Is there any worthwhile criticism of New Atheism?

As an atheist myself, I’d like to find out a little about what people don’t like about “New Atheism”, and I was wondering if you all had any suggestions of where to look.

(This probably goes without saying, but I’m more interested in substantive criticism of New Atheist positions and tactics than knee-jerk “you hurt my feelings” type blather.)

Posted: April 28th 2011

Ophelia Benson www

There’s a recent essay by the philosopher Philip Kitcher that’s reasonable and substantive – and that expresses some doubts about the effects of new atheism without throwing a lot of dead fish and rotting apples at new atheists in general.

His basic thought is that for people who don’t have much cultural capital, religion can be a valuable source of various things, including a sense of having a meaningful life. I think that last point is pretty compelling.

Posted: May 7th 2011

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Reed Braden www

Some of the younger (my age) atheists in the movement are certainly worthy of criticism. The Rational Response Squad and Mike Lee (aka the Religious Antagonist, “The Johnny Knoxville of Atheism”) act like brats and, rather than participate in constructive debate, generate so much negative attention to an already much maligned minority.

But the larger public figures, the majority of the atheist/skeptic organizations, and the movement as a whole? Nope! We’re blameless! :-D

Posted: April 29th 2011

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SmartLX www

I don’t think there is, no.

What people don’t like about it, apart from the knee-jerk emotional responses you mention (and hypothetical emotional responses by believers which are often anticipated by accommodationist atheists), usually has to do with the fight over science education. For the most obvious example, a lot of people think that public statements of “New Atheists” in support of evolution (which, since Richard Dawkins is the world’s best known living biologist, atheist and “New Atheist”, are unavoidable) drive believers away from good science.

There’s no evidence of this. Many believers who accept evolution do so because of the scientific evidence presented by atheists like Dawkins and religious scientists like Ken Miller alike. When atheists nowadays say that faith is incompatible with science, these believers don’t abandon the science – they attack the atheists. Those other believers who reject the science to begin with cannot then be driven away from it.

Besides this issue, all the criticism of “New Atheists” is centred around the only thing the “New Atheists” essentially do as such: tell believers unambiguously that they’re wrong. If it’s true that believers are wrong, this is plainly a good thing to do.

Posted: April 29th 2011

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