The New Atheists: Aggressive or Brave?

February 16, 2011

It has been stated by both the religious and nonreligious that the New Atheists -- think Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens -- are aggressive in their approach to religious belief. But Ian Ravenscroft of Philosophy Now, writing about what it takes to be a philosopher, sees it differently:

Arguments -- rational derivations of conclusions from premises -- are central to philosophy. But arguments in another sense -- vigorous interchanges of ideas, either verbally or in writing -- are also very common in philosophy. Vigorous exchange is central to gaining the truth; and those who are shy of the truth tend to shy away from argument. It’s intriguing how often Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and other advocates of the New Atheism are accused of being aggressive. It would be more accurate to say that they’re not afraid of the rough-and-tumble of intellectual life. Those who accuse them of aggression are, I suspect, anxious to avoid strenuous public examination of their beliefs.

So be prepared for a bit of hard talking. It won’t kill you, and it may advance your understanding.

In fact, even if one does think the New Atheists are aggressive in presenting their views to the public, their counterparts on the religious right are just as aggressive. Should the New Atheists just sit back and watch?