This is a blog about the philosophical movement which has become known as New Atheism. It is not a blog about Atheism, which is a worldview that I quite respect. There are plenty of intelligent, thoughtful, nuanced Atheists* out there, but the particular sub-culture spearheaded by Harris, Dennet, and Dawkins is not where you'll find them.
New Atheism is popular, but popularity does not ensure any richness of thought. In fact, I dare say that popularity and richness are more often than not antonymous. The X-Factor is popular. Popularity depends on a simplistic message; something which doesn't require thought or effort from those watching/reading/downloading. It's popular because it's easy, not because it's good.
New Atheism is popular because it presents a polarised, simplistic view of religion; a surviving relic of prehistory, encouraging adherents to obey a bloodthirsty deity, and think and act accordingly, else face eternal damnation. It proclaims itself the saviour of mankind, fantasising that in preaching it's Empirical gospel, it is freeing us from the shackles of our self-imposed slavery.
In other words, New Atheism has a Messiah complex. And, like all good Messiahs, it thinks that it acts altruistically. Unfortunately, unlike all good Messiahs, it has no understanding of the thing that it thinks it's saving us from. Jesus was a Jew, and spent most of his life absorbing 1st Century Pharisaic Judaism before he started preaching his gospel, which was in equal parts critical of, and dependent on, it. From his vantage point, he was able to deconstruct religion so as to expose what lies at its core; the question of how to live well.
The New Atheists, meanwhile, try to do what Jesus did; liberating us from religion, but skip the part about understanding it. Instead, they launch a drone strike on an unknown enemy, with no concern for civilian casualties. They are the George W. Bushes of philosophical liberation, firing their pistols in the air, and dropping bombs on parts of the world that they know nothing about.
Being a Christian means, in the eyes of the New Atheist, that I believe the world is only 5000 years old, I think it's a sin for men to fancy other men, I think women are second-class citizens, designed only by God to receive my seed, and that I'm terrified of going to Hell. None of which looks anything like the religion I follow. And that's not because I'm a postmodern, liberal sort of a Christian, it's because Christianity, in real life, looks nothing like this. It's a caricature.
So, the trouble with New Atheism is not that it constructs a coherent anti-religious argument, it's that, like the fluffy little purrers that this blog is named after, they are harmless pests, who are everywhere. Captain Kirk opens a cupboard and they all come tumbling out; no harm done, but what a pain in the arse.
I haven't yet heard an argument from the movement that has made me realise how blind and naive I've been about the God-thing, and I don't think I will. But I'm tired and bored of going opening the cupboard (read: Twitter) and hearing the same old ineffective arguments tumbling out.
My suggestion for the New Atheists is this: if you want to be taken seriously by people of faith, stop video-blogging and writing easy books, and try reading something. Or, which would be even better, just stop it. Go outside and get some fresh air. It's a nice day.
*Check out Slavoj Zizek, Jacques Derrida, Nietzsche, even John Humphreys.