New Atheism criticism

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Below are some of the main criticisms of the New Atheism movement. See also: Atheist movement

New Atheism and its reputation for shallow arguments

Despite the frequent expressions of certainty by new atheists. New Atheism has a reputation for shallow arguments. A frequent occurrence is that the works of new atheists often betray an amateurish knowledge of philosophy/religion.[1][2] For example, atheist philosopher Dr. Michael Ruse declared concerning new atheist Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion: "The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist."[3] Vox Day's book The Irrational atheist found multiple errors in reasoning and factual errors when it came to the works of new atheist authors.[4] See also: Atheism and irrationality

New Atheism movement and contention between atheist men and women

See also: Abrasiveness of Richard Dawkins and Atheism and arrogance and New Atheism and women

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.[5][6][7]

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."[8]

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.[9]

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).[10]

According to Rebecca Watson atheist women are often punished for being outspoken - particularly when they speak about feminism.[11] In August 2013, Watson said the harassment she received from male atheists skyrocketed after Elevatorgate.[12]

Furthermore, she said she still receives harassment from male fans of Richard Dawkins.[13] The atheist feminist 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".[14]

Elevatorgate and negative press

The New Statesman reporter and fellow skeptic David Allen Green said he believed Dawkins was a misogynist and a racist.[15] 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."[16]

Elevatorgate created negative press for Richard Dawkins in a number of major news outlets (see: Elevatorgate news stories) 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

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.[17][18][19] See also: Elevatorgate

In 2014, Harris said that atheist activism lacks an “estrogen vibe” and was “to some degree intrinsically male”.[20]

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?[21] On September 20, 2014, the feminist blogger Libby Anne wrote an article entitled Is Sam Harris Sexist?[22] Atheist Sam Fincke wrote a piece entitled On Sam Harris’s Reply to Feminist Critics.[23]

In his defense, Harris published an article on his website titled, “I’m Not the Sexist Pig You’re Looking For”[24]

New Atheism and charges of Islamophobia

See also: Richard Dawkins and Islamophobia accusations and Atheism vs. Islam and New Atheism and Islamophobia

According to Pew Forum, by 2030 Muslims are projected to make up 8% of Europe’s population.[25] See also: Atheism vs. Islam

The new atheists Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens have received multiple accusations of engaging in Islamophobic behavior.[26] Dawkins is dismissive of the concept of Islamophobia and declared: "I’m always being accused of Islamophobia, that’s a non-word."[27]

On December 28, 2015, the Daily Express reported about Dawkins:

The furious academic walked out of an interview when a Muslim journalist confirmed he personally believed the prophet Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse.

Dawkins, 74, author of best-seller The God Delusion, told the New Statesmen's Emad Ahmed that his belief was "pathetic" before angrily storming off.[28]

On the other hand, defenders of atheist criticisms of Islam/Muslims indicated that New Atheists should be able to criticize Islam without being accused of Islamophobia.[29]

Christopher Hitchens displayed provocative rhetoric and bloodlust towards radical Islamacists.[30] At the opening of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Hitchens said of radical Islamacists, "It is a pleasure and a duty to kill these people".[31] Hitchens said of Iran, "As for that benighted country, I wouldn't shed a tear if it was wiped off the face of this earth”.[32]

On June 21, 2014 Harris published an article on his website entitled Response to Critics which was a response to his critics who accuse him of Islamophobia.[33]

New Atheism seen as a narrow and dogmatic religion

See also: Atheism is a religion and Atheism and arrogance and Militant atheism and Atheism and anger

Using special text analysis software, the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt found that New Atheists very often wrote in dogmatic terms in their major works using words such as “always,” “never,” “certainly,” “every,” and “undeniable.”[34] Of the 75,000 words in Sam Harris's The End of Faith, 2.24% of them connote or are associated with certainty.[35] In a 2014 New Republic article entitled The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins: His atheism is its own kind of narrow religion, the atheist philosopher John Gray wrote:

One might wager a decent sum of money that it has never occurred to Dawkins that to many people he appears as a comic figure. His default mode is one of rational indignation—a stance of withering patrician disdain for the untutored mind of a kind one might expect in a schoolmaster in a minor public school sometime in the 1930s. He seems to have no suspicion that any of those he despises could find his stilted pose of indignant rationality merely laughable. “I am not a good observer,” he writes modestly. He is referring to his observations of animals and plants, but his weakness applies more obviously in the case of humans. Transfixed in wonderment at the workings of his own mind, Dawkins misses much that is of importance in human beings—himself and others.[36]

For more information, please see:

Cultish characteristics

See also: Atheist cults and Richard Dawkins' cult of personality

The New Atheism movement, which has waned in recent years, was called a cult by the agnostic, journalist Bryan Appleyard in a 2012 article in the New Statesman in which he describes the abusive behavior of New Atheists.[37] Although the New Atheism movement does not perfectly fit the various characteristics of a cult, it does fit some of the characteristics.[38]

Most of the allegations around New Atheism being a cult have been due to the behavior of Richard Dawkins and his fans (see: Richard Dawkins' cult of personality).

Sociologist Stephen LeDrew on New Atheism and intolerance

The sociologist Stephen LeDrew declared about the new atheists:

As I got to know these thinkers better, I began to see some of their ideas as quite dangerous—such as the intolerance they have for cultural diversity and some seeds of social Darwinism. So part of the motivation for it was that I think atheism can do much better than people like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.[39]

Immaturity of new atheists

Nü Atheism is an adolescent movement. The adults who follow it have adolescent (or pre-adolescent) temperaments and personalities (Maher, Dawkins, Gervais, Myers etc) and it's grown in popularity since you have a large generational cohort reaching young adulthood and seeking to set themselves apart from their parents. But it's reactionary and petulant. A pose, not a philosophy.

—Christopher Loring Knowles[40]

See also

Notes

  1. The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy of Religion edited by Graham Oppy, Chapter 4, New Atheist Approaches to Religion by Trent Dougherty and Logan Paul Cage, page 52, see: Google books excerpt
  2. http://www.alternet.org/media/47052?page=entire
  3. http://www.alternet.org/media/47052?page=entire
  4. Excellent refutation of ‘new atheists’ flawed by heterodox open theism, A review of The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens by Vox Day, Benbella Books, Dallas, TX, 2008, reviewed by Lita Cosner
  5. Will “New Atheism” Make Room For Women?, Ms. Magazine
  6. Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins by David Allen Green - New Stateman - 06 July 2011
  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. Calling All Female Atheists - Huffington Post - video
  11. Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins by David Allen Green - New Stateman - 06 July 2011
  12. Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins by David Allen Green - New Stateman - 06 July 2011
  13. Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris? by Amanda Marcotte, Salon magazine, October 3, 2014
  14. Is Sam Harris Sexist? by Libby Anne at the blog Love, Joy, Feminism, September 20, 2014
  15. Atheist writer Sam Harris faces backlash over 'estrogen vibe' comments by Heather Tomlinson, Christianity Today, September 17, 2014
  16. Atheist writer Sam Harris faces backlash over 'estrogen vibe' comments by Heather Tomlinson, Christianity Today, September 17, 2014
  17. Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris? by Amanda Marcotte, Salon magazine, October 3, 2014
  18. Is Sam Harris Sexist? by Libby Anne at the blog Love, Joy, Feminism, September 20, 2014
  19. On Sam Harris’s Reply to Feminist Critics by Daniel Fincke, September 16, 2014
  20. “I’m Not the Sexist Pig You’re Looking For” by Sam Harris, September 15, 2014
  21. 5 facts about the Muslim population in Europe by Conrad Hackett, Pew Forum, November 17, 2015
  22. Richard Dawkins defends Ahmed Mohamed comments and dismisses Islamophobia as a 'non-word', Independent, 24 September 2015
  23. ['Pathetic': Richard Dawkins in extraordinary outburst against Islam] by Jason Taylor, Daily Express, December 28, 2015
  24. New Atheism should be able to criticise Islam without being accused of Islamophobia by Andrew Zak Williams, New Statesman, Published 19 April 2013
  25. UnHitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens By Richard Seymour, Publisher: Verso; 1 edition (January 16, 2013), page 92
  26. UnHitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens By Richard Seymour, Publisher: Verso; 1 edition (January 16, 2013), page 92
  27. UnHitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens By Richard Seymour, Publisher: Verso; 1 edition (January 16, 2013), page 92
  28. Response to Critics by Sam Harris, June 21, 2014
  29. Why Sam Harris is Unlikely to Change his Mind by JONATHAN HAIDT, February 3, 2014 8:36 pm
  30. Why Sam Harris is Unlikely to Change his Mind by JONATHAN HAIDT, February 3, 2014 8:36 pm
  31. The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins, New Republic by John Gray
  32. The God wars by Bryan Appleyard, New Statesman
  33. How cultish is the New Atheism?
  34. Sociologist Stephen LeDrew on the Rift in the Atheism Movement
  35. "The Church and the Black Swan", The Secret Sun 3.28.15.