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Towards a geopolitics of atheism: Critical geopolitics post the ‘War on Terror’

Lookup NU author(s): Russell Foster, Professor Nick MegoranORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Political geography has an established tradition of engaging with religiously-driven geopolitik. However, despite the remarkable growth in professed atheist beliefs in recent decades and the popular expression of an imagined geopolitical binary between secular/atheist and religious societies, the geopolitics of irreligion have received almost no attention among academic practitioners. This paper outlines the core tenets of ‘New Atheist’ philosophy, before addressing how its key representatives have taken positions on the ‘Global War on Terror.’ In particular, we critically interrogate the works of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens and identify a belligerent geopolitical imagination which posits a civilizational clash between an existentially-threatened secular, liberal West with responsibility to use extraordinary violence to protect itself and the world from a backwards oriental Islam. The paper concludes with four possible explanations for the paradox that the New Atheist critique of religion for being violent acts itself as a geopolitical incitement to violence. In so doing, we seek to navigate debates about the nature and purpose of critical geopolitical research given that the historical, intellectual and political contexts in which it was formed have changed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Foster Russell, Megoran Nick, Dunn Michael

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Political Geography

Year: 2017

Volume: 60

Pages: 179-189

Print publication date: 01/09/2017

Online publication date: 17/08/2017

Acceptance date: 28/07/2017

Date deposited: 05/09/2017

ISSN (print): 0962-6298

ISSN (electronic): 1873-5096

Publisher: Pergamon Press


DOI: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2017.07.011


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