Chris Hedges on the New Atheists

Salon interviews Chris Hedges about his latest book criticizing neo-con atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris.

I think a lot of their popularity stems from a legitimate anger on the part of a lot of Americans toward the intolerance and chauvinism of the radical religious right in this country. Unfortunately, what they’ve done is offer a Utopian belief system that is as self-delusional as that offered by Christian fundamentalists. They adopt many of the foundational belief systems of fundamentalists. For example, they believe that the human species is marching forward, that there is an advancement toward some kind of collective moral progress — that we are moving towards, if not a Utopian, certainly a better, more perfected human society. That’s fundamental to the Christian right, and it’s also fundamental to the New Atheists. You know, there is nothing in human nature or in human history that points to the idea that we are moving anywhere. Technology and science, though they are cumulative and have improved, in many ways, the lives of people within the industrialized nations, have also unleashed the most horrific forms of violence and death, and let’s not forget, environmental degradation, in human history. So, there’s nothing intrinsically moral about science. Science is morally neutral. It serves the good and the bad. I mean, industrial killing is a product of technological advance, just as is penicillin and modern medicine. So I think that I find the faith that these people place in science and reason as a route toward human salvation to be as delusional as the faith the Christian right places in miracles and angels.

I’ve seen a few YouTubed lectures from Harris that I liked, but I was unaware of his suggestion that the West bomb the Arab-Muslim world. Does anyone else know about this? If true (and Hedges is a principled journalist, so it probably is), I’m pretty appalled.

As for Hitchens, well…he’s a prick. What else is new?

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2 responses to “Chris Hedges on the New Atheists

  1. It was in The End of Faith and Hedges has mischaracterized what Harris actually wrote. Grossly.

    I’ve quoted the relative passage in this post if you want to read it.

    Basically, what Harris was trying to say was that Islamic extremism is a serious threat and was outlining a hypothetical situation of what may come if we sit idly by and refuse to question or criticize Islam for fear of damaging their sensibilities.

  2. I’m here at this website following a link from ylooshi’s blog that was automatically generated. I am the same “anon” who has commented on that blog.

    The quotation that ylooshi has put up of Harris only proves Hedges’s point.

    As an illustration I have caricatured Harris’s passage in a comment. Anyone reading it will recognize it, quite clearly, as advocating the genocide of the new atheists. I have linked to the particular comment under my “website” (click on “anon”). For a linguistic analysis of these kind of innuendos, I recommend Steve Pinker’s Stuff of Thought.

    The new atheists see the positive correlation between the problems and conflicts in the Middle East and other issues in countries with a significant Islamic population and arrive at the conclusion that religion caused the problem. This, as anyone with any knowledge of logic knows, is a flawed conclusion. It might be that the problems caused the radicalization of those populations or it might be that these two are entirely independent of each other. The new atheists present absolutely no evidence supporting their conclusion and none showing why the other two possibilities are invalid.

    Either they’re incapable of simple logic or willfully dishonest. Since at least 3 of the prominent 4 new atheists are scientists the former reflects poorly on rational thinking of Western scientists and the latter a complete lack of morals among the intellectual class.

    Among the 4, in my opinion, Dawkins has a little data supporting his cause — Israeli students arriving at different judgments when given a Biblical story where an Israeli general genocides the local population as opposed to a Chinese general genociding a local uprising. Though I still think (and there’s a lot more evidence supporting the case) that the causes of things like suicide terrorism in Palestine and other places in the Middle East are more political than anything else.