…whatever the strengths or weaknesses of the arguments put forward by the New Atheism, it is a truly remarkable phenomenon and therefore needs to be understood from a range of perspectives
(Harries 2010: xii)
The New Atheism started with a collection of popular academic and journalistic texts which were published from 2004 to 2007. It is a remarkable fact that these books, promoting atheism and arguing against religion, typically in the name of science and reason, have made best-sellers’ lists. Love it or loath it, this uprising of public atheism has led to a newly visible player in the marketplace of popular worldviews. This should be of interest to those of us concerned with the history and social dynamics of religion and science. The new visibility of Atheism could indicate the growing presence of a population that may be more interested in the non-religious community structures being created by the New Atheists. Thus the New Atheism could be viewed as a potentially important support structure for a rising demographic. But what will be the effects of a group like this?
The relatively recent emergence of this social group means that little study has been undertaken on the New Atheism. In fact, Zuckerman et al. (2010) argue that until recently (mostly 2010) there has been little social scientific study on the entire phenomenon of atheism/irreligion (approx. 2 studies per year from 1967-2002). So at this point the Social Sciences are largely unaware of who these New Atheists are, what they believe, and what affect these beliefs are having on their lives and society. This research intends to investigate the structures and ideologies of the New Atheist movement, in order to begin to grasp the potential outcomes of such a movement on the lives of participants and the wider society.
Harries, R. 2010. Foreword. Pp. xi-xii in Religion and The New Atheism: A critical Appraisal. Amersfoort, The Netherlands: Brill.
Zuckerman et al. 2010. Atheism and Secularity: Volume 1: Issues, Concepts, and Definitions. California: Praeger.