Refections on the "New Atheism"

By Dave, the WM

An increasing number of articles, commentaries, and opinion pieces are being published on what has been dubbed the “New Atheism.” One website, interestingly entitled, describes a four-pillared platform on which the so-called “New Atheism movement" rests. It reads as follows:
  • Tolerance of pervasive myth and superstition in modern society is not a virtue.
  • Religious fundamentalism has gone main stream and its toll on education, science, and social progress is disheartening.
  • Wake up people!! We are smart enough now to kill our invisible gods and oppressive beliefs.
  • It is the responsibility of the educated to educate the uneducated, lest we fall prey to the tyranny of ignorance.

A recent article at stated:
The New Atheists will not let us off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God. Religion is not only wrong; it's evil. Now that the battle has been joined, there's no excuse for shirking.

Another writer, here, states:
The world's intellectuals are slowly moving away from traditional atheism towards New Atheism for the betterment of mankind.

Before going farther, The New Atheism, as it is being called, is the atheism expressed in the writings of Richard Dawkins, a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and popular science writer who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University; Sam Harris, an American author with active interests in philosophy, religion and neuroscience; and Daniel Dennett, a prominent American philosopher and professor at Tufts University.

In Christian circles, this “New Atheism” is denigrated as “militant.”

Militant? Has Dawkins taken up arms? Is Harris training troops in the desert? How about Dennett? Has he abandoned his students to construct dirty bombs? If you've read any of these mens' books, it becomes immediately evident that they each are convincing communicators. But militant? Should the ability to intelligently express ideas ever be termed militant?

Now, although I label myself as an ex-Christian atheist, ExChristian.Net is not strictly an atheistic website. A diverse set of viewpoints are enjoyed by the posters here. In fact, one of the original founding members of this site is a dyed-in-the-wool deist. The only real unifying purpose of this site is to let those who have discovered that Christianity is not “The Truth” understand that they are not alone in that assessment.

Nevertheless, I am intrigued by the amount of rhetoric being bandied all over the airwaves, the printed press, and the Internet, expressing a rising level of concern over the ideas of three outspoken atheistic writers.

But militant is not the only term being applied. Some who call themselves humanists have decided to describe Dawkins and company as “fundamentalists.”

Atheist fundamentalists?

Is anyone being threatened with hell by these “fundamentalists?” Has anyone been labeled heretical by these so-called fundamentalists?

Are these three men outspoken? Yes. Are they opinionated atheists? Obviously. But militant, fundamentalists? Nonsense.

How many voices, preaching real fundamentalism, or some form of dogmatic religion, whether Christian, Muslim, or something else, are given ear and wild applause on the world stage today? The most recent Newsweek poll brags that 91% of Americans believe in “God” and only 3% call themselves atheist. With so many confirmed believers out there, what possible damaging influence could be meted out by three non-conforming authors? What in the world are people so stirred up about?

Perhaps some of the opposition to these three atheistic writers is the persuasive power of their message. Perhaps the magical thinking of religion is difficult to defend when confronted with plain old rational thinking. Mystifying is the position just taken by the Harvard humanist chaplaincy.

Is the New Atheism really new? And should these atheists “tone it down?”

What do you think?

Addendum: Of special interest is the Newsweek discussion between Author Sam Harris and Evangelical leader Rick Warren. Click here to read this lengthy exchange.

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