Is Atheism in America Undergoing a Radical Change?
According to Chris Hall’s article in Salon Magazine last week, Atheism in America is undergoing a radical reformation and “having a conversation about atheism today by talking about [Christopher] Hitchens and [Richard] Dawkins proves you aren’t paying attention.”
In the last few years, all eyes have been on the four horsemen of Atheism: Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. “It’s easy to understand the appeal: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens became prominent representatives of Atheism because they were all erudite, entertaining and unafraid to say what they thought.” Hall continues, “A lot of people, myself included, were drawn to their works because they were forthright and articulated things we had kept locked away, or simply hadn’t found the words for.”
Atheism and Agnosticism, which is comprised of a minority of Americans (roughly 6% or 13 million) also bleeds into the tribe known as “nones,” who are those who claim no religious affiliation (14% or 33 million), and this tribe of passive disbelief is growing. Yet, with this growth has come a mission shift.
The old militancy of the four horsemen, which Hall argues opened the door for this new reformation, has given way to an Atheist tribe who is pursuing other issues. Greta Christina (as quoted by Hall), the author of Coming Out Atheist, puts it this way:
The movement has become much more diverse — not just in the obvious ways of gender, race, and so on, but simply in terms of how many viewpoints are coming to the table. The sheer number of people who are seen in some way as leaders… has gone up significantly…. And the increasing diversity in gender, race, class, and so on are important. We have a long way to go in this regard, but we’re doing much, much better than we were. And that’s showing up in our leadership. It’s absurd to see Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris as representing all organized atheism — it always was a little absurd, but it’s seriously absurd now.
Not only is this tribe shifting from those who are “white, male and affluent” to “an increasing number of… people of color, women, transgendered, or queer.” It is beginning to engage with issues of racism and other social issues, and championed by men like Dale McGowan, the author of Voices of Unbelief: Documents from Atheists and Agnostics.
On this Hall discusses his own journey from Christianity to Atheism…
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