I found this article by chance, while looking for news updates for atheism.
I thought it worth sharing not just because of the headline, but because of the masthead that appears at the on-line version of this Christian magazine.
The Christian Century
Thinking Critically. Living Faithfully.
Aug 27, 2011 by Kimberly Winston
(RNS) In September 2001, Sam Harris was an unknown doctoral student who didn't believe in God.
But after the World Trade Center crumbled on 9/11, he put his studies aside to write a book that became an instant best-seller -- and changed the way atheists, and perhaps Muslims, are perceived in this country.
Published in 2004, Harris's "The End of Faith" launched the so-called "New Atheist" movement, a make-no-apologies ideology that maintains that religion is not just flawed, but evil, and must be rejected.
In the book, Harris frequently uses the image of a Muslim suicide bomber to highlight the dangers of religion, depicting Islam as a "cult of death" and a "machinery of intolerance and suicidal grandiosity." Within two years, Harris was joined on the best-seller list by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, who all took religion to task for most -- if not all -- of the world's ills. (Full Article)
They're anti-religious, and they're mean-spirited, unfortunately," Kurtz told NPR in 2009. "Now, they're very good atheists and very dedicated people who do not believe in God. But you have this aggressive and militant phase of atheism, and that does more damage than good."
That statement made me laugh: at least SOME of us are considered GOOD. I think the term 'mean-spirited' is a funny term to use against the new atheists as a whole. And using militant just makes us sound like angry troublemakers and publicity hounds. It is also an attempt to trivialize the freethinking community...marginalize the 'crazies' to the borders of the community.
I have read some of the work by these '4 Horsemen' and they basically lay out very sensible arguments explaining why they've reached their conclusions. They don't just do it to be 'meanies'. I think that theists fear them because they shed light on the inconsistencies of religious thought and the unreasonable dogma that many people adhere to.
(I think the term 'nonreligionists' has to be about the most clumsy word I'm ever come across...ha...right up there with nondenominationalists. It does, however, distinguish between being 'anti' v 'non'.)
What the Four Horsemen may have done, individually and collectively, is force those willing to actually read their handiwork to at least consider the other side of the coin of religion. Religion as an entity was presupposed to be good; the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon provided a stark example of religion in a radically different light.
9/11 rubbed our noses in the extremism of islam, certainly, but the depredations of christianity have been around longer, and are easily as pernicious in their own right. Dawkins and Dennett and Hitchens and Harris have brought insight and examination and analysis to bear, and as a result, more people are willing to cry out that "The Emperor Has No Clothes." The contretemps between religion and reason is being brought to a head, not just by the Four Horsemen but by any of us who actively assert our atheism in the face of a religious majority. If religion protests in response, we shouldn't be surprised, but their arguments are weak and, indeed, they may privately recognize the leading edge of their own demise and struggle against it.
The Horsemen were the forerunners of a new dialog which puts religion on the defensive ... a position religion is unused to and doesn't like very much ... and being based in irrationality, religion may react after that fashion.
Religion as an entity was presupposed to be good
Exactly....religion was the default setting.
One of my favorite quotes from Sam Harris is "Beliefs have geo-political consequences." (From his "End of Faith" lecture). It has always been taboo to question religious people specifically and religion in general. If this lack of questioning leads to a 'cover' for extreme fundamentalist literalism, the moderates do have to take some credit for the actions of the extremists...Christian, Islamic, etc. Tolerating the intolerant is a bad idea. It's not the responsibility for the atheists to take this issue to the table (our position is very well known), it's for the moderates in the religious groups to do so. Control the deviant behavior of your own community so the rest of us can sleep at night!