The national trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry, the Association of American Publishers (AAP), reports a rapid increase in sales of atheist books over recent months. Over the same time there was a sharp drop of religious book sales (by 10.2% in 2006).
Some Christians claim the rise in atheist literature is only a reaction to the rise of religious influence. However, others attribute it to a reaction against religiously inspired terrorism and the attacks of fundamentalist religious organisations on education and science.
There has been a religious backlash against the popularity of the new atheist books like “The God Delusion” (by Richard Dawkins), “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation” (by Sam Harris) and “God is not Great” (by Christopher Hitchens). Christian opponents have rushed into print with titles such as “The Dawkins Delusion” and “Letter from a Christian Nation”. And the comment Why is Christopher Hitchens foisting his atheism on me? from a local blogger reveals a resentment that some Christians seem to feel against atheists for daring to discuss and promulgate their views in public.
Of course, this intolerance towards non-religious belief is not new. It is a reason why the Human Rights Commission refused non-religious representation on the working group that formulated the National Statement on Religious Diversity. The non-religious are also being ignored in discussions on teaching religion in schools and on similar issues.
The new atheist books have been welcome by large numbers of non-religious people because they see them as legitimising their beliefs. Many have seen them as an opportunity to assert their beliefs – to “come out” in a climate which is often intolerant or even hostile to atheists. This is particularly true in parts of the USA. The Forum on the Richard Dawkins website has grown rapidly and is very active. This website is also a great source of up-to-date information about religion, atheism and science.
I welcome the publication of these new atheist book. There has been a real dearth of such literature. You only have to look in your local library to see how insignificant their holdings of atheist books are compared with religious ones. We have a long way to go the redress this imbalance. Readers who are interested in reading any of these new books could get some ideas from the Books page I have added (click Books at top right). You might even suggest some of these books to your local library for purchase. My experience is that New Zealand libraries are welcoming such suggestions because of the inadequacy of their holdings and requests from their readers.
See the article Atheist Books Overtaking Christian Titles in Best-Sellers Lists for more information on sales of atheist books in the USA.