It’s All Over?

they_think_its_all_over_1999a-smallThe Spectator has published an article, proclaiming the end of the New Atheist movement, and the rise of a group of atheist thinkers who see religion in a much more nuanced way.

As much as I’d like to believe this, I’m not convinced.

Yes, I’d say that the New Atheism, like any movement, must always face the choice between adaptation or death. And, yes, they will eventually need to acknowledge the complex realities of life, and transition out of this simple atheism-good/religion-bad narrative that they hammer so tirelessly if they want people to keep listening.

But it is a bit premature to say that the movement is dead. Some are starting to realize that its treatment of religion has been unfair to the point of propagandistic, and journalists do seem to feel that the novelty of hearing someone proclaim “the world would simply be better without religion” has worn off (as Coyne laments in his response to the article). But I think we still have a couple of years before taking a sophisticated view of religion is seen as more desirable than declaring one’s self too intelligent to study the matter.

Setting aside the strangeness of using (a claim of) intelligence as an excuse to remain ignorant, I agree with Hobson’s analysis to a point. The shift may not have happened, but it does seem to be starting. If journalists and writers are beginning to declare themselves too sophisticated to side with the simple narrative of the New Atheists, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that many of their readers will follow suit. This hardly justifies “Dawkins has lost”, of course, but is worth noting.

In fact, I noticed that Coyne couldn’t get through his response without reference to the inane “courtier’s reply”. If the choice is ultimately between appearing sophisticated and defending a self-imposed ignorance of the details, it’s obvious what people will favor. Eventually, this will happen, but that doesn’t mean it’s happened yet.

And, from my perspective, the longer the New Atheism lasts, the easier it will be to convince people that unreconstructed materialism is a philosophy for the simple-minded.

As such, I find myself rather ambivalent. I very much prefer my encounters with thoughtful atheists, but the New Atheists make my job quite a bit easier, and it is always tempting to play up the idea that all atheists are like Dawkins.

Apologies in advance, then, if I end up doing that.

33 responses to “It’s All Over?

  • Arkenaten

    Lol…I suspect it was the Christians who came up with the title ‘New Atheists.’
    Atheists have been around a long time, my friend. A long time.
    Scoff all you like, really. The more you try to defend the more silly you look.
    Religions are like Kings..they come and go. Your piss-willy little faith will go too.
    It already is. going
    Look at the grounds that have been covered in the last 50 years?
    Before long children will begin to ask pertinent questions and will not be fobbed off by lies and intimidation.
    Good grief the arrogance you lot display is quite something.
    Still the bigger they are the harder they fall…surely your dad taught you THAT while you were at school?

    Wait til the likes of Rabbi Wolpe etc receive the same attention as Dawkins and Hitch. it’s coming…
    Enjoy it while it lasts.
    It may not go in our lifetime, but go it surely will.
    You truly are so very funny.
    Silly person.

    • Logan Rees

      From what I can dig up, the term was coined by a self-proclaimed agnostic named Gary Wolf in an article complaining about the aggressiveness of Dawkins and the like.

      • Arkenaten

        Cheers, Logan.
        Doesn’t surprise me.
        Yes, Richard Dawkins is the archetypal super aggressive unprincipled ignorant atheist. A real thug. Didn’t his mummy ever teach him manners? Teasing those nice Christians. For shame.
        Before long he will obtain a pilot’s license and fly into a building full of them..or something.
        Thank the Christian god, God, that New Atheists are nearly all dead. Phew…
        Now we call all get back to sensible things like Walking on Water,
        Talking bushes and snakes, and donkeys, resurrections and curing lepers.
        At least it’s now safe for me to put my Alvin Plantinga poster back on the wall of my lounge, hey?

        (Sic) 😉

    • Debilis

      What they’re called does not concern me. I use the term because it is the least pejorative I know for the fans of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Krauss, Meyers, Grayling, etc.

      And that is key. I was discussing this group, not atheism in general. But I have no idea why you seem to be taking this so personally. Not only was I specifically disagreeing with the claim that the movement is dead, but I specifically made it clear that there are more intellectually impressive atheists.

      I often wonder why so many are so defensive of the New Atheists, and feel the need to attack me for criticizing them. Is there really any reason to remain loyal to the men mentioned above?

      I’d say not. They really seem to be the worst of what atheists have on offer at the moment. I think atheists should be holding up people like Michael Ruse and Thomas Nagel as their examples. They show a genuine thoughtfulness, which is conspicuously absent among the leaders of the New Atheists.

      • Arkenaten

        They have brought the insidious nature of religion into the public eye more than any other of their peers.
        Their approach may not be to your liking, and I am more than happy to imagine you grinding your teeth over their approach.
        They appeal to a younger audience and if this is what it takes to get the message across then so be it.
        Chris Hitchens was much maligned by the idiotic religious community and whatever Dawkins etc can do to point out the lies that religion espouse then it can only be a good thing.

    • Debilis

      They’ve definitely called religion more insidious than their peers are willing to call it.

      Of course, they’ve also claimed to be ignorant of what religious people actually believe, so I wonder why we’re taking them to be the experts on what this thing they call religion actually is.

      But you really have no issue with people using ridicule, spite, mockery, and sound-bytes as the core of their discourse? This is almost the opposite of reason. They’re promoting a prejudicial mob-mentality and calling it reason. Whether or not God exists, this is intellectual decline.

      But, in the end, none of these men understand religion (any religion) well enough to have actually pointed out any problems with it. All they know how to do is mock straw-men, and I’m left shrugging and wondering if they’ll ever get around to anything I actually believe.

      • Arkenaten

        There is little to need to understand where a certain members insist on the death penalty for apostasy.
        Or, inculcate children that the notion of biblical sin is real.Anyone who follows either of these two idiotic and insidious practices is mentally unbalanced.
        You are a christian..

    • Debilis

      I definitely oppose the death penalty for apostasy.
      Of course, I don’t see why that is a good excuse for remaining ignorant. Every group has a lunatic fringe. To condemn the whole because of the actions of the most crazy is, again, prejudice.

      On the other hand, I don’t know that teaching children that the Bible is true is nearly so bad as wanting to kill people for disagreeing. This seems a weird leap.

      Even if Christianity were totally false, I wouldn’t say that people who believe it are evil just for teaching what they believe to be the truth. I know atheists who teach their children that God doesn’t exist, Muslims who teach their children that Islam is true, and Wiccans who teach their children that the Goddess is real.

      I’d say that they are wrong, but it’s sheer prejudice to say that this puts them on par with a lunatic fringe.

    • Debilis

      So, if it is possible that someone might grow up and do something bad, everyone who teaches anything like that should be condemned?

      By this logic, someone who was taught to be an atheist as a child grows up and tries to kill people for believing in God, then all atheists should be condemned.

      This is extremely simplistic thinking. Applying more reason would give us a much better approach to reality than this.

  • paarsurrey

    Reblogged this on paarsurrey and commented:
    Paarsurrey says:
    The only tools the atheists have are to ask others to provide evidence; if one counters them to provide one; they cannot come up with any.

    Their others tools are to ridicule, to be sarcastic and to deride.

  • Argus

    I didn’t know that there was a ‘new atheists’ movement. Without knowing anything about I’m free then to guess that it originated in America—?

    I’m an atheist. I used to define myself as agnostic, but I use the other because it sounds actively against—not God, but against—religion. I regard religion, all religion, any religion, every religion—as simply a means used by the unscrupulous to milk the gullible for all they can get.

    So I’m not anti-God. No more than I’m anti Linus’s Great Pumpkin, Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny. I cannot be against something that (to me) doesn’t exist. But I am very much anti religion in all of its evil aspects.

    Religion is Big Business and the various cults, sects, branches, breeds or creeds thereof are simply franchises.

    And now to read other guys’ comments—I always read the post, make comment, THEN read comments. That way it’s me speaking (sometimes reinventing the wheel too but that’s a chance I have to take).

    Nothing to add other than it’s all a bit sad, really.

    • Debilis

      Yes, it’s said to have begun in America (no surprise), though several of the big names are British.

      I actually like the comparison between religion and business. Most have a great deal of problems with corruption. Really, any group of people that gets that big will have political problems, infighting, hypocrisy, and general jerkiness.

      It is doubly evil in my view, to try to excuse evil by calling it good (which is what corrupt religion does).

      Obviously, I think one can still have a positive take on God, and even seek to fix this thing called religion, but that’s not to say that there aren’t problems with it.

      • Argus

        I have no issues—surprisingly—with a concept of ‘God’. With me it’s ‘to each his own’.

        I take umbrage at people who arrogantly dogmatically and unthinkingly ‘know’ — when if ‘God’ existed at all It would be unknowable.
        It’s worse when they use their self-proclaimed knowledge to set themselves up at the expense of others, parasites like the cuckoo (which clears the real eggs out of the nest its mother invaded)(perhaps this is why the great religious franchises are always at war—no room for two cuckoos in the nest?).

        I see no evidence for a god, and reaching beyond the contradictions of dogma and the poisons of religions I see both the Big Bang and God as equally improbable.

        (You made a redundant turn of phrase there, ‘corrupt religion’—all formal religion is corrupt.)
        Only the individual can make his own covenant with God (whatever that may be). Anyone needing a priest is either personality-bankrupt or has been perverted since birth by the local franchise.

      • paarsurrey

        I agree with you that there are problems with the religions from the people who follow religion in name only but they misuse religion for their own evil ends. There is no harm if Atheists expose such people; notwithstanding with that religion and one true God is a reality that should not be forgotten and searched seriously.

        • Argus

          All religion(s) (there’s no end of them) should be investigated very seriously. Especially before acceptance, very few do so they are accepted and more ‘holy warriors’ swarm to the cause. Not good …

        • paarsurrey

          I agree with you; and Atheism , Humanism, Scepticism, Agnosticism etc.., should not be an exception; they should be continuously seen with doubt; as doubt is their basic approach. Doubt, however, cannot lead one to certainty, in my opinion.

          I don’t see any much contribution of them in the human history that exceeds from the theists.

        • Argus

          If faith leads to certainty and certainty is good, what is that faith (those faiths, there’s so many of them) based on? Surely faith is good, so all faiths are good?

          I’d say in most cases the faith comes with the environment, and in some it’s the end result of a beautiful selling job—a great sales pitch (relevant, I saw two Mormon missionaries in town yesterday—in uniform, on their bikes spreading the Good Word to we heathens. And least Mormonism is fairly recent, so it has to be good.)

          And when one faith contradicts another, whom do we believe? Any? Either, Both? All? Those Mormons, because they are newer?

          Doubt may lead to certainty, once one has satisfactorily eliminated that doubt. I dare say the followers of Odin had no doubt at all that they’d end up in Valhalla if they died fighting for him. Does that make them right? Or could religions be fashions and they are now outmoded? Are those Mormons flogging a dead horse?

        • paarsurrey

          Doubt and only lead to certainty only if it is reasonable to doubt; if it is not reasonable to doubt then it could lead to sickness; and lead one to nowhere.

          Doubt does save one from myths and superstition; that is a positive point with doubt.

          One has to continuously search and research for truth and reality.


    • Debilis

      I completely agree that people who can’t give reasons for what they know, but merely point to dogma, have no place demanding that others agree with them.

      In fact, this is one way in which many religious people and the New Atheists are exactly alike. Neither group can give a decent reason why their take on life (dogmatic religion or dogmatic materialism) is true, so they resort to mocking each other and taking offense.

      But I don’t see any evidence that literally all religion is corrupt. I completely agree that there is tons of it–that’s not in dispute. But I don’t know of any reason to think that there isn’t some group of people out there that, however imperfect, really believe that God wants them to be good, and tries to do it. I’ve met them, actually (and, for certain, I’ve met corrupt groups as well).

      So, I happen to believe in God, and put forward my reasons for this when asked, but otherwise don’t think I should force anyone to accept what I say. Because I believe God wants me to be a good person, I try to stand against the mountain of corruption I see in religious groups, businesses, governments, and wherever else and do as much good as I can for people.

      Whatever corruption goes on elsewhere, I believe that this is a good approach.

      • Argus

        I likewise try to be a good person. I just don’t like all the agony that various superstitions have created (and are still causing) throughout the ages, I try as best I can to fight it.

        I do state without reservation that if there is a God — it’s nothing like many ‘religions’ would have us think.

        Even Zen has a saying which means quite literally to “beware of false prophets”—

        If you meet the Buddha on the road … kill him!

        • paarsurrey

          I agree with you; one should fight superstition and myths; that does not mean that there is no reality.

        • Argus

          I accept that I’m real “Blogito, ergo sum” and although I cannot prove it I accept that there’s a whole world out there. (Or am I a figment of my own imagination*?—Kris Kristofferson covered that one in his song in the movie “A Star is Born”).

          I also accept that religions are real—all umpteen thousands of them, past, present, and future.
          But I do not accept that any of them is a hotline direct path to the Godhead (if It even exists). And all of them are, of course, unique …

          I’d have to be shown that there is no reality (I’m certainly not mooting such), it would have to be proven—and before any of you Christians out there in bloggoland ask, no, thank you. I already have a Bible … (and I’ve read enough of it to make me retch).

          * “a pulse in the eternal mind, no less” —Brooke

        • paarsurrey

          Religion is a path; some have not yet started their journey on it; others are on different levels of their travel on that path; while others are just hesitant to tread on the path in doubt; so they must be sure that they have not yet started their journey consciously; they will lead nowhere.

        • Argus

          Some have swallowed the bait, and the hook, and the line, and the sinker and are voluntarily now nibbling at the boat itself.

          Other don’t swallow so easily, they think for themselves and a good start point is contradiction—is there any contradiction between a “loving almighty compassionate God” and napalm, do you think?

          Somewhere along the line many hundreds of millions of people have been spun a line and swallowed it. As I grew up and expanded my thought I outgrew the toot fairy, the Easter Bunny, Jesus, and Santa Claus … I think in that order, too.

          Why Islam instead of Christ? (Just asking, don’t answer if too personal.)

        • paarsurrey

          “Why Islam instead of Christ?”
          Jesus, Muhammad, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Socrates, Zoroaster, believed in the same one true God.

          Their followers did not preserve the message from the one true God; so the message was renewed again by Muhammad; no difference in their beliefs.


    • Debilis

      I think it is great that some people have a special passion for righting the wrongs caused by religious groups. I hope there are many out there who are trying. And, of course, many trying the same with governments and everything else.

      When I talk about this subject, I really do mean to say I’m only talking about God (not the ventriloquist dummy of a god that many religious people talk about, but someone who really insists that we be good), and what seems to be true along those lines.

      In any case, best to you out there.

      • Argus

        Your good wishes both appreciated and reciprocated.

        I’m posting tonight on Free Will, I hope you’ll drop by. Peace.

  • It’s All Over? | paarsurrey

    […] Argus July 18th, 2013 at 4:31 am […]

  • Keith Pinster

    One of the biggest problems with yhwh is that he is emotional. Where do emotions come from? They come from unexpected events or events that we have no control over. If yhwh is “all-powerful” and “all-knowing,” it would be impossible for him to be emotional.

    Why do xians claim that yhwh is the god of everyone? It is extremely clear that, in the old testament, he was a minor petty pewter god specifically for the Israelites. If he “created” mankind, wouldn’t he be the “god of everyone” from the beginning?

    If yhwh did actually walk with and talk directly to humans, what was the point of jebus? Was he created just for a blood sacrifice in order for yhwh to “forgive” us? If so, why wouldn’t yhwh just present himself directly and avoid going through some sort of middle man that left no reliable evidence of his existence?

    Which begs another question: if the bible is to be taken seriously, where did all the other religions (especially those that pre-date xianity) come from? If people literally walked with yhwh (as the bible says), why would people have made up other intricate mythologies?

    Speaking of adam walking with yhwh, xians claim that they have found Eden because of some rivers that slightly resemble what is described in the bible. But if that were true, where is the “tree of knowledge of good and evil?” It would be really easy to test that. If you feed the fruit of the tree to a child or criminal, wouldn’t they magically understand the difference between good and evil, as did A&E? Has that ever happened? Not that I’m aware of.

    And speaking of logical fallacies, how can anyone believe the story of noah? This is obviously fallacious. There is not a single shred of evidence that this ever happened. This is a situation where “absence of evidence” is definitely “evidence of absence.” There would be clear evidence that the world was covered with 3 time more water than is actually on earth now. Also, what’s the point? Just to show that yhwh is childish and evil? If this were a god that was capable of creating the entire universe, why is he too incompetent to teach a few nomads to be decent human beings? Are we back to the “you must believe and enslave yourself to god before he will “save” you?” But we’ve already disproven that because yhwh actually walked with and talked to people before.

    Speaking of absence of evidence being evidence of absence, why has there never been ANY evidence that the Israelites “wandered the desert for 40 years?” I suspect it’s because it never happened.

    And that’s just logical arguments I can come up with while suffering a cold and just the tip of the iceberg.

    • Debilis

      I’m not sure what any of this has to do with the post.

      Is this an argument that journalists and popular culture will continue to be interested in the claims of the New Atheists?

      I mostly want to avoid answering (all the training in logic drilled into me a reticence to leave the topic, I suppose).

      But, I’ll give a quite response, and say that this is lightyears away from my understanding of what the Bible actually claims. They probably exist, but I’ve never met anyone who actually believes these things.

      That being the case, this may be a good argument against extreme fundamentalism (I can’t say for sure), but it doesn’t say anything about the majority of Christians.

      • Keith Pinster

        So, are you saying that xianity is NOT based on the bible? If people don’t believe the bible, then xianity is completely fictitious and arguing for it’s “truth” would really an exercise in futility, wouldn’t it?

        However, I agree with you – the bible is nothing but a big book of fairy tales and it certainly can’t be used as a source of reliable knowledge.

    • Debilis

      I’m not remotely saying this. Nor did I say that the Bible is “a big book of fairy tales”. If you got that out of my comments, we have a serious communication problem.

      Let me try to bridge it now. I’ve said two things:

      1. Your understanding of the Bible is a distant cry from either my position or that of any expert I’ve ever read.

      2. Comments about the Bible have nothing to do with the topic.

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