Noam Chomsky's atheist morality makes more sense to me than the atheist non-sense of 'Richard Dawkins & his Merrie Men'
This article has focused on the New Atheists and the betrayal of the Enlightenment. In part II, we will explore legitimate heirs of the Enlightenment, focusing especially on Noam Chomsky and on how the praiseworthy goals of the Enlightenment can be accomplished in the modern world.
The New Atheists and the real faith
Since 2001, a group of scholars and intellectuals (for simplicity, and in line with current labels, we will call them the “New Atheists”) have become college campus celebrities for assailing the “irrationalism” of religious belief; some, like Daniel Dennett,1 Christopher Hitchens,2 and Richard Dawkins,3 already possessed laudable resumes, and some, like Sam Harris,4 rose in fame primarily because of their passionate pleas against faith in the immediate post 9-11 milieu. Although these thinkers differ in their analyses, their main theme is similar: religious faith is irrational and should eventually be discarded like a child’s toy by mature citizens in a modern, secular era. Although their arguments have not gone without criticism (see Atran5,6; also, see Hedges7 ), a healthy number of self-designated “free thinkers” have praised their work and continue to impugn the supposed benefits of belief. At times, this criticism can be healthy and productive; at others, it can be destructive and can devolve into ugly and uninformed attacks against Islamic civilization. At bottom, however, the most egregious problem with such attacks is that they ignore the real veil that distorts most people’s perceptions of reality, diverting attention from real political issues that affect millions of lives and convincing many intelligent college students that the chief problem in the world today is irrational religious conviction.
The New Atheists believe that they are carrying out the once stalled project of the enlightenment (See Richard Dawkins Foundation For Reason and ScienceMission.8 ), of freeing minds from the shackles of religious fundamentalism and superstition so that they can perceive the unadulterated “scientific” truth about the nature of reality. This is a noble desideratum; the problem is that the real shackles of the mind–at least in the Western world–are not chained to religion but rather to mainstream political narratives. During the enlightenment, thinkers like Jefferson, Diderot, and Voltaire assailed religion and the churches that propagated it precisely because it was a dense and powerful curtain that was drawn over the eyes of humans. In the contemporary United States, however, the church is no longer an inordinately powerful institution and religion, even among believers, is not the most potent mythology. The most potent mythology is neoliberal nationalism9,10 and the most powerful institution is the corporation. In other words, the New Atheists have retained the outdated substance of the enlightenment but have left its vital spirit behind, have, as it were, mistakenly dragged a 200 year old corpse into the modern world. This would not be lamentable were it not for the profound influence that the New Atheists wield among intelligent and open minded students and intellectuals, the very students and intellectuals that progressives require to form a broad and effective coalition that can challenge the unprecedented power of corporations.
In this article, we will argue that that New Atheists are not heirs of the enlightenment and do not fundamentally challenge existing power structures and narratives in modern American society; instead they distract attention from important issues and scurrilously attack narratives that provide meaning for millions of people.11 We will first look at the interaction between human nature and political structures and how that necessitates the development and propagation of political/religious narratives. We will then trace the decline of religious narratives and the rise of secular narratives, focusing on the modern American political narrative. We will end by criticizing the New Atheists–particularly Sam Harris–for contributing to the West’s growing Islamophobia while ignoring issue of much greater political significance. In part II, we will examine the true legacy of the Enlightenment and those who continue its mission.
What an ignorant article. Anyone who uses the word "islamophobia" is an utter naive masochistic fool.
And I call him "Nim Chimpsky" because that's what he is - an utterly irrelevant insane fool.
Sassan K, we now live in a world of illusion & delusion where insane fools are judged sane, and the sane are judged insane fools.
Only in your deluded world.
What a bunch of rubbish. He cites Hedges against Hitchens and Harris??? Hedges has been absolutely annihilated in debate by both Harris and Hitchens in separate debates. And Chomsky continues with this ridiculous notion of Islamophobia. If this preamble is any indicator of the rest of the article, then Chomsky has lost me completely.
I don't use Richard Dawkins as my model either, but the idea that Chomsky has anything to offer in this arena at this stage of the game offering arguments like this is laughable.
I'll agree here. Chomsky is a very smart man, but when it comes to the big Ds and Hs, Dennet, Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens leaves him in the dust.
Chomsky is indeed a very smart man - he simply ignores the aggressive, arrogant, in-yer-face, posturings of "Ds and Hs"
And what "In-yer-face posturings" are these? Hitchens could be a bit of an asshole, I'll admit, but he never stretched the truth, and neither do the other three. It's all about humility, and admitting that we don't know something. Religion is the exact opposite. Religion claims to have all the answers, and when someone proves them wrong, the drop the literal hammer of god on them to silence them. Galileo was excommunicated and persecuted, as was Thomas Paine, and Darwin. All for stating the truth as they saw it.
Dawkins is very understanding when it comes to the believers themselves, even though he refuses to use kid gloves while debating religion.
If the Tea Party congress is any indicator of religious zealots in power, then there can be no compromise with the church. Religion must get out of politics all together, or there will be oppression, bigotry, and worst of all the silencing of science for many centuries to come. Atheists have never had as much freedom as we do today, and we must fight the good fight, because it likely will never come again if we let it slip through our fingers.
What a bunch of hippie bullshit.
I can't really say whether the authors' criticism of the "New Atheists" is on point, mainly because I'm not familiar with any sort of New Atheist doctrine (other than, of course, being atheist). I generally agree with the point that we do have dysfunctional mythologies in America more harmful than religion. I wouldn't say that the authors have a good opinion about what those mythologies are, since they present their arguments about those rather summarily. Nonetheless, it is an interesting article. Thanks, Richard, for sharing it.
Please expand on why Dawkins is a voice of war and division. You seem well-versed in your Chomsky: have you read Dawkins' work as assiduously, or are you responding to others' characterizations of his work?