Tuesday conversation: who are your four horsemen?

The people who were once go-to names for atheism are becoming less so.  Not necessarily because they are not good, but because new people are rising to the forefront.  It’s just the natural cycle of things.  So if you were to pick your own four horsemen of atheism as the movement stands right now, who would they be?

I think the archetype we elevate as celebrity atheist is changing.  It used to be all about knowledge, which is not a bad thing.  But there’s a reason that more people care about what Ray Lewis says than about what Richard Dawkins says.  Good information, presented in a dry fashion, will reach fewer minds.  So I think the way our movement is evolving is to want speakers and spokespeople who are still very smart, but who are capable of conveying information in an entertaining fashion.

Given that, if I were to pick four new horsemen they would be…

1.  Matt Dillahunty

This guy is the man.  If we have a better, more personable debater in our ranks, I’ve not seen them.

2.  Richard Carrier

Fucking genius.  The man is brilliant, sharper than Satan’s tongue, and hilarious.

3.  PZ Myers

Controversial, yes.  But nobody can deny that PZ writes and speaks in a way that makes people passionate.

4.  Greta Christina

One of the greatest wordsmiths in the biz, and a marvelous ambassador (who fulfills the role without ever giving ground to bullshit).

Nominate your team of the four most promising people to end religion.  (Don’t say me, or I’ll punch you)

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Glodson

    1-4: JT!


  • Rhubarb The Bear

    Seth Andrews. I know he’s not as famous as some, but he’s the person I most identify with, both in religious background and career arc.

  • http://songe.me asonge

    Amanda Marcotte, Massimo Pigliucci, Sean Carroll, and Jamila Bey.

  • GBJames

    Any “horsemen” list without Jerry Coyne is a list that is lacking, IMO.

  • John Eberhard

    As a speaker, that Eberhard guy is hard to beat.
    As a writer, Greta is about as eloquent as they come.
    As a debater, Matt ranks right up there.
    Hemant has the quality of persuading almost anyone to listen to what he says.

  • http://www.twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

    I’d throw Seth Andrews in there as well. I respond very well to his “I’m just this regular guy” style. He’s an absolutely brilliant storyteller through his words and his videos.

  • Evan

    Well, since the 4 horsemen symbolize the christian apocalypse, it’s obviously:
    1) Secular Student Alliance
    2) Camp Quest
    3) Donors to the above two organizations
    4) Local leaders for the above two organizations


  • JHendrix

    Hard to pick just four. The folks I like the most are those who do engage with the arguments in a lot of detail. It also helps that they regularly put out stuff that I really enjoy:

    Matt Dillahunty
    Chris Hallquist
    Jeremy Beahan
    Justin Schieber

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

    I know he claimed to be agnostic, but Neil Degrasse Tyson is waaay up there. He’s an amazing speaker and his enthusiasm for knowledge and science is so overflowing that it’s hard for anyone to watch him and NOT get enthused right along with him. I think encouraging his mode of thinking (science yay!, bullshit no!) is a softer but just as valid way to end religion.

  • http://www.twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

    Next week should be, “Who do you want to hear more from?” Because for me, that is an enthusiastic Tracie Harris. I could listen to her go on forever on The Atheist Experience and Godless Bitches.

    • http://improbablejoe.blogspot.com Improbable Joe

      Dammit, I was going to say the same thing. I know Matt does more debating, but I’d rather see/hear Tracie. I love it when she handles callers on TAE by saying “I don’t know what you mean by that word, and unless you can explain it I don’t know that you know what you mean either!” She’s absolutely aces.

    • Andrew Kohler

      Tracie Harris is awesomeness embodied. I love how she’s always so calm and reasonable, and yet completely eviscerates the other side’s arguments. Also, Jen Peeples is incredibly awesome.

  • http://peternothnagle.com Peter N

    1. P.Z.
    2. Greta
    3. Matt
    4. You — deal with it!
    5. Adam Lee.
    It is no longer possible to list only the four brightest atheist luminaries.

  • http://fengardice.wordpress.com Fabio García

    I pick Matt Dillahunty, JT Eberhard, Greta Christina and Adam Lee. Especially Greta. And Adam. And JT, and Matt too. You guys are what keeps reminding me that reason is cool.

  • Chris McDonald

    I really love Matt, JT, Greta and Richard. But I’m a little sad that AronRa has not ben mentioned. He’s was one of the really big impacts in my life as a skeptic and reignited my love for biology so much that I’m now pursuing it as a career. Aron can not only make a speech entertaining, but pumps it so full of information it’s insane. But great names listed so far.

    • Stogoe

      The only thing I know about AronRa is that he and his partner are friends with Chunderfoot in real life. I know it’s hard to abandon people you consider your friends, even when they’re awful people, but would you really stay friends with Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck if all they had was their privileged rage and not their bazillions of dollars and huge mansions with swimming pools full of gold coins that you could swim around in Scrooge McDuck style?

  • Art Vandelay

    Well, I’d still leave Dawkins and Harris in there. Hell, I bet even being dead, with all of his material so accessible, Hitchens is still doing more than most people for this cause. For the sake of this argument though, I’ll go…


    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

      How could I forget Tim Minchin! For sure.

      George Carlin is up there too, now I think about it. Using humor to get through people’s defenses is a really effective way to skewer silly beliefs.

      • Andrew Kohler

        I heartily agree that Christopher Hitchens and George Carlin simply must not be excluded merely because they are not presently alive. They are two of the most influential people in my life.

        I haven’t really gotten to know Carl Sagan’s work yet, but I’ll extend to him the same courtesy :-)

      • Andrew Kohler

        And speaking of humor: how is that Brian Dalton hasn’t been mentioned!? He is, after all, the Deity.

  • ZenDruid

    Lawrence Krauss
    J. Anderson Thomson
    Jerry Coyne
    Matt Dillahunty

  • http://www.ziztur.com Christopher Stephens

    Definitely Greta Christina, JT, … huh. PZ, maybe, or Rebecca Watson. OH can I nominate Christina? Mad hubby points; fuck yeah.

  • Michaelyn

    Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and…Greta Christina.

    I was going for a science theme, but I had to include Greta because she’s inspired me in so many ways.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com Ubi Dubium

    Greta Christina
    Matt Dillahunty
    Tim Minchin
    Richard Wade

    Honorable mentions to Hemant, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Valerie Tarico, Adam Lee, Dave Silverman, PZ, and (OW!) JT.

  • Matt in Memphis

    Matt Dillahunty, Jeremy Beahan (way, way underrated), Greta Cristina, and tie between PZ / Tracie Harris / Richard Carrier

  • http://skepticalimerick.blogspot.com/ Rich Stage


    Hemant Mehta
    Matt Dillahunty
    Greta Christina
    JT Eberhard


  • http://. Mark DeMonbreun

    Silverman, Mehta, Boghossian and Dillahunty. Ahlquist too if she chooses a career in the movement and/or stays closely involved. She’s capable of anything.

    • Glodson

      Jessica Ahlquist is amazing. I was nothing like that at her age. And there’s Zack Kopplin who has made some noise as well. Maybe the next wave of atheists will be even louder about their disbelief. These two young people are quite impressive.

  • PLink

    Jessica Ahlquist, Zack Kopplin, Dan Barker, and the Amazing Atheist.

  • Keith Erick Fix

    This is easier than I thought.

    War: Phil Mason
    Conquest: Penn Jillette
    Famine: Sam Harris
    Death: Christopherr Hitchens (even in death)
    and the fifth is
    Compassion: Jerry DeWitt

  • http://polyskeptic.com shaunphilly

    1. Jerry Coyne
    2. Greta Christina
    3. PZ Myers
    4. Matt Dillahunty
    Honorable Mention: Eric MacDonald

  • Loqi

    In order of influence they’ve had on me as an atheist:
    PZ Myers
    Matt Dillahunty
    Greta Christina
    JT (is the punch with or without gloves?)
    If it makes you feel less inclined to break your hand on my granite jaw, Hitch would have taken your spot if he were still around.

  • Kodie

    Your dad.

  • baal

    hmmm. I’m sad to say I don’t have such a list handy and am generally loathe to list any FTB or Patheos bloggers. Not that many aren’t amazing people but rather that implicit in the question is who should be standing up front in the media. Bloggers are for blogging. Front people are front people.

    Part of being a front person is that you have to be somewhat like likeable Teflon. The ‘controversial’ bloggers are not like Teflon and many are not likeable(even though we all love some of them in deep profound and somewhat disturbing ways). It also helps if the front people don’t have a huge written record to use to derail them when they talk in public or when they get air time on shows.
    Given my listed constraints; I’d nominate:
    1. Jamila Bey
    2. Dave Silverman
    3. Sean Faircloth
    4. Zinna Jones (maybe in a decade, she is still too accepting of vengeance and I’ve only seen her recordings rather than live performance) / Greta Christina (I’m cheating on keeping the list @ 4 ;p; also, I’d love to see a right wing blow hard try to derail here for same sex marriage or support of kink in public, that would be awesome)

    • baal

      her* not ‘here’ in the last sentence

  • Brad1990

    I’m fairly new to Atheism as a movement and am not that familiar with most of the key players, but based on who my favourite bloggers are my nominees would be, in no particular order:

    1- JT (I don’t care how hard you punch me)
    2- PZ
    3- Avicenna
    4- Ed Brayton

  • Crimbly

    Only need one.

    1. Pope Benedict XVI.