cover image The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist Revolution

The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist Revolution

Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. Random House, $20 (128p) ISBN 978-0-525-51195-3

This meandering, unmoderated discussion among Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett, a group dubbed the New Atheists, presents their unique positions in provocative but underdeveloped arguments. Composed mainly of transcriptions of a conversation among the four that was posted to YouTube in 2007, the book opens with introductory essays highlighting key points from the three surviving thinkers (Hitchens died in 2011). The writers open the conversation by defending themselves against claims of being overly arrogant; they argue that religion is a much less humble theological belief than atheism. Topics covered include the gap between academic theology and what preachers preach, religion’s problematic reliance on authority and ancient texts, and the potential for danger in all religious belief. Moments of genuine disagreement arise, including a relatively heated argument from Hitchens that religion should not disappear because he enjoys having a sparring partner. There is some begrudging respect for Christianity’s aesthetic achievements and a constructive section on which arguments could convince them to moderate their attacks (such as artistic merit), but the tone is generally harsh and unsparing. Readers who are looking for a taste of new atheism will get a good sense of the tone and style of these thinkers, but those familiar with the arguments will see this as an unpolished curiosity. (Mar.)