New atheism, open-mindedness, and critical thinking

Christopher Cotter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


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’).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Atheism
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Perspectives and Contemporary Debates
EditorsChristopher R. Cotter, Philip Andrew Quadrio, Jonathan Tuckett
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9783319549644
ISBN (Print)9783319549620
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2017

Publication series

NameSophia Studies in Cross-cultural Philosophy of Traditions and Cultures
ISSN (Print)2211-1107
ISSN (Electronic)2211-1115


  • new atheism
  • open-mindedness
  • critical thinking
  • scientism
  • Richard Dawkins
  • William Hare


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  • New Atheism: Critical Perspectives and Contemporary Debates

    Cotter, C. (ed.), Quadrio, P. (ed.) & Tuckett, J. (ed.), 2017, Cham: Springer. 240 p. (Sophia Studies in Cross-cultural Philosophy of Traditions and Cultures ; vol. 21)

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

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