A few weeks ago I went on a social media mini-rant about secular fundamentalists and the 'New Atheists'. I'm not sure if I should've done that, or if it was worth my time, but here are some of the highlights either way ;-) :
- "The pristine, pious narratives about the progress and reason of 'Science' look like fairy-tales when one actually accounts for how immaculate 'Science' has historically been complicit in ethnocentrism and compromised by business interests. (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks)
- "The New Atheists are currently holding a competition with the Tea Party and right wingers to see who can hate Muslims more publicly."
- "Secular/atheist fundamentalists don't think it's fair that religious fundamentalists get to belittle others and be annoying. They want to belittle others and be annoying too."
- "Secular/atheist fundamentalists hold outdated beliefs in an Enlightenment narrative about scientific progress. There's this thing called Postmodernism...we're not sure if they've heard of it yet."
- "I'm not Islamophobic but...I just think all religious people are irrational."
Now, I don't necessarily have a problem with atheists or non-believers. But I tend to have little patience with those who actively go out of their way to constantly belittle religious people and religious groups. I often see some people routinely post things that viciously mock religious beliefs and religious groups (and this is often accompanied by vague, simplistic affirmations of "reason" and "science"). And I'm usually thinking to myself: "C'mon guys. The 20th century happened (with its wars and diverse atrocities ). Isn't kind of outdated to believe in some Enlightenment narrative about human progress and the innocence of science, technological progress, and human reason? Could it be that neither religion nor science is the root of all evil, and people are just messed up in general? It seems like listening to some Mos Def would do you some good."
I'm astonished that many of the young zealots and disciples of the New Atheists and the secular fundamentalists don't seem to realize, or want to admit, that they are supporting a right-wing xenophobic movement. Do they remember Christopher Hichens' support of the Bush administration? Perhaps they will want to distance themselves from this, and want to claim that the movement is complex, that these types of things are anomalies, that they should be judged individually. But what about religious people? Oh, they're just all crazy. Religious people can be lumped into one big crazy group and categorically dismissed and condemned.
I try to not get too overworked over the New Atheists and their young acolytes. After all, you can't really have true dialogue with fundamentalists. But I found something today that sort of made me chuckle. On my Twitter feed, I randomly saw something linking to Sam Harris' blog. For those who don't know, Harris is the Co-Founder and CEO of the organization Project Reason and one of the leaders of the New Atheists. Out of curiosity, I clicked and guess what I found? The most recent blog post on Islam, of course!
In the blog post, Islam and the Misuse of Ecstasy, Harris argues that "Islam marries religious ecstasy and sectarian hatred in a way that other religions do not."
But he tries to defend himself:
"I’m not a scared white guy who is put off by the howls of the natives. In fact, I’ve done a fair amount of howling with the natives myself."
And to top it all off, I noticed that Harris got a Twitter endorsement from his friend Richard Dawkings:
Yes Richard. I'm sure you found it superbly moving. I'm sure all the people afraid of Islam and immigrants found it superbly moving.