Sam’s been busy, as I thought, but he did take the time to answer the question that I asked this morning: “Is New Atheism dead?” His answer is below, and so we have three of the four living Horsepersons all answering “no”—along with Steve Pinker.
Here’s Sam’s take, which I’ll also add to this morning’s post so they will all be in once place. I’m putting this up separately because, without a separate email announcing it, nobody will see it as an addendum.
I’ve always been skeptical about the utility of identifying as an “atheist,” because it rarely seems helpful to heap the false assumptions that surround this term upon one’s own head. For this reason, I’ve never been eager to wear the label “new atheist” either.
However, there was something genuinely new about the “new atheism.” The publication of our four books in quick succession moved the conversation about faith and reason out of rented banquet halls filled with septuagenarians and brought it to a mainstream (and much younger) audience. The new atheists also made distinctions that prior atheists tended to ignore: For instance, not all religions teach the same thing, and some are especially culpable for specific forms of human misery. We also put religious moderates on notice in a new way: These otherwise secular people who imagine themselves to be on such good terms with reason are actually abetting the forces of theocracy—because they insist that everyone’s faith in revelation must be respected, whatever the cost.
The new atheism has not disappeared. It has merely diffused into a wider conversation about facts and values. In the end, the new atheism was nothing more than the acknowledgement that there is single magisterium: the ever-expanding space illuminated by intellectual honesty.