Ex-New Atheists Go After New Atheists

PZ Myers draws attention to an article by Phil Torres that is very critical of New Atheist leaders.

It’s been about four years since I posted my autopsy on the New Atheist movement,

so it is nice to see ex-New Atheists like Torres and Myers acknowledge the movement is indeed dead. The problem is that since both men were once starry-eyed fanboys of the movement, their critiques can come across as misleading sour grapes.  As someone who recognized the “the grift” of New Atheism from the beginning, allow me to provide a more accurate account.

PZ writes:

So if you want to read about how the atheists who rode the glory train of the atheist resurgence 10 or 15 years ago to fame and fortune now are doing, check it out and be depressed. The faces of the New Atheism are Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, James Lindsay, Peter Boghossian, David Silverman, and Steven Pinker, and if just that list is harrowing enough, wait until you read the dissections.

The list omits Jerry Coyne. 

To make it even worse, they’re all converging on the Intellectual Dark Web, which ought to be renamed the New Fascism.

I don’t think it intellectually honest to label these New Atheists as the New Fascists.  But then again, PZ Myers has a history of being very sloppy with his labels.  For example, in the past, he has referred to Francis Collins as a Creationist, which is simply untrue.

PZ quotes Torres as writing, “What’s sad is that the New Atheist movement could have made a difference — a positive difference — in the world.” and then comments, “When I think back to that period when we were all giddy with the possibilities of a strong atheist movement.”

It’s refreshing to see two former New Atheists admit that New Atheism was a movement.  I recall several New Atheists trying to deny the existence of any atheist movement, even when presented with evidence.  That both Myers and Torres admit it was indeed a movement tells us those who denied the existence of a movement were not all that smart or honest.

Back to PZ:   there are many other names that come to mind of eloquent, activist atheists who got left behind by that glory train — people who I thought were fantastic representatives of a progressive atheism. Think about Greta Christina, Mandisa Thomas, Jey McCreight, Lauren Lane, Rebecca Watson, Monette Richards, Sikivu Hutchinson, Annie Laurie Gaylor, and a few hundred others who should now be the names and faces we see on CNN whenever they go looking for a representative atheist perspective. They’re still around, but not getting the attention they deserve. Instead, Richard Dawkins is still the figurehead of atheism, with those other guys getting an occasional nod. I wonder why? Are the people on my list missing something? Or is it just their estrogen vibe?

Here we get the sour grapes.  I get the feeling that both Torres and Myers are going after the New Atheists because they are jealous of the attention Dawkins et al receive.  But there is a simple, non-conspiratorial reason that PZ’s list are not on CNN – nobody has heard of them.  Let’s explain how the real world works to PZ and his small band of followers.  When a mainstream journalist interviews someone on TV or for an article, they’d prefer someone who has some built in fame to draw viewers/readers.  Sorry, but an interview with Richard Dawkins is going to draw many more eyes than an interview with Monette Richards (who?).  The media do not seek out the “best representative.”  They seek out the best shot at getting the best ratings. 

Torres and Myers need to learn how to sleep in the bed they helped make.  They, along with many on PZ’s list, helped make Dawkins and Harris much more famous (and rich).  They helped make Dawkins and Harris the faces of atheism.  Instead of throwing things at Dawkins and Harris, someone on PZ’s list should write a best-selling book on atheism.  I’m sure there are many woke journalists who would be happy to prop them up with puff piece stories once the book breaks out.  Become famous and media will come. Of course, it would help if, like Dawkins and Harris, they came from lots of money and had a network of connections.  But very few are so privileged.

Anyway, I wanted to end with PZ quoting Torres:

It’s a real shame that New Atheism, now swallowed up by the IDW and the far right, turned out to be just as prejudiced, racist, dogmatic, ethnocentric, closed-minded and authoritarian as many of the religious groups they initially deplored. (emphasis added)

LOL.  Back in 2006, I pointed out the dogmatic, closed-minded, authoritarian essence of the New Atheist approach.  The New Atheists scoffed and got mad at the time.  Ed Brayton joined that attack on me, but once I showed him a current example from Dawkins, Brayton acknowledged I was right (at least about Dawkins).  PZ Myers attacked Brayton and me in his zealous rush to defend his hero, Richard Dawkins.  Needless to say, once it became clear to many that I was right, Dawkins ultimately had to change his website (back on the days when Josh Timonen ran it) and PZ had to edit his blog.  Long story short – fifteen years later, it’s nice to see two ex-New Atheists finally admitting the dogmatic, closed-minded, authoritarian essence of the New Atheists.  The problem is getting Torres and Myers to recognize that about themselves.

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5 Responses to Ex-New Atheists Go After New Atheists

  1. nihilist2christian says:

    An uncharitable man might cynically conclude that the physically unimpressive Myers is simply bitter that his involvement in New Atheism never led to him being able to bed the copious amounts of nubile female atheists who he assumes must have made themselves available to Dawkins and co.

  2. dpmonahan says:

    Obama becoming President took a lot of wind out of New Atheist sails, with everyone realizing how silly the Christian Theocrat bogeyman was and how urgent it became to fight the racist bogeyman.
    I guess in retrospect it is obvious that movement was bound to fracture along political lines.

  3. TFBW says:

    … it’s nice to see two ex-New Atheists finally admitting the dogmatic, closed-minded, authoritarian essence of the New Atheists.

    Those flaws are obvious to them now that they have irreconcilable political differences with their former cohorts.

  4. Ilíon says:

    ==PZ quotes Torres as writing, “What’s sad is that the New Atheist movement could have made a difference — a positive difference — in the world.” and then comments, “When I think back to that period when we were all giddy with the possibilities of a strong atheist movement.”==

    What would “[making] a positive difference in the world” even *mean* if atheism were the truth about the nature of reality?

    If atheism were actually the truth about the nature of reality, then there could be no such thing as “The Way Things Ought To Be”: there could be no such things as “better” or “worse”.

  5. nihilist2christian says:

    Perhaps they were thinking of the removal of traditional religious prohibitions on their sexual promiscuity and exploration.

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