New Atheism

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The term New Atheism which first appeared in the November 2006 edition of Wired magazine, is frequently applied to a series of six best-selling books by five authors that appeared in the period between 2004–2008. These authors include Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger and Christopher Hitchens.[1] The four most prominent writers of the New Atheist movement are Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett and they have commonly been called "the four horsemen" of New Atheism. PZ Myers dubbed himself the fifth horseman of the New Atheism movement, but the term never caught on and he was mocked by some fellow atheists such as Michael Nugent.[2][3][4]

An irony of the New Atheist movement is that New Atheism is a militant form of atheism and Richard Dawkins has flip-flopped concerning whether he is an atheist or an agnostic (see: Richard Dawkins and agnosticism).

Dissent Magazine declared concerning the New Atheism:

A number of prominent authors and scientists have published books in the past year that advocate a "New Atheism." The books, which include Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell, Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion, and Christopher Hitchens's God is Not Great, have sparked considerable public controversy across the political spectrum.[5]
Dr. Albert Mohler Jr.

Dr. Alfred Mohler Jr. describes some of the key attributes of the "New Atheism":

Now, WIRED magazine comes out with a cover story on atheism for its November 2006 issue. In "The New Atheism," WIRED contributing editor Gary Wolf explains that this newly assertive form of atheism declares a very simple message: "No heaven. No hell. Just science."...

Wolf accomplishes a great deal in his article, thoughtfully introducing the work of militant atheists such as Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett. At the same time, he probes more deeply into the actual meaning of the New Atheism as a movement and a message.

At the beginning of his article, he gets right to the point: "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."[6]


New Atheism seen as a narrow and dogmatic religion

See also: Atheism is a religion and Atheism and arrogance and Militant atheism and Atheism and anger

Using special text analysis software, the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt found that New Atheists very often wrote in dogmatic terms in their major works using words such as “always,” “never,” “certainly,” “every,” and “undeniable.”[7] Of the 75,000 words in Sam Harris's The End of Faith, 2.24% of them connote or are associated with certainty.[8]

In a 2014 New Republic article entitled The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins: His atheism is its own kind of narrow religion, the atheist philosopher John Gray wrote:

One might wager a decent sum of money that it has never occurred to Dawkins that to many people he appears as a comic figure. His default mode is one of rational indignation—a stance of withering patrician disdain for the untutored mind of a kind one might expect in a schoolmaster in a minor public school sometime in the 1930s. He seems to have no suspicion that any of those he despises could find his stilted pose of indignant rationality merely laughable. “I am not a good observer,” he writes modestly. He is referring to his observations of animals and plants, but his weakness applies more obviously in the case of humans. Transfixed in wonderment at the workings of his own mind, Dawkins misses much that is of importance in human beings—himself and others.[9]

For more information, please see:

Impact of the New Atheism

The "New Atheism" has not had much of an impact in terms of gaining new adherents to atheism. In a March 10, 2008 USA Today article Stephen Prothero stated the following regarding the impact of the "New Atheism":

Numbers lie, but they also tell tales untrustworthy and otherwise. So the key question stirring around the much discussed U.S Religious Landscape Survey released in late February by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life is what tale does it state about the state of the union.

For some, the story of this survey, based on interviews in multiple languages with more than 35,000 adults, is the strength of American Religion.

Not too long ago, I wrote that American atheism was going the way of the freak show. As books by Christopher Hitchens and other "new atheists" climbed the best seller lists, I caught a lot of flak for that prophecy. But atheist make up only 1.6% of respondents to this survey....[10]

A prime reason for the ineffectiveness of the "new atheism" is the shallowness of its material. For example, even atheist philosopher Michael Ruse stated that that Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion made him "embarrassed to be an atheist".[11]

The "New Atheism" largely has a unfavorable view outside the United States as well. The liberal leaning British publication The Guardian stated the following regarding the "New Atheism":

Anti-faith proselytising is a growth industry. But its increasingly hysterical flag-bearers are heading for a spectacular failure...

These increasingly hysterical books may boost the pension, they may be morale boosters for a particular kind of American atheism that feels victimized - the latest candidate in a flourishing American tradition - but one suspects that they are going to do very little to challenge the appeal of a phenomenon they loathe too much to understand.[12]

New atheism movement and contention between atheist men and women

See: New atheism movement and contention between atheist men and women

Cultish characteristics

See also: Atheist cults and Richard Dawkins' cult of personality

The New Atheism movement, which has waned in recent years, was called a cult by the agnostic, journalist Bryan Appleyard in a 2012 article in the New Statesman in which he describes the abusive behavior of New Atheists.[13] Although the New Atheism movement does not perfectly fit the various characteristics of a cult, it does fit some of the characteristics.[14]

Gender and racial demographic data concerning the New Atheist movement

Survey data and website tracking data of prominent atheists' websites indicate that in the Western World, the New Atheism movement appears to be significantly less appealing to women and racial minorities.[15][16][17][18]

New Atheism leaders and problems with being overweight

Medical research indicates that excess weight impairs brain function.[19]

see also: New Atheism leadership's problem with excess weight

As noted earlier, the main authors of the New Atheism movement include Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger and Christopher Hitchens.[20] The New Atheism movement claims to be pro-science, yet 3 out of 5 of these men have have had issues with being overweight as can be seen HERE and HERE and HERE. PZ Myers is also a leader within the New Atheism movement and PZ Myers has had issues with being overweight.

The ex-atheist Richard Dawkins has publicly indicated that he is an agnostic (see: Richard Dawkins and agnosticism). Since Dawkins is an an agnostic and not an atheist, this would mean that 3 out of 4 of the atheist founders of the New Atheism movement had excess weight issues. At a 75% of individuals overweight population, this would make the atheist founders of the New Atheist movement one of the most overweight populations in world history in terms of the percentage of people overweight.[21][22]

Hippocrates, who was also against abortion, was an early advocate of the health benefits of exercise and nutrition.[6]

On the other hand, PZ Myers and a significant amount of other New Atheism leaders, seem to lack a full appreciation of the worthiness of nutritional science, exercise science and the latest findings of medical science. (see: also Atheism and obesity). As of May 2011, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have not publicly commented on the significant problems the New Atheism leadership has experienced in terms of overweight members.

New Atheism movement and contention between atheist men and women

See also: Abrasiveness of Richard Dawkins and Atheism and arrogance

Within the militant New Atheism movement, there appears to be a significant amount of contention between men and women with complaints from women that there is a significant amount of misogny within the atheist community and its leadership is too heavily populated with men.[23][24] This may partly explain why Western atheism is less appealing to Western women (see: Atheism appears to be significantly less appealing to women). In addition, the significant amount of contention between men and women may apply to Western atheism as a whole. As noted earlier, Wired magazine made the observation that atheists tend to be quarrelsome, socially challenged men.

See also

External Links



  2. Chronology of misrepresentations and smears in the atheist movement by PZ Myers and others by Michael Nugent on November 4, 2014
  3. Comes a Horseman by PZ Myers • 13 October 2009
  4. PZ Myers, Animal Lover, Atheism Neat by Matt Cavanaugh
  7. Why Sam Harris is Unlikely to Change his Mind by JONATHAN HAIDT, February 3, 2014 8:36 pm
  8. Why Sam Harris is Unlikely to Change his Mind by JONATHAN HAIDT, February 3, 2014 8:36 pm
  9. The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins, New Republic by John Gray
  10. American Faith: A Work In Progress by Stephen Prothero, USA Today, March 10, 2008, page 11A
  13. The God wars by Bryan Appleyard, New Statesman
  14. How cultish is the New Atheism?
  20. Fattest Countries in the World
  21. The History Of Obesity Timeline
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