Do the New Atheists Have Any New Ideas?

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, answers the question: Do the New Atheists have any new ideas?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • joey_in_NC

    From the video:

    “…atheism is as legitimate a belief system as…” (3:25)

    Was this a simple slip up on Hemant’s part, or does he really think atheism is a belief system?

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      That the belief may be well-supported from relatively basic premises does not mean that it is no longer a belief.

      I’d put more emphasis on system. It’s more a proper class of belief systems, with member systems as diverse and divergent as Stalinist Communism, Randite Capitalism, and Secular Humanism; that is, the class of all belief systems that subscribe to the proposition that god(s) don’t exist, regardless of on what basis (whether as primary premise or subsequent inference) and of what additional is-propositions and ought-propositions are also part of the system. (The divergence seems generally at the ought-propositions.)

      Contrariwise, the use of “Atheism” as a shorthand to refer to the Western world’s anthropologically prevalent strain/cluster of secular humanist techno-scientific progressive (et cetera) system is a relatively common semantic sloppiness.

      • joey_in_NC

        I agree that atheism is not a belief system.

        However, I would consider humanism to be a belief system…depending on the definition of “humanism” that you’re using. Though, I haven’t really come across a very coherent definition of what “humanism” actually means.

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          I don’t think the emphasis on belief is appropriate; as I noted, that atheism may be well-supported from relatively basic premises does not mean that it is no longer a belief; and as a belief, thereby defines a class of belief systems that include belief in the requisite proposition.

    • viaten

      I doubt he thinks that. Perhaps he meant to say “world view”.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

        That would have been better phrasing, yes

        • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

          I take issue with using “world view” it is too commonly used by theists all the way back to flat earth and earth is the center of all things concepts. I’d rather use “natural world view” or “scientific world view” or even”cosmological view” since we cannot deny that forces outside the earth actively effect the course of our lives. And anyways the presuppositionists would love to claim a leading Atheist supports the “world view” position.

    • C Peterson

      I think it just reflects an inadequacy in the English language. Thus, we sometimes need to call atheism a “religion” (from a legal standpoint), or a “belief” or “belief system” when contrasting it with religious or theistic beliefs, or a “philosophical position” when comparing it with active philosophies.

      I’m sure Hemant understands as well as most atheists what atheism is, but what are you supposed to do when you need to get a concept across in just a few words? You use analogy.

      • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

        Atheism is a fairly ambiguous definition until one uses a modifier like humanist or naturalist. While using comparative analogies have their uses like when speaking to your everyday xian, I think that Atheism’s epistemology should have more precise language. I would rather leave the theist confused by what I just said (as I am certain many of you are , snark) in the hope that the theist is compelled to think and research my meaning. Forget all that, I’m just going to put it this way,

        An Atheist is a person who accepts the (natural) scientific explanation for the emergence of religion and the belief in gods.
        Whereas
        A Theist is a person who rejects or denies the (natural) scientific explanation for the emergence of religion and the belief in gods.

  • Hat Stealer

    Sure- that there are no gods, and, for many of us, that those who belive in a god/s shouldn’t be allowed to force their morality on the rest of the population. New ideas arise when the religous find even more creative methods of oppressing people, which we can speak out against.

    American society 50 years ago would be much less tolerant to this line of thought than it is today. Given that ‘New Athiesm’ is only little over a decade old, I think that qualifies it as new.

    • Rob

      That’s not new. Bertrand Russel. Mark Twain.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      American society 50 years ago would be much less tolerant to this line of thought than it is today

      130 years ago, there was Robert Green Ingersoll. The Cold War and oppostion to “godless communism” in the mid-20th century caused some regression.

  • C Peterson

    They have no new ideas about atheism.

  • viaten

    Not new ideas but perhaps new packaging, delivery, and visibility of the atheist message.

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

    There are no new ideas about gods not existing. There are, however, several new ideas among the “new” atheists. There is the idea of atheist church ( not my cup of tea ), there is of building a more general atheist community ( I’m ok with that ) and there is the idea of atheists becoming more vocal and visible and working to help others and improve their communities ( I’m all about that).

  • JET

    Theist: “Sit down and shut up.”
    New Atheist: “No.”

  • A3Kr0n

    You can only use the word “new” so long before people start longing for the “improved” version. After the improved version wears off “new lemon scent” usually provides a brief pickup in sales. I’m not sure how effective “tartar control formula” would work, but “now with baking soda” seems to be green, yet not green at the same time for appealing to diametrically opposed consumers.

    • Pattrsn

      And then someone will come up with an ironic version of “classic” atheism. Of course prior to that there will have to have been a post atheist movement.

  • Who

    Very similar discussion on reddit

  • Who
  • WingedBeast

    Mainly, the new ideas are the challenges of the old ideas.
    Old idea: Religion is needed to make people moral and/or makes people more moral.
    New idea: No it isn’t and not it doesn’t.
    Old idea: Only religion gives one the language necessary to provide comfort to another.
    New idea: Wrong again.
    Old idea: Religion answers otherwise unanswerable questions.
    New idea: That doesn’t make those answers right or the questions mean anything.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    New Atheist is a label some media talking head slapped on a group of writers who published books at about the same time. There was nothing “new”. It’s typical of the American media idiots to think something is new because they hadn’t already gotten a press release about it. I’m old enough to remember the news media “discovering” Bruce Springsteen in 1984 when Born in the USA came out. Springsteen had of course been selling out concerts for a decade at that point. That’s what kind of ill-informed nitwits pass for reporters in our country. So no, there’s nothing particularly new. Some good writers. Some interesting points of view. But the same lack of belief that people who didn’t believe have been not believing for centuries.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    I am offering up a rehash of theological non-cognitivism called (for now) theological poly-humorism or maybe poly-theological humorism. The idea is that any time a theist opens his mouth and begins spewing theological language he has given his listeners the right to make fun humorous jabs at him. Basically religious language should be countered with humour and not logic or reason.

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

      And some might say, “don’t we already do that.” Sure. I’m proposing some guidelines I.e. the goal is to get the theist to laugh at the ludicrousness of his claim. So here is an example theist: Moses parted the red sea. Atheist: yes, he was also the first Jew to part bagels and use red salmon.
      Or, Theist: I rub Buddha’s belly for luck. Atheist rub it to much and you’ll be lucky if he doesn’t fart.
      Presuppositionist: Scripture is the basis of all epistemological knowledge.
      Atheist: tic p”oc da !ge tok clec # tic , that’s Bushman for “I think you are full of cow dung would you like a Coke.”

  • Atheist for human rights

    New atheism is a neo-con/religious movement of Atheism. And as a normal atheist I stand up for facts and science without resorting to bigotry.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/not-in-our-name-dawkins-dresses-up-bigotry-as-nonbelief–he-cannot-be-left-to-represent-atheists-8754183.html

    • Carmelita Spats

      I’m atheist. I do not believe in gods. I criticize superstition and laugh at the silliness of religion because it merits NO respect. I can respect people but NOT their superstitions. When my niece was severely injured in Mexico City, I had family members who wanted to drag the child to a “huesera” at the “Mercado de Sonora”. A “huesera” is a CHARLATAN healer who deals in “rubbing bones” and “manipulating energies”. The child needed a MEDICAL doctor, for fuck’s sake! She got the attention she needed but I will FOREVER treat charlatan healing with the same contempt that I have for the Abrahamic faiths. I’m quite bigoted against “huesera medicine” and I hope I “offend” the multicultural feelings of every single “huesera” if it means that people get the medical help they need. Same goes for the burqa.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      New atheism is a neo-con/religious movement of Atheism.

      I will file that under WTF.

    • Pattrsn

      It seems you also have something against making sense.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Pedantry alert: “so many different mediums

  • NateW

    It seems to me that whenever I’ve heard “new atheism” it has been used to imply a sort of “evangelistic” atheism, or as Hemant puts it here, an atheism that is characterized by a “barrage of criticism” against religion. I don’t think that the term “new atheism” denotes new ideas or “beliefs” but what seems to outside observers to be an emerging/new WAY of being an atheist. In other words, from what I’ve seen, the popular view is that an atheist is someone who believes that god does not exist, while a “new” atheist is someone who not only believes this, but is actively trying to proselytize—or at least denigrate the ideas of— those who do profess belief in God.

  • EvolutionKills

    This image came to mind…


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