Sam Harris has responded to critics of the speech he delivered to last week's Atheist Alliance, clarifying his assertion that non-believers should stop describing themselves as "atheists". Writing on his website, Harris restates his point that "the use of a label invites a variety of misunderstandings that are harmful to our cause" and may put off non-believers who "have no interest whatsoever in joining a cult of such critics".
Expanding on his use of the word "cult", Harris makes an interesting point about the nature of the "New Atheism": "There is something cult-like about the culture of atheism. In fact, much of the criticism I have received of my speech is so utterly lacking in content that I can only interpret it as a product of offended atheist piety".
It's a stark warning, unlikely to endear Harris further to his critics. But I think he's right. When we ran our recent poll asking whether Dawkins and Hitchens are good for humanism, some of the comments we received displayed a "thou shalt not criticise Dawkins" mentality. One of the favourite points used by critics of the "New Atheism" is that it is dogmatic, and at times it seems like some atheists are playing into their hands.
Don't forget to vote in our latest poll on whether Harris is right - see the top right of this page.