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Old 06-09-2021, 04:46 PM   #26
BeaucoupFish
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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Notice how "facts" didn't play a role in this discussion. It's merely the presentation of things that look like arguments.







Again, it's plain that you're using a different standard than the thing that was presented.
This is what the judge apparently said (from npr:
The "'general tenor' of the show should then inform a viewer that [Carlson] is not 'stating actual facts' about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in 'exaggeration' and 'non-literal commentary.'"

She wrote: "Fox persuasively argues, that given Mr. Carlson's reputation, any reasonable viewer 'arrives with an appropriate amount of skepticism' about the statement he makes."

I don't think it is about facts either (and clearly they often aren't facts).The "general tenor of the show" and "Mr Carlson's reputation" are not limited only to when Carlson supposedly presents facts. are such that, imo, it is his 'statements' in general that don't meet your standard ("the conclusion of an argument, and they clearly provide the reasons that are meant to justify their positions and address counter-arguments")

Again, this was simply about those two particular choices, not about ther existence of reasonable counter positions. I could have included more details in my response to frame it better.
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Old 06-09-2021, 06:44 PM   #27
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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My point here is that you're creating judgments about these individuals not on the basis that you presented ("he generally presents his views as the conclusion to an argument, where he clearly provides the reasons that are meant to justify his position and addresses counter-arguments"), but rather on other standards (general impressions).
Sure, you asked me for a judgement about a couple people I don't know much about. I don't have much to offer other than impressions. Plus you're trying to use politically controversial examples. To be clear, there are many controversial and racist conservative and rightwing thinkers that I would consider real intellectuals.

On the other hand, I've read books by all four main New Atheist thinkers, and they all clearly seem to me serious thinkers who write for a popular audience (with Harris being the slightest of these). My judgement on Harris is not that he is an important intellectual, but that he is not a grifter, in the sense of saying stuff he doesn't believe. He writes/talks about controversial issues, but I don't think he is arguing in bad faith about them, for the reasons you quoted.

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I think the inclusion of the anti-religion viewpoint is fair. However, I would say that the anti-religion viewpoint can be seen as the outcome of the values rather than the primary goal.

To me, New Atheism was more than just "Religion = bad." It was "This other way of thinking/being = good, and therefore religion = bad." I think from that perspective, it was more than an anti-religion movement, but a pro-other-things movement. And that's where the "grift" kicks in, as does our disagreement.

If New Atheism were nothing more than anti-religion movement, I would agree with your perspective. But I would say that it postured itself to be something more. And the grift is that it wasn't.
I don't think New Atheism was just an anti-religion movement, but I do think that was its most notable aspect. Part of why I am skeptical of basing this anti-religion aspect in a prior set of values from which it derives (as in the bolded) is that I don't think that the anti-religion attitude and viewpoint of the New Atheist leaders are derived from its values. Instead, I think it was a contingent response to a specific time when the religious right seemed politically powerful, but this power was in actuality in decline, especially among the young. Bush had just won the 2004 election, partly by appealing to the religious right with his anti-SSM platform. The internet, which had always been more religion and god skeptical, was starting to become more culturally influential.

There was a sense among atheists of this time that merely being against god or against religion wasn't enough - you also have to be for something. But there wasn't much of an agreement about what this was beyond a vague appeal to "science" or "rationality." In part this is why New Atheism became irrelevant - it was mostly just an against movement, and once people started thinking about what they were actually for, it splintered and wasn't able to sustain any kind of consensus.

Last edited by Original Position; 06-09-2021 at 07:05 PM. Reason: clarity
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Old 06-09-2021, 06:47 PM   #28
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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To me, New Atheism was more than just "Religion = bad." It was "This other way of thinking/being = good, and therefore religion = bad." I think from that perspective, it was more than an anti-religion movement, but a pro-other-things movement. And that's where the "grift" kicks in, as does our disagreement.
What were the "other-things" you think the New Atheists were pro about?
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Old 06-09-2021, 07:32 PM   #29
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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Mostly, I think what happened is that after Bush was president Americans started caring less about religion, both for and against, and atheism became passe and so much less interesting to young people.
Yeah, I think basically the new atheists won and because of that they have became irrelevant. When a sizable minority of the country believed/would say Bush was chosen by a supernatural force to lead the country it kind of left everybody else scratching their head on how to respond. Long form books from Oxford professors on religion seemed like they could be part of the conversation. When people say Trump was chosen by god everybody else seems to agree that those people are some mix of troll or crazy.

I also think the right has given up overtly using religion as justification or a reason to hold a political position because it failed so spectacularly with things like homosexuality. For things like abortion and trans rights even hardcore evangelicals seem to get that justifications beyond their particular religion will be required to form a coalition to push for what they want.

The impact of Trump can be overstated since McCain and Romney also weren't natural fits for right wing christians, but in the decade plus since Bush left evangelicals seem content to be first class passengers on the Republican ship where as it really seemed like they were the captains in the Bush era. All of that has put religion on the back burner as a national issue.
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Old 06-09-2021, 07:45 PM   #30
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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There was a sense among atheists of this time that merely being against god or against religion wasn't enough - you also have to be for something. But there wasn't much of an agreement about what this was beyond a vague appeal to "science" or "rationality."
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What were the "other-things" you think the New Atheists were pro about?
Interestingly, I think the appeal to "science" or "rationality" was precisely the thing that they were trying to be pro about to be a stance against religion. You may call it a "vague appeal" but I would say that such things were rather explicit and central. Specifically, it was what set they used to themselves apart from the religious-types because the religious-types were (supposedly) not those things.

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In part this is why New Atheism became irrelevant - it was mostly just an against movement, and once people started thinking about what they were actually for, it splintered and wasn't able to sustain any kind of consensus.
I disagree with your analysis here, but only somewhat. I think it's more that you're missing an important piece of the movement.

New Atheism became irrelevant because the leaders lost their following. It had less to do with being an against movement (such movements can go for much, much longer than the New Atheist movement lasted). I would argue that it has much more to do with the leaders of the movement being the people that they are and staking out the positions that they did, than merely running out of steam being anti-religious.

I think that if Sam Harris were not Islamophobic or if Dawkins could actually make meaningful statements about things outside of his area of academic training that showed some vague sense of empathy or humility, it would be possible that the New Atheist movement would have coalesced into something more sustaining. But the simple fact is that the disappointment that is expressed in the original article with the leaders of the movement is a very important piece as to why the movement fizzled out. The people just didn't stand behind what the leaders were up to. You might call that "splintering" but I would call it "a lack of good leadership." The people in the movement decided that they didn't like the leaders of the movement.

Here's a short essay from 2015 that I think better captures some of the nuance. I think the disillusionment is real, and it's not just the author of the original article.

https://blog.oup.com/2015/11/legacy-new-atheism/

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But there’s a much darker side to the legacy of the New Atheism that stems from its imperialist and xenophobic tendencies, to say nothing of some thinly veiled Social Darwinism and arguments for eugenics. Sam Harris in particular is now known more for supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestine and ethnic profiling at airport security than for his science-based critique of religious faith. Richard Dawkins’ personal legacy has taken a heavy hit in the past few years, as his rambling criticisms of feminism and Muslim “barbarians” on Twitter have led to charges of sexism, racism, and general arrogance and intolerance. On many social and political issues, the New Atheists are on the same page as the Christian Right.

Many young atheists have discovered that the atheist thinkers they admired turned out to have a lot in common with the worst aspects of the religions they railed against. The result is that the movement has lost a good deal of steam, at least in its New Atheist form. Many atheists today want to move beyond bashing religion to emphasizing the more positive and constructive aspects of atheism, but there’s little agreement about what that means exactly. The conservative narrative of western cultural supremacy and science-driven social progress favored by the New Atheists and a growing constituency of right-wing libertarians has come up against a grass-roots movement of younger activists who tie atheism to ideas about equality and social justice. The dominant trend, however, is still the old militant one, which leaves younger atheist who are disillusioned with the old prophets of scientism wondering if this is the right movement for them.
Here's another take by ex-New-Atheist PZ Myers:

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyng...-live-atheism/

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I regarded myself as a New Atheist, too, for the longest time (heck, I’m even cited in The God Delusion, making me pretty damned New Athey, I would think), although for the past few years I’ve mainly been criticizing the direction it’s been taking. Too much blithe sexism, too much flirting with racism, far too much association with regressive conservatism, way way too much ****ing libertarianism. The captains of the ship have been steering it into catastrophe while being too busy polishing their uniforms.
And another article from the Salon (albeit from same author as the original article but written four years ago):

https://www.salon.com/2017/07/29/fro...the-alt-right/

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There were also instances in which critiques of religion, most notably Islam, went beyond what was both intellectually warranted and strategically desirable. For example, Harris wrote in a 2004 Washington Times op-ed that “We are at war with Islam.” He added a modicum of nuance in subsequent sentences, but I know of no experts on Islamic terrorism who would ever suggest that uttering such a categorical statement in a public forum is judicious. As the terrorism scholar Will McCant noted in an interview that I conducted with him last year, there are circumstances in which certain phrases — even if true — are best not uttered, since they are unnecessarily incendiary. In what situation would claiming that the West is engaged in a civilizational clash with an entire religion actually improve the expected outcome?

Despite these peccadilloes, if that’s what they are, new atheism still had much to offer. Yet the gaffes kept on coming, to the point that no rational person could simply dismiss them as noise in the signal. For example, Harris said in 2014 that new atheism was dominated by men because it lacks the “nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men...”

For me, it was a series of recent events that pushed me over the edge. As a philosopher — someone who cares deeply about intellectual honesty, verifiable evidence, critical thinking and moral thoughtfulness — I now find myself in direct opposition with many new atheist leaders. That is, I see my own advocacy for science, critical thought and basic morality as standing in direct opposition to their positions.
My point with these is to make the case that it wasn't just that it was an anti-movement that ran out of steam from being anti. The people in the front were no longer trustworthy leaders because they proved themselves to not actually be the things they claimed to be. They lost credibility because they no longer represented intellectual honesty or intellectual rigor. They argued for a better morality, but their lived morals appeared no better than those they argued against. They lost support because they took positions that were not supportable. They simply became unworthy of the position in the eyes of their followers.

To emphasize this point, it's not just that the New Atheists are still seen positively, but are just not influential. They're actively disliked. If they just ran out of steam, they would still be seen positively, even if they weren't leading anything. But a lot of them are just viewed so negatively now because of the crap that they've put out since their peak popularity.
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Old 06-09-2021, 08:07 PM   #31
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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Yeah, I think basically the new atheists won and because of that they have became irrelevant.
I think the cause-effect here is dubious. And I'm not even sure what they won if they won something.

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I also think the right has given up overtly using religion as justification or a reason to hold a political position because it failed so spectacularly with things like homosexuality. For things like abortion and trans rights even hardcore evangelicals seem to get that justifications beyond their particular religion will be required to form a coalition to push for what they want.
Yeah... no... you might be too far-removed from right-leaning folks to see that there really hasn't been much change on that.

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All of that has put religion on the back burner as a national issue.
Did you read any election analysis at the end of 2016? And throughout 2018? And leading into the 2020 election? It has been all about white evangelicals for the last five years.
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Old 06-09-2021, 08:26 PM   #32
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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I think the cause-effect here is dubious. And I'm not even sure what they won if they won something.
I never said it was due to them. I am only claiming they thought religion is having too much of an impact on society, law and politics and it has less impact today to the point that new athiests are way less relevant.



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Yeah... no... you might be too far-removed from right-leaning folks to see that there really hasn't been much change on that.
Okay? I strongly doubt your ability to accurately represent right wing thought as well.

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Did you read any election analysis at the end of 2016? And throughout 2018? And leading into the 2020 election? It has been all about white evangelicals for the last five years.
Did you read my post? Evangelicals are certainly part of the "deplorable coalition" but not in charge like it seemed during the Bush era. They care just as much about gay marriage as in 2005 but they've had to give up largely because only evangelicals seemed to care that much about stopping it. 2000-2005 was sort of a perfect storm for evangelicals with Clinton's sex scandal, W winning and 9/11 dominated news. Since then they have been far less front and center in US politics. I don't think evangelical leaders would have compromised and accepted Trump if they were at the height of their powers. Maybe not even Romney.

Last edited by ecriture d'adulte; 06-09-2021 at 08:34 PM.
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Old 06-09-2021, 08:43 PM   #33
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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I never said it was due to them. I am only claiming they thought religion is having too much of an impact on society, law and politics and it has less impact today to the point that new athiests are way less relevant.
That's an odd definition of winning.

[quote[Okay? I strongly doubt your ability to accurately represent right wing thought as well.[/quote]

As far as I can see, the basic arguments they have put forth haven't changed. Very little has been added to their rhetoric. In fact, I would say that "religious liberty" (the freedom to apply your religious perspective as the basis of various aspects of public life) has expanded over the last five years, and that this has emboldened the religious-central argumentation that they had developed. Also, they've ramped up their socialism is a godless economic mess rhetoric.

If you disagree, I welcome you to present an argument that is being made by religious folks for various things that is substantively different from what they made before.

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Did you read my post? Evangelicals are certainly part of the "deplorable coalition" but not in charge like it seemed during the Bush era.
The only reason they're not "in charge" is because they sold their collective soul to Donald Trump, and nobody is in charge of Donald Trump except Donald Trump.

But if you talk to them, they think they're still winning by supporting him. They are the core of the GOP base, and even more so because of the people who are stepping further away from it. They think that he has their back and that it's a mutual thing. (And that he'll be back in office in September or something like that.)

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They care just as much about gay marriage as in 2005 but they've had to give up largely because only evangelicals seemed to care that much about stopping it.
I hope you will realize that this is a poor analysis. They were pretty much the only ones who cared about it. They mostly gave up because they lost. And they blame Obama for it (even though it's a demographic thing). They've shifted their attention to other aspects of the more general sexuality debate, such as LGBQT+ rights. God still made them man and woman, and we shouldn't mess with that. (They're going to lose that, too. Again, it's demographics.)
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Old 06-09-2021, 11:01 PM   #34
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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That's an odd definition of winning.
.
Lol ok buddy. A bunch of social critics said X is a major cause of problems and has too much influence in society. After 15 years X has much less power to influence society. What a strange definition of win! I don't think any of these guys ran for office and the whole movement is fairly obscure in terms of politics and society as a whole. It's hard to imagine any reasonable way things could have gone better for their ideas.

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As far as I can see, the basic arguments they have put forth haven't changed. Very little has been added to their rhetoric. In fact, I would say that "religious liberty"(the freedom to apply your religious perspective as the basis of various aspects of public life) has expanded over the last five years, and that this has emboldened the religious-central argumentation that they had developed. Also, they've ramped up their socialism is a godless economic mess rhetoric.

If you disagree, I welcome you to present an argument that is being made by religious folks for various things that is substantively different from what they made before.
I think you unwittingly made my point for me. I agree that "religious freedom" is a big deal for them now; but that's only a concession that more and more of the country disagrees with them. In the past they were trying to get the whole country to abide by their morals (ie the Federal Marriage Amendment) Now they no longer even try to convince you homosexuality is wrong or the law should ban gay unions. They just want to be able to personally discriminate against gays as part of their fringe religion. That's quite a different argument.

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The only reason they're not "in charge" is because they sold their collective soul to Donald Trump, and nobody is in charge of Donald Trump except Donald Trump.
This predates Trump like I was saying. McCain was a moderate on social issues and once called Bush a "Pat Robertson Republican" as an insult. Romney was Mormon. Both times there were candidates with far better evangelical cred (Huckabee and Santorum) that lost.

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But if you talk to them, they think they're still winning by supporting him. They are the core of the GOP base, and even more so because of the people who are stepping further away from it. They think that he has their back and that it's a mutual thing. (And that he'll be back in office in September or something like that.)
Sure, Qanon is big in evangelical circles. But unlike Bush era neo-conservatism even many pastors and other evangelicals are saying "guys this is crazy". We don't need Oxford University Press to publish a popular level book about how Qanon is insane. Unsurprisingly new atheism has faded away over the same time period.


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I hope you will realize that this is a poor analysis. They were pretty much the only ones who cared about it. They mostly gave up because they lost. And they blame Obama for it (even though it's a demographic thing). They've shifted their attention to other aspects of the more general sexuality debate, such as LGBQT+ rights. God still made them man and woman, and we shouldn't mess with that. (They're going to lose that, too. Again, it's demographics.)
Again, this just proves my point. Back in 05 just evangelicals caring about something meant it was in the Republican platform. Now, not so much. Part of this is demographics, but more fundamentally they were just wrong about homosexuality and unable to convince anybody else based on the merits of their argument. That a healthy majority in the US now see this has reduced the influence of new atheism.

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Old 06-10-2021, 12:32 AM   #35
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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To emphasize this point, it's not just that the New Atheists are still seen positively, but are just not influential. They're actively disliked. If they just ran out of steam, they would still be seen positively, even if they weren't leading anything. But a lot of them are just viewed so negatively now because of the crap that they've put out since their peak popularity.
I'm not sure how it would be measured, but I think it's safe to say Sam Harris is far more popular and influential today than he was a decade or so ago. In fact his podcast and his meditation app (which didn't exist then) are two entirely separate areas of influence that transcend atheist circles.

Both the Weinstein's have podcasts (Bret has been on Joe Rogan at least once), and weren't even part of New Atheism back then. I don't know how much longevity they'll have though.

Dawkins would fit your description though, if he didn't keep refusing to disappear into the night...
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Old 06-10-2021, 12:50 AM   #36
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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Yeah... no... you might be too far-removed from right-leaning folks to see that there really hasn't been much change on that.
What about extremely popular social Conservatives, like Steven Crowder or Candace Owens, for example? I don't know if they are what ecriture was referring to or not, but they are not evangelicals, while still identifying very much as "conservative Christians", and their strongly anti-lgbt messaging is not broadcasted using religious language. Isn't that a change? Or would they fall into the broader group despite not technically being evangelicals?
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Old 06-10-2021, 04:10 AM   #37
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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Lol, do you have to make every thread about you?
This question I find utterly baffling.

Up until this post I'm making now, I had two of the thirty-six posts in this thread.

One of the posts was agreeing with Trolly (a pretty rare event).

The other was asking Trolly what he meant by the phrase, "Biblical literalist". How is that "making the thread about me."?

Thanks.

addendum: I forgot to answer your question. The answer to your question is, "No."
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Old 06-10-2021, 04:24 AM   #38
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The other was asking Trolly what he meant by the phrase, "Biblical literalist". How is that "making the thread about me."?
Your question has nothing to do with the topic.

eta (for clarity) ...yet is a favourite of yours.
That's why.
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Old 06-10-2021, 04:45 AM   #39
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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Your question has nothing to do with the topic.

eta (for clarity) ...yet is a favourite of yours.
That's why.
If you believe the topic of biblical literalism has nothing to do with the topic, you'll have to take that up with Trolly since he brought it up.
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Old 06-10-2021, 04:48 AM   #40
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

By the way, I'd like to thank BF for attempting to make this thread about me.
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Old 06-10-2021, 10:14 AM   #41
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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What is a Biblical literalist? Could you please give examples of people you believe are Biblical Literalists? Thanks.
Lags, this is a pretty well-known term of art that you can look up for yourself if youíre confused.
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Old 06-10-2021, 10:21 AM   #42
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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Sorry, I'd meant to specify 'academically'.

They're both probably only known because of Bret W's involvement in the Evergreen University debacle several years ago involving a group of overly entitled college-aged children.
It says a lot about these intellectual titans that they spend so much energy litigating beefs with undergraduate college students.
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Old 06-10-2021, 11:29 AM   #43
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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tldr: Atheists span the political spectrum, some no doubt might hold shitty views on some topics.
The whole notion of it being a grift makes no sense to me. The article takes sort of a strawman position that "new atheism is basically a religion, so moral failings of leaders and bad positions on women's issues or politics undermine everything they've said." But of course the notion of new atheism being a region was something critics said to belittle it; it was never a claim made by proponents. Since proponents simply thought that their writings on particular issues simply made sense and still do, there is no grift. It's just the standard "I really liked this author/artist etc and was disappointed when I learned he was a jerk in real life".

If you were a big fan of new atheism 10 years ago and feel grifted because you thought it would always be an ally of the left on social issues, I think a fair question is "Why"?. Seems more like you were wish-casting personal views onto prominent authors than being grifted.
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Old 06-10-2021, 02:02 PM   #44
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Lol ok buddy. A bunch of social critics said X is a major cause of problems and has too much influence in society. After 15 years X has much less power to influence society. What a strange definition of win! I don't think any of these guys ran for office and the whole movement is fairly obscure in terms of politics and society as a whole. It's hard to imagine any reasonable way things could have gone better for their ideas.
I grant that the New Atheist movement had a positive influence on behalf of atheist/humanist perspectives. But the gains are fairly modest, and there is nothing like the ushering in of a new humanistic/scientifically minded era that they aspired for.

I mean, I guess it's like saying that you had a good season because you went 1-15 this year, but last year you were 0-16. WINNING!

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I think you unwittingly made my point for me. I agree that "religious freedom" is a big deal for them now; but that's only a concession that more and more of the country disagrees with them.
I don't know if you know this, but it's been about religious freedom for a while. A long while. Objections to federal dollars being used to fund abortions? A violation of religious freedom ("I can't be forced to support something I object to on religious moral grounds"). Anti-gay marriage? Religious groups have fretted from the beginning about being forced to support marriages that they don't agree with. These arguments are not new.

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This predates Trump like I was saying. McCain was a moderate on social issues and once called Bush a "Pat Robertson Republican" as an insult. Romney was Mormon. Both times there were candidates with far better evangelical cred (Huckabee and Santorum) that lost.
Uhhhh... I'm losing your argument. Here's where you started:

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Evangelicals are certainly part of the "deplorable coalition" but not in charge like it seemed during the Bush era.
White Evangelicals are the primary influence over the GOP right now. They have been for a while, as you've noted. But your statement seems to declare that they aren't. GWB "only" got around 70% of white Evangelicals in the 2000 election, which went up to 80% in the 2004 election.

You seem to be saying that McCain (2008) and Romney (2012) being non-Evangelicals implies something about the Evangelical influence being diminished in some way. But GW Bush identifies as Methodist (mainline Protestant). McCain identified as Baptist (which could either be a mainline or Evangelical label). That there were people who wore their Evangelical identity that were not the nominee doesn't really speak to anything in particular.

I think W had 70% of the white Evangelical vote in 2000, then 80% in 2004. And I don't think it's tapered much since then. It has been the most reliable and most influential voting bloc over the last two decades, and probably even through most of the 1990s.

So I don't understand what you're arguing here.

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In the past they were trying to get the whole country to abide by their morals (ie the Federal Marriage Amendment) Now they no longer even try to convince you homosexuality is wrong or the law should ban gay unions. They just want to be able to personally discriminate against gays as part of their fringe religion. That's quite a different argument.
Again, they aren't trying because they lost on the legal front. Thanks to Obama and the activist Supreme Court. But don't worry. The new Conservative Supreme Court will return these conservative values to their rightful place.

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Sure, Qanon is big in evangelical circles. But unlike Bush era neo-conservatism even many pastors and other evangelicals are saying "guys this is crazy". We don't need Oxford University Press to publish a popular level book about how Qanon is insane. Unsurprisingly new atheism has faded away over the same time period.
Methinks you're conflating about five things into one. I'll grant the newness of QAnon as an influence, but QAnon is not really an "argument" about anything.

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Again, this just proves my point. Back in 05 just evangelicals caring about something meant it was in the Republican platform. Now, not so much. Part of this is demographics, but more fundamentally they were just wrong about homosexuality and unable to convince anybody else based on the merits of their argument. That a healthy majority in the US now see this has reduced the influence of new atheism.
This is an odd take, but whatever. Support for gay marriage is seen primarily as a demographic shift from most analyses that I've seen. The narrative is built around the younger generation having more exposure and more friends who identify as LGBTQ+, thus leading to a more accepting perspective. This is not about an "argument" being won or lost on their merits.

In fact, it's rarely the case that things like this are structured around the "merits" of one argument or another. Such an argument quickly falls into the morass of attempting to define morality.
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Old 06-10-2021, 02:18 PM   #45
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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Interestingly, I think the appeal to "science" or "rationality" was precisely the thing that they were trying to be pro about to be a stance against religion. You may call it a "vague appeal" but I would say that such things were rather explicit and central. Specifically, it was what set they used to themselves apart from the religious-types because the religious-types were (supposedly) not those things.
It's true that people attracted to New Atheism would often talk about science and rationality as the alternative to religion. My point is that as a matter of fact they are way too broad to function as alternatives in a cohesive way. Everyone (including religious people) claim to be for science and rationality. So unless you put more meat on the bones of being for science and rationality opposed to religion this is functionally equivalent to just being opposed to religion.

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I disagree with your analysis here, but only somewhat. I think it's more that you're missing an important piece of the movement.

New Atheism became irrelevant because the leaders lost their following. It had less to do with being an against movement (such movements can go for much, much longer than the New Atheist movement lasted). I would argue that it has much more to do with the leaders of the movement being the people that they are and staking out the positions that they did, than merely running out of steam being anti-religious.
Yeah, we disagree here. This places too much emphasis on the role of leaders in New Atheism because it misreads it as being closer to an organized social institution than a social movement. The Four Horsemen were not leaders, but figureheads. What made this a movement was that a whole bunch of people online were really interested in criticizing religion/theism right at the same time that a bunch of famous intellectuals published bestsellers about how religion and god sucks. But there was no New Atheist organization. At most there were some online communities, but of these the most prominent was r/atheism, which was not affiliated with any of these intellectuals.

Once these books fell off the bestseller list and people lost interest in talking about religion and god, the movement died out. And of the leaders who lost relevance, it was mostly due to age and death.

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I think that if Sam Harris were not Islamophobic or if Dawkins could actually make meaningful statements about things outside of his area of academic training that showed some vague sense of empathy or humility, it would be possible that the New Atheist movement would have coalesced into something more sustaining. But the simple fact is that the disappointment that is expressed in the original article with the leaders of the movement is a very important piece as to why the movement fizzled out. The people just didn't stand behind what the leaders were up to. You might call that "splintering" but I would call it "a lack of good leadership." The people in the movement decided that they didn't like the leaders of the movement.
This definitely gets Sam Harris wrong. If someone became disillusioned with New Atheism because they discovered that Harris was Islamophobic, then they weren't paying attention. His most controversial and anti-Islamic statements are from the beginning of his fame - as time has gone on he has softened his position on Islam. Meanwhile, he hasn't really lost his following and is probably more prominent now than he was during the New Atheism era.

Of the others, meh. Dennett never was a leader in the movement. Hitchens died as popular as ever. And Dawkins just hasn't published anything of significance since the The God Delusion.

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Here's a short essay from 2015 that I think better captures some of the nuance. I think the disillusionment is real, and it's not just the author of the original article.

https://blog.oup.com/2015/11/legacy-new-atheism/
Right, but again, this was always there. For people who stopped focusing so much on religion and started being interested more in the leftwing politics and social justice, the positive political opinions of the New Atheists made them no longer acceptable. But this wasn't due to a lack of leadership, but to a general shift of cultural emphasis (especially online) away from religion and towards social justice/leftwing politics. During the New Atheism heyday, people were willing to excuse Harris and Hitchens views on Islam or the Iraq War because they liked the anti-religion stuff more. Then eventually many of them weren't. But this doesn't mean that actually all along the movement was a grift or part of the far right. It mostly just means that people became interested in different things or emphasized/adopted different values and political beliefs.

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Here's another take by ex-New-Atheist PZ Myers:
I would say this describes well the splintering I was talking about. Myers was a big proponent of the Atheism+ social justice wing of New Atheism (and a forerunner in using that to justify being an *******). What he is describing here is that his wing of New Atheism did not succeed in taking the mantle of New Atheism.


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And another article from the Salon (albeit from same author as the original article but written four years ago):

https://www.salon.com/2017/07/29/fro...the-alt-right/
Yeah, mostly this just looks like the author trying to excuse his own identification with people that he now views as being bad by making it more about a more vanilla advocacy for science, critical thought, and rationality than what it really was.

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My point with these is to make the case that it wasn't just that it was an anti-movement that ran out of steam from being anti. The people in the front were no longer trustworthy leaders because they proved themselves to not actually be the things they claimed to be. They lost credibility because they no longer represented intellectual honesty or intellectual rigor. They argued for a better morality, but their lived morals appeared no better than those they argued against. They lost support because they took positions that were not supportable. They simply became unworthy of the position in the eyes of their followers.

To emphasize this point, it's not just that the New Atheists are still seen positively, but are just not influential. They're actively disliked. If they just ran out of steam, they would still be seen positively, even if they weren't leading anything. But a lot of them are just viewed so negatively now because of the crap that they've put out since their peak popularity.
I'll also just note that I think you misread how the New Atheists are currently viewed. Dawkins is viewed as old and kind of a prejudiced crank, although still generally respected for his science writing. Dennett is viewed the same as ever AFAICT. Hitchens is still viewed with nostalgia. Harris is more influential now than before. Social justice people are pretty negative towards New Atheism, but that is only one segment.
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Old 06-10-2021, 02:32 PM   #46
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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What about extremely popular social Conservatives, like Steven Crowder or Candace Owens, for example? I don't know if they are what ecriture was referring to or not, but they are not evangelicals, while still identifying very much as "conservative Christians", and their strongly anti-lgbt messaging is not broadcasted using religious language. Isn't that a change? Or would they fall into the broader group despite not technically being evangelicals?
Christians basically classify into three groups for demographic purposes:

1) Catholic
2) Mainline Protestant
3) Evangelical Protestant

Catholics are... well.... Catholics. They're often viewed skeptically by both classes of Protestants as not necessarily even being Christian.

Mainline Protestants are Protestants that fall into a range of denominations, and are probably best described as non-Evangelical Christians.

Evangelical Christians are... complicated. Theologically, they basically fit within a certain set of belief parameters known as the Bebbington Quadrilateral. Within those four walls there's still plenty of diversity, so this can be thought of as a "big tent" label. In term of practical demography, here is a reference for how this identification works:

https://www.nae.net/what-is-an-evangelical/

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The NAE/LifeWay Research method includes four statements to which respondents must strongly agree to be categorized as evangelical:

* The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
* It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
* Jesus Christís death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
* Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive Godís free gift of eternal salvation.
The difficulty is that self-identification as an Evangelical Christian is not as structured. There are a lot of people who would classify as an Evangelical via the survey, but belong to mainline churches and wouldn't self-identify as such. There is also a movement away from the label of Evangelical especially over the last several years because of the conflation of white conservative Evangelicals with Trump. (For example, Still Evangelical? Insiders Reconsider Political, Social, and Theological Meaning.) So even self-identification is complicated.

As far as Candance Owens and Steven Crowder, I don't find them self-identifying as Evangelical anywhere. However, Steven Crowder has been other-identified as Evangelical:

https://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/com...vative_steven/

And Candace Owens gave a Convocation speech at Liberty University and apparently self-identifies as a Protestant Christian (I didn't listen to the podcast at all, just going off of the title).

So whether or not they're strictly-speaking Evangelicals, they hold markers that make them appear to be so.
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Old 06-10-2021, 05:08 PM   #47
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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Uhhhh... I'm losing your argument. Here's where you started:
...
So I don't understand what you're arguing here.
.....
Again, they aren't trying because they lost on the legal front. Thanks to Obama and the activist Supreme Court. But don't worry. The new Conservative Supreme Court will return these conservative values to their rightful place.
Since lack of understanding seems to be a key issue, I'll just focus on the key point in the simplest possible way and ignore the side issues. We agree that evangelicals have lost some key culture war issues, will continue to lose more in the future and are therefore less inclined to try to change laws to mandate their moral positions. You think the reason why this happened is critical, but it's not relevant. They lost and because of that there is way less interest in hearing atheists talk about problems with christian morality. I casually referred to this as an atheist win, but if you prefer to call it a religious right loss I don't care.
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Old 06-11-2021, 12:57 AM   #48
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

Looks like I quoted the wrong part of your comment above, I'd meant to highlight this:

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Originally Posted by Aaron W. View Post
Did you read any election analysis at the end of 2016? And throughout 2018? And leading into the 2020 election? It has been all about white evangelicals for the last five years.
My question was about the 'evangelical' label - whether it was being used to refer to the general religious right (broadly, all socially conservative Christians, such that it would include non-evangelicals like Crowder/Owens, and not strictly just evangelicals)?

I brought up Crowder/Owens because there does seems to be a clear presentation difference between them vs. evangelicals, in that they mostly avoid religious language whereas evangelicals embrace it. I have wondered if the Crowder/Owens types are using less religiously-oriented language to deliver the same messaging to non-evangelicals (and even the non-religious) intentionally.

Ok, here's what I'm asking your perspective on: right wing personalities like Crowder/Owens are delivering socially conservative messaging that is essentially the same as, say, Jerry Falwell from a couple of decades ago, but without any of the Biblical fire and brimstone. To the extent you're familiar, do you see these newer personalities as a separate (v popular, and growing) wing of the right that "just so happens" to be Christian, or is it still the Religious Right, but choosing to present as religiously neutral for perhaps stealthy political reasons?
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Old 06-11-2021, 01:24 PM   #49
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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I brought up Crowder/Owens because there does seems to be a clear presentation difference between them vs. evangelicals, in that they mostly avoid religious language whereas evangelicals embrace it. I have wondered if the Crowder/Owens types are using less religiously-oriented language to deliver the same messaging to non-evangelicals (and even the non-religious) intentionally.
I think the issue is maybe a bit more subtle than this at least in terms of how 2020 is different from 2000. Like Rush Limbaugh was one of the most powerful conservative voices for 30+ years. And while he may have considered himself an evangelical/born again/whatever I think it's safe to say his message was "less religiously oriented" and basically focused on trolling the libs as much/most of conservative infotainment today is. Evangelicals were obviously a big part of his audience since his listeners were mostly white conservatives, but I don't think his show was made for them like the 700 club etc was. Evangelicals may have liked his show but they expected actual politicians to behave and sound differently. That obviously changed by the time Trump ran in 2016 and Limbaugh style discourse was not only acceptable as entertainment, it was fine (and maybe even what the country needs) from politicians.

You can probably put this in an even broader context by considering the prehistory of all this in the rise and "fall" of the Moral Majority. It was before my time, but it seems like they used more of the language you expect from religious conservatives genuinely trying to get 50%+ of the country in the 70s on board ie we're not going to spend all our time bashing gays or feminists, we will just go and on about the value of traditional families where a married man works and his wife stays home and raises their kids. While their positions haven't really changed, the lib bashing rhetoric has obviously increased since the 70s/80s.
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Old 06-11-2021, 04:34 PM   #50
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Re: Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

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My question was about the 'evangelical' label - whether it was being used to refer to the general religious right (broadly, all socially conservative Christians, such that it would include non-evangelicals like Crowder/Owens, and not strictly just evangelicals)?
The analysis of the demographic use of "Evangelical" still fits. And the challenging issues with the term are also still prevalent.

"Evangelical" (as used by demographers) is a distinct category from "the general religious right" (or "socially conservative Christians"), though the labels have significant overlap.

For example, there are socially conservative Catholics that would be classified as "the general religious right" but would not count as Evangelicals. And there are a growing number of Evangelicals that are not socially conservative.

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I brought up Crowder/Owens because there does seems to be a clear presentation difference between them vs. evangelicals, in that they mostly avoid religious language whereas evangelicals embrace it. I have wondered if the Crowder/Owens types are using less religiously-oriented language to deliver the same messaging to non-evangelicals (and even the non-religious) intentionally.
The difference in presentation is more about presentation than about demographics. It's true that there's a hyper-spiritualization that happens on the religious right (see Satan-worshipping cabals of child molesters). That type of language is not inherent to Evangelicalism per se. Having some concept of a spiritual world does create opportunity for such use of language, but it's not really necessary for Evangelicalism to do that.

I would expect that Crowder/Owens don't use that language because they know it's alienating. When you choose to talk about the world in that way, then you limit your audience to those who want to hear the world talked about in that way. More effective communicators will use a better coded language to draw up those images without directly using those words.

Quote:
Ok, here's what I'm asking your perspective on: right wing personalities like Crowder/Owens are delivering socially conservative messaging that is essentially the same as, say, Jerry Falwell from a couple of decades ago, but without any of the Biblical fire and brimstone. To the extent you're familiar, do you see these newer personalities as a separate (v popular, and growing) wing of the right that "just so happens" to be Christian, or is it still the Religious Right, but choosing to present as religiously neutral for perhaps stealthy political reasons?
I would say that the Jerry Falwell type (before him, it was James Dobson and Pat Robertson) was speaking a message specifically to Christians. The Religious Right was explicitly about drawing Christians into a certain political posture and political movement. So things were framed into that language.

Crowder/Owens are not speaking their message specifically to Christians. Their goal is not to move specifically Christians to engage in politics, but to actually engage with politics. In that sense, their religious perspective is more incidental. It's part of their way of identifying with the religious base that they want to connect with, and they have no reason to shy away from that identification. But it's entirely possible (likely?) that their positions are not as "theologically grounded" as someone like Jerry Falwell might be. In a real sense, they simply don't need it to be in order for them to be effective in what they want to do.

I think the example of Rush Limbaugh (that ecriture d'adulte has already discussed a little bit) is a good example to contrast this with. His target audience included Christians, but it was not specifically Christians. It's absolutely true that he leveraged the conservative Christian ecosystem to grow his brand, but they were not his sole audience.

All this said, I would view this as a continuation of the religious conservative political movement. The underlying structure and message is consistent, even if the language is secularized. And it's not like this is a new thing. It's two different systems that are working together to accomplish different (but related) outcomes.
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