I hate the term the New Atheists. I am fed up with the way it is used to sneer at a group of modern authors who are simply the latest in a long-standing intellectual tradition that rejects religion and religious thought. What distinguishes them is that they are good writers and have a large, receptive audience. They have not had to deal with the hostility and persecution dished out to Richard Carlile or G W Foote; instead they are read by many, well-rewarded and face ineffectual opponents using some of the sloppiest arguments I have seen.
Rambling articles describe atheism as another form of religious faith (presumably in the same way that all anti-Fascists are Nazis, anti-Communists worship Stalin, and anti-atheists … you get my drift) or think that without the moral code and sense of right and wrong that religion brings we will sink into a pit of cruel depravity. Max Dunbar demolishes one of the worst examples here.
But what strikes me is that the defence of religion being mounted rarely contains a defence of the existence of god. Instead, all the discussion is really about the sociology of religion. And this is the crux of the argument. The religious believe in the existence of one or more supernatural or spiritual beings, whilst us atheists find the whole notion preposterous. Rather than take on the empirical evidence or discuss theology, it is more convenient for a predominantly secular audience to shift the debate away from the literal truth of religion to the function it performs. Yet, really the argument is simple. And, as far as I am concerned, there is no god.