Although I missed it when it was news, I recently noticed the passing of one of the more influential New Atheists, often called "the fifth horseman" among them, Victor Stenger, of a heart attack at age 79.
Stenger was a physics processor who made it his task to show the superiority of the modern scientific worldview over religion. authoring a number of books dedicated to the effort, including a New York Times bestseller, God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. Among his other notable titles were Not by Design: The Origin of the Universe, Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe, God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion, and God and the Atom.
He was well-known for his saying-turned-into-teeshirt-slogan: "Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings." Which in my humble opinion is an oversimplification at best. One sympathetic towards religion might respond in kind: Religion brings comfort in times of trouble. Science created nuclear weapons. Maybe both true so far as they go, but neither going far enough.
Two things I'm not fond of: using science as a defense against religion; using science to bolster religion. My feeble effort to make my way though this great divisive issue is to recognize a compatibility of science with either religious and non-religious attitudes.
The problem I have with the New Atheists is that they seem forevermore the counterpart of the religious fundamentalist. It seems to me biologist Rupert Sheldrake states it accurately in his book Science Set Free (page 328):
Much of the hypocrisy of science comes from assuming the mantle of absolute truth, which is a relic of the ethos of absolute religious and political power when mechanistic science was born. Of course, there are disagreements among scientists, and the sciences are continually changing and developing. But a monopoly of truth remains the ideal. Dissenting voices are heretical. Fair public debates are alien to the culture of the sciences.
The "fifth horseman" did speak powerfully for those who want to use science as "the mantle of absolute truth," especially for arguing atheism. But I'm one of those who feel skeptical about the human ability to discern "absolute truth." I say that with regard to religious or spiritual authority as well.
I do disagree with New Atheism, especially as expressed by Stenger in 2012, that religion "is and always has been a blight on humanity that has hindered our progress for millennia and now threatens our very existence." I think that describes religious extremism. But Stenger and his companions go beyond battling religious extremism, I think, to the point of reaching the opposite extreme.
Dr. Stenger's influence will far outlive him no doubt. I only wish it had been dedicated to moderation. Nevertheless, it's hard to deny that a giant has fallen.