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New Atheism, Open-Mindedness, and Critical Thinking

  • Christopher R. Cotter
Chapter
Part of the Sophia Studies in Cross-cultural Philosophy of Traditions and Cultures book series (SCPT, volume 21)

Abstract

A common theme throughout the writings of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens is the importance of ‘critical thinking’. Not only do these authors believe that they themselves are critical thinkers, they also advocate critical thinking as a key element in their idealized atheistic future. This chapter has been written to assess the veracity of their claims to critical thinking in their engagements with ‘religion’, via an engagement with related literature on ‘open-mindedness,’ particularly the work of William Hare and Harvey Siegel. An analysis of this nature is not merely of academic interest, but is of great importance given the popularity of their books both within and outside the atheistic milieu, the near-canonical status that they have achieved, and the effects of their rhetoric upon the beliefs and practices of individuals in the ‘real’ world. The argument in this chapter flows sequentially through delineations of the concepts of ‘open-mindedness’ and ‘critical thinking’, and a demonstration of the New Atheists’ valorization of critical thinking, before discussing open-mindedness as a constituent part of critical thinking, and then building a three stage argument to demonstrate that the New Atheists are not open-minded, and that therefore they are not critical thinkers (in the context of their most popular considerations of ‘religion’).

Keywords

New atheism Open-mindedness Critical thinking Scientism Richard Dawkins William Hare 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Politics, Philosophy and ReligionLancaster UniversityLancashireUK

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