I've been thinking, writing, and speaking quite a bit lately about my gratitude for the New Atheists. I see them as playing an indispensible role in helping the religions of the world evolve so that each can bless humanity and the larger body of life, now and into the future. Prophets historically were those who issued a word of warning to their people: "Come into right relationship with Reality—or perish!" Right relationship with reality today requires our species to grow from belief-based to evidence-based guidance and inspiration.
To be clear, I thank God for the New Atheists not because I want everyone to be like them or think like them (though I do wish everyone would value evidence like they do), nor because I consider them perfect vessels of divine wisdom. Rather, I'm grateful to them because of how they are helping religious people (like me!) get real about God, guidance, and good news, and also because of how they are prodding religion and humanity to mature in two absolutely essential ways. (For those interested, I discuss these two ways briefly on this 3 minute YouTube clip, and more thoroughly in this 20 minute sermon.)
Re how I see the New Atheists playing a vital role in the evolution of religion, the resources I particularly recommend are the following text of my sermon on the subject, two online audio recordings (which bookend my nine month cancer saga), and a video of my sermon delivered on August 1, 2010 in Oklahoma City:
SERMON TEXT: Thank God for the New Atheists! (I deliver my sermons extemporaneously, so this is a template, not a word-for-word transcript. I suggest reading this sermon first, before expriencing any of the other resources that follow.) HERE is an edited version of this same sermon, published in the February 2011 issue of Skeptic magazine. And HERE is an even shorter version, published in the December 2010 issue of Australasian Science magazine.
PODCAST: "The New Atheists As God's Prophets" [September 6, 2009] - 25 minute podcast that I recorded just two hours after I learned that I had an especially aggressive form of cancer. I asked myself, 'If I have only one message left to deliver to the world, what would it be?' The answer that came: "Show people how the New Atheists are God's prophets."
SERMON AUDIO: "The New Atheists As God's Prophets?!" [June 6, 2010] - 20 minute recording of a sermon I delivered at People's Church in Ludington, Michigan, just days before learning that my cancer was in remission (after 6 rounds of R-CHOP chemotherapy last fall and having my spleen with large tumor attached surgically removed in February).
SERMON VIDEO: The New Atheists Are God's Prophets: [delivered 8-1-10 at Mayflower UCC in Okhlahoma City, OK]
For those wishing to explore this subject beyond the aforementioned resources:
Three of My Best Sermons [descriptions and audio links to my May 30, June 6, and June 13 sermons]
Evolutionize Your Life: Heaven Is Coming Home to Reality [June 13, 2010]
December 2010 issue Australasian Science Magazine: Thank God for the New Atheists
Idolatry of the Written Word [April 26, 2010]
God Is a Divine Personification, Not a Person [May 28, 2010]
Idolatry of the Written Word [April 24, 2010]
Atheists Promote Bible Reading?! [January 27, 2010]
The Salvation of Religion: From Beliefs to Knowledge [January 28, 2010]