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The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist Revolution

The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist Revolution

by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris

Narrated by Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett

Unabridged — 3 hours, 4 minutes

Christopher Hitchens
The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist Revolution

The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist Revolution

by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris

Narrated by Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett

Unabridged — 3 hours, 4 minutes

Christopher Hitchens

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In 2007, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett filmed a landmark discussion about modern atheism. The video went viral. Now in audiobook for the first time, the transcript of their conversation is illuminated by new essays from three of the original participants and an introduction by Stephen Fry.

At the dawn of the new atheist movement, the thinkers who became known as “the four horsemen”, the heralds of religion's unraveling — Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett — sat down together over cocktails. What followed was a rigorous, pathbreaking, and enthralling exchange that has been viewed millions of times since it was first posted on YouTube. This is intellectual inquiry at its best: exhilarating, funny, and unpredictable, sincere and probing, reminding us just how varied and colorful the threads of modern atheism are.

Here is the transcript of that conversation, in audiobook for the first time, augmented by material from the living participants: Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett. These new essays, introduced by Stephen Fry, mark the evolution of their thinking and highlight particularly resonant aspects of this epic exchange. Each man contends with the most fundamental questions of human existence while challenging the others to articulate their own stance on God and religion, cultural criticism, spirituality, debate with people of faith, and the components of a truly ethical life.

Read by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Stephen Fry.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly


This meandering, unmoderated discussion among Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett, a group dubbed the New Atheists, presents their unique positions in provocative but underdeveloped arguments. Composed mainly of transcriptions of a conversation among the four that was posted to YouTube in 2007, the book opens with introductory essays highlighting key points from the three surviving thinkers (Hitchens died in 2011). The writers open the conversation by defending themselves against claims of being overly arrogant; they argue that religion is a much less humble theological belief than atheism. Topics covered include the gap between academic theology and what preachers preach, religion’s problematic reliance on authority and ancient texts, and the potential for danger in all religious belief. Moments of genuine disagreement arise, including a relatively heated argument from Hitchens that religion should not disappear because he enjoys having a sparring partner. There is some begrudging respect for Christianity’s aesthetic achievements and a constructive section on which arguments could convince them to moderate their attacks (such as artistic merit), but the tone is generally harsh and unsparing. Readers who are looking for a taste of new atheism will get a good sense of the tone and style of these thinkers, but those familiar with the arguments will see this as an unpolished curiosity. (Mar.)

From the Publisher

If thinking were a sport, these four would be national superstars—and reading The Four Horsemen feels like having a front-row seat at the all-star game. This is more than a book about atheism and religion—it’s a lesson in how to use our intellect to cut through the haze of delusion and misconception inherent in any human society.”—Tim Urban, writer of Wait But Why?

“For people inclined to disbelieve supernatural explanations—in America, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers and sisters—The Four Horsemen is a smart, fun, funny, seriously provocative primer.”—Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360 and author of Fantasyland

“We are slowly losing the hard-won right, gained by brave heroes of the enlightenment such as Voltaire and Hume, to be free to criticize religion without persecution and prosecution; the crime of blasphemy is creeping back. The words of Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett are needed more than ever. These are the heirs to Voltaire.”—Matt Ridley, author of The Evolution of Everything

“These four are the kinds of thinkers we don’t get enough of anymore: unapologetic, uncompromising, and deeply generous with one another as well as with anyone who happens to be listening in. You needn’t be an atheist or a horseman to relish every word of this delightful book. You just need to be hungry for genuine intellectual inquiry and open debate. And, let’s face it, you’re probably starving.”—Meghan Daum, author of The Unspeakable

“This conversation is as good a place as any to mark the start of the Atheist revolution.”—Penn Jillette, author of God, No!

“Blasphemous, erudite, devastatingly truthful, slyly hilarious . . . Reading this book is like getting to spend a profound afternoon with some of our greatest intellectuals.”—Julia Sweeney, actress, comedian, author

“I was gripped. Throughout this erudite conversation the humility and openness of science shines against religion’s arrogance, hypocrisy, and sheer gall in just ‘making stuff up.’ How refreshing it is.”—Susan Blackmore, author of The Meme Machine 

Library Journal

Winter 2018

In September 2007, four key proponents of New Atheism, popularly called the Four Horsemen, gathered for a two-hour filmed conversation in which they both explained their atheistic positions and addressed criticisms from theistic opponents. The discussion among Richard Dawkins (evolutionary biologist and ethologist), Christopher Hitchens (journalist, essayist, and political historian), Sam Harris (neuroscientist and moralist), and Daniel Dennett (philosopher) was viewed widely on YouTube. This book contains the entire transcript of that influential meeting as well as current reflections and comments by the group's three surviving members, as Hitchens died in 2011. Having the conversation available in book format is beneficial since current statements can be examined more closely and compared with arguments found in other writings. As the ideas of New Atheism in general and those of these four authors have received significant criticism over the years, revisiting the meeting allows these scholars to respond to criticism and contemporary readers to reflect anew on their ideas. VERDICT Spanning religion and philosophy, this work will appeal to readers of both, especially those interested in atheism and apologetics.—John Jaeger, Johnson Univ., Knoxville, TN

Product Details

BN ID: 2940171822156
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 03/19/2019
Edition description: Unabridged

Read an Excerpt

In Good Company

Sam Harris

Ever since the phrase ‘the New Atheists’ appeared in print, I have found myself celebrated or abused in the same breath with Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens. Needless to say, I’ve been greatly honoured by the association. It has, however, conveyed a false sense that we often schemed together in person. Although two or three of us would occasionally meet at conferences or other events, the book you are about to read provides a transcript of the only conversation the four of us ever had.

Christopher died in 2011, which gives this record a special poignancy. There is no question that his absence has been keenly felt in recent years. More times than I can count, strangers have come forward to say, ‘I miss Hitch.’ Their words are always uttered in protest over some fresh crime against reason or good taste. They are spoken after a bully passes by, smirking and unchallenged, whether on the left or on the right. They have become a mantra of sorts, intoned without any hope of effect, in the face of dangerous banalities or lies. Often, I hear in them a note of reproach. Sometimes it’s intended. 

I, too, miss Hitch. But I will resist the temptation to offer further eulogy here. After all, the time will come when the rest of us have also left the stage. However, it seems that a record of our conversation will remain. We filmed it almost as an afterthought. I’m very glad we did.

Treating Richard, Dan, Christopher and me as a four- headed atheist has always elided significant differences of emphasis and opinion, but it was fair enough on the important points: Is there a distinction between believing things for good reasons and believing them for bad ones? Do science and religion differ in the degree to which they observe this distinction? Put this way, the debate is over before it even begins.

However disparate our interests, each of us was acutely aware that religious dogmatism hinders the growth of honest knowledge and divides humanity to no necessary purpose. The latter is a dangerous irony, of course, because one of religion’s most vaunted powers is that it unites people. It does that too, but generally by amplifying tribalism and spawning moralistic fears that would not otherwise exist. The fact that sane men and women can often be found doing good for God’s sake is no rejoinder here, because faith gives them bad reasons for doing good when good reasons are available. These are points that each of the four of us has made again and again, whether to applause or to stony silence. 

In truth, not much need be said to close the door on belief in an omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent deity of the sort imagined by Christians, Muslims and Jews. Open any newspaper, and what do you find?

Today, a set of identical twin girls born with microcephaly in Brazil. How does something like this happen? Their mother was bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus – which God, in his abundance, also made. Among the many unhappy effects of this virus is to produce tiny heads, tiny brains, and commensurately tiny lives for the offspring of any woman unlucky enough to be infected.

Imagine the woman herself a few months ago, doing everything within her power to prepare a happy life for her unborn daughters. Where does she work? A factory. How often does she pray? Daily, no doubt.

But at the crucial moment she sleeps. Perhaps she’s dreaming of a world better than the one we live in. Pic- ture a lone mosquito finding her open window. Picture it alighting upon her exposed arm. Will an omnipotent, omniscient and wholly benevolent God muster the slightest defence? Not even a breeze. The mosquito’s proboscis pierces her skin immediately. What are the faithful to believe at this point? One suspects they know that their God isn’t nearly as attentive as he would be if he actually existed. 

So there was nothing to stop this tiny monster – descended from a long line of monsters that have been spreading disease for some 200 million years – from drinking this woman’s innocent blood and, in return for a meal, destroying the lives of her unborn girls.

The facts of a single case dismantle whole libraries of theological hairsplitting and casuistry. And yet the hor- ror compounds. Picture the woman noticing the welt on her arm the next morning – just a minor annoyance in a life soon to be filled with tragedy. Perhaps she’s heard reports of Zika and knows how the virus is spread. Her prayers now acquire a special fervour. To what end? Can the consolations of a faith so utterly misplaced outweigh the irony of worshipping a deity this impotent or evil – or, indeed, imaginary?

In the absence of God, we find true sources of hope and consolation. Art, literature, sport, philosophy – along with other forms of creativity and contemplation – do not require ignorance or lies to be enjoyed. And then there is science – which, apart from its intrinsic rewards, will be the true source of mercy in the present case. When a vac- cine or a cure for Zika is finally found, preventing untold misery and death, will the faithful thank God for it?

No doubt they will. And so these conversations must continue . . .

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