‘Classical Atheism’ vs ‘New Atheism’ – Dispelling the Myth of ‘New Atheism’

‘Classical Atheism’ vs ‘New Atheism’ – Dispelling the Myth of ‘New Atheism’

Introduction

This essay will attempt to compare and contrast ‘Classical Atheism’ with ‘New Atheism’. [1] The greatest challenge posed by such a comparative examination lies in the definitions and possible non-existence of any intrinsic, coherent, and definable qualities of the two phenomena which this essay seeks to compare.  What is, if anything, ‘Classical Atheism’? What is, if anything, ‘New Atheism’? If both ‘Classical Atheism’ and ‘New Atheism’ do in fact exist beyond vague and informal discursive processes – meaning, they contain intrinsic and definable qualities – in what regard, if any, do they differ? These three questions form the foundation of this essay’s approach to comparing two phenomena that, this essay will argue, probably do not exist beyond informal discursive processes. [2]

‘Classical Atheism’

In his paper The New Atheism Debate, Brown makes passing mention of ‘classical atheists,’ stating:

‘Classical theists and atheists would find the present debate very strange; they dealt in philosophical inferences whereas the argument now is about ‘probabilities’. [3]

But who are these ‘Classical Atheists’?  Brown only says that they dealt (past tense) in philosophical inferences rather than probabilities, but that doesn’t help to locate this species of atheist, because numerous ‘old’ atheists dealt in probabilities. [4]

Brown’s problematic statement does, however, indicate that he believes that ‘Classical Atheism’ was steeped in philosophy rather than, or in conjunction with, science; whereas ‘New Atheism’ is, according to Brown, perhaps, more firmly grounded in science.

Pigliucci not only reaffirms Brown’s dichotomy between ‘Classical Atheism’ and ‘New Atheism,’ arguing that the former is rooted in philosophy and the latter in science (‘scientism’), [5] but he also provides the most comprehensive definition of this alleged species of atheist.

Pigliucci loosely defines (with heavy qualifications) ‘Classical Atheism’ as having arisen in the fifth century BCE, ebbing in the Middle Ages, re-emerging in the Renaissance and continuing to the present with the non-fatal interruption of ‘New Atheism’ in the first decade of the twenty-first century. [6]

So then, the best definition of ‘Classical Atheism’, a term that appears to have arisen in reaction to ‘New Atheism’, describes a predominantly philosophical brand of atheism that first arose in the fifth century BCE and continues to the present, despite the advent in the first decade of the twenty-first century of a scientific brand of atheism referred to as ‘New Atheism’.

‘New Atheism’

Although the lumping of three individual atheist authors (Dawkins, Dennett and Harris), identified as the initial core of ‘New Atheism’, (Hitchens and others later being added to this foundation) dates back to August, 2006, [7] the pejorative term ‘New Atheist’ was first born from the pen of atheist author and internet journalist Gary Wolf, in his Wired article The Church of the Non-Believers. [8]    Wolf’s article has succeeded in setting the (negative) tone of the discussion surrounding what is now popularly called ‘New Atheism’.  ‘New Atheism’, according to Wolf, is an ‘aggressive’, ‘evangelizing’ atheist movement that conflates moderate forms of religion with fundamentalist forms, and is, in essence, a quasi-religious movement. [9] For these reasons, Wolf has refused the ‘call to arms’ in what he calls a ‘prophetic attack on prophecy’ and an ‘extremism in opposition to extremism’, [10] thereby placing Wolf in the discursive category called ‘Classical Atheism’.  But what are the key features that distinguish ‘New Atheism’ from ‘Classical Atheism’? Before answering this question it is worth noting the academic opinion of Zenk, who argues that the term ‘New Atheism’ is fraught with a number of conceptual weaknesses. Zenk argues that ‘New Atheism’ ‘should not be used as an analytical category in an academic context’. [11]

Not only will an attempt to define ‘New Atheism’ illuminate the discourse surrounding this chupacabra, but it will also help to define what is meant by the term ‘Classical Atheism’, because, ironically, ‘Classical Atheism’, as a discursive category, is newer than, and dependent upon, ‘New Atheism’. Put simply, a definition of ‘New Atheism’ will inform us about all the things that ‘Classical Atheism’ is not.

Five Common Features Discursively Ascribed to ‘New Atheism’

  1. Newness

The predominant discourse surrounding ‘New Atheism’ retrospectively dates its initial advent to around 2004, with the publication of Sam Harris’ book ‘The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason’. [12] This discourse also alleges that the inspiration for the birth of ‘New Atheism’ can be located in the events of 9/11, due to Harris’ stated intention for writing his book. [13] Hence, the ‘new’ in ‘New Atheism’ establishes a strict chronology, upon which the rest of its elements may be argued to rest. Subsequently, if these other elements can be found prior to the first decade of the twenty-first century, then, ‘New Atheism’ wouldn’t be new at all and the term would be rendered meaningless, at least for the purposes of academic analysis (See Appendix A).

  1. Aggressive Criticism of Religion

One of the extrinsic characteristics of ‘New Atheism’ is said to be its open and unapologetic criticism of religious beliefs. [14] This characteristic was expressed by Hooper, who, in his CNN report wrote:

‘What the New Atheists share is a belief that religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises…Their tone is overtly confrontational rather than gently persuasive.’ [15]

This characteristic, however, can be found in abundance in the works of numerous atheist and deist authors prior to the first decade of the twenty-first century.

  1. Promotion of ‘Scientism’, Reason & Rationalism

Discussing ‘New Atheists’, Kettell says:

‘…they [‘New Atheists’] endorse a strong commitment to a naturalist worldview, and to the virtues of reason, rationality and science as the best means of understanding reality.’[16]

The proactive promotion of science, reason and rationalism was a hallmark of the Enlightenment, and it can be found in the works of numerous authors prior to the alleged advent of ‘New Atheism’. Perhaps if Carl Sagan’s ‘Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark’ had have been published in the first decade of the twenty-first century, Sagan too might have been labelled an apostle of ‘scientism’, or worse, a ‘New Atheist’.

  1. Popular Foundation – The Four Horsemen

Unlike ‘Classical Atheism’, ‘New Atheism’ is believed to be a ‘popular’ movement, [17] the foundation for which is said to lie in the bestselling works of four authors; neuroscientist Sam Harris, ethnologist and biologist Richard Dawkins, journalist Christopher Hitchens and philosopher Daniel Dennett. [18] These authors each employ very different approaches to religious criticism, so different that they cannot be taken to encompass a single, definable movement or category of atheism. [19] On this issue, Zenk remarks:

‘Why are these (very) different authors and books subsumed under the one, unity-implying label ‘New Atheism’? In my answer to this question, I want to point to an external factor instead of seeking an intrinsic quality of ‘New Atheism’: the comprehensive media coverage. The phenomenon referred to as ‘New Atheism’ is the result of a discursive process in which several authors eventually were labelled ‘New Atheists’’. [20]

  1. Religious Moderates as Part of the Problem

In ‘The God Delusion’, Dawkins expresses what he perceives to be the problem of moderate religion – namely, that it ‘helps to provide the climate of faith in which extremism naturally flourishes.’ [21] Dawkins cites Harris’ work in this regard, [22] the central premise of which, is that religious moderates propagate a dangerous dogma which makes it a requirement to respect the unsubstantiated beliefs of others, whether harmful or not, much to the detriment of the core doctrines of their own (Abrahamic) religions, which are ardently and violently exclusivist in nature. [23] Thus, Harris’ central point is a salient one, which might be phrased as follows: Extremists and fundamentalists practice the fundamentals of their religions extremely well.  Harris’ point is informed by his area of expertise – neuroscience – and his point hinges on the notion that absurd beliefs potentially and frequently lead to absurd behaviours, so the problem is religious faith, or more precisely, a faith-based approach to living, because such an approach circumvents, in many regards, a more rational appraisal of one’s beliefs and subsequently one’s behaviours. Yet again, this extrinsic characteristic of ‘New Atheism’ can be found in the works of deist and atheist authors who lived prior to twenty-first century. [24]

Secularism & the Internet

   Those who argue that the predominantly new feature of ‘New Atheism’ is its noisy ‘evangelism’, often seem to fail to take into account two factors, secularism and the internet. Secularism successfully prevents laws like ‘The Blasphemy Act (1648)’, [25] for example, which made the vocalising of one’s atheism a crime punishable by death, thereby quelling the opinions of atheists.  In addition to the safe harbour for free speech afforded by secularism, the internet has acted not only as a disinhibiter, [26] amplifying the volume of everyone’s worldviews, but also as vehicle for the instant and mass-dissemination of those worldviews. 

 

Conclusion

   From the evidence provided in this essay, it appears that ‘New Atheism’, along with its antithetical counterpart ‘Classical Atheism’, exists only in general discourse. Subsequently, these two categories contain limited analytical value.  The primary conceptual weakness with ‘New Atheism’ as an analytical category, lies in the pre-existence of the characteristics commonly ascribed to it – qualities which can all be found in the works of both atheists and deists prior to the twenty-first century.  So, what’s new about ‘New Atheism’? Very little.

The extrinsic qualities of ‘New Atheism’ are its grounding in science, reason, rationalism, as well as its unapologetic stance against the plethora of problems associated with living in a predominantly religious world. ‘Classical Atheism’, on the other hand, is seen as a ‘polite’, philosophical brand of atheism that perhaps knows its place, a place prescribed for it in the pre-secular world.

Finally, when the free speech afforded by secularism is taken into account, as well as the disinhibiting effect of the internet, the ‘evangelism’ ascribed to ‘New Atheism’ appears to be little more than the result of living in a digital age in which all opinions have become amplified.

 

 Appendix A – ‘New Atheism’ Prior to ‘New Atheism’

NOTE: This appendix provides examples of the two main characteristics discursively ascribed to ‘New Atheism’, namely, the promotion of science, reason and rationalism, and the aggressive criticism of religion, often dubbed a ‘war on faith/religion’.  The purpose of this appendix isn’t to supply a complete, nor even comprehensive, list of examples, for such a list would be far too exhaustive for the purpose at hand – that purpose being, to show that these two characteristics aren’t new at all.  The works of deist authors who were labelled as atheists have also been included to highlight the pre-existence of the two main characteristics in and of themselves. Finally, it will be observed that these two main characteristics often overlap.

  1. Promotion of Science, Reason & Rationalism

 

Author: Paul Henry Thiry (Baron D’Holbach)

Source: ‘Le Bon Sens’ (‘Good Sense’)

Date: 1772

Excerpt:

  • ‘If ignorance is useful to priests, and to the oppressors of mankind, it is fatal to society. Man, void of knowledge, does not enjoy reason; without reason and knowledge, he is a savage, liable to commit crimes. Morality, or the science of duties, is acquired only by the study of Man, and of what is relative to Man.  He, who does not reflect, is unacquainted with true Morality, and walks with precarious steps, in the path of virtue. The less men reason, the more wicked they are.  Savages, princes, nobles, and the dregs of the people, are commonly the worst of men, because they reason the least.  The devout man seldom reflects, and rarely reasons.  He fears all enquiry, scrupulously follows authority, and often, through an error of conscience, makes it a sacred duty to commit evil.  The Atheist reasons: he consults experience, which he prefers to prejudice.  If he reasons justly, his conscience is enlightened; he finds more real motives to do good than the bigot whose only motives are his fallacies, and who never listens to reason.’ [27]

 

Author: Robert G. Ingersoll

Source: ‘The Gods and Other Lectures’

Date: 1878

Excerpt:

  • ‘For ages, a deadly conflict has been waged between a few brave men and women of thought and genius upon the one side, and the great ignorant religious mass on the other. This is the war between Science and Faith. The few have appealed to reason, to honor, to law, to freedom to the known, and to happiness here in this world. The many have appealed to prejudice, to fear, to miracle, to slavery, to the unknown, and to misery hereafter. The few have said, “Think!” The many have said, “Believe!”’ [28]

Author: Robert G. Ingersoll

 

Source: ‘The Great Infidels’

 

Date: 1881

Excerpt:

  • ‘England:—Let us compare her priests with John Stuart Mill,—Harriet Martineau, that “free rover on the breezy common of the universe.” —George Eliot—with Huxley and Tyndall, with HOLYOAKE and Harrison—and above and over all—with Charles Darwin.’ [29]

 

Author: Robert G. Ingersoll

Source: ‘The Ghosts’

Date: 1877

Excerpt:

  • ‘Fear paralyzes the brain. Progress is born of courage. Fear believes—courage doubts. Fear falls upon the earth and prays—courage stands erect and thinks. Fear retreats—courage advances. Fear is barbarism—courage is civilization. Fear believes in witchcraft, in devils and in ghosts. Fear is religion—courage is science.’ [30]

 

Author: Arthur C. Clarke

Source: ‘Childhood’s End’

Date: 1953

Excerpt:

  • ‘Science can destroy religion by ignoring it as well as by disproving its tenets. No one ever demonstrated, so far as I am aware, the nonexistence of Zeus or Thor, but they have few followers now.’ [31]

 

Author: Goparaju Ramachandra Rao (Gora)

Source: Positive Atheism’

Date: 1972

Excerpt:

  • ‘The recognition of the freedom of the individual and the establishment of his mastership renders the scientific method useful to the atheists for the understanding of reality. The method is gaining esteem in the civilized age. The progress of technology is due to the use of the scientific method. The studies of humanities also are taking the name of science and adopting the method with necessary modifications. Though tradition mixes up some superstition with scientific knowledge, the rise of atheism clears the dross.’ [32]

 

Author: Richard Dawkins

Source: ‘The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design’

Date: 1986

Excerpt:

  • ‘There have been times in the history of science when the whole of orthodox science has been rightly thrown over because of a single awkward fact. It would be arrogant to assert that such overthrows will never happen again. But we naturally, and rightly, demand a higher standard of authentication before accepting a fact that would turn a major and successful scientific edifice upside down, than before accepting a fact which, even if surprising, is readily accommodated by existing science. For a plesiosaur in Loch Ness, I would accept the evidence of my own eyes. If I saw a man levitating himself, before rejecting the whole of physics I would suspect that I was the victim of a hallucination or a conjuring trick. There is a continuum, from theories that probably are not true but easily could be, to theories that could only be true at the cost of overthrowing large edifices of successful orthodox science.’ [33]

 

Author: Carl Sagan

Source: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark’

Date: 1996

Quote:

  • ‘Science is far from a perfect instrument of knowledge. It’s just the best we have.’ [34]

 

  1. Aggressive Criticism of Religion (‘War on Religion’)

 

Author: Lucretius

Source: ‘On the Nature of Things: Book I’

Date: 50 BCE (approx.)

Excerpt:

  • ‘But sinless woman, sinfully foredone,

A parent felled her on her bridal day,

Making his child a sacrificial beast

To give the ships auspicious winds for Troy:

Such are the crimes to which Religion leads.’ [35]

Author: Voltaire

Source: Letter to Fredrick II of Prussia

Date: 1740

Excerpt:

  • ‘But that a camel-merchant [The Prophet Muhammad] should stir up insurrection in his village; that in league with some miserable followers he persuades them that he talks with the angel Gabriel; that he boasts of having been carried to heaven, where he received in part this unintelligible book, each page of which makes common sense shudder; that, to pay homage to this book, he delivers his country to iron and flame; that he cuts the throats of fathers and kidnaps daughters; that he gives to the defeated the choice of his religion or death: this is assuredly nothing any man can excuse, at least if he was not born a Turk, or if superstition has not extinguished all natural light in him.’ [36]

 

Author: Thomas Paine

Source: ‘The Age of Reason’

Date: 1794-1796

Excerpt:

  • ‘Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.’ [37]

Author: Robert G. Ingersoll

Source: The Gods and Other Lectures’

Date: 1878

Excerpt:

  • ‘Science, freed from the chains of pious custom and evangelical prejudice, will, within her sphere, be supreme. The mind will investigate without reverence, and publish its conclusions without fear. Agassiz will no longer hesitate to declare the Mosaic cosmogony utterly inconsistent with the demonstrated truths of geology, and will cease pretending any reverence for the Jewish scriptures. The moment science succeeds in rendering the church powerless for evil, the real thinkers will be outspoken. The little flags of truce carried by timid philosophers will disappear, and the cowardly parley will give place to victory — lasting and universal.’ [38]

 

Author: Friedrich Nietzsche

Source: ‘Anti-Christ’

Date: 1918

Excerpt:

·         ‘Such a religion as Christianity, which does not touch reality at a single point and which goes to pieces the moment reality asserts its rights at any point, must be inevitably the deadly enemy of the “wisdom of this world,” which is to say, of _science_–and it will give the name of good to whatever means serve to poison, calumniate and _cry down_ all intellectual discipline, all lucidity and strictness in matters of intellectual conscience, and all noble coolness and freedom of the mind.’[39]

 

 

 

 

End Notes:

  1. Despite the numerous definitions of ‘atheism’ that exist, for the purpose of this essay, ‘atheism’ is defined as ‘an absence of belief in a God or gods’: Stephen Bullivant, ‘Defining ‘Atheism’, Stephen Bullivant & Michael Ruse (ed.), ‘The Oxford Handbook of Atheism’, Oxford, 2013, p. 13.
  2. Thomas Zenk, ‘New Atheism’, in: Ibid, p. 250.
  3. Neil Brown, ‘The New Atheism Debate’, The Australasian Catholic Record, 90 (2):147, 2013, 153.
  4. See: Baron D’Holbach, the eighteenth century philosopher whose book, ‘Good Sense’ employed numerous probability arguments, as well as Shelley’s nineteenth century pamphlet, ‘The Necessity of Atheism’, in which a probability argument was used to refute eyewitness testimonies in relation to miracles. It is also interesting to note that Shelley was one of the first atheists, at least as far as records reveal, to propose that the question of god’s existence be treated as a scientific hypothesis: Paul Henry Thiry, Baron D’Holbach, ‘Good Sense’, (Trans. Anon), Gutenberg (ed.), London, 1900, pp. 108, 117, 126 & 135; Percy Bysshe Shelley, ‘Selected Prose Works of Shelley’, London, 1915, p. 4; Ibid, p. 5.
  5. Massimo Pigliucci, ‘New Atheism and the Scientistic Turn in the Atheist Movement’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, XXXVII, 2013, pp. 143-146.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Thomas Zenk, ‘New Atheism’ Stephen Bullivant & Michael Ruse (ed.), ‘The Oxford Handbook of Atheism’, Oxford, 2013, p. 251.
  8. Gary Wolf, ‘The Church of the Nonbelievers’, Wired Magazine, Nov., 2006, cited at: http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/14.11/atheism.html, accessed 15 Aug., 2015.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Thomas Zenk, ‘New Atheism’ Stephen Bullivant & Michael Ruse (ed.), ‘The Oxford Handbook of Atheism’, Oxford, 2013, pp. 257 & 245.
  12. Steven Kettell, ‘Faithless: The Politics of New Atheism’, Secularism and Nonreligion, 2, 61-78, 2013, 72; Massimo Pigliucci, ‘New Atheism and the Scientistic Turn in the Atheist Movement’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, XXXVII, 2013, p. 142.
  13. Thomas Zenk, ‘New Atheism’ Stephen Bullivant & Michael Ruse (ed.), ‘The Oxford Handbook of Atheism’, Oxford, 2013, p. 246; Sam Harris, ‘The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason’, New York, 2004, p. 333; Victor J. Stenger, ‘The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason’, New York, 2009, Preface, II.
  14. Gary Wolf, ‘The Church of the Nonbelievers’, Wired Magazine, Nov., 2006, cited at: http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/14.11/atheism.html, accessed 15 Aug., 2015; Thomas Zenk, ‘New Atheism’ Stephen Bullivant & Michael Ruse (ed.), ‘The Oxford Handbook of Atheism’, Oxford, 2013, pp. 253-254.
  15. Simon Hooper, ‘The Rise of the New Atheists’, CNN International, cited at: http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/11/08/atheism.feature/index.html?iref=allsearch, accessed 13 Aug. 2015.
  16. Steven Kettell, ‘Faithless: The Politics of New Atheism’, Secularism and Nonreligion, 2, 61-78, 2013, p. 63.
  17. Massimo Pigliucci, ‘New Atheism and the Scientistic Turn in the Atheist Movement’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, XXXVII, 2013, p. 144.
  18. Thomas Zenk, ‘New Atheism’ Stephen Bullivant & Michael Ruse (ed.), ‘The Oxford Handbook of Atheism’, Oxford, 2013, p. 245.
  19. p. 250.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Richard Dawkins, ‘The God Delusion’, London, 2006, p. 303.
  22. pp. 303-304.
  23. Sam Harris, ‘The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason’, New York, 2004, pp. 14-15.
  24. Both Baron D’Holbach and Robert G. Ingersoll, for example, saw religious faith itself as the See: Robert G. Ingersoll, ‘The Gods and Other Lectures’, Washington, D.C., 1878 & Paul Henry Thiry, Baron D’Holbach, ‘Good Sense’, (Trans. Anon), Gutenberg (ed.), London, 1900.
  25. ‘May 1648: An Ordinance for the punishing of Blasphemies and Heresies, with the several penalties therein expressed,’ cited at: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/acts-ordinances-interregnum/pp1133-1136, accessed 20 Aug. 2015.
  26. John Suler, Ph.D, ‘The Online Disinhibition Effect’, CyberPsychology & Behavior, Vol. 7, Nov. 3, 2004.
  27. Paul Henry Thiry, Baron D’Holbach, ‘Good Sense’, (Trans. Anon), Gutenberg (ed.), London, 1900, pp. 180-181.
  28. Robert G. Ingersoll, ‘The Gods and Other Lectures’, Washington, D.C., 1878, p. 80.
  29. Robert G. Ingersoll, ‘The Great Infidels’, New York, 1921, p. 393.
  30. Robert G. Ingersoll, ‘The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, Vol. 1’, New York, 1909, p. 273.
  31. Arthur C. Clarke, ‘Childhood’s End’, New York, 1953, p. 25.
  32. Gora, ‘Positive Atheism’, Patamata, India, 1972, p. 14.
  33. Richard Dawkins, ‘The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals A Universe Without Design’, New York, 1986, p. 293.
  34. Carl Sagan, ‘The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark’, New York, 1996. p. 32.
  35. Lucretius, ‘On the Nature of Things: Book I’, (Trans. William Ellery Leonard), 50 BCE, cited at: http://classics.mit.edu/Carus/nature_things.1.i.html, accessed 21 Aug. 2015.
  36. Voltaire, Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, Vol. 7 (1869), Georges Avenel (ed.), p. 105, cited at: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Voltaire, accessed 21 Aug. 2015.
  37. Thomas Paine, ‘The Age of Reason’, New York, 2005, pp. 29-30.
  38. Robert G. Ingersoll, ‘The Gods and Other Lectures’, Washington, D.C., 1878, p. 58.
  39. Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘The Anti-Christ’, (Trans. H.L. Mencken), New York, 1918, p. 47, cited at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/19322/19322.txt, accessed 20 Aug. 2015.

 

 

Bibliography

Bullivant, Stephen, ‘Defining Atheism’, Bullivant, Stephen & Ruse, Michael (ed.), ‘The Oxford Handbook of Atheism’, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013.

Brown, Neil, ‘The New Atheism Debate’, The Australasian Catholic Record, 90 (2):147, 2013.

Blasphemy Act (1648), ‘May 1648: An Ordinance for the punishing of Blasphemies and Heresies, with the several penalties therein expressed,’ cited at: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/acts-ordinances-interregnum/pp1133-1136, accessed 20 Aug. 2015.

Clarke, Arthur C., ‘Childhood’s End’, New York, Ballantine Books, 1953.

Dawkins, Richard, ‘The God Delusion’, London, Bantam Press, 2006.

Dawkins, Richard, ‘The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals A Universe Without Design’, New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 1986.

Gora, ‘Positive Atheism’, Patamata, India, Atheist Centre, 1972.

Harris, Sam, ‘The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason’, New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 2004.

Hooper, Simon, ‘The Rise of the New Atheists’, CNN International, cited at: http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/11/08/atheism.feature/index.html?iref=allsearch, accessed 13 Aug. 2015.

Ingersoll, Robert G., ‘The Gods and Other Lectures’, Washington, D.C., C.P. Farrell Publisher, 1878.

Robert G. Ingersoll, Robert G., ‘The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, Vol. 1’, New York, The Dresden Publishing Co., 1909.

Ingersoll, Robert G., ‘The Great Infidels’, New York, C.P. Farrell Publisher, 1921.

Kettell, Steven, ‘Faithless: The Politics of New Atheism’, Secularism and Nonreligion, 2, 61-78, 2013.

Lucretius, ‘On the Nature of Things: Book I’, (Trans. William Ellery Leonard), 50 BCE, cited at: http://classics.mit.edu/Carus/nature_things.1.i.html, accessed 21 Aug. 2015.

Nietzsche, Friedrich, ‘The Anti-Christ’, (Trans. H.L. Mencken), New York, 1918, cited at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/19322/19322.txt, accessed 20 Aug. 2015.

Paine, Thomas, ‘The Age of Reason’, New York, Cosimo, Inc, 2005.

Pigliucci, Massimo, ‘New Atheism and the Scientistic Turn in the Atheist Movement’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, XXXVII, 2013.

Sagan, Carl, ‘The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark’, New York, Ballantine Books, 1996.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe, ‘Selected Prose Works of Shelley’, London, Watts & Co., 1915.

Stenger, Victor J., ‘The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason’, New York, Prometheus Books, 2009.

Suler, John, ‘The Online Disinhibition Effect’, CyberPsychology & Behavior, Vol. 7, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc, Nov. 3, 2004.

Thiry, Paul Henry, ‘Good Sense’, (Trans. Anon), Gutenberg (ed.), London, Gutenberg Press, 1900.

Voltaire, Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, Vol. 7 (1869), Georges Avenel (ed.), cited at: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Voltaire, accessed 21 Aug. 2015.

Wolf, Gary, ‘The Church of the Nonbelievers’, Wired Magazine, Nov., 2006, cited at: http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/14.11/atheism.html, accessed 15 Aug., 2015.

Zenk, Thomas, ‘New Atheism’, Bullivant, Stephen & Ruse, Michael (ed.), ‘The Oxford Handbook of Atheism’, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013.

11 thoughts on “‘Classical Atheism’ vs ‘New Atheism’ – Dispelling the Myth of ‘New Atheism’

  1. it is unfortunate that this needed to be written, but it is nevertheless one of the best pieces I have read concerning atheism in the past several months.

  2. Hooper – “What the New Atheists share is a belief that religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises…”

    When seeing New Atheism criticised this way I wonder what better option the writer thinks is available …

    Hooper – “Their tone is overtly confrontational rather than gently persuasive.’

    As if ‘gently persuasive’ works against the moderately religious, never mind fundamentalists and extremists.

  3. Not much lot the politics of the issue – or the fact that ‘atheists’ were ‘classically’ defiers of the state. Christians were called ‘atheists’ because they refused to sacrifice to the emperor – and of course there is a very noble tradition of atheists defying the state God of Christendom, right up to Betrand Russell. You can’t homogenise the ideology of New Atheists. of course, but the hypothesis that they worship the gods of state certainly needs investigating – is their relation to statehood the thing that makes them ‘New’? Discuss.

  4. So the detractors of “New Atheism” have issues with assertive refutation of belief based on science (read: reality), and the ‘harassment’ of moderates?

    Oh well. If reality infringes on delusion, and is uncomfortable, that’s just too damned bad. And if religious moderates are so bothered by the ‘conflict’ between new atheists and fundamentalists, perhaps they should step up and “be the voice of reason” for the fundies. (Sure, I’m dreaming, I know….) When moderates quietly stand by and ALLOW extremism on the side of their belief, they have no foundation to stand on.

  5. Nice one Michael,a very accurately observed way to point out the word “new” introduces a can of worms that only exists in the minds of dishonest charlatans who want to divert attention from their superstitious fucking nonsense.

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