Sam Harris recently posted Atheism’s Wrong Turn, an article by Damon Linker in The New Republic. I don't want to address the entire thing, but at least part of the premise it's built upon. As Linker puts it:
That’s because “the new atheism” is not particularly new. It belongs to an intellectual genealogy stretching back hundreds of years, to a moment when atheist thought split into two traditions: one primarily concerned with the dispassionate pursuit of truth, the other driven by a visceral contempt for the personal faith of others.
Today’s bellicose atheists are part of the second tradition.
He goes on to discuss the tactics of the Four Horsemen (Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, and Hitchens), and I'm not going to argue with his take on that. However, I want to point out something about us "new atheists." I certainly don't intend to speak for others, but this is my perception. I would say that most of us don't have a "visceral contempt for the personal faith of others." What bothers me is not other peoples' personal faith; it's the way their faith affects me that bothers me. Religion influences the laws in our country (and most others), terrorist attacks are largely motivated by religious faith, and how many conflicts and civil wars are the result of religious differences? My stance on religion is the same as my stance on drugs: do what you want, just leave the rest of us out of harm's way. I don't care if you do heroin, just don't drive while you're high and put everyone else in danger. You can believe that the Easter Bunny rose from the dead after three days and will come to Passover dinner if you set him a place, just so long as that belief doesn't involve crotch-punching people who disagree with you. Fair enough?
The second thing I want to mention doesn't really have anything to do with that, but it keeps coming up as I read stuff. Atheism is not a religion. We don't all share the same set of beliefs, even if a lot of us agree with each other on most issues. Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color, like not collecting stamps is a hobby. Stop describing us as if you can tell what we all believe based on the Horsemen's books. Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the physical body of Christ. Muslims believe that Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse. In general, we can talk about Catholics and Muslims with the assumption that they believe these things because they're included in the dogma of those religions. Atheists don't have a dogma. We have a couple of popular writers and philosophers that tend to speak for us, more or less, but that doesn't mean we agree with everything they say. Anytime somebody starts an argument with "Well, atheists believe..." I cringe. Although we do all adhere to The Atheist's Bible - particularly the last book - please stop making assumptions about us beyond that. Thanks much.