1. Danny Husar says

    I disagree that the ‘New Atheist’ movement was only about not believing in God. The movement was bound together by lack of belief in God, promotion of atheism and support of science (and related causes like keeping creationism from science classrooms, fighting pseudoscience, fighting for church-state separation, promoting science education and awareness and pushing science-backed policies like fighting climate change). The movement was also very friendly to women rights and LGBT rights, though those were not necessarily core issues. There was certainly a big focus on Islam as well due to 9/11, though that gradually faded and you can make a good argument that it should have played a lesser role sooner.

    So what’s wrong with that big tent approach? A lot of good policies can pushed under that kind of coalition. You can also include good people from the left and right under that banner, and even members of political parties.

    The minute you try to include politics or some specific ideological belief system under that umbrella you’re going to lose at least half the movement. For example, claims made by the extreme progressive left are not backed by science or evidence but are purely ideologically based. Because there is no evidence that concepts like patriarchy, intersectionality, power dynamics and privilege based on immutable criteria, are actually useful metaphors for understanding our culture, a lot of people will not blindly subscribe to them, and all those concepts are always taken as a fact by proponents. The concepts themselves are also completely unfalsifiable and easily retrofitted to explain any situation, which, again, means that there will be plenty of people who disagree with them.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with sub-groups of the ‘New Atheist’ movement forming around those ideas and promoting more progressive policies, but it would have been nice to maintain the big tent and push the broadly supported policies too.

  2. says

    Man, you are so full of familiar bullshit.

    “The minute you try to include politics or some specific ideological belief system “…yeah, you’re agin’ expanding the function of atheism beyond “atheism is only about not believing in god, and nothing more”. I’m tired of you shallow phonies.

    And this…”there’s nothing wrong with sub-groups of the ‘New Atheist’ movement”. Fucking hell. Where were you when Atheism+, which was exactly that, was hounded out of existence.

    Fuck off, ‘k?

  3. says

    Great interview, PZ.

    Admittedly I haven’t been to a meatspace atheist conference since 2010, but what I remember is that they got everyone into a giant ballroom for the entire length of the conference, listening to just a few speakers at a time. When I later went to conferences for other kinds of activism, I realized how strange the atheist conference was–almost every other conference has been mostly composed of many smaller sessions about the size of a classroom. So, I feel like getting relatively unknown speakers at conferences is an improvement, but still maintains of the pathological structure of the atheist movement. It doesn’t really feel like a movement at all, more like a bunch of content producers and their fans. Closest thing I experienced was a gaymer conference.

  4. says

    They still seem to be following the old model.

    Skepticon at least tried to break out of the mold, with multiple workshops. Even there, though, some people didn’t know how to do a workshop, and turned their “workshop” in an hour-long lecture.