The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

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Tessa K
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The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by Tessa K » Wed Jun 09, 2021 11:43 am

Good article on why the heroes of New Atheism turned out to be vile old white men whining about their loss of privilege and spewing hate on everyone else. It's a depressing read for those of us who were supporters of atheism, secularism and skepticism back in the day. Well, I still am, but I'm much warier who I align myself with these days.

I posted this on Twitter so we'll see if the Dawkins Manbabies have another go at me.

https://www.salon.com/2021/06/05/how-th ... surrender/

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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by IvanV » Wed Jun 09, 2021 1:02 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 11:43 am
Good article on why the heroes of New Atheism turned out to be vile old white men whining about their loss of privilege and spewing hate on everyone else.
This is sadly what often happens to people as they age and the world changes about them and their influence reduces. It doesn't necessarily devalue what they said in the past. There' ll be some new ones along, indeed there already are.

And how do they compare to religious leaders?

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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by WFJ » Wed Jun 09, 2021 1:08 pm

Has anyone ever seen Sam Harris as a hero? Bigots aside of course.

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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by Tessa K » Wed Jun 09, 2021 3:37 pm

IvanV wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 1:02 pm
Tessa K wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 11:43 am
Good article on why the heroes of New Atheism turned out to be vile old white men whining about their loss of privilege and spewing hate on everyone else.
This is sadly what often happens to people as they age and the world changes about them and their influence reduces. It doesn't necessarily devalue what they said in the past. There' ll be some new ones along, indeed there already are.

And how do they compare to religious leaders?
It's true that some people's opinions harden as they get older and a sense of having less influence can come with ageing, but not for everyone. And not everyone turns into a Victor Meldrew or a Grumpy Old Man/Woman. Some of us like the young people because they keep us in touch with changes so we don't feel left behind. Becoming rigid and dogmatic makes people boring as well as unpleasant. Trying to stay flexible, curious and open to new ideas keeps you young and is good for the brain.

It's not just about ageing for these Old New Atheists though, it's partly because white men are not automatically at the top of the heap like they used to be, their privilege is being questioned and they don't like that. But nor do some young white men, which is why Jordan Peterson and others like him have strong followings and why many white racists, misogynists and homophobes are young.

I don't know if older religious leaders become more extreme in their views or just feel more comfortable sayings things they kept to themselves before, or didn't have such a big audience when they were at earlier stages in the careers, which may be the case with Dawkins et al. There are plenty of young religious leaders and influencers with unpalatable views.

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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by IvanV » Wed Jun 09, 2021 4:12 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 3:37 pm
... it's partly because white men are not automatically at the top of the heap like they used to be, their privilege is being questioned and they don't like that ...

I don't know if older religious leaders become more extreme in their views ... There are plenty of young religious leaders and influencers with unpalatable views.
Conservatism in general seems to be an attempt to retain privilege and status. The more people who cease to be marginalised or excluded on the grounds of some irrelevant characteristic you don't have, the more competition for status you experience.

It wasn't specifically older religious leaders I intended to compare them to, rather I intended to imply the numerous ones with unpalatable views.

As you say, not all old people become set in their opinions and frustrated with their failing powers. But it's a common syndrome. Even some of the nicest old people I knew got like that towards the end. I think in part it can be due to pain and other losses of facility. I had proper flu a few years ago, the one that puts you in bed for a week. During the several weeks I was no longer bedridden but still not right, I became like an angry old man. I was appalled afterwards and did a lot of apologising. It think it might have given me a window into how people can get like that.

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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by Gfamily » Wed Jun 09, 2021 4:21 pm

It is a problem that belief systems are so badly let down by people.

I'm trying to work out what the common factor might be :)
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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by Imrael » Wed Jun 09, 2021 4:50 pm

I'm confused because I thought (from the old place mainly) that New Atheism was P J Myers, Rebecca Watson etc. (The latter was not exactly a fan of the old place as I recall)

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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by sTeamTraen » Wed Jun 09, 2021 5:59 pm

Imrael wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 4:50 pm
I'm confused because I thought (from the old place mainly) that New Atheism was P J Myers, Rebecca Watson etc. (The latter was not exactly a fan of the old place as I recall)
I think that was "Atheism Plus" (which might never had come about had Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, etc not been around). Slate Star Codex has a typically extensive take on this.
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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by Grumble » Wed Jun 09, 2021 7:47 pm

sTeamTraen wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 5:59 pm
Imrael wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 4:50 pm
I'm confused because I thought (from the old place mainly) that New Atheism was P J Myers, Rebecca Watson etc. (The latter was not exactly a fan of the old place as I recall)
I think that was "Atheism Plus" (which might never had come about had Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, etc not been around). Slate Star Codex has a typically extensive take on this.
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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by bjn » Wed Jun 09, 2021 7:57 pm

With the exception of Dawkins, aren’t they all North American?

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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by jimbob » Wed Jun 09, 2021 9:35 pm

WFJ wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 1:08 pm
Has anyone ever seen Sam Harris as a hero? Bigots aside of course.
The only one I felt a bit disappointed by was Pinker
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by Tessa K » Thu Jun 10, 2021 10:55 am

bjn wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 7:57 pm
With the exception of Dawkins, aren’t they all North American?
It was an American article so it focussed on the Yanks.

There's a difference between New Atheists and Skeptics. Rebecca was part of the Skeptics, I don't know if she still is, I've lost track a bit. I certainly identified as part of the Skeptics (I ran London SitP) but not the New Atheists as they were all a bit smug and arrogant for me (and coincidentally or not, male). Does anyone still call themself a Bright?

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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by bjn » Thu Jun 10, 2021 12:35 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 10:55 am
bjn wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 7:57 pm
With the exception of Dawkins, aren’t they all North American?
It was an American article so it focussed on the Yanks.

There's a difference between New Atheists and Skeptics. Rebecca was part of the Skeptics, I don't know if she still is, I've lost track a bit. I certainly identified as part of the Skeptics (I ran London SitP) but not the New Atheists as they were all a bit smug and arrogant for me (and coincidentally or not, male). Does anyone still call themself a Bright?
Fair enough. I'd call myself sceptical without the K, plus the 'Bright' thing was toe curlingly cringeworthy from the outset.

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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by Tessa K » Thu Jun 10, 2021 1:01 pm

bjn wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 12:35 pm
Tessa K wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 10:55 am
bjn wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 7:57 pm
With the exception of Dawkins, aren’t they all North American?
It was an American article so it focussed on the Yanks.

There's a difference between New Atheists and Skeptics. Rebecca was part of the Skeptics, I don't know if she still is, I've lost track a bit. I certainly identified as part of the Skeptics (I ran London SitP) but not the New Atheists as they were all a bit smug and arrogant for me (and coincidentally or not, male). Does anyone still call themself a Bright?
Fair enough. I'd call myself sceptical without the K, plus the 'Bright' thing was toe curlingly cringeworthy from the outset.
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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by jimbob » Thu Jun 10, 2021 4:13 pm

bjn wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 12:35 pm
Tessa K wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 10:55 am
bjn wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 7:57 pm
With the exception of Dawkins, aren’t they all North American?
It was an American article so it focussed on the Yanks.

There's a difference between New Atheists and Skeptics. Rebecca was part of the Skeptics, I don't know if she still is, I've lost track a bit. I certainly identified as part of the Skeptics (I ran London SitP) but not the New Atheists as they were all a bit smug and arrogant for me (and coincidentally or not, male). Does anyone still call themself a Bright?
Fair enough. I'd call myself sceptical without the K, plus the 'Bright' thing was toe curlingly cringeworthy from the outset.
I think the "Brights" thing was the final red flag about Dawkins to me. Before, I thought he was sometimes needlessly confrontational, and (ironically given his career) prone to choosing really bad ways of communicating about science - along the lines of "lies to children" simplifications that would need to be unlearned in order to understand deeper.

Too many of the prominent US atheists (and indeed skeptics) seem to be quite happy being cynical sceptical about, say Global Warming, for my comfort (Pen Jillette springs to mind) ... and many also seem to uncritically believe in Social Darwinism.
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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by Little waster » Thu Jun 10, 2021 5:18 pm

I mean the really sad thing is the way Atheists have spent several millennia declaring that every utterance from their leaders was the infallible Word of Descent-with-Modification, covering up decades of sexual abuse, killing the non-unbelievers and handing over 10% of their wealth each year so the likes of Dawkins can wear special magic robes and live in tax-exempt palaces while interfering in the running of the country. :|

If only we had learned from the Catholics and the Evangelicals.

If we had we might be in a position to say “well they always seemed to be a bit dickish but luckily our diverse forms of unbelief doesn’t require any sort of anointed priesthood and as such their short fall from lack-of-Grace will have no tangible impact on our individual non-stamp collecting, even if the God-botherers will be onanising themselves into an early Rapture at the news”.

But alas ...

I think a time of quiet reflection and mortification of the flesh is in order now.
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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by secret squirrel » Fri Jun 11, 2021 6:35 am

sTeamTraen wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 5:59 pm
Imrael wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 4:50 pm
I'm confused because I thought (from the old place mainly) that New Atheism was P J Myers, Rebecca Watson etc. (The latter was not exactly a fan of the old place as I recall)
I think that was "Atheism Plus" (which might never had come about had Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, etc not been around). Slate Star Codex has a typically extensive take on this.
Scott Siskind, the Slate Star Codex man (now a full time substack grifter), generally has pretty bad takes though, so caveat lector.

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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by Tessa K » Fri Jun 11, 2021 11:15 am

Little waster wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 5:18 pm
I mean the really sad thing is the way Atheists have spent several millennia declaring that every utterance from their leaders was the infallible Word of Descent-with-Modification, covering up decades of sexual abuse, killing the non-unbelievers and handing over 10% of their wealth each year so the likes of Dawkins can wear special magic robes and live in tax-exempt palaces while interfering in the running of the country. :|

If only we had learned from the Catholics and the Evangelicals.

If we had we might be in a position to say “well they always seemed to be a bit dickish but luckily our diverse forms of unbelief doesn’t require any sort of anointed priesthood and as such their short fall from lack-of-Grace will have no tangible impact on our individual non-stamp collecting, even if the God-botherers will be onanising themselves into an early Rapture at the news”.

But alas ...

I think a time of quiet reflection and mortification of the flesh is in order now.
We don't need to discuss the failings of religion and religious leaders when we criticise the New Atheists. Just because something is bad it doesn't mean something else can't be bad as well.

Unfortunately, their followers have anointed them as leaders of Atheism and resent/attack any criticism of them. Their behaviour may put some people off identifying as atheist or skeptics and they certainly do offend and injure the targets of some of their pronouncements and behaviours - women, trans people, muslims and some POC for example. Just because they haven't been doing it for 2000 years doesn't mean their behaviour has no consequences. And we are in a position to say 'not in my name' more effectively because they haven't been doing it as long.

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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by warumich » Fri Jun 11, 2021 12:29 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Fri Jun 11, 2021 11:15 am

We don't need to discuss the failings of religion and religious leaders when we criticise the New Atheists. Just because something is bad it doesn't mean something else can't be bad as well.

Unfortunately, their followers have anointed them as leaders of Atheism and resent/attack any criticism of them. Their behaviour may put some people off identifying as atheist or skeptics and they certainly do offend and injure the targets of some of their pronouncements and behaviours - women, trans people, muslims and some POC for example. Just because they haven't been doing it for 2000 years doesn't mean their behaviour has no consequences. And we are in a position to say 'not in my name' more effectively because they haven't been doing it as long.
Which is the slightly frustrating issue in debating atheism and religion, including on this forum. On the one hand I keep being told that atheism is not anything like a religion so cannot be compared to it ("it's a lack of belief, not a belief"), but on the other hand as soon as atheism gets criticised, part of the defence is "but religious people do this sort of thing too". So make up your mind. Not having a go at you LW, but a general frustration that the terms of the debate keep shifting backwards and forwards. And that's because nobody knows what a religion is in the first place (or atheism for that matter), despite having very strong opinions about them. (also apologies that I gave up debating on the other thread, but I had a lot of UG essays to mark, and I didn't feel like doing this in my spare time as well)

Anyway, I used to describe myself as an atheist as a matter of routine, but the Pinkers and Dawkinses did indeed lead me towards having a crisis of faith, as it were. If they are so wrong about this, what else are they wrong about?

What one needs to keep in mind is that beliefs and values tend to come in bundles based on our social identity. We may agree with a core set of beliefs because we have reasoned ourselves into them and then join in with likeminded people, but then joining an identifiable social group based on these beliefs we are more likely to take on wider group beliefs that we have not reasoned ourselves into because of the wider group - which we respect and feel part of - takes these views. So, as atheist and skeptic groups have coalesced into several identifiable social configurations over the last ten years, the initially reasonable atheism and science-fanboy-ism has for some groups become bundled in with other concerns that are not quite so reasonable from my outside point of view, but are easy to slip into when you're invested in the new group identity. I've seen it happening on a number of levels, including with skeptics and a fair few people I would describe as friends here and in the old place, where our shared frustration at homeopathists and creationists has turned them into a full-blown and for me completely unfathomable transfixion on trans issues, and of course, on religion. Interesting to see as a sociologist who writes about exactly this mechanism, but frustrating to see happening with your friends. But then, my views are similarly shaped and influenced by the groups I hang out with, so there we are.
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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by Tessa K » Fri Jun 11, 2021 1:07 pm

warumich wrote:
Fri Jun 11, 2021 12:29 pm
Tessa K wrote:
Fri Jun 11, 2021 11:15 am

We don't need to discuss the failings of religion and religious leaders when we criticise the New Atheists. Just because something is bad it doesn't mean something else can't be bad as well.

Unfortunately, their followers have anointed them as leaders of Atheism and resent/attack any criticism of them. Their behaviour may put some people off identifying as atheist or skeptics and they certainly do offend and injure the targets of some of their pronouncements and behaviours - women, trans people, muslims and some POC for example. Just because they haven't been doing it for 2000 years doesn't mean their behaviour has no consequences. And we are in a position to say 'not in my name' more effectively because they haven't been doing it as long.
Which is the slightly frustrating issue in debating atheism and religion, including on this forum. On the one hand I keep being told that atheism is not anything like a religion so cannot be compared to it ("it's a lack of belief, not a belief"), but on the other hand as soon as atheism gets criticised, part of the defence is "but religious people do this sort of thing too". So make up your mind. Not having a go at you LW, but a general frustration that the terms of the debate keep shifting backwards and forwards. And that's because nobody knows what a religion is in the first place (or atheism for that matter), despite having very strong opinions about them. (also apologies that I gave up debating on the other thread, but I had a lot of UG essays to mark, and I didn't feel like doing this in my spare time as well)

Anyway, I used to describe myself as an atheist as a matter of routine, but the Pinkers and Dawkinses did indeed lead me towards having a crisis of faith, as it were. If they are so wrong about this, what else are they wrong about?

What one needs to keep in mind is that beliefs and values tend to come in bundles based on our social identity. We may agree with a core set of beliefs because we have reasoned ourselves into them and then join in with likeminded people, but then joining an identifiable social group based on these beliefs we are more likely to take on wider group beliefs that we have not reasoned ourselves into because of the wider group - which we respect and feel part of - takes these views. So, as atheist and skeptic groups have coalesced into several identifiable social configurations over the last ten years, the initially reasonable atheism and science-fanboy-ism has for some groups become bundled in with other concerns that are not quite so reasonable from my outside point of view, but are easy to slip into when you're invested in the new group identity. I've seen it happening on a number of levels, including with skeptics and a fair few people I would describe as friends here and in the old place, where our shared frustration at homeopathists and creationists has turned them into a full-blown and for me completely unfathomable transfixion on trans issues, and of course, on religion. Interesting to see as a sociologist who writes about exactly this mechanism, but frustrating to see happening with your friends. But then, my views are similarly shaped and influenced by the groups I hang out with, so there we are.
Agreed, there is a large component of identity involved in both belief and unbelief, personal and group focussed.

I was talking with some friends last night about a friend of theirs they thought they had a lot in common with until it came to Brexit and vaccination when it turns out they have diametrically opposed views. Nothing would shift this person's views on vaccinations because he has identified with the anti-vax group rather than with the group that includes my friends. Before Brexit and Covid, these opinions would never have come up in conversation or perhaps they wouldn't have become friends.

I've seen this in atheist/skeptic circles too where someone you thought you were in the same opinion group as turns out to have views you find either irrational (ie not fact-based) or unpalatable.

It just goes to show that identity is flexible in the sense that the groups/tribes we identify with can shift or be multiple (insert Venn diagram of your choice) and that people we may admire for one set of views can have others we find less admirable. Feet of clay and all that.

My friends also said that the anti-vax guy complained that as soon as he mentioned this, people were immediately hostile and condemnatory. This is a good lesson - we need to engage with people and understand why they hold certain beliefs/opinions if we want to shift them. The instinct is to try and bring friends back into the fold (to use a religious metaphor) and it can be hard to find that someone you really like has views that you don't as that can affect your sense of identity too. And even harder if these beliefs have consequences for other people (I don't care what football team you support but I do care if you're spreading anti-vax propaganda, for example).

When it comes to the New Atheists I do sometimes feel I have to make it clear that I'm not like them and don't want to be tarred with the same brush, which is tedious.

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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by IvanV » Fri Jun 11, 2021 1:37 pm

warumich wrote:
Fri Jun 11, 2021 12:29 pm
Which is the slightly frustrating issue in debating atheism and religion, including on this forum. On the one hand I keep being told that atheism is not anything like a religion so cannot be compared to it ("it's a lack of belief, not a belief"), but on the other hand as soon as atheism gets criticised, part of the defence is "but religious people do this sort of thing too". So make up your mind.
I think it's quite hard to believe in nothing. I suspect we all have some kind of beliefs, even if they are implicit rather than explicit, or not conforming to a named belief system. So whilst atheism is not a specific belief system, it can be said to be a category incorporating all belief systems with the common feature of not believing in a supernatural influence.

So I think there are valid comparisons between atheists and the god-believers.

To summarise my original point in this framework. The disappointing ex-heroes are displaying disappointing features that are common in humans and are not specific to atheists. Leading god-believers, being human also, may also disappoint in those ways. But they may also disappoint in additional ways that are common among - though not always unique to - god-believers.

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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by warumich » Fri Jun 11, 2021 1:56 pm

IvanV wrote:
Fri Jun 11, 2021 1:37 pm
I think it's quite hard to believe in nothing. I suspect we all have some kind of beliefs, even if they are implicit rather than explicit, or not conforming to a named belief system. So whilst atheism is not a specific belief system, it can be said to be a category incorporating all belief systems with the common feature of not believing in a supernatural influence.
I do quite agree with this, so I don't want to go into this too much (again). But an issue we're going to have to face when explaining religion/atheism with reference to the concept of "supernatural", is that we're going to have to have a concept of supernatural that doesn't rely on religion, otherwise the argument is circular.

For reference, https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries. ... pernatural
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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by Little waster » Fri Jun 11, 2021 2:12 pm

Just to clarify, I'm not disputing anything Tessa K or Warumich have said and I wasn't attempting any sort of whatabouttery.

I was just, in my characteristic tongue-in-cheek way, highlighting what IME is (or at least should be) one of the strengths of atheism as an (un)belief system.

That is because it is a position people tend to have reasoned themselves into from first principles following their own individual internal thought processes so therefore there is no equivalent of an atheist bible and no requirement for a "priest" class*. As such there is never likely to be an equivalent of, say, the crisis in faith in Biblical literalism caused by evolution (or astronomy, geology, archaeology or any of the thousand other fields of human knowledge which run contrary to scripture).

Nor for that matter should it be vulnerable from the no-sh.t-sherlock revelation that its self-appointed leaders are just as human and fallible as the rest of us. Perhaps even more so as it takes a particular type of personality to have the desire and arrogance to want appoint themselves leader of such a nebulous movement that it shouldn't be surprising that this then bleeds out into other aspects of their public and personal life.

This contrasts with the quandary the likes of Catholics and Evangelicals find themselves in where the whole basis of their belief system is that their religious leaders have been specially chosen by (a prayer-answering and interventionist) God to intermediate and interpret for Him to then find out His special people are actual embezzling charitable funds or raping children or whatever. There the strong temptation then is to just close ranks, cover it up and deny it ever happened.

This was particularly brought home to me by watching the testimony of ex-Jehovah's Witnesses. Even more than the other Christian sects their entire faith is built on how the JWs are God''s Chosen on Earth and their apparently self-evident godliness is cited by them as one of the prime bits of evidence that they clearly alone are the One True Faith in a fallen world, which goes double for their Church Elders. This exceptionalism meant the (otherwise unsurprising) revelation that some of the Elders were actually sexual predators was far more devastating to their followers and the resulting cover-up and backlash was much more severe. To not put too fine a point on it, these revelations of historical sexual abuse were far more of an existential threat to the JWs than they were to, say, the Vatican and AFAIK the JW party-line was (and still may be) these accusations are all Satanic fabrications to undermine the church.

I'd struggle to conceive a scenario where atheists would feel compelled to put themselves through such mental gymnastics to rationalise away the similar actions of a well-known atheist**, I mean what would be the point?

If Dawkins is being a dick then we call him out on it and then move on, as this thread demonstrates. Just we did when he floated that cringe-worthy Bright idea.



*the likes of Pinker etc. may have helped plant guide-posts along the way for some but its my understanding that all these "New Atheists" were doing were simply rehashing atheistic arguments that have been already around for centuries and millenia.

**OK I'm sure some did/do but I'd hope other atheists (and everyone else) would then have no trouble calling them out on their weasel words.
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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by Woodchopper » Fri Jun 11, 2021 3:13 pm

Little waster wrote:
Fri Jun 11, 2021 2:12 pm
Just to clarify, I'm not disputing anything Tessa K or Warumich have said and I wasn't attempting any sort of whatabouttery.

I was just, in my characteristic tongue-in-cheek way, highlighting what IME is (or at least should be) one of the strengths of atheism as an (un)belief system.

That is because it is a position people tend to have reasoned themselves into from first principles following their own individual internal thought processes so therefore there is no equivalent of an atheist bible and no requirement for a "priest" class*. As such there is never likely to be an equivalent of, say, the crisis in faith in Biblical literalism caused by evolution (or astronomy, geology, archaeology or any of the thousand other fields of human knowledge which run contrary to scripture).

Nor for that matter should it be vulnerable from the no-sh.t-sherlock revelation that its self-appointed leaders are just as human and fallible as the rest of us. Perhaps even more so as it takes a particular type of personality to have the desire and arrogance to want appoint themselves leader of such a nebulous movement that it shouldn't be surprising that this then bleeds out into other aspects of their public and personal life.

This contrasts with the quandary the likes of Catholics and Evangelicals find themselves in where the whole basis of their belief system is that their religious leaders have been specially chosen by (a prayer-answering and interventionist) God to intermediate and interpret for Him to then find out His special people are actual embezzling charitable funds or raping children or whatever. There the strong temptation then is to just close ranks, cover it up and deny it ever happened.
I think though that what we've seen is a crisis of belief amongst Atheists.

If we go back 15 years then one aspect of what was asserted very frequently back on the old board and in other places was that because Atheism was based upon reason and science it was inherently ethical, whereas belief in gods was source of all evil (as Christopher Hitchens asserted). People like PZ Myers or Sam Harris didn't just assert the non-belief in gods, but that Atheism naturally led to better ethical or political positions as they were free of the malign influence of religion and people held views based upon rational thought and scientific evidence.

I recall lots of very heated arguments with believers in the inherent morality of Atheism after I pointed out all the crimes committed by atheists in the Soviet Union, China etc.

Then people see leading Atheist thinkers behave like a..holes and the whole belief that 'Atheists are better people' starts crumbling.

Then they are left with the non-belief in gods. But that won't sustain many book sales or lecture tours.

Just a quibble but ...
That is because it is a position people tend to have reasoned themselves into from first principles following their own individual internal thought processes so therefore there is no equivalent of an atheist bible and no requirement for a "priest" class*.
That may be true, but I expect that most Atheists in the world live in former-communist states (including China). They are most likely to be atheists because they were brought up that way.

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Tessa K
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Re: The New Atheists, from heroes to zeroes

Post by Tessa K » Fri Jun 11, 2021 3:47 pm

Woodchopper wrote:
Fri Jun 11, 2021 3:13 pm

I think though that what we've seen is a crisis of belief amongst Atheists.

If we go back 15 years then one aspect of what was asserted very frequently back on the old board and in other places was that because Atheism was based upon reason and science it was inherently ethical, whereas belief in gods was source of all evil (as Christopher Hitchens asserted). People like PZ Myers or Sam Harris didn't just assert the non-belief in gods, but that Atheism naturally led to better ethical or political positions as they were free of the malign influence of religion and people held views based upon rational thought and scientific evidence.
It's more a crisis of alignment or alliances, leading to a redefinition of the Atheist social structure, by which I mean the people who some placed at the top in terms of being leaders or spokespeople. Others, of course, cling on to their idols.

Myers and Harris were wrong. Non-belief may not come with the power structure and influence of religion but they forgot about the shittier sides of human nature that religion may sanction but does not cause, and their own enormous egos.

Atheism could do with an injection of Hippy thinking - peace, love and look after Nature (not the flared trousers though). I don't imagine Dawkins et al are huggers.

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