Richard Dawkins Hasn’t ‘Lost’; Just Look at the Movement He Helped Build

An article in The Spectator (UK) by Theo Hobson argues that “Richard Dawkins has lost” because the “New Atheism” is dying out:

The success of five or six atheist authors, on both sides of the Atlantic, seemed to herald a strong new movement. It seemed that non-believers were tired of all the nuance surrounding religion, hungry for a tidy narrative that put them neatly in the right.

Atheism is still with us. But the movement that threatened to form has petered out. Crucially, atheism’s younger advocates are reluctant to compete for the role of Dawkins’s disciple. They are more likely to bemoan the new atheist approach and call for large injections of nuance.

As evidence of this theory, Hobson points to religion-friendly atheists — those who disagree with theistic beliefs, but still see good in religion. People like Alain de Botton, Julian Baggini, and others who spend more time trying to build up Humanism than tear down religion.

It’s true that there are more voices in the atheist world than ever before, including ones that see some value in faith, but Hobson’s conclusion couldn’t be more wrong. Dawkins’ atheism isn’t dying out; it’s thriving.

What Dawkins and Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett did with their books was make atheism a topic of discussion in the mainstream media. They forced you to form an opinion about it. They encouraged countless numbers of people to come out of the closet. Their advocacy of religion led to a growing number of atheist groups and individuals.

I’m not saying any one author (or even the “horsemen” together) directly led to all those changes, but they really did bump the movement into overdrive.

Now, you’re seeing the growing pains of a burgeoning movement. We have more organizations than we did a decade ago, each with their own unique mission. We have disagreements online and in person about what the future of atheism holds. We have several people arguing for different ways to live life without religion. We have entire sections of bookstores covering all sorts of aspects of life without God, whether its parenting, philosophy, or politics.

This would not have happened without the contributions of the New Atheists. Or, at least, it wouldn’t have happened as quickly.

Much like two Christians might practice very different forms of Christianity, the atheism movement as a whole is not in lockstep with whatever a couple of authors may have written — and we’re better off because of it! In fact, it’s perfectly fine to reject their antipathy toward faith. Let a thousand bloggers bloom. Let more books be written. Let atheist “churches” form. Let writers and vloggers and speakers broaden the scope of what it means to be an atheist.

Let them all convince others that life without God isn’t just logically sound; it’s a better way of life.

To suggest that Dawkins is “losing” because authors who aren’t as hostile toward faulty beliefs are suddenly gaining in popularity (which is arguable in and of itself) doesn’t mean Dawkins’ arguments are being tossed aside. They show that he was onto something and it’s time to explore the subject in even more depth. (Not to mention The God Delusion has been at or near the top of the Amazon bestsellers list for books about atheism ever since it came out.)

You just need to look online, or at a survey of Americans’ religious beliefs, or at the Reason Rally, or at the growth of high school and college and local atheist groups to see how powerful the atheism movement is these days. Dawkins may not lead it, but he never really did. He was only one of its most prominent proponents and he still is.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • C Peterson

    I hope “New Atheism” is dead. Such a horrible concept, with many negative repercussions.

    Of course, there is nothing “new” about atheism. Atheism is today exactly what it has been for thousands of years. What has changed is that atheism is increasingly an acceptable thing (although there’s a long way to go in that respect) compared to its status for the last 100 years or so (this isn’t the first time that one could be openly atheist, of course).

    I certainly do give credit to Dawkins and other vocal atheists for contributing to the current social acceptability of atheism, although I also blame them for some of the problems we face. What I do agree with is that it’s time to move on. Time to solidly separate humanism, skepticism, and secularism from atheism. Time to de-emphasize atheism and push the active agendas that many people, not just atheists, support.

    • Ders

      There is a very good reason those “-ism”s are all tied together. The idea of faith being a virtue is a huge problem when it comes to emphasizing skepticism and secularism. It’s all pointless until people start actually caring about evidence. Religion (most theism) is what teaches people to ignore evidence. Atheism is important for this reason.

      • C Peterson

        I disagree. Atheism does not belong with those others at all. Atheism isn’t important in the slightest. What is important is reason, and following evidence. Atheism doesn’t make that happen. Rather, it is reason that leads to atheism. We should not put the cart in front of the horse.

        You can’t make somebody become an atheist until you can activate their ability to reason. Once you do that, it’s all but certain that their religious ideas, and probably their theistic ideas will fall away on their own.

        • Ders

          The problem is that, for many people, their religious beliefs are standing directly in the way of their ability to reason. Many moderate religious people actually behave like humanists or secularists, but attribute their morality to god.

          To go in another direction, why are people against marriage equality, women’s reproductive rights, and the teaching of evolution? It is because these things are against their religious principles and no amount of “reason” is going to do anything. Activating reason is a wonderful thing, but you’re not going to do that by showing people that humanism is useful. That just provides an alternative to their religious morality. We NEED to get people to stop praising and defending belief without evidence. Once that’s gone, humanism and secularism will be the way of the world.

    • Theseus

      What problems specifically?

      Sure one can separate humanism and secularism from atheism. Skepticism though? Wellllllll, that’s a bit trickier.

      I wholeheartedly agree that we should “push the active agendas that many people” support. However de-emphasizing atheism is not the way to go for a lot of us, because we see religious belief and irrationality as a big part of the problem in many of these issues. Religion, still to a large degree has a “we are right, you are wrong” or “we are the chosen people that will obtain paradise and you will not” aspect to it; everyone posting here knows what this can and does lead to. I don’t see any other way around it.

      • C Peterson

        How does skepticism follow from atheism? The reality is, there are plenty of atheists who believe complete bullshit. Atheism doesn’t make you skeptical; skepticism tends to make you an atheist.

        I agree with you 100% that religious belief and irrationality are huge problems for everybody. But atheism doesn’t fix these things. The fix is to spread skepticism and critical thinking. If we somehow tie those things to atheism (rather than the other way around), I think we hinder our ability to do that.

        • Theseus

          Ha! I think we have a classic case of misunderstanding here. I agree with most of what you just said. Atheism doesn’t lead to skepticism and critical thought; It is the other way around. I’ve run into atheists with zero critical thinking skills many times.

          I misinterpreted the last sentence in your original post above when you said we had to de-emphasize atheism. It sounded like you promoting the idea that we should sit around a campfire with theists that were also for human rights singing songs, toasting marshmallows, and acting like we were all on the same page with everything. However, in the context of emphasizing critical thought and rationality first and foremost, it makes sense. My bad.

          • Bill

            And just like that, he changes his mind. Good luck seeing that in a Christian website’s comments section

            • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

              Did he change his mind or just correct a misunderstanding?

              • C Peterson

                The latter, I think. But Bill’s point stands.

        • Ders

          This ignores the actual barrier to skepticism and critical thinking. Atheism follows from skepticism to be sure, but askepticism (to coin a term) follows from theism.

          • C Peterson

            Atheism follows from skepticism to be sure, but askepticism (to coin a term) follows from theism.

            So it does. Which is why I support anti-theism and anti-religionism, which are actual movements, with assertive belief systems, neither of which follow from atheism or should logically be associated with atheism.

            • Ders

              I get what you’re saying, but then you could’ve include anti-theism in your list of “isms” from before. Seems like you’re just worried about semantics here.

          • Bill

            askepticism (to coin a term) follows from theism.

            I’m skeptical. I would conjecture that “askepticism” is something we’re all born with as a necessary component of our learning process. We are born knowing nothing, and learn everything as children from parents and other authorities, and it’s our nature to accept most of what we’re taught as truth without much question. I’d guess askepticism is biologically hardwired, and religion follows from askepticism.

        • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

          I think atheism is a good starting point toward Skepticism, which is what we would like more people to practice.

          I honestly don’t see how someone can be a skeptic if they leave their skepticism at the door when they enter church.

          But you are right there are plenty of atheists that don’t practice skepticism outside of their religion. It’s sad, but it’s also human nature.

      • Bill

        Religion, still to a large degree has a “we are right, you are wrong” aspect to it

        …and atheists don’t?

        • C Peterson

          Not in the same sense, as atheists are operating in an evidence based world. Creationists are also operating in a “we are right, you are wrong” system, but that doesn’t make them intellectually equivalent to evolutionists, and neither are religionists intellectually equivalent to atheists who come to their atheism through reason.

          • Bill

            My complaint is not about intellectual equivalence, it’s about smugness equivalence.

            • Glenn Swart

              So its a subjective evaluation based on opinion?

              • Bill

                Huh? You dispute that atheists think they are right and everyone else is wrong?

                • Theseus

                  Uh, Bill if you read the second part of that sentence I clarified even further. The attitude of “my invisible sky-god (that I have no proof of) is the only way to go” is completely different than a couple of skeptics debating an issue based on FACTS or lack thereof.

                • Bill

                  Thank you for demonstrating my point.

                • Theseus

                  WTF does that mean? You are actually drawing an equivalence between folks arguing fact based information, and different sets of believers in supernatural religious dogma saying the other is wrong? Wow. And it’s supposed to be smug when this is pointed out?

          • Theseus

            Well said. I thought I made it pretty clear. Oh well.

          • Theseus

            BTW, based on Bill’s Bible comment below (Bible learnin’=humility), I am skeptical if he is actually an Atheist.

            • Bill

              Jesus, seriously? If you don’t understand someone’s argument, you immediately jump to trying to discredit them?

              • Theseus

                Oh, I understand your argument. There is a helluva lot of literature out there that has lessons in “humility”. To single out a tome that has a plethora of stories written and told over many centuries and has no consistent morality or theme to it whatsoever, is a piss poor example to use as am example of “humility”.

                • Bill

                  “Oh, I understand your argument.” followed by a demonstration that you don’t, at all.

                • Theseus

                  OK, Bill then where am I going wrong? As you saw I have no problem with re-thinking my position. Prove your point.

        • Glenn Swart

          Yes, because Athiests don’t propose the answers, they just reject the certainties of other in favour of keeping an open mind. Don’t use semantics to make this the same thing.

    • LesterBallard

      What are some of those problems you blame them for?

  • http://twitter.com/uzh77 Steve Barry

    There seems to be a concerted effort lately in some media circles to defame and minimize the gains atheists, especially the “new” atheists, have made.

    • randomfactor

      “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you…”

      • McAtheist

        Are you referring to Shopenhauer’s three stages of truth?

        First it is ridiculed

        Second it is fiercly and violently opposed

        Third, it becomes self evident

    • Artor

      It’s hardly a new thing. I’m sure the talk in Athens after the death of Socrates was all about how he’d be forgotten within the year, and nobody would ever know who he was or what he said.

  • LesterBallard

    Nuance my curvy yellow ass.

  • Ders

    Beware of the comment thread on that article. Half of it is an argument over who has the burden of proof, and the atheists are doing a poor job of it actually. The first thing you always have to go to is the fairies and unicorns bit.

    In any event, Dawkins has certainly not lost. I know I’m not alone when I say that the Four-Horseman style atheism is an honest form of commentary that refuses to placate people’s feelings and bow down to religious privilege. It is a fallacy that everything is nuanced to the point where right answers do not exist. At some point people need to be able to clearly make their point and just defend it.

    • Stonyground

      “The first thing you always have to go to is the fairies and unicorns bit.”
      Don’t forget Thor, Zeus, Neptune, and all the rest of the Gods that modern theists don’t believe in. Most modern theists don’t even know that the god that they call God is actually the ridiculous tribal god YHWH.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1078695333 David Kopp

    I think one of the hardest things religious people have with understanding atheists is that they can’t conceive of how someone can’t acknowledge someone else as an infallible leader of some kind, and if a leader falls, it doesn’t mean the end of a movement. Atheists and freethinkers in general don’t follow people, we follow ideas. It’s the same problem with Creationists, trying to deride Darwin as a false prophet. It’s missing the point entirely.

    • C Peterson

      The thing is, there really are false prophets. They are followed by people who believe in prophets- which are not generally freethinkers and others who tend to become atheists. So all false prophets (that is, all prophets) are very threatened by anybody who advocates reason and critical thinking.

      The first principle we can apply when rejecting a person or a belief is if it resists close, rational scrutiny.

      • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

        well said

    • Sue Blue

      Exactly. I hear this so many times: “You’re just a Dawkins fangirl” or “you’re just parroting your false prophet Dawkins”. They can’t conceive of agreeing with or respecting an expert in a field without somehow idolizing or deifying that person, because their whole worldview is based on hierarchies and authoritarianism.

    • Glenn Swart

      Precisely!

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

    Wow. Just read the article. He accuses the New Atheists of having an overly simplistic view of religion and to support his argument sets up and overly simplistic, straw-man, view of the New Atheists. It has been quite a long time since I have read something that makes so many misrepresentations and puts so many words into peoples mouths. I particularly find his twisting of a line Katharine Hepburn, a firm atheist, says in “A Philadelphia Story” to suit his purpose to be particularly tacky.

    • Randay

      I don’t know how one can have an “overly simplistic view of religion”. Even many children can understand its one-dimensional nature and maybe even its circular reasoning: it’s true because it says it’s true.

  • pete084

    From a British perspective very little has changed, we don’t wear our religion got lack of) on our sleeves quite the same as our US cousins, indeed if you ask most British people if they believe they will say “I’m not sure really, haven’t hiven it a lot of thought”. What we don’t have a lot of is atheist groups, since religion isn’t such a big issue here (Try asking which football (soccer) team someone supports, then you are likely to see some passion!

    So, from our side of the pond Richard Dawning hasn’t whipped up a shitstorm, what we have seen is a growth in whackjob Christian churches, and we even have (much to my amazement.) a creation museum. I think much of this crazy is funded by American fundies, there have been investigations into some churches and US connections found. I very much doubt that you’ll see any megachurches here, just too much apathy towards religion to find enough money for one.

    Yes we have lots of new religions, but they’ve been coming and going since the flower power sixties when it was trendy, much of it prompted by the Beatles, George Harrison was really into that shit.

    P.S. Please excuse any typographical errors, this was typed on a tiny smartphone keyboard with fat fingers.

    • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

      I must commend you for writing this much on a smartphone. I couldn’t do it on my ipad and the thought to do it on my phone makes me want to cut off my fingers just so I don’t get tempted.

      That said, I am European but Living in California. Atheist all my life and growing up in Italy I was under the impression that religion was on the way out for the regular folks. Just a matter of time. Most of the people around me where either atheists or apatheists, a similar spread as you see in England even though I lived a stone throw from the Vatican.

      When I realized how much the religious were influencing our policies and laws I became more militant and I also don’t suffer ignorance, especially willful ignorance lightly. Discovering so many people holding creationists views even here in California was a shock for me when where I come from not even the frigging Pope does.

      Until very recently I held the UK as sort of a promised land. An example to follow for us americans.

      I don’;t want a nation of atheists to rule things. No more than I want a nation of Christians. I think the ultimate goal is for people to live rational lives inspired by science but I would expect that having a society that doesn’t ask too frequently what color baby Jesus eyes were would be a good thing.

      Lately I have been watching a lot of British TV and programs (in parts thanks to youtube and in part thanks to a little tunnel software I found) and I am starting to see a resurgence of religious fervor at least with some British subjects that show up on BBC and Sky. Whether that reflects a movement in the streets or not, I cannot say, but it is certainly worrying me.

      I do believe American Fundamentalists are responsible for it. Probably because they have seen how easily their Muslim counterparts were able to establish a foothold, they decided to relive the Crusades on British Soil.

      I am starting to think that British Atheists need to wake up from the torpor and start fighting both the Christian and Muslim influences. They are bad and they take the long view on things. Look at our fundamentalists. They started back in the 50′s and just now we got around to fighting them in a organized manner.

      I still believe the ultimate goal is a society that does not pose itself the religious question too often, but those same people that have grown up secular because the rest of society was likewise secular, will quickly fall pray of silver tongued religionists.
      We need to be there to provide a counterpoint to their activism with our own.

      As far as the article in question here, I haven’t read it yet, but from what I have seen so far I only have one thing to say: Bollocks.

  • Theseus

    Hitch, Harris, and Dawkins also showed the world that we are diverse in our political and ideological views as well. The idea that we agreed on everything and were all left leaning on every subject under the sun, was destroyed by these gents. True when it came to basic human rights and individual freedoms, the “horseman” were basically on the same page – let’s face it one cannot be a racist or neo-nazi and claim to be a skeptical or rational thinker – but clearly when it came to matters such as geo-political or public policy, these guys had their own opinions!

    I remember getting really pissed at Hitch over the Iraq war and I usually agreed with him 99% of the time. While I agreed with Harris that some folks in the west had a tendency to give radical Islam a pass in the name of “diversity” I vehemently disagreed with his “torture may be appropriate in some cases” ( the old ticking bomb scenario). However, we all agree supernatural religious belief is irrational and has the potential for great harm – specifically when it is used as public policy

    No the “New Atheism” is not dead. It is alive and well.

    • C Peterson

      I come to a different conclusion than you. My primary objection to “New Atheism” is that I think it fails to demonstrate the actual diversity of those who are atheists. It presents a much more narrow world view than atheists actually possess, and misrepresents the idea of atheism in doing so.

      • randomfactor

        “New Atheism” is just “atheists who don’t HAVE to ‘shut up’ when you tell them to.” No more.

        • C Peterson

          That is only one small part of it. In fact, for the most part, it is anti-theism, at least to the extent that we consider the words of Hitchins, Dawkins, and the others who the term is largely applied to.

          • Houndentenor

            Virtually every religion is anti- the other religions. It’s in their texts. You will often hear entire sermons in Christian churches explaining why the other Christians are wrong about this or that. What is the problem with atheists criticizing religion or specific religions and their teachings and actions? Religions have been doing it to each other for as long as we have written records.

            • C Peterson

              I certainly didn’t say there is anything wrong with atheists criticizing religion! As a strong anti-theist and anti-religionist, I encourage them to do so. The more public, vocal criticism of religion, the better, in my opinion.

              My only complaint is when they present this position as being a consequence of atheism, and not of the same reasoning processes that led to their atheism in the first place.

      • JohnnieCanuck

        That would be your definition of ‘New Atheism’. One which I think I can assume you don’t apply to yourself. Speaking as a New Atheist, I would prefer that you not tell me what I am or am not. It’s really not for you to say.

        Lots of people think I should be ashamed of the label ‘atheist’. Now it seems there are others who think it’s okay and it’s only ‘New Atheism’ that is icky.

        Random factor’s definition above works for me. I’ll leave it to you to decide if it applies to you.

        As for me, not shutting up.

        • Houndentenor

          it took me awhile to accept the label “atheist”. It does have a lot of baggage. But labels are useful. I don’t have time to explain why I reject their claims of theism and superstition. “I’m an atheist” takes a lot less time, especially with people who don’t really want to have a rational conversation anyway.

          • C Peterson

            Nobody should be ashamed of being an atheist, and nobody should be ashamed of publicly identifying themselves as such. I understand why some people find themselves in the position of having to hide their atheism, but changing society so that atheism is a perfectly acceptable view is what all this dialog is about, isn’t it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/dick.walsh.7 Dick Walsh

    It’s not a question of ‘won’ or ‘lost’. I’m sure Dr Dawkins still considers his views as valid as he ever did, as do I.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Saying that Dawkins has “lost” is like saying that George Washington lost because Americans are no longer shooting at the British.

    • Glenn Swart

      Since Bill keeps removing my posts for no apparent reason, I must simply applaud you for making the most concise post possible. I have been muzzled for no reason other than Trumping bills reasoning, which is unfortunate and I will not visit this site again as result.

  • JET

    I hope that the NEW New Atheists are more like my son. He was raised without religion, but not necessarily as an atheist even though that is what my husband and I both are. In high school he began his own research and started forming his own opinions. He did some cursory research into the major religions and decided they were all crap. He also read Dawkins, Hitch, et al and decided they were philosophically and scientifically correct, but a little too militant for his taste. He now feels it is not productive to argue against religion unless it infringes on the rights of others and then will only argue from a philosophical or scientific standpoint. If someone cites their religion or the bible in their argument against gay marriage/birth control/abortion, he will continually repeat “tell me what YOU think, not what someone told you to think.” His girlfriend calls herself Catholic, because that is how she was raised, but believes in none of the dogma of the Catholic Church. Their political and social stances are almost identical and he’s okay with her wanting to continue calling herself a Catholic. When he was scheduled to meet her very Catholic grandparents, she warned him that they would ask about his religion. He chose to very diplomatically sidestep the question rather than become confrontational. I’m proud of him for that.

    When I look at my son (and my daughter, who takes a similar position) I’m optimistic about the future. They and most of their college aged friends have given up religious dogma even if they continue to call themselves Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Christian or whatever in order to keep peace in the family. They all support gay rights, use condoms, are pro choice, and accept modern scientific principles and that’s what matters in the long run. Education is the key. College, television and the internet are slowly but surely doing away with archaic beliefs. (Disclaimer: We live on the “left” coast which is fortunately not the Bible Belt and I fully realize that our college students are much more liberal than much of the nation. But I’m still optimistic!)

    • Ders

      That’s awesome. There is a huge difference between what we do in the world interacting with rational people and what we write on blogs and and in books, etc. I do have a problem when saying something with conviction despite taboos is considered “militant”. It is just fine to say somebody is wrong or deluded when they are actually wrong or deluded.

    • Bill

      He now feels it is not productive to argue against religion unless it
      infringes on the rights of others and then will only argue from a
      philosophical or scientific standpoint.

      The best arguments are the ones that come from a standpoint similar to that of your opponent’s. It’s awesome when an atheist uses Bible verses to beat a Christian in an argument.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

      “When he was scheduled to meet her very Catholic grandparents, she warned him that they would ask about his religion. He chose to very diplomatically sidestep the question rather than become confrontational”

      So he lied by omission? How is it “confrontational” to answer, “I’m an atheist”.

  • Taz

    There seem to be a lot of recent articles saying that the “new atheists” have failed because atheism has become more mainstream. Savor the irony.

    • Randomfactor

      We will have truly won the battle when your theistic beliefs or lack of them are completely irrelevant to your public life.

    • Pseudonym

      Indeed. Professor Dawkins will always have my gratitude for shifting the Overton window.

  • Artor

    I had to facepalm at this line, “It seemed that non-believers were tired of all the nuance surrounding religion, hungry for a tidy narrative that put them neatly in the right.”
    Yeah, it’s the people who respect reality and all it’s myriad details that are tired of nuance, and not the people who claim every question can be answered from one book. “God said it, I believe it, done!” is such a nuanced position, amirite?

  • LutherW

    Bulloney. Take a proposition, get a few examples and presto you have a story. Another inadequate journalist could say the “new” atheists are eating the lunch of the religious atheists. by interviewing or quoting a few who agree with the “new” atheists.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

    That article makes it out like this is a transition in the atheist movement, but it’s clearly just a transition in their perception of it. Friendly Atheist, for instance, has been around since I started reading blogs in 2007.

    • Anonymous Atheist

      Check the archives drop-down – it back even further, to 2006. :-)

  • http://goddoesnt.blogspot.com/ James Lindsay

    Besides the copious problems with applying the term “lost” to Dawkins, this is the same kind of nonsense that allowed the religions to “win” against Hume, which is pretty much the last time they had anything looking like legs to stand on. The presumption with the religions is that if they are able to weather the storm, then they “win.” This is shit.

    The religions would win if they could produce evidence for their claims. That I’m saying this now indicates that the mentality of Dawkins, and people like Hume before him, and Epicurus before him, could not have possibly “lost,” since there has been a complete change in the social situation that anyone but those on the fringes or in particular contexts like labs might demand evidence before believing.

    As for the softer atheists that try to get in on interfaith things or see “nuance,” they’re merely adapting to the fact that the religious operate under a fundamentally different set of logical axioms and are therefore little pursuaded by evidence to the contrary of their beliefs. Sure, some atheists want to be accommodating, others make the mistake that “atheism” is a thing at all (instead of the null hypothesis), and yet others just want to find a way into the heads of people that they want to help out of a labyrinth: the cognitive bias called faith.

  • Carpinions

    Looks to me like another article that decries the “uppity” segment of the social group in question while raising up those the author perceives as more agreeable and amenable to cast the picture he’d like to see in reality (which also has the intended effect of maintaining his comfort level).

    But when you get down to it, an atheist when questioned as to why they are one, will usually tell you the reason they’re not religious is because they find no reason to believe in bunk. “Bunk” will come off more or less harsh depending on how it’s worded, but the result is the same. Doesn’t matter if that person is Bill Maher or the quiet neighbor next door.

    And that’s the part that Hobson and others cannot and will not ever get to disappear. The shell game they play when they write articles like this is “oh, were fine with the average nice atheist.” No they’re not. They’re fine with the be-seen-and-not-heard atheist. If they got the nice atheist into a friendly metaphysical chat, it doesn’t matter how even keel the atheist is, certain opinions would change pretty fast.

    “…call for large injections of nuance”

    Indeed, Mr. Hobson. This is mostly all we’ve ever asked of theists, but get nothing but lies, straw men, accusations, false history, and ignored opportunities to answer in return. How seriously long do we have to hear the “communist atheists killed 300 trillion people!” claim before we’re allowed to say “enough” and demand respect?

    • Houndentenor

      I have sometimes heard the term “militant atheist”. Why does that sound familiar? Oh yeah, “militant homosexual”. What is militant to the speaker? Someone who isn’t afraid and hiding in a closet and pretending to be like everyone else. Wear that accusation and any like it as a badge of honor. If that’s the worst insult they can hurl at you, you’re doing it right.

  • GodlessPoutine

    I’ve found a whole rash of these articles coming out just recently. The first I saw of it was a Christian “think tank” in the UK who seem to repeat it like a mantra. As far as I can tell it’s just what certain people really really want to believe and they’re keen on just repeating it over and over again until it comes true like some kind of magical spell.

  • McAtheist

    He lost? So what is his record now? Around 432 – 0 – 1?

    • McAtheist

      He’ll still make the playoffs.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

    Are there people who take Alain de Botton seriously? This isn’t a rhetorical question? Maybe I go to the wrong websites but I’ve never seen anyone who likes him. He reminds me a lot of Michael Ruse. They are atheists who regret being atheists.

  • A Dawkins’ convert

    Theo, believe it or not, is a theologian. (I read it on wikipedia, so it must be true.) His article is the same kind of ‘Dawkins-is-history’ wishful thinking we New Atheists have come to expect from people offended by our anti-religion opinions.

  • DougI

    Does this mean Catholics lost because Protestants came about? Or does this mean Protestants lost because $cientology was created? What absurd reasoning. It just shows the desperation of apologists.

  • http://www.facebook.com/priscilla.troop Priscilla Troop

    I don’t agree the ‘new atheism’ is fading but it’s not exactly thriving either. Humanism is going to surpass atheism as an idea because it’s way more pragmatic. When Dawkins publically ridiculed faith at the Reason Rally and encouraged people
    to publically mock believers for their beliefs he, and I hope it was unintentionally, branded the atheist movement as antagonistic and hostile. You don’t want that reputation, especially in a society where you’re out numbered. I do agree he and the other authors have done a lot to progress atheism and I just see humanism as one of the next steps.

    • Theseus

      That’s a label that Dawkins has carried around with him for several years.
      I personally have never heard him engage in ad hoc attacks or personally insult believers; however, he can be brutal in his criticism of the thought process and belief system itself. If that is “mocking” so be it. It’s kind of like telling gays: “Just be patient, someday you’ll have the right to marry like everybody else; just don’t make too many waves now.”

      Some things are impossible to “ease into” and while we need positive role models, I think the splash of cold water on the collective faces of believers is some times appropriate

    • Theseus

      That’s a label that Dawkins has carried around with him for several years.
      I personally have never heard him engage in ad hoc attacks or personally insult believers; however, he can be brutal in his criticism of the thought process and belief system itself. If that is “mocking” so be it. It’s kind of like telling gays: “Just be patient, someday you’ll have the right to marry like everybody else; just don’t make too many waves now.”

      Some things are impossible to “ease into” and while we need positive role models, I think the splash of cold water on the collective faces of believers is some times appropriate

    • Ders

      Why the hell should we not ridicule faith? I really do want the reputation of being antagonistic and hostile. Every social change movement in history has been accompanied with the idea that the people should just be quiet and be nice. F NO.

      Humanism is such a vague, amorphous thing that most religious people think they actually espouse it. It’s not controversial, and it doesn’t change a whole lot. It is basically a term that atheists have termed because atheism doesn’t have the umbrella-type definition that theism does to include other aspects of a worldview. It’s wonderful, but not a real fight.

      • Bill

        “I really do want the reputation of being antagonistic and hostile.”

        That’s fine, you’re free to be an asshole. Just don’t associate yourself with the rest of us.

  • rgcustomer

    The only thing “New Atheism” has lost is Hitch. There’s nobody around with his combination of fearlessness, intelligence, vocabulary, and speed. But there will be.

    It’s impossible for the religious, the superstitious, the snake-oil salesmen, and the like to participate online any more without being forced to defend their ideas with evidence and logic. So they don’t even bother to participate. They turn all that off, one-way communication only. They’re done.

  • Houndentenor

    Dawkins’ The God Delusion is the reason I consider myself an atheist. I was sitting on the fence before I read his book. Obviously I was close enough to acknowledging that for some time I had not believed or I wouldn’t have bought the book (with a Barnes and Noble gift card from a very fundamentalist relative LOL), but I needed the gentle shove that Dawkins’ argument provided.

    I do not, however, consider myself a disciple of Dawkins. I like him. I eagerly read what he has to say and follow him on twitter. But I often disagree with what he has to say (or more often the sometimes clumsy way he distills his point into 140 characters or less). That’s not a rejection of Dawkins. I didn’t join a cult. It’s not a religion either. I just don’t believe. He’s an intelligent person and well worth reading. Whether I agree or disagree I question why I agree or disagree. Is there another valid point of view? Do I agree with that one or not? Why. In short, I’m a skeptic. I doubt Dawkins himself wants blind allegiance or cultish devotion. Unfortunately the religious cannot comprehend that I can be an admirer of someone’s writing without feeling obligated to follow them without question. That is, in most cases, what religion asks people to do. I see it in my religious relatives. They would claim it is not the case but try criticizing their beliefs or their church and see what kind of reaction you get. I feel no obligation to defend anything Dawkins or Harris or Krauss has said. They are all capable of defending their own arguments far better than I could. I do feel free to criticize them. I wish the theists understood that atheism is just a lack of belief. Beyond that we differ on a whole host of issues and have widely different world views. In my opinion, that is a very good thing.

  • http://twitter.com/pzmyers PZ Myers

    Not too impressed with the article. Stedman, de Botton, and Berlinerblau are the new “trend”? Bleh. And it cites de Waal as an example of an atheist book — it’s an ANTI-atheist book.

  • Bill

    “Dawkins may not lead it, but he never really did.”

    Yep. I’ve been an atheist for over a decade now and I’ve never looked up to that guy as any kind of role model. Insulting people is a poor way to win them over and make friends.

  • Eric

    Diversity within atheism is in principle a good thing, but we should also be concerned about dilution. In the gay movement, which I am a part of, many people turn to atheism because their god disapproves of their sexuality. They walk away from religion because they disagree with the doctrine that they happened to grow up under.

    They are walking out of their churches and turning away from their god not because they have a logical argument against the existence of gods, but rather because they disagree with their god.

    In my opinion, this sort of thinking is contrary to the core of what atheism is…basically believing whatever suits your needs rather than thinking critically about the world around you and arriving at conclusions about reality based on what is observable and demonstrable. As we know, if a god did actually exist, there’s nothing to say that he couldn’t be a merciless homophobe.

    I’d much rather see the atheist movement stay true to a non-belief in super-naturalism based on the core idea of non-belief due to lack of evidence. However, I understand the reality of it is that as atheism unfortunately becomes trendy, the movement will indeed become diluted with irrational thinkers and people for whom religion simply doesn’t align with their agenda/wants/needs.

    When it comes to making atheism mainstream, we need to be careful what we wish for. It’s a pipe dream to believe that even a fraction of our society is capable of critical thinking…and religion isn’t the only culprit in this regard.

    • Bill

      It’s a pipe dream to believe that even a fraction of our society is capable of critical thinking

      No one is good at critical thinking, not even atheists. Cognitive science experiments demonstrate this again and again. Skepticism and science are great because they help us overcome our in-born cognitive biases, but don’t start thinking that “converting to atheism” frees us of them. Arrogantly speaking to religious people as if we are superior to them is the wrong approach. One thing atheists could stand to learn from the Bible is humility.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

    Sorry, didn’t bother reading Hobson’s article past the first sentence. If he wanted to be listened to he would have lead with the truth.

  • Glenn Swart

    Bottom line is that Dawkins is right, public sentiment is one thing, what is true is another thing entirely, and ones opinion of Dawkins approach or personality is irrelavant.

  • Glenn Swart

    Richard Dawkins and co, have won so comprehensively, that it has become more compromising to be religious than to be an atheist. They have turned the perception around in 5 years.

    • Bill

      What fantasyland do you live in? Are you open to immigrants?

      • Glenn Swart

        Lets be serious for moment here. Have you heard anyone say “I’m religious” in the last 2 or 3 years without saying “but what I believe is” and giving their twist on how to make their religious views seems less embarrassing? Be honest please?

        • Bill

          No, I’ve never heard any religious person feel the need to justify their beliefs or act embarrassed or ashamed by them. Again, what world do you live in?


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