One of these days, I need to re-write the “About” section of this blog. As regular readers may have noticed, I don’t post much about the New Atheist movement these days. The reason is simple – the New Atheist movement is long past its peak and could very well said to be dead. Back in 2014, I noticed some signs that the New Atheist movement was dying. In 2015, the evidence became even more persuasive. In 2016, Dawkins suffered a mild stroke, brought on partially from the stress of his Twitter battles which were eroding his credibility. Ever since the stroke, Dawkins has significantly scaled back his atheist activism. And I think this was the final straw. For the New Atheist movement has always been linked to Dawkins’ popularity and his ability to access the media. Without Dawkins, all that is left is Sam Harris, who spends most of his time these days talking anything other than atheism while trying to convince people he is not an Islamophobe. As a result, the modern day atheist movement has reverted back to the pre-911 days, where the leaders of the movement are largely internet personalities who spend most of their time turning over rocks in search of something to criticize (like Hemant Mehta) and members of organizations that are constantly suing to create atheist safe spaces.
Given where we are, it is not surprising to see that autopsies of the movement are starting to be written. What is a little bit of a surprise is that one former Gnu, PZ Myers, is going on the offensive and blaming the Dawkins wing of the movement for their demise.
“My concern is that we have lost the heart of the cause and all the New Atheist movement is about is saying that God doesn’t exist and that’s not enough,” Mr. Myers told Sputnik.
“The New Atheist movement was established on the basis that there is no God and that is not really something that reaches out and grabs people. I think we have squandered the effort to develop a deeper meaning. If there is no God, we need a better foundation for morality, we need human interactions and atheists just haven’t grasped that yet,” Mr. Myers added.
“What is happening is that a number of us are falling away and it’s because the New Atheist movement doesn’t give us that peace. Some people tried to start a new movement called Atheism Plus, in an effort to combine concern for our social needs and it got shattered by the New Atheist as it was seen as repelling.
“The New Atheist movement was driven by the September 11 attacks, but now it’s evolved into something else that says, ‘we hate those people with foreign ideas,’ and this is not what atheism is all about,” Mr. Myers added.
Ouch. Myers is basically lamenting the fact that the New Atheists had a chance to hitch their agenda to the Social Justice wagon but missed it because people like Dawkins would not get on board. In other words, Myers is arguing that the New Atheism movement died because it was saturated with sexism and Islamophobia.
All this leaves me wondering if Dawkins himself will ever weigh in on this. Because what Myers is proposing is how history will be written about this movement (and thus, Dawkins).