Introduction: History and the New Atheism
The New Atheism is most commonly seen as a science-based attack on belief in the supernatural. However, when arguing for the societal malevolence of faith, it relies instead on the humanities. Johnstone discusses the New Atheist use of the humanities in general—which he argues is proprietorial—and of history in particular. He identifies a characteristic approach to history in which the New Atheists discern a perennial malevolence in religion opposed by a counter-tradition of virtuous scepticism. These traditions are important in supplying historical authority to the claims made about contemporary religion. But, Johnstone argues, both traditions are essentially mythological, an outdated form of black legend rather than history. History does not authorise the New Atheism, as will be demonstrated in the case studies examined.