"The New Atheism rocks" is the title of an article I've just had published in The Australian Rationalist, published by The Rationalist Society of Australia. I'll provide the link when the article appears online.
I confess that I'm not completely happy with how this piece turned out - the editing was rather intrusive, and the first few paras have ended up in a form that I find disjointed, now that I see it in print (some of my paras were moved around). Still, I'd approved those changes thinking they would probably have been okay, and perhaps no one else will notice.
Worse, though, when I began to read I saw that somewhere in the process the Indian word "moksa" (as it appears in the manuscript as I submitted it, and also in the version that was sent to me for approval) had been changed to "motsa". This makes no sense at all, and causes me to look rather idiotic (like someone who is merely pretending to know a bit about Eastern philosophy, and getting it wrong). At that stage, I gave up my first try at reading it ... Fortunately, when I came back to it I noticed nothing else worse than one misplaced comma which was totally my own fault.
Still, the "moksa" --> "motsa" thing rankles. I'd like to know how this kind of glitch happens so often. Over the years, I've grown sick of editorial changes to my work that actually harm it, rather than correcting my occasional typos (such as misplaced commas) and suggesting improvements ... but this is what professional writers often have to put up with. On reflection, the best editor I've had in this respect may well have been Paddy McGuinness at Quadrant. He has a light, deft touch, and his tiny changes are for the better (even if his audience is a very conservative one). Paddy likes altering titles (actually, "The New Atheism rocks" was not my proposed title, either, but it's sort of growing on me); otherwise, anything by me that you read in Quadrant is almost exactly as I wrote it.
In any event, my New Atheism article advances what I consider a strong case that the publishing phenomenon known as, well, "the New Atheism" is a positive development, something to cheer for and celebrate. At a time when too many religious leaders are attempting to incorporate specifically religious morality into law, it is appropriate to ask what intellectual and moral authority they really have. Any such authority must be based on the religious traditions that all these pontiffs, preachers, and pulpiteers represent, and in which they've been trained, but the core truth-claims made by any and all religious traditions are - to say the least - highly doubtful. Religion is a very fragile platform for public policy: it isn't rock, you might say, and it doesn't rock. It's no proper foundation for government and law.
A sharp separation of Church and State might accomplish much, but this idea has its own problems and limitations, as discussed in the article. There are too many grey areas and too many parties that are willing to challenge various of the assumptions that are needed for the separation to work. It's worth defending - it's worth trying to build up the wall - but this is by no means a complete solution.
The time has well and truly arrived to challenge the social taboo against criticising religion, and, indeed, to subject religious claims to sceptical scrutiny from every relevant angle. To the extent that it is doing this - and not just within the academy, but in lively, entertaining books written for a popular audience - the New Atheism does ... yes, indeed ... rock.