Atheist Jeff Sparrow Criticizes New Atheism as Dogmatic Popularizes


Atheist Jeff Sparrow believes that atheism is need of some saving, particularly some saving from the New Atheists (1). Sparrow, an Australian writer, editor and former socialist activist, is just one of an ever increasing number of atheists calling into question the actions of their New Atheist brethren.

Sparrow believes that the anti-religious contempt wieled by the likes of “Dawkins and Harris [who] are still, by far and away, the most recognisable frontmen for the New Atheist show” has warped their abilities to maintain rationality. Sparrow asks,

“So how did a movement ostensibly full of progressives end up so identified with writers who sound less and less like incarnations of pure reason and more and more like your Islamophobic uncle after he chugs his sixth pint?”

Sparrow says that the,

“New Atheists were popularisers rather than innovators, using advances in biology and neuroscience to illustrate pretty well-worn arguments against religion.”

He believes that they have instead taken an “intellectual step backward,” which would run contrary to their claims of being the beacons of reason. Although Sparrow is an atheist himself, he, unlike the New Atheists, sees at least some value in religion,

“You don’t have to be a believer to see that religion genuinely offers something to its adherents (often when nothing else is available) and that what it provides is neither inconsequential nor silly.”

Sparrow is not the only atheist to see this. John Steinrucken agrees, writing that,

“Western civilization’s survival, including the survival of open secular thought, depends on the continuance within our society of the Judeo-Christian tradition” (2).

Steinrucken concedes that “Secularism has never offered the people a practical substitute for religion.” Sparrow also appears agitated by how atheism’s image is being impugned by the new Atheism in the public eye,

“the basis for the dickishness that so many people now associate from the New Atheism, a movement too often exemplified by privileged know-it-alls telling the poor that they’re idiots.”


1. Sparrow, J. 2015. We Can Save Atheism From The New Atheists. Available.

2. Steinrucken, J. 2010. Secularism’s Ongoing Debt to Christianity. Available.

9 responses to “Atheist Jeff Sparrow Criticizes New Atheism as Dogmatic Popularizes

  1. Refreshing to read some insights by another atheist. He is spot on with his assessment of this so-called “New Atheism Movement.” But in actuality, there is nothing new under the sun. Just packaged differently.

  2. It’s to be expected from people who specifically adopt a title in order to contrast against religion. That’s why I tend to agree that atheism can reasonably be considered a religion of its own.

    • They don’t believe in God. Which I take to be a central aspect of religion. That’s probably why Buddhism is more philosophy in my mind.
      I dont take atheism to be a religion but they are often just as much, if not more, dogmatic in their beliefs as are religious believers.

  3. Even if The God Delusion made a fellow atheist embarrassed to call himself one, the fact that he is embarrassed by a published book and not something like a terror attack shows the moral high ground even ‘new’ atheism can take pride in.
    That’s how I see it. New atheism is still nowhere near as immoral as the beliefs it fights against.

    • Firstly, the atheist must justify his moral judgements to have objective value (the last time I saw they couldn’t).

      Also, calling religious belief a virus of the mind (Peter Boghossian & Dennett), worse than rape (Sam Harris), or the deliberate public urge for atheists to mock religious people (Dawkins & Hitchens) I take to be immoral (at least my worldview can ground moral behaviour). Also, your blog name “religionerased” sounds immoral to me. Do you expect religious people to listen to you, and (if you were a leader of a great army) what would you do if they chose to ignore you or disobey you? That is a serious question: what would you do if you were in a position of absolute authority (with the intention of ridding the world of religion, as your own name implies) and Muslims & Christians chose to freely believe against your wishes?

      We also see the atheistic fundamentalism that the likes of Stalin once espoused in much of the New Atheist literature. New Atheism does more damage than good to atheism itself.

      • If I was in a position of absolute authority, I would not forcibly remove religion from society. My name is referring to religion being erased from my life but I understand why it would seem that way to you. I have considered changing the site name to RE and still am.
        I would certainty remove any laws which promote discrimination (decriminalise homosexuality, give women equal rights etc) and promote a more secular society, with a more scientific view without unnecessary pressure from religions. People would still be free to believe what they want, I wouldn’t want to change that. What I want to change is the anger criticising religion causes.

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