Still alive

Whenever I see Joe Hoffmann’s latest burst of hatred at Da Noo Atheists, I decide to ignore it because he obviously loves the attention. (He’s like Michael Ruse that way. Exactly like Michael Ruse. Ruse writes a stupid generalized sneer about noo atheism, gets flack for the stupidity and generality, writes an aggrieved response to the flack. Repeat. Repeat repeat repeat. This is what Hoffmann has taken to doing.) Then other people don’t ignore it, so once the pleasure of seeing the post ignored is no longer available, I shrug and don’t ignore it too.

So the latest one, the New Year edition, is pathetically titled “Re-Made in America: Remembering the New Atheism (2006-2011).” As if he could make it be dead just by entering a terminal date. Nice try, Joe, but it’s not dead yet.

And then – it’s the usual kind of thing. Elegantly written and witty in its way, but vitiated by spite and generality. Lots of magisterial summing up with no actual examples of the badness he so freely attributes to people he dislikes. There’s not really much more to say about it. It’s so arbitrary that it undermines itself; it’s embarrassingly obvious that attention is the only purpose.

The funny (as opposed to witty) part is the predictable rambling self-referential slush of his acolyte “steph.”

You’re so funny Veronica.  Yay, congratulations you beat me!  Isn’t it ‘wonderful’… I know how that makes you screech and run and tell every other ant all about it. “Everybody knows”: it’s a song.  Do you know it?

Mr MacDonald grants Dawkins favours freely too?  More fool old Mack, eh?

I wonder what your definition of angry is.  This post is witty, yes, and incisive.  Accurate as always.  The style is no different from previous essays on other websites.  Erudite and eternally critical, which is the nature of good academic scholarship.  He’s always consistently interesting don’t you think?  No?  It’s fascinating that when the subjects of a critique are atheists, the subjects angrily growl that it’s ‘angry’ critique.  Generally critiques of atheism are described by atheists as either ‘angry’, written by a ‘faitheist’ or even as ‘passively aggressive’ or ‘accommodationist’.  How can anyone be ‘angry’ with something that’s destroying itself Veronica? How can anyone be angry with something so small?  It’s blindingly obvious the ‘atheism’ in this essay is on the road to oblivion and I can’t imagine how your imagination stretches to Joe being angry unless it’s evidence of your own psychological projection.  If only David and Goliath were true … but atheists just ain’t go the right pebbles.

Do admit. Notice especially the vulgar “old Mack” – from someone who sets herself up as a critic of gnu rudeness.

Sad. Hoffmann really isn’t vulgar in that way. It’s sad that he’s reduced to friends like that.



  1. screechy monkey says

    Maybe I’m thinking of someone else, but hasn’t “R.” been declaring the Death of New Atheism since before 2011?

  2. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    Here’s what R. Joey wrote about our hostess:

    Ophelia Benson, host of Butterflies and Wheels, has turned her once-interesting website (I used to contribute regularly) into a chat room for neo-atheist spleen. I still regard her as a fair-broker who needs to rise above the temptation to turn the whole kit and kaboodle over to the grousers who loiter around her kitchen table. I mean campfire.

  3. screechy monkey says

    I love the egotism revealed by that. B&W used to be interesting when “R.” wrote for it.

    That’s consistent with his continuous jealous whining that these infernal New Atheists are selling so many books and not paying tribute to the Old Atheists like him who were toiling away so hard (accomplishing nothing other than patting each other on the back).

  4. sailor1031 says

    I will not revisit that stupid “new oxonian” home of pseudo-erudite stupidity reminiscent of Buckley at his worst. There are plenty of real intellectuals out there to pay attention to.

    Why “new oxonian” anyway? Hoffman’s connection to Oxford is way out of date – kind of like if I called my site “the new montrealer”….when I haven’t lived there for over thirty years.

    You are right, he is like Ruse – in that I’m convinced they are both angling for Templeton money. But I think even the Templetons can see through such a phony.

  5. says

    I think they are more than “friends”, actually. And I’m beginning to believe there’s an element of mutually-reinforcing mental illness here. I am beginning to feel sympathy in addition to frustration.

  6. screechy monkey says

    Maybe, just maybe, if we declare the New Atheism dead, people will finally, finally give poor “R.” the recognition he believes he so richly deserves for all of his digging in the trenches:

    Part of that has to do with (as I suggested) a record that goes back long before most Americans had heard of Richard Dawkins. Some of us older and old atheists remember what a lonely battle that was. Many who came to the movement since 2000 will not. And that is precisely the pojnt. Without saying jealousy is involved, there are many (not just me) who know that the Dawkins revolution could not have taken place without th almost invisible work of many of my associates in and out of the academy over many many years. On the one hand, we need to be grateful that the New Atheists have been successful in garnering support; on the other hand, and I know this from experience, nothing ensured the death of a book in this country before 1995 like putting the word atheism or humanism in the title. So, there were laborers in the trenches.

    Poor Hipster Atheists. They were atheists before it went mainstream and sold out.

  7. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    R liked atheism’s first album, but all the rest were derivative crap.

  8. says

    James – I really really doubt that. I’ve seen “steph” imply it on Facebook (and I’m guessing that’s why you think so)…but I really doubt it.

  9. says

    sailor1031 says:

    “Why “new oxonian” anyway?”

    Was Hoffmann born in the US or England? I did a Google search but couldn’t find info on his place of birth. If he is American, then I suggest he wishes he were British.

  10. Ken Pidcock says

    Quick screen for seriousness in these matters: Does the writer quote Terry Eagleton’s review of TGD approvingly? Check. Not serious.

  11. Josh Slocum says

    Is it just too, too petty to note that people who style themselves “First Initial, period, Ronald Collins” are already on the Train to Pompous Town?

  12. Marta says

    Haven’t stepped over there to check since I first was directed to R’s screed, but I think Hoffman eschews comments which disagree. I’m prepared to be wrong about this. Someone with more guts than me will have to look.

    Could I just ask, what the HELL is his problem?

  13. says


    Hoffmann does post comments from people who disagree with him, but for his latest post, he is letting Steph post replies to those who criticize Hoffmann or his post. In one reply, Steph included the whole of Kate Greenaway’s original “A is for Apple Pie.”

  14. says

    Screeechy monkey: +1 internetz for “Poor Hipster Atheists. They were atheists before it went mainstream and sold out.” Also I need a new keyboard kthx.

  15. says

    Steph just pulls out a cork and babbles. She lurches between free association and venomous rage; very odd combination. She surprised even Nathan Bupp recently, and he is no slouch in the gnu-hating department himself.

    One of her more unattractive qualities is loathing of Americans – all Americans, Americans as such. We’re her King Charles’s head. A mention of apple pie set her off on Joe’s post (one of them – he has two, with different sets of comments, confusingly).

  16. says

    Oh yes, the Kate Greenaway one that Veronica mentioned.

    Seems like it’s only apple pies you could pick on though. I’ve been in the UK for several years, but all I see on the menus are pork or steak and kidney. And I’m a fruiterian. Apple pies? Perhaps the English need all their apples to sauce for the pork. I’m sure you know your way around better than me – but they’re not visible here to a foreigner, like they are in America. Everywhere I go there, they’re glaring through cake shop windows, littering the supermarket shelves and billboards paid for by MacDonalds. I’ve even seen someone stuffing one down his throat as he walked alongside me in New Orleans. It was apple – I saw the apple when he opened his mouth to talk… But I don’t like pastry anyway. I have a feeling that they’re out of favour and fashion in the UK as far as pie flavour goes. I did inherit Kate Greenaway’s original “A is for Apple Pie” though. Published in 1900, it fell to bits, was restored by a bookbinder, and later meticulously copied by an artistic aunt. I have the original, as well as the copy which would be difficult to distinguish from the original if it wasn’t for the condition.

    And then in goes the whole thing.


  17. screechy monkey says


    Is it just too, too petty to note that people who style themselves “First Initial, period, Ronald Collins” are already on the Train to Pompous Town?

    That’s been my experience, too. Or if not pompous, disagreeable in some other way: G. Gordon Liddy, E. Howard Hunt, J. Edgar Hoover.

    Though I have to make an exception for Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski.

  18. Josh Slocum says

    She surprised even Nathan Bupp recently, and he is no slouch in the gnu-hating department himself.

    You can turn a phrase, Opehlia. That second clause made me laugh so hard I scared the cat off the sofa. I heart you.

    Or if not pompous, disagreeable in some other way: G. Gordon Liddy, E. Howard Hunt, J. Edgar Hoover.

    Lily Tomlin did one of my favorite comedic scenes as Ernestine the telephone operator who called J. Edgar Hoover:

    “Is this Mr. Hoover? Mr. Jedgar Hoover?”

  19. Deepak Shetty says

    I still regard her as a fair-broker who needs to rise above the temptation to turn the whole kit and kaboodle over to the grousers who loiter around her kitchen table. I mean campfire.
    Hey! How come no one passed me my share of the s’mores?

  20. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    Nobody is paying attention to poor R. Joey. And that’s mean. If it weren’t for people like him, then gnu atheists wouldn’t have anyone to rage at us (except goddists, of course).

  21. Josh Slocum says

    And here I am to ungraciously throw cold water on the camaraderie:

    James, do tell how your gossipy sniping comports with your defend-Chris-Stedman-at-all-costs Pavlovian reaction. Don’t misunderstand. . . I like the snarky gossip and I think R. Pompous has it coming in spades. But I’m genuinely curious how you justify to yourself being so bitchy (yeah) about him and yet shitting all over people who object to the passive-aggressive, uncalled-for libels your BFF Chris showers down on us nearly weekly.

    Hoffman is an asshole, no doubt. Not just because he’s malicious, but because he’s misguidedly malicious. He takes aim at people for offenses he makes up in his head. He’s most uncharitable.

    So I’m inclined to want to see him brought low. But I’m suspicious of you.

  22. Hunt says

    “Is it just too, too petty to note that people who style themselves “First Initial, period, Ronald Collins” are already on the Train to Pompous Town?”

    Unless you’re a stage or music director, at least here in America, then it’s de rigueur, as are beards and capes, and saying things like de rigueur.

  23. says

    … As if he could make it be dead just by entering a terminal date.

    This general tactic has become so rife of late. When all else fails, attempt to declare your enemies passé.

    Allow me:

    (Clears throat…)

    Euw, dahling, nobody who’s anybody calls religion directly bullshit anymore. It’s simply not done at the finer dinner parties! Fashionable people know that the stylish atheist is an invisible atheist, who says little of anything terribly directly, if they can possibly avoid it. Come. Leave those dreadfully jejune plebians before you get something on you, and join us at the high table, where we’re all very fashionably vague on all the correct questions. Your dance card will thank you, dahling!

    (In related: love the title. GlaDOS is my copilot.)

  24. screechy monkey says

    Josh, I’ll go a step further than you. I don’t like the snarky gossip, and don’t see why this rumored personal relationship is relevant. I mean, if Hoffman was reviewing a book by Ruse, or constantly leaping to Ruse’s defense without divulging his bias, ok, fair game. But as near as I can tell, neither of those guys needs any additional reason to bash Gnus.

  25. says

    David Gerard – not feeding was plan A. But then when others fed, plan B came into effect. It’s all very well to say “even when others are” but once others are, the point of plan A is gone, because RJH already has the reward he’s after.

  26. melody says

    Why did I click that link to read that nutty, worthless blog? Remember that Hoffmann wants nothing more than to be relevant. That ship has sailed.

  27. Vicki says

    I’m prepared to cut people slack on the “R. Name Lastname” style; a college friend of mine used “R. Name Lastname Jr.” because his father was “Roland N. Lastname” and it saved my friend explaining that he was called “Middlename” rather than “Roland,” because casually it was just “This is my friend Middlename” or “Hi, I’m Middlename.”

  28. Michael Fugate says

    It is quite odd that RJH rants about scientists passing judgement on religion, but was himself the chair of the CFI’s Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion. He now acts as though science is inappropriate for the task. Has something happened to cause him to forget his own past?

  29. says

    More like other way around. It’s the fact that CFI no longer funds CSER that is behind a lot (or perhaps all) of this nonsense. RJH wasn’t just the chair, he was the onlie begetter.

  30. says

    This bugged me, where he tries to criticize Jerry Coyne’s quote:

    In the end, science is no more compatible with religion than with other superstitions, such as leprechauns. Yet we don’t talk about reconciling science with leprechauns. We worry about religion simply because it’s the most venerable superstition — and the most politically and financially powerful.

    Just a flash: While leprauchauns didn’t copy the books that were turned into the books that led to the science Dr Coyne eventually studied, monks and rabbis did. Why does the perfectly reasonable opposition to religious craziness have to descend to this caricaturing of the history of religion?

    His newsflash doesn’t work. If it had been God who copied those books, maybe it would. That’s the only equivalent to leprechauns in the analogy. The monks and rabbis are more like the “old wives” and pub-goers who tell the tales about leprechauns. A minor point perhaps, because who hasn’t made a bad analogy at some point? But it still bugged me.

    Beyond that, what is really the point of pointing out that monks and rabbis, or other religious folk, had an influence, however strong, on the development of science and the scientific method? That doesn’t mean that belief in God is compatible with science! If there were good evidence to support the belief, then it would be compatible. I’m not sure what fallacy he’s making here, but there ought to be some kind of name to go with that silliness.

  31. says

    Not to mention the fact that without intrusive monotheism perhaps there would have been no need for monks and rabbis to copy manuscripts because secular scholars and researchers would have been doing it (and adding useful new ones) instead.

  32. says

    Possibly, but a more baroque (yet highly plausible) explanation has occurred to me. He of course blames the management of CFI much more than he blames Dawkins and Harris (and PZ and Greta and poor little me)…but he can’t very well throw shit at them in public without risking a public washing of dirty laundry.

  33. Michael Fugate says

    Do you get the impression that RJH is playing games with the comments on his blog? I have seen comments disappear. but after the poster complains on another blog the comments suddenly reappear. This makes the person complaining look slightly foolish. I have also seen him let some comments through to let his attack dogs Steph, Stevie or Dan reply, but then disappear the replies to Steph or Stevie. Also making it look like the person has no answer. It does seem perverse.

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