The 21st Century has seen the rise of the New Atheism, which has had an energizing and beneficial effect on the atheist community, not only on morale, but on the numbers of new members to swell our numbers and influence. The term New Atheism putatively had its origin in the November 6, 2006 Wired Magazine article about what the writer believed was a completely new secular movement. In the present day, five important authors are known to have advanced the cause of atheism. They are Sam Harris, The End of Faith, (2004;) Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (2006;) Daniel C. Dennett , Breaking the Spell, (2006;) Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great,( 2007;) and Victor J. Stenger, How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist, (2007.) They are the originators of the New Atheism, with Harris, Dawkins, Dennet, and Hitchens also labeled as The Four Horsemen.
The New Atheists believe that scientific discovery has advanced so greatly, that it is now time to not only champion atheism, but to critique religion. They do not feel that religion should be accommodated, but rather criticized for its mistakes, bigotry and immoral history down through the ages. New Atheism’s proponents believe that religious fanaticism, cruelty and superstition should be vigorously questioned, contradicted and quelled. The New Atheists maintain that a naturalistic world outlook is sufficient to explain the origins of the universe and species, and with the dawning of neuroscience, human consciousness itself. They do not believe that any supernatural entity or agency is necessary to human understanding or experience of life. They hold that religion’s supernatural claims are neither salient nor robust, and that those claims are not sacrosanct, but testable by science.
Tom Flynn, editor of the magazine, Free Inquiry, points out that four months before Harris’ book hit the bookstores, Susan Jacoby’s serious volume, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, was published. It was not a polemic, such as Harris’ book, but a serious study that unfolds the history of freethought in America. She writes about Robert Ingersoll, Thomas Paine, and many of the women and the movements that made up the long, honorable and ignored story of freethinkers. She reminds readers of the founders of our country, including Jefferson and Madison, and their determination to keep a wall between church and state. (See Atheist History in the United States)
Tom Flynn, in “Why I don’t Believe in the New Atheism,” Free Inquiry, May 11, 2011, makes the point that the New Atheists have made an invaluable contribution to the secular community. They refashioned traditional atheist ideas into polemics, obtained important publishers, and created best sellers that reached millions of people with the ideas of atheism. But there is nothing new about those ideas. They have existed in the history of freethought down through the ages. (See Atheism from Greece to the Modern World and its book list, which recommends Jennifer Michael Hecht’s volume, Doubt: A History.)
It is up to atheists in America to carry atheist pride and concepts forward to the larger community. How to do this has become a problematical issue for the secular community. Many atheists are now “coming out of the closet,” and letting their friends, families and communities know of their lack of faith. But many non believers also have a life stance rooted in reality, in naturalism and a positive outlook. It is vital to our movement that we share our positive philosophy with others. Some atheists want more aggressive attacks on religion; others think a hostile approach is not effective, that an extended critique of religion might anger people and be counterproductive.
The extent of atheists’ activities with regard to theism must be a personal decision. Atheists are not in lock step, but rather independent in their thinking and life choices. Each one of us does what we are suited for by personality, training, philosophy, competence and comfort level to advance the atheist cause. Atheism did not start in 2004, as Tom Flynn humorously points out. Our history extends back to ancient Greece. It is to be hoped that when atheists attempt to extend their life stance to believers, and beginning doubters, they will have an acquaintance with atheist history, atheism and the law, and other categories offered by the Atheist Scholar.
List of Organizations
Below is a list of Organizations that have had experience and success with propagating atheism.
When we use quote marks the statement is coming directly from the site. Without quote marks the statement is our summary impression of the site.
Since 1963, American Atheists has been the premier organization laboring for the civil liberties of atheists and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. The organization was founded by Madelyn Murray O’Hair as a result of her successful legal battle against mandatory school prayer and bible recitation. American Atheists maintains one of the largest archives of atheist Literature. The archive contains over 25,000 books and a growing collection of over 500,000 pamphlets. The library is open for research on a limited schedule. Look at their scholarship program.
Freedom from Religion Foundation
“The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion. In modern times the first to speak out for prison reform, for humane treatment of the mentally ill, for abolition of capital punishment, for women’s right to vote, for death with dignity for the terminally ill, and for the right to choose contraception, sterilization, and abortion have been freethinkers, just as they were the first to call for an end to slavery. The Foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church.”
Lists eight categories of activism with 25 links to organizations active in those areas:
Church-State Separation; Secular Student Organizations; Other Groups; Boy Scouts; Homosexuals; Evolution/Creationism; Pledge of Allegiance; Secular Activist Resources.
Atheist Meetups in the United States
There are many Meetups of interest in the regional and local areas.
This site is designed as a tool for the atheist who wants to bring about change to benefit the secular community. An eye opener website for the beginning atheist activist.
Atheists On Line
United Atheist Front
Pushing for science in all schools worldwide.
Atheist Activism in the Military
Triangle Freethought Society (TFS)
A regional activist group.
Following their agenda can give the atheist at the
local and regional level models for involvement.