I have noticed a trend in the last few years among atheists. There seems to be a growing crowd of atheists rejecting militant atheists like Richard Dawkins. One atheist I talked to online went so far as to say that Richard Dawkins did not represent her, and called him the, “Jerry Fallwell” of atheism (definitely not a compliment).
And the voice of well known nonbelievers condemning people like Dawkins (such as the philosopher Michael Ruse) seems to be becoming louder.
However, does this mean that “new atheism” is dead?
Check out this data from YouTube
US Searches for Richard Dawkins on YouTube have NOT decreased from 2008
Now we should take the “increase” with a grain of salt as all video generally has become more popular since 2008. However, we should also suspect that despite my initial perception, this data suggests that the era of Richard Dawkins militant atheism is not over yet.
What about Google Searches?
While interest in Dawkins has declined in Google searches, this could represent the overall trend of people using YouTube & social media sites as search engines. And the data also suggests there is still significant interest in Richard Dawkins.
Is the “New Atheism” Dead?
While I do think there are a growing number of atheists favoring a more modest atheism, the data suggests that the era of Richard Dawkins and his brand of atheism has not passed. Interest in people like Dawkins has not seriously declined from 2008 to 2015. His views are still influential. Now, we have to be careful as the data I showed measures interest in a topic and not necessarily the support of a topic, but the interest in it.
For example, a lot of the searches on Dawkins could be searching for people arguing against Dawkins rather than supporting him. However, it seems significant that people are still interested in him and his brand of atheism. If he just wasn’t taken seriously anymore, I would think far fewer people would be actively looking for him on YouTube and Google.
It may be that “new atheism” is being eaten away from the inside as a number of atheists themselves have criticized it, and there have been no shortage of serious critiques coming from the theist side as well. It is possible that new atheism is seriously on the decline… but it is important to point out that the brand of atheism pioneered by Dawkins seems to be still very alive and still needs to be addressed.
For the religious person, this militant atheism is not necessarily the worst thing. Imagine if you were a military general and I told you that your enemy is numerous, but they are fighting you with rubber bands.
The intellectual substance of the “New Atheists” is highly questionable.
In the words of the philosopher Michael Ruse, who considers himself more sure than Dawkins that there is no God, “unlike the new atheists, I take scholarship seriously.” Ruse says that Dawkins acts like, “a first-year undergraduate,” using bad argument and acting, “as though he had made some momentous philosophical discovery.”
However, I do not believe we can discount the rise of people like I mentioned at the beginning who repudiate Dawkins’ militant atheism and opt for a more intellectually respectable and humble way of approaching atheism. Often, movements are developed in reaction to each other.
In the religious world, Buddhism was a reaction to Hindu asceticism, Christianity reacted to Pharisaic Judaism, Islam, at least partly reacted to Gnostic Christianity, Protestantism developed as a reaction to Roman Catholicism, and the list could go on. I would bet that once militant atheism dies down (whether in ten or a hundred years) we could see a return to a more humble and intellectually informed atheism as a reaction to the Dawkins brand of militant atheism.
Suggestions for Apologists
So if you are a Christian who is, say, making YouTube videos defending the rationality of your faith, I wouldn’t ignore the militant atheist crowd. I would take them on. If they are anything like their founder, Richard Dawkins, it should be easy. But I would also say be prepared to encounter atheists saying that Dawkins does not represent them, and who come to you with much more humility and politeness, and be prepared to approach their brand of atheism in a different way.
I would also suggest addressing the rising stars in atheism. As someone being educated in the area of social media marketing (including YouTube), I can tell you that is often difficult to have anyone see your content if you are producing it about the same thing as everyone else. Dawkins has been around for awhile and there are enough videos taking on his “God Delusion” book. Take on other atheists or take on Dawkins in a way that hasn’t been done before.
So while the influence of “new atheism” is still with us, it is not something that is very discouraging from a religious point of view.
That is what I think… what do you think? I see your opinion and experience as valid even though you may not be able to prove it with data. I believe that people can spot trends without conducting a comprehensive study so I believe that whoever you are, your opinion is valid.