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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M&K and those who agree with them seem to be in the 'silent, meek' department. Atheists should be quiet, sit in the corner, and not say anything that might offend anyone else, instead just hoping that someday we'll magically see the anti-atheist prejudice disappear without having to put forth any effort or offend anyone.

As for the 'Rift' painted by the NPR article, they're trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. Yes, not all atheists agree on everything. Unlike religion, however, this is not a weakness, nor is it the sign of a sectarian split, which is what they are used to when different members of the same religion disagree.

And for that matter, the 'New' atheism is not that new. Even before Madelyn O'Hair (who was certainly not meek and mild) there were others who were vocal in their opposition of religion.
Well said, Dave.

And for that matter, the 'New' atheism is not that new.

Personally, I don't like that term; "new atheism". It is why I usually surround it with quotes as well. It's not something I would refer to it as. Unfortunately, it has a life of it's own. :(
The idea that Atheism is divided or unified is ridiculous, the only thing we have in common, is that we don't believe in the supernatural. That being said, without religion there is a lot less we have to disagree on and as result, less to kill each over. We are unified by our common interests just like any other group of humans - whether it be science or hating puppies. This holds true here at TA as well, there is the site-wide uniting interest of embracing and "de-eviling" Atheism and then there are the sub-groups united by other interests, like books or the intriguing nature of non-believing college chicks.
I spent too many years concerned about the actions and rantings of people belonging to my different social groups, i.e. my school, my race, my country, my church, my state, my political affiliations etc etc. It's a relief not being judged by other Atheists because there is no criteria for judgment.
the intriguing nature of non-believing college chicks.

I like the way you think.

And I agree with your other points, as well. As much as I hate using the term "New Atheism", this is what the "accommodationists" are angry about. It all reeks of a manufactured controversy. The labels seem silly, really.
Yeah, the 'New Atheism' is quite old. It's just more noticed now.
Maybe we should do like all the major religions do; unite to bash our common enemy, and when we're done with that beat the crap out of each other over doctrinal disagreements.
I'm gunning for south paws as soon as religion is kaput!
Reggie, you'd gun for anyone with paws. :)
And I thought we were friends Reggie!
We are....we's just that the right hand doctrine says I can not suffer a lefty to live. No offense, buddy! ;)
I agree with Reggies earlier comment that we athiests need to be vocal, and out there, in order to make our position more mainstream, much like the blacks had to do in the 60's and the gays more recently. I think there are a LOT more athiests out there than is generally thought, and we need to stand up and be counted. Come out of the closet if you will.


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