The New Atheism: A Publishing Phenomena
by David Robertson
If God died in the 1960’s then someone forgot to tell the British publishing industry. Books about God have been the surprise bestselling phenomena of the past 18 months. There is no doubt that the books are in general well written, entertaining and informative. They are written in a populist style about subjects which most people would consider important and interesting.Little wonder that they have proved a hit. Yet there are other reasons why they have hit the spot.
The first is fear. People are afraid of religion. Dawkins, Hitchins, Harris et al love to warn us that the religious are going to bomb us, take us back to the Dark Ages and abuse our children. Another reason for the popularity of these works is that they appeal to the prejudices of their readers. Prejudices such as all religions are essentially
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the same and that therefore what can be said about one must apply to the others. The illogicality of that should be obvious – but sadly when it comes to matters of religious belief logic often seems to be thrown out of the window. Most people who read these books are delighted with them, not because they challenge pre-existing beliefs, but rather because they reinforce them. The books are read with all the delight of a believer reading Holy Writ, one can almost hear the Amens and Hallelujahs being shouted across Atheist living rooms and media outlets!
In addition, whilst making some clear and reasonable criticisms of religion, criticisms which religious people have to face up to and indeed have been doing so for centuries, the New Atheist authors are able to get away with their sweeping generalisations, ad hominem arguments and simplistic philosophy because they are largely appealing to people’s ignorance. In a world where thanks to Google and Wikipedia, everyone has instant ‘knowledge’ to suit their own prejudices…
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