Who are these “New Atheists” of which you speak?

It was stupid, misleading terminology when it was coined (by Gary Wolf in Wired in 2006), and it just became more muddled as everyone tried to make sense of it, and now it’s an embarrassing liability. Even before organized atheism imploded, “New Atheist” confused everyone — it wasn’t “new” after all, and it was only defined by listing a small group of people who were somehow representative. And now there’s more wrangling in the atheosphere about who belongs. Simple answer: no one, and we shouldn’t care.

Anyway, after a brief discussion with Abbey on our Discord server, I do decree a new title that is far more descriptive and less divisive, in some ways. Henceforth, the group of people previously described as “New” shall be addressed as the Smug Atheists. It covers a broader swath of the community and also has a more explicit and accurate quality.

So it shall be done.


  1. Sunday Afternoon says

    Yes, “smug” works, especially since they floated “brights” as a label.

  2. naturalistguy says

    “Brights” didn’t work because its opposite was kind of insulting. I’d have preferred “naturals” as opposed to the “supernaturals”, because that pits natural people against the super heroic gods. It doesn’t hurt that saying someone is a natural can be taken as a compliment too… :-)

  3. says

    “New atheism” was a satisfactory term, and in retrospect I’m not sure why atheists didn’t like it.

    What I think, is that atheists didn’t like to think of themselves as a social movement situated in a particular point in time responding to a particular set of politics. Instead they preferred to think of themselves as being part of a religious skepticism that has existed since time immemorial.

    I’m curious what you and Abbey said about it. Which channel was it?

  4. tacitus says

    Smug and condescending were the adjectives that came to mind when I first saw Richard Dawkins on the BBC nearly 30 years ago. Never really liked the man.

  5. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @6: Smug people are generally very happy with themselves. It’s other people who find them insufferable.

  6. consciousness razor says

    If I need a term, I prefer to stick with “uppity atheists,” which still works just fine after all these years — obviously for a different group of purported NAs than the one PZ’s describing.

    I think it’s more important to come up with a name for a group which includes yourself and which you should care about, rather than yet another insult for some other group of people. For one thing, we have lots of insults for them already, and this one isn’t exactly special. Also, how it typically works in the real world is that you can pick your own branding, trademarks, slogans, mascots and whatnot; but not that of your opponents/rivals/competitors.

  7. Silentbob says

    @ 3 buddhabuck

    Misogyny. Misogyny happened.

    @ 6 John Morales

    Thanks for sharing that stunning revelation; you had us all fooled.

    ^ sarcasm

  8. says

    Huh. Was it really coined as recent as 2006? Wow. Not that I’m arguing, but if you had asked me I would have said the term predated the GWB administration. Somehow this makes me feel old, I don’t know why.