It is commonly thought that atheism is totally independent of Christianity, however the relationship between the protestant reformation & enlightenment, with the new atheism movement and its line of argumentation is strikingly close.
Pre-reformation, the Holy Scriptures were always seen in four main senses 1) Literal 2) Allegorical 3) Tropological 4) Anagogical
Sola Scriptura, and Sola Fide
The two central aspects of the Protestant reformation, are 'Sola Scriptura' (the Bible as the only authority) and 'Sola Fide' ( justification by faith alone)
Protestant reformers argued throughout the reformation that Christians who do not take the Bible literally are not true followers - which is the exact same argument Richard Dawkins, as well as other new atheists argue today. Christians who read and understand them in the original manner, are deemed to be 'cherry pickers' and untrue to their faith.
In the early 1800’s there was an illusory gladiatorial contest between the supporters of the enlightenment and churchmen , who defended their faith.
Religion was deemed irrational, a bid for power, fuelled by deceit, and the enlightenment was promoted as the voice of freedom and democracy. Those who defended faith , spoke of the inner conscience of the individual, who develops a personal and loving relationship with the Creator God.
Interestingly, these two groups were both anti-institutional. The enlightenment strived to emphasise that the individual can rationalise, and can understand the truth for himself even when it is confiscated. This was to be contrasted with blind faith, even though the defenders of faith also emphasised the importance of individually and freely coming to divine truth and knowledge (of God). Christianity highlighted the importance of freedom, just as did the enlightenment.
Followers of the enlightenment would emphasise the importance of daring to think for themselves and realising personal courage. It promoted the ability to decide things for themselves, with education being a spur to your own independent enquiries. The enlightenment’s goal was to teach and encourage individual strength, undermining institutions that oppress, and reforming education so that every individual’s judgement can be used in its fullness.
The minority groups undermined the institutional, oppressive churches (in England for example), as they wanted to purify themselves , and free themselves. The enlightenment is a development of this, and the enlightenment does not have any limits in what it can criticise. It can critique all traditions and beliefs, rather than a select few traditions.
This purity for which the new atheists argue, is the same purity that the oppressed (mainly protestant, now evangelical) groups were striving for, against institution, for the literal reading of the Bible, and the rationality of every human being.