I have been thinking about this for a while now. Who will take the place of people like Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens? I have not heard or read of anyone that is doing things or writing about what they have. Sure there is Sam Harris and others, but I haven't heard of any new comers to take their place. Has anyone out there heard of someone? I don't want what they have started to die with them.
I think there is a time and a place for everything, and Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennet and others filled a void that was required at the time when atheism went from being obscure or hidden, primarily in the US, to gaining more momentum as a "movement". Other countries don't need to claim or fight for, visibility for atheism. Most of Western europe doesn't need militant atheists because religion is either disappearing or becoming mostly irrelevant or a matter of culture rather than faith. But in the US, there are plenty of excellent atheist bloggers and thinkers, many attending tomorrow's Reason Rally. If you go to the website you'll see many good people who will continue to give the atheist movement some visibility, specifically in the US. I'm not worried that the movement would die with them. Hitchens unfortunately was too young to die, Dawkins is not that old, and Harris is young. And all these other guys in the Reason Rally will continue to emphasize why it is important to maintain the separation between church and state.
It's a good question, but do we need to replace them? Right away?
I think they had the impact they had because they were perfect for the situation at hand. What they started has now a life of its own. But sooner or later circumstances will change and very probably something different will be needed. Perhaps the next phase won't require brilliant thinkers and spokespersons but rather rely on the weight of a greater numbers of atheists.
I wasn't thinking of replacing them right away. I am just thinking about the future, and like Adriana pointed out, mainly the future of America. Sorry I didn't mention that is the original posting. If it wasn't for the Vatican, I would think that religion would be a very small thing in Europe. Well, smaller than it is today.
The next big thing is more and more atheists coming out. That ought to change the landscape and the public conversation.
As for Europe, there is indeed the Vatican, but there's also and perhaps more importantly the Orthodoxy.
These people take their stuff very seriously and they cover a lot of territory.
Yeah, I've been thinking about this: now that so many people came out atheists, and many are avid and curious readers who now hunger for new material, I feel like people are ready for a second layer of secularist and atheist discourse. I've been putting in my grain of salt in my blog writing pieces like Death and the Skeptic to encourage more conversation on how we deal with death from a secularist perspective.
Citing the works of Epicurus led me to studying his philosophy further, and I think Epicurean philosophy should be the most intellectually satisfying of all Greek philosophies to a modern atheist (it is to me). Hitchens declared himself an Epicurean, and Epicurus' views on ataraxia, hedonism and autarchy I think should be further explored within a modern context.
In fact I think that the entire school of Epicureanism, with its Gardens -where people of all social classes including women and slaves gathered to discuss philosophy as equals- should be revived. The London atheist temple should have one.
Epicurean ideals such as hedonism (enjoying the simple pleasures) have been denigrated by religious propaganda and by culinary traditions that claim an Epicurean identity but have no depth of philosophical sophistication about them. Combining cheeses and wines is NOT what Epicureanism is about: it's about having a full presence of mind while enjoying these items and enjoying the company of intimate, affectionate, intellectually stimulating friends. Quite different.
Epicurus said that friends are one of the most important elements of happiness, if not the most important. Atheism is about what we don't stand for, but Epicureanism is much more than a non-theistic ideology, it was very culturally vibrant for over 700 years and it has the potential to be the seed of close-knit communities of brights.
Also, the live-foods movement and its insistence on superfoods, and the huge momentum of scientific knowledge that we have about the brain and how happiness happens in the brain, about foods that enhance the production of serotonin and other feel-good chemicals -- this is all applied Epicureanism and Humanism. This is true ethics: the science of godless human happiness and wellbeing. If Christians hadn't dismantled all the ancient schools and Epicurus' gardens, this is the type of research that modern Epicurean scientists would be conducting, promoting and sharing.
Philosophies are to atheists what religions are to theists: more or less coherent attempts at developing a worldview that resonates with us. I really believe that Epicureanism (and perhaps other ancient Western philosophical schools) deserves a contemporary fresh start.
We also should adress issues of ethics and how to take back the public discourse on what is / isn't ethical from a strictly secularist viewpoint using secularist verbiage. We should strive to make wholesome secular views on ethics the mainstream views, focusing perhaps on some of the same concerns that Epicurus and others focused on: the importance of having wholesome relationships, having a wholesome mind free of superstition, etc. I've been working on articles in this regard, and I know I'm not the only one: Sam Harris wrote about the need for a 'science of contemplation' in his article Killing the Buddha, where he made a strong case for secularizing ethical discussions and even meditational practices (him being a neurologist, this is his forte).
There are new layers being built on the foundation of Hitchens and Dawkins already, and there's an audience (us here, reason rally, youtube, groups of friends, etc.) that is involved in these discussions and creating art and culture around them.
I subscribe to The humanist. Looking firward to reading your article, Hiram!
Yes, life after death is the main thing superstitious people (I include the religious) won't let go of.