9-11 and the Rise of New Atheism

Before September 11, 2001, many atheists had a very "live and let live" attitude toward religion. Many atheists obviously believed that religious beliefs were silly, but that they weren't hurting anyone. How dangerous could they be? But on 9/11, the world saw just how dangerous dogmatic faith-based ideas could be and as a result, many atheists realized that faith is not something that can be reasoned with.

Sadly it has taken this terrible act of terrorism to kick start the resurgence of atheism in our modern society and to motivate atheists to organize. No longer could people of reason sit on the sidelines and allow the ridiculous ideas of religion to corrupt our society without criticism. Atheists could no longer allow bad ideas and beliefs to get a pass in polite society without pointing out the obvious.

Many atheists woke up from their apathetic slumber on 9/11, only to see that our secular nation had become transformed with religious fundamentalism and America's own brand of religious extremism without us even noticing. Nearly half the country rejects the science of evolution in favor of Creationism. Stem cell medical research that promises to save countless lives has become controversial, and even though nearly all climate scientists agree that the Earth is experiencing massive climate change as a result of human action, the religious beliefs of fundamentalists has opened this up for debate within the media.

In 2004, Sam Harris' "The End of Faith" was published. In 2006, Richard Dawkins' book, "The God Delusion" and Daniel Dennett's book, "Breaking the Spell" were published. And in 2007, Christopher Hitchens weighed in with his book, "God Is Not Great." As a direct result of the 9/11 attacks, the so called "New Atheism" movement was born and atheists began to be more vocal about our lack of belief in mythical deities.

We will no longer stay in the closet. It is time for liberal and moderate religious believers to start to really ask themselves what they truly believe and why. What evidence do you really have for your beliefs and if you beliefs are based on faith alone, is such a belief falsifiable? If reason and faith were to go head-to-head, which would you trust more and why?

Whether you are a religious believer or not, you should understand that 9-11 changed the religious landscape. People martyred themselves because they believed on faith that they would live on in paradise for all eternity. We can all agree that the 9-11 terrorists almost certainly are not hanging out in eternal bliss because of their actions, but on what basic can we make that determination? As an atheist, I can say that this life is almost certainly the only life we have and that there is no eternal afterlife. But for religious believers, how do you know that your beliefs about the afterlife are correct and that every other religious belief -- including those of the 9-11 terrorists -- have/had it wrong?

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