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Chris Hedges - I Don’t Believe in Atheists (merged)
Posted: 02 May 2008 04:25 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Chris Hedges is a journalist and author who focuses on American and Middle Eastern politics and society. He is currently a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City and a Lecturer in the Council of the Humanities and the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University. He spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than fifty countries, and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, where he spent fifteen years. He is the author of What Every Person Should Know About War and American Fascists. His newest book is I Don’t Believe in Atheists.

In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, acclaimed foreign correspondent Christ Hedges shares his criticism of the New Atheists, calling them “fundamentalists” in their own right. He responds to their account of the origins of Islamic religious extremism, and he accuses the New Atheists of racism. He explains his view that the New Atheists are proponents of the Neo-conservative agenda and how the American Left does advance secular values in the Muslim world. He also criticizes what he calls the “utopianism” of the New Atheists, detailing his skepticism about moral progress for humanity.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org

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Posted: 02 May 2008 06:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hi, DJ-

Great interview, and I hope you have more contrary subjects on the podcast. We are all contrarians, after all.

I was a little taken aback at Chris Hedges’ narcissism, insisting that he knows everything because of his reporting career, that his experience of violence has educated him in the lack of moral progress we all have made. I would have liked to hear whether he knew that the overall rate of violence per capita has been going steadily down for millennia (Steven Pinker’s recent article in TNR), and that the huge growth in human population is itself a testament to our ability to get along better, which is after all the point of morals. It is not human nature that is capable of improvement, but social structures, habits, and training which can create peace and tolerance out of what is given by biology. And that, of course, is what the Enlightenment was all about.

At any rate, Hedges’ ultimate thoughts on peace in the world, humility, tolerance, and introspection were all well and fine, and indeed far more in tune with the atheists he derides than he appears to know. Making straw men of all the evil atheists who want to drop nuclear bombs on everyone else was not the most scintillating part of the discussion, though I’ll grant that religion does not poison absolutely everything, and that Harris can work himself into atrocious positions.

I appreciate that Hedges believes that comity and tolerance are higher goods than truth (seeing as he appears to be an atheist as well, in a wishy washy way), and that is surely the mark of a humane (rather than utopian) social order, but there is a real barrier to mutual respect if one’s interlocutor believes in fairies. His challenge to see the humanity/humanism through the screen of psychological projections and delusions of others is in the end quite correct, but he himself could have chosen a less intolerant way of making his case.

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Posted: 02 May 2008 08:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Woops- I made an error. Hedges is apparently a Harvard seminary graduate and personally religious. That would help explain the over-the-top vitriol and self-righteousness. But still, it is odd that he can advocate the most reasonable and positive philosophy while dehumanizing his opponents and misconstruing their arguments. Indeed he makes his own case by example. One more point- it is not the new atheists at large who are allied with the neocons- that would be Christopher Hitchens, all by himself, standing out in a field. The rest of us, from Dawkins to Hirsi Ali, are not only for reductions in religious delusions, but also for reductions in political and military delusions.

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Posted: 02 May 2008 10:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Just listened to the podcast. DJ, great job as always. Chris Hedges, not impressed. Sounded a little like Pator Ted before the fall. “If you know what I know, you’d be agreeing with me” sorta what I heard then in the next part claiming that the “New Atheiss” were the ones taking on airs of superiority. DJ did a good job in giving Chris all the rope he needed to auto-invalidate his position…

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Posted: 03 May 2008 02:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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First time poster, just to retaliate against Hedges. =)

What a pompous ass.

I have seen him debate Hitchens (I happen to agree with Hitchens - as an Atheist), and this is my fanatical take on it: he’s an apologist for terrorists. There’s no other way around it. He has covered those areas and has insight into their culture and has, unfortunately, gone completely native.

He’s also an idiot. 95% of suicide bombers are inspired by the Koran. I know the Tamil Tigers are also suicide bombers, but they are an exception to the rule. Most of suicide bombers are Muslim. Despair, poverty, occupation, war, lack of food and education do not make a suicide bomber. If that were so, the Congo would have more suicide bombers in the world per capita than anywhere else.

No, what makes a suicide bomber are the justifications in the Koran and Hadiths. That’s why there are no Shaheedi in the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tibet, or pretty much anywhere else outside of the Muslim world. His stance is completely moronic.

I’m not saying the Koran is the only book which has inspired it, but it’s the best known for a bloody good reason. Hedges is a fool and an apologist for the other side. He apologizes for the worst atrocities perpetrated by the terrorists and it is clear why in his statements: he thinks they have good reasons for it. Well, they don’t.

He thinks the West is Imperialist. Fine. We’re just as “Imperialist” as the other side. He’s chosen his side, I’ve chosen mine. He makes it utterly clear in this interview and his other writings exactly which side he is on.

I hope he reads this: Chris Hedges, you’re an utter tool. You say you hate Islamic extremism, but you go down on all fours for them. You pimp your brand of “moderation” and “understanding” for the worst dregs of humanity. I hate people like you. You’re the sort who call Hirsi Ayaan Ali a “fundamentalist” and mean it. You hem and haw when you’re asked about the left, and you never answer the question. It’s painfully obvious why you don’t answer the question: because you can’t answer the question. There’s a damned good reason that question was asked about why the neocons are the ones sheltering her - because the neocons, by and large with few exceptions, have been the ones to stand up for secular liberalism abroad. If it were for the likes of you, Hirsi would be dead, you’d point your finger and say “she did it to herself”, and for that I can’t help but virtually spit in your face.

Yeah, I’m an atheist, I’m a feminist, I’m a war hawk, and I will always defend these values to the death. Does that make me a fundamentalist? Well at least, unlike your friends, I’m not going to blow myself up in a cafeteria to justify my claims under any circumstances.

So take your righteous, pallid, subservient, tepid god to Allah and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. It’s the place that stinks as much as your apologetics in the face of Islamic atrocity.

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Posted: 03 May 2008 03:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Summer Seal, I agree that Hedges doesn’t seem to be the nicest of fellows; however, he made for an interesting interview.

I believe you missed a point he made repeatedly; that religion and secular values aside, humans aren’t perfect, and we will perform acts of evil.  If the Koran, the Bible, or some other religious text suddenly ceased to exits, radicalism would continue.  His point was that we shouldn’t just be cautious of the religious and political radicals, but of all radicals, and that includes the “new atheists”.  He’s saying that they are all of the same breed.   

It seemed to me that his tactic was to push DJ into giving specific examples of evidence for his argument, but Hedges himself was fine with painting broad strokes.

I think Hedges overarching argument was correct, though; irrespective of his religious background.  I would love to see him debate Dawkins.

While I’m here: To DJ, Hedges was a tough interview, and although it’s not clear to me whether or not he got to you, I think you held your calm well if he did.  While listen to the podcast, If it wasn’t for the love of my MacBook, I would have thrown it across the room.

[ Edited: 03 May 2008 03:09 AM by gllopc ]
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Posted: 03 May 2008 03:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Yea, I know what he’s saying. I did understand his argument.

I still think he’s an apologist.

And he wouldn’t answer the questions. His sophistry was amazing. He kept pressing DJ to answer what societies he meant, as if he didn’t know. And he never did answer the question about Hirsi either - because he knows there isn’t a good one. I’m an atheist who left the left because I’m infuriated that the left, by and large, will now defend the veil, oppression of women, and mad idiots in the street going on about cartoons of “The Prophet”.

I’ll be totally blunt and honest: I hate Islam. I loathe it. I don’t think all religions are equal. I’m not a fan of the Bible or the New Testament, but nobody is going to cut off my head from that camp. On the other hand, a few million peaceful and loving “oppressed” Muslims would if I walked down the street and blasphemed their stinking pedophile of a prophet. That’s the effing difference. And “liberals” like Hedges are so open-minded that their brains fell out if they can’t understand this.

The day I can stand up in Mecca - or any other Jew or Christian by birth - without getting beaten to death for it will be the day that I start saying that Islam is starting on the way to reform. Until then, I can’t give a piss about their sensibilities, what they want, what they feel slighted by, what their aspirations are, or what they care about. Watching Hedges justify his position is like watching a contortionist with a bad attitude. I’m not willing to wait hundreds of years for reform. I don’t care if it took hundreds of years in the West - we didn’t have the luxury of another model to go by. It’s not as if the Muslim world doesn’t have an example of knowledge and enlightenment to follow. They don’t have to learn from scratch like we did. But they’re too “proud” to take our knowledge and use it, so they sit there stuck in their mire they call Islam and they have nothing but the most disgusting acts to show for it.

That Hedges gets up and defends them for it totally sickens me.

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Posted: 03 May 2008 04:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Oh yea, and one more thing:

Hedges really showed he’s a complete idiot when he claimed several times that being against Islam is “racist”. Islam isn’t a frigging race. It’s a religion. It’s an ideology. This has nothing to do with racism. This isn’t like saying somebody is against Jews, as Jews are regarded, by and large, as a people. Muslims aren’t “a people”. Anyone who says that being against Islam is “racist” is a total and complete moron and should be taken to task.

So, Hedges: you’re a moron for that too. Honestly, I’d love to spit in your face, only I wouldn’t want to dirty my spit.

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Posted: 03 May 2008 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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So much for a moderated forum with intelligent discussion!

It is surprising that Hedges agreed to the interview, but it is in his own interest to promote his book.

The words of Robert G. Ingersoll (from the CFI CD!) are opportune to this discussion, unfortunately it appears to me that a majority of the participants in this Forum are Zionists or sympathizers, I will never understand the idea of being an Atheist and defending religious entitlement.

I will suggest that participants become acquainted with journalist from Alternative Radio http://www.alternativeradio.org/index.shtml, Professor Juan Cole http://www.juancole.com/, Professor Scott Atran http://www.sitemaker.umich.edu/satran/home and his presentations and discussions in the “Beyond Belief” conferences.

Seems to me that when scholars go to direct Arabic and Persian sources the perception of “Islamofascism” changes.

Society can only hope that Social and Political Scientists apply the true Scientific Method to the American International Policy, rather than the Zionist and Fundamentalist Christian propaganda.

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Posted: 03 May 2008 06:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The thing that I love about Point of Inquiry is that it tells me things that I don’t want to hear along with telling me so much of what I do want to hear.

Chris Hedges is a leftist idealogue.

He is linking Hicthens and Harris’s positions on foreign policy with the arguments for the non-existence of God.

He is flatly lying when he accuses Hitchens and Harris of advocating rabid violence.

Harris never advocates a nuclear First Strike, he doesn’t advocate any specific action, he merely goes on a tirade intended to make us aware that the existence of Iran as a theocracy is really, really, alarming.

To call Hitchens historically illiterate is like calling Einstein illiterate on physics.

This guy goes home and looks at pictures of the Democratic donkey and weeps tears of joy. He’s angry that atheist are no longer giving a free pass to the left wing religious moderates, and this new book sounds like his tantrum.

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Posted: 03 May 2008 06:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Oh, and just in case anyone thinks I’m a right wing idealogue, I vote Green Party or Democratic in every election.

If I am a right winger, I seem to forget it at the polls.

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Posted: 03 May 2008 06:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Isn’t Hitchens a supporter of the War in Iraq (or more accurately, the military aggression)?

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Posted: 03 May 2008 07:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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OhioDoc,

You are correct. But of the 5 major authors, Hitchens, Harris, Dennet, Dawkins, and Stenger only Harris is an outspoken supporter of the Iraq war. Maybe Harris is a supporter, but I follow Harris like I was a teeny girl with a crush, and I have never heard him endorse the Iraq war.

Dawkins is outspoken against it.

Hitchens, also, does not endorse the Iraq war in his book God Is Not Great.

He endorses it in other works of his.

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Posted: 03 May 2008 07:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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mindcore - 03 May 2008 07:13 AM

OhioDoc,

You are correct. But of the 5 major authors, Hitchens, Harris, Dennet, Dawkins, and Stenger only Harris is an outspoken supporter of the Iraq war. Maybe Harris is a supporter, but I follow Harris like I was a teeny girl with a crush, and I have never heard him endorse the Iraq war.

Dawkins is outspoken against it.

Hitchens, also, does not endorse the Iraq war in his book God Is Not Great.

He endorses it in other works of his.

Sorry, I meant to say only Hitchens, not only Harris

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Posted: 03 May 2008 07:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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You can edit your own posts in this Forum, I am not sure what is your position/statement.

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Posted: 03 May 2008 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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my position is:
unless you are saying Hitchens supports the war for fun and no reason, you must be trying to say that Chris Hedges is right?

Or were you just saying random facts about Hicthens as they came to your mind?

If you are using this as support for Hedges argument my above statement debunks it.

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