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‘The God Delusion’ Author Now Says He’s a ‘Cultural Christian’?—Justin Brierley Explains the Decline of the New Atheism

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Image courtesy of Justin Brierley

Remember when a group of prominent atheists were telling the world that God was a delusion and that religion was harmful to society? In the mid-2000s, a movement developed called the “New Atheism,” represented by figures such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett, who were known as the “Four Horsemen.”

“New Atheism was really a phenomenon…around the mid-2000s, kind of very much on the coattails of 9/11 [that conveyed] the sense that religion might be bad for us,” said broadcaster and author Justin Brierley in a recent interview on “The Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast.”

Brierley hosted the “Unbelievable?” podcast for many years and had a unique opportunity to observe and engage with the New Atheism. In his recent book, “The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God: Why New Atheism Grew Old and Secular Thinkers Are Considering Christianity Again,” he explains why he believes the movement failed and describes a new openness he sees in people when it comes to faith.

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The New Atheism After Its Heyday

Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Dennett “were public intellectuals who had a big platform,” said Brierley, “and they wrote these best-selling, anti-God books [that] became very popular. There were lots of speaking tours. It was quite a kind of publishing phenomenon, a media phenomenon.”

The New Atheists were not afraid to “ridicule religion.” In fact, said Brierley, “that was an important part of the movement. It wasn’t afraid of being very brash, confident, derogatory.”

Why then did the movement fail? “I think there’s a few different reasons,” Brierley said. “Firstly, there was a kind of an internal meltdown.”

“Basically,” he explained, “once the New Atheists had agreed that God didn’t exist and religion was bad for you, they really couldn’t agree on much else thereafter because suddenly they began to have all kinds of fallouts over where their movement should head.”

Some people in the movement wanted to prioritize social justice concerns as they saw them, while others, such as Dawkins, “felt this was just political correctness and we just needed science and free thinking.”