Militant atheists like Richard Dawkins have done secularism a disservice, according to New Scientist.
An editorial in the issue of the magazine published on Easter Saturday criticised Dawkins and other ‘new atheists’, who attack scientists advocating for a more considered approach towards religion.
This hostile rhetoric, it said, has “alienated as many people as it won over” and given the impression that “atheism is a belief system whose adherents can be as blindly dogmatic as any other”.
The article argues that the debate between new atheists and people of religion has been reduced to the “sophistication of a playground taunting match”, where atheists decry “blindly dogmatic” religious people and in turn are open to the charge of being blindly dogmatic themselves.
Because of the way the new atheists have conducted themselves, some of them have lost their claim to “the intellectual high ground”.
It concludes that by “ignoring or high-handedly dismissing” the power of religion, new atheists have done nothing to “further the secularist cause”.
A fuller article in the same edition of New Scientist considers the psychological similarities between atheists and people of religion.
Interestingly, Graham Lawton – the author of the article who is himself an atheist – admits that “even hard-core atheists tend to entertain quasi-religious or spiritual ideas such as there being a higher power or that everything happens for a purpose”.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “The rhetoric of Dawkins and co has clearly fallen out of favour with those in the scientific community. They are now willing to say in public what they had been saying in private for years.
“Of course Christians won’t agree with everything in New Scientist, but it’s very significant that they reject the anti-religious vitriol of new atheists and even recognise the positive impact religion can have.”
Richard Dawkins, an outspoken evolutionary biologist, has often courted controversy over the years.
In 2014, he caused outrage by claiming it is “immoral” not to abort Down’s syndrome babies.
“Down Syndrome”, he tweeted, “is 1 of the commonest & most moral reasons” to exercise the “right” to abortion.
Dawkins also believes that children need to be protected from ‘religious indoctrination’ by their parents.
He claims that teaching a child orthodox Christian beliefs about life after death is tantamount to “child abuse”.