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Mon Jun 7, 2021, 09:43 AM

How the New Atheists merged with the far right

Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right
What once seemed like a bracing intellectual movement has degenerated into a pack of abusive, small-minded bigots

By PHIL TORRES
PUBLISHED JUNE 5, 2021 12:00PM


It was inspiring — really inspiring. I remember watching clip after clip of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens debating Christians, Muslims and "purveyors of woo," exposing the fatuity of their faith-based beliefs in superstitious nonsense unsupported by empirical evidence, often delivered to self-proclaimed prophets by supernatural beings via the epistemically suspicious channel of private revelation. Not that Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens were saying anything particularly novel — the inconsistencies and contradictions of religious dogma are apparent even to small children. Why did God have to sacrifice his son for our sins? Does Satan have free will? And how can the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be completely separate entities but also one and the same?

The "New Atheist" movement, which emerged from the bestselling books of the aforementioned authors, was the intellectual community that many of us 15 or so years ago were desperately looking for — especially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which seemed to confirm Samuel P. Huntington's infamous "clash of civilizations" thesis. As Harris once put it, with many of us naively agreeing, "We are at war with Islam." (Note: This was a dangerous and xenophobic lie that helped get Donald Trump elected. As Harris said in 2006, anticipating how his brand of Islamophobia would enable Trump's rise, "the people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists." )

New Atheism appeared to offer moral clarity, it emphasized intellectual honesty and it embraced scientific truths about the nature and workings of reality. It gave me immense hope to know that in a world overflowing with irrationality, there were clear-thinking individuals with sizable public platforms willing to stand up for what's right and true — to stand up for sanity in the face of stupidity.

Fast-forward to the present: What a grift that was! Many of the most prominent New Atheists turned out to be nothing more than self-aggrandizing, dogmatic, irascible, censorious, morally compromised people who, at every opportunity, have propped up the powerful over the powerless, the privileged over the marginalized. This may sound hyperbolic, but it's not when, well, you look at the evidence. So I thought it might be illuminating to take a look at where some of the heavy hitters in the atheist and "skeptic" communities are today. What do their legacies look like? In what direction have they taken their cultural quest to secularize the world? .............(more)

https://www.salon.com/2021/06/05/how-the-new-atheists-merged-with-the-far-right-a-story-of-intellectual-grift-and-abject-surrender/




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Reply How the New Atheists merged with the far right (Original post)
marmar Jun 7 OP
DavidDvorkin Jun 7 #1
Faux pas Jun 7 #2
thucythucy Jun 7 #4
dalton99a Jun 7 #7
keithbvadu2 Jun 7 #17
Voltaire2 Jun 7 #3
Layzeebeaver Jun 7 #5
dalton99a Jun 7 #6
housecat Jun 7 #16
keithbvadu2 Jun 7 #19
Martin Eden Jun 7 #26
Budi Jun 7 #8
BlueInID Jun 7 #9
Warpy Jun 7 #22
shrike3 Jun 7 #28
shrike3 Jun 7 #10
dawg day Jun 7 #11
FakeNoose Jun 7 #14
deurbano Jun 7 #15
shrike3 Jun 7 #27
Ferrets are Cool Jun 7 #12
AnrothElf Jun 7 #13
OneBro Jun 7 #18
thucythucy Jun 7 #20
dalton99a Jun 7 #30
thucythucy Jun 7 #35
Warpy Jun 7 #21
KG Jun 7 #23
orwell Jun 7 #24
ShazamIam Jun 7 #25
spike jones Jun 7 #29
Duppers Jun 7 #31
lagomorph777 Jun 7 #32
Elessar Zappa Jun 7 #33
Duppers Jun 7 #34

Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 10:01 AM

1. Bullshit.

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Response to DavidDvorkin (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 10:08 AM

2. Agreed!

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Response to DavidDvorkin (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 10:18 AM

4. The article seems pretty damning

and cites a multitude of examples to buttress his conclusion.

What specifically does the author get wrong?

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Response to thucythucy (Reply #4)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 10:44 AM

7. +1. Absolutism is a close cousin of fascism and racism

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Response to dalton99a (Reply #7)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 11:56 AM

17. Absolutism --- ALWAYS and NEVER... OFTEN have exceptions

Absolutism --- ALWAYS and NEVER... OFTEN have exceptions

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 10:08 AM

3. Even Sam Harris is not 'far right'.

The article might have had a legitimate point if they reported on the gamergate evolution into qanon, but you can’t bash Dawkins that way.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 10:28 AM

5. I read the article

there are some very good observations in it

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 10:40 AM

6. Kick

This is hardly an exhaustive list. But it's enough to make clear the epistemic and moral turpitude of this crowd. There is nothing ad hominem in saying this, by the way: The point is simply that the company one keeps matters. What's sad is that the New Atheist movement could have made a difference — a positive difference — in the world. Instead, it gradually merged with factions of the alt-right to become what former New York Times contributing editor Bari Weiss calls the "Intellectual Dark Web" (IDW), a motley crew of pseudo-intellectuals whose luminaries include Jordan Peterson, Eric and Bret Weinstein, Douglas Murray, Dave Rubin and Ben Shapiro, in addition to those mentioned above.

At the heart of this merger was the creation of a new religious movement of sorts centered around the felt loss of power among white men due to the empowerment of other people. When it was once acceptable, according to cultural norms, for men to sexually harass women with impunity, or make harmful racist and sexist comments without worrying about losing a speaking opportunity, being held accountable can feel like an injustice, even though the exact opposite is the case. Pinker, Shermer and some of the others like to preach about "moral progress," but in fighting social justice under the misleading banner of "free speech," they not only embolden fascists but impede further moral progress for the marginalized.

What ties these people together is an aggrieved sense of perpetual victimhood. Christians, of course, believe that they are relentlessly persecuted (note: they aren't). The IDWs similarly believe that they are the poor helpless victims of "CRT," "standpoint theory" and other bogeymen of woke academia. But really, if "Grievance Studies" studies anything, it should be how this group of extremely privileged white men came to believe that they are the real casualties of systemic oppression.

To conclude, let me bring things full circle: At least some studies have shown that, to quote Phil Zuckerman, secular people are "markedly less nationalistic, less prejudiced, less anti-Semitic, less racist, less dogmatic, less ethnocentric, less close-minded, and less authoritarian" than religious people. It's a real shame that New Atheism, now swallowed up by the IDW and the far right, turned out to be just as prejudiced, racist, dogmatic, ethnocentric, closed-minded and authoritarian as many of the religious groups they initially deplored.

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Response to dalton99a (Reply #6)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 11:44 AM

16. They are just trying to turn Atheism into another religion. Remove the labels and see what happens.

The need to feel a sense of belonging has seemingly been satisfied with labels. Take them away, and see how people identify themselves by behavior and belief. Sure, they will come up with new labels even if they call themselves A,B, or C. Clinging to a label is regurgitating someone else's thoughts. Religion counts on that for social control. So does Fox. So do politicians.

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Response to dalton99a (Reply #6)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 12:08 PM

19. "relentlessly persecuted"

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Response to dalton99a (Reply #6)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 12:46 PM

26. Thanks for that excerpt

I'll read the entire article later.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 10:47 AM

8. Hitchens. Cripe 😬

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 11:00 AM

9. Click-bait title, interesting text.

I've always hated the term "New Atheists." I've long been a devout atheist and have seen some of the dudes (yup, all dudes) referred to here as trying to elevate themselves with this term. There clearly is a pernicious strain of arrogance that's self-propagating/ escalational and I think that the pervasive problem among them. It's also the trait that they share with the far right, and that's a really important conversation to have. However, it's a pretty narrow zone of overlap - the intersection in the Venn diagram wouldn't in any way justify use of the term "merged."

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Response to BlueInID (Reply #9)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 12:34 PM

22. I think the proper translation of the term is

"all those hoary old literary atheists finally died off and we thought we were rid of them, but look at these kids!"

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Response to BlueInID (Reply #9)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 12:51 PM

28. When people want lots of attention, there's usually something wrong.


Same thing with religious leaders. There are plenty of good non-believers and good believers. They just tend to fly under the radar. They don't want or need attention.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 11:05 AM

10. They sound like some of the worst people in religion.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 11:15 AM

11. The "New Atheists" always reminded me of some libertarians

Fierce but simplistic in their understanding of the world--
And, frankly, scratch one and uncover misogyny.

Like, you know, a smart 14-year-old boy who just read Atlas Shrugged.

(I'm an atheist, btw, but not fierce about it. Not "evangelical," LOL. Not "Richard Dawkins, Atheist Missionary."

Not sure where the fascism comes from, but that is so often a side effect in these super-male dominated movements.)

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Response to dawg day (Reply #11)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 11:34 AM

14. Yep - libertarians in sheep's clothing

Eventually, every person who opposes liberalism/progressivism will just all lump together as one big evil collective.

Whatever they end up calling themselves, it won't matter. We'll still outnumber them.

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Response to dawg day (Reply #11)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 11:38 AM

15. Really good observations. "Super-male dominated" also tends to be associated with arrogance,

lack of humility, lack of empathy.

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Response to deurbano (Reply #15)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 12:47 PM

27. I was thinking the same thing. Hyper-masculinity.


You'll also find the same thing in certain religious leaders.

There are many good non-believers and many good believers. They just fly under the radar. When someone wants lots of attention, there's usually something wrong.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 11:19 AM

12. Wow, Torres must be extremely proud of the pretentiousness of that first sentence.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 11:24 AM

13. Bullshit

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 11:59 AM

18. Every article should be so well documented.

Not one anonymous source in the article, and quotes are supported with links to the original source material. Particularly in this age of quick-release fake news, THIS should be a standard requirement for journalism.

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Response to OneBro (Reply #18)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 12:28 PM

20. I know. And so far the only opposing argument I've seen is:

"Bullshit!" Wow, such a compelling refutation.

Seriously, I asked for examples of the article's BS and so far--crickets.

Maybe there are serious problems with what the author is saying, but if so I'd like to see something more substantial than "BS."

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Response to thucythucy (Reply #20)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 01:18 PM

30. +1. Not the first time people noticed the phenomenon

https://www.vice.com/en/article/3k7jx8/too-many-atheists-are-veering-dangerously-toward-the-alt-right
Too Many Atheists Are Veering Dangerously Toward the Alt-Right
And atheists can't afford to be quiet about it.
by Chris Stedman
April 2, 2018, 11:46am

Many Americans have been rightly horrified by the videos of white supremacists shouting “Jews will not replace us!” But what has gone less noticed is that, unlike far-right American movements of years past, you don’t hear much talk of God or religion at today’s alt-right rallies.

Richard Spencer, the white supremacist and movement figurehead who coined the term " alt-right," discussed his atheism last year in an interview with atheist blogger David McAfee. When he posted the interview on his own website, Spencer retitled it “The Alt Right and Secular Humanism,” leaving no doubt that he sees atheism and humanism as linked to his cause. Yet I don’t know of any prominent atheist, humanist, or secular organizations that took the opportunity to condemn Spencer.

By neglecting to address its darker currents, online atheism has perhaps unknowingly planted the seeds for the alt-right’s harvest. Three years ago Reddit’s atheism subforum, perhaps the largest community of atheists on the internet, was found to be the website’s third most bigoted—meaning not just tolerant of overt displays of bigotry, but actively supportive of them. Last year, the Daily Beast revealed that the study’s most bigoted Reddit subforum, the Red Pill, was founded by Robert Fisher, a Republican state lawmaker who is also an atheist.

The difficult truth spotlighted by both Spencer’s atheism and the silence of other atheists is that, despite the late Christopher Hitchens’s infamous proclamation that “religion poisons everything,” religion was never the problem. It was always something more complicated. Something uglier, more primal, more deeply human. Something the internet, with all the good it can foster, often facilitates. Until atheists and humanists confront this Something head on, we will continue to struggle with people like Spencer who embody an atheism that got rid of the gods but put white men in their place.

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Response to dalton99a (Reply #30)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 10:48 PM

35. Thank you for posting this.

Two interesting and frankly troubling articles on this topic today.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 12:28 PM

21. Atheists have no more in common with each other than people with brown hair do

I never had a whole lot of use for Harris, myself, I found him abrasive and shallow. Besides, I've known many Muslims, from high school on, as fellow students and co workers and occasionally patients. Most were indistinguishable from garden variety Protestants, except pork wasn't on the menu. IOW, I'm not at war with them or anyone else.

The rest of the list, with the exception of Dawkins, who really is a heavyweight in his own field, seems to be composed of a bunch of men trying to make names for themselves in atheism mostly because the televangelists closed ranks and expected their sons to take over their empires.

With "friends" like these, I'm back to the "I'm just not very religious" closet.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 12:39 PM

23. I lulz'd

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 12:43 PM

24. Thanks Marmar...

...for posting this.

I have noticed some of the same things myself, even within my own associates.

I started seeing those that should know better talking favorably about Trump and I couldn't figure out way.

It's like he activated the White Supremacist's recessive gene or something...

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 12:44 PM

25. It isn't a surprise if you know the early U.S. libertarian movement, Ayn Rand's alcolytes, and the

original founders of the first U.S. libertarian party were atheists. They were rebelling against the religiosity of their parents who were John Birchers and Liberty Boys.

Then they discovered the usefulness of religion as a political force and forged an economic and political alliance with the believers.

All brought together via, the Heritage for the religious and ALEC, AEI, CATO and other think tanks for the faithless.

The Christians find no conflict with the economic and political oppressors.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 01:14 PM

29. Being a "bad" individual does not take away from what they say about the existence of god.

I have learned to separate people’s actions from their words in these types of discussions. After all, the man that wrote, “all men are created equal’ was a slave owner. That fact does not make what he wrote wrong.

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Response to spike jones (Reply #29)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 02:35 PM

31. Exactly!

Thank you!

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 04:35 PM

32. Never heard the term "New Atheist" before. I am a lower-case "atheist."

I imagine some of these high-profile jerks are giving the concept of atheism a bad name. It sucks that there are people always waiting to hijack any beliefs or non-beliefs, whether they actually share them or not.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 05:00 PM

33. I quit going to atheist related

internet forums because of the rampant misogyny.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Jun 7, 2021, 09:08 PM

34. Exactly why I left "ASK"

Atheist Society of Knoxville was formed some 30+yrs ago by a friend of mine. I managed to stay only 5yrs. Damn libertarian rethugs!

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