Impact of the New Atheism

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The "New Atheism" has not had much of an impact in terms of gaining new adherents to atheism. In a March 10, 2008 USA Today article Stephen Prothero stated the following regarding the impact of the "New Atheism":

Numbers lie, but they also tell tales untrustworthy and otherwise. So the key question stirring around the much discussed U.S Religious Landscape Survey released in late February by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life is what tale does it state about the state of the union.

For some, the story of this survey, based on interviews in multiple languages with more than 35,000 adults, is the strength of American Religion.

Not too long ago, I wrote that American atheism was going the way of the freak show. As books by Christopher Hitchens and other "new atheists" climbed the best seller lists, I caught a lot of flak for that prophecy. But atheist make up only 1.6% of respondents to this survey....[1]

A prime reason for the ineffectiveness of the "New Atheism" is the shallowness of its material. For example, as noted earlier even atheist philosopher Michael Ruse stated that Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion made him "embarrassed to be an atheist".[2]

The "New Atheism" largely has a unfavorable view outside the United States as well. The liberal leaning British publication the Guardian stated the following regarding the "New Atheism":

Anti-faith proselytizing is a growth industry. But its increasingly hysterical flag-bearers are heading for a spectacular failure...

These increasingly hysterical books may boost the pension, they may be morale boosters for a particular kind of American atheism that feels victimized - the latest candidate in a flourishing American tradition - but one suspects that they are going to do very little to challenge the appeal of a phenomenon they loathe too much to understand.[3]

Contents

New Atheism movement and contention between atheist men and women

See also: Abrasiveness of Richard Dawkins and Atheism and arrogance

Founders of the New Atheism movement Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, have elevated the amount of contention between men and women within the atheist population and there are now frequently complaints from women that there is a significant amount of misogny within the atheist community and that its leadership is too heavily populated with men.[4][5][6]

Richard Dawkins and Elevatorgate

David Allen Green wrote: "Can Richard Dawkins still credibly pose as a champion of rational thinking and an evidence-based approach? In my opinion, he certainly cannot, at least not in the way he did before."[7]

Elevatorgate is a term commonly used to describe a scandal involving new atheist Richard Dawkins' 2011 comments made to atheist Rebecca Watson which are perceived to have been inappropriate by a sizable portion of the atheist community and to the public at large.[8]

Subsequently, Richard Dawkins was widely criticized within the atheist community and in various press outlets for his insensitive comments made to atheist Rebecca Watson about the incident which occurred in an elevator (see: Richard Dawkins initial Elevatorgate comments).[9]

According to Rebecca Watson atheist women are often punished for being outspoken - particularly when they speak about feminism.[10] In August of 2013, Watson said the harassment she received from male atheists skyrocketed after Elevatorgate. [11]

Furthermore, she said she still receives harassment from male fans of Richard Dawkins.[12] The atheist feminist Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson concurs with Watson and says that sexual harassment has been institutionalized within the atheist movement and that atheist men have an investment in censoring, controlling and policing women and also have an investment in "male privilege".[13]

Elevatorgate and negative press

The New Statesman reporter and fellow skeptic David Allen Green said he believed Dawkins was a misogynist and a racist.[14] In addition, Green wrote: "Can Richard Dawkins still credibly pose as a champion of rational thinking and an evidence-based approach? In my opinion, he certainly cannot, at least not in the way he did before."[15]

Elevatorgate created negative press for Richard Dawkins in a number of major news outlets (see: Elevatorgate news stories - Chronological order) and within the atheist movement/atheist population (see: Atheist movement). As a result of Elevatorgate, Dawkins popularity among atheists and the public at large plunged (see: Richard Dawkins' loss of influence).

See also: Decline of internet atheism and Google trends - Atheism and agnosticism terms

Sam Harris and charges of misogny

See also: Atheism and women and Atheism and sexism

Like his fellow new atheist Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris has raised the ire of feminists.[16][17][18] See also: Elevatorgate

In 2014, Harris said that atheist activism lacks an “estrogen vibe” and was “to some degree intrinsically male”.[19]

On October 3, 2014, Salon magazine published an online article titled, Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris?[20] On September 20 2014, the feminist blogger Libby Anne wrote an article entitled Is Sam Harris Sexist?[21] Atheist Sam Fincke wrote a piece entitled On Sam Harris’s Reply to Feminist Critics.[22]

In his defense, Harris published an article on his website titled, “I’m Not the Sexist Pig You’re Looking For”[23]

See also

References

  1. American Faith: A Work In Progress by Stephen Prothero, USA Today, March 10, 2008, page 11A
  2. http://www.alternet.org/mediaculture/47052/?page=3
  3. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2074076,00.html
  4. Will “New Atheism” Make Room For Women?, Ms. Magazine
  5. Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins by David Allen Green - New Stateman - 06 July 2011
  6. Calling All Female Atheists - Huffington Post - video
  7. Calling All Female Atheists - Huffington Post - video
  8. Calling All Female Atheists - Huffington Post - video
  9. Calling All Female Atheists - Huffington Post - video
  10. Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins by David Allen Green - New Stateman - 06 July 2011
  11. Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins by David Allen Green - New Stateman - 06 July 2011
  12. Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris? by Amanda Marcotte, Salon magazine, October 3, 2014
  13. Is Sam Harris Sexist? by Libby Anne at the blog Love, Joy, Feminism, September 20, 2014
  14. Atheist writer Sam Harris faces backlash over 'estrogen vibe' comments by Heather Tomlinson, Christianity Today, September 17, 2014
  15. Atheist writer Sam Harris faces backlash over 'estrogen vibe' comments by Heather Tomlinson, Christianity Today, September 17, 2014
  16. Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris? by Amanda Marcotte, Salon magazine, October 3, 2014
  17. Is Sam Harris Sexist? by Libby Anne at the blog Love, Joy, Feminism, September 20, 2014
  18. On Sam Harris’s Reply to Feminist Critics by Daniel Fincke, September 16, 2014
  19. “I’m Not the Sexist Pig You’re Looking For” by Sam Harris, September 15, 2014
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