Is New Atheism Working?

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While I would have called myself an Agnostic most of my life, I will acknowledge that in recent years I’ve finally come to accept the word Atheist.  Which begs the question… why?  My views on organized religion haven’t fundamentally changed, so what was the ambivalence?  The truth is, it was the label.  I say that with a great deal of disdain for myself since I take pride in owning who I am as an individual and accepting others for their differences.  So acknowledging that social factors were the key driver in my acceptance of this term pretty much sucks.  But the reality is that it’s true, and I credit the great voices, advocates and ease of access to content through modern technology for getting over that hump.

Over the last decade or so, the phrase “New Atheism” has become more prevalent, and I hear both criticism and praise for it, followed by almost as many questions as to what it actually is.  While there are a few accepted definitions, I’m going to provide mine (which is not aligned to any agreed upon definition) and tell you why I think it’s working.  New Atheism is whatever your voice is.  Whatever contribution you can make to ensure we make sound decisions based on evidence and reality.  To remove alleged biblical morality from actual morality.  Whatever your reason, whatever your voice, it will resonate with someone.

Disclaimer: Gratuitous plugs for great podcasts to follow…

Resonation is the key point.  For example, I debated with my friend, David Michael, from the My Book of Mormon podcast as to whether or not the Scathing Atheist podcast was a good thing or a bad thing for Atheism.  If you haven’t heard either, I highly recommend both, but the format of the latter is exactly as it sounds… scathing.  It also happens to be insanely funny and way over the edge of politically correct.  Hence the debate.  Is disparaging religion with gratuitous profanity good for the overall movement?  While there is likely no right answer, both David and I came to the conclusion that the answer is “yes”.  Yes, because humor resonates, but more because you might otherwise never hear of a ten year old rape victim being put on trial for her part in the crime (per Sharia Law).  I’m not sure how anyone can cover a story like that without being scathing.

We surround ourselves by what we relate to or react to.  I happen to love grossly inappropriate humor, and prefer formats that cater to my degenerate taste.  But each day brings a different mood, so at the end of this post I have included a list of my favorite podcasts ordered by most degenerate to least.  And when I’m feeling the need for something more refined, I look to the more educated voice of people like Sam Harris.  The point is, the more diversity of voice, the broader the reach.  Yes, podcasts like Scathing Atheist will piss some people off and might even mobilize some of their opposition.  But that is more the exception.  The Atheist community is entangled and expanding.  A new listener to an Atheist podcast will almost immediately become exposed to other voices, shows and content… and eventually come across a format they will share with a friend.  Allowing the circle to expand.

The fact is according to polls, religion is fading.  Just 20 years ago, only about 5% of Americans said they didn’t believe in God.  Today that number is about 15% and rising.  There are countless reasons for this, but there can be no question that a huge enabler is the growing acceptance and tolerance for Atheism itself.  While it is still a bad word on a public platform, it is becoming more accepted within social circles.  And every contribution by every individual makes a difference in allowing this to become more mainstream.

In the meantime, I encourage you to join the community and get your voice out there.  You may be surprised by how welcomed you feel, and even more so by how many of us are out there.  The benefits are plenty and include but are not limited to; elevated debating skills, a better bible education than Sunday school, tasteless and sometimes tactful wit, and almost certainly an arsenal of new dick jokes to add to your repertoire.  New Atheism may not be new anymore, but it is definitely where the cool kids are hanging out.  So meet me behind the gym later and we’ll blaze up some heresy.  Come on… everyone is doing it.

My Biased Opinion Podcast – Greatest Hits

The number in parenthesis provides a relative 1 – 10 rating on level of egregious offense one might experience.

  • Scathing Atheist (10) – Hosted by Noah and Heath with special guest Lucinda. If the word “Fuck” was a fossil fuel, they would have burned up the last remaining resource about 6 months ago.  Witty, but even I have found myself offended from time to time… but mostly at myself for laughing at such grossly inappropriate humor.
  • Cognitive Dissonance (8) – Hosted by Tom and Cecil. They say “the explicit tag is their for a reason”, but I don’t think they’re any less appropriate than your buddies at a bar (at least mine!)… and that’s exactly what it feels like to listen to them… only they’re funnier.
  • Bar Room Atheist (4) – Hosted by Bill and Suzy.  Possibly one of the most “conversational” shows out there.  They bring on guest bartenders and have the discussions you wish you could have about religion without losing all your friends.  Authentic and funny, plus there’s booze!
  • Imaginary Friend Show (4) – Hosted by Jake Farr-Wharton and Greg Savage.  Fun and satirical, with “real” friends from other shows.  A great perspective from “down under” on the insanity of religion.

And if you’re looking for some entertaining religious education, you must try these!

  • My Book of Mormon – Hosted by David Michael  (my brother from another mother). His smoky baritone voice will lull you into a trance as he reads The Book of Mormon to you cover to cover while calling out just how “bat shit insane” it is (his words).
  • Quranify Me – Hosted by Paul, because when you’re reading and critiquing the Quran, you don’t publish your last name! Funny, and also a little angry from time to time… but I guess it’s hard not to be when you describe how to execute a rape victim for adultery.
  • Thomas and the Bible – Hosted by Thomas, who might just be the pioneer of this format. You will love his style as he reads through the entire bible and calls out everything that is wrong with it.

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