The Four Horsemen of Atheism

10/4/19

The Four Horsemen of Atheism where: writer and polemicist Christopher Hitchens, biologist Richard Dawkins, philosopher Daniel Dennett and writer Sam Harris. All four wrote best-selling books on atheism in the mid '00s and set the tone for the 'New Atheism' movement in the post-9/11 period. Harris published 'The End of Faith' in 2004 which was motivated by the events of 9/11 and was critical of religious dogma as a whole but specifically the tenets of Islam, believing them to be a present danger to world peace.

Dennett released 'Breaking the Spell, Religion as a Natural Phenomenon' in 2006. His was a more scholarly book which set out the need to use science to study why people believe ideas which are plainly not based in reality. Dawkins then released the biggest seller of the four in 2006; The God Delusion which sets out to explain that we do not need religion to be moral and that the roots of religion and of morality can be explained in non-religious terms. Finally Hitchens, who had written many books on religious topics, released his critique on religion in 2007 entitled 'God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything' in his usual hard-hitting style.

There was pushback from prominent believers as well as secular philosophers and writers who dismissed the New Atheist movement as mirroring the fundamentalism of the Christian and Islamic right. They were dismissed as 'militant atheists' who were aggressively mocking millions of believers. There is no doubt that they have had a big influence in the skeptic/atheist/secular community, especially in the USA, by bringing critical thinking to to a wider audience. But they also set an abrasive tone on the discourse that we are still wrestling with today - hence our motto: Respect People / Challenge Ideas.

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