Atheist writings may reflect secular panic

From the Associated Press.

“Christopher Hitchens’ book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything has sold briskly since it was published in May, and his debates with clergy are drawing crowds at every stop.

Sam Harris was a little-known graduate student until he wrote the successful The End of Faith and its follow-up, Letter to a Christian Nation. Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon struck similar themes – and sold.

“There is something like a change in the zeitgeist,” Mr. Hitchens said, noting that sales of his latest book far outnumber those for his earlier work that challenged faith. “There are a lot of people, in this country in particular, who are fed up with endless lectures by bogus clerics and endless bullying.”

Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, a prominent evangelical school in Pasadena, Calif., said the books’ success reflects a new vehemence in the atheist critique.

“I don’t believe in conspiracy theories,” Dr. Mouw said, “but it’s almost like they all had a meeting and said, ‘Let’s counterattack.’ ”

The writers do see themselves in a battle for reason in a world crippled by superstition. In their view, Muslim extremists, Jewish settlers and Christian right activists are from the same mold, using fairy tales posing as divine scripture to justify their lust for power. Bad behavior in the name of religion is behind some of the most dangerous global conflicts and the terrorist attacks in the U.S., London and Madrid, the atheists say.

As Mr. Hitchens puts it: “Religion kills.”

But the Rev. Douglas Wilson, senior fellow in theology at New Saint Andrews College, a Christian school in Moscow, Idaho, sees the books as a sign of secular panic. Nonbelievers are finally realizing that, contrary to what they were taught in college, faith is not dead, he says. ”

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