What is it like to be a New Atheist -- one of those irascible preachers of reason, those "militant" purveyors of populist non-belief like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens? Most people don't bother to ask, because they think they already know. Either it's a depraved and pathetic existence, buoyed (especially in the notorious case of Hitchens) only by excessive drink or else suffused in a nearly mystical state that frees one (as it seemingly does Dawkins) enough from dogmatic noise to revel fully in the grandeur of the scientific imagination. Either way, it's an inhuman caricature.
Only Nixon could go to China, so perhaps it is only Terry Eagleton, the irreligious British literary critic, who can stand up for theology. It has been three years now since evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins set off the New Atheist controversies with his bestselling The God Delusion. Following him has been an eager crop of fellow nonbelieving snoots, on the one hand, and no end of pious refutations, on the other, all as polemically audacious as they are cosmically unsatisfying.