It’s good to see that New Atheists have begun to figure out how reality works. For a long time now, I have criticized one of the central claims of the New Atheist movement, the notion that if we could only get rid of religion, the world would be a much better place. Not only was there no evidence to support this belief (which, ironically, was little more than faith), but the evidence we did have pointed in the other direction. And what was that evidence? The atheist community itself. A crystal clear example of what I was talking about was Elevatorgate and the rage-filled rhetorical wars between the New Atheists and Social Justice atheists. The existence of the Social Justice atheists, along with their power and influence, clearly showed there is no reason to believe that a world without religion would be any better than the one we have. It could even be worse.
Now, for some time I have noticed that Jerry Coyne, a prominent New Atheist leader, has spent less time on criticizing religion and more time on criticizing the Social Justice atheists (referred to as the Regressive Left). It’s as if the New Atheists did some soul searching and asked themselves, “Who killed our movement?” It wasn’t the Christians or the Religious Right. In fact, it wasn’t any outside force. Their movement was torn apart from within by the Regressive Left. As a result, the New Atheists no longer find themselves on the offensive, but often find themselves reacting to the social and cultural changes being imposed on all of us by the Regressive Left.
Peter Boghossian, another New Atheist leader, has been rather explicit about this (HT to Kevin):
Here’s what is surprising: with very few exceptions, and there are exceptions, Christians are very kind decent people all over the world. I do talks and we go out afterwards for drinks etc., and we talk with civility.
The far Left in contemporary academia is not like this. These are viciously ideological and nasty people whose goal it is to shut down discourse and indoctrinate students. I think we’ve spent too much time on Creationism. The problem is less with Creationism and more with radical Leftism. For example, if you’re a professor who teaches in the biological sciences, Creationists have substantive disagreements with your work and they’ll try to demean it. But they’re not going to harass you or your family. They’re not going to try and get you fired. They’re not going to call you a racist, a sexist, a bigot, a homophobe.
The far Left have successfully managed to infiltrate our universities. A consequence: radical incivility and students who hold preposterous views of reality and think they’re better people as a result. One reason is because people go into ideological bunkers where they protect themselves from ideas. And this is a type of ideological convergence which strengthens and exemplifies their convictions. They’ve created “safe spaces” for themselves and anyone who persistently questions those becomes the target of a smear campaign.
He’s right about all of this. In fact, I tried to present a visual illustration of this back in March: The Social Justice Movement and Christians: A Comparison
The Creationists do make a good example. If you are an evolutionary biologist who studies sexual dimorphism, you know you do NOT have to look over your shoulder with regards to Creationism. If you give a presentation on the role that natural selection played in the evolution of a human male or female trait, you have nothing to fear from Creationists. If someone popular in the Creationism subculture writes an article criticizing, even mocking, your evolutionary research, it’s not a problem. You might even wear that as a badge of honor among your peers. But, oh how the situation changes if a Social Justice atheist latches on to your research. If someone popular in the Social Justice subculture writes an article that holds up your research as sexist and transphobic, you become concerned, perhaps even anxious. For you know you could have a real problem here.
Think of it this way. If some Christians ever decide to mimic the Social Justice activists and protest a Boghossian talk as being Sinful, Blasphemous, and Heresy, Boghossian would glory in it all. Why? He knows the academic and popular culture has his back. He’s playing offense. However, if it’s the Social Justice activists themselves protesting and labeling his talk as being Hate, Sexist, Racist, and Transphobic, he can’t be sure academic and popular culture has his back. He’s playing defense.
Here in mainstream America, no one’s career or life is ruined by Christians labeling someone a heretic, sinner, or blasphemer. But people’s careers and life can be ruined by Social Justice activists labeling them a sexist, racist, homophobe, or transphobe. That tells you where the power lies. And if you are worried about threats, you can’t have real threats without power.