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 hate espoused 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 informs us that the “New Atheists were popularisers rather than innovators, using advances in biology and neuroscience to illustrate pretty well-worn arguments against religion.” Similarly Christian philosopher of science John Lennox argues that “What is more, at the intellectual level, their arguments were never really unique” (3). Sparrow believes that they have instead taken an “intellectual step backward,” which would run contrary to their claims of being the pinnacle of reason.
And although Sparrow is a non-believer he, unlike the New Atheists, sees at least some value in religion, he writes: “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.” Atheist writer John Steinrucken would agree, 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” (4). He then concedes that “Secularism has never offered the people a practical substitute for religion.”
Furthermore, Sparrow appears agitated by how New Atheism is now increasingly being viewed by the public. He believes that the New Atheists antagonistic streak is “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. Ruse, M. 2009. The Question: Is There An Atheism Schism? Available.
3. Lennox, J. 2011. Gunning for God. p. 16.
4. Steinrucken, J. 2010. Secularism’s Ongoing Debt to Christianity. Available.