How will these resources help you? 

Many thinkers across various fields have spoken out against the dangers of religious extremism – and against religion itself – and the increase in public platforms has created more space for these discussions. New Atheism is characterised by not simply a lack of belief in a God but an active promotion of rationalism, secularism and criticism of religion and religious belief. These resources aim to help students understand what New Atheism is, and to evaluate some of the claims. They also encourage debates on secularism, the relationship of religion and science and different responses to evolution in religious worldviews. 

The 'four horsemen' of atheism

The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist Revolution

by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett, published by Random House, (2019), 9780525511953

The authors of this book are four thinkers who have brought secularism, scepticism, and atheism into the public agenda since the turn of this century and are seen as the forerunners of New Atheism. This book is an annotated transcript of a conversation between them, followed by essays on varied topics. The discussions centre around the existence of God, the harms that religion can do, and the possibility for atheists to lead happy and ethical lives without religion. The 'horsemen' have emboldened others to speak out about their atheism and the possible dangers of religion to society. You can see a recording of their original conversation here.

Darwin and atheism

Did Darwin Kill God?

published by BBC Two, (2009)

Through non-theistic explanations for life on earth, New Atheists such as Dennett and Dawkins argue that there is no need for a creator God as we have evolution as the explanation, and that there is an illusion of supernatural design and a purpose to life on earth that Darwin’s work showed was just a natural process. As the Design Argument is such a significant reason why many people do believe in God this is a crucial part of the New Atheist toolkit in debunking religion. In this clip, however, the Christian presenter, who accepts evolution, states that Dennett is an 'ultra-atheist' by leaving no space for God. This clip could open discussions around the theory of evolution and why it can be seen as such an attack on faith. It will also aid exploration of discussions around religion and science more generally. The full episode unpacks the arguments further. 
The Richard Dawkins Interview (Part I - Why I'm an Atheist)

published by The Panpsycast Philosophy Podcast, (2022)

This podcast covers themes around philosophy and ethics in an accessible way for teachers and older students. In this interview, Dawkins discusses the relationship between and the limits of philosophy and science, then focuses on the theory of evolution. He criticises theists who argue that God is the 'best explanation' for life on earth and states that this represents 'giving up' and declaring, 'Oh, God did it,' to stop the questions that science should seek to keep researching. Teachers may find Dawkins’ debunking of various arguments of creationists around the development of the eye and winged flight particularly helpful to help dispel common misconceptions. (Dawkins has written many accessible books on these themes that would be useful for extending classwork, with The God Delusion appropriate for older students and Outgrowing God more accessible for younger years.) 

Theists evaluate Dawkins

The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine

by Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath, published by SPCK Publishing, (2007), 9780281059270

Alister and Joanna McGrath have training in the sciences and are also both theists. Their main criticism of Dawkins is that he is 'weaponizing' science against religious belief and that this is a form of 'scientism'. They criticise Dawkins for not appreciating the nuance, diversity and complexity of religious belief and suggest that instead he belittles religious faith with a condescending tone, leading people towards extreme versions of religion rather than away from it. The McGraths do not view science and religion as being in conflict and argue that Dawkins is discouraging people of faith from engaging with the sciences and therefore doing science a disservice. Using this critique of Dawkins, students can build their own evaluation of his views and New Atheism in general and engage with discussions around the relationship of science and religion as a whole. You can see Richard Dawkins and Alister McGrath debating together here

Further materials

Do the New Atheists have any new ideas? – five-minute debate by Andrew Brown and Daniel Dennet, published by The Guardian, (2013) Watch this video
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens, published by Atlantic Books, (2021), 9781838952273 Find this book
Not in our name: Dawkins dresses up bigotry as non-belief – he cannot be left to represent atheists by Owen Jones, published by The Independent, (2013) Read this article
Beyond New Atheism and Theism: A Sociology of Science, Secularism and Religiosity by Sal Restivo, published by Routledge, (2023), ASIN: ‎B0CC43MKPW Find this book
Ruth Marx teaches Religion and Worldviews, is a Consultant for Religious Studies and PSHE, a Farmington Fellowship Scholar and a published blogger on Re:Online.

Text © Ruth Marx, 2023.