Can’t Get Their Story Straight

There really isn’t a New Atheist movementJerry Coyne

Jerry is an indispensable asset in our movement.Richard Dawkins Foundation

 

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30 Responses to Can’t Get Their Story Straight

  1. Ilíon says:

    When one deals in “narratives”, one’s position is that there *is* no truth to which one must conform. Therefore, if one (or one’s ally) says ‘A‘ today, and one (or one’s ally) says ‘not-A‘ tomorrow, the question that one cares about is not, “Do these statements agree?“, but rather, “Do these statements advance Teh Narrative?

  2. TFBW says:

    To be fair, “movement” may not refer to the same thing in each case. Jerry is explicitly referring to the (non-existent) New Atheist movement, but perhaps the RDF is referring to bowel movements.

  3. Ilíon says:

    Those posh Brits!

  4. hikayamasan353 says:

    My friend is a very devout atheist, an ex-Christian, and she believes that there is no such thing as “New Atheism” or “New Atheist movement”, yet she proudly calls herself “New Atheist”. I can tell that she is definitely not like them. She’s very nice and tolerant, indeed very open minded, and is against every form of bigotry, she dislikes when people preach that there indeed either is or is not god because this would give a burden of proof…
    Regarding burden of proof. If we ask the “New Atheists” to prove that there is no such thing as God, they would simply evade their burden of proof, saying that “atheists don’t need to prove people anything”. Religious fundamentalists would rather get into a brain strain seeking for explanation and if they don’t have anything, they would simply tell to believe.

  5. Dhay says:

    From the Jerry Coyne link:

    There really isn’t a New Atheist movement; what we have are some people, like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and so on, who have gained renown (or, in the eyes of many, infamy).

    Interesting: Coyne includes one long deceased New Atheist ‘Horseman’, he omits living fourth ‘Horseman’ Dan Dennett, he doesn’t include that arch- New Atheist, Coyne himself; how odd.

    Coyne says there is no movement, yet he is proud and excited — “Be still, my beating heart!” — that his own fan base is approaching 50,000 — “Fewer than 500 to go!”:

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/fewer-than-500-to-go/

    Assuming they are not all signed up for the daily inanity provided by a talking cat, or to view fluffy kittens, duck chicks, wildlife, etc, or to read the (very informative) biology articles — assuming some or many are signed up in order to lap up Coyne’s New Atheist anti-theist and anti-Accommodationist™ polemics, that’s definitely a movement.

    Coyne tells us:

    There are plenty of non-famous antitheists, for I’ve met them.

    Yes indeed, and that plenty are evident in eg the echo-chambers which are the Comments sections of most of the New Atheist bloggers. Although these fanbases are not formally organised, with secretaries, treasurers and constitutions, but instead loosely under the hegemony of the bloggers, they look like parts of a movement to me.

    And to Dawkins.

  6. Ilíon says:

    She’s very nice and tolerant, indeed very open minded, and is against every form of bigotry…

    versus

    … she dislikes when people preach that there indeed either is or is not god because this would give a burden of proof

    These two claims don’t really work together.

    Religious fundamentalists would rather get into a brain strain seeking for explanation and if they don’t have anything, they would simply tell to believe.

    How odd! I’m one of those “religious fundamentalists” and I have no problem at all showing by reason/logic alone that God-denial (which includes both so-called atheism and so-called agnosticism) is false.

  7. Terry says:

    Is there an atheist movement? Is there a New Atheist movement? If by movement you mean internet activism/trolling, then yes…definitely. Is there a lot of offline activity? No so much.

  8. TFBW says:

    There was a New Atheist movement. Its heyday was approximately 2006–2012. 2006 saw an explosion of atheist books, heavy on the anti-religious polemic, and the coining of the term “New Atheism” to describe the phenomenon. 2012 saw the inaugural Reason Rally in Washington DC. After that, things started to fragment rapidly, degenerating into the mess of anti-rational Cultural Marxism and fascistic Anti Fascism most conspicuous on the university campuses at Mizzou, Berkeley, and Evergreen.

  9. Dhay says:

    Jerry Coyne cannot get his story internally straight, let alone aligned with Dawkins’:

    But the claim that anti-theism is dead is simply wrong; there are many people who criticize religion, and there’s plenty of evidence they’ve been effective rather than moribund. First, look at the testimony on Dawkins’s “Converts Corner“, which has 159 pages of individuals’ testimony on how Richard Dawkins not only helped people to accept evolution, but also to abandon their faith.

    The 159 pages of Dawkins’ “Converts Corner“ (1,590 e-mails, sounds a lot but received over the whole history of his website, and the earliest probably were originally letters sent decades back — unless you really believe that the vast majority of the mails arrived on a few days in 2013); — that 1,590 sounds like impressive evidence for Dawkins’ effectiveness, but only until you realise there were only six in all of 2016, and none at all in the last very nearly nine months.

    Once you realise that, it becomes clear evidence that Dawkins’ influence is definitely now moribund — “(of a thing) in terminal decline; lacking vitality or vigour”.

    *

    In contrast, there is not a jot or tittle of evidence for the claim that the New Atheists have, by their stridency, actually prevented “deconversion”, or hardened people in their rejection of evolution; there is no “Anti-converts Corner.”

    Dawkins’ “Converts Corner“ is propaganda; only someone “perhaps a tad thick” would expect Dawkins to invite and publish mails from people converting from atheism in an “Anti-converts Corner”; or is Coyne writing for a fanbase who are “perhaps a tad thick.”

  10. Hensen says:

    This is funny:
    Convert’s Corner

    But then:
    Stories of Deconversion

    Both come as “titles” from the same page of Dawkins .

  11. Regual Llegna says:

    The movement was killed by the lack of ethics and principles that the manny atheists show in the Elevetogate issue, which put most of the fandom members of the new atheists, who were liberals pro-social justice and anti-right politics and anti-traditionalists, to find out what their priorities were, and they chose to be social justice warrios (pro-black and anti-racism, pro-islam and anti-organised religion A.K.A. anti-christianity only, pro-womens righst and anti-partiarchy, anti-homophobia and anti-islamophobia, pro-uncontrolled inmigration and anti-nationalism, anti-war and pro-domestic violence, etc…).

    The New Atheists movement was a social justice warrior movement.

  12. TFBW says:

    Elevatorgate marked the beginning of the end of New Atheism as a movement. It dates from the second half of 2011. The movement was still a strong, unified whole for the 2012 Reason Rally, but had disintegrated by the 2016 Reason Rally.

    I suppose that’s another way one could defend the apparently conflicting statements quoted in the OP. Coyne’s comment is from mid-2017, and thus true in its temporal context (although in its textual context it’s really just a pedantic argument about whether a collection of people can properly be called a “movement”). The RDF comment is from late 2013, when it was still reasonable to believe that the unity of 2012 was ongoing (but also reasonable to doubt it, thanks to Atheism+ and the ongoing aftershocks of Elevatorgate), and thus reasonable in its temporal context.

  13. Dhay says:

    Hensen > This is funny: Convert’s Corner. But then: Stories of Deconversion. Both come as “titles” from the same page of Dawkins.

    https://richarddawkins.net/mailbox/

    I never thought of it before, but yes, it’s weird that the RDF website considers converts to have been de-converted — especially when we consider that, according to Richard Dawkins, most of those people originally became Christians (or Muslims etc) not through conversion but through what he calls “childhood religious indoctrination”; if they were never converted in the first place, how can they have become de-converted.

    *

    Other re-naming oddities on the same page (click mail section titles to uncover the second name) are: ‘Fan Mail’ clicks through to ‘From Our Fans’; ‘Disagreement and Oddities’ to ‘Disagreement and Odd Responses’; ‘Hate Mail’ to ‘Joys of Hate’.

    Most of the Fan Mail is the same as the Convert’s Corner mail.

    There’s still an ‘Ugly’ mail page, in addition to and not overlapping with the Hate Mail. You won’t find the Ugly mails linked to anywhere on the RDF website, but it is at:

    https://richarddawkins.net/category/community/letters/ugly/

    *

    Both the Hate Mail and Ugly mail has had nothing new in years: remember that, the next time Dawkins jeeringly reads out his “new” hate mail on YouTube — on the evidence of his own website, he hasn’t had any new Hate Mail. Or Ugly mail.

  14. Dhay says:

    Jerry Coyne > But the claim that anti-theism is dead is simply wrong; there are many people who criticize religion, and there’s plenty of evidence they’ve been effective rather than moribund.

    New Atheist Phil Torres (a frequent co-author of New Atheist articles with Peter Boghossian, and sometimes also with James Lindsay, and sometimes as a solo author) has just written a Salon article entitled “From the Enlightenment to the Dark Ages: How “new atheism” slid into the alt-right” and sub-titled “A movement supposedly committed to science and reason has decayed into racism, misogyny and intolerance. I’m done”. The title says it all, but here’s a quote and the link:

    For me, it was a series of recent events that pushed me over the edge. As a philosopher — someone who cares deeply about intellectual honesty, verifiable evidence, critical thinking and moral thoughtfulness — I now find myself in direct opposition with many new atheist leaders. That is, I see my own advocacy for science, critical thought and basic morality as standing in direct opposition to their positions.

    http://www.salon.com/2017/07/29/from-the-enlightenment-to-the-dark-ages-how-new-atheism-slid-into-the-alt-right/

    *

    Odd that Torres should claim to be a philosopher; his qualifications and life-experience have been in the biological sciences:

    Phil Torres is a biologist and science communicator based in New York City who is currently working on projects all over the globe as a television host, photographer, and science educator.

    http://www.phil-torres.com/#intro

    And on his FaceBook page he describes himself as:

    Personal Interests
    Bugs, jungles, cameras.
    Oh also the spiders in your house, what bit you, that roadkill over there.
    About
    Entomologist, TV Host, Field Biologist, Jungle Guy, Science Reporter, Photographer. I’m a fan of adventures.
    Personal Information
    Television Host, Biologist, and Producer

    http://www.facebook.com/pg/philtorreslikesscience/about/?ref=page_internal

    Not a philosopher then, except in the woolly sense that most people, deliberating, are philosophers. That sort of thinking explains a lot about the quality of his joint and solo articles.

  15. tcsgamer says:

    Maybe Jerry just lacks belief that there is a New Athiest movement?

  16. Regual Llegna says:

    tcsgamer says:
    “Maybe Jerry just lacks belief that there is a New Athiest movement?”

    That is the best answer, using the same arguments they use, to the why they denied the existence of a social movement that they promote all the time?

  17. Regual Llegna says:

    All they do not possess is what defines them.

  18. pennywit says:

    I sometimes get emails from secular and atheist groups encouraging me to join lobby days or send money to support campaigns. That feels like a political movement to me.

    That said, I wonder how much of the New Atheist movement is a political movement, and how much of it is an effort to create a social group that stands in where a church or other religious congregation stands for theists.

    Don’t care for the “Sunday Assembly” or other efforts at “atheist church” myself. I figure sleeping in on Sundays ought to be one of the perks of being unchurched.

  19. pennywit says:

    @hikayamasan353

    Re: Burden of proof:

    Actually, the “prove to me there is a god/prove to me there is no god” argument is largely a waste of time. Absent the use of torture, trauma, and/or mind-altering substances, neither atheist nor theist is likely to produce sufficient evidence to change the other’s mind.

  20. TFBW says:

    @pennywit: “I wonder how much of the New Atheist movement is a political movement …”

    It has its roots in reactionary post-9/11 anti-theism, and is not primarily political. Prior to 9/11, there was a substantial base of atheists who felt that all the world’s ills could be blamed on religion, or belief in God (theism) more specifically, but it was hard to sell the idea. The 9/11 atrocity made that concept much more marketable, facilitating acceptance of “militant atheism” as right and proper, and the subsequent hubbub of anti-religious polemics ultimately produced the crop of New Atheist anti-theistic books which peaked in 2006.

    The transition to politics was actually what killed it, because in retrospect we can see that the only thing which truly united them was being opposed to Christianity. They aren’t united on the Islam question, for example: one side rightly points out that the “religious” atrocities we see are almost entirely associated with Islam, and the other responds, “Islamophobia!” Alas for them, they didn’t realise this in 2012 when they felt flushed with success and unified at the 2012 Reason Rally. Everything fell apart as they all decided it was time to use their new-found power as a political bloc to effect some change, and all went charging off in separate directions.

  21. Terry says:

    I think that, to a certain extent, New Atheism was an extension of internet culture into the offline world. Before the creation of the internet (specifically social media), most atheists didn’t really have a way to communicate with each other. Atheists, having seen relatively large numbers of like minded people gathering on the sites like Reddit, Facebook, etc., probably felt emboldened to start attending atheist rallies and conventions. Others starting being more “in your face” with their atheism, such as protests, starting Satanic clubs at schools, putting “Darwin” fish on cars or whatever. Atheism has always existed, but the idea that there was a sizeable chunk of the population that didn’t believe in God was kinda new, in the United States at least. I agree that politics and infighting probably broke the back of the movement, but I think that the “newness” of New Atheism wearing off was the biggest factor.

    BTW, I live in Nashville and commute to northern Alabama a lot. Even here in the Bible Belt, I used to see billboards promoting atheism from time to time and seeing those fish emblems like FSM or Darwin was fairly common. Nowadays, it’s rare to see either of those, at least in my area.

  22. pennywit says:

    Others starting being more “in your face” with their atheism, such as protests, starting Satanic clubs at schools, putting “Darwin” fish on cars or whatever.

    Hm. A simple car decoration qualifies as being “in your face?”

  23. pennywit says:

    It has its roots in reactionary post-9/11 anti-theism, and is not primarily political. Prior to 9/11, there was a substantial base of atheists who felt that all the world’s ills could be blamed on religion, or belief in God (theism) more specifically, but it was hard to sell the idea. The 9/11 atrocity made that concept much more marketable, facilitating acceptance of “militant atheism” as right and proper, and the subsequent hubbub of anti-religious polemics ultimately produced the crop of New Atheist anti-theistic books which peaked in 2006.

    I probably would have been on board with that when I was a teenager or college student. After college, I think the “political” aspect of my own faithlessness receded to church/state separation issues.

    I can see where political atheism gained traction after 9/11, though. A number of people (myself included) started on the path to faithlessness because of a conviction that religion was at the root of much of the evil in the world — and a lack of appreciation for the good that religious faith has brought to the world. That sort of anti-theism is attraactive when it can be a vessel for anti-religious animus directed at one faith.

    They aren’t united on the Islam question, for example: one side rightly points out that the “religious” atrocities we see are almost entirely associated with Islam, and the other responds, “Islamophobia!”

    I think I can explain some of the ambivalence about Islam in the Western atheist movement. American atheists consider themselves something of a religious minority — that is, they see America is mostly Christian and less than 10 percent atheist. These atheists believe (with some justification, I think), that they face a certain level of prejudice (both by government and non-government actors) within the United States. When American Muslims face similar prejudice, then atheists feel a certain empathy.

    On the other hand, there is the fact that in Muslim countries (and I’m looking at Iran and Saudi Arabia as sterling examples), religious intolerance is rampant. And atheists oppose that kind of thing as well.

    I, personally, am capable of being appalled both at some of the prejudice Muslims have faced in America AND the fact that Saudi Arabia throws atheists in jail for being atheists.

  24. TFBW says:

    @pennywit:

    … and a lack of appreciation for the good that religious faith has brought to the world.

    In the post-2012 world of New Atheist fragmentation and infighting, there has been a minority of atheists (starting with those of a conservative bent, but extending to some of a classic liberal bent) who have expressed renewed appreciation for Christianity. This is perhaps why Jordan Peterson has become so acceptable, despite his obviously Christian foundations. Dawkins’ “faith-head” epithet has lost much of its currency, it seems.

    When American Muslims face similar prejudice, then atheists feel a certain empathy.

    That might be a contributing factor, but it doesn’t explain the sharp division between the faction which identifies Islam as exemplifying all the reasons religion is evil, and those who are apologists for Islam. The best explanation I’m aware of at this time (and I only just found it) is partly attributable to Christina Hoff Sommers, a.k.a. the Factual Feminist on YouTube, and nicknamed “Based Mom” in the Gamergate culture war (circa 2013–2014). She attributes the bizarre alignment of Islam and certain kinds of feminism (the kind we also identify as Cultural Marxism) as the product of a hierarchy of oppression, where oppressed cultures and ethnicities occupy the apex. Islam gets a free pass in these circles because Muslims occupy a status of cultural and ethnic minority in the USA. They even get a pass with regards to oppression of women, because cultural and ethnic oppression has a higher precedence than sexual oppression.

    Your observation regarding empathy may explain some of the more middle-ground folks who are not willing to embrace Islam, but will only level criticism at people who are opposed to it.

    The following YouTube link contains key elements of Sommers’ position. I can also recommend her interview with Dave Rubin from Nov 2015.

  25. pennywit says:

    In the post-2012 world of New Atheist fragmentation and infighting, there has been a minority of atheists (starting with those of a conservative bent, but extending to some of a classic liberal bent) who have expressed renewed appreciation for Christianity.

    I’m rather disconnected from that community. I’ve largely concluded that I’m neutral towards Christianity, Islam, and nearly any other religion you can name. I’m more concerned with the people who actually practice those religions.

  26. Michael says:

    Let’s not forget that the Richard Dawkins Foundation is not the only one who contradicts Coyne’s denial of a New Atheist movement. Activist Richard Carrier acknowledges the reality of this movement:

    You radiate agency. And that’s like a brilliant, warm light you want to embrace and experience passionately. I can go on admiring you from afar, as a writer and a colleague and valuable asset to our movement, and I can go on spending excellent time together with you as a friend when we happen to be around each other. I won’t be badly dejected by a no.But if there is any chance you want me, I’m hoping to know.

    How does one get around the conclusion that Coyne was being dishonest?

  27. Kevin says:

    I suspect a lot of New Atheists want to deny the existence of a movement because they view themselves as edgy, individualistic free thinkers who come to their views strictly due to reasoned analysis. Movements tend to have emotional weight behind them, but no self-respecting New Atheist can admit to being emotionally motivated.

  28. stcordova says:

    Richard Carrier’s lust-letter to was a pretty good evidence atheist view the movement as a movement, but the best part was how entertaining his lust-letter was to the object of is passion :

    even better was her brush off of him as detailed by Thunderf00t elsewhere on the net.

  29. Dhay says:

    > There really isn’t a New Atheist movement – Jerry Coyne
    Jerry is an indispensable asset in our movement. – Richard Dawkins Foundation

    Let’s see what the “former” prominent New Atheist Phil Torres has to say about whether there is or is not a New Atheist movement; here’s the title and sub-title:

    Beyond “new atheism”: Where do people alienated by the movement’s obnoxious tendencies go from here?
    If the “new atheist” movement has been conquered by misogyny and racism, we need …

    http://www.salon.com/2017/08/07/beyond-new-atheism-where-do-people-alienated-by-the-movements-obnoxious-tendencies-go-from-here/

    Looks clear enough. And in the article there’s:

    I recently published an article on Salon in which I criticize the “new atheist” movement. By this term, I mean the community that has accumulated around figures like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne and Peter Boghossian.

    He’s omitted that other figure, Phil Torres. Note that contrary to Jerry Coyne, who seems to think there’s no “movement”, and that the New Atheists are just the few prominent figureheads, Torres identifies that these figureheads have a New Atheist community accumulated around them. I see Coyne has 49,741 online followers so far, and is eager for 50,000.

    … received, to my surprise, literally thousands of messages saying that the article articulated many of the epistemic and ethical concerns people who once identified as “new atheist” have about their former community.

    “Literally thousands” of New Atheists; and that’s just from the disgruntled or concerned part of the community.

    … the contemporary new atheist movement.

    Others suggested that rather than retreating from the “new atheist” label, one should say: “I’m not going anywhere — I’m here to reform the movement.”

    And some of those who are disgruntled want to stay within a New Atheist movement to reform it.

    While the new atheist movement used to focus on religion …”

    “And it’s why I find myself no longer aligned with the new atheist movement …”

    “… the new atheist movement constitutes …”

    “… yet the new atheist movement …”

    “I once thought that the new atheist movement, insofar as it is a movement …”

    Insofar? Of course it’s a movement — you’ve hammered on about a New Atheist movement throughout the article.

    Perhaps the formation of a newer atheist movement …

    New Atheism is apparently not “New” enough. We’ve already seen (and some have noticed) an Atheism+ movement. Torres must know about it; how can he not; why is he not urging the New Atheist movement to join it. Is it a case of — to adapt and parody what Torres has written of New Atheism — “Reject it. Repudiate it. Scorn it as being soooo 2012”?

    The ready-made socially aware Atheism + is evidently not good enough in Torres’ eyes, which is presumably why Torres didn’t jump ship to it years ago; not good enough for Torres, not good enough for Torres to recommend to the New Atheist community in reply to their “literally thousands” of messages. Instead, Torres wants a Newer Atheism and a Newer Atheism movement.

    What was that about no New Atheist movement?

  30. Dhay says:

    > There really isn’t a New Atheist movement – Jerry Coyne
    Jerry is an indispensable asset in our movement. – Richard Dawkins Foundation

    Let’s see what the “former” prominent New Atheist Phil Torres has to say about whether there is or is not a New Atheist movement; here’s the title and sub-title:

    Beyond “new atheism”: Where do people alienated by the movement’s obnoxious tendencies go from here?
    If the “new atheist” movement has been conquered by misogyny and racism, we need …

    http://www.salon.com/2017/08/07/beyond-new-atheism-where-do-people-alienated-by-the-movements-obnoxious-tendencies-go-from-here/

    Looks clear enough. And in the article there’s:

    I recently published an article on Salon in which I criticize the “new atheist” movement. By this term, I mean the community that has accumulated around figures like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne and Peter Boghossian.

    He’s omitted that other figure, Phil Torres. Note that contrary to Jerry Coyne, who seems to think there’s no “movement”, and that the New Atheists are just the few prominent figureheads, Torres identifies that these figureheads have a New Atheist community accumulated around them. I see Coyne has 49,741 online followers so far, and is eager for 50,000.

    … received, to my surprise, literally thousands of messages saying that the article articulated many of the epistemic and ethical concerns people who once identified as “new atheist” have about their former community.

    “Literally thousands” of New Atheists; and that’s just from the disgruntled or concerned part of the community.

    … the contemporary new atheist movement.

    Others suggested that rather than retreating from the “new atheist” label, one should say: “I’m not going anywhere — I’m here to reform the movement.”

    And some of those who are disgruntled want to stay within a New Atheist movement to reform it.

    While the new atheist movement used to focus on religion …”

    “And it’s why I find myself no longer aligned with the new atheist movement …”

    “… the new atheist movement constitutes …”

    “… yet the new atheist movement …”

    “I once thought that the new atheist movement, insofar as it is a movement …”

    Insofar? Of course it’s a movement — you’ve hammered on about a New Atheist movement throughout the article.

    Perhaps the formation of a newer atheist movement …

    New Atheism is apparently not “New” enough. We’ve already seen (and some have noticed) an Atheism+ movement. Torres must know about it; how can he not; why is he not urging the New Atheist movement to join it. Is it a case of — to adapt and parody what Torres has written of New Atheism — “Reject it. Repudiate it. Scorn it as being soooo 2012”?

    The ready-made socially aware Atheism + is evidently not good enough in Torres’ eyes, which is presumably why Torres didn’t jump ship to it years ago; not good enough for Torres, not good enough for Torres to recommend to the New Atheist community in reply to their “literally thousands” of messages. Instead, Torres wants a Newer Atheism and a Newer Atheism movement.

    What was that about no New Atheist movement?

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