I want to draw your attention to the Boghossian article I mentioned earlier. While Boghossian does his best to talk up New Atheism as something that is very culturally significant, he actually illustrates the demise of New Atheism.
New Atheism may have inched into the Islamic world, but it has not found deep roots. And its current approach isn’t well-suited to further penetrate Muslim societies. The condescending speech of New Atheists—calling religious people delusional, for example—is not an effective cross-cultural strategy for generating change.
The next chapter in New Atheism will require a more nuanced, if not gentler, pen….. A matured New Atheism is needed more today than ever..
After Dawkins published his book, he and the other New Atheists began to fight with other atheists. The New Atheists labeled them “accomodationists” and “faitheists.” And here’s the thing. One of the common arguments the accomodationists made is that the New Atheist over-aggressively approach was counter-productive. As Gnu atheist Jerry Coyne once explained it:
but, in the tradition of Chris Mooney, he thinks that loud, strident atheism, à la Dawkins and Maher, is inimical to the cause of atheism itself. We are, he says, polarizing Christians and preventing them from accepting our message because we’re too “in your face.”
Coyne also once wrote:
(Note to readers: when you see the word “nuanced” used in criticism of atheism, run!)
So when Boghossian argues that New Atheists have been too condescending and their approach needs to “mature” with more nuance, Boghossian is making the accomodationist argument. The New Atheist has conceded the accomodationists were right all along.
In fact, this may be what the app Atheos is really all about. Instead of being an app that can help Gnus proselytize, maybe it’s more about trying to get the average Gnu to be more like an accomodationist.
Consider what this article says:
For too long, the most outspoken non-believers have been antagonistic, bombastic, and sometimes profoundly embarrassing older white men. When they aren’t writing inflammatory books, these men interrupt people on talk shows and get into Twitter fights with teenagers. They model behaviors that seem to alienate their fellow non-believers as much, if not more so, than religious people…. The app can be a bit silly, and its tone toward believers can be condescending. But Atheos appears to be part of a good-faith effort to inject civility into conversations between believers and non-believers. The app may not convince many people to become atheists. But that’s not the point. Instead, at best, Atheos is an instructive tool for non-believers to reflect on their own positions more critically and thoughtfully.
When asked about the belligerent reputation of many of modern atheism’s most outspoken leaders, both (the managers of Atheos) agreed that there was a tendency for controversial firebrands to receive the most attention, and for their followers to mimic that antagonism in their own discussions. Instead of setting themselves up in opposition to this brand of atheism, Paquette sees an opportunity for growth. “The more they have the opportunity to see good behavior modeled, we have a chance of having positive discourse and improving the way we communicate,” she said. Paquette noted that the Atheos app not only tells people the most appropriate response to the argument at hand, but also explains why the more aggressive or dismissive ones are wrong.
So the app is about helping New Atheists to stop trying to imitate Dawkins and other strident New Atheist leaders. It’s about having “the opportunity to see good behavior modeled.” In essence, the app was designed to help New Atheism “mature” and be less condescending.
When you have a popular New Atheist author admit New Atheism needs to mature by being less condescending and more nuanced, and when that author puts out an app that tries to tame the stridency of the average Gnu, you have the complete collapse of the New Atheist movement.
The New Atheist of Yesterday: Mock them! Ridicule them! In public.
The New Atheist of Today: We need to be less condescending and more nuanced to bring about positive discourses.
The accomodationists won.