Behold! Atheism is buckling under a deep rift of infighting caused by rude, crude New Atheists! Or maybe not?

This is something I first came across while enjoying Pharyngula and The Intersection (at Discover Blogs). Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum wrote a book called "Unscientific America". To make a long story short, it was panned by many people, including PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne. This seems to be the start of a blog war that had Mooney and Kirshenbaum accusing outspoken atheists like Dawkins, Myers, and Coyne of ruining everything. M&K believe that atheists should accommodate religious belief and stop being so darn strident (and no cussing!). Coyne began calling people like M&K faitheists as Myers, Coyne, Fish, and others tore their arguments apart. Personally, they were dropped from my reading list for reasons that are not important to this discussion. Anyone that is a regular reader of Pharyngula would remember PZ's posts tearing into M&K. This blog war faded and I thought all would return to normal despite my initial fear that people like this would emerge and put atheism back into a meek and silent state of being.

Listening to Matt Dillhunty on the Non Prophets, he mentioned something about a rift and he was asking if it was just him or was there something happening? He never elaborated and I am a week or two behind the ACA podcasts. I then found, by ways I don't recall, Michael Shermer espousing some disturbing views. One being that religion was exempt from the type of critique that fairies were. He doesn't really explain why, though.

The we get this NPR article that headlines thusly : A Bitter Rift Divides Atheists. Well, Paul Kurtz lends some weight to this claim, but even DJ Grothe will dissent from Kurtz's accommodating stances and NPR's reporter raises the ire of Greg Fish.

Now, Jerry Coyne alerts me to further rifts between science, atheism, and skepticism, which touches on the theme of most of these running arguments. It's basically that science/humanism/skepticism should not be marrying atheism. But, I think Jerry has it right.

There is evidence of this supposed "rift" all over the virtual landscape. I don't think that it is as big of a deal as being reported and just because it is the topic du jour doesn't make it that prominant in reality, either. However, there has always been a minority of atheists that are not happy with the new vocal and confrontaltional style of "New Atheism". I feared that Mooney and Kirshenbaum were trying to pioneer this charge and that it would eventually lead to an all out war on how best to "steer the movement".

What does Think Atheist think?

* On a side note, I am trying to dig up old links to cite sources on stuff in the early part of my post, but since I have been reading about it over months, they are hard to find. If you have them, feel free to post them to help me out. Otherwise, I will add them to the original post as I find them. Thanks!

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It is simple for me I do not believe in a god never have and never will. Arguments are interesting to read but seem to confuse the issue, everyone getting on the gravy train to dispute the rights and wrongs of religion. Oh here is a way to make money, but this I hope is not the case for aren’t we atheists trying to show how wrong religious indoctrination is, turning one person against another.
Of course we all have opinions but don’t let these people who want to cause rifts do so. We all I thought had one purpose to make the world a better place without evil as condoned by the bible
Most of the stories that I've read about the split in atheism have come from people who are theistic. I don't really see a split between different groups of atheists. But I don't know, maybe there is. If there is a split I'm pretty sure that the side with the most adherents would be the "New Atheists". I think the majority of atheists are what would be considered "New Atheists", or anti-theists. I think it would be almost impossible for a nonbeliever to look at what religion is doing to people all over the world ( the "witches" in Africa is the first thing that comes to mind) and not want to stop that.
What is causing the commotion are atheists who disagree with certain methods of "new atheism". The want us to be polite, respect religion, and quit being big meanies. To them, religion is not a big enough deal to get worked up over but a big enough deal to show reverence to any person who subscribes to it.

But I think you are right, most non-believers approve of "new atheism".
My best friend is always telling me that I'm too militaristic about my atheism. He too is an atheist. He says we should just quit preaching our beliefs or trying to convert the believers. While disagree adamantly with this ideology, as it allows religion more leeway to commit their atrocities, I have no idea how to argue this with him.

It actually kind of weird when he says it too, because he is far more militaristic about his daily life than I am. I am usually a care free kind of guy, but am stridently adamant about atheism. But I'll not delve into that here as it is probably obvious as to why I am this way. But how do I argue this point with him? Shouldn't we be more adamant about our atheism?
Well, I agree that we should not "preach", which I take to be unsolicited sermons of atheism. However, we need not sit idly by while religious minded folk spew forth their absurdities. I have no delusions of "converting" anyone. Atheism that is arrived at by reasoned logic is not something that can be put upon others in the manner of a religious conversion and it's preying on of emotions. For many atheists, it is a position they have arrived at over a long and gradual process of discovery. How can you convert someone when that is normally the case?

The reason to be a vocal atheist is not to convert anyone. The reason to be a vocal atheist is to combat negative stereotypes and continued resistance of reality based world views. It is not completely unlike Rosa Parks being a trouble maker by not accepting her place on the bus as a second class citizen. Blacks didn't get rights by being quiet and "behaving". That analogy can only go so far, since atheists do have rights, but good luck getting elected to a public office as an "out" atheist. Maybe it is more like gay rights? Many states are now allowing/recognizing gay marriages (or at least domestic partnerships). This wasn't accomplished by being nice and quiet. People marched, protested, injected themselves and their views into mainstream culture, petitioned lawmakers, and more all to accomplish much of what has been accomplished.

If we want atheism to be an accepted, normal, and respectable position in mainstream society, then sitting quietly on our hands, doing nothing, and saying nothing is not the way to do it. We need to be more vocal than we normally would be because we have a longer way to go to achieve acceptance.

And when it is a normal thing to be, then you'll see more and more people adopting atheism as their worldview because their minds won't be shut off to it by extreme, negative connotations.
I don't try to convert anyone either. He refers to other militaristic atheists when he says that. But he does nothing to add to the atheist voice, which is where I have this problem. It allows them to further belittle us, when we do not stand against it.
I think he is perfectly within his right to remain silent. If it's not his bag, then so be it. Now, if he decided to speak up about other atheists speaking up, then I think he invites criticism. But if you are pressuring him to be more outspoken, then you invite the criticism. Not everyone can be or should be a Rosa Parks, to abuse that analogy once more, hopefully for a last time. :)
Yeah, he really isn't that kind of person. It just bugs me a little that he has a problem with those who are outspoken. But he's a good guy, so I try not to hold it against him.
Some things we must not sweat.
True, tis' true.
I think it's more the way a lot of "new atheists" go about discussing their position. The "new atheists" I've chatted with or read usually point out how absurd religion is. That's the wrong way to go about the problem. Just because someone is religious doesn't mean they are wrong it just means they believe in something that hasn't been scientifically proven. What needs to be stopped is the infusion of religion in areas where religion doesn't belong (i.e. publicly funded areas, government, etc.). But there shouldn't be anything wrong with people believing in something we don't.
What about those who believe in something that has been definitively disproved, such as the Earth being 6000 years old, the Sun going around the Earth, or that the biblical flood actually happened (and carved out the Grand Canyon)?

As far as I am concerned, people can believe anything they like, so long as that belief is not adversely affecting other people. They can believe in the Great Green Arkleseizure and the coming of the White Handkerchief if they like. But if they try to legislate that all people must chant a prayer of glory to the Unseen One after sneezing, or that their beliefs are to be taught in schools as fact despite a lack of (and in many cases in spite of) evidence, then I'm going to call them out.




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