After Scott Alexander’s post, Why Did New Atheism Fail So Miserably? Jerry Coyne, Siderea, and Razib Khan all came out with rebuttals. Razib’s problem seems to be that he is confusing “unaffiliated” with atheist, which is untrue. “Secular” also does not mean atheist. And its important to note that while “unaffiliated” is increasing in the US, “affiliated” is increasing in the rest of the world.
Nathan Robinson gives the best analysis of the current situ.
It’s not as much of a puzzle as Alexander thinks, though. The progressive critiques of New Atheism are mainly founded in the New Atheists’ violations of other left-wing values. New Atheism is attacked not solely for being arrogant, but for putting this arrogance in the service of right-wing tendencies like sexism, hawkishness, and bigotry against Muslims. And because leftists believe that holding prejudiced beliefs about women and religious minorities is fundamentally irrational, this makes New Atheists not just obnoxious, and not just right-wing, but also hypocritical: they state that they are committed to reason, logic, and evidence, yet they pervert the meaning of these terms by using them to describe ideas that are not reasonable, logical, or evidence-based.
Kindof like how “rationality” is perverted to support alt-right eumemes at SSC. I also marked the unforced critical error of elevatorgate, Dawkins initial fusion of misogyny and Islamophobia. As Robinson points out this fusion has become a pillar of the Alt-right movement.
So one reason why leftists have soured on New Atheism is obvious: it may be “secular,” but that is about all it has in common with leftism, and as “clash of civilizations” rhetoric about Islam has become more and more central to the New Atheist pitch, it has become far more closely aligned with the alt-right than the socialist left. Alexander is also correct, though, to point out that New Atheism simply didn’t offer very much to millennials to begin with. They are an unusually secular generation, and Christianity seems to be of decreasing importance in American public life, making it all somewhat irrelevant. In the Bush years, an unabashed atheist was refreshing. But now we live in the age of universal same-sex marriage, and the most recent two presidents have both placed little importance on religious matters. The country has grown so secular so quickly that one prominent Christian commentator has concluded that the faithful will need to segregate themselves into intentional communities if they are to keep their values alive.
This made me think about Nagle’s book, Kill All Normies. While New Atheists, white supremacists, neo-nazis, confederate revanchists and the Alt-right are not synonymous, they are all surely fellow travellers. An important synopsis from Quillette– I think this is really salient.
– Ch 6. The driving force of the underbelly of the alt-right is misogyny fueled by sexual failure.
I think this is very perceptive. As a follow through read this– Your Refusal to Date Conservatives is Why We Have Donald Trump
If you frequent the r/theDonald and 4chan/8chan forums there is a lot of bitter ressentiment about the alt-right’s inability to get hot dates. Who knew neo-nazi and incel misogynists would find themselves so unappealing to young contemporary women?
White Lives Matter protest in Shelbyville Tennesee. See any women? Afterwards an interracial couple was attacked by white supremacists in a bar in Brentwood.
The couple, a 30-year-old white woman and a 37-year-old black man, were dining inside the Corner Pub when a group of about 20 to 30 white men and women came in and sat at a table behind them, according to a statement by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.
The 30-year-old woman later told police that one of the group members asked her to “guess” and that she responded “white lives matter,” police said.“Another said ‘that’s right’ and told her to join their table and leave her boyfriend,” police said in a statement. “The argument inside apparently escalated even after the female victim had gone outside to de-escalate the situation.”
Police said another woman from the self-identified “white lives matter” group began to argue with the 30-year-old woman, who was then reportedly punched in the face by a man, causing a cut above her eye. She did not seek medical treatment, police said.
Note, it was the white woman that got punched in the face by a white man, not her black partner. I think male misogyny is part of the human condition since reading this book. You can read it for free on Jstor. Much like Gilmore I’m resigned to the deep roots of male misogyny and unsure of any remedy for it. But an emergent phenomenon in the Alt-right is the assignment of blame for their collective failure to date and mate. At SSC I saw a commenter accuse liberal women of supporting immigration to import young muslim males to date/mate. At 4chan and r/the Donald feminism is blamed. Roving mobs of internet trolls attack public feminists. And both Islam and Black Lives Matter get grouped with Feminism in alt-right psychogenics.
Also at SSC there is now a +1000 comment thread on Scott’s new atheist post where no one actually points out the fusion of anti-Islam and anti-female sentiment that forms a pillar of the alt-right canon.
Peripherally this relates to Black Lives Matter through the enduring suspicion of white southern males that “the blacks are after our women”, sexual jealousy of black men is a founding principle of the KKK. Consider the anti-miscegenation laws and segregation laws in this country. This plays into the popular theme of “white genocide” so prevalent in the red tribe– that the blue tribe is going to outbreed them and outconvert them. By stealing their women. Probably true statements.
But right now the muslims are after their women. I am not entirely sure why Dawkins and Harris are so fixated on Islam. They certainly understand the lack of appeal of New Atheism. Perhaps its the amazing ability ISIS demonstrated in recruitment and proselytizing. Or perhaps they view Islam v secularized [cough, cough…judeoxian]capitalism as an existential conflict. The Clash of Civilizations has already begun. Dawkins at least is surely aware of the broad appeal and enormous constituency of Islam, the powerful memetic-integrity of the Quran, and the superior memetic fitness of Islam in islamic lands. And they are perfectly willing to ally with the Alt-right and the “rationalists”.
At its peak ISIS recruited hundreds of foreign fighters, including many young women. Only by enormous effort and expense has the US bombed, droned, blocked and suspended ISIS fighters, families and supporters out of public existence. The US has “succeeded” by selling out its moral principles much like it fought the VietNam war— massive numbers of civilian deaths, scorched earth bombing campaigns even in populous cities or villes, massive collateral damage to infrastructure. And also in the ME unwavering US support for “secular” dictators and tyrants.
I guess the difference between the Alt-right and ISIS is that ISIS got dates and mates.
Dawkins “Letter to Muslima” perfectly encapsulates the misogyny, xenophobia and white male priviledge of the right.
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and… yawn… don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with. Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so… And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
Just breathtakingly tone deaf to attack an ally like the Skepchick in that fashion, and the level of rage in the missive is just gobsmacking. But it found an echo in the fury and frustration of the dateless incels, nazis and edgelords of the Alt-right.
Three years later Dawkins apologized. But by then it was too late. The schism was already established.
I mostly agree with Robinson here:
One of the central problems is that the main public ambassadors for New Atheism have been entirely intolerable people. Richard Dawkins is an asshole, who obsessively disparaged “clock boy,” and even managed to alienate prominent female atheists by mocking liberal feminism. Christopher Hitchens was an asshole, who supported one of the bloodiest atrocities of the 21st century and used to creepily fantasize about how steel pellets could kill someone even if they were bearing a Koran over their heart. Sam Harris and Bill Maher are massive assholes, who possess none of the qualities of open-mindedness and self-doubt that actually characterize the scientific enterprise. (Even biologist-blogger P.Z. Myers, far more compassionate than the rest, had a sick streak: when a Brazilian priest died in a ballooning accident while trying to raise money to build a rest stop for truckers, Myers wished more priests would be carried off by balloons.) These men, between them, managed to singlehandedly make New Atheism seem like a movement of incredibly pompous white men for whom Reason is just a word used to justify whatever stereotypes one already held in the first place.
So here is a movement that seemingly only includes white males in a world where 90% of the global village is non-white, 23% of the global village is muslim, and at least half of the global village is female. Opportunities for recruitment are limited (to say the least), especially for an Islamophobic, anti-black/brown, and anti-female entity. As are opportunities for procreation.
I don’t have the answers, but the one thing we can all learn from the nearly moribund New Atheists– braying about how smart you are and how stupid the godbotherers are is not a winning strategy. This is a lesson that has made me personally cultivate self-doubt, humility, and a fresh dedication to searching for answers. So perhaps the Komolgorov option is a good choice for the current socio-political climate after all.