Is that true? Are these gentlemen fundamentalists? And if so, in what sense? And if they are in a certain sense, is that a bad thing?
Well, Dawkins at least has addressed this in his book The God Delusion, and I won't repeat what he says there in this post, nor will I repeat whatever other critics have said (a sampling can be found at links on Wikipedia).
I will however, quote a dictionary definition of fundamentalism:
1. religious beliefs based on a literal interpretation of the Bible, regarded as fundamental to Christian faith and morals
2. the 20th-cent. movement among some American Protestants, based on these beliefs
3. a strict adherence to or interpretation of a doctrine, set of principles, etc., as of a social, legal, political, or religious group or system
Now by the 3rd definition everyone who adheres to a strict adherence of a set of principles of a religious group might be called a fundamentalist. I would admit atheism as a religious group despite what some muddled conservatives might say (especially being ignorant of certain religions that do not admit the existence of deities).
But, as an example, let's take Dawkins. Dawkins is an avowed atheist, but what he means by that is that the evidence that we as humans can observe is so overwhelmingly against the possibility of a deity as to lead one to conclude that one does not exist. If, there were evidence revealed to the contrary, he would have changed his opinion. Ideologically he expresses kinship with Bertrand Russell, who, when asked what he would say when he died and a hypothetical deity asked why he did not profess belief would say, "Not enough evidence."
As a counter example, there are fundamentalist creationists aplenty who, when presented with the evidence of dinosaurs, distant galaxies, and what-not that clearly demonstrate the existence of an earth and universe billions of years old engage in all kinds of special pleading to try to wiggle out of the obvious evidence. This includes, but is not limited to:
- The dinosaurs were placed there by god to make us have faith or "test" our faith because it contradicts the bible!
- The laws of physics were different 5,000 years ago! (I believe I heard this one from a Catholic who should know better.)
- And the granddaddy of all special pleading apologetics arguments, Tertullian's "I believe because it is absurd." (Well then you believe, uh, pretty much everything absurd?)
Our lives are permeated by feeling, emotion, passion and the like, but if we are trying to talk about the Big Things, (Why are we here? What should I do? God? Death? Immortality? Ethics?) we should try to employ reason. As a Buddhist, I try to do this, and where any Buddhism contradicts what can be observed, measured, and logically discussed, we should be wary. True, logical systems come with limitations, and our choice of axioms dictates how our reasoning goes. But - I've got to appeal to my professional deformation here - we should choose our axioms based on their utility to achieve our ends, and as a general rule the fewer the better as long as they have sufficient utility.
Of course the diatribes against the "New Atheists" are by and large done as a defense against the beliefs of those who criticize them (although I think most reasonable people might say, on reflection that "New" is superfluous here and so that criticism should stand).
But stop the tu quoque arguments when you discuss these people. They aren't true.