The Guardian: We can save atheism from new atheists

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/30/we-can-save-at...

"As a philosophical tendency, the New Atheists were popularisers rather than innovators, using advances in biology and neuroscience to illustrate pretty well-worn arguments against religion.  Indeed, in some crucial ways, they represent an intellectual step backward from a left that had recognized atheism as necessary but scarcely sufficient.

"As early as 1842, Marx dismissed those who trumpeted their disbelief to children as "assuring everyone who is ready to listen to the that they are not afraid of the boogeyman".  For him, intellectual disproofs of God were trivia; what mattered was building a world that didn't give rise to mystification of any kind.

That is, if you investigate the material basis of religious belief, you immediately confront a phenomenon that operates on many different levels.  In particular circumstances and particular settings a faith may function as a guide to morality, or an aesthetic, or a social network, or a collection of cultural practices, or a political identity, or a historical tradition, or some combination of any or all of those things.

You don't have to be a believer to see that religion genuinely offers something to its adherents (often when nothing else is available) and that what it provides is neither inconsequential or silly.

By contrast, the New Atheists engage with religion purely as a set of ideas, a kind of cosmic rulebook for believers.  On that basis, it's easy to point out inconsistencies or contradictions in the various holy texts and mock the faithful for their gullibility.

But what happens then?  You're left with no explanation for their devotion other than a susceptibility to fraud.  To borrow Dawkins' title, if God is nothing but an intellectual delusion then the billions of believers are, well, deluded; a collection of feeble saps in need of enlightenment from their intellectual superiors.

That's the basis for the dickishness that so many people now associate with the New Atheism, a movement too often exemplified by privileged know-it-alls telling the poor they're idiots.  But that's only part of it.   For, of course, the privileged know-it-alls are usually white and those they lampoon the most are invariably Muslim.

...

The problems of the Middle East stemmed, nt from imperial meddling in an oil-rich region but from Islam itself, a faith that resulted from (and then fostered) delusional thinking.  On that basis, Hitchens was increasingly able to ally himself with the worst elements of the American right while insisting he remained progressive.

You can see how the argument works.  If belief in God stems from intellectual inadequacy, then all believers are feeble-minded and the most devout are the most feebleminded of all.  All religions are bad but some religions - especially those in the Middle East by sheer coincidence - are worse than others.

In the name of enlightened atheism you thus arrive at old-fashioned imperialism:  the people we just happen to be bombing are simple-minded savages, impervious to reason and civilization.  That was the secret of Hitchens' success: he provided a liberal rationale for the "war on terror."

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I'm curious what folks think of the article, and particularly the sections I quote above. 

I confess that I find his critique of some aspects of what I find here at TA to be quite cogent in terms of the attitudes and "intellectual step backward" from Marx and other old atheists. 

Aside from Dawkins who left science behind quite a long time ago and became a polemicist against Islam, I'm not sure that I buy into his argument vis a vis New Atheism and the American right.  I confess I'm well out of my field, though, since I never really paid any attention to Hitchens or the rest because I found them boorish.   Were they really making arguments that aligned with intellectual/social imperialism?

Do you find that within your communities there's support for Middle East interventionism on the grounds of atheism / "bad Muslims"?  Or opposition to Islamic refugees?   I really don't see that at all, and I think his argument is overstated.  But I may just be clueless.

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I broadly agree with this article.  I think Richard Dawkins should use his talents more effectively, maybe he can help me to explain my theory to people.  He's just become a gas bag.  Anyway, it looks like the time is right for "me".  Not that I want to be in the media, on TV, or famous in any way, or would be any good at it at all.  How would you like to be a "punk Jesus" meme?  Or something equally frigging horrible. 

I can't comment too much on the public shenanigans of Dawkins and Harris as I don't follow them. 

As for what atheists on the ground think about Islam etc, it's really hard to tell.  I think the writer fails to appreciate that atheism is a broad church and naturally anti-authoritarian, so there's a very wide range of views around.  If he thinks that atheists are racists, I think he's very much mistaken because that goes right against the grain of what we're about.  Dawkins and Harris get paid money to spout off on the internet: other people just go about their normal lives; so those two are not necessarily representative of real atheists. 

I agree with you man. Dawkins, Maher, and Harris have become nothing but bigoted imbeciles who tends to spout some form of warped discriminatory nonsense by hiding behind the concept of rationalism. They are now engaged in some "atheistic crusade" against liberals, Atheists and other free thinkers because according to them, apparently none of these groups have "come out" (as a violent fascist bigot) against Muslims and Islam. They now have an idiotic labeling of these groups called "Regressive Liberals". The funny thing is that the majority of the people that agree with them on this concept are right wing tea party and English Defense League members.

What a wonderful type of people to have with you in agreement.

Dawkins, Maher, and Harris have become nothing but bigoted imbeciles who tends to spout some form of warped discriminatory nonsense by hiding behind the concept of rationalism.

That is exactly the tone that Christian writers take in the articles I mentioned earlier. Rather than engage in ad hominem could you please give examples of how Dawkins or Harris are engaged in “Islamophobia”. The “public image” they have is only an image that Christians or people with little understanding of the Middle East hold. If you think they are wrong to criticizing Islamists for 9/11 and other terrorist attacks then that is you prerogative.

If you think Hitchens was wrong to warn Europe of the creeping nature of Islamic extremism then please go to Paris and make your case there. If you think that it was wrong of Hitchens to criticize those that said it was wrong to award Salman Rushdie a book prize because it offended Muslims, that is, the same people that called for his death over some perceived offence, rather than applaud him for defending freedom of speech, then please explain why. The Ayatollah of Iran can claim it is the duty of all Muslims everywhere to kill Salman Rushdie on sight but Hitchens is part of an “Atheist Crusade” for standing up to that?

I am glad that Dawkins tries to stop “Muslim Faith” schools in England that get tax payer’s money from teaching fundamentalist beliefs to children whose “science books” books are “donated” by Salafi jihadists in Saudi. I am happy to hear Dawkins have the nerve to challenge Imam’s on live TV as to why they agree that the death is appropriate for people that stop believing the shit he believes. I am happy to know that the Dawkins foundation is doing its part in promoting Science and reason in those schools instead.

If you think Maher is wrong for making “fun” of murderers or for using satire to wake people up to the killings of atheist bloggers or for calling “stupid” on stupid commentary then that is your prerogative too. If you disagree with Dawkins that Islam is currently the most dangerous religion in the world because so many are taking the Koran as literary true which leads them to being close-minded then please explain what exactly you disagree with.

We need to condemn extremist religious ideologies that preach violence and sexism. Atheists might be considered militant for doing this but they are not attacking Muslims. They are condemning the extremist ideology and not the religious person. Why is it so difficult for people to understand the difference? Maybe because they too have fallen for the deception that is it “Islamophobia”.

Writer like Sean Faircloth have said that people like Maryam Namazie (who I have also met at “institutional atheistic” conventions) put their own lives in jeopardy because they speak out about the sexist and violent nature of Islam. Asking that “liberals” in America support their calls for civil rights of ex-Muslims should not be seen as an “atheistic crusade”.

The “public image” of these atheists is only the public image that the religious or politically naïve has of them. It is all about getting the right sources of information and being able to discern intelligent criticism by educated writers from close-minded religious “thinkers” (what an oxymoron). These same writers have little or no confidence in being able to defend their own position so they scramble to create click-baits that only sound good to those that already hold those views yet still call themselves free thinkers with a straight face. They are not.

If you believe that these atheist speakers are nothing but “bigoted imbeciles” then please explain what is imbecilic in their speech and how that makes them bigots. This is the type of anti Atheist rhetoric I read on Christian websites but don’t bother to challenge anymore because I get banned for asking an intelligent questions.

Of course article by Sam Harris will make it into Sunday School because, you know, bigotry, and all that.

I am glad that Dawkins tries to stop “Muslim Faith” schools in England that get tax payer’s money from teaching fundamentalist beliefs to children whose “science books” books are “donated” by Salafi jihadists in Saudi

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More like this is what is Dawkins is up to lately.

London (CNN)Eminent British scientist Richard Dawkins has drawn criticism on social media for what some say is an unfair comparison between Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas teenager whose school project was mistaken for a bomb, and a young ISIS killer.

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/25/europe/uk-richard-dawkins-clock-b...

Nowadays he is too busy picking on 14 year old kids. Grown man going insane and talking trash about a boy who tried to make a clock to impress his teacher. Must be this old generation. I noticed the older they get, more wacky and deranged they tend to be.

I believe this woman's reply is priceless and represent my sentiments as well. 

I get it man, you must be a new Atheist. Just left God so now you have a empty void in your heart, as you have managed to replace Dawkins with God. That's why you feel attacked when someone says something against Dawkins that you don't like, just like theists get mad about their god. It's going to be ok. Blindly defending Dawkins won't help your cause. Try to become enlightened, I mean you made it this far to becoming a rational thinker, why stop halfway now?

 Once you become an actual rational thinker, you will understand when I say the following: 

"As a free rational thinking Atheist I would any day hang out with peaceful loving theists than over the top militant like Atheists like Dawkins". 

You have failed to address any of my arguments or answer the questions I raised. Introducing a new argument not related to what you previously said is not a defence. Using the “clock boy story” may be a valid point to argue on its own but it is an informal fallacy and more of a “Chewbacca defence” to present it at this juncture. It is poor deductive reasoning to think it does.

I get it man, you must be a new Atheist. Just left God so now you have a empty void in your heart, as you have managed to replace Dawkins with God.

No you don’t get it man. I have been an outspoken atheist and campaigned against the religious discrimination of atheists by Christians and Muslims long before Dawkins was known as an “atheist spokesman”. Please try to argue the point with some maturity rather than presuming to know me in the same manner that sad Jehovah Witnesses do.

That's why you feel attacked when someone says something against Dawkins that you don't like, just like theists get mad about their god.

I do not feel attacked, least of all by anything you have said. Even last week when 2 Muslims accused me of disrespecting their imaginary god because I am helping a campaign to have Raif Badawi released from jail in Saudi Arabia I did not get annoyed or upset. It was good to hear the local Imam explain to those two members of the Religion of Peace that I was not actually speaking about their Prophet. Maybe he was becoming a Liberal.

Blindly defending Dawkins won't help your cause.

 I am not out to defend Dawkins. I am arguing against your rants and I have much better evidence than twitter quotes to support what I say. Asking you why you assert that Dawkins is an imbecile and a bigot is not defending him. I listed various reasons as to why I thought differently and you cobbled some twitter quotes together not related to anything I asked.

You are verging on ad hominem with your tone towards me. Don’t worry I can handle such pathetic words from someone unable to defend what he says. However I am sorry that you are as saddened as Renee Stephen is by Dawkins “sloppy reactionary thinking”. I wish I could learn to be a freethinker like her. Her mentioning Ceausescu and Mengele makes so much sense.

You have failed to address any of my arguments or answer the questions I raised

You have no argument, other than random nonsensical claims you have made about what I "think"

If you think Hitchens was wrong to warn Europe of the creeping nature of Islamic extremism then please go to Paris and make your case there

If you think Maher is wrong for making “fun” of murderers or for using satire to wake people up to the killings of atheist bloggers or for calling “stupid” on stupid commentary then that is your prerogative too

I know for a fact I never said anything about Hitchens, considering the fact that I always thought his arguments against Islam are very calm, cool and collective to the point. These are BS claims you made about what you presumed that I thought and then went to defend your argument like you actually had any.  Now you expect me to reply to it? Very interesting! 

When you actually have a valid point, I will then and only then actually give you a valid reply.

Yes I know very well I was at a logical fallacy, but it was to bring up a point to get you thinking outside the box. Reading your argument, there is a general tone that you have tunnel vision and only see things from what you have perceived to be "rational and logical". 

Asking you why you assert that Dawkins is an imbecile and a bigot is not defending him. I listed various reasons as to why I thought differently and you cobbled some twitter quotes together not related to anything I asked.

Except for that one tiny little fact that the twitter quotes are direct statements from Dawkins himself, signifying his recent shift in attitude to become a very reactionary bigoted person. If you can't think outside the box and connect the dots, then please let me know, I will do it for you. It's not attacking you, its just I need to know my opponent's weaknesses so I can adjust fire and make sure I articulate properly for him to understand basic stuff.

And I have to say that as a rational theist (if there is such a thing) I would any day hang out with peaceful and caring atheists than over-the-top militants like the fundamentalist Christian right in America.

It should be that we seek common ground with most people, and engage in friendly discussion where there isn't common ground.

Must be this old generation. I noticed the older they get, more wacky and deranged they tend to be.

I have a close relative who works in the media.  He says that the demographic of Fox News is really old.  Average age well above 50.  I think that for whatever reason, older folks are much more susceptible to the message of fear.

Adam...I'd rather debate with deluded theists than hopeless atheists who don't know how critical thinking and discourse works. Answer Regs questions and people here will take you seriously. Respond with blah blah theatrics, digressive rants and hyper a generalisations...and you'll be seen as a trollish-drama-queen who attacks others ideas yet cannot defend his claims.

1) I honestly don't care one bit what people's opinions of me are in cyber space.

2) I will stand right in front of your face and let you know what my opinion is. If you can't handle it, then its not my fault. 

The words of every troll who adds no value to online conversations, who nobody takes seriously and who prefers hissy fits and attacks over substance. There are hundreds of troll sites online Adam...you tube, comments sections for newspapers and 4chan.

Hmmm interesting, has not once yet attempted to rebut one's arguments yet accuses someone of a being troll. Oh the irony of the situation.

Double irony, indeed, as that is exactly what you've done.

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