The question is, how do we decide what “new atheism” is? What is new atheism, who gets to decide, how do we know?

The answer turns out to be that we simply define it as that which we dislike. Easy. Circular, but easy.

Rob Knop for instance:

Do the New Atheists really believe that they aren’t being argumentative, aggreessive, and generally dickish in their attacks on religion? Or, are the religious the “other” against whom any sort of rude behavior is justified?

There we go – easy. “The” New Atheists are – always and everywhere – being argumentative, aggreessive, and generally dickish in their attacks on religion. End of story. Simple. “I dislike ‘New Atheism’ because ‘New Atheists’ be dickish and I know this because I dislike them and I dislike them because I know this.”

The anecdote=data version:

Thanks Josh – that is a really helpful description of New Atheism. I have a friend who is a New Atheist and I find it really tough to discuss religion rationally with him…. I fail to understand why he feels so strongly that all religion is bad, and also why he feels so strongly that religion undermines science.

I know someone who fits your description therefore all New Atheists fit your description.

The reliable Anthony McCarthy is a stalwart group-definer:

I use the term “new atheist” for atheists who demonstrate that they practice negative stereotyping of religious people, practice bigotry, false characterizations and similar, negative things.

He uses the term that way and then he proceeds to make large sweeping generalizations about “new atheists” plural, thus adding his mite to the bonfire being readied to fry the despised group. (I don’t mean “fry” literally, Joe. Relax.)

There’s the “they all don’t ever read anything” claim:

NA’s often complain that their intemperate approach is a “style.” I disagree. I think it’s a way of casually dismissing all the hard questions that thoughtful people (like Max Weber that I mentioned above) ask. The pose of NA’s isn’t just style, it’s contempt for everything outside of their small circle of nerdly concerns.

There’s the definition by someone called Raging Bee

The only thing “new” about the “New Atheists” is their new wave of often pointless obnoxiousness, and their willingness to say things that are often as insulting as they are dead wrong.

And on and on. You get the idea. The point is – there’s a faction of people who know one big thing, which is that they loathe and detest “the New Atheists,” and they define the group they hate by saying what it is they hate about them.

It’s not a very thoughtful or enlightening way to analyze a subject.

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