The Dawkins Effect: How The God Delusion Mainstreamed Atheism (Reposted)

Simon Owens over at "Bloggasm: Was it good for you?" wrote a piece called The Dawkins Effect: How The God Delusion Mainstreamed Atheism. It’s well written and I recommend it, especially since he quotes me in it. I'm reposting it because he claims it was his best article in 2007.

He wrote:

PZ Myers has said several times in his writing that he thinks that Dawkins has done very little to convert the religious into nonbelievers. Instead, The God Delusion and other books like it are simply rallying calls for the choir. But other atheists have argued that the poor conversion rate is the result of a weak book. Some atheist purists have made claims — generally in blog comments and online message boards — that The God Delusion is inferior to much weightier atheist texts.

John W. Loftus is one of several atheists who write at a group blog called Debunking Christianity. When I interviewed him in August, he seemed to disagree with what he considers the offensive tactics Dawkins uses. “Even though we argue against…faith, we do so in a more or less non-offensive way,” he told me. “To belittle [the religious] like other sites do is not effective if we want them to consider our arguments. There is a place for ridicule, and people on both side of the fence do this. Sometimes it just feels good to vent, I suppose. But that’s not us (for the most part). That’s one of the reasons so many Christians visit us and discuss these issues with us, and I like it this way.”

Loftus expressed ambivalence toward Dawkins, saying that on the one hand, The God Delusion book suffers from a lack or research (in Loftus’s mind), while on the other hand, “Dawkins has gained for atheists an audience.” This audience, he argued, has caused more people to provide additional research against religion in general. “That’s something I am grateful to Dawkins for,” he said, “even if educated people immersed in these debates don’t think that highly about his arguments.”