Are the New Atheists Fading?

It’s beginning to look like the New Atheism movement is fading. Consider some basic facts:

In August 2013, PZ Myers published his book on atheism. While Myers was the internet’s most famous atheist, and he often bragged of having millions of followers, his book was a flop and currently ranks at about 130,000 on Amazon.com.

In September 2013, Richard Dawkins published his book on himself. Even though Dawkins is the most famous of all atheists, and he (and the New Atheist community) engaged in rather extensive book promotion efforts, he only managed a brief #9 listing on the NYT best-selling list in October 2013 and it has dropped off that list ever since. Currently, his book ranks at only about 20,000 on Amazon.com.

In November of 2014, Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss starred in an atheist documentary that had cameos from famous people like Woody Allen. The documentary, as far as I can tell, was clearly a flop, appearing in only one theater for two weeks, grossing a mere $14,000.

The only apparent exception to this trend is Peter Boghossian’s book, which was published in Nov, 2013. It currently has a respectable amazon ranking of about 4000. However, any self-proclaimed manual for creating atheists is clearly preaching to the choir and no one would deny there are a significant number of Gnu atheists willing to buy up the latest atheist book. But apart from the buzz in the atheist blogosphere, Boghossian hasn’t gained much traction. In fact, it’s almost March and we have only seen one “street epistemologist” show up to cure us. 😉

So we must begin to wonder – is New Atheism past its peak?

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18 Responses to Are the New Atheists Fading?

  1. Mark Plus says:

    The New Atheists might have passed their peak in popularity because they have accomplished about all they can do through education and ideology. Ironically, despite what firebrands on both sides of the god question assume, belief in god doesn’t depend on theories of origins or on the outcome of an ideological struggle. The evidence shows that humans hold religious beliefs as superficial opinions to manage existential anxiety; they lose interest in these beliefs when they live in secure conditions which provide for life’s predictable adversities. That would explain why people in, say, Vermont, die just like the people in Mississippi; yet Vermonters care about religion a whole lot less than Mississippians.

    I find that a bit of a letdown. For generations our deep thinkers held that belief in god shows the tragedy and frustrated grandeur of the human condition, or words to that effect. Now we learn that a certain level of GDP and some social welfare provisions can make belief in god go away.

  2. Kevin says:

    “The New Atheists might have passed their peak in popularity because they have accomplished about all they can do through education and ideology.” Take out the word “education”, and this sentence makes more sense. It isn’t education if what they are teaching is nonsense.

    “The evidence shows that humans hold religious beliefs as superficial opinions to manage existential anxiety; they lose interest in these beliefs when they live in secure conditions which provide for life’s predictable adversities.” It is true that poorer areas tend to be more religious. But out of curiosity, could you provide the evidence that you speak of? I’d be interested in reading these studies. While I find Christianity to be of great comfort in hard times, and can’t imagine how atheists manage to find true happiness without seriously deluding themselves as to the implications of their own beliefs, I also find Christianity to be infinitely more rational than atheism. I’m hardly the only person like that. So yes, please cite these studies that show humanity only believes in God as a stress reliever.

    “For generations our deep thinkers held that belief in god shows the tragedy and frustrated grandeur of the human condition, or words to that effect.” I may not have gotten enough sleep and missed your point here, but are you attempting to claim that “our deep thinkers” are all atheists? I sure hope not.

  3. Kevin says:

    And on the topic of deep thinkers, I would find it rather pitiful if you are including in that category the likes of sam harris, richard dawkins, pz myers, etc. I’ve seen no evidence that they are deep thinkers, but I’ve seen plenty that they are just anti-God ideologues.

  4. Crude says:

    Kevin,

    So yes, please cite these studies that show humanity only believes in God as a stress reliever.

    I’d note that this line of thinking also cuts both ways – it would show that, at least for many people, atheism is not a rational conclusion based on careful thought and the examination of evidence, but the result of external factors that have nothing to do with such reasoning. It’s a little like showing (hypothetically) that belief in God declines as the amount of time spent playing badminton goes up.

  5. Bilbo says:

    Maybe we should do a survey of the religious views of badminton players. 🙂

  6. Andrew W says:

    I haven’t played badminton since I was in university (15 years ago), but have continued as a Christian. I hope that’s a useful data point.

  7. Billy Squibs says:

    It seems to me that the Bible is quite explicit about what might prevent salvation. Luke 18:25 springs to mind as an obvious example.

  8. Luis says:

    It’s funny you write this. In my search around the internet, I find way more websites of christians turned atheists than the other way around. It’s no secret that christianity has been in decline and is declining for years.

  9. Crude says:

    It’s funny you write this. In my search around the internet, I find way more websites of christians turned atheists than the other way around.

    It’d be pretty amazing for the opposite to be true, considering ‘atheists’ are a tiny fraction of the irreligious, while ‘Christians’ are around in abundance.

    Besides, Mike didn’t speculate about the decline of atheism or irreligion, but of the New Atheists. Let’s be frank – even other atheists are sick of the New Atheists.

  10. Kevin says:

    It’s funny you write this. In my search around the internet, I find way more websites of christians turned atheists than the other way around. It’s no secret that christianity has been in decline and is declining for years.

    The decline of Christianity in the United States is completely irrelevant to whether or not the new atheist movement is on the decline as well. If richard dawkins and pz myers can’t sell their books, then that is possible evidence that new atheism is falling out of favor, which gives me hope for the rationality of the atheist community in general. Hopefully, the nonsense written by peter boghossian will also quickly fall by the wayside.

  11. Luis says:

    What difference does it make if it’s atheism or new atheism? The number of websites of people who left christianity for old atheism, new atheism or pop atheism are more numerous than the other way around. More and more people are finding the bible untenable in today’s modern society and they are recognizing that it’s not as reliable as they are lead to believe. Science, history and archeaology have all discredited it as a source for truth. The apologetics that you practice and preach is having very little effect in the world today.

  12. Crude says:

    What difference does it make if it’s atheism or new atheism?

    Because that is specifically what Mike was talking about, and what you were doubting? Really, that’s a bizarre reply on your part.

    The number of websites of people who left christianity for old atheism, new atheism or pop atheism are more numerous than the other way around.

    First – how do you even know? Personal anecdote?

    Second, polls indicate that by and large people are leaving Christianity for mere irreligion, not atheism. In the US, the irreligious tend to believe in God.

    Third, even if they did, so what?

    More and more people are finding

    Not really. In my experience, most of those atheists are laughably ignorant of science, history and archaeology. (You’ll notice that Jesus Myth conspiracists are also heavily represented among the Cult of Gnu, which is disregarded in history and archaeology.)

    But at least you agree that the Cult of Gnu is becoming largely irrelevant. And what a relief, right? Those guys are largely embarassment and clowns. Sure, they may have convinced some people, but then again so has Ken Ham. That’s not impressive – it’s cringe-worthy. Thank God most people don’t seem to be buying it.

  13. Michael says:

    What difference does it make if it’s atheism or new atheism?

    Atheism is simply a lack of belief in God. New atheism combines atheism with hate and bigotry. I was talking about New Atheism (in case you did not notice).

    The number of websites of people who left christianity for old atheism, new atheism or pop atheism are more numerous than the other way around.

    LOL. Gnu atheists love to preach about science, but are quick to abandon scientific thinking. Luis, your “number of websites” claim is junk. The internet is a hall of mirrors. Millions of twitter accounts and facebook accounts are fake. And there are lots and lots of atheist sockpuppets out there. So, just for starters, you would have to

    a. Establish the number of websites of people who left christianity for old atheism
    b. Establish the sites are legitimate and not saturated with sockpuppets and liars.

    More and more people are finding the bible untenable in today’s modern society and they are recognizing that it’s not as reliable as they are lead to believe. Science, history and archeaology have all discredited it as a source for truth. The apologetics that you practice and preach is having very little effect in the world today.

    This is the type of thing Crude was talking about. Attempts to change the topic by criticizing God, or the religion of the people involved in the discussion, will not see light around here.

  14. stcordova says:

    New Atheism past its peak, but it had a longer lifespan than A+ atheism.

    PS
    In defense of the movie starring Dawkins and Krauss, I liked the trailer, and I think pink shoes looked kinda hip. I like the fashion statement. Real rebellious.

  15. stcordova says:

    Since you mentioned the Dawkins movie bombing at the box office, it is notable 2014 is being declared the year of the Bible by Hollywood. 3 major movies:

    1. Noah
    2. Jesus (with Brad Pitt as Pontius pilate)
    3. Moses

    Does this mean NA is fading? Well I think it means polarization with the middle disappearing. The NA’s have had only a galvanizing effect on their opponents. So in that sense, they are off the screen for one segment of the population — those that Hollywood sees as a significant enough demographic that they are putting money to it. And money talks!

    NA leadership I think is failing to capture interest, they had to resort to ever more shrills stunts to maintain following. At some point the stunts look just plain irrational (how many creative ways can you desecrate religious symbols before it gets tiresome and just plain looks psycho?).

    How much mileage can a movement get out of the enjoyment of ridiculing others to make themselves feel superior. They ended up starting to ridicule each other, and that was bad for the movement. The fuel of the movement ended up incinerating it.

    I don’t know how your question can be empirically answered except to say, how much is the GNU label being used these days. Reminds me of the Brights. That didn’t last long either, and A+ not even a week. Any predictions as far as a rebranding to keep the interest flowing?

    I actually thought New Atheism was DOA, and all we were dealing with were PZ-bot zombies anyway.

    FWIW:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism

    “another global study has concluded that atheism is on a global decline due to continuing steady increases in religiosity in China, which harbors the majority of atheists and non-religious people, and Eastern Europe which has had significant changes in religiosity after the fall of communism”

  16. Jimi Burden says:

    I think we’ll see resurgences of NA around the world from time to time, depending on certain conditions. NA is a reactionary movement — thus, it can only appear where Xianity has or is already strong. After the initial thrill of freedom and the convincing of yourself that you are superior to the religious dolts, you’ll grow bored quickly. You realize that Xians are not persuaded by your arguments. I feel sorry for the likes of John Luftus, whose existence seems only to tear down people with faith and convince himself that he’s really smart. At any rate, NA will come and go… the nice thing is that atheists, because of low birth rates, will extinct themselves. It’s literally a suicidal belief system. The low birth rates are in the most atheistic countries.

  17. Brian says:

    I sensed a decline in new atheism around the time Hitchens died. The quasi-movement has not been the same since his death. Still, I think theists need to be ruthless in attacking and dismantling the remaining new atheist rogues. We need to banish folks like the Amazing Atheist to the internet ghetto.

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