It is sometimes useful to remember that The Skeptical Zone was started in the naive assumption that intelligent people of good will could discuss important issues without undue rancor. (Ha ha ha!! Have you even seen the Internet!)
Anyway, I bring to your attention a rather interesting blog post (blogs? who blogs anymore?) by Scott Alexander over at Slate Star Codex: ” New Atheism: The Godlessness That Failed“. Alexander gives us some interesting data (frequency of search terms taken from Google and other sites) that document a flagging interest in the “religion vs atheism” debates of the early 2000s.
Here are two (I think) revealing quotes that contextualize the decline of New Atheism in terms of changes in Internet culture:
The rise of the Internet broadened our intellectual horizons. We got access to a whole new world of people with totally different standards, norms, and ideologies opposed to our own. When the Internet was small and confined to an optimistic group of technophile intellectuals, this spawned Early Internet Argument Culture, where we tried to iron out our differences through Reason. We hoped that the new world the Web revealed to us could be managed in the same friendly way we managed differences with our crazy uncle or the next-door neighbor.
As friendly debate started feeling more and more inadequate, and as newer and less nerdy people started taking over the Internet, this dream receded. In its place, we were left with an intolerable truth: a lot of people seem really horrible, and refuse to stop being horrible even when we ask them nicely. They seem to believe awful things. They seem to act in awful ways. When we tell them the obviously correct reasons they should be more like us, they refuse to listen to them, and instead spout insane moon gibberish about how they are right and we are wrong.
To this, New Atheism had an answer: they are the ones who are blinded by Religion, and that’s why reasoning with them is useless. The New Atheism began to decline when that hamartiological answer was no longer adequate.