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UPDATED: Beyond New Atheism?

UPDATE: Caspar Melville has posted a blog about the reaction to his article. You can read it here.

I'm bored by New Atheism. It's time we move on and leave the years of irascible, impatient, blunt, godless discourse behind

Today I have been defending New Atheism in the morning, and will be attacking it in the evening. At 9am, I debated the Christian theologian Alister McGrath, author of the wittily titled Dawkins Delusion and critic of New Atheism, on Christian Premier Radio. You can bet I swotted up on my Dawkins and Hitchens for that. But at 6pm at the Royal Society of the Arts the magazine I edit, New Humanist, will be hosting a debate called "After New Atheism: where next for the God debate" where the panellists – award-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson, conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, historian Jonathan Rée, the whole thing chaired by Laurie Taylor – will be invited to consider how we can move beyond the crude and simplistic perspective on religion popularised by New Atheism.

Does this make me a hypocrite? I'm going to say "no", though I would wouldn't I? The fact that I can both defend and attack it represents my ambivalence about the phenomenon of New Atheism, or more precisely my certainty that New Atheism is very good at some things and bad at others. For the purposes of what follows I use New Atheism as a somewhat baggy but, I think, useful shorthand for the trenchant anti-religion polemics of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett (though he is more scientific and more polite) and AC Grayling, plus a few others.

Read on



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