Leaders in the New Atheist movement insist there is no God because, they claim, there is no evidence for the existence of God. They do this while posturing as if they are open-minded, being willing to become theists if only someone could show them some evidence for God’s existence. This posturing is either dishonest or delusional, as there is not one scrap of evidence to support the belief that Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, or Jerry Coyne would change their minds because of any “evidence.” What’s more, there is evidence to contrary. For starters, they are activists who play a lead role in a social movement. Anyone with any familiarity with activism knows activists don’t change their minds; activists twist everything to fit their agenda. Also, as we have seen earlier, a survey of atheists found that New Atheists are the most narcissistic, mean, and dogmatic of all atheists. What’s more, recently Richard Dawkins admitted his dogmatism by noting that, as far as he was concerned, no data could ever count as evidence for the existence of God.
We now have some more data that converge on the same conclusion – New Atheists are closed-minded. Social scientist (and atheist) Jonathan Haidt recently did a word analysis of books by Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. Haidt explains:
When I was doing the research for The Righteous Mind, I read the New Atheist books carefully, and I noticed that several of them sounded angry. I also noticed that they used rhetorical structures suggesting certainty far more often than I was used to in scientific writing – words such as “always” and “never,” as well as phrases such as “there is no doubt that…” and “clearly we must…”
To check my hunch, I took the full text of the three most important New Atheist books—Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, Sam Harris’s The End of Faith, and Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell and I ran the files through a widely used text analysis program that counts words that have been shown to indicate certainty, including “always,” “never,” “certainly,” “every,” and “undeniable.” To provide a close standard of comparison, I also analyzed three recent books by other scientists who write about religion but are not considered New Atheists: Jesse Bering’s The Belief Instinct, Ara Norenzayan’s Big Gods, and my own book The Righteous Mind.
To provide an additional standard of comparison, I also analyzed books by three right wing radio and television stars whose reasoning style is not generally regarded as scientific. I analyzed Glenn Beck’s Common Sense, Sean Hannity’s Deliver Us from Evil, and Anne Coulter’s Treason. (I chose the book for each author that had received the most comments on Amazon.) As you can see in the graph, the New Atheists win the “certainty” competition. Of the 75,000 words in The End of Faith, 2.24% of them connote or are associated with certainty. (I also analyzed The Moral Landscape—it came out at 2.34%.)
Y’gotta love it. Not only do Harris and Dawkins come to us with an extreme sense of certainty, it looks like their level of certainty is even greater than that of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity! You would have a better chance of convincing Glenn Beck that President Obama was a decent president than in convincing Sam Harris God exists.
In fact, the positive “controls” that Haidt picks are actually good analogs given that Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are little more than the atheistic versions of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. Harris, Dawkins, Coyne and other New Atheist leaders do not come to us as scholars, scientists, and thinkers. They come to us as Beck and Hannity come to us – as activists and apologists who have something to sell. Harris, Dawkins, Beck, Coulter – they all sell an endless stream of books not simply to advance their agenda, but to make money off their agenda.