Another reader:

Perhaps I'm projecting too much, but to my mind atheism, including the so-called 'New Atheism' project, is not even at it's core about God and religion but rationalism, which is to say, a mindset that values reasoned, logical thinking over dogmatism and unwarranted assertions. From this stems atheism, which as Dawkins and the others have said, ultimately applies the same standard to the Christian/Jewish/Muslim god that they would apply to Zeus, Wotan, and any number of discarded gods.

This is not to say that from that the real-world implications of their ideas are insulated from the same dogmatism and intolerance that they decry. You point at Hitchens' hawkishness and were in turn pointed to PZ Myers' dismissal of your ideas, and I would also direct you to this post where Myers, one of the more rhetorically intemperate of the 'New Atheists,' takes Hitchens' war-mongering bellicosity to task. Hitchens zeal on, say, the Iraq war, I would argue is clouded by unwarranted certainty.

To get back to my original point about rationalism, the religious aspect is only the one most pertinent to today's issues. Hitler came to power on a wave of nationalism, and the strains of communism have brought about more death than any religious war. But these too were a product of anti-rationalist thinking. Hitler's ideas on Teutonic supremacy had little basis in reality and in fact stretched back to the mass politics and antisemitism of the late 19th century. North Korea has elevated Kim Jung Il and his father into god-figures, and the Soviet Union famously and most disastrously rejected natural selection and genetics on ideological grounds as a "fascist science" and poured its agricultural resources in furthering bogus Lamarckian Lysenkoism.

The root problem is not religion, but irrational thought, of which religion is the most abundant and influential in today's world. A fine treatment of the problem as it existed half a century ago is Bertrand Russel's "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish," which I came across, of all places, in The Portable Atheist, which Hitchens edited.

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