy with ** ******** and Dan Arel, among other irredeemable scumbags.

        And PZ is anti-science moron hoping that a certain allegation made against by a student, doesn’t resurface, these days.

  13. Posted February 16, 2019 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    There are many atheists outside the US. A whole lot of people in India claim to be atheists.As a matter of fact nonbelievers are great in number in India. I don’t know what is New Atheism. As long as they don’t indulge in bashing religion trying to prove who is right, the tendency world over is increase in the numbers of persons who reject God on rational basis. Probably religion is making a come back in the West. As an example Darwin bashing increased in the US.As a nonbeliever, I don’t see any reason to worry.

  14. Mathew Goldstein
    Posted February 16, 2019 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I entirely agree that Vic Steiger is another horseman. I very much agree with the approach he took and I agree with Shermer that his physics informed perspective compliments that of the other horsemen. I wish he was read more, because he wrote on Huffington Post his arguments are fortunately easy to access.

    I am less convinced that we should avoid the label atheist. Phlosophical (or metaphysical) naturalist is more complete and therefore better by being more accurate. Secular humanist is also OK, but it changes the focus somewhat in a way that does not communicate as clearly or effectively the different perspective we have relative to other people. And secular humanist merely becomes another negative label for whoever is inclined to stereotype or scapegoat.

  15. Posted February 16, 2019 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, no, I’m not comfortable redefining atheism as humanism, with all the contingent social justice causes, as Shermer here suggests.

    Skepticism, atheism, and humanism are, and should remain, distinct.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted February 16, 2019 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Yes, but I can see how one can transition from one group to another. I used to think of myself as an atheist up until a few years ago. But when I learned more about Bayesian statistics I decided that skepticism was the stronger, supportable claim.

      And since about a year ago I decided that the testable evidence is strong and robust enough that I don’t need a specific label for what after all are facts among others (no ‘soul’, no ‘gods’, no ‘miracles’, et cetera). Enlightenment humanism is an old default for the modern world.

      I can certainly sympathize with Shermer when he notes that positive definitions are more constructive for everyone. But he goes off rails as usual. Here he wants to acquire a new label for no good reason. He makes an unwarranted and unasked claim to speak for me, but I am no longer a skeptic and definitely not an agnostic. And he retreats to that agnostic claim despite just saying he did not want to be defined by that – feeble – lack of “belief”.

  16. Posted February 16, 2019 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    The absence of the prolific A.C. Grayling’s name from this discussion is an oversight – see the wonderful books ‘Towards the Light’, ‘The God Argument’, ‘The Age of Genius’, ‘Against All Gods’, and many others.

    rz

    • norm walsh
      Posted February 16, 2019 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      🙂

  17. Mark R.
    Posted February 16, 2019 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    From looking at the comments, it looks like WordPress is still having problems.

    Thanks for the updates Jerry on this important topic. I like Michael Shermer’s advice, pivoting on the label “atheist” and revealing what (most) atheists actually believe. If we are to be labeled, humanist or a variant thereof is closer to the mark. For me, disbelieving in God is just one small facet of who I am; atheists aren’t as obsessed with the absence of God as the religious are obsessed with their faith in God. I appreciate the links to articles as well. Did you add this response to the original post? (That’s the only post I’m saving a link to.)

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 16, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t see that you addressed the WordPress problem before I posted. Thanks for the info, I’ll try deleting the cookies.

  18. cottontail
    Posted February 16, 2019 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Have you written anything about Bret Weinstein’s theories about religion as an evolutionary adaptation?

    He’s another scientist who doesn’t believe in gods or the supernatural but doesn’t want to call himself an atheist.

    He attacks Dawkins’ idea that religions are viruses.

    • Historian
      Posted February 16, 2019 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      Weinstein refuses to call himself an atheist despite his assertion that there is nothing supernatural in the universe. He shies away from calling himself an atheist because he believes there are certain unspecified structures in religion that can be valuable. He doesn’t seem to realize that there is not a contradiction between calling oneself an atheist and believing elements of religion can be valuable. In other words, he is an accommodationist and a somewhat cowardly one at that since most accommodationists at least have the integrity to call themselves atheists. Like most accommodationists he doesn’t believe in the supernatural himself, but it’s just fine for the “little people” because it is necessary for them to reap the social benefits of religion. In other words, for him it is too dangerous to individuals and society for them to be weaned off religion. Without its strictures, who knows what they will do?

      • Posted February 17, 2019 at 12:37 am | Permalink

        Interesting. And here and elsewhere I am seeing more evidence that Bret could benefit from hanging out around here. I do hope he eventually goes all the way into atheism, and am disappointed he is not.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted February 17, 2019 at 5:19 am | Permalink

        Well, cdepending on the definition, he clearly is an atheist: he does not believe in ‘supernatural’. In my books that makes him an Atheist.
        However, he clearly is not happy to just throw theism away without examining why we have this tendency to the supernatural/religion. I can follow him fully there, although it does not prevent me from calling myself an atheist.
        However, I think we do have an inkling about why we have religion. I think that Murdoch’s observation that belief systems/religions become more moralistic with the size of societies is highly significant there. Moralisticity is a way to ‘keep the peace’ between not very closely related ingroup males competing for resources (read: access to nubile females). It enhances successful warfare (in the small tribe sense). Of course there is much more to it, and it is but one hypothesis.
        I’m a bit confused about his spectrum from Sacred to Shamanistic. I’m not sure I fully grasp what he’s aiming at, but it appears interesting indeed.

  19. Posted February 16, 2019 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know what it is with Americans and atheism. Atheism in Europe is but a tile in a pluralistic mosaic of other views. It correlates only weakly with some other views, such as scientific scepticism. In North Western Europe, a large number of people are only faintly religious, holding onto a few traditions, and have a weak wishful thinking that there might be something after they die. When they come to accept that there’s nothing afterwards, they don’t furiously study science literature, or suddenly favour certain political positions, or any number of other things. Rather, they get on with their lives exactly as they did before, just no longer believing in deities or afterlives.

    Those who spell out they are atheists are typically naturalists, interested in science, with vaguely social liberal views. But for some reason, American atheists have a tendeny to build an identity out of atheism. Something that marks them a member of a quasi-religious tribe, and they want this tribe to embrace the “correct” views in an apparently much finer detail. Here Michael Shermer and PZ Myers think and argue alike, only that Shermer’s version is more generic progressive, while Myers insists on a particular version of intersectional wokeness (which he never bothered to explain why it must be it, or else it’s “bullshit”, or why he vehemently opposes other forms of left or progressive politics).

    But this is not the problem! None of this is a suitable marker against the New Right, which has encroached on the atheist corner. They don’t go away by redrawing what atheism means. PZ Myers and Co has cried wolf for too long, and now that the wolves are around, too many atheists, Shermer included, aren’t willing to recognize them as what they are (e.g. Candace Owens said Hitler was fine had he stayed in Germany, and his IDW fellow Dave Rubin rushed to her defense, unsurprisingly).

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 17, 2019 at 4:04 am | Permalink

      I think your first paragraph could equally well apply in New Zealand.

      Yeah we have church services, and most people think it normal to get married or buried with some sort of religious service, but that’s about as far as it goes. Any ordinary person invoking God in daily conversation would get some puzzled looks.

      In fact the first time I encountered an ‘out’ Christian (other than door-knockers and clergy) I was genuinely surprised. I had thought they were extinct.

      Maybe the American insistence on an ‘atheist’ identity is a reaction to the pervasive religiosity of that country.

      cr

      • Posted February 18, 2019 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        Is there an urban-rural split in NZ? Canada seems to have some of that.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted February 19, 2019 at 4:14 am | Permalink

          Not really.

          There’s a bit of North Island vs South Island rivalry. And everybody snarks about the Big Smoke, Auckland.

          Generally, small-town NZ is seen as being more conservative than the cities. But they’re capable of surprising everybody. Martinborough – typical rural small town – elected the country’s first openly transsexual Mayor.

          And a campus radical and a bit of a clown**, Tim Shadbolt, having been Mayor of Waitemata (in Auckland), then moved south to Invercargill, at the southern tip of South Island, one would say as conservative as it gets, and they just keep re-electing him.

          (** I mean he doesn’t stand on his dignity. I don’t mean that as a euphemism for ‘idiot’).

          Quite often local issues trump left-right politics.

          cr

  20. Conelrad
    Posted February 17, 2019 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Just wanted to put in another enthusiastic upvote for the late Victor Stenger. In addition to turning the light of logic & reason upon traditional theology, he also wrote a detailed examination of the ‘fine tuning’ argument for the existence of a god. &, of course, many other books explaining aspects of cosmology for the general reader, all well worth reading, IMO.

  21. Posted February 17, 2019 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Ricky Gervais is another frontman of Atheism. Maybe not as intellectual as Hitchens but he has the wit and is one of few making a cade for Atheisn. He clarified the part on definition of Atheism to his large public. He declared himself an agnostic atheist. Based on reason he doubts there is a god, hence he is an agnost. In addition he simply does not believe in god, which makes him a atheist. I think most atheist are like that. For sure I am.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 17, 2019 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      Atheism – agolfism – akaleism – it’s useful thinking about what the word is doing.

      Another word I am thinking about lately is “religion”

      It looks like Cicero sort of coined it, but what about the ancient Egyptians? Did they call their supernatural stuff “religion “? Because why would they – it’s just what they did – it was real life, not some separate component.

  22. Posted February 17, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    When asked if I’m an atheist, I reply ‘yes.’

    When asked what is my religion, I reply ‘nothing.’

    But I would never state: ‘my nothing must be intersectional or it will be, er, nothing.’

    I’m still a bit shocked that Michael Shermer, of all people, is calling for all of us nothings to be lumped under Atheism Plus.

  23. Sastra
    Posted February 17, 2019 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Shermer never bothered to define “New Atheism” in his response, and seems to believe it just means “ being an outspoken, popular atheist.” If that’s the definition, then of course there’s no point in declaring it “dead,” and there’s no reason to not add every outspoken, popular atheist who ever existed into the category.

    I think Shermer missed the distinction. As I see it, New Atheism brings the methods and discoveries of modern science into the analysis, and for that reason denigrates the value of faith, both as method and as identity. So I’d definitely include Stenger — but not every example of a reason-based (or virulent) atheist.


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