The First New Atheist? Kierkegaard

Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

ScreenHunter_198 May. 16 18.13Søren Kierkegaard was born in Denmark on May 5, 1813. He was a difficult and troublesome boy. He quarreled with his father and lived a flippant and self-indulgent life as a young man. Then he had a conversion experience. He broke with his fiancé and became an urban hermit of sorts. He studied philosophy and started to write. He believed that he had a truth to tell the people of his time. The people didn't want to be told — do they ever? This caused him to fight with his fellow Danes and anyone else who got in his way. He became an object of ridicule around Copenhagen. The local papers made fun of him for his hunched back and clubbed foot. He wrote many books under various false names, most of which were ignored. He died in relative obscurity at the age of 42.

Thus, the short and painful life of Søren Kierkegaard. Over the last 200 years, however, Kierkegaard's writings have resurfaced in influential places. A mad German named Friedrich Nietzsche was impressed with Kierkegaard's writings. He helped to keep Kierkegaard from falling into complete oblivion. Another rascally German rediscovered Kierkegaard in the early 20th century. This was Martin Heidegger who, unintentionally, turned Kierkegaard into an intellectual predecessor of Existentialist philosophy. More recently the Post-Modernists rediscovered Kierkegaard, fascinated by his use of fragmentary writing and multiple narrative voices. Kierkegaard is the philosopher who will not go away.

Today, at the 200th anniversary of his birth, Kierkegaard seems as relevant as ever. That’s because there is a public discussion about faith in America today. Kierkegaard’s central concern was faith and the problems of faith. Today, the evolutionary biologist and sometimes children's author Richard Dawkins is at the forefront of the faith debate. The philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett is a frequent contributor, as well as the neuroscientist Sam Harris. The late, great Christopher Hitchens was the angriest and funniest participant. We'll call these figures The New Atheists.

More here.