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The "Return of Religion" and the Return of the Criticism of religion – The “New Atheism” in recent German and American culture


Institute for the Scientific Study of Religion

Jan 01, 2009 — Jun 30, 2012
Contact Person:
Thomas Zenk, M.A.


In our research project we shall examine the recent tendencies of atheistic criticism of religion: the “New Atheism”. The most prominent of the (so-called) “New Atheists” - of which two describe themselves as “Brights” - are Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett. On a basis of naturalistic and scientific world views, they oppose the majority of religious beliefs and, furthermore, take an active part in the political implementation of their ideas.

We aim to take a closer look at the theoretical and political foundations, causes, and goals of the "New Atheists" as well as at the reaction of its critics. Also, we shall examine the media coverage of the “New Atheism”. Within the scope of a qualitative research, the subject matter shall be analyzed in historical comparison of the situations in Germany and the United States. By means of this discourse analysis, we hope to gain insights about the relations between  what is called “the return of religion” and the return of the criticism of religion, which may explain both the rather aggressive public appearance of the “New Atheists” and the vivid discussions about the “New Atheism”.

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Further Information


The Institute for the Scientific Study of Religion of the FU Berlin in cooperation with the Dahlem Humanities Center of the FU Berlin is proud to present a guest lecture with

Prof. Daniel Dennett (Tufts University, Medford, Mass., U.S.A.)

"The Evolution and Domestication of Religions"

Time & Place: June 23, 2010, 18:00h c.t., "Rostlaube", Hörsaal 1 B, Freie Universität Berlin, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin

The lecture is given in english language.

We kindly ask you to register before June 16, 2010 at admin@dhc.fu-berlin.de.

Abstract: Contemporary religions are robust and effective institutions that have evolved over thousands of years. Some of their features are descended from "wild" cultural symbionts and others are clearly the result of domestication. If we are to understand how the "machinery" of religions works, we need to understand how it came to exist.

Further information (Download Poster)



  • Atheism, Critique, Criticism, Religion, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennett, New Atheism, Contemporary, Present, USA, Germany, United States, Return, Renaissance, Religious Studies, Science of Religion, Scientific Study of Religion, Religionswissenschaft