THANK GOD FOR THE NEW ATHEISM
By Alister McGrath in ABC Religion and Ethics website
The New Atheism burst onto the western cultural scene in 2006, full of energy and vitality. Its turbocharged soundbites mesmerised the media. Entranced by breezy slogans (such as "Religion kills" or "God is a delusion") many drew the conclusion that religion was dead. God was just about to be pensioned off - this time, for good.
It was time to clear out the junk in our intellectual and cultural attics. Belief in God was just a curious and obsolete relic from the past.
The novelty value of the New Atheism ensured its high media profile. Virtually all of its arguments, of course, were reheated and recycled. What was new had more to do with its exultation in ridiculing religion and religious believers. A cultural taboo was broken.
Older forms of atheism, which appealed to evidence-based arguments and insisted on respect for religious belief, were swept aside. As atheist blogger P.Z. Myers pointed out, "the old school of atheism is really, really boring." For Myers, the more outrageous the message, the better. That's the only way it will get noticed.
It's easy to see why the "old school" of atheism is worried. The slick and breezy slogans of the New Atheism simply conceal its obvious evidential and rational deficit. Sooner or later, someone's going to notice that these simplistic slogans just don't match up with the reality. And they're right to be apprehensive.