The old atheists said there was no God. The so-called "New Atheists" said there was no God, and they were vocally vicious about it. Now, the new "New Atheists" — call it Atheism 3.0 — say there's still no God, but maybe religion isn't all that bad.One of the atheists they quote in the article is the author of the book I am currently reading, An Atheist Defends Religion (although I have currently put the book on hold while I work on Finding Darwin's God for a discussion group I am participating in). Again, many atheists dismissed this article as categorizing atheists as a whole. The following post, I think, is worth reading and helps sum up the situation fairly nicely.
The suggestion that modern American atheists are not united is, in my opinion, a serious misunderstanding of that community and its underlying philosophical principles. It's not atheism itself that unifies the atheist community. Rather, it is the epistemological principle underlying their atheism that is uniting them. That epistemological principle is science. Atheists don't seem to realize it yet, but they are fairly strongly united by their belief in science. It might even be said that American atheists are behaving as if science were a religion.Original Post
In spite of that, I don't believe we're seeing a schism in the atheist community. Atheists are united, in the sense that they have strong epistemological agreement, but they have little organization. A couple of sensationalist authors calling themselves "New" isn't much leadership. There are starting to be more real life meetings, and more and more writing about atheism, but there isn't any robust social infrastructure like there is in any other religious community. "Schism" implies that one order is leaving another order. But there isn't much order among American atheists. Instead of a schism, I'm sure that what we're seeing the start of is the emergence of a new order.
The idea of "Atheist 3.0" seems fairly correct, assuming that the so-called "New" atheists are 2.0. The "New" atheists are only different from the old atheists in that they are getting a lot of media coverage and expressing their atheism quite publicly. However, Atheist 3.0 can be described as a group of atheists who are searching for more order in the community, and are making the effort to create order. I know this because I am one of them.
I've been a strong atheist for well over a decade. About two years ago, bashing Christians online started to get boring. Especially when the smarter Christians started posting thoughtful arguments for their positions. Now, I don't support mythology or Christianity, but I've been able to put aside my hate and bias towards Christians and start looking at them objectively. What I discovered is that, regardless of all the atheist smears of Christians, they have a robust social infrastructure. That is the kind of order that American atheists need. After that, I started treating Christians as individuals, and it became obvious that there are a ton of good Christian people in America, people that, despite my philosophical disagreements with, I know I can trust.
I'm now at the point where I am looking at Christian communities as models for "atheist" communities. But of course, the idea of a strictly "atheist" community doesn't make much sense. The American Secular Humanist movement has already resolved this problem by adapting the Christian Humanist tradition to an atheist society. Secular Humanists are taking what is good from the Christian tradition, and adapting it to fit the modern, rational age. I know Secular Humanism has been around for the last few decades, but I predict that its numbers are going to start swelling as American atheists start looking for more than another online forum to bash Christians on.
By the way, this post might seem a bit random, but the fact is I just got banned from an atheist forum for expressing ideas like these. I was accused by several people of being a Christian in disguise, trying to troll their forums. So I definitely agree that there is starting to be a "bitter rift" dividing atheists.