middleeasteye.net: Whenever I use the term “New Atheism”, I’m invariably asked, “What is that and what is old atheism?” So allow me to clarify.
Wikipedia defines New Atheism as a “social and political movement” that advocates the view that religion should not be tolerated. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy says it’s specifically the anti-religious views ascribed by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens.
When I think of New Atheism I think of a post-9/11 reactionary, anti-religious movement that proactively seeks to eradicate religion, wherever and whenever it can find it.
New Atheists have internalised Hitchen’s famous subtitle, “religion poisons everything,” which is a belief based on feeling rather than fact. In simpler terms, New Atheism is the belief that religion is the root of most or all of the world’s problems. A specious belief, indeed, given the last 100 years produced the mass slaughters of World War I and II, colonialism, Communism, imperialism, Korea, Vietnam and the Iraq war – all of which had nothing to do with religion.
It’s important to discern between atheism and New Atheism, because atheism, on its own, is a non-positive assertion. My atheism, for instance, means I believe there are no gods. Atheism is ambivalent to whether or not gods and religion are bad or good. Once an atheist steps outside of that prism, however, and embraces the aforementioned definitions of New Atheism, then one ceases to be an atheist. One is then an anti-theist.