Instead of “New Atheism,” how about popular atheism?

I should have included this in yesterday’s post, but here’s an idea: instead of the inaccurate term “New Atheism,” or the in-jokey “Gnu Atheism,” how about “popular atheism”?

That captures the real difference between Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens compared to their predecessors: they had unprecedented success reaching a mass audience. If we’re lucky, we could even con the haters into adopting the term, since “popular” has negative connotations as well as positive.

Arguments for the existence of something that sounds kind of like a god
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Avoiding divorce doesn’t make you a traditionalist
Tim Minchin: “I don’t know how to say that nicely, but…”
  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    Whatever terminology trips your trigger. To quote Rhett Butler: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

  • baal

    In before the fatuous “Why can’t the atheists just talk like Christians? It’ll make us all happy!”

    If you’re one of those Christians (and you guys were in the prior thread) please go read Greta Christina’s “why I’m angry” posts and take some personal responsibility for understanding what is objectively wrongful and sinful in your tribe.

    @ OP – The inherency against even a jargon term change is substantial.

  • James Sweet

    Sounds fine, but… good luck with that. Once a name has stuck, changing the name on the theory that the original name is slightly inaccurate never seems to meet with much success.

    I agree it is more descriptive of what people actually mean when they say “New Atheism”.

    There is a relatively new style of beer called Black IPA. This is an oxymoron, because IPA stands for India Pale Ale, and how can an ale be both black and pale at the same time? Of course, India Pale Ale is a silly term to begin with because a) many American IPAs aren’t all that pale to begin with, being more of a dark amber color; and b) while there is a nugget of truth to the story about the IPA style developing as a result of excessively hoppy beers being used to preserve them for the long boat ride to from England to India, modern American IPAs don’t taste remotely like anything that ever had anything to do with India.

    So the name “Black IPA” is stupid for at least two or three reasons. And yet, that’s the name that has stuck, because everybody knows what you mean: A really hoppy, somewhat higher gravity ale, but with a toasty malt character and black color. Some have tried to get alternate names adopted, like CDA for Cascadian Dark Ale (even though the style was pioneered in Vermont, making “Cascadian” a questionable label), or IBA for India Black Ale. But none of these terms have tended to stick. Even though Black IPA is a nonsense term, everybody knows what you mean, and there is waaaaay too much momentum to change it at this point.

    Popular Atheism is a more accurate term than New Atheism, but good luck with the momentum…

  • Bronze Dog

    [Dons hipster glasses] I liked atheism before it was cool.

    • Martin

      Ha! I’ve been an atheist for 62 years…out for 50 of them. So you damn kids can get off my lawn!

  • Thomas Lawson

    “To oppose the Christian religion is not merely a matter of interesting debate and intellectual prowess; it is a duty that we owe to humanity, and an inalienable right for our self-defense.”


    Is New Atheism any different from Old Atheism? And how long ago does the atheism have to be to be considered “old?” That quote is from 1903.

  • mnb0

    I join Thomas Lawson above. How about just


    “That captures the real difference”

    What difference? With this guy?

    Quotes: “to deduce a divine world from the concrete world is a salto mortale.”

    “Those kaffirs (more denigrating than niggers) are so lazy, thus said the christian-minded Boers, and they put the whip across the black backs of the natives, who certainly won’t bless the day they met the whites.”

    Awesome, isn’t it? More than 100 years before New Atheism was coined. If I’m right the USA were still enjoying Jim Crow in that time.
    Compared to FDM Bertrand Russell was an accommodist. FDM became a member of parliament (here comes popularity) and has a statue in Amsterdam. He has a public garden in that city named after him, build on the site of a former church.

  • Aratina Cage

    Well, I’m partial to Gnu Atheism, but sure, Popular Atheism works as well as New Atheism. However, it would be destined to be truncated to Pop Atheism which could cause further confusion as to which kind of atheists are being talked about because it would allow the label to be applied to atheism in pop culture. Pop culture has, after all, long been filled with atheistic and anti-religious sentiments here and there though it hasn’t ever reached the level of thoughtfulness or clarity or self-conscious activism which rejects woo and pseudoscience as well as all forms of deities as Gnu Atheism has. But if someone like Bill Maher is going to be seen as a New Atheist, then I suppose even that shoe (Pop Atheism) fits.