If you are over the age of 40, perhaps a bit older, you have lived long enough to see a great fad get going, peak and then fade away completely. Lots of fads run their course in a few months, obviously, but social movements tend to build slowly and then stick around for a while, before disappearing down the memory hole. One of those fads is atheism, which had a good run in the 80’s and 90’s. It started to peter out in the 90’s, had a brief revival in the aughts, but now seems to be headed to oblivion.
The so-called “new atheists” are not ready to throw in the towel on their reason to exist, as it were, but that’s to be expected. Harris and Dennett moved all their chips into the middle of the table with the atheism stuff. It got them the attention they desired, so as a gambler will wear a diamond pinky ring to recall his one big score, these guys still proudly wear their atheism. All of them have moved onto other things, but they will expound upon their hatred of religion if the crowd demands it.
Of course, anytime the word “new” gets attached to something old, it means that old thing is now dead. It also means that old thing had some serious internal defect that eventually killed it. The “new right” made an appearance when it was clear Conservative Inc. was just a ruthless money racket. The previous iteration of “new right” appeared in the 70’s when everyone agreed the old right was dead. The reason “new atheism” got going is everyone agreed that regular old atheism was creepy and weird.
The central defect of atheism, old and new, is it is an entirely negative western identity and entirely dependent on Christianity. Specifically, it requires people of some status to defend Christianity and the Christian belief in the super natural. Atheism has always been the oxpecker of mass movements. Everything about it relies on its host both tolerating it and thriving on its own. It’s why atheism has had its spasms of success when Christianity in America has had a revival, as in the 80’s and the 2000’s.
Atheists will deny this, of course. They will argue, as Dennett often does, that the steep decline of Christianity is proof their arguments were superior. The reason they no longer talk about their thing is they won and their enemy is dead. The fact that there are plenty of Muslims and crackpot feminist airheads around spouting magical oogily-boogily never seems to get their attention for some reason. The only guy to venture into this area was Dawkins, but the Prog quickly reminded him who pays his bills.
That’s always been the tell with atheism. Belief in something as insane as male privilege or implicit whiteness should get their attention. After all, these are not just beliefs in the supernatural, they are primitive beliefs in the supernatural. Men of the classical period had more plausible and complex beliefs than people like Amy Harmon. She is a click away from demanding human sacrifice. Yet, the new atheists were never much interest in those magical beliefs. They were too busy hounding the last Christians.
That’s another tell. Atheism has always been a popular pose on the Left, because it was a useful signal. The bad whites loved their boom sticks and sky gods. The good whites rejected all those crazy beliefs. It’s why atheists tended to focus on the mainstream of Christianity, like Catholics and mainline Protestant churches. Mormons were always an easy target. They avoided the Jews and black Baptists. Sure, once in while a zinger against the tribe would be tossed in, but the enemy was always white Christians.
The decline on atheism is a good example of the perils of negative identity. When you define yourself as being in opposition to someone or something, you inevitably become a slave to it. Your very existence depends on it. As the main Christian churches collapse in scandal and bizarre attempts to move Left, the enemies for atheists to attack are getting more difficult to find. Attacking Christians is like beating up a puppy. Only the severely mentally disturbed think Christians have any power today.
The other thing working against atheism is it has been mostly male. That’s an interesting thing, given that the American Atheists was created by a woman in the 60’s. Then again, Madalyn Murray O’Hair was just a cat’s paw for the usual suspects. Her role was to be the point the spear in the war to decouple Christianity from American civic and cultural life. Since then, atheism has been a male thing. Given the declining status of males on the Left, particularly white males, it is no surprise that atheism is dying.
Given the state of affairs in the West and the crippling decline in the Christian churches, it is hard to see atheism having another revival. Christianity appears to morphing into a private, bespoke thing in order to survive outside the Progressive orthodoxy. That makes it a worthless enemy for atheists. You can never know, of course, but it looks like public Christianity is done for. That means atheism is done for as well, unless it moves onto Judaism or Progressivism and that will never be allowed.