The three remaining 'horsemen' reflect on the impact their one-time religion vs. secularism conversation—which appears afterward in transcript—has had since 2007. One of my great takeaways was the understanding and love for the beauty religion has produced in the arts and humanities, even for the nonbeliever. This is a deep and humanistic read meant to invoke further thought and comment. So, in the spirit of Hitchens, read, contemplate, debate.
In 2007, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett filmed a landmark discussion about modern atheism. The video went viral. Now in print 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, which 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 print 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. Praise for The Four Horsemen
“This bracing exchange of ideas crackles with energy. It’s fascinating to watch four first-class minds explore a rugged intellectual terrain. . . . The text affords a different, more reflective way of processing the truly vital exchange of ideas. . . . I commend the book to those seeking an honest reckoning with their religion—and those curious about how the world looks from a rigorously naturalistic and atheistic point of view.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“The full, electrifying transcript of the one and only conversation between the quartet of luminaries dubbed the ‘four horsemen’ of the New Atheism, which took place in Washington, D.C., in 2007. Among the vast range of ideas and questions they discuss: Is it ever possible to win a war of ideas? Is spirituality the preserve of the religious? And, are there any truths you would rather not know?”—The Bookseller (UK) (starred review)
About the Author
Christopher Hitchens (1949–2011) was an English-born American author, journalist, and literary critic. He was a contributor to magazines including Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and World Affairs and the author of God Is Not Great and many other books.
Richard Dawkins is a fellow of the Royal Society and was the inaugural holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair of Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion.
Sam Harris is a neuroscientist, philosopher, writer, podcaster, and the author of the bestselling books The End of Faith, winner of the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction; Letter to a Christian Nation; and Waking Up.
Daniel Dennett is the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He is the author of many books, including Consciousness Explained, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Breaking the Spell, and From Bacteria to Bach and Back.
Stephen Fry is an English actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television presenter, and film director.
“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