More Evidence the New Atheist Movement is Collapsing

Sarah Paquette, a former student of Peter Boghossian, and someone involved in promoting the app that tells atheists what to say when they are debating, makes an interesting admission half-way through an otherwise boring interview: At 10:30, she says the following about Boghossian:

He had a seminar New Atheism but unfortunately I don’t think it’s coming back next year simply because the attendance was not high enough which is pretty….sad. It’s a loss.

I’m shocked. Boghossian’s New Atheism class was a flop.

Here’s how the class was sold:

Students in the “New Atheism” class critically examine Dawkins’ book A Devil’s Chaplain and write an article about it. Boghossian then selects the best pieces from the class and submits them to the foundation for potential publication on its website.
The class usually features a guest speaker each week, who discusses various topics related to the class, from intelligent design and creationism to Christianity and what new atheism actually is.
Boghossian said the class will also feature Skype lectures with a few famous people from around the world.
Boghossian hopes to bring in a couple of Christian and Muslim apologists, or defenders of faith, to speak with the class.
“We study the works of notable Christian apologists and Muslim apologists, and then we engage those ideas against a framework of critical rationality,” he said.
Boghossian said that this is not the kind of class that students should just take on a whim. If they are interested in the subject, there is a course titled “Atheism,” which he suggests students take if they have an interest.
“‘New Atheism’ is a very specialized course. It has prerequisites, and it assumes some familiarity with the content and subject matter,” Boghossian said. “Everyone in that class truly wants to be there.”

Wow. Studying Dawkins’s book and hearing from famous speakers around the world. The hope of getting published by the esteemed Dawkins Foundation. Everyone in that class truly wanted to be there.
Both of them, that is.


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11 Responses to More Evidence the New Atheist Movement is Collapsing

  1. TFBW says:

    I wonder what Boghossian would have thought of my essay, provocatively titled “Richard Dawkins: Fundamentalist, Extremist, and Hypocrite”, which drew heavily on “Good and Bad Reasons for Believing” (from the course text, A Devil’s Chaplain). I’d probably tone it back a notch if I were actually submitting it as a philosophy essay, but I stand by the quality of the analysis. Would any philosophy professors in the audience care to grade it in Boghossian’s absence?

  2. Ilíon says:

    He had a seminar New Atheism but unfortunately I don’t think it’s coming back next year simply because the attendance was not high enough which is pretty….sad.

    Wait! Natural selection in action is “sad”?

  3. Ilíon says:

    A couple of (old) entries on my blog —

    Richard Dawkins himself doesn’t believe what he wants to convince “the masses” to believe — Basil’s Car …. and Justice

    Richard Dawkins is an inveterate liar

  4. stcordova says:

    I think New Atheism is collapsing for the simple reason that it’s getting old and there are less and less Christians in the USA and the UK. Oh, that’s the other thing, this seems to be geographic phenomenon as far as I can tell. The New atheists are in the USA and UK. Heavily secularized countries like France, it’s not even worth mentioning since everyone is mostly agnostic/ atheist.

    So the evidence I’d cite for where New Atheism is headed is to look at secularized countries. Countries that were heavily Christian but then becoming secular had something like the New Atheists, and then they fade as a fad.

    I’ve mingled with atheists on campuses for almost 12 years, and I noticed the waning interest in atheist groups on campuses as the USA became more secular.

    And the old guard atheist Michael Ruse on Wikipedia:

    “Ruse also claims that the movement of New Atheism—which is perceived, by him, to be a “bloody disaster”—makes him ashamed, as a professional philosopher of science, to be among those hold to an atheist position, particularly as New Atheism does science a “grave disservice” and does a “disservice to scholarship” at more general level.[64][65]”

  5. Crude says:

    Heavily secularized countries like France, it’s not even worth mentioning since everyone is mostly agnostic/ atheist.

    France has a high number of atheists and agnostics, but also a very sizable number of ardent Catholics, who still have influence in politics. While I think secularization in general explains part of the change, there’s also another: New Atheists underwent a full-blown schism, and the two sides hate each other. A fair chunk of Atheism+ atheists are defensive of Islam. A fair chunk of New Atheists hate SJWs, aka, Atheism+ atheists.

    New Atheism was never about atheism to begin with – it was a political fight, and now that politics has shifted in focus, atheism has lost a lot of its lustre.

  6. TFBW says:

    New Atheism rode on the wave of outrage which followed on from September 11th, 2001. That event produced an environment in which it was possible to blame religion for all the world’s ills and be taken seriously, because most people are shallow thinkers who don’t analyse any deeper than their first impression, and September 11 left a big impression. It gave anti-theists like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens just cause to be more outspoken in their hatred of religion.

    The movement arguably peaked with the 2012 Reason Rally, although the weakness of the foundations was already starting to show, with Elevatorgate happening the year prior. I pin the turning point on 2012, because the success of the first Reason Rally prompted some to think that atheism was now a viable political force, not just against religion, but for numerous articles of liberal political correctness. Atheism plus was born shortly thereafter, and the movement sank rapidly into a state of acrimonious schism, as Crude says, such that the 2016 Reason Rally was a non-event. The fatal error was to take the focus off the one thing that united them: hatred of religion. The sex and embezzlement scandals haven’t helped, giving the warring factions further cause to fight amongst themselves.

    Short version: New Atheism is an unstable substance with a low critical mass. In retrospect, it was inevitable that it would blow itself apart if it reached a certain size.

  7. Michael says:

    I agree with the analysis above. I would just add something else. The rise and fall of the New Atheist movement is tied to the rise and fall of Dawkins. It was Dawkins, and his popularity, that pulled the New Atheism movement more into the mainstream for a brief time. The mainstream media liked Dawkins and was happy to give him the microphone.

    But the mainstream media is very pc. As long as Dawkins was bashing Christians, the mainstream media was happy to give him the platform. But then Harris started focusing a lot of attention on Islam and Dawkins joined in with his twitter account. The shift in focus to Islam turned the mainstream media against them. Harris’s debate with Affleck was a major hit against the Gnus. Then, when Harris decided to pick a fight with Chomsky, he was toast. During the time Harris was struggling to repel the “racist” label, Dawkins was tweeting things that made it easier for the label to stick.

    My short version: Gnu atheism was never a serious grass-roots movement. Instead, the media helped to make the movement by giving Dawkins/Harris the microphone. But if the media can make you, they can break you.

    The only thing that could have possibly saved the Gnu movement was a Ted Cruz presidency. Instead, it’s looking like they will get a Hillary Clinton presidency. Which means, the A+ arm of the movement is going to become dominant.

  8. FZM says:

    The New atheists are in the USA and UK. Heavily secularized countries like France, it’s not even worth mentioning since everyone is mostly agnostic/ atheist.

    I get the impression that France has its own rich and longstanding anti-religious and atheist tradition, Dawkins et al. don’t really add anything to it, aren’t that well known or recognised in France and don’t write in French. I also think that French atheism and anti-religious thinking is less narrowly scientistic, there is plenty of Marxism, psychoanalysis, existential philosophy etc. as well. But it’s correct that this kind of atheistic and anti-religious discourse has been more mainstream for much longer there. I know that sometimes I’ve been surprised about how strongly held these views can be and about the way in which some French people I’ve met feel a need (from my Anglo-Saxon point of view maybe?) to impose or coerce others into accepting it,

    In some other heavily secularized countries I have experience of in Eastern Europe I can’t imagine the New Atheists having much of an impact because (besides the language and cultural factors) their ideas are not in anyway new in that context but just repetitions of what was official government ideology until the late 80s or early 90s. (This is really a side point but as far as I can see ‘New Atheism’ involves strong amnesia with regard to this very recently ‘historic atheism’, despite their many similarities.)

    Another thing a couple of contributors have already pointed out is the importance of September 11th and the US and British involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in making some people in these countries more receptive and open to strong anti-religious rhetoric.

  9. John says:

    ”The only thing that could have possibly saved the Gnu movement was a Ted Cruz presidency. Instead, it’s looking like they will get a Hillary Clinton presidency. Which means, the A+ arm of the movement is going to become dominant.”

    But what if Donald Trump becomes president?

  10. stcordova says:

    Incidentally, the guy in the video interviewing Boghossian’s students is Aron Ra. I actually talked with him and had a cordial conversation with him on Johnathan McLatchie’s apologetics show on I actually defended Ra from some of the swipes Christian’s were taking at him and saluted his critical thinking.

    That said, Aron Ra, like a lot of atheists didn’t realize when I actually had good counters to his claims. Ra assumed I and John Sanford didn’t know somethings about genetics, therefore we were ID proponents because we must be ignorant.

    I mentioned Sanford and pointed out Sanford is a Cornell geneticist and YEC, and Ra said something to the effect, “let me send you some material” with the expectation he could actually persuade Sanford. Sanford has been a professor of genetics for 30 years at Cornell, has his gene gun invention in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and at one time had most of the GMOs on the planet a product of his gene gun. Ra tends to view all theists under a Kent Hovind stereotype. He was also looking down his nose at Gunter Bechley a renowned paleontologist, former atheist, turned Christian, turned progressive creationist and ID proponent and now YEC leaning creationist! It never occurs to Ra that people with much more knowledge than Ra about genetics and paleontology could actually be Christians and/or creationists.

    Incidentally, John Sanford, Robert Marks, Joe Deweese tentatively agreed to contribute chapters in my upcoming book: The Origin and Destiny of the Human Race.

  11. roscoe74 says:

    Donald Trump has courted the evangelical Christian vote, but he’s not one of them. Beyond that, I’ll leave it to others to speculate on the implications for American Christians and the new atheist movement if he becomes President of the United States,

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