"Christopher Hitchens Reading His Book Hitch 22" by Meesh / CC BY 2.0

Modern atheism’s Mount Rushmore comes together in ‘The Four Horsemen’

Mar 26, 2019

By Andy Norman

“The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist Revolution” is a transcript of a 2007 conversation among four prominent public intellectuals, each the author of a best-selling book challenging the intellectual and moral credentials of religion.

Its participants were the celebrated evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (“The God Delusion”), the grandfatherly philosopher Daniel Dennett (“Breaking the Spell”), the brash neuroscientist Sam Harris (“The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation”) and the late crusading journalist Christopher Hitchens (“God Is Not Great”). Their conversation was an invigorating example of what happens when astute, inquisitive minds engage together on deep questions.

We’re fortunate that the exchange was captured on film, and the video has since been viewed millions of times online. Why then do we also need the book?

I find that the print volume adds something new to the public record: Not only do the surviving members of the foursome — Mr.  Dawkins, Mr. Dennett and Mr. Harris — but also each weighs in with fresh thoughts on the subjects they discussed, the text affords a different, more reflective way of processing the truly vital exchange of ideas. This slim volume (130 pages) is chock-full of observations that secular readers will find thrilling and believers will find challenging. Those concerned to understand religion as a natural phenomenon will derive special benefit from ruminating over its pages.

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3 comments on “Modern atheism’s Mount Rushmore comes together in ‘The Four Horsemen’

  • I watched the celebrated video but have not yet read the book. From what I read it is essentially a transcription of the original film.  That is a pity.  We must keep discussion alive but the debate should be moving on. 
    The intellectual arguments are interesting, what about the corrosive effects of religious indoctrination?  This is where it all started, following 9/11 and Sam Harris’s The End of Faith.  Mr Dawkins famously pronounced religion evil, but in the film he says he is “concerned not so much with the evil of religion as whether it is true.” 
    Have our three star authors lost their way?  If Hirsi Ali had joined them in the writing, as expected, we might have seen a different book.
    I am studying religious indoctrination, specifically the damaging effect of inculcating distorted ideas in young children.  My experiences in the Roman Catholic community and my researches suggest that Christian indoctrination of Augustinian teaching is indeed harmful and may be a contributory factor in the church’s bedevilment with paedophilia.
    Sam Harris claims (in the video) that Christianity rests on the Bible; one could argue equally that Christianity rests on St Augustine.  Could it be that St Augustine himself is ‘The Crux of Sin’?

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  • Joe Baker says:

    Mr Dawkins famously pronounced religion evil, but in the film he says he is “concerned not so much with the evil of religion as whether it is true.

    From reading his works, I would say this claim is false, and seems to be from a perspective which claims some particular religious claims are “true”!

    Rather than concern  about “if religion is true”, I would suggest he is concerned about “where religion is false”, the damage this application of falsehoods, does to humans and their societies, and how scientific thinking can be used to correct these errors. 

    A nice read on this topic, is Richard’s book, “The Magic of Reality” – “How do we know what’s really true”.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11256979-the-magic-of-reality

    Magic takes many forms. Supernatural magic is what our ancestors used in order to explain the world before they developed the scientific method. The ancient Egyptians explained the night by suggesting the goddess Nut swallowed the sun. The Vikings believed a rainbow was the gods’ bridge to earth. The Japanese used to explain earthquakes by conjuring a gigantic catfish that carried the world on its back—earthquakes occurred each time it flipped its tail. These are magical, extraordinary tales. But there is another kind of magic, and it lies in the exhilaration of discovering the real answers to these questions. It is the magic of reality—science.

     


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  • Alan

    For me, this is the main difference between Dawkins and the Hitch. Hitch looked at the writings and declared them evil and picked out Islam as the most evil. Dawkins says it’s adherents can be evil whatever the religion. His saying that he is concerned about whether it’s true or not is a statement that it is not and only can be construed as him saying he has ‘doubts’ if taken out of context, as you have pointed out. My understanding anyway.


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