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Atheism and Neoatheism: What Changed?

I draw a distinction between atheists and neoatheists. The politically powerful group that’s recently formed as a kind of cultural immune reaction to religious abuse of process has very little to do with the purely categorical distinction of lacking religion.

Neoatheists are absolutely a far more organized and homogeneous group than the previous generations which for one reason or another came to abandon or failed to acquire a belief in one or more gods.

The defenses similar to “bald as a hair color” absolutely don’t apply to this new stratum of atheists as a secular humanist political spectrum. Similarly, arguments of the sort “atheism is a cult” do apply to the new group but not the old one because the old group wasn’t a group at all, which is why cultures around the world were able to brutally persecute them with impunity. Not so for neoatheists, precisely because they are different from the old guard in that they have created a kind of quasi political party with all that that entails.

I was an atheist before it was hip(ster?) and I can tell you these people absolutely have a point. After Dawkins and Harris and the like started putting up billboards and donning the mantle of spokespersons “atheism” became almost consumerist. The language shifted and atheists became more and more effective in opposing religious abuse because it took up the organizing principal of it’s enemy.

_”The great strength of the totalitarian state, is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it.”_ ~Hitler

And remember the church/concept the atheists recently began to collectively (and successfully) oppose is by definition autocratic. Indeed the ultimate and purist form of it. Am I the only one to ask what changed? It certainly wasn’t the people, or even the political landscape. Protip: It was because neoatheism became something else, something more ordered and positively (in the sense of having precepts) defined.

There are very clearly two types of atheists now, the kind who is genuinely atheist as a secondary trait and those who treat it as a primary part of their identity. This is ironic considering semantically the primary type are in paradox since the word denotes an absence of allegiance/precept, not the presence there of.

These badges of allegiance, the t shirts, bumper stickers, songs, hashtags, and various other grass roots PR tactics are all positive efforts which imply the unspoken precepts. (Benevolent though they often are. I may have even had a hand in crafting them in my early days working with a counter-meme of truth. Meme in the Dawkins sense, not the lolcat sense, as this experimentation is decades old.) These efforts by definition promote something. That nebulous “something” is what unites neoatheists and annoys the piss out of everyone else, especially if they can’t articulate the source of the problem and instead have to face people defending that something with arguments traditionally used to oppose religion.

In a sense using anti-religious argument to defend this neoatheist core is a straw man argument. Since 90% of the time people aren’t supporting religion when they are on the other end they are opposing that icky blob of arrogance and cultish devotion neoatheism is cultivating to one degree or another, for the purpose of trading independence for influence.

Update: From comments here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/118112346708818508960/posts/7iLSuzXtB2R

“what if those earlier atheists had had the ease of connection of the Internet available?” ~Greg

Then the respectable individual discovery atheists that so profoundly moved human culture as disparate individuals would have been swallowed up (unless they were social hermits) by various groups up to and including the mob mentality and politically powerful singularity which I call neoatheists.

People forget that as marvelous as the net is there are cultural costs to pay for its existence and not all of them are trivial. For better or worse the Internet is a homogenizing factor. Sometimes it’s worse.

“One could say that pretty much every group composed of what were once random loners that has now aggregated thanks to the Internet are “particularly annoying” that way.” ~Greg

One could, but that’s not what this essay laments. I’m not merely annoyed by neoatheist,s I’m pointing out that they are fundamentally different from atheists by virtue of the additions which are required to become a political group.

As I explained they have a positive set (as in additional, as opposed to good/bad) of factors that are above beyond and different from the purely absence oriented definition of atheism.

Most obviously neoatheists are joiners where as an atheist need not be.

There are many other things neos are that by definition the other don’t have to be since the only thing an atheist has to have in common with another atheist is not believing in god. Neos on the other hand are because they have to be by definition political, public, and pro-law.

The price of political power is multifaceted and neos having paid it have in so doing become different. The bait swallowed, the hook buried. Their real power, diminished.

How often do neos point out as a matter of course and with obvious pride how extra normal they are by for example pointing out their under representation among criminals and divorce?

Like gays being declawed by the lose/lose gay marriage debate, neoatheists have given up any pretense of actual protest/resistance in exchange for what the TV calls respectability as a political group.

Updated: November 3, 2012 — 1:09 pm
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