Thursday, June 24, 2010

The New Atheists

I find it interesting that when people discuss the “New Atheists,” they seem to be of the opinion that this is some sort of new phenomenon. Usually the term is applied to Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and others that have similar views. Some have even maintained that this is just a passing fad that will lose steam (example: David Bentley Hart.) Every time I heard such discussions, I have always wondered “but what about Bertrand Russell?” At that point I had only read one of his essays, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, otherwise known as college.

During my last trip to Powell’s, I found a compilation of essays by Russell, including “Why I am Not a Christian.” I will have a fuller review later, but I did want to say that the ideas expressed in his essays are very similar to the “New Atheists.” Religion hasn’t changed much in the past hundred years and many of those arguments are still valid today. Most of those articles could have just as easily been written by a Dawkins and I think the main difference between them is not tone or anything that they are actually saying. There are minor differences because Russell was a man of his time and didn’t have access to the latest scientific advancements and some of his predictions on societal directions have been proven inaccurate. However publishers are more willing to distribute such books and it is very easy to find numerous copies of Dawkin’s, Harris’s, or Dennett’s latest works and they have reached a wider audience.

So the New Atheists are not new by my definition and I don’t see them going away anytime soon. In fact every indication is that they are a growing movement.

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