Freethought Blogs was once a pretty happening place. It was like Scienceblogs or Discoveryblogs but with a whole lot more atheism. In essence, it was a dose of science with a heap of New Atheism. And that made a lot of sense. As I’ve said before, New Atheism is very much a reflection of scientific thinking: Before we are to believe some claim (especially if it’s a significant claim), evidence is a must. But then the tone changed drastically at FtB. We went from people who placed atheism first when speaking about atheism – because that’s fucking logical – to people who were very much atheism-second bloggers. Science was almost entirely out the window. Philosophy? That was only ever there because of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, (of course) Dennett, and Coyne. Once we had people like PZ Myers, Richard Carrier, and Rebecca Watson decide that feminism needed to be the dominant theme in the atheist community, philosophy was deader than ever, at least in the worst circles. These people didn’t draw issue with the likes of William Lane Craig because they saw fundamental problems with his philosophical arguments; their issue was always that he wasn’t a feminist. It’s the same reason Dawkins and others have lost the support of these people. They don’t care why someone believes something – it doesn’t matter if a person isn’t a feminist because he hates women, because feminism is not a part of any religion, because he’s a utilitarian, because he’s a libertarian, because he’s an egalitarian, or for any other reason. All that matters is you aren’t a feminist, so you hate women and you’re not with us, you’re against us. It’s like George W. Bush weaseled his way into the atheist movement. You aren’t a real American unless you support American foreign policy; you aren’t a real atheist ally unless you support feminism.
And now here we are with atheism+, the movement that is to atheism as “patriotism” is to American conservatives. Consistency and coherency are secondary to this movement. You must support x, y, and z “social justice” issues, but to hell with explaining why all these issues tie together. To hell with explaining why atheism, an entirely descriptive position, is fundamentally related to any of these issues. To hell with explaining the benefit in destroying the big tent of New Atheism, the tent which encompassed those who are pro-science and against religion regardless of their views on GMO’s or abortion or Iraq or gun rights. None of that matters in the splinter group – nay, the splinter effort – that is atheism+. Philosophy only isn’t dead to that movement because it was never alive to them in the first place.
So what has the result been? From a once happening place, Freethought Blogs has fallen and continues to fall. Its page hits are down about 70% in the last few months. Fewer and fewer people are interested in the split. Fewer and fewer people want to be part of a movement which so eschews philosophy. Atheism+ is little more than a political movement with a political foundation. That isn’t the basis of the surge in atheism around the globe in recent decades. Richard Dawkins didn’t become famous for his politics. No one became a New Atheist because they are for or against marriage equality. That’s just not what this is all about. Atheism plussers simply do not understand the point to all this. They don’t get it at all.