Atheism is enjoying a moment in the spotlight, thanks to a few very prominent atheists - Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris being chief among them.
However, atheism is no new concept, and this will not be its first or last moment to shine. It’s a belief as old as ancient Greece – likely very much older. As the forces of scientific discoveries and cultural revolutions have played their parts in history, the popularity of atheism has waxed and waned. Still, whether you’re a believer or not, reading about atheism is well worth your time. The authors mentioned above are razor-sharp, deadly serious, and stunningly articulate. Reading any one of them is food for the brain, and although their beliefs are parallel, each has a unique “take” on atheism.
Dawkins believes that raising children in a religious tradition – any one of them – is tantamount to child abuse. His writing is not for the faint of heart; he uses his astounding range of vocabulary as a weapon in the battle against false beliefs.
The much milder (though still emphatic) Dennett treats religion as a natural phenomenon (not unlike music), which isn’t diminished whatsoever by close study. He wants to see how it evolves, and what evolutionary advantage religion might bestow on those who "use" it.
Hitchens provides all sorts of examples that refute the idea of (g)od’s greatness, and argues that throughout our recent history, religion has been a destructive and dangerous force, rather than a redemptive one.
Harris is worried about faith in particular. He wonders why it is that in the post-modern, highly scientific world, we could consider faith (and the devaluing of scientific evidence implied therein) virtuous.
These men write with such passion that readers cannot finish these books unaffected. For something that will really stir you up, I wholeheartedly recommend reading any one of them!
The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins
Breaking the Spell, by Daniel C Dennett
God is not Great, by Christopher Hitchens
The End of Faith, by Sam Harris
Letter to A Christian Nation, by Sam Harris