In New Atheism: The Godlessness that Failed, Scott Alexander explains how New Atheism was a much bigger phenomenon than younger people realize, and theorizes about its demise. Scott’s hypothesis is that New Atheism seamlessly transitioned into the social justice movement (while leaving the remaining atheist movement behind with all the anti-social-justice folks). I don’t entirely agree, but I’ve advocated similar theories myself.
But as much as I enjoy theorizing about the demise of New Atheism, I’d like to highlight a point Scott makes in his conclusion:
I’ve lost the exact quote, but a famous historian once said that we learn history to keep us from taking the present too seriously. This isn’t to say the problems of the present aren’t serious. Just that history helps us avoid getting too dazzled by current trends, or too swept away by any particular narrative.
The “current trend”, the current paradigm of the culture wars, is social justice. As a former atheist activist, and current social justice activist, I am perpetually concerned that social justice will crash and burn the same way atheism did. I mean, isn’t it practically guaranteed? Do you really think that 10-20 years down the road, people will be concerned about the same things?