Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A Surprising Acknowledgment in New Scientist: Atheism is Irrational and Stems from Fear

The 9/11 attacks brought much fear to atheists. Image courtesy of Wally Gobetz, Flikr/ Wikipedia Commons.

Joel Kontinen

Atheists often assume that they are rational thinkers. However, the truth looks very different, at least according to this week’s issue of New Scientist.

It’s not often we get to read in a popular science magazine that atheism is irrational, but now we did.

Jonathan Lanman, an anthropologist at Oxford University, who studies atheism, puts into words that what many of us have known for years, i.e. atheism stems from fear. He gives some interesting examples:

Sam Harris wrote his anti-religion book after the September 11 attacks. American atheists sought refuge in Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion following the re-election of George W. Bush. And in Denmark, atheists began networking in the wake of the disturbances caused by the Mohammed cartoons.

According to Lanman, the popularity of atheism is on the wane. In a world that is becoming more global, the impact of religion is getting stronger and will continue to do so in the coming years.


Lanman, Jonathan. 2011. Religion is irrational, but so is atheism. New Scientist 2805: 38-39.(registration at New is required for reading the article online).