New Atheist Author Raises the White Flag

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.

and

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.

This entry was posted in atheist wars, New Atheism, Peter Boghossian, Religion, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to New Atheist Author Raises the White Flag

  1. Kevin says:

    I don’t think accommodationists won per se, it’s just that they think the New Atheist tactic needs to go from telling religious people that you are smarter than they are, to being polite while still under the certainty that you are smarter than they are.

  2. TFBW says:

    I wonder what these folks think they’re actually achieving. It seems to me that the primary effect of New Atheism’s belligerent, bombastic rhetoric has not been to convert anyone (although it no doubt provided the impetus for some people who were already teetering on the brink — possibly in the opposite direction than was intended in some cases), but rather to embolden people who were already atheists. That very emboldening is quite possibly also responsible for the subsequent fragmentation and in-fighting, as various factions marched boldly forth in opposite directions, united by nothing more than a common hatred of Christianity. (I was going to say “common lack of god-belief”, but one of the fracture-points was the failure to unite against Islam, and that seems kind of significant here.)

    I doubt that the “nuanced” accomodationist (TM) approach is going to have the same appealing aura of empowerment about it as “reason rallies” and “mock them, ridicule them!” The Atheos-style, “let me gently guide you to understand the depths of your delusion” approach would certainly appeal to those with a patronising bent, but that’s a much smaller audience than the base us/them tribalism to which New Atheism appealed. As such, I expect Atheos (and similarly patronising approaches) to have about as much impact as a fart in a gale.

  3. RegualLlegna says:

    You are right TFBW, the only thing that New Atheists manage to do is to make more people believe (haha!) that apparently the mayority of atheists are anti-theists, or for chirtians and muslims that almost all atheist are anti-religious more especifically anti-christians and anti-muslim.

    They never have a archivable goal, much less a goal because atheism.

    The accomodationists won because they approach is simply more constructive and less have less segregationism. If the approach was not the best then was not the most open-minded (using they own logic).

  4. RegualLlegna says:

    I wonder New Atheist (the internet ones especially) are the reason for this:

    http://iheu.org/saudi-arabias-new-law-defines-atheism-as-terrorism-bans-all-criticism-of-government/

    Basically: atheists as terrorists because they encouraging disloyalty (to the rullers, but since Dawkins and his support for cheating in marriage/break of oaths/shit on the wedding vows/defence for adultery/blame the wife for husband lust is a thing), this was not a issue for muslims before.

    I am not christian but i will use a sentence forom the bible:
    Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’
    in this case my interpretation “fool = no wise”.

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