New Atheism V Old Atheism

Old Atheist New Atheist
Proponents Proponents
Bertrand Russell Sam Harris
H L Mencken Richard Dawkins
Robert Ingersoll Christopher Hitchens
W K Clifford Daniel Dennett
Nietzsche/Camus Victor Stenger
Marx Lawrence Krauss
Feuerbach Stephen Jay Gould
Sartre/Freud
…and a whole load of others  including Democritus, Seneca and early Christians in Rome were persecuted as atheists.
Criticisms of Old Atheism Criticisms of New Atheism
In their critiques of religion they commit basic logical fallacies: straw man; false dichotomy; generalizations
Guilty of scientism Their own atheism is faith based – guilty of scientism
Their disrespect of religious belief is immoral
Another concept of ‘Old Atheism’ can be found in five remaining states in the world whre Atheism is the official state policy: China; North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and Laos – these can certainly be critcised on several levels today. The above criticisms are all countered in Andrew Johnson’s paper ‘An apology for the “New Atheism” International Journal for Philosophy and Religion (2013) available in the OU Library.
Intolerance of religious people
Difference from New Atheists Difference from Old Atheists
Now occupy the best seller book lists
Had academic and intellectual arguments; ‘armchair philosophers’ Arguments directed at the non-academic audience, may have political motivations. Do not add anything new to the philosophical argument
Main direction of argument philosophical: ‘Arguments in defence of belief in God are just bad ones’ (Russell) Main direction of argument scientific: Science disproves theistic beliefs. ‘Militant atheism conflates atheism with Darwinism’ Ruse, M. Ed. (2009) from Philosophy After Darwin: Classic and Contemporary Readings Google Books. Militant Atheism is sometimes used as an alternative to ‘New Atheism’
End of religion = a transformation of human culture and consciousness Come the end of religion the world will continue much the same barring a few minor social adjustments
The hard-core atheism of some of the Old Atheists would not countenance the wishy washy version of atheism offered by some of the New Atheists Only evidence based propositions could be tolerated
Nihilism has to be a phase after religion before the new re-evaluation emerges – a new life affirming viewpoint. Essentially secular humanism
Darwinism not required Darwinism and neo Darwinism
New values …same as the old values – sometimes seen as a continuation of Christian values by other means.
Greater knowledge of theology Theology is discounted
Old Atheism’ is just ‘Atheism’ Rather than ‘New Atheism’ perhaps it should be called ‘Protest Atheism’
Old Atheists’ could recognise the validity although not the truth claims of theological inquiries into such areas as ‘the problem of evil’ New atheists are more likely to be strident in mocking believers’ ‘irrational belief’ and find nothing of value in religion – ‘it poisons everything’.
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