Quote of the Day: Is New Atheism Dead? By Sam Harris

sam harris

I’ve always been skeptical about the utility of identifying as an “atheist,” because it rarely seems helpful to heap the false assumptions that surround this term upon one’s own head. For this reason, I’ve never been eager to wear the label “new atheist” either.

However, there was something genuinely new about the “new atheism.” The publication of our four books in quick succession moved the conversation about faith and reason out of rented banquet halls filled with septuagenarians and brought it to a mainstream (and much younger) audience. The new atheists also made distinctions that prior atheists tended to ignore: For instance, not all religions teach the same thing, and some are especially culpable for specific forms of human misery. We also put religious moderates on notice in a new way: These otherwise secular people who imagine themselves to be on such good terms with reason are actually abetting the forces of theocracy—because they insist that everyone’s faith in revelation must be respected, whatever the cost.

The new atheism has not disappeared. It has merely diffused into a wider conversation about facts and values. In the end, the new atheism was nothing more than the acknowledgement that there is single magisterium: the ever-expanding space illuminated by intellectual honesty.

Sam Harris, Why Evolution is True, Sam Harris Weighs In on “Is New Atheism Dead?” February 15, 2019

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2 Comments

  1. GeoffT

    The concept of ‘new’ atheism is something I find myself engaging regularly on forums.

    Underlying it all is fear by religious believers who, threatened by the new levels of considered reasoning being thrown at them, conceived the term new atheist as something pejorative. It’s perhaps a term that has become more meaningful with the advent of the internet; to be honest, prior to being able to follow the arguments online, and see the vast arrays of opinions there were, I’d have been very hard put to analyse properly my own feelings on the subject.

    Sam Harris hits the nail on the head when he identifies moderate believers as a target of new atheists. Superstition is superstition regardless of how benign it may be at personal levels. It manifests itself in ways that range from facilitating religious extremists (from ISIS to Westboro Baptists) and in science denialism, such as climate change rejection and anti-vaccination foolishness.

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  2. Aram

    I think identifying religious belief as the addiction it is would be a huge step forward to moving past their insistence of ‘respect’. Sure, not all addictions are harmful to the same level, just as not all religious addiction harms to the same degree. However, even the less harmful religious addictions help to create the overlying tapestry for the entire spectrum of addicts to play inside. And therein lies the problem. The sooner we as a society stop giving religious addicts the ‘respect’ they demand and instead treat them with the pity we hold for other junkies, the sooner their repetitive empty addiction will be revealed for what it is. We can only hope.

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