Atheism 3.0

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Atheism 3.0, also referred to as “the new New atheism,” designates[1] an emerging irenic movement amongst writers[note 1] which is held out by some atheists to be “a stream of atheism that maintains no belief in a deity, but views religion as a positive force for good in the world, benefiting both individuals and society.”[2] It is characterized as a “new, milder Atheism … teaching a more forgiving attitude towards faith.”[3] A widely cited example of the trend is Bruce Sheiman,[4] author of An Atheist Defends Religion, maintains that humanity is better off with it than without it. "I don't know if anybody is going to be able to convince me that God exists," Sheiman said in an interview, "but they can convince me that religion has intrinsic value."[5] In Church, State and the Crisis in American Secularism, Bruce Ledewitz recognized “a newer kind of atheism that is closer to religion than was the earlier New Atheism.”[6]

PZ Myers, a biologist and University of Minnesota associate professor who self-identifies as New Atheist, uses the characterization "Atheist But"[7] and calls Atheism 3.0 "atheism for people who don't like atheism".

Seeking a middle ground[edit]

The trend emerged after the emergence of the New Atheism and provoked wide discussion and some moves towards reduction of polarization between atheists and religious believers after the appearance of an influential article in Religion News Service.[note 2] Austin Dacey, while personally disclaiming the label of 3.0 Atheist, observes that “people are trying to find a happy medium” to seek balance after the popularity of the new atheism.

Sheiman is quoted stating that 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.”[8]

Humanist Chaplain Greg M. Epstein, author of the forthcoming “Good without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe,” cautions against what some call militant atheism. “When our goal is erasing religion, rather than embracing human beings, we all lose.” [9] Epstein's approach contrasts with the earlier New Atheists in that he seeks inclusion and balance.[10]

Taxonomic controversy[edit]

This source identifies Dr. Paul Kurtz but his organization self-identifies as “neo-humanist.” Austin Dace, author of The Secularist Case Against Atheism, laments that he and his book were identified with Atheism 3.0 by the syndicated Religion News Service[11] but that he is not all that happy with the taxonomy which he lampoons as a “’truth-must-lie-somewhere-in-between’ narrative.” He contends that is “neither to correct atheism nor to reject religion. It is to change the subject to secularism.”


  • Church, State, and the Crisis in American Secularism. Indiana University Press. Ledewitz, Bruce (2011).

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Epstein argues in his forthcoming book, “Good without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe,” that morality does not depend on a judgmental deity and that nonbelievers can lead meaningful, even purpose-driven, lives. But they can also learn from people of faith, such as California megachurch pastor and “Purpose Driven Life” author Rick Warren.
  2. "I do appreciate the sentiment. While we disagree on a major, life changing, eternal issue, there is no need to be blatantly mean to one another. Sounds quite Christian in terms of loving your neighbor instead of instantly condemning them."[1]