The New Atheists Who are they?
The Principal Players: Christopher Hitchens Richard Dawkins Sam Harris Daniel Dennett
What’s new about them? • Not their arguments but their popularity—and their aggressiveness. • They are speaking to a growing audience that is getting increasingly angry at any form of religion or faith. • They are reacting against the global spread of religious extremism. • They are the vanguard of a kind of atheist liberation movement—helping atheists to come out of the closet.
What are they saying? • A quick summary (most agree with most of these points): • Faith in God should be eradicated from human culture. • “God” is a ridiculous and dangerous idea—a person like you and me, except (!) for being undetectable and infinite, who made everything, controls everything, communicates mostly through books written centuries ago, and demands total, unquestioning obedience. • Faith is unquestioning belief—both belief without evidence and belief against evidence—in a ridiculous idea like “God.” • Unquestioning belief in such a ridiculous idea produces terrorism and oppression. • Faith in God can only be cured by promoting and defending reason—by force if necessary. • Reason is refusing to believe anything not supported by science. • Science is a very simple matter of framing hypotheses and testing them through observation, always preferring the simplest explanation. • Anyone who does not denounce faith in God is a traitor to reason—this includes religiously tolerant scientists and religious moderates or liberals. • Moderates’ and liberals’ views on God and faith are dishonest and dangerous, when not irrelevant. • Parents have no right to bring children up in their faith tradition.
Some Quick Observations: • These are all interlocking ideas—their views of God and faith are the result of their views of reason and science, and vice versa. • Faith, God, reason and science are all described in ways that make extremism and conflict inevitable, so that nobody can win unless somebody else loses. • A common ground is ruled out from the outset, so if you try to offer one you will be labeled a traitor to reason, a dishonest parasite, or an irrelevant academic. • Ironically, these interlocking ideas make critical discussion of them all but impossible—the very accusation they make against people of faith.