I said yesterday that the “New Atheists” helped revive a movement that has since grown in both size and scope.
Here’s even more evidence of that: The number of books being written about atheism are coming out of the fire hose at full blast. And far from being more “arguments against faith,” they’re covering a wider range of material than ever before. Kimberly Winston wrote about the trend in Publishers Weekly:
Today books by and about nonbelievers — atheists, humanists, “brights” and other “freethinkers” — have taken a new turn. Books on the topic have matured, growing beyond the angry disdain of the New Atheists to include more moderate voices…
What’s changed? For one thing, in part due to the books of the New Atheists, nonbelief has become less stigmatized…
At the same time, there’s been some backlash against the stridency of the New Atheists, and not only from the religious authors who wrote books responding to the New Atheists’ core tenet that religion is “evil.” Many new titles on atheism and nonbelief take a more middle way. “There’s been a recognition that the New Atheists had an aggressiveness that was off-putting to a lot of people,” says Kathleen Mulhern, managing editor at Patheos Press, which last year published The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide: Helping Secular Students Thrive by Hemant Mehta, its second title on atheism in two years. “But that aggressiveness seems to be moving into a more subtle confidence,” Mulhern says. “There just seems to be more of a comfort level with talking about atheism than there was earlier.”
My book was far from a knock on strident atheism — it wasn’t about tone at all — but there’s a lot of truth to the idea that people are looking for more entryways into discussing atheism, and if Richard Dawkins is too “aggressive” for you, another author might be more palatable to your tastes.
Bring it all on. The more books about atheism, the better off we all are. It doesn’t matter to me which lane to reason you choose to drive in as long as we’re all on the same highway.
There’s one thing that really stands out among the new crop of authors, though:
Just as the New Atheists were all white, male, and, with the exception of Harris, middle-aged, the current crop of authors is mostly white and almost exclusively male.
Of the nearly 30 books mentioned in Winston’s article, only three were written by women. And Susan Jacoby‘s was more of a profile of Robert Ingersoll than an argument for atheism. There are other books by women coming out soon that weren’t mentioned in the piece, but the overall charge is the same.
So how do we get more voices into the mix? It starts with publishers who seek them out. Kurt Volkan of Pitchstone Publishing (Disclosure: Pitchstone put out my two audiobooks) said in the article that he’s seeking out writers who cater to ethnic/gender niches in the atheist world. In fact, the two other books written by women in the article are both published by Volkan.
But it also requires more women and minorities to tell their stories and make their arguments and simply get them out there, even if that means self-publishing the books. We’re getting to the point where, once your book is online, how it got there is almost irrelevant.
That issue aside, though, it’s great to see all these new books still being published nearly a decade after Sam Harris got the ball rolling. There are so many areas that have yet to be explored in depth — dating and dying, to name two — and many more people able to write about them than ever before.
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