Book Review: The Four Horsemen

As I finish up a book on evolution and excitedly prepare for some atheistic and bookish adventures in the next few days, my lovely husband has volunteered to write this week’s blog post, where he ruminates on the Center for Inquiry’s newest book, which was released this week!

It was Sunday, March 17th, 2019. There I was, sitting on our couch scrolling through Twitter, and I found out that a new book was going to be released. This book is called The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist Revolution. It is a transcript of the 2007 discussion between Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett, aka The Four Horsemen of New Atheism. After finding out about this, I immediately went to Amazon and preordered the book. To my surprise, it was being released two days later, so on Tuesday I received the book and immediately read it.

Overall, I’d say unless you’re really into atheism, this book is pretty useless. You could just go to YouTube and watch the discussion. However, this book does include a nice foreword by Stephen Fry as well as entries by Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris. As you probably know, Hitchens sadly passed away in 2011. Each man takes his time to acknowledge his missing friend, and they even go as far as to dedicate this book “to Hitch.”

four horsemenAs you read past the first third, the next part is the transcript of their discussion back in 2007. I found that reading through it gave me my own time to pause and think about what they were discussing, but I guess you could also just pause the video and do the same. They certainly had some interesting conversations; they discussed their branding as “The Four Horsemen” as well as what their ultimate goals of their activism could be. For example, they suggested that they might like to potentially see a world without churches or religious violence. Some of their answers may surprise anyone who considers them to be extremists, or “militant atheists”, which was also discussed.

One point really stood out to me during their discussion. As an atheist, I always believed that criticizing the bible was part of activism, but the four men brought up the point that you can still enjoy and “get lost in” the bible as one would do with any book or other work of art. You don’t have to believe what the bible says to appreciate it, just as you don’t have to believe in the story of Harry Potter to enjoy reading it or in the world of Pokémon to become the very best. At its core, to an atheist, the bible is a work of fiction, possibly with some historical facts mixed in.

One of my favorite lines in the book is at the end of Dawkins’ addition:

“Morality and standards for life can be built up by intelligent design—design by real, intellectual humans who actually exist. Atheists have the courage to accept reality for what it is: wonderfully and shockingly explicable. As an atheist, you have the moral courage to live to the full the only life you’re ever going to get: to fully inhabit reality, rejoice in it, and do your best finally to leave it better than you found it.”

7 thoughts on “Book Review: The Four Horsemen

  • “Today, we’re still loaded down – and, to some extent, embarrassed – by ancient myths, but we respect them as part of the same impulse that has led to the modern, scientific kind of myth. But we now have the opportunity to discover, for the first time, the way the universe is in fact constructed as opposed to how we would wish it to be constructed— Carl Sagan
    Intelligent design is actually the best efforts of intelligent men—they did the best they could in the times they were in and we have now improved on that knowledge. These new models may be in some future religious books as well, but in the proper context of nature, not gods.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Two phrases I avoid are “as an atheist” and “to an atheist.” I may use ‘because I am atheist.’ I feel like there is too much variety for me to hook my wagon to something that is what it is (my atheism, yours, his or hers).
    To me, the Bible is a translated book of religious stories and thought with some history and wisdom for seasoning.
    Good review. Useful in that I will probably give the book a pass for now since the right side of my screen is always full of what I have yet to see on youtube. Thanks.

    Liked by 5 people

  • that one quote sums it up for me, entirely. And without having to worry about ‘what god thinks” or “am I sinning”, I can enjoy my own life and the rewards it brings, on my terms.

    Liked by 4 people

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