New Atheism: A Quick Overview

As pioneered by the Four Horsemen, the New Atheist Movement “has a metaphysical component, an epistemological component, and an ethical component” (Taylor). The metaphysical component is the belief that there is no personal God. The epistemological component is the claim that belief in such a God is irrational. These first two components are nothing new. They are clearly laid out in George H. Smith’s, Atheism: The Case Against God, published in 1979, and considered one of the classics of atheist literature. It is the ethical one that sets New Atheists apart from their predecessors. The New Atheists claim that religion and morality are separate, and that morality can exist without religion. This implies that there is a secular basis for morality, a universal code of ethics that is not derived from any religion. Furthermore, the New Atheists condemn religion and conclude (to varying degrees) that religious belief is immoral – even evil. This is most palpable in the works of Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens.

Though Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, and Hitchens are the most well known proponents of New Atheism, many others have joined their cause. Here we must note the significance of not just what the New Atheists say, but how they say it. With the exception of Dennett, New Atheists tend to be combative and very vocal.

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