Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The New Atheists, Racism and Bigotry

"We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim."

 ~ Sam Harris, “atheist” ideologue and “thinker”.[1] 

Question time: what is an atheist?

If you answered “Someone who doesn’t believe in the existence of a god or gods due to the absence of evidence”, you’d be completely correct. That’s all an atheist is – someone who doesn’t accept the existence of deities owing to the absence of acceptable evidence thereof.

But the times, they seem to be a-changin’.

As I believe everyone who reads my blog is well aware, I am an atheist. As the reader will also probably be aware, I have no sympathy for fascism. And, increasingly, that includes atheist fascism.

Atheist fascism, did I say?

Increasingly, atheism – as far as it exists as a public movement – is being hijacked by a fascist, bigoted clique. These people sometimes call themselves New Atheists, but there’s nothing new about their racist bigotry. At one time it used to call itself the White Man’s Burden and claim that it was on a civilising mission. Those were the days when open racism was much more acceptable than now; black Africans were still treated as farm machinery, Jews could still be confined to Pales of settlement, and as for the brown people, we were by turns massacred and forced to produce raw materials to feed our white masters’ economies.

The times may have “changed”, but the hatred and the bigotry haven’t disappeared; and now that you can’t, at least in polite society, openly hate people for the colour of their skin, what other excuse do you have?

There’s one easy answer: religion.

Now the marriage between bigotry and religion is nothing new. The imperialist campaigns to “civilise” the “lesser breeds without the law” had always included a Christianising mission, which was much more successful in some parts of the world than elsewhere. This had also had a strong component of “scientific racism” – the idea that some races were clearly superior or inferior to others, and that this could be proved by science.

Thus, the great French philosopher Voltaire could declare, about black people,

"They are not men, except in their stature, with the faculty of speech and thought at a degree far distant to ours. Such are the ones that I have seen and examined."

and his compatriot Christoph Meiners could say that Africans felt neither emotions nor physical pain.[2]

You’ll note that both these eminent gentlemen perfectly produced the kind of “scientific” data most suited for justifying treating black people as farm machinery and colonial property.

These days, of course, religion as an excuse for colonialism is no longer acceptable in most societies. Even in the nations which actually do colonise others, some other excuse has to be found for colonial aggression and occupation. If the United States, for instance, invades and occupies Iraq and Afghanistan, it is on the excuse of “fighting terror” (whatever that might mean) or “weapons of mass destruction”, even though the administration at the time is fundamentalist Christian. The Zionist entity invades and occupies Palestine on the excuse of “security”, even though the fundamentalist rabbinical establishment calls for the expulsion of Arabs from the lands of “Eretz Israel”.

In both cases, though the aim of the invader and occupier is similar or identical to those of the religious establishment, religion isn’t the excuse given for the aggressive act. Even George W Bush went out of his way to state that his administration “wasn’t at war with Islam” – while devastating Muslim nations and ruining their social structures beyond recovery. But there’s a reason for this: no country, not even the US Empire, can conduct an openly religious war any longer. That’s only for the likes of ISIS or Al Shabaab, Boko Haram or the Buddhist mobs in Sri Lanka or Myanmar; non-state actors who don’t have to put up a facade of responsibility on what’s usually called the world stage.

But, of course, they are religious wars, whatever they may be called; as much religious wars as the Crusades, and as George W accidentally admitted early in his rampage. And there are one set of people who not just openly acknowledge that it is a religious war, but call for the worst kind of genocide to be visited on the targets. Who are these people?

The self-styled New Atheists, of course.

This is what the aforesaid Sam Harris has to say about the religion of Islam:

“We are at war with Islam. It may not serve our immediate foreign policy objectives for our political leaders to openly acknowledge this fact, but it is unambiguously so. It is not merely that we are at war with an otherwise peaceful religion that has been ‘hijacked’ by extremists. We are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran.” (The End of Faith, p. 109)

To this end, Harris is perfectly happy not just to openly advocate torture of Muslims[3] but the use of pre-emptive nuclear strikes against Muslim nations and the acceptability of “collateral damage” in the destruction of Muslim countries. This is what Harris, in a self-exculpatory article, has to say about his advocacy of nuclear pre-emptive strikes (instead of using his critics’ words against him, I’ll let him speak for himself): [4]

What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe.

So, those Muslims (since we’re never told what an “Islamist regime” is supposed to be; remember that to Harris, in his own words, “we” are at war with Islam) can’t be trusted to think in any terms other than martyrdom and paradise – so it’s acceptable to nuke them rather than risk even the slightest chance that they might nuke “us”. If that isn’t an advocacy of pre-emptive nuclear strikes, I don’t know what is.

Not that Harris, of course, is alone in his anti-Islamic religious war. One of his best friends is Richard Dawkins, of whom I have said in the past that I respect his scholarship while entirely rejecting his bigotry. Not that his scholarship goes very far when it comes to Islam:[5]

“Haven’t read Koran so couldn’t quote chapter and verse like I can for Bible. But [I] often say Islam [is the] greatest force for evil today.”

So, the scholar who writes books depicting genetics and evolution in excruciating detail can't be bothered to actually find out something about the religion he himself cheerfully admits he calls the "greatest force of evil" today. Isn't that interesting?

From left: Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins

The third of the troika of New Atheists is the late Christopher Hitchens, whose one contribution to society, in my mind, was his part in debunking the myth of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, also known as Mother Teresa. Hitchens was a cheerleader of the invasion and destruction of Iraq, ironically an action which removed a secular Muslim bulwark against fundamentalism and jihadist terrorism. In fact, Hitchens’ stance on Iraq is the ultimate proof that whatever else the New Atheists pretend to be, their “war on Islam” isn’t anything of the sort – it’s a war against non-white people, period.

This, incidentally, is another of the sticking points I have regarding Dawkins. According to him, anti-Muslim animus (incorrectly called Islamophobia; the correct term is Islamomisia, hate of Islam) is not racism because “something you can convert to” is not a race.

That this superficially plausible argument is hogwash isn’t too difficult to intuit, even without Sam Harris’ quote with which I opened this article. Take a look at the usual depiction of “Muslims” in Western media; exactly how many white (or Kazakh, Indonesian or even black) Muslims would you see? In the aftermath of the 11/9 attacks, whom did the hate-fuelled specimens bent on vengeance in the US go around attacking? Brown-skinned people, irrespective of their religious orientation, wasn’t it? Who were the people put off flights because the pilots didn’t want to fly with them on board? Whom did the sky marshals arrest for “looking at them the wrong way”? If you Google image search for “terrorist”, who do you see depicted? All brown-skinned people, right?

There’s a reason why I call the comic strip I draw Raghead the Fiendly Neighbourhood Terrorist.

The stupidity of the kind of profiling Harris recommends is even more idiotic when you consider the idea of someone looking like they could “conceivably be Muslim”. How do you know who is a Muslim? Is it, say, by a beard? Didn’t Muhammad Atta and his cohorts shave their beards and look like anyone else? Isn’t it common sense for terrorists carrying out attacks for which they would have to go undercover, like the 11/9 hijackers, to dress up and act like anyone else? In that case, what do you have to go on?

Just the skin colour and racial origin, isn’t that so?

(And I’m not even mentioning white converts like those who turn up in Syria in disturbing numbers – how would you profile them? And how about non-Muslim terrorists...like, oh, Timothy McVeigh, for instance?)

Not a terrorist, obviously.

However, the mere fact that they are racist bigots (and, in the case of Harris, arguably not an atheist at all[6,7]) hasn’t come in the way of the New Atheists becoming celebrities of the atheist “movement”. In fact, I have a big, a huge, an enormous problem with this atheist “movement”. As I said, over and over and over, atheism is not a religion. It does not have “leaders” or “prophets” any more than people who – like me – prefer to shave their heads and wear goatees have “leaders”. Once and for all, atheism is just a philosophical position that rejects the existence of any god in the absence of verifiable evidence. That is all there is to it.

A lot of atheists who agree with me about the bigotry and hatemongering of these New Atheists tend to think, wrongly, that they are harmless. They are anything but harmless. They are the intellectual descendants of the racist “scientists” of the 18th Century who claimed black people didn’t have emotions and couldn’t feel pain. They claim that Muslims are all a monolithic mass who think and act alike, and the fact their position is as provably false, bigoted and ignorant as that of Voltaire et al isn’t making any difference to them or to the immature “atheists” who treat them as demigods and hang on to every word.

And in this lies an enormous danger.

A while ago, I was in an online discussion with a particular New Atheist acolyte who proudly proclaimed that he was “at war with Islam”. I asked him just what kind of Islam he was at war with, and whether he even had any conception of the differences between sects and schools of thought in the religion. Obviously he didn’t, nor did he want to know anything about them. I also asked him just how he intended to fight this “’war” of his – did he advocate genocide? He merely proclaimed that he did not want to discuss the topic with me and closed the conversation.

Let me repeat: this alleged atheist not only didn’t know what he was “at war” with, he didn’t want to know. He was proud of his ignorance.

Typical New Atheist "philosophy"

 Just how is this atheism again?

Now, there is a big problem with religion – just about all religions – these days. It is the disappearance of the moderate religious person. The formerly middle space, occupied by the moderates, is vanishing fast. A lot of people are drifting towards atheism or at least agnosticism, and this is of course a much welcome move. Leave the religion alone, and this is probably something that is irreversible, going by what’s happened to European Christianity. More educated and cosmopolitan people will, all other factors being equal, drift steadily towards moderate to no religion.

But all other factors are not equal. If the racist New Atheist bigots want to harden the fundamentalist core of the religions they target – primarily, of course, Islam – they are going about it exactly the right way, with blanket condemnation, incitement to violence, and casual racism. The enemy of the religious fundamentalist isn’t the atheist – it is the religious moderate, because the moderate proves to the so-called True Believer that another way of belief is possible without becoming an apostate. On the other hand, the aggressive atheist is nothing more than the best ally a fundamentalist can have, by convincing him or her that the world outside religion is his or her enemy.

All this is quite independent of the fact that the average religious person is - in daily life - more often than not a nice human being, and gratuitous insults are puerile and stupid. Also, this is apart from the fact that religion per se is not a problem. It only becomes a problem when it obtrudes into someone else's life.

The way the New Atheists go about it, they are making sure it will obtrude into everyone's life.

If you convince a people they are being targeted because of their faith, how long will it be before they decide to act on it? Why do you think jihadism is taking root in Muslim nations where it was a fringe movement once, nations which have been at the receiving end of Western armaments – while, in countries where representative democracy is allowed, fundamentalist Muslims have always done poorly in elections?

Bigotry feeds on bigotry. The New Atheists are setting themselves up to be the exact same kind of religious movement they are allegedly against, with prophets, acolytes, and utter intolerance for any kind of dissent for the “received wisdom”. As Noam Chomsky said[5]

Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens are “religious fanatics” and...in their quest to bludgeon society with their beliefs about secularism, they have actually adopted the state religion

They’re rapidly hijacking atheism and turning it into a fascist intellectual movement. They have to be stopped. We have to take atheism back from them before it is too late.

Remove the guns and give them laptops, and they're your New Atheists

This is not going to be a simple task. As I said, these poisonous individuals aren’t going to fade away with time. They have their second rung waiting in the wings, people like the Zionist shill and admitted liar[8]  Ayaan Hirsi Ali, to take over when they fade from the scene.

I may have been too generous in imputing the New Atheists' Islamomisia only to racism and bigotry. There is, of course, another and more commonplace side to it. Dawkins and Harris' opinions sell. In huge numbers, their books sell, and earn them gigantic amounts in terms of royalties. They get speaking fees for lectures. Like Creationism, for example, New Atheism is big business. And business protects itself by any and all means possible.

Fighting back may not be easy, but it has to be done. Just as the religious moderates have to fight back against the fundamentalists who are hijacking their religion, the original (and arguably the true) atheists have to fight back against the bigots.

Since I don’t consider the New Atheists atheists at all, what other name can we use for them?

I think I have a suggestion.

Bigotists.

Sources:

Note: I strongly suggest the reader check out these links for the detailed information they give on the subject of the Bigotists, especially the beliefs and statements of Sam Harris:












7 comments:

  1. wow; excellent editorial; I personally have not heard of this group emerging,
    You know there have always been hate groups,who always claim they are for the greater good, I remember the what use to be the K.K.K. and they were in the name of religion. yet I never understood the cross burning. I think you are absolute in your statement ; abut the man being proud of his ignorance; I believe most people are ;no matter what they claim to believe, they have no interest in learning; and the same is sure about the so called christians; I do agree things are changing; regardless of what it is called. and they will do it all in the name of something; and the people will not care, nor act,

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good blog, but I strongly object to the use of any term with 'tard' in it. Idiotic conservative trolls from America like to throw around the term 'Libtard', The term 'retard' is an offensive word from the 20th century, and I just think this term, like "Nigger" is one that should be consigned to history.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent point, Notty. I've changed it to Bigotists. I just hadn't thought of that word before.

      Delete
  3. I've been disturbed by the New Atheists for a while (even beyond their right wing political tendencies - mostly because they seem to resort to the same sorts of arguments and advocacy that I have always opposed in believers of the revealed religions ("revealed religions" as opposed to the so-called "natural religions," whose gods don't tell them to murder non-believers quite so often).

    Daniel Dennett, who is a philosopher on the edges of the New Atheist movement, is great when he's talking science, or discussing development of faith. he follows scientific method and he's as close to objective as I'd hope. But then he goes into atheist advocacy writing and loses it for me.

    Logically, there ought to be two and only two types of atheists: 1) Passive atheists or secularists, who don't believe because their not convinced but simply go on with other aspects of their lives; and 2) Philosophical atheists, who can take apart arguments for God in the same way scientists discarded the notion of light-bearing aether.

    Hitchens and company go step further, doing advocacy atheism. As you point out, it really does appear to be a proactive belief system that bears a lot in common with a religion.

    I've never considered its connection to colonialism before this, though...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Read, or I should say began to read, works by Dawkins and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I found both profoundly disappointing, for different reasons. Dawkins is not the philosophical atheist Katy mentions, he quickly showed himself to be a bigot and shallow thinker whose problem is not with religion as much as it is with religious people and particularly Muslims. Ali is just boring, mostly, although I plowed though to see what her life was like. The only thing I will credit her with is with stating the FGM is not an Islamic practice but a tribal practice of various areas.

    Yah, these people are dangerous.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have never cared for Harris. Hitchens DID a great job exposing the fraud Mother Teressa, so I'll give him that, but he was a drunk and became a clown in his last years, and embarrassment to many of his old friends even.I never felt he should have had the stature he was given by many, but, to each his/her own I suppose. Dawkins is good on some things, BUT, to be highly critical of Islam/Muslims and never even bothering to read the Koran? He is supposed to be a "scholar". Not even bothering to read the Muslim holy book at all strikes me, granted just an old former US Marine, Vietnam war combat vet, disabled/retired machinist/mechanic/welder with only three AA degrees from community colleges as very, very un-scholarly. Of course who am I to be critical of a "respected scholar"? Just a lone human being.
    I have been an atheist in fact since I was 14. Dad didn't care and he was my first hero and even though he died the Saturday after "saint" Ronnie of Raygun was elected as our acting president in November 1980, Dad will always be my hero.
    The supposed/so-called "new atheists" are, for the most part disgusting to me. They are bigoted and, YES, very racist and I detest racism in ALL its forms. Same with bigotry and stupid. Stupid and ignorance are NOT the same thing. While I cannot find a good definition for stupid, in this instance, being ignorant and being proud of that IS stupid in my view.
    Ignorance can be over come and we are ALL of us, ignorant on many topics, but, by reading, talking to others who know the subject and research, we can toss off that ignorance. Once ignorance has been lost, it can NEVER, ever be imposed on the person ever again. Stupid, well, as the saying goes, you cannot fix stupid.
    Harris and his vile comments on Islam/Muslims IS very racist.
    I HAVE become somewhat more of a militant atheist lately, but that is due to some of the vile, disgusting things some xtians have been trying to force onto the rest of us here in the US of A. The religious Reich wingers and that type of total nutball asshats just really piss me off and yes, at times I DO go out of my way to speak out against their vile crap that they spew even when I am doing such a mundane chore as shopping for groceries at the local market. I will not allow anybody, regardless what brand of doG they are pushing to intimidate me, nor will I tolerate their middle of the store aisle preaching to other shoppers. I can get quite loud vocally when pressed.
    The sad thing is so many supposed atheists seem to put the likes of Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins among others on some high pedestal as if THEY are the fount of ALL knowledge. What a load of absolute bullshit!
    What do I, an atheist need with some self appointed "leader"? Why would any atheist or even an agnostic need a "leader"? We, as atheists, have made up our own minds about doG and we have rejected ALL doGs, so why do we need any "atheist leader" to preach to us? The idea of an atheist leader is to me at least, a totally absurd thing.
    Just remember Bill, atheists are human beings, they come in various flavors and bring their own political crap/baggage and bigotry, yet they demand their rights. Well, I try and be tolerant of ALL people, but we all have our own personal limits as to what/how much of anything we will tolerate. I have very little tolerance for these "new atheist" types. I do agree with you, we need to speak out against them as in the US of A, a recent poll showed that atheists cannot get elected to any office in this country and also, atheists are despised by a large majority in the US of A.
    These "new atheists" are NOT doing anything to lessen that at all, they just give fuel to that fire of hatred against all atheists.
    Sorry for being so long winded, but damn, this got me would up, as if you couldn't tell.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Chomsky may have done us all a big favour this week by giving Harris the time of day and allowing Harris to make a fool of himself.

    I'm sure Harris fan boys will forgot all about this drubbing in a month or two and Harris will go back to making silly half developed self-referential 'thought experiments' in the cause of fear, hate, and violence, but in the mean time we can enjoy the small respite from raging 'rational' bigotry.

    ReplyDelete

Full comment moderation is enabled on this site, which means that your comment will only be visible after the blog administrator (in other words, yours truly) approves it. The purpose of this is not to censor dissenting viewpoints; in fact, such viewpoints are welcome, though it may lead to challenges to provide sources and/or acerbic replies (I do not tolerate stupidity).

The purpose of this moderation is to eliminate spam, of which this blog attracts an inordinate amount. Spammers, be warned: it takes me less time to delete your garbage than it takes for you to post it.

Proceed.