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Thank God for the New Atheists

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins is one of the New Atheists who are fulfilling the traditional role of prophets. Getty Images

By Reverend Michael Dowd

Religious people of all backgrounds and orientations need to heed what atheists such as Richard Dawkins are saying if they want their traditions to remain relevant to modern society.

Rev. Michael Dowd is the author of Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World (2009, Plume). See

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Since April 2002, my wife and I have lived entirely on the road. We’ve addressed more than 1000 groups across North America, teaching and preaching the epic of evolution as our common creation story. Last year, on the day I learned I had cancer, I pondered:“If I have only one message left to communicate, what would it be?” The answer was: “Show Christians how the New Atheists are God’s prophets”. One year later, with cancer in remission, this is still my core message.

My first encounter with the New Atheists came in the summer of 2004. A man who had heard me speak in Colorado Springs gave me a cassette tape by Michael Earl. Listening to Bible Stories Your Parents Never Taught You was a painful experience. I did not want to hear what Earl was saying, yet I couldn’t deny the truth of his commentary. I could no longer ignore scriptural passages – from Genesis to Revelation – that portray God as brutal, cruel, vindictive and genocidal.

Since that summer in Colorado, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens have all produced best-selling, controversial books, and I have read them all. It took several years for my initial discomfort to grow into gratitude for the New Atheists, as I had to make a huge shift in my thinking.

All religions offer maps of what’s real, what’s important, and practices to help adherents come into right...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.