Question: Atheism seems to sell in the United States. There are “New Atheist” best sellers. At the same time, “New Atheists” claim to be repressed by widespread American religious sensibilities. Why is atheism having such resonance?
Mitchell Cohen: Best sellers have contexts. The context today is a reaction against politicized and intolerant religious fundamentalists who have acted aggressively to impose their views of the world on American politics and public life for several decades. A strong intellectual challenge to them has been long overdue.
At the same time, I think we should avoid talking about “best-sellers” and about the relation between religion and politics in the U.S. in a simplistic way. Two decades ago Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind was a best seller even though it is pretty incomprehensible if you lack familiarity with Heidegger, Deconstructionism and Leo Strauss. The context? Thousands probably purchased this conservative tome because they heard about the “culture wars” and that universities were full of professors teaching subversive ideas.