“I don’t believe in God, but I miss him.” The first words of English novelist Julian Barnes’s hauntingly beautiful memoir, Nothing to Be Frightened Of, suggest that this is not going to be your typical atheist’s manifesto. There will be no shots across the bow à la Richard Dawkins, no overblown criticisms of religion’s deleterious influence à la Christopher Hitchens.
The new atheist movement has reached its high-water mark, and there are signs that it is starting to recede. Wishful thinking, you say? Aren’t there more and more antireligious tracts on the bestseller lists? Aren’t these writers terribly clever? Perhaps so, yet somehow they fail to capture the imagination.
A lengthy prepublication excerpt in the New York Times Magazine, quotations on the back cover from famous scholars using descriptions like “profound,” “elegant and erudite” and “landmark in political philosophy”—short of selection for Oprah’s Book Club, it is hard to imagine how a book could come trailing more clo
For many years I taught a course titled "The Problem of God." I believed that students should be exposed to the most erudite of the unbelievers, and that any commitment that they might make to a religious faith should be critically tested by the very best opponents. Richard Dawkins, Samuel Harris and Christopher Hitchens would never have made the required reading list. Their tirades reinforce ignorance—not only of religion—but also of atheism.
Having written “The Uses of Infidelity” (1956), >The Infidel: Freethought and American Religion (1961) and Varieties of Unbelief (1964) back when I was on the trail of atheists and their kin, I am often asked: When are you going to comment on the media’s discovery of “the new atheism”? The term refers to writings by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel C.