My problem with the term “New Atheists” is that there’s nothing “new” about us – there has always been very vocal opponents of religion, imagine Baron d’Holbach, Percy Shelley, Feuerbach, Ernestine Rose, Schopenhauer, Marx, Nietzsche, Russell, and Madalyn Murray O’Hair, or even some deists like Diderot and Hume, they have said some strong things about religion that puts people like Dawkins and Hitchens to shame. There has always been scientific atheism. There has always been politically passionate atheism. There has always been moral opposition to religion. There’s nothing about “New Atheism” that separates it from older atheisms.
Take a look at these quotes on religion, all from people hailing from before the 20th century, I have quoted all from Goodreads except one that I’ve quoted from Dan Fincke:
If the ignorance of nature gave birth to such a variety of gods, the knowledge of this nature is calculated to destroy them.
― Baron d’Holbach
Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object [religion]. In the first place divest yourself of all bias in favour of novelty & singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, & the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand shake off all the fears & servile prejudices under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.
― Thomas Jefferson
To judge from the notions expounded by theologians, one must conclude that God created most men simply with a view to crowding hell.― Marquis de Sade
I have a great mind to believe in Christianity for the mere pleasure of fancying I may be damned.”
― George Gordon Byron
Wherever the influence of theologians is felt there is a transvaluation of values, and the concepts “true” and “false” are forced to change places: whatever is most damaging to life is there called “true,” and whatever exalts it, intensifies it, approves it, justifies it and makes it triumphant is there called “false.”… When theologians, working through the “consciences” of princes (or of peoples—), stretch out their hands for power, there is never any doubt as to the fundamental issue: the will to make an end, the nihilistic will exerts that power….― Friedrich Nietzsche (Thanks to Dan Fincke for letting me know about this quote)
To hate man and worship God seems to be the sum of all the creeds.
― Robert G. Ingersoll
These are just examples. I think people were safely ignoring atheists, now because of democracy and freedom of speech and internet and stuff, they can’t, so they call it “new”, while there’s nothing new about it.