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First, what is the content of morality? Harris comes closest to providing an explicit answer to that question in stating that questions of right and wrong are really questions about the happiness and suffering of sentient creatures. The New Atheists seem to be agreed that we have foundational moral knowledge. Third, what is the ontological ground of the universal moral standard? Given the assumption that ethical relativism is false, the question arises concerning what the objective natural ground is that makes it the case that some people are virtuous and some are not and that some behaviors are morally right and some are not.

If there is no divine being, then there are no divine revelations. If there are no divine revelations, then every sacred book is a merely human book. Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens each construct a case for the claim that no alleged written divine revelation could have a divine origin. Their arguments for this conclusion focus on what they take to be the moral deficiencies and factual errors of these books.

He says that any subsequent more moderate Christian migration away from these biblical legal requirements is a result of taking scripture less and less seriously. Dennett hints at a different objection to the Bible by remarking that anybody can quote the Bible to prove anything.

Does Atheism Require Faith?

This sort of claim invites further discussion about the sorts of purposes God would have and strategies God would employ in communicating with human beings in different times and places. Each of the New Atheists recommends or at least alludes to a non-religious means of personal fulfillment and even collective well-being. He thinks that scientific exploration into the nature of human consciousness will provide a progressively more adequate natural and rational basis for such a practice. For inspiration in a Godless world, Dawkins looks to the power of science to open the mind and satisfy the psyche.

He celebrates the liberation of human beings from ignorance due to the growing and assumedly limitless capacity of science to explain the universe and everything in it.

Or at least it requires a God for you not to believe in.

Hitchens hints at his own source of secular satisfaction by claiming that the natural is wondrous enough for anyone. He expresses his hope for a renewed Enlightenment focused on human beings, based on unrestricted scientific inquiry, and eventually productive of a new humane civilization. Some of these works are supportive of them and some of them are critical. Other works include both positive and negative evaluations of the New Atheism.

As might be expected, attention has been focused on their epistemological views, their metaphysical assumptions, and their axiological positions. Their presuppositions should also prompt more discussion in the fields of philosophical theology, philosophy of science, philosophical hermeneutics, the relation between science and religion , and historiography. These debates are accessible in a number of places on the Internet. Finally, the challenges to religion posed by the New Atheists have also prompted a number of seminars and conferences. For an introduction to the sorts of issues this conference addresses, see Copan Criticisms have been raised about a number of the New Atheists claims mentioned above.

With respect to epistemology, critics point out that the New Atheist assumption that religious faith is irrational is at odds with a long philosophical history in the West that often characterizes faith as rational. This Western Philosophical tradition can be said to begin with Augustine and to include a number of prominent Western philosophers up to the present including Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Pascal, and more recently, Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne.

Moreover, given the New Atheist epistemological assumptions and their consequences for religious epistemology , some criticism of their views has included questions about whether their reliance on empirical science is scientifically justified and whether there is adequate evidence to support their thesis of evidentialism. As for metaphysics, Dawkins has been criticized for engaging in an overly cursory evaluation of theistic arguments and for ignoring the philosophical literature in natural theology. James E. Taylor Email: taylor westmont.

Please don't say atheism is the scientific or logical stance.

Evolution and Religious Belief The New Atheists observe that if there is no supernatural reality, then religion and religious belief must have purely natural explanations. The Moral Evaluation of Religion The New Atheists agree that, while religion may have been a byproduct of certain human qualities that proved important for survival, religion itself is not necessarily a beneficial social and cultural phenomenon on balance at present.

Secular Morality These moral objections to religion presuppose a moral standard. Alleged Divine Revelations If there is no divine being, then there are no divine revelations. Secular Fulfillment Each of the New Atheists recommends or at least alludes to a non-religious means of personal fulfillment and even collective well-being.

References and Further Reading a. Works by the New Atheists Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, An explanation and defense of biological evolution by natural selection that focuses on the gene. Dawkins, Richard. A case for the irrationality and immoral consequences of religious belief that draws primarily on evolutionary biology.

Dennett, Daniel. A case for studying the history and practice of religion by means of the natural sciences. Harris, Sam. An intellectual and moral critique of faith-based religions that recommends their replacement by science-based spirituality.


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A revised edition of his response to Christian reactions to his book. Hitchens, Christopher. A journalistic case against religion and religious belief. A response to the New Atheists by a secular Jew that defends traditional religious thought. Copan, Paul. Copan, Paul and William Lane Craig, eds.

A collection of essays by Christian apologists that addresses challenges from New Atheists and other contemporary critics of Christianity. Craig, William Lane, ed. A collection of essays by philosophers and theologians defending the rationality of theistic belief from the attacks of the New Atheists and others. A defense of Christianity against the criticisms of the New Atheists. Eagleton, Terry.

An Introduction to Atheism and Atheists

Keller, Timothy. The Dawkins Delusion? A critical engagement with the arguments set out in Dawkins Ruse, Michael. A criticism of the New Atheists by an atheist.

Why Are Americans Still Uncomfortable with Atheism?

Schloss, Jeffrey and Michael Murray, eds. An interdisciplinary discussion of issues raised by the sort of naturalistic account of religion promoted in Dennett and elsewhere. Those who could not were sent to prison or to labor camps. But while Selective Service laws had been revised again and again to clarify the criteria for conscientious objection, they still did not account for young men who, like Seeger, refused to say that their opposition to war came from belief in a Supreme Being.

The Christian Alternative

Over time, draft boards came to resemble freshman philosophy seminars in their attempts to decide who did and did not qualify for C. Different boards reached very different conclusions, various appeal boards upheld and reversed those decisions without much consistency, and, inevitably, some of those appeals ended up before federal courts.

Atheists, long discriminated against by civil authorities and derided by their fellow-citizens, were suddenly eligible for some of the exemptions and protections that had previously been restricted to believers. But, in the decades since U. Seeger, despite an increase in the number of people who identify as nonbelievers, their standing before the courts and in the public sphere has been slow to improve. Americans, in large numbers, still do not want atheists teaching their children, or marrying them.

They would, according to surveys, prefer a female, gay, Mormon, or Muslim President to having an atheist in the White House, and some of them do not object to attempts to keep nonbelievers from holding other offices, even when the office is that of notary public. Such discrimination is both a cause and an effect of the crude way in which we parse belief, which has barely changed since Daniel Seeger completed his C. Lack of belief in God is still too often taken to mean the absence of any other meaningful moral beliefs, and that has made atheists an easy minority to revile.

As that remark suggests, the one wall the current Administration does not want to build is the one between church and state. The most evident manifestation of this resurgence of Christian nationalism has been animosity toward Muslims and Jews, but the group most literally excluded from any godly vision of America is, of course, atheists. Yet the national prejudice against them long predates Daniel Seeger and his draft board. It has its roots both in the intellectual history of the country and in a persistent anti-intellectual impulse: the widespread failure to consider what it is that unbelievers actually believe.

American antipathy for atheism is as old as America. Although many colonists came to this country seeking to practice their own faith freely, they brought with them a notion of religious liberty that extended only to other religions—often only to other denominations of Christianity. True religious liberty was rare in the colonies: dissenters were fined, flogged, jailed, and sometimes hanged. Yet, surprisingly, no atheist was ever executed.

According to the Cornell professors R. Nonbelievers were either few and far between in Colonial America or understandably cautious about making themselves known; clergy and magistrates rarely bothered to mention them, even derisively. Still, his argument was audacious for an era when most colonies had established churches and collected ecclesiastical taxes to support them.

It was striking, then, after the Revolutionary War, when the men who gathered for the Constitutional Convention banned religious tests for office holders, in Article VI. But, while neither was a creedal Christian, both men were monotheists, and, like John Locke, their ideas about tolerance generally extended only to those who believed in a higher power.

It was another one of the revolutionaries who became a hero for the nonreligious. Both atheists and their critics often make a hopeless muddle of the category, sometimes because it is genuinely complicated to assess belief, but often for other reasons. Some believers, meanwhile, use atheism to discredit anyone with whom they do not agree. For atheists, at least, this definitional elasticity provided a kind of safety in numbers, however inflated: as their ranks grew, so did their willingness to make their controversial beliefs public.

William Lane Craig and Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham do today. With nonbelievers starting to assert themselves, believers began more aggressively protecting their faith from offense or scrutiny. All but three states passed Sabbatarian laws, which were imposed on everyone, including religious observers whose Sabbath did not fall on Sunday.


  1. The Sophists: An Introduction.
  2. New Atheists | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  3. Faith and Reason (bibliography);
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  7. Why Are Americans Still Uncomfortable with Atheism? | The New Yorker.
  8. Such prohibitions linger in blue laws, which now mostly restrict the sale of alcohol on Sunday. Indeed, the charge of atheism became a convenient means of discrediting nontheological beliefs, including anarchism, radicalism, socialism, and feminism. That presumption became both more popular and more potent during the Cold War.


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    The Founders had already chosen a motto, of course, but E pluribus unum proved too secular for the times. Even as courts were striking down blasphemy laws and recognizing the rights of nontheists to conscientious-objector status, legislators around the country were trying to promote Christianity in a way that did not violate the establishment clause. They succeeded, albeit at a price: the courts upheld references to God in pledges, oaths, prayers, and anthems on the ground that they were not actually religious.

    Not surprisingly, neither believers nor nonbelievers believe this. Every such ruling is a Pyrrhic victory for the devout, for whom invocations of God are sacred, and no victory at all for atheists, for whom invocations of God, when sponsored by the state, are obvious attempts to promote religion.