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Home Uncategorized The church of unbelievers

The church of unbelievers

Mairéad Carew
The Four Horsemen: The Discussion that sparked an Atheist Revolution, by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, with a foreword by Stephen Fry, Bantam Press, 160 pp, £9.99, ISBN: 978-0593080399 Some years ago I went to a talk by the evolutionary biologist and “New Atheist” Richard Dawkins in a marquee during Listowel Writers’ Week. He inquired of the audience about their acceptance of the theory of evolution and could not find a single dissenter in the tent. It’s probable that he would not have been able to find an evolution-denier on the streets of Listowel either. Considering that the theory of evolution was discovered by Darwin in 1859 and not by Dawkins in the twenty-first century and that even the Catholic church has recognised Darwinian evolution for the past sixty years this is hardly surprising. So what was the point of preaching to the converted? I felt that I had inadvertently wandered into a Leaving Certificate biology class and waited for Dawkins to make some new revelation about science or religion or both, but this didn’t happen. I picked up this book, The Four Horsemen: The Discussion that sparked an Atheist Revolution, to see what the point of spearheading a campaign of “New Atheism” was about and must admit that, after reading it carefully, I am still none the wiser. Samuel Beckett’s opening line of his novel Murphy (published 1938) “The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new” comes to mind. I was baffled as to why Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist; Sam Harris, a neuroscientist; Daniel C Dennett, a philosopher; and Christopher Hitchens, a journalist and political historian, could not stop pontificating about God. They featured for a time in a great variety of newspapers, magazines, television shows, radio programmes and YouTube videos. Between 2004 and 2007, they produced five bestselling books between them which spearheaded the “New Atheist” movement. They included Sam Harris’s The End of Faith (2004) and Letter to a Christian Nation (2006); Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell (2006); Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion (2006); and Christopher Hitchens’s God is Not Great (2007). In September 2007, the annual conference of the Atheist Alliance International was held in Washington DC. Harris, Dennett, Dawkins and Hitchens, the four horsemen of the title, took part in a conversation which was filmed. This book consists of the transcript of this conversation along with new essays, but no new ideas, from Harris, Dennett and Dawkins. The reason given for publishing…

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