Atheism’s Four Horsemen—an Honest Look at Where They Are Now

Atheism’s Four Horsemen—an Honest Look at Where They Are Now

The online publication Evolution News, which advocates for intelligent design and a religious worldview, recently published an article titled, “Atheism’s Four Horsemen—Where Are They Now?

I can’t say I recommend clicking on the article. If you do, it’s a safe bet you’ll regret it.

Rather than attempting to answer the question posed by the headline, the article simply highlights a few petty anecdotes about the figures behind the New Atheism movement. Specifically, Richard Dawkins is getting canceled for stating biological facts, Dan Dennett’s book I’ve Been Thinking received a negative review in The Guardian, and Sam Harris “raised a lot of eyebrows” for saying something about Hunter Biden’s laptop on a podcast in 2022. And Hitchens, of course, passed away.

And that’s…it. That’s literally everything the article mentions about the current state of the Four Horsemen.

To her credit, the author of this article, Denyse O’Leary, attempts to maintain a neutral tone. It’s clear her intention is to dunk on the New Atheists, but at least she’s not as gleeful about it as some authors might be in her position. Nonetheless, her article is utterly outrageous in that it’s so amazingly incomplete. Sure, highlight the moments that trend on social media. But if your article title asks “Where are they now?” then at least dedicate a paragraph or two to that purpose!

So where are the Four Horsemen today really? Here’s an honest, neutral overview:

Richard Dawkins

Since the 2007 discussion between the Four Horsemen, Richard Dawkins has published nine books, including his two-volume memoir. His most recent book, Flights of Fancy, published in 2021, is an exploration of flying—from birds and insects to flying squirrels to planes and helicopters. Author Alexander McCall Smith called it “A masterly investigation of all aspects of flight, human and animal… A beautifully produced book that will appeal across age groups.” In pop culture, Dawkins has appeared in a number of documentaries and television shows, including a 2008 episode of Doctor Who, a 2013 episode of The Simpsons, and a 2020 thriller film, Intersect. At 82 years of age, he continues to be an outspoken atheist and a champion of science and humanist values.

Sam Harris

Since 2007, Sam Harris has published seven books, covering a range of topics, including moral theory, free will, spirituality, and an examination of the future of Islam. Harris is the host of the wildly popular Making Sense podcast, which regularly hosts prominent cultural figures and academics. In 2018, Harris released the Waking Up app, which quickly became one of the most popular meditation apps. Harris remains a characteristically fearless commentator, which often sets him at odds with fashionable opinions, but which also endears him to his diehard audience. Harris remains one of the most widely recognized figures in the atheist community.

Daniel Dennett

Daniel Dennett, now 81, recently published his memoir, I’ve Been Thinking, which reflects back on his career as a preeminent philosopher and cognitive scientist. Previously, in 2017, Dennett published From Bacteria to Bach and Back, a book that explored the origin of human consciousness and argues for a materialist theory of mind. Nature praised the book as “A supremely enjoyable, intoxicating work.”

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens tragically passed away in 2011 at the age of 62. His presence in the culture has scarcely dimensions since that time, as a number of posthumous essay collections have been releasee since his passing. The most recent collection, A Hitch in Time: Reflections Ready for Reconsideration, was published in January 2024. Hitchens is remembered not just for his ardent atheism, but also for his wit, literary brilliance, and bold cultural commentary.

The New Atheism Movement Today

There’s much more to be said about each of these figures. But at least this is a stab at giving a legitimate summary of “where they are today.”

It’s worth noting that the snarky article in Evolution News highlights a trend: The New Atheism movement is very often derided and treated as some kind of massive failure. This is odd in that the New Atheism movement, simply by the numbers, was wildly successful. The western world is more agnostic about god’s existence than ever before.

Was the New Atheism movement too successful, resulting in a kind of knee-jerk animosity toward it? Possibly. But also, the major figures of New Atheism were always polarizing. They never intended to please everyone—and they still don’t. And that remains a big part of their appeal.

In terms of the future of the New Atheist movement, Atheists for Liberty hopes to chart a path forward that continues to uphold the very best of atheism, humanism, and reason. To support our mission to normalize atheism and preserve free thinking, sign up for our newsletter or join us as a member.

Peter Clarke is the editor-in-chief of Atheists for Liberty. He hosts the podcast Team Futurism and also writes the Substack newsletter The Decadence Project. Follow him on X @HeyPeterClarke.