"We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

It's all about imperialism, apparently.

Atheism, secularism & freethought etc.

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"We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#1  Postby logical bob » Dec 01, 2015 2:13 pm

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 nor 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 from the New Atheism, a movement too often exemplified by privileged know-it-alls telling the poor that 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.

For the extraordinary contemporary popularity of the New Atheism also relates to something else that happened at the dawn of the new century – namely, the terrorist attacks on 2001. It’s 9/11, more than anything else, that divides the old atheism from the new.

The best illustration is Christopher Hitchens...

...The problems in the Middle East stemmed, not 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 a progressive.

You can see how the argument works. If belief in God stems from intellectual inadequacy, then all believers are feebleminded – 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 an old-fashioned imperialism: the people we just happen to be bombing are simple-minded savages, impervious to reason and civilisation. That was the secret of Hitchens’ success: he provided a liberal rationale for the “war on terror”.

You can proclaim you’re an atheist, a freethinker, a devotee of the enlightenment – and yet somehow still end up backing rightwing Christians like George W Bush and Ben Carson in their campaigns against the Muslim hordes.

Full article

This seems to overlook the role of fundamentalist Christianity in US society, or the Christian based (and human rights denying) abortion laws in Northern Ireland among many other things. And it's trying too hard to create a coherent "New Atheism" out of the scattered words and doings of 3 individual atheists.

But I'm sure others will have wiser things to say.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#2  Postby scott1328 » Dec 01, 2015 2:29 pm

Because Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are the source of anti-islamist, racist bullshit being spewed by the GOP. Perhaps we should focus on recommendations for reforming the fundagelicals first.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#3  Postby Sendraks » Dec 01, 2015 4:24 pm

I'm still non-the-wiser as to what "new atheism" is.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#4  Postby crank » Dec 01, 2015 4:53 pm

Sendraks wrote:I'm still non-the-wiser as to what "new atheism" is.

New atheism wasn't about, or at least I never saw it to be about, an over-the-top attack on muslims or adherents of any particular faith. To me it was about we atheist to quit being in the closet, to quit letting the religious dominate the conversation, to be the definers of SOP and the default default. With Dawkins, who is the originator of it, with The god Delusion, and Harris now seeming to have slid into a narrow focus of anti-muslim bigotry, the term New Atheist is getting a bad name, and I'm quite sad about that. I'm not sure, but I think CJ Werleman has a lot to do with this, and while I don't fault him for his motives, I wish he hadn't decided to poison the whole group of us who wanted to identify with the New Atheist 'movement' such as it was. There can be no doubt Dawkins started the shift to far greater acceptance of atheism and atheist, helped hugely by 9/11, which Dawkins writes was what got him POed enough to write the book. But, how do you get a new term without all the baggage that now accretes to 'New Atheist'? Such things are just about impossible to cause, they have to just happen. We'll probably have to just stick with atheist, not a problem, but not too useful.

One thing I think v. v. important is to distance ourselves, as atheist, from the bigotry, to openly oppose it when we can, or we're really not much different from hateful fundies.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#5  Postby Ironclad » Dec 01, 2015 5:48 pm

crank wrote:
Sendraks wrote:I'm still non-the-wiser as to what "new atheism" is.

New atheism wasn't about, or at least I never saw it to be about, an over-the-top attack on muslims or adherents of any particular faith. To me it was about we atheist to quit being in the closet, to quit letting the religious dominate the conversation, to be the definers of SOP and the default default. With Dawkins, who is the originator of it, with The god Delusion, and Harris now seeming to have slid into a narrow focus of anti-muslim bigotry, the term New Atheist is getting a bad name, and I'm quite sad about that. I'm not sure, but I think CJ Werleman has a lot to do with this, and while I don't fault him for his motives, I wish he hadn't decided to poison the whole group of us who wanted to identify with the New Atheist 'movement' such as it was. There can be no doubt Dawkins started the shift to far greater acceptance of atheism and atheist, helped hugely by 9/11, which Dawkins writes was what got him POed enough to write the book. But, how do you get a new term without all the baggage that now accretes to 'New Atheist'? Such things are just about impossible to cause, they have to just happen. We'll probably have to just stick with atheist, not a problem, but not too useful.

One thing I think v. v. important is to distance ourselves, as atheist, from the bigotry, to openly oppose it when we can, or we're really not much different from hateful fundies.


I'd hope as mostly rational thinkers, we'd oppose bigotry. HIGNFY last night, Q: "how can we tackle racism?"; Ian Hislop: "thinking"

As for New Atheism, for me it is was little more that a flag-waving exercise, it allowed many folk to realise they were not alone, and that there are a sizable percentage of atheists around the world. I guess many people gelled their thoughts as they understood their lives were not evil or decadent, those who live in parts where atheism is sinful, shameful or worse.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#6  Postby laklak » Dec 01, 2015 8:07 pm

Who's "we"? What's "atheism"? What's a "New Atheist"?

Another load of rubbish.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#7  Postby RealityRules » Dec 01, 2015 8:13 pm

Sendraks wrote:I'm still non-the-wiser as to what "new atheism" is.

It's a pejorative term to try to diminish atheism in general, especially the focus on the works and commentaries of modern 'direct' or 'straight-talking' atheists such as Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and others

Many theists point fallaciously to long-dead atheists such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Drews, etc as being more philosophical or more nuanced.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#8  Postby Thommo » Dec 01, 2015 8:30 pm

I found the article pretty boring, it seemed very much to be about personalities and the usual "mention Richard Dawkins to generate page clicks" nonsense that happens far too often. I really don't care about the author's brand of atheism, he clearly thinks his particular flavour of atheism is somehow the best and to that I just say, "good for you".
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#9  Postby logical bob » Dec 01, 2015 11:49 pm

He doesn't even really have a different flavour of atheism, however. He's essentially saying that it's not someone's fault if they believe something that's wrong - as long as they're not privileged and white. We should "listen to stories of the structural deformation of individual lives". Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens are/were privileged and white, however, so if you disagree with them it's OK to say they're being dicks.

It's not an argument that has much going for it.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#10  Postby Calilasseia » Dec 02, 2015 5:34 am

None of the pseudo-arguments constructed against the "New Atheism" strawman so many supernaturalists love have anything going for them. It's also indicative of how much supernaturalists have poisoned the arena of discourse, that some atheists fall for this drivel.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#11  Postby Darwinsbulldog » Dec 02, 2015 9:02 am

Meh, if the shoe fits........ But no matter what the religion, we have seen the failure of self regulation. Moderate Muslims want to cure their radical terrorist members, first by denying that they are true Muslims anyway, and secondly by giving them the "proper" ie moderate form of delusion: "peaceful Islam". Meanwhile, the Catholics, reeling from the horrors of institutionalized child abuse, have reacted in an analogous manner: first denying kiddie rapists as true Catholics [ordained or not], and secondly reinventing themselves by electing a "moderate" Pope who has suddenly got them all concerned about the environment and world poverty! Ditto for the other religions.

A pox on all their houses! This isn't about racism, it is about weaning ourselves off a dangerous addiction: religious faith. But there is true hypocrisy, because most of the world can't ignore the fact that a huge chunk of the oil most of us are dependent on is in Muslim hands. So the "West" sucks up to the fascist Saudis et. al. far more than Chamberlain tried to appease Adolf Hitler! So we allow primitive, barbaric regime that behead people and treat women like shit, because -OIL! In short, the oil consuming nations created ISIS and the other terrorist movements. :doh:
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#12  Postby Briton » Dec 02, 2015 9:10 am

crank wrote:
Sendraks wrote:I'm still non-the-wiser as to what "new atheism" is.

New atheism wasn't about, or at least I never saw it to be about, an over-the-top attack on muslims or adherents of any particular faith. To me it was about we atheist to quit being in the closet, to quit letting the religious dominate the conversation, to be the definers of SOP and the default default.


To me it was about saying no to the special pleading and treating religious claims the same way you would treat any other ideas, rather than awarding them with automatic respect; which many, even non-believers, seem to think religion is due.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#13  Postby WayOfTheDodo » Dec 02, 2015 1:38 pm

scott1328 wrote:Because Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are the source of anti-islamist, racist bullshit being spewed by the GOP.


What?
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#14  Postby ScholasticSpastic » Dec 02, 2015 1:43 pm

WayOfTheDodo wrote:
scott1328 wrote:Because Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are the source of anti-islamist, racist bullshit being spewed by the GOP.


What?

Is sarcasm, I hope. :shifty: Note the explicit reference to the GOP, which can be reliably be conflated with christofascists, and thereby assumed to have their own, Dawkins-free motives for xenophobia and anti-Islamic sentiments.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#15  Postby logical bob » Dec 02, 2015 1:51 pm

To be fair the article doesn't claim that Hitchens or any other atheist is the source of any bigotry in US government, just that they allegedly give it a fig leaf of intellectual credibility by speaking in favour of military action against Muslims.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#16  Postby Calilasseia » Dec 02, 2015 2:00 pm

ScholasticSpastic wrote:
WayOfTheDodo wrote:
scott1328 wrote:Because Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are the source of anti-islamist, racist bullshit being spewed by the GOP.


What?

Is sarcasm, I hope. :shifty: Note the explicit reference to the GOP, which can be reliably be conflated with christofascists, and thereby assumed to have their own, Dawkins-free motives for xenophobia and anti-Islamic sentiments.


I spotted that too. Dawkins is more likely to prefer the prospect of wrestling naked with a pack of rabid wolverines, than he is of adopting Rethuglicon politics.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#17  Postby Darwinsbulldog » Dec 02, 2015 3:16 pm

logical bob wrote:To be fair the article doesn't claim that Hitchens or any other atheist is the source of any bigotry in US government, just that they allegedly give it a fig leaf of intellectual credibility by speaking in favour of military action against Muslims.

it is not against Muslims. It is against Muslims who are terrorists.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#18  Postby Blackadder » Dec 02, 2015 6:59 pm

For, of course, the privileged know-it-alls are usually white and those they lampoon the most are invariably Muslim.


Another whining, Guardianista weasel who equates "muslim" with "brown" and with the usual sweeping Guardian inverted racism, "poor". First of all, muslim =/= non-white. There are white muslims in several European countries. To introduce race into this is poisoning the well. The prat who wrote this article is as knee-jerk racist as any skinhead EDL member. He just uses his racism against white people.

What the jabbering fool also fails to understand is that the extremist Islam that is causing most of the problems in the world is funded by very rich Muslims, namely the Saudi state. You want to talk about "privilege"? Have a look at the Saudi ruling family. An obscenely wealthy kleptocracy that has the tongues of Western leaders firmly wedged up their backsides, allowing them to flout virtually every commonly accepted human right and to frequently evade the rule of law even when they visit countries that aren't shithole centres of Islamofascism.

That's before we even get to any argument about whether Dawkins and his friends are "good" or "bad" atheists. As if there is such a thing. This is yet another condescending white boy with his social conscience on his sleeve, telling others they shouldn't disabuse brown folks of their quaint religious beliefs. He can shove his ideas right back up his hoop where they emerged from.

I read the Guardian regularly for its news coverage. Unfortunately, many of its commentators are just dribbling fuckwits. As in this case.
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#19  Postby scott1328 » Dec 02, 2015 11:33 pm

Calilasseia wrote:
ScholasticSpastic wrote:
WayOfTheDodo wrote:
scott1328 wrote:Because Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are the source of anti-islamist, racist bullshit being spewed by the GOP.


What?

Is sarcasm, I hope. :shifty: Note the explicit reference to the GOP, which can be reliably be conflated with christofascists, and thereby assumed to have their own, Dawkins-free motives for xenophobia and anti-Islamic sentiments.


I spotted that too. Dawkins is more likely to prefer the prospect of wrestling naked with a pack of rabid wolverines, than he is of adopting Rethuglicon politics.

:thumbup:
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Re: "We can save atheism from the New Atheists"

#20  Postby Hamster » Dec 23, 2015 12:06 am

As straw men go, I've seen worse.
Characterizing "new" atheists as "know-it-alls telling the poor that they’re idiots" might be breathtakingly easy... but it's bollox.

While we've all seen Dawkins be genuinely astounded by rank stupidity from people who he hadn't anticipated it from, how else is one to react? In general I doubt even he thinks that all theists are idiots for believing. I'm sure we all know how powerful the appeal of wishful thinking and tradition can be. I can understand (otherwise) smart people holding onto familiar notions that comfort them; not wishing to question their faith.

Of course there are plenty of idiots who are atheists and plenty who are theists.
The idea that Dawkins, Hitch, Harris and co are somehow a bad look for atheism is actually idiotic.
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