The file keeps expanding
Another entry (they’re coming in thick and fast these days) in the “Random hostile assertions about ‘New’ atheists” file. This one, I’m sorry to say, is from HE Baber, with whom I have had friendly exchanges, and whose blog I like, and who has a way of seeing things from an unexpected angle. But ‘New’ atheists are not among the things she sees from an unexpected angle.
Most people I know are atheists. But they’re atheists of the old kind who have no particular interest in proselytising because they do not believe that anything of importance hangs on whether or not people believe in God and because they recognise that theological claims are controversial. Unlike the New Atheists they don’t think they have discovered, or invented, something new and interesting.
But ‘the New Atheists’ don’t think they have discovered, or invented, something new and interesting. I challenge anyone to find ‘a New Atheist’ (by which I do not mean just some random anonymous commenter from Dawkins’s site five months ago) claiming to have discovered, or invented, something new and interesting. All the ‘New’ atheists I know are perfectly well aware that atheism has been around for a long time. As a matter of fact it’s often the Old Theists who claim that atheism is new-fangled – they’re the ones who are always telling us that all our ideas – equality, the value of the individual, rationality, secularism, democracy – are the product of Christianity. We’re the ones who say ‘oh come on, do you really think it’s only the believers who have ever been able to think of anything? Do you really think there were no secret atheists in the good old days when atheism was a capital crime?’
I just think it’s obviously false to say that ‘New’ atheists think they have discovered, or invented, something new and interesting. False and rather unpleasant – unpleasant because false. There’s an awful lot of this kind of thing around, as we know, and it really is quite annoying. It’s not good to single out groups for opprobrium; it’s not good to do that by saying things about such groups that are false. I think people ought to stop doing that. I think Comment is free: belief ought to stop encouraging them to do that.