Yesterday I became embroiled in an online discussion about the New Atheists. I asserted that they constantly show a near-total lack of knowledge of topics which they nevertheless constantly discuss: historical topics having to do with religion. A rather bright person challenged this assertion of mine, and I quickly backed down and said that I should have said that New Atheists do this, not "constantly," but "occasionally."
Upon reflection, I think I was much too quick to back down from my claim that New Atheists "constantly" display an appalling lack of knowledge on historical topics which they nevertheless constantly discuss. Let me review some evidence (And before I do let me state to whom I'm referring when I say "New Atheists." I mean Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, other authors who treat religion similarly, and their fans):
In addition to his bronze age goat herders meme (By the way, Dick, it's "goatherds," not "goat herders." "Goatherds," just like "shepherds"), Dawkins recently tweeted that Trinity College in Cambridge had produced more Nobel Prize winners than "the entire Muslim world." He did not respond to the tidal wave of responses to his tweet which pointed out cultural bias in the awarding of Nobels and in others things. It was rather shocking that such an elephant in the room needed to be pointed out to someone like Dawkins, yet, here we are. We now know Richard a little better.
The subtitle of one of Hitchens' most popular book refers to how religion allegedly "ruins everything." Clutch your pearls, ladies, I'm about to make a very indelicate comparison: Hitchens' entirely indiscriminate and therefore entire senseless use of the term "everything" reminds me of its misuse by the Nazis: you may have seen photographs of Nazis carrying or hanging signs reading "Die Juden sind an allem schuld," which translates to "Everything is the Jews' fault."
There's the fearmongering Islamophobia which was spread by Hitchens and continues to be spread by Harris, Dawkins, PZ Myers and other New Atheists, which routinely refers to Islam as if it were a unified political and cultural unit. It's true that Islam strives to a unit, but Muslims have waged war against other Muslims without cease since not long after Muhammad's death. Islam has not formed anything remotely resembling one united political entity since the 7th century.
There's Harris' characterization of Islam, while being interviewed by Chris O'Donnell on MSNBC, as currently "going through its medieval stage," a conceit which, besides being as quaintly 19th-century as Harris' borrowing of Mills' utilitarianism, again refers to all of Islam, all 1 billion Muslims, as one entity at one stage of development, and implies that the crude aggression of ISIS is inherently characteristic of Islam, when it's as clear as can be that the vast majority of Muslims oppose such aggression, not to mention that almost all of the people currently fighting ISIS are themselves Muslims. Clearly, some things can never be clear enough to be clear to some people.
There's Victor Stenger's 2-word response to being informed that there were some drastic historical inaccuracies in one of his anti-religious tirades -- the same 2-word response often heard from fans of Dawkins when it's pointed out that the oldest parts of the Bible were written in the Iron Age, mostly or entirely by city dwellers, and that those of the Israelites who were rustic raised more sheep than goats: "So what?"
There's Free Inquiry, New Atheism' flagship publication, publishing Michael Paulkovich's utterly ahistorical assertion about 126 ancient authors who should've mentioned Jesus if he'd existed, but didn't. And not having issued a retraction.
A small portion of the above might be dismissed as something which occurs only occasionally, but all together, it shows a clear tendency, an inherent trait: New Atheists don't know Jack Q Shit about history, and they're determined to remain ignorant about it. They claim to be ushering in a new age of enlightenment, to be mounting a strong challenge to religion. They're doing neither. They're not the people to be representing atheists. They're not the intellectual descendants of Epicurus, Hume, Marx, Twain, Nietzsche and Russell. They are turnips, and intelligent atheists ought to join with others in mocking and deriding them.