In my mind there are two main groups of atheists. The first group is a-religious and it seems that this is a fairly personal matter to them. The other group is the New Atheists who can ironically be described as evangelists. These are the people who, as with CrossFit & vegans, go out of their way to preach about this awesome thing they found that everyone should be doing, bro.
It’s basic human nature. To manage existing with people above #TheDunbarNumber we form groups, stereotype, and emphasize others’ flaws while ignoring our own.
The problem in New Atheist circles (and why some call them fundamentalists) is that religion is the big bad wolf. It’s no surprise they are defining themselves mainly by what they are not (religious), but it’s still a futile exercise. To roughly quote their own Sam Harris from 2007: Defining yourself as an atheist should be as pointless as defining yourself as a not-racist.
Defined as the opposite of religiosity though, New Atheism implies a strong us vs. them divide along a line I don’t think it’s fruitful to draw. The biggest, most important obstacle to overcome isn’t whether or not a person believes in a magical sky-fairy, but how they live their lives, approach science, and regard their neighbors. What’s worse? An irreligious anti-vaxxer & flat Earther or a religious person who believes in science and treats people nicely? That is where I’d rather draw the line. Let’s call that the moron-line, and let’s also acknowledge that we are all morons at times when we let our feelings get in the way of the facts #DescartesError.
Racists, Misogynists, authoritarians, homophobes, young-Earthers, creationists, the list is long and depressing for a modern world. What I want to argue is that it’s more constructive to draw the line not on religion, but on moron. Because the line on religion doesn’t separate out the religious people who are great people. Moron does. Are there religious people who don’t believe in any of the dumb shit listed above? Yes, and there are LOTS of them! Would it be harder to find a creationist that isn’t a moron? Yes!
So New Atheists find themselves locked in a fight against all religious people (you defend your “team” because an attack on it, is an attack on you). The only thing that is happening (apart from the odd convert back & forth) is that the divide is widening and the fronts are hardening. Few people take time to point out how the war itself is misguided. Draw your line on reasonable, and fight that war with the tools that work. As long as one can be religious and still be a model citizen, religion itself isn’t the enemy.
And to the #NewAtheists out there who read this and are starting to rage:
Take a real hard look at the essence of what you want to achieve and why.
Then try to view yourself in the shoes of your “enemy” and ask yourself: Is the way I’m acting the best way to achieve my goals?
If you’re still not convinced, ask any religious person how they view Dawks & Samster, or just what their impression of atheism as a movement is. The answer is revealing.