In 2007, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett filmed a discussion about modern atheism. The video went viral. Now in print for the first time, the transcript of their conversation is illuminated by new essays from three of the original participants and an introduction by Stephen Fry.
Anyone who’s ever gone down a Christopher Hitchens rabbit-hole on YouTube will instantly recognize not only the title of this new little book but also its exact provenance ... The dialogue is reproduced here without editorial intervention; there are no stage directions to help newcomers picture the interpersonal dynamics at play. Some of it can be divined from the transcript... but the subtleties of the interplay are missing from these pages ... The natural pang of reading a book like this is of course that there can be only one. As all the participants point out in these pages, one resounding voice in the quartet is now gone, and the New Atheist movement itself has somewhat petered out - it’s extremely unlikely that it will field four simultaneous bestsellers again in our lifetime, and there’s an undeniable magic in this gathering, even on paper.
Dawkins’ determination in the preface to 'develop new points' wavers, and whatever fresh insights he has made since the week after Thanksgiving in 2007 sputter away into scattered potshots and familiar jibes that will surprise neither friend nor foe. The same can be said for the transcript ... Theologians get propped up as straw men, while the horsemen aim at their enemy’s weakness: Are these doctors of divinity the real literal readers of scripture, rather than the derided fundamentalists.
In many ways the conversation already seems dated in its political preoccupations ... The Horsemen agree eagerly that they are all very brave ... New Atheism’s arguments were never very sophisticated or historically informed ... This is where the preeningly fearless insistence on entertaining uncomfortable questions can so easily lead ... In its messianic conviction that it alone serves the cause of truth, this too is a faith as noxious as any other.