Short thoughts 3 – "New Atheism"

UPDATE: this is starting on Saturday; if any Mersea people want to join in there are a few places left – just let me know.

This is just a plug – I’ve agreed to do a course, spread across two Saturdays next May, exploring the “New Atheism” – what it is, where it’s from, what’s wrong with it, how Christians should respond to it, etc etc.

It will run 10-4 on Saturdays 14th and 21st May, at West Mersea Church Hall.


PURPOSE / AIM of module:
To familiarise students with the main arguments and methods of the “New Atheists”, to understand where they stand in intellectual history, and to have renewed understanding of – and confidence in – the classical Christian intellectual tradition.

General – including COURSE CONTENT
Six main teaching sessions spread over the two Saturdays, plus time for small groups and plenary discussions. The six teaching sessions are expected to cover:
Introduction/Overview, with especial attention to Richard Dawkins’ ‘The God Delusion’
Philosophical roots 1: Hume and Logical Positivism
Philosophical roots 2: Locke and the ethics of religious belief
Theological roots: the Christian origins of atheism
Different types of theism: classical and personal
How should a Christian respond to an atheist?

TARGET GROUP – including prior experience needed etc.
No prior philosophical expertise will be assumed for this course, just an interest in the subject matter to be covered – all technical terms will be fully explained. It would be helpful if participants had read Dawkins’ ‘God Delusion’ or a similar book before coming on the course.

For a flavour of my approach to these questions, have a look at my ‘Reasonable Atheism’ series of posts, which are listed here.

6 thoughts on “Short thoughts 3 – "New Atheism"

  1. This will be very interesting, to see what your point of view is, and what you focus on. I would be very grateful for a full breakdown of the course you plan, if possible; my email address is

  2. Will you be covering the role of Fundamentalist Christianity in the formation of the New Atheists? The strong Christian voice attacking science and atheists/atheism drove must have had a large effect on them.
    From the Fundies who accepted the incompatibility of science and religion and did not change that position after they lost their faith, to the innocent neutral observers who were convinced by the rhetoric from one side or the other and chose science, as it is demonstrably accurate. And though some fanatics like PZ Meyers might still have chosen their life of continuous aggressive battle, the majority of those who shamelessly use emotion, insult, invective and all the other irrational means of persuasion instead of logic and arguments do so because they are scared and infuriated by the aggressive tactics of fundamentalist Christians and other judgemental religious people.

  3. I don’t normally truck with the notion that being religious must entail stupidity but the whole “new atheism” crap from the religious is powerful evidence. Atheism isn’t new. There is nothing different about the current atheism and “old atheism” if there is such a thing. The only thing that has changed is the marketing. As was ever the case, there are some atheists who approach religion in one way, some will approach it another way etc. etc. Some are very technically philosophical, some are anything but. Some are people who have considered the issues deeply, some are teenagers looking for the most rebellious feeling camp they can find to antagonise their parents. The core arguments have not changed. The core reasons that rational people are atheists remain the same.

    This “course” simply can’t fail to be a long winded interpretation-fest where every possibility but the obvious, stated facts will be painfully examined with a mix of pop-psychology and theological nonsense. Part of me almost wishes I could attend for the sheer train-wreak facination of it. Who better to explain the motivations, ideas and faults of these atheists than a proffessional religious delusionist! Atheism quite literally threatens your livelyhood. I’ll just bet your be fair about it though 🙂

    That Pps would call PZ Meyers a “fanatic” is either an indictment of his critical faculties or his reading comprehension.

  4. Thing is, I didn’t think it was the religious people who came up with the term ‘New Atheist’ – I thought that was just a media invention which, like so many media inventions, stuck.

    And even though I wouldn’t call and don’t (usually…) consider PZ Meyers a fanatic, for some people (mostly Catholic bloggers like Jimmy Akin, I’ll admit), his desecration of a communion wafer went beyond the pale and into the realms of fanaticism.

  5. The only fanaticism to come out of Crackergate was from the Roman Catholic camp. Besides, it was educational : a lot of RCs didn’t realize they were suppose to believe the cracker was a living host.

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