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You would have to have been hitchhiking across Siberia to have missed a striking new phenomenon: The atheists are back. Not just back, mind you, but globally parading in triumph across tv, bookstores, and the Internet. But don't be tongue-tied; an unlikely God Squad (including the flamboyant Al Sharpton) is taking them on.

In the past 12 months, atheist authors, according to The Wall Street Journal, have created a publishing sensation, selling more than 1 million books worldwide. These include: 500,000 hardcover copies of Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion (2006); 296,000 in sales for Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007); 185,000 copies of Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation (2006); 64,100 copies of Daniel C. Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (2006); and 60,000 copies of Victor J. Stenger's God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist (2007).

The leader of the atheist pack is Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, holder of the Charles Simonyi professorship for the public understanding of science at Oxford University. Simonyi is one of the Microsoft billionaires. An atheist, he insisted that Dawkins be the first holder of his professorship because, as he said, Dawkins would be "Darwin's rottweiler."

Dawkins sets the tone for the new atheist surge, describing the God of the Old Testament as "arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it … petty … unjust, [an] unforgiving control-freak … misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal. … "

Meanwhile, ex-Englishman Hitchens (who once provoked left-wing British mp George Galloway into calling him "a drink-sodden, ...

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hide thisOctober October

In the Magazine

October 2007

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