Why “New Atheism” failed or rather, “why are all these people suddenly alt-right or Nazis?” has been in the news lately. I have resisted writing about it myself since so many others have done a far better job but I feel maybe a perspective has been lost here. I’ve been an atheist for a good part of my life and since I am retired I think I can talk about some Old Atheists at least from my perspective in Canada.
Here in this part of Canada being an atheist has never seemed to me to be a big deal. Canadians here don’t seem to talk about religion much in their day to day lives and being an atheist was never a big deal.
The “New Atheists” seemed to careen into the public stage after the 9/11 terrorist action with the slogan (perhaps paraphrased) “Theists fly planes into buildings, Atheists fly to the moon”. Suddenly there were youtube channels, books, and blogs all about atheism. Looking at this from a Canadian perspective I was actually shocked to see how wide spread Christianity was in the U.S. and how atheists *were* discriminated against in the U.S. At the time as an older atheist it seemed to me a rather weak foundation to form a long term movement upon. There is a lot more to being a good person than simply religion or lack thereof.
When a local organisation put on a “Atheist Convention” I was curious to see what all the fuss was about and attended. This is when I discovered that many of the “New Atheists” apparently did not do any thinking for themselves. So many of them apparently worshipped so-called “Atheist leaders” without question. In other words they let their heroes do their thinking for them. When one attendee was awe struck at how many times a tweet was retweeted by one of their heroes I was rather unimpressed.
One is not born an atheist as many so-called atheists claim one has to learn to use critical thinking skills first. In other words misuse of the term ‘atheist’ itself. A classic graphic on the web demonstrates this very well.
I am the first to admit language changes but this is not a useful definition at all considering what many self proclaimed atheists believe. The ‘skeptical thinking’ that does go on seems to me to be not be stellar examples of ‘Thoughtful’, ‘Honest’, and ‘Intelligent’. Part of being a ‘skeptical thinker’ is also being willing to accept new evidence and using some of the basic science you learned in high school to justify the bigotry you learned from your parents does not make you a ‘skeptical thinker’.
A better grounding for a group is a community of like minded people who attempt to understand where oppression comes from with, of course religious based bigotry being a big one. In other words, secular humanism and, social justice. Understanding that we are all imperfect humans bumbling through life forgiving of these faults in others but striving to become a better human being sounds like a so much better grounding.