Why Does the Majority Report Denigrate “New Atheists?”

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    Thomas Paine

    I’m a big fan and dues paying member of the Majority Report with one of my lefty heroes Sam Seder. However, I’m getting burned out on their constant hammering of Sam Seder and the “New Athiests.”

    Now this can be far more complex matter than it appears at first, blush. So, by way of clarifying. It seems that Sam’s comments about Muslims is at the root of a lot of heat he takes from the left. Personally, I feel he walked into a hornet’s nest of his own making when he started to link Muslim willingness to committ acts of terrorism as intrinsic to the religion. To be honest I think he was suggesting that given that Jihadist terrorist are Muslim and that there are over a billion Muslim’s in the world that it just made sense to keep tabs on Muslims in say, airport terminals. In other words even a small percentage of the total Muslim population say 1% is still an astounding number of potential terrorists.

    It is also worth noting that one could apply the same logic toward Christians. Even though far right Christian identity movements are a small percentage of the total, there are probably tens of thousands potential threats ala Timothy McVeigh in that population.

    In any case, I still support Harris if for only his work “Letter to a Christian Nation” which perhaps more than any other work I know, cemented my decision to be an Atheist.

    Regarding Seder and  MR I am getting burned out on there wild accusations that “New Atheist” a a virtual cult that essentially brow beats religous people.  Really?

    Looking forward to well stated and measured responses as always.




    When a bomb filled with nails goes off in a European cafe, we all know who did it. At the same time, when a protestant law maker is shot in Northern Ireland…we also know who did it. When a Bhuddist temple is set on Fire in Sri Lanka we also know who did it. And when a village of Muslim refuges is set on fire…we all know who did it. When the home of a Palestinian family near a an Israeli settlement is blown up…we know who did it. Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Bhuddists and Jewish people. The fact is…people living in well off Western World suffer almost exclusively terrorism from the hands of Muslim extremists or white ultra nationalist men…the latter not necessarily being linked to religion. A knee jerk reaction is to label the Muslim religion as inherently violent and terroristic ahead of others. But in reality all of the Abrahamic religions directly call for varying levels of violent responses to an enormous variety of sins or lack of submitting to Gods will and people of these three religions do it more than all the others. And Christian history has shown how cosmically vicious and terroristic the religion can be when it answers to no one. Even Hinduism and Bhuddism offers avenues to forms of terrorism despite their usual moderate application of faith around the world though can hardly compete with the single God faiths..

    Sam Harris would have been best to focus on Abrahamic religions together which could objectively be proven as the inspiration of thousands of acts of terror in the last few millennia. But Sam Harris admit current Christian terrorism in Much of Africa or European hotspots but focuses on Islam. Why? Dirty bombs that go off in our idealic streets and our loved buildings taking down people so far removed from a threat to the people who commit the terrorism it seems more vicious and a greater threat…and he does so because they pose the biggest current threat to us, western civilization. I believe he really did do New Atheism a disservice by obsessing over Islam instead of the joint terrorist lunacy of all three Abrahamic religions. Why pick a favorite and make gross overgeneralisations when even greater generalisations make more sense and offend less?

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 8 months ago by  Davis.


    New Atheists.  What does that mean, exactly?  On the one hand, I suppose it is a tacit acknowledgement that atheists and atheism didn’t pop out of the proverbial woodwork just recently, that we’ve been around for centuries.  But, what does it mean now?  I grew up in a family of friedenkers and atheists, (and Southern Baptists, and Catholics.  It’s complicated) but did not embrace the atheism of my forefathers until I was in my late 20’s.  That would have been the era of Madeline Murray O’Hair, or really slightly after, whose tactics and attitude I did not particularly care for, but who admittedly put atheism squarely on the map in terms of open public and political engagement during the latter part of the last century.  So.  Where are we now?



    New Atheists. What does that mean, exactly?

    New Atheists are atheists, usually from Western countries who take a “no appologies” approach to critiquing religion, promoting secularism and among many agressively attacking religion. They are different than other atheists in that 1. A New Atheist is more than someone who lacks belief in God. The majority of atheists simply lack a belief in God. That is the definition of atheists and their lack of belief in God goes no further. They may not even think about the Gods, talk about the Gods or care about Gods. A New Atheist makes their non-belief part of their identity. 2. They share certain beliefs in which the most common is that religion is toxic and destructive and they advocate for highly secular states with human rights and basing debates and much of education on testable/confirmable knowledge. 3. They make no apologies for their aggressive approach to criticizing and bashing religion. Their arguments are usually made through reason and fact based arguments and are often scathing of the emotional manipulation and savage brutality religion has inflicted and still does.

    Four of the most famous New Atheists are all well known intellectuals and have written books which strongly attack religion and advocate secularism. All four have written other books in their own fields. Every one of them are fascinating intellectuals who write of topics we have discussed a lot about here on Atheist Zone:

    1. God is not Great a book that directly attacks religion. Christopher Hitchens an essayist and journalist. He is well known for provocative criticism not just of religion such as his book on Mother Theresa which he named “The Missionary Position” but wrote scathing critiques of Bill Clinton and other figures. He died recently being a non-believer to the end.

    2. The God Delusion. It’s by Richard Dawkins. He is a famous biologist who wrote books on nature in a way so that ordinary people can have a sophisticated understanding of evolution. The God Delusion is a long read and covers nearly every aspect of religion and he injects a lot of humour into it.

    3. Breaking the Spell. Daniel Dennett a philosopher with one specialty in cognitive philosophy (especially Free Will). His better known works are Freedom Evolves and his recent book “From bacteria to Bach”. Breaking the spell is a more academic work which focuses mostly on the human phenomena of “Imposing irrational explanations on natural phenomena” and our ability to believe just about anything.

    4. The End of Faith. Sam Harris is both a philosopher and a neuroscientist. He is well known for his controversial views and has also written a brief book on Free Will (he and Daniel Dennett are friends yet clash strongly on this topic). The End of Faith is also a more academic look at religion and is rather controversial especially with Harris’s severe condemnation of Islam and claims that it is inherently violent.

    You’ve probably read one or two of these books, if you haven’t you should deffinately read God is not Great and the God Delusion. If you haven’t read any of their other books you should read “The Selfish Gene” or “The greatest show on Earth” by Dawkins and “Hitch 22” or “The Missionary Position” by Hitchens. If you are up for a challenge you might also try “Freedom Evolves” by Dennett.


    Thomas Paine

    For some reason I am unable to reply to specific replies, but I’ll just signify by username, and/or reply#

    Davis, thank you for your well thought out and measured reply #10262. I am reluctant to interpret Harris as to why the Muslim faith became the priority terrorists as opposed to that of Israeli Jews for their attacks/reprisals against Muslims from several countries. As well, I’m no scholar of any religion. So, I’m going to base my reply based on what I have learned about Wahhabism as a sect of the Muslim faith.

    Wahabbist belief is fundamentalist  and requires strict adherence to their interpretation of the Koran. It is a sect that has its origins  in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have funded and established Madrasas that teach the Wahabbi dogma. That dogma demands that calls for Jihad, be obeyed. Finally, there is redemption for dying in Jihad, a great afterlife replete with lots of willing virgins.

    It is certainly true that Christianity widely accepts there is an afterlife foe those who accept Christ, blah blah. However, I don’t recall long tracts in the Bible that require believers to anwer a call to war against those who would attack the faith or that there is a reward in the afterlife for dying a martyr to the cause.

    Of course, there are so many (can’t resist) devil in the details to my statement. In numerous instances throughout history Christian leaders from the Pope to the evangelical tent preacher have called for or endorsed war, from the Crusades to the Invasion of Iraq. It is also worth noting that Jihad also seems to function based on a specific holy leader envoking the call.

    Harris seems to give far greater power to the dogma of the Muslim faith in generating an almost robotic response among adherents of that faith. I’ve heard him actually formulate a number in that even if only 1% of the Muslim population was to adhere to the call there would be millions willing to sacrifice willingly for the faith.

    It seems to me in looking back through time that these calls for violence are simply using the religion of a people as a powerful psychological lever to gain political ends in addition to the political beliefs.

    For me Thomas Paine lays out a great Deist logic in “The Age of Reason” that exposes essentially all religion as a con job.

    I’ll be back to reply to what the “New Athiest” movement means to me and the conundrums that surround that as well.



    essentially all religion as a con job.

    I personally think Harris become obsessive about Islam, and I can understand why. Islamic extremism hurts us in the West most, it’s currently more visible and more graphic and the call to “destroying the west” and “down with America” is part of an unambiguous campaign to disrupt our lives and sow fear. But in this case Harris looses the big picture (not to mention the fact that most extremists in North America and Europe are far right extremists who are white men) but then we’re talking about religion. As I’ve said, all three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) call for violent response to sins, they do so unambiguously and offer graphic examples of penalties. All three of their holy books widely document massacres and cruelty in the name of their Gods. Old history and contemporary history show all three religions equally capable of long term horror against humanity. And Christian and Judaic extremism go on rather invisibly in Africa and Asia. I don’t buy Sam Harris’s argument that Islam has something special to call people to violence more than other religions. If anything the old testament is an endless document of horror done in the name of God with detailed descriptions of mass slaughters and mass rape. All three in fact repeat violent responses to every day natural behaviour. They are all religions capable of extreme toxic, violent and cruel systematic behavior. The first moment someone wrote down the myth of Abraham and his psychotic episode where he almost murdered his child…Western Civilization was doomed for centuries…as well as Middle East civilization.


    Simon Paynton

    @ThomasPaine – “It seems to me in looking back through time that these calls for violence are simply using the religion of a people as a powerful psychological lever to gain political ends in addition to the political beliefs.

    It seems to me this illustrates the problem of combining Church and State.


    Simon Paynton

    I’d be interested to know the historical roots of why there are a lot of Muslim terrorists and virtually zero Christian terrorists, for example.  My guess is that Islam was military from the word go.



    virtually zero Christian terrorists

    That is absolutely NOT true. Christian terrorists were rampant in Northern Ireland until recently and were responsible for extreme bloodshed in Bosnia and Serbia. They were also instrumental in prolonging the Lebanese war and in all three cases they are sporadically active (though in N. Ireland they limit themselves to throwing moltov cocktails and objects at the police).

    But cross the Mediteranean to Africa and the continent is utterly loaded with Christian extremist groups, most notably in Nigeria, Niger, Central African Republic, Congo DR, Eretria, South Sudan and parts of Kenya.

    In the Americas there are groups of mostly Christian anti-abortionists who set fire to abortion clinics and murder doctors who perform abortions (rather unknown in Canada, Uruguay and Argentina and some Carribean Islands but well documeted in the United States and the rest of Latin America. There have also been attacks by Christians on Mosques and Synagogues including mass murder with semi-automatics in the Americas including the United States and Canada with places being burnt down or shot up on a monthly basis.

    In Asia (apart from Lebanon) areas of Christian extremism include Armenia/Azerbaijan, Phillipines in the southern Islands, East Timor and isolated areas of India.

    Christian terrorists are not some tiny insignificant group, but are spread throughout the world, in large numbers in Africa and Asia, can be extremely violent including using bombs, village slaughters and kidnapping and show little sign of stopping.



    For some reason I am unable to reply to specific replies, but I’ll just signify by username, and/or reply#

    Since you were able to post something, I’m guessing you’ll see a “Quote” button near the “Reply” button… or let me know if that’s not what you see. Just clicking the Quote button will create a reply that quotes the whole message you’re replying to. Usually better yet, you can highlight (select) a portion of the message you’d like to quote in your reply.

    Yeah, interesting… a Reply doesn’t reference the post one is replying to. I also just noticed that the Quote reply shows a link with the original poster’s name, and clicking that same link sends the clicker back to the post, not its auth0r. So Quote works well as a linkback, except for requiring one to do delete whatever text the Quote function added.

    I’ll delete this reply (and update the Tips Group) when you can reply.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 8 months ago by  PopeBeanie. Reason: added results of troubleshooting

    Thomas Paine

    New Atheists. What does that mean, exactly?

    New Atheists are atheists, usually from Western countries who take a “no appologies” approach to critiquing religion, promoting secularism and among many agressively attacking religion. They are different than other atheists in that 1. A New Atheist is more than someone who lacks belief in God. 

    I understand that the “New Athiest” assumes a strong  non apologetic stance, with immense effort in refuting Christian Apolgists. I believe it encourages “nones” and others who are questioning their beliefs to escape the grips of religion. I think it is great to point out the absurdity and lack of logic that surrounds religion and all it embraces.

    I’ve been thinking about Harris and his Islamic believers = dedicated/motivated terrorist. It seems that the realities are far outpacing his thesis. Since 9/11 the largest terrorists event on U.S. soil were committed by what appears to be “homegrown” members of the Muslim faith. In terms of the hundreds of millions of  Muslim believers this is a statistically indignifificant number.

    One could argue that this low statistic is due to interdiction and effort of our Homeland Security people andthere may be some truth to that. However, the FBI and other agencies involved in preventing terrorism seem to have no problem  publicizing all the plots they stop. Even that number added to actual events is again statistically small.

    So, yes Harris really put his foot in it when he posited the power of the religion to motivate terrorism.

    @ThomasPaine – “It seems to me in looking back through time that these calls for violence are simply using the religion of a people as a powerful psychological lever to gain political ends in addition to the political beliefs.” It seems to me this illustrates the problem of combining Church and State.
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>No argument with this statement. The separation of Church and State is why I am a member of AU.</p>


    Simon Paynton

    In terms of the hundreds of millions of Muslim believers this is a statistically indignifificant number.

    – but how many mass shootings or other terrorist attacks in the US, are done in the name of religion?  Western Christians almost never do this.  I think this is what makes Islamist terrorism different.  It also seems more vicious than normal terrorism – Isis really put a lot of effort into being cruel.


    Hardly any religiously inspired terrorism happens in the U.S. The vast majority of the victims of the Religion of Peace are in fact Muslims who have different beliefs about the same god that does not exist. Christians and even Buddhists kill each other too when they take a break from their core beliefs of doing no harm or loving their neighbor. They have been killing each other for centuries. For good men…..it takes religion.

    I thought it was great when people voted this song as the Xmas No.1



    the realities are far outpacing his thesis

    The truth is, the biggest source of terrorism in Europe in the last 100 years have been Christian based (including in the last decade):

    Northern Ireland: Catholics and Protestants killing one another and blowing up buildings and transport most especially in Belfast and London
    Yugoslavia: Mini genocide by Orthodox Christians against Muslims
    Ukraine: Orthodox and Catholics kidnapping and murdering one anothers religious leaders
    Norway: A christian murdering dozens of school children this decade because of muslims and stuff
    Germany-Austria: (and many in other countries): Liquidating 8 million Jews in the 40s
    Catalonia: Setting abortion clinics and gay haunts on fire in the 20th century
    Western Europe: In the last decade murder and setting fire to Sinogogues and Mosques
    Hungary: Caging Muslim migrants and throwing food at them making life so unpleasant they will never come back

    If you even forget about what happened pre 1950s, the numbers of deaths by Christian violence far surpass Muslim inspired terrorism in Europe. And that goes on a near yearly basis (certainly a decade by decade basis).

    Islam may find more grotesque and theatrical ways of terrorizing and killing people in Europe…and if I were to suffer a terrorist act in Madrid its more likely to happen by a Jihadist bomb. But they have no privileged place as an inherently more violent and more destructive religion or with body counts in Europe. The specific doctrine the may quote (jihad, heil hitler, onward christian soldiers, in the name of the pope) is important to understand but irrelevant in terms of the inherent violent nature of all Abrahamic religions. And that nature remains until secularism starts. In reality…Sam Harris obsesses over the Islamic threat in Europe far more than Europeans do. That’s not to say it isn’t of great concern. You can’t ignore it when you board a train where the platform was blown up 10 years ago or checking in for a flight where a bombs sent bodies flying a couple years ago. But to vilanise Islam instead of villainizing Theistic religions really truly misses the point and it doesn’t do new-atheism any favors.


    “If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.” – Voltaire

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