Having been sent the link to, as usual, a rather excellent piece: Andrew Brown: The New Atheism, a definition and a quiz I was grateful to find that some of the things that arose in my first conversation appear to be valid (and some of my thinking perhaps valid too - phew).
You can read the piece for yourselves but here's a few interesting segments (italicised for clarity) that jumped out and called for my attention (and perhaps validated some of the thoughts thus far):
"I thought I would try to define the New Atheism that I, and others, so dislike.
In part this is difficult because the new atheism is largely a political and social rather than an intellectual movement."
So perhaps my 'red top' readership comment is shared by others. This is rather comforting as one friend asked if I was not being perhaps a little 'snobby' when I posted it. I'm not, but what I'm saying is that it doesn't have the higher reading age of those who are philosophically atheist.
I also loved the use of the word 'synecdoche' (using a part of something to denote the whole: pointyhats for bishops, dogcollars for clergy, etc.) and that he sees in the new atheist approach religion as being:
'A synecdoche for everything that might go wrong, so that belief in the evil qualities of Faith was not so very different from belief in the evils of witchcraft.'
Yes indeedy folk - it is faith, religion, the religious (call them what you will) who are the source of all that was, is and will be wrong. Perhaps science is the new messiah?
I'm rather pleased to see Brown name the prophets, patriarchs and prime movers of the new atheist thing as: 'Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Jerry Coyne, the American physicist Robert L. Park, and a couple of blogging biologists, P Z Myers and Larry Moran.'
And more grateful too that he says of them:
'They have two things in common. They are none of them philosophers and, though most are scientists, none study psychology, history, the sociology of religion, or any other discipline which might cast light on the objects of their execration. All of them make claims about religion and about believers which go far beyond the mere disbelief in God which I take to be the distinguishing mark of an atheist.'
Taking as his model former Master of Balliol and philosopher, Anthony Kenny, t as the datum from which he defines (old) atheism, he says that he (Kenny) would reject the following
❄ There is something called "Faith" which can be defined as unjustified belief held in the teeth of the evidence. Faith is primarily a matter of false propositional belief.
❄ The cure for faith is science: The existence of God is a scientific question: either he exists or he doesn't. "Science is the only way of knowing – everything else is just superstition" [Robert L. Park]
❄ Science is the opposite of religion, and will lead people into the clear sunlit uplands of reason. "The real war is between rationalism and superstition. Science is but one form of rationalism, while religion is the most common form of superstition" [Jerry Coyne]
"I am not attacking any particular version of God or gods. I am attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be invented." [Dawkins]
❄ In this great struggle, religion is doomed. Enlightened common sense is gradually triumphing and at the end of the process, humanity will assume a new and better character, free from the shackles of religion. Without faith, we would be better as well as wiser. Conflict is primarily a result of misunderstanding, of which Faith is the paradigm.
(Looking for links, I just came across a lovely example of this in the endnotes to the Selfish Gene, where lawyers are dismissed as "solving man-made problems that should never have existed in the first place".)
❄ Religion exists. It is essentially something like American fundamentalist protestantism, or Islam. More moderate forms are false and treacherous: if anything even more dangerous, because they conceal the raging, homicidal lunacy that is religion's true nature. [Sam Harris]
❄ Faith, as defined above, is the most dangerous and wicked force on earth today and the struggle against it and especially against Islam will define the future of humanity. [Everyone]
Brown concludes by saying:
'All of these propositions will be found in the authors I have cited as well as in the comments to religious articles here. I sometimes think that only the last two are unique to the new atheists: you can certainly find the others in earlier authors. But those are the six doctrines which I would reject when saying rude things about the new atheists.
What would be interesting in comments is if people would score themselves out of six. I expect that one of the most common forms of disagreement would be to claim that you are a three or a four, but none the less the believers are so repulsive and dangerous that the other two points just don't matter. That's how politics works, after all, and the new atheism is interesting as a political or social movement, not an intellectual one."
Again I am grateful to Andrew Brown for adding to the discussion and increasing my understanding (even if it is his view alone :-) ).