December 3, 2013

The Day the Atheist Movement Died

Dawkins at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dawkins at the University of Texas at Austin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Some events are said to define generations. Everybody of certain age at the time remembers them vividly and reports that things were never quite the same afterwards. The assassination of JFK, the Challenger disaster, the Rodney King verdict, the suicide of Kurt Cobain, and 9/11 are just a few examples. There are plenty of others that may resonate with you depending on your age and where you live.

It also makes sense that different events would impact subgroups of people in different ways. For example, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. or Medgar Evers, while having an undeniably broad impact in the U.S., are likely to have been particularly important to those involved in the Civil Rights movement at the time. The Stonewall riots, while also influential on American society as a whole, were likely to be especially important for those involved in the LGBT movement at the time. Some events of this nature even seem to end up defining mass movements.

July 2, 2011, is a day that will long be remembered by those of us in the atheist community as one formative occasion. Why? This was the date on which a prominent evolutionary biologist by the name of Richard Dawkins destroyed the atheist movement by leaving a comment on PZ Myers' blog. Wait. What?

social justice warriors hate Richard Dawkins
Yes, this appears to be the same Jennifer McCreight who brought us Atheism+ and who was described by many as having been chased off the Internet by her critics for doing so. It appears that she is still using her Twitter account, and I have been told that she continues to write a blog.

The AMA she mentions in this tweet refers to an "ask me anything" Dawkins did on Reddit a few days ago. It appears to have been fairly popular, although I don't know enough about how these Reddit AMA things work to have an accurate point of comparison.

It seems clear that most of those involved with the atheist movement are unaware that their movement died in July of 2011. The available data do not show their activity coming to an abrupt halt or even declining, and I am reasonably confident that American Atheists is still going strong and did not disband in 2011.

I picture a group of atheists 10 years in the future looking back on July 2, 2011. I wonder if the date will be marked with some sort of somber remembrance as the day the atheist movement died. What might that look like? Will they all remember what they were doing on that infamous and life-altering date? I'd guess not.

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