According to Wikipedia, the New Atheism refers to a 21st century movement in atheism. The term, which first appeared in the November 2006 edition of Wired magazine. It is sometimes pejoratively meant, to a series of six best-selling books by five authors that appeared in the period 2004–2008 (Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger and Christopher Hitchens)
They and other supporters of the New Atheism movement are hard-line critics of religion. They state that atheism, backed by recent scientific advancement, has reached the point where it is time to take a far less accommodating attitude toward religion, superstition, and religion-based fanaticism than had been extended by moderate atheists, secularists, and some secular scientists.
According to CNN, “What the New Atheists share is a belief that religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.”
Christian apologist Robert Morey wrote on his book “The New Atheism and the Erosion of Freedom” said, “The atheists of the old school took a rather relaxed, passive attitude toward God and the Bible. They felt that if people were foolish enough to believe in religion, that was their problem. These atheists did not feel the need to read through the Bible, desperately seeking contradictions or errors. They did not sit up night after night feverishly trying to formulate attacks against religion. They simply ignored religion. Thus modern atheists deny God’s existence because they actually hate God. They hate Him because this God demands they serve Him and fulfill the destiny He has decreed for them. This God gives man a revealed law which dictates what is right and wrong. God thus robs man of the freedom of being and choosing whatever he wants. God is viewed as the enemy that must be destroyed in order for man to reach his full potential. Instead of God being the measure of all things, man must be the measure of all things.”
So…what’s new then?
For centuries atheists, materialists and libertines have been critical with every religious claims and have been exposing errors and other ridiculous avers of certain religious doctrines.
In ancient Greece for example, the poet Diagoras of Melos broke a statue of Hercules and used it as firewood to cook turnips. The Carvaka in the 6th century BCE and Purana Kassapa attacked the Hindu doctrine of Karma. There were also Xun Zi (298-238 BCE) who questioned the uses of prayers and divinations.
Before Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennett, there were those who have already criticized the Christian religion and its holy book, the Bible.
In 200 CE the pagan philosopher, Celsus challenged the belief on Neoplatonic Christianity. In his treaties “The True World”, Celsus pointed out that Christianity took most of its concepts from pagan sources and plagiarized some of its stories from early Greek ideas. Christianity, according to him was a collection of borrowed and intellectual bankrupt ideas.
In the early part of 11th century, Ibn Najjah hinted the possibility of atheism and Ibn Tufayl showed awareness in evolution.
It was quite ironic that true atheism arguments started with two Roman Catholic priests: Cristovao Ferreira and Jean Meisler. Fr. Ferreira was a former Jesuit who after being tortured by the Japanese in 1614 recanted his faith. In 1636, Ferreira wrote a small book “The Deception Revealed” which he asserted that God did not created the universe. He also stated that religion like Christianity is just an invention of men to hold powers over their fellow men.
Jean Meisler (1664-1729), once the parish priest of Etrepiquy in the Ardennes, secretly wrote volumes of testaments against God, religion, the Bible and Christianity. These testaments were published after his death in 1729 and were titled as “Common Sense”.
According to Meisler, theology is but ignorance of natural causes reduced to a system and it is an insult to human reason. He also believed that faith is irreconcilable with reason and we must prefer reason to it.
Before the coming of the renaissance period, we already have people like Anthony Collins who questioned the prophecies of the Old Testament. Peter Ammet who argued that the resurrection story was a fabrication and Charles Blount who said that heaven, hell and the concept of original sin were just invented by priests to hold over the terror-stricken masses.
Critical examinations of biblical claims were not new. William Winston (1667-1752) and Jean Astruc started it in the early part of 16th century. Astruc established the Documentary Hypothesis that gives us the explanation why Moses did not wrote the first five books of the Bible.
There were books that show Bible errors in the early part of 17th century. Thomas Paine (1737-1809) wrote “the Age of Reason” which he analyzed the Christian belief in God and the Bible. It did not stop there. Abner Kneeland, Kelsey Graves and DeLobique Montimer Bennett wrote books that criticized Christian beliefs.
Abner Kneeland was indicted on three counts of blasphemy in 1834 for publishing that the whole story of Jesus Christ was just a fable and the Bible as a pack of lies created by hypocrites. Kelsey Graves wrote books like The Bible of Bibles, The Biography of Satan and The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors. D.M.Bennett (1818-1882) was the editor of the paper Truth Seeker. He wrote a criticism about Jesus entitled “An Open Letter to Jesus Christ”. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1877.
The American Atheists have already published a book about Bible errors before the term “New Atheism” was coined by Gary Wolf. Dennis McKinsey published the magazine Biblical Errancy in 1983 while in 1990 Farrell Till edited The Skeptical Review. Now we have more in-depth issues and scholarly works in exposing Bible errors – thanks to Mr. John W. Luftus, Dr. Hector Avalos, Shmuel Golding, Gerd Ludermann and John Allegro.
Criticism to the Bible, Christianity, Jesus and God already started somewhere in 200 CE, so…what’s new with the so-called “new atheists?”