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Chris Hedges - I Don’t Believe in Atheists (merged)
Posted: 04 June 2008 06:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 406 ]
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UlsterScots432 - 04 June 2008 05:24 PM

Riley wrote:

I don’t address the quotes of people you have posted, because I don’t particularly disagree with them. I’m not sure what controversial claim it is that you are attempting to support with those quotes.  I agree that there are very large, well organized, and murderous Muslim groups using Islam as motivation/ justification for violence and suppression of people, and I’ve already said as much. What I disagree with are your blanket generalizations about Muslim culture, your unsupported claims, and bigoted comments. Yes, Islam, like most all other religions, tends to suppress critical thinking, but that doesn’t by a long stretch mean that those people who are part of Muslim culture (or any other religious culture) are incapable of critical thinking.

No, you don’t address them because they specifically support my assertions, in one way or another (often to varying degrees).

GREAT! ... put together a line of reasoning using one of your quotes that proves the Muslim culture is incapable of critical thought, and then I’ll address one of your quotes.

If you don’t claim that, if you instead are claiming that there are Muslims states and Muslim groups that at this time in history not capable of critical thought, then say that instead.

UlsterScots432 - 04 June 2008 05:34 PM

No Riley, I haven’t shifted the argument at all.  I specifically responded to your comments about my claims. 

  ...  you talk about Islam in absolute terms, but then as soon as I present Islam critical thought throughout history as an example, you switch your claim to “contemporary Islam” ... as soon as I bring up an example of critical thought (and even openness) in contemporary non-Arab Muslim states, you switch your argument to “mostly Arab / Muslim” .. I present examples of communities of millions of Muslims and your response? “Can any single Muslim be reasoned with? Sure.” ??? no.. sorry, logical fallacy writ large.

If Muslim culture were truly “incapable of critical thinking” as you claim, then there should not any tradition of critical thinking in any Muslim culture from anytime or anyplace.

[ Edited: 04 June 2008 07:12 PM by Riley ]
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Posted: 05 June 2008 12:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 407 ]
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Mauteman: Have you seen the South Park episode about Dawkins and a future with no religion?  It was an amazingly clever realization of the idea that people will fight even if they substitute reason and science for religion and superstition.  The political/social/philosophical landscape will shift but we will still be dealing with people disagreeing and the consequences thereof.

I think that Hedges gets much closer to the truth in this respect than Dawkins. Religion, as a set of ideas, is never the central issue - it has always served, like nationalism, racism, or ‘humanism’ as a pretext, cover, or wrapping which conceals the conflicting social and economic interests in question (which usually involve the defense of one or another ruling class or property form against another).

The fact that religious conceptions (or patriotic fervor or whatever other notion) might be foremost in the minds of the combattants in a given conflict does not lend these conceptions greater reality, any more than gods are made more real by the degree of intensity with which they are believed in by the faithful.

What the ‘new atheists’ end up having in common with the religious crazies is not ‘fundamentalism’ - as Hedges insists - but the shared belief that ‘ideas’ have an independent reality outside the material world, social relations etc. from which they are derived. This, paradoxically, drives the racist bloodlust of the Hitchens/Harris types, who look to combat their cartoonish conception of ‘Islamism’ with a willingness to bomb, occupy certain Arab or Muslim countries - or if necessary shower them with nukes.

[ Edited: 05 June 2008 12:47 PM by Balak ]
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Posted: 05 June 2008 03:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 408 ]
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I have to disagree with most of the people that posted here. 

I’m an Athiest and LOVE Point of Inquiry, but this interview was terrible.  I disagree with much (but not all) of what Hedges says, but I could not believe how obvious it was that DJ could not move past his current beliefs and bias’s to question, rather than attack. 

I must say that any writer (and I didn’t know Harris had suggested this) that proposes a first strike (military) is completely an Fanatic.  I am thankful that the vast majority of Athiests do not have that position. 

I was supprised that it appeared that DJ could not appriciate that any philosophy could be turned into a Fanatical position, and that there are of course people that hold Athiesm in this light.  Dawkins said that raising a child in a religion is a form of Child Abuse,  and if he believes this, he could rightfully say from his moral position it should be illegal. 

I will continue to listen to the podcast, since most of the time I enjoy it, but I think its clear that DJ is just like the rest of us Humans (religious and Secular), when someone tells us that we are wrong, the cognitive dissonance sets in and you just get slightly combative.

Also, Hedges did a good job pointing out how often (I am noticing it now) DJ uses terms for groups that over-simplifies them.  He asked Hedges about the what the Left things, and Hedges called him out rightfully on that…  There is no Left, Right or other.. there are shades, and you need to get more specific..  Christian Right is not the same as Right, thats why the qualifier is there!

A final point, Hedges did come off a little too full of himself about his knowledge of Islamic culture, but He knows more of it than me, or apparently DJ, so lets give him some credit for living there and studying/working with them.

Summary:  I’m not buying his book, but i’m tempted too to find out what in it made DJ so rough, since what Hedges was saying is no more than so many ethical philosophers have admitted to some degree.  AND I realized today that Secularists are Primates too, and have the same reaction to people that say they may be wrong as christians or muslims that do the same (yes, most muslims and christions wont kill you).

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Posted: 05 June 2008 04:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 409 ]
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mauteman - 04 June 2008 05:56 PM

If science is a “technology that enables us to better separate our emotional judgements of reality (that cause us to rationalize) from a more accurate and complete measurement of reality” then therapists would have a 100% success rate.  Utopic.

The operative words were “better” and “more accurate” ... not “perfect” and “infallible”. In other words, better than the alternative methods of religion and dogma.

We can’t fundamentally redesign people to work better, but we do have the technology to design our governments to work better (not perfect).  Individuals will always have their dogmas (or religions if you prefer), but it’s not unreasonable I think to believe that our institutions could be insulated from these dogmas/religions. The writing of a secular constitution was a great first step.  If this is a utopic vision, then I suppose the idea of a secular democracy is (was) a utopic vision too.

mauteman - 04 June 2008 05:56 PM

This is a discussion about being critical and skeptical to even those from whom we receive our information and Hedges should be applauded for doing so b/c it allows us to look at ourselves and reflect.  And that is exactly what we are asking religious/superstitous people to do.
[...]
This is just a thought experiment Riley; you don’t have to believe your opponent’s view, but can you look at your own view throught their eyes?  That’s what’s up.  That’s why I liked Hedge’s book and interview.

Sure. I do make a point of trying to look at things from another’s point of view, but I like to be careful when I do so. I would totally agree with you if Hedges started his polemic by accurately introducing the views of those he was criticizing. Since the foundation of his arguments are based on mis-representation (at least they were in this interview), his emergent points are suspect - but maybe he’s more thoughtful and accurate in the arguments of his book.

[ Edited: 06 June 2008 06:13 AM by Riley ]
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Posted: 05 June 2008 04:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 410 ]
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Thanos96 - 05 June 2008 03:18 PM

I must say that any writer (and I didn’t know Harris had suggested this) that proposes a first strike (military) is completely an Fanatic.  I am thankful that the vast majority of Athiests do not have that position. 

Thanos, read Harris’ response to Hedges: 
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20070529_sam_harris_fights_back/
http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/response-to-controversy2/

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Posted: 06 June 2008 08:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 411 ]
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From Riley’s link provided above, I found Harris defending himself as follows, using the example of his support for torture:

HARRIS: Here is an example of such selective quotation, so that readers can appreciate how the trick is done. A reader going by the name of “Tentaculata” has posted the following passage from “The End of Faith” (p. 194):

What is the difference between pursuing a course of action where we run the risk of inadvertently subjecting some innocent men to torture, and pursuing one in which we will inadvertently kill far greater numbers of men, women, and children?  Rather, it seems obvious that the misapplication of torture should be far less troubling to us than collateral damage: there are, after all, no infants interned at Guantanamo Bay, just rather scrofulous young men, many of whom were caught in the very act of trying to kill our soldiers.  Torture need not even impose a significant risk of death or permanent injury; while the collaterally damaged are, almost by definition, crippled or killed.  The ethical divide that seems to be opening up here suggests that those who are willing to drop bombs might want to abduct the nearest and dearest of suspected terrorists - their wives, mothers, and daughters - and torture them as well, assuming anything profitable to our side might come of it.

Readers are thereby encouraged to believe that I support the torture of the innocent relatives of suspected terrorists. But the very next sentence in my book reads: “Admittedly, this would be a ghastly result to have reached by logical argument, and we will want to find some way of escaping it.” And the endnote to this sentence reads: “It seems to me that we can stop this inquisitorial slide by recourse to the ‘perfect weapon’ argument presented in chapter 4. There is a difference, after all, between intending to inflict suffering on an innocent person and inflicting it by accident. To include a suspected terrorist’s family among the instruments of torture would be a flagrant violation of this principle.”

I find it hard to imagine how Harris believes he has effectively defended himself against critics, like Hedges, who point to his cartoonish, racist view of the world - particularly when it comes to Islam. In advocating torture as an instrument of U.S. imperialism, with which he wholeheartedly identifies (and assumes his readers do as well), Harris’ sneering racist indifference to human suffering among ‘enemy’ innocents is breathtaking. He even pretends, contrary to the U.S. miltiary’s own admissions, that the hundreds of the illegally held Guantanamo detainees were actually guilty of ‘trying to kill US troops’, when the vast majority have been released uncharged after years of detention.

But, hey, at least Harris isn’t - necessarily - for torturing their wives and children as well! Three cheers for ‘Humanism’!

I look forward to the day when the terrorists in Washington, London etc. are brought before justice, but when that day comes, I will certainly argue against torturing them and for the application of proper legal safeguards and standards that Harris & Co. are so ready to spit upon when it comes to Muslims.

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Posted: 06 June 2008 11:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 412 ]
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BALAK: “I find it hard to imagine how Harris believes he has effectively defended himself against critics, like Hedges [...]

HARRIS: “Readers are thereby encouraged to believe that I support the torture of the innocent relatives of suspected terrorists. But the very next sentence in my book reads: “Admittedly, this would be a ghastly result to have reached by logical argument, and we will want to find some way of escaping it.” ‘

Why doesn’t this qualify as a direct defense from Harris in response to Hedges claim? Harris denounces as “ghastly” the idea of subjecting the innocent relatives of terrorists to torture. Not only does Harris denounce the use of torture as “ghastly” with regard to innocent relatives, but groups merely “suspected terrorists” in that category along with “innocent relatives”. A point that you miss entirely.


If you read and listen to Harris, you know that on the topic of torture, Harris is proposing a hypothetical for the sake of an academic exercise. IF torture worked, why wouldn’t it be a moral course of action? Why shouldn’t we consider it to be an even more morally acceptable course of action than other alternatives for which the morality is not generally questioned? For example, in retaliation against the Taliban/Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, many innocent people were unintentionally subjected to sleep-deprivation, starvation, permanent organ failure, and death. Harris asks: isn’t this is a far worse outcome than the torture of a few known terrorists (assuming that torture worked)? and yet the suffering and death of thousands of innocents is considered a morally acceptable trade-off by most people.

Again, in his book, Harris presents an exercise based on the hypothetical precondition that torture has been shown to work.

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Posted: 06 June 2008 01:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 413 ]
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Riley: Again, in his book, Harris presents an exercise based on the hypothetical precondition that torture has been shown to work.

News flash from the ‘reality-based community’, Riley: people are being kidnapped, renditioned, tortured and killed in an illegal network of U.S. facilities around the world as I write this… and this has been going on for the last several years at least. There’s nothing ‘hypothetical’ about it. In this light Harris’ words are not idle speculation, but provide a rationale for these crimes.

And what does ‘shown to work’ mean to you? The torture lawyers and acolytes in the White house and the memo-writers at the Justice Department were ostensibly inspired by the ‘ticking time-bomb’ scenarios in popular action thrillers like “24-Hours” (scenarios the likes of which have never been documented in real life).

Do you suppose that Sam Harris has something more sophisticated in mind? I see no reason from his writings to think so.

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Posted: 06 June 2008 04:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 414 ]
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Balak - 06 June 2008 01:37 PM

Riley: Again, in his book, Harris presents an exercise based on the hypothetical precondition that torture has been shown to work.

News flash from the ‘reality-based community’, Riley: people are being kidnapped, renditioned, tortured and killed in an illegal network of U.S. facilities around the world as I write this… and this has been going on for the last several years at least. There’s nothing ‘hypothetical’ about it. In this light Harris’ words are not idle speculation, but provide a rationale for these crimes.

Yes, there is nothing hypothetical about the fact that people are being tortured, but no one claimed that to be hypothetical.

There is a heated public debate going on right now over the question of whether or not torture “works” and part of that debate includes people who are arguing (I paraphrase): ” it doesn’t even matter whether or not torture ‘works’, torture is always immoral and should never be used”.  It’s in that context that Harris is speaking about torture. It’s perfectly reasonable that someone wishing to examine the question:“could torture ever be morally justified? ” would set-up a hypothetical straw-man scenario where torture is assumed to work.  That’s what Harris is doing in his book. He’s answering the challenge of those who claim that torture, even if it ‘worked’, would still be immoral.

Balak - 06 June 2008 01:37 PM

And what does ‘shown to work’ mean to you? The torture lawyers and acolytes in the White house and the memo-writers at the Justice Department were ostensibly inspired by the ‘ticking time-bomb’ scenarios in popular action thrillers like “24-Hours” (scenarios the likes of which have never been documented in real life).

Do you suppose that Sam Harris has something more sophisticated in mind? I see no reason from his writings to think so.

It’s hard to find a sentence that comes out of Sam’s mouth that isn’t advocating for more evidence-based discipline and application of critical inquiry, so I would find it hard to believe that Sam has anything else in mind other than scientific evidence and reasoning when it comes to resolving the the question: “does torture work”.

[ Edited: 07 June 2008 07:48 AM by Riley ]
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Posted: 07 June 2008 06:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 415 ]
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Riley - 05 June 2008 04:14 PM
Thanos96 - 05 June 2008 03:18 PM

I must say that any writer (and I didn’t know Harris had suggested this) that proposes a first strike (military) is completely an Fanatic.  I am thankful that the vast majority of Athiests do not have that position. 

Thanos, read Harris’ response to Hedges: 
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20070529_sam_harris_fights_back/
http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/response-to-controversy2/

Interesting, and makes me feel a little better… If Harris was that extreme, I would hope the “Left” (Hedges, excuse my generalization) would have made a bigger deal about those statements.

It doesnt change my overall position tho.  Having not read either book myself, I just feel the quality of the interview was low, which I am happy to say is an Exception on this show, rather than a rule.  And Athiests can be extreme, since fanaticism is not linked to belief, but to personality.  Religion does not make a person a fanatic, the combination of their education and personality do.  Just like gambling does not make you a compulsive gambler, it is a combination of personality traits and maybe your lack of support to keep you from falling into that track.

I guess I’ll read both book to get a better idea of what Hedges was saying, and Harris as well.

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Posted: 07 June 2008 07:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 416 ]
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Thanos96 - 07 June 2008 06:23 AM

[...] fanaticism is not linked to belief, but to personality [...]

I agree in general, but I would add that if a personality prone to fanaticism latches onto a belief in something that is immune to evidence, that person is more susceptible to becoming fanatical. Religion promotes strong and dedicated belief in things immune to evidence, in this way I think religion actively encourages fanaticism ...  like taking a sex-addict to a strip club.

[ Edited: 08 June 2008 08:12 AM by Riley ]
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Posted: 08 June 2008 11:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 417 ]
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Balak - 03 June 2008 09:37 AM

Odd that Ultser the ‘libertarian’ refers to Koresh in this context. Koresh and his followers in the racially integrated Branch Davidian religious commune near Waco committed no crime, but were targetted for mass murder by the Clinton/Reno justice department as a signature example of what will happen to citizens for exercising the constitutional right to engage in armed self defense.

As I recall, there were allegations of child abuse and weapons violations with respect to Koresh and legal action was warranted. Unfortunately Reno was at the helm so there would be no repercussions from use of excessive force, entrapment, etc. (cf. Ruby Ridge, Reno’s role in the Liberty City riots.) Reno and Clinton were far from being of one mind and while Clinton may have been a prevaricating, poll-watching triangulator, I have a hard time believing he authorized the massacre as a message to the NRA.

Waco is a yet another blot on the reputation of the US Justice Department, but moreso from execution than intent. Painting Koresh as being a sweet and innocent victim of (US) State oppression is naive at best and disingenuous at worst. I despise the actions of the Reno “Justice” Department but that doesn’t change the fact that Koresh was a dangerous nutjob. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

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Posted: 01 July 2008 08:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 418 ]
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arclight—

My first post on this CFI site——more to say to that later——but as yours is the last one and 22 days ago—-this thread may be inactive—-so maybe you will never see this.

You are right re:Waco—- while not physically there, I was civilian consultant in support of the investigation and the eventual “go” group.  The issue that brought the whole thing to US govt level was not the group or its religious, social, political, or operating philosophies——but that investigations found the group was in posession of Class III firearms (fully automatic) without the requisite Class III license(s)—-a Federal crime(s). The possible child abuse allegations came later (after the isolation of the compound) after various types of listening devices had ben placed—-this was definitely a later and not prima facia reason. As I recall, there were several attempts to meet and speak with Koresh or any spokesperson—-these were repeatedly rebuffed——so , just as in a city police situation, forcible entry in pusuit of alleged felons was initiated.  While it ended in tragedy for both real and Murphy’s Law reasons—-smoke/irritant munitions that burn——dry grass and wood—-open flame (or at least flammable sources used for compound illumination after electricity was cut off—-a level of armed resistance from inside the compound—-a windy day—-et al), I saw no joy or celebration from those that were there——indeed many suffered then from shock and later on (and knowing some of those agents—-to this day) from PTSD. As a strong athesitc humanistic secular libertarian (SAHSL) and born with a conspiracy theory gene—-in this instance my well developed, long held,  trusty, and mostly eventually right Federal BS/conspiracy buzzer did not go off—-and about this incident has not——even after reading many sides account of the tragedy.

Re: this site————-  Have been a long reader and follower of the Dawkins site——came to this one just 1 or 2 days ago on a link from a post on Dawkins——and found a good place.  The Dawkins site has lately had to put up with more frequent and sooner posters that have not kept the level of debate as high as the 28 pages on this thread I have just completed. Name calling and non-useful provocative language and words have begun far sooner from 4 or 5 of the long time and prolific (avg 12+ POSTS PER DAY since their entry date !!!——how many do they post a day over the many years they have been registered and had 0 or 1 post days???)——-if some of the objections I have read here of people complaining that they have been called (or are calling) others bigotted, evasive, poor logicians, etc—-they better stay off the Dawkins site with such thin skins. What has bothered me the most is the few that consistently do this no matter what the thread or topic——have been in the past—-some of the most logical, well “spoken” , debating from fact and authority posters that are pro-site——like Opehlia (?) but there is another difference that maybe explains it—-the anti-site folks seem to have a high proportion or ill informed, ill-read, unable to debate, even spell or construct sentences——etc etc types of dolts—-so maybe I should just be more charitable to those who have been on it for years and just are experiencing high frustration——but still, I have seen it stifle a good viable and informative thread long before it got old and repetitive and should have died a natural death.

Anyway—-I think I will continue on this site——and appreciate the resoned posts that people use here—even when there is basic disagreement on fundamental principles or positions.

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Posted: 01 July 2008 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 419 ]
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ghost9 - 01 July 2008 08:06 AM

I think I will continue on this site——and appreciate the resoned posts that people use here—even when there is basic disagreement on fundamental principles or positions.

The quality of posts on the CFI Forums have come a long way over the past few years, and the “Point of Inquiry” podcast is second to none in its genre in my opinion.

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Posted: 11 July 2008 12:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 420 ]
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One point that Chris Hedges makes is that the New Atheists put themselves on a higher moral plane when they criticise religion.  He says that religion is not the cause of evil.  Rather it is human nature that is the cause of evil and even if religion were vanquished the evil would very likely remain.  Finally he adds that secular rationalists are just as capable of evil.  Moreover the idea that you can eliminate evil by vanquishing religion is a utopian vision which combined with the use of violence is dangerous. 

Now consider an example of evil that I would like to prevent: the stoning of a woman for adultery.  The way I might go about it is to try and persuade those who want to stone a woman for adultery not to do so.  But when I do this the response I get is that the action is justified by God and they know this by their faith.  So then I target the idea of faith.  I try to promote the idea that it is not a good idea to rely on faith, because otherwise you could justify all kinds of evil such as the stoning of this woman.  But then I am campaigning against faith and therefore religion which according to Hedges is a Utopian vision and is basically a no no.  It is especially dangerous if I use violence to campaign against faith, although that is not my personal position.  Rather I would seek to persuade that faith is not a good idea.  But this still seems to be not the done thing.  So it seems to me we can never persuade people not to commit evil actions.  They can always bring up an excuse related to faith.  They could say: my religion tells me this is right and I have faith in my religion.  Now it may be that if we manage to persuade people that faith is not a good idea, people would still commit evil.  Then they would come up with a different excuse.  But then we would cross that bridge when we come to it.  For now the excuse that we are dealing with is faith. 

At the end of the interview D J Grothe asks what Hedges would advise atheists to do to create a better world.  The response seemed to be that atheists should be self-critical and look at preventing themselves from committing evil actions.  Yes this could be done.  But is it the only thing that could be done?  After all, if we follow Hedge’s advice, this woman I am talking about is going to die a cruel death.  Can’t we do anything to prevent that?  Moreover it seems to me that atheists like me do not particularly want to be seen to be on a high moral plane.  We just want things like for example this woman not to be stoned to death.  So if we must respect people’s faith how can we campaign against the violation of human rights that is said to be justified by faith?  It seems to me that the arguments against the New Atheists are designed to induce paralysis and inaction.

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