New Atheism as an American Phenomenon
It has for a long time been my suspicion that New Atheism's crude characature of religion can be attributed to the American context in which it flowered. Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett are themselves American; Christopher Hitchens is British but has been based in the USA since the early eighties; and Richard Dawkins, although based in Britain, spends most of his time railing against creationists - who are a much more significant cultural and political force in America than they are in Britain.
In this specific American context, faced with a vocal anti-scientific, biblical-literalist enemy in what is otherwise one of the most advanced nations on Earth, I can sympathise with the New Atheists and their analysis of what religion means; I can just see that they have been mistaken in extrapolating this to religion in general. I suspect that for liberal Americans, having read The God Delusion is more about making a statement of anti-fundamentalism and progressive politics than it is about carefully reading and agreeing with Dawkins's dubious claims about the impact of religion in general throughout history.
Atheism as a Statement of Identity
I have been searching on Twitter in recent days for fellow atheists with whom I hope to engage in discussion - my PhD idea is intended to be an analysis of New Atheism and I would like to get a sense of what it means to individuals to label themselves as atheists. As the New Atheists generate a lot of media coverage in Britain, I didn't expect the majority of self-declared atheists to be American, and for there to apparently be relatively few Brits who make atheism a central part of their identity. This is not to suggest there are few British atheists; it just seems that atheism is relatively marginal as a component of identity here.
Questions for Atheists
So, as a Brit to my American readers - what does atheism mean to you? Is it just a statement of your (non-) beliefs? Is it an important component of your wider political views? Are there any self-declared Republican atheists? And what does atheism mean in terms of your close relationships: are you part of atheist groups, or does your non-belief separate you from any religious friends and family? And aside from the general argument that there is no evidence for God, what do you think of what are, to me, highly dubious claims like 'religion is the cause of all human conflict'?
Any thoughts and comments - from Brits and Americans - would be much appreciated!