Unaffiliation: Where the New Atheists Went Wrong, and How South Park Paved the Way for the 'Rise of the Nones' Open Access

Kaup, Drew Reeson (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/st74cr19w?locale=en


From 2004 to 2007, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens published a series of books that would later be recognized as the foundation of "New Atheism." Recently, several publications have announced the so-called 'rise of the nones,' and due to their congruency of timing, it appears that "New Atheism" and the 'rise of the nones' are related. Indeed, Dan Dennett, one of the leaders of New Atheism, claimed in 2013 that the 'rise of the nones' would not have occurred without New Atheism.

An analysis of statistics and New Atheist literature reveals, however, that the New Atheists and the nones differ markedly in terms of ideology, and shows that atheism has grown slowly in the United States over the last five years while the nones have grown at an increasing rate. As opposed to the New Atheists who promote militant atheism and believe that organized religion is inherently dangerous, the nones are a heterogeneous, constantly evolving group and do not necessarily support active resistance to religion. Due to their over-the-top criticism of religion, I believe that the New Atheists damaged the reputation of all atheism, and that the nones have risen in response to their errors.

Through and analysis of several particular episodes, I demonstrate how South Park contributed to the cultural discussion surrounding atheism by illustrating the errors of New Atheism as the movement was evolving. Additionally, I suggest that South Park's subtle religious critique and opposition to dogma correlate with the ideology of the nones, reflecting a cultural disapproval of extreme atheism. Finally, I posit that the future religious landscape of the United States will be more secular and unaffiliated than the antireligious vision of the New Atheists.

Table of Contents

Page 1 - Introduction

Page 7 - From "Red Hot Catholic Love" to New Atheism

Page 13 - The Errors of New Atheism

Page 26 - The Unaffiliated Push

Page 33 - Conclusion

About this Honors Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files