New Atheism’s Obituary

As a tribute to the Decline of New Atheism, let’s pause for a moment of silence and contemplate the accomplishments of the movement’s movers and shakers.

The Four Horsemen

Christopher Hitchens: Passed away in 2011 and has now become immortalized among the dwindling number of Gnus as an internet meme.

Daniel Dennett: They needed a Fourth Horseman to make the metaphor work so he was it.  Other than getting into arguments with Sam Harris about free will, Dennett has never produced much as a leader of the Gnus.

Richard Dawkins:  After the success of his God Delusion, his reputation has taken a nose dive.  He appeared in a documentary with Lawrence Krauss that was a complete flop.  His two volume autobiography was also a flop.  Dawkins retained attention through persistent tweeting which, ironically, earned him the reputation of being a racist and a sexist.  Early in 2016, Dawkins suffered a stroke which he attributed in part to all the stress from tweeting.  Currently, he no longer tweets often and when he does, he seems obsessed with the Brexit vote.

Sam Harris:  Perhaps because he was sensing the decline of the New Atheism movement, Harris attempted  to expand his market and appeal to the New Age crowd as an atheist guru, even offering instructions on how to meditate.  But his marketing plans fell apart after he couldn’t resist the urge to attack the entire religion of Islam over and over again.  These days, he is either in a meditative sleep to convince himself that Sam Harris does not exist but, when conscious, is trying to prove to the world that Sam Harris is not a racist.

The Fifth Horseman

With the death of Hitchens, several New Atheists with PhDs auditioned for the role as a replacement Horseman.  None of them caught on.

PZ Myers:  Wrote an atheist book that was a flop and then became the driving force in splitting up the Gnu community into rad fem faction and the non-rad fem faction.  His once popular blog is popular no more and he is currently being sued by feminist Richard Carrier.

Jerry Coyne: Wrote a book promising to mainstream the idea that science and religion are incompatible.  It was a flop.  These days, Coyne occasionally writes about atheism, but spends more time posting about cats, food, and his fellow leftists who seek to impose more and more limits on free speech.   But he still doesn’t allow dissenting views on his own blog.

Peter Boghossian:  Wrote a book about how to convert people to atheism, but  it was ignored by everyone outside the Circle of Gnu.  His promised army of Street Epistemologists never appeared.  These days, he has been working with intellectual giants (like John Loftus) to develop an app that is supposed to help Gnu’s win arguments.

Richard Carrier: Never really had a shot at being the Fifth Horseman, but he gets a mention because he has a PhD (something he never forgets to mention).  He published his book defending the crackpot myther notion, but these days, the feminist atheist finds himself suing other feminist atheists for being banned from conferences and blog networks because of allegations concerning his treatment of women.   Oh, Carrier’s avid fans from around the globe can still comment on his new blog as long as they pay him.

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15 Responses to New Atheism’s Obituary

  1. stcordova says:

    One of the fundamental reasons for this decline in New Atheism, which I saw coming 10 years ago, is, ironically, the secularization of society.

    Practically nobody believes in Zeus anymore as a deity, but there isn’t much point having a group of non-believers in Zeus is there, even much less a group of New non-believers in Zeus. That is why New Atheism will die even if the overwhelming majority of the world becomes atheist, the New will become old real quickly.

    As far as the prospective fifth horsemen (except for the true fifth horseman Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has both courage and brains), they are just donkeys.

    Richard Carrier is the most entertaining of the clowns. At least Coyne held a respectable academic position. You’re right, Carrier never had a shot. Too much of a crackpot that even atheist academia doesn’t want to be associated with.

    ” Oh, Carrier’s avid fans from around the globe can still comment on his new blog as long as they pay him.”

    You probably mentioned it before, but does he actually charge a fee or something? I don’t visit his blog much. I didn’t even realize that was a policy!

  2. Crude says:

    These days, he is either in a meditative sleep to convince himself that Sam Harris does not exist but, when conscious, is trying to prove to the world that Sam Harris is not a racist.

    Hahahaha. Gold.

  3. Tim L says:

    Boghossian’s debate with Tim Mcgrew was amazing. McGrew was miles over Boghossian’s head in the debate while Boghossian kept saying embarrassing things like “if believers were only honest and admitted that I’m right with my caricature of their views…”
    If was like watching a supremely confident doofus debate a professor.

  4. Ryan says:

    These days, he is either in a meditative sleep to convince himself that Sam Harris does not exist but, when conscious, is trying to prove to the world that Sam Harris is not a racist.

    This almost made me fall off my chair I laughed so hard! I myself have found that sleeping is the time when my existence is the least compelling. I think it’s a good place for him to start.

  5. TFBW says:

    A. C. Grayling: British philosopher, was active as an anti-theist prior to the rise of New Atheism, and has occasionally been dubbed “the fifth horseman”. In recent years, he has written a Bible for atheists, The Good Book (2011), an anti-religion-pro-humanism book, The God Argument (2013), and founded an expensive private college with an explicitly atheistic bent, “New College of the Humanities”. Reviews of The Good Book were mostly negative, particularly with regard to its intent to be a substitute for the Bible, and it was soon forgotten. Reviews of The God Argument were rare enough to preclude declaring a majority sentiment, and it was almost immediately forgotten. The New College of the Humanities opened in 2012, and was received with hostility by many left-leaning people for its high tuition fees. This upset Grayling, as he also professes to be a man of the left. It aims to have a thousand students within ten years; as of 2015, it had 160. Grayling seems to be cursed with an inability to remain in the public consciousness, unlike Richard Dawkins. Everything he does seems to be forgotten quickly, and Michael didn’t even remember to include him in the list of candidate horsemen — a huge insult, given that Carrier is on the list.

  6. stcordova says:

    ” Oh, Carrier’s avid fans from around the globe can still comment on his new blog as long as they pay him.”

    Wow, ok, I found the fine print. Here is Carrier’s compensation:
    58 patrons $129 per blog post

    He’s had 10 posts from May 10, 2016 to August 6, 2016, so that is $1,290.

  7. Nick Bailey says:

    In case you didn’t know, Boghossian has developed the Atheos app and it is available on Apple products. I downloaded it myself out of curiosity. I’ve only done the first level (there’s ten) because you have to pay for the other ones. It’s just supplies hypothetical statements by religious people (many of which are silly and unrealistic) and gives you four answers to choose from in response. I’ll give and example of an actual one. “[grabs you by shirt collar] Believe in God or I’ll kick your ass! I’m dead serious!” I won’t bother listing all four choices because I can’t copy and paste them on my phone and I don’t feel like typing them, but I think you get the point, it’s dumb. Granted, there is a little bit of humor in the app and I assume this question was put in at least partially in jest. Even so, all the questions and answers in the modules are really predictable, stilted and not intellectually stimulating at all. The correct answer to the above question (and pretty much all questions in the same module) is essentially just “don’t bother with this person, they are violent and emotional.” Thanks for the common-sense advice Boghossian, don’t think we need an app for it.

  8. Dhay says:

    Here’s a snippet from a response by Tim McGrew on Victor Repperts blog — the topic was Richard Carrier on Bayes’ Theorem:

    Anyone, even a complete mathematical dunce, can have his work cleaned up to some extent by competent people coming along and correcting his errors. The question is whether this person should, in propria persona, put himself forward as competent …

    http://dangerousidea.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/richard-carrier-on-bayes-theorem.html#c8996383397472987282

    Got that, Carrier published a “complete mathematical dunce” quality online tutorial on Bayes’ Theorem; which faulty tutorial, after repeated criticisms from more competent persons, and repeated corrections of those errors by Carrier, tutorial gradually got better “to some extent”.

    With that in mind, would anybody care to read between the lines of Carrier’s footnote to his Entropy Explained tutorial on entropy at Secular Web, where Carrier explains that:

    [1] The present article has been rewritten several times, since in past incarnations it confused many readers. Hopefully it is finally in a simpler form that is clear enough to everyone.

    http://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/entropy.html

    Readers “confused” — or Carrier incompetent? I suppose readers — the same each time or different — might write in about each of “several” incarnations of Carrier’s tutorial, seeking clarification because they were “confused” and clueless; I would say they would be far more likely to write in if they did know their subject and knew Carrier’s tutorial got it wrong.

    The cynic in me says it’s another case of repeated correcting in the face of repeated pointing out of incompetence.

  9. Everything he does seems to be forgotten quickly, and Michael didn’t even remember to include him in the list of candidate horsemen — a huge insult, given that Carrier is on the list.

    Haha poor Grayling.

  10. TFBW says:

    Amusingly, when I had the idea to write the comment, I couldn’t remember Grayling’s name for the life of me. I was thinking, “what, no mention of … um … that British philosophy professor … uh … the name will come to me … eventually … crap — time to use Google.”

  11. Dhay says:

    Everything he does seems to be forgotten quickly, and Michael didn’t even remember to include him in the list of candidate horsemen — a huge insult, given that Carrier is on the list.

    Haha poor Michael Shermer

    (PhD in History of Science (the nearly-Darwinian ideas of Alfred Russel Wallace), former minor TV celebrity, writer of books insinuating that features of mind which apply to everyone and are normal apply preferentially (or perhaps only) to the religious and are abnormal. Has discovered that cycle short show off his physical assets to advantage. A visiting lecturer at a university, but to put it in perspective, he’s in essentially the same position as the martial arts expert that Peter Boghossian recently called in to lecture to his ‘Atheism’ course students.
    See, I knew you’d have to ask who Shermer is.)

  12. stcordova says:

    Regarding PZ Myers, there is this incident of PZ’s ftb horde welcoming with open arms someone claiming to be a child rapist, and PZ not doing anything (like passing the rapist’s IP to the police). The irony is PZ friends will demonize other atheists like Michael Shermer on no evidence, but coddle an anonymous commenter claiming he raped little girls.

    I hope FtB was just getting Poe’d (for the children’s sake, I hope the story is fake), but the fact Ftb slobbered over this self-confessed rapist name Ogvorbis shows how PZ’s horde have serious double standards. Did PZ initiate an investiagation, go with the same moral outrage against Ogvorbis? Not to my knowledge.

    https://orwelliangarbage.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/pz-myers-blasts-josh-duggar-but-protects-the-child-rapist-on-his-blog/#comments

    With that track record, it’s no surprise PZ won’t win many fans and hence the coveted title of 5th horseman.

  13. Dhay says:

    > Sam Harris: Perhaps because he was sensing the decline of the New Atheism movement, Harris attempted to expand his market and appeal to the New Age crowd as an atheist guru, even offering instructions on how to meditate. But his marketing plans fell apart after he couldn’t resist the urge to attack the entire religion of Islam over and over again. …

    He’s at it again, this time in his 18 August 2016 blog post entitled What Hillary Clinton Should Say about Islam and the “War on Terror”, where he kindly helps (or patronises) Hillary Clinton by writing for her “part of a speech that I think Hillary Clinton should deliver between now and November”.

    Not long ago a Harris fan mailed to PZ Myers, requesting he refrain from insulting and writing about Sam Harris in the negative, because in the fan’s three-step fantasy 1) a Harris-admiring convert to atheism who is 2) coincidentally a brilliant candidate for the Presidency 3) might be converted back by Myers’ criticisms. Michael reproduced the request his “Criticisms of Sam Harris Are A Stumbling Block to Getting a Great President” post.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/criticisms-of-sam-harris-are-a-stumbling-block-to-getting-a-great-president/

    So, what would a Harris-influenced President look like? We can now tell, because Harris’s blog post tells us what, in his new self-appointed role as Presidential advisor, he advises her to do.

    The foreword setting the scene for Harris’ blog readers tells us:

    The following is part of a speech that I think Hillary Clinton should deliver between now and November. Its purpose is to prevent a swing toward Trump by voters who find Clinton’s political correctness on the topic of Islam and jihadism a cause for concern, especially in the aftermath of any future terrorist attacks in the U.S. or Europe.—SH

    https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/what-hillary-clinton-should-say-about-islam-and-the-war-on-terror

    There’s an oddity here: Harris has told us what he says would be the “purpose” of this alleged “speech”, should she ever actually make it, but nothing about his own reason for writing this “speech” for her; realistically, she’s an experienced politician who’s not going to let a rank amateur write any speech for her, and Harris must realistically realise this; so Harris’ speech-writing is an exercise in mere posturing.

    Perhaps he wrote it originally hoping a newspaper (etc) would run it, then he’d blog it with acknowledgements to the newspaper; but there’s no acknowledgements here, so this obviously hasn’t happened. I’d say Harris has written a read-me, read-me, buy-me ‘cos your readers will buy more copy provocative article to hook newspapers into paying him his fee as a readable journalist – except the papers have ignored him.

    I haven’t done a lot of research, but it seems to me I haven’t been reading much by Harris in the media in the last year or so, especially recently. So what do you locals think, is his star waning, am I wrong in my impression he’s generally being ignored?

    I note the greater prominence to “Donate” (now at the end of each post) and “Support” (in the header, basically “Donate” plus get retailers to donate when you order), and that Harris now has a Patreon pay-per-blog-post account. Feeling the pinch? Is his blog post the left-overs from a failed attempt to be paid for an article, with perhaps the hope some paper will see it and perhaps decide to publish it? Is Harris’ career as a journalist and minor celebrity fading?

    *

    With the perspective I’ve outlined above, there’s not a lot of point in me speculating what message Harris is really trying to get across to Clinton – probably he isn’t, that’s just an excuse to produce the failed paid article – or alternatively what message the right-wing and notoriously Islamophobic Harris is trying to give his fans about whether to vote for Clinton, or for Trump, or for Clinton only if she takes Harris’, er, advice. I leave that speculation to any interested locals.

    But the message he’s definitely getting across is that “he [cannot] resist the urge to attack the entire religion of Islam over and over again” – predictably, he’s at it again. I’ll leave you to make up your own minds about the article as a whole, and just point out:

    Now, it is true that this politicized strain of Islam is a source of much of the world’s chaos and intolerance at this moment. But it is also true that no one suffers more from this chaos and intolerance than Muslims themselves. Most victims of terrorism are Muslim; the women who are forced to wear burkhas or are murdered in so-called “honor killings” are Muslim …

    I’m sure Harris supporters will scream to his defence, pointing out that the context is Islamic terrorism, and the passage is about Muslims being the main victims, but “ the women who … are murdered in so-called “honor killings” are Muslim leaves me wondering about the man.

    If he had put “many of the women murdered in so-called “honor killings” …”, or even “most of the women murdered in so-called “honor killings” …”, it would have been uncontentious; but he didn’t, it’s “the women” – or in short, Harris is deliberately or inadvertently implying that all women murdered in honour killings are Muslim. (Need I point out eg the many Hindu honour-killings, and that honour-killing your wife was made illegal in France as recently as 1975.)

    Harris supporters sing the praises of his eloquence and rhetorical skill, but to leave a reader with the first impression that all women murdered in honour killings are Muslim is incompetent. Hopefully, it was unintentional, but I am cynical enough I suspect it was intentional, a rhetorical trick aimed at maximum impact over truthfulness.

  14. TFBW says:

    Dhay said:

    Hopefully, it was unintentional …

    Ignorance seems like an entirely credible explanation. If you asked Sam for a brief outline of the history of honour killings, what do you suppose he’d know, off the cuff?

  15. Dhay says:

    > As a tribute to the Decline of New Atheism, let’s pause for a moment of silence and contemplate the accomplishments of the movement’s movers and shakers.

    Notabilia contemplated their accomplishments, too, on his own blog:

    … what about your Four Horsemen? They’re yesterdays news, aren’t they? And the answer is yes, they were never a united front, and only one got the bestseller lists to shake. By pure numbers of books sold, there is still a much, much greater portion of the semi-reading public that reads monotheist Rick Warren babble …

    https://mjosefw.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/of-cereal-granola-snacks-and-gnu-atheist-clay-footed-leaders/

    Who am I to argue with this observation on the Four Horsemen, from such a keen observer of society’s deficiencies and foibles.

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