4 of 31
4
Chris Hedges - I Don’t Believe in Atheists (merged)
Posted: 04 May 2008 05:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
Jr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  89
Joined  2008-02-08

Just thought I should add, Ibn Warraq has an awesome employer, CFI.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 May 2008 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
Jr. Member
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  13
Joined  2007-05-25

I have watched and read a fair amount of Hedges before. The parts of American Fascists I’ve read are well-researched and reasoned. But he has a problem dealing with the New Atheists by calling “them” fundamentalists and he also has a bit of an evidence problem in this interview.

The New Atheists, though lumped together for the purposes of their public disavowal of religion and its supernatural tenets, do not represent an ethical or political monoculture. For him to claim that they are is nearly as stupid as saying that all Muslims are Islamofascists. It’s a false conclusion from bad analysis. Hedges is a really smart guy, but he’s got a big problem here because he tries to lump the espousal of rationality, logic, evidence, and scientific reasoning with Harris’ equivocations about nukes and torture.That’s dumb.

 Signature 

“Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, a universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce a universal prey,
And last eat up himself.”

Shakespeare, “Troilus and Cressida - Act I. Scene III”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 May 2008 09:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
Jr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  80
Joined  2007-08-12

I haven’t listened to the interview yet but I read the dang book, for my sins, and I was shocked at how bad it is. Really bad. It says things, over and over and over again, that are not true. They are obviously not true. Any decent journalist ought to be able to figure out that they’re not true. Yet Hedges says them not once not twice but ten or twenty times. He’s a nasty piece of work.

There’s this for instance, from pp 6-7:

[the new atheists] do engage in the same chauvinism and call for the same violent utopianism. They sell this under secular banners. They believe, like the Christian Right, that we are moving forward to a paradise, a state of human perfection, this time made possible by human reason.

Complete bullshit. Christopher Hitchens believes we are moving forward to a paradise, a state of human perfection? Richard Dawkins believes that? Dan Dennett believes that? Give me a break.

The book pissed me off so much that I wrote no fewer than three comments on the subject at Butterflies and Wheels - Good journalism, Bad book revisited, and Hedges on sin.

From the last named:

Pp 13-14:

We have nothing to fear from those who do or do not believe in God; we have much to fear from those who do not believe in sin. The concept of sin is a stark acknowledgement that we can never be omnipotent, that we are bound and limited by human flaws and self-interest.

Stark, staring bullshit. Could hardly be more wrong. Obviously there is no need whatever to believe in ‘sin’ to be aware that we can never be omnipotent and that we are bound and limited by human flaws and self-interest. Really it’s mostly non-theists who are aware of that in the most thorough way, because theists mostly believe that we will ultimately be ‘redeemed’ or ‘atoned’ in some way. The rest of us just think we are deeply flawed animals and that’s all there is to it.

The concept of sin is a check on the utopian dreams of a perfect world. It prevents us from believing in our own perfectibility.

But the ‘new’ atheists Hedges is railing at dream no dreams of a perfect world, nor do they believe in human perfectibility - so clearly they don’t need the ‘concept of sin’ as a check on their non-existent dreams and beliefs.

To turn away from God is harmless…To turn away from sin is catastrophic…The secular utopians of the twenty-first century have also forgotten they are human.

And Hedges provides quotations to back up this assertion where? Nowhere. Because there are none, because the assertion is false.

We discard the wisdom of sin at our peril. Sin reminds us that all human beings are flawed…Studies in cognitive behavior illustrate the accuracy and wisdom of this Biblical concept.

Wait - what? It’s catastrophic to turn away from sin because without the concept of sin we don’t realize that humans are flawed, but on the other hand, studies in cognitive behavior (not to mention mere experience of life and humans and ourselves) offer evidence that we are flawed, so we don’t need the concept of sin after all. The man blows his own argument (or rather his baseless claim) without even noticing he’s done it. Where was his editor while all this was going on? Where was Hedges’s brain?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 May 2008 10:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
Member
RankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  142
Joined  2007-06-17

The problem I have with Hedges is that he criticizes these popularizing atheists for positions that are not directly related to their atheism.  He seems to want to harbour a critique of radical Islam without allowing it to spread to a critique of less radical Islam or religion in general.  To accuse these atheist authors of knowing nothing about Islam is just stupid.  He also seems to sink into a relativist point of view that allows anything to be true, so that he can call intractable opposition to a position that is demonstrably false and wrong a kind of “fundamentalism”, which is pretty stupid as well.  I don’t think that he would agree that the KKK has every right to their world view, and that any opposition to them is “fundamentalist” or “dehumanizing”.  He makes the mistake of criticizing a critique of Islam (and religion in general) that is addressed to the extremes, and not to the middle.  The danger of religion, according to the authors he mentions, is not in the flabby middle, it is at the radical, violent edge.  That is why Dawkins sought out Ted Haggard, who is a lunatic and/or fraud, rather than you local, neighbourhood Unitarian minister.  And he seems to allow a religious basis for all that secularism has produced in the moral sphere.  He seems to agree that radical religion is bad, but doesn’t really say how or why - he seems only to want to defend religion from attack.  His denial of perfectibility is misguided - atheism and humanism and so on are not utopian, but progressive, and there is a big difference between those.  His critique of positivism would have been more timely in 1908 than in 2008.

But blaming science for destroying the ecosystem?  Moronic.  That is what pegs it for me: hostility to science as science is a truly stupid (self-servingly unthinking) position.

Chris Hedges is a leftist idealogue. (mindcore)

Nonsense.  Or - define “leftist”.

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.  (OhioDoc)

I think you make a mistake there that many people make when discussing Islam and Jews, and some other things which seem like religion but aren’t.  As Sunmmer Seale says, Islam is not a race - but “racism” does not only refer to race any more, but to intolerance generally, especially of people different from yourself.  Islam (religion) and white (race) (along with Western, a culture) are pretty much mutually exclusive, statistically speaking, so it is easy to slip “racist” into a critique of a critique of Islam by a white Westerner.  We tend to use terms fairly loosely, but when we define them more strictly we see that they apply to fewer and fewer examples.

Anyway, my point is that it is an error to paint religion onto non-religious things like states and movements that use religion as a tool, rather than really base themselves in it.  Israel is one example that is inherently vague and ambiguous, and so is the phenomenon of “fundamentalism” in Islam in some circumstances (where it is more a political movement with political and military goals that uses religion than a religious movement that uses politics and violence).  When Constantine had his vision, it wasn’t about saving souls, or doing good, or spreading the gospel, or any such pastoral or evangelical thing: it was to conquer.  That was not religion, it was geopolitics finding a powerful new weapon, and committing to it.  Israel may have religion built into it, much like most other countries, but its religious purpose is secondary to the purpose of protecting a religious minority - that security is what Zionism is about in the first instance, not religion.  That the people who seek protection are religiously defined is incidental.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 May 2008 11:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  1
Joined  2008-05-04

Hi There

This is my first post and was inspired by listening to the last Point of Enquiry interview with Chris Hedges( by the way has anyone noticed his name comes up as ‘Christ’ Hedges on the main point of enquiry page!). I find the weekly interviews generally stimulating if a little cosy but Chris’s contribution pushed the discussion in a direction that made me sit up and question my own position as an atheist. Let me make it clear that he didn’t ‘convert’ me but I think his point about a the new atheists a new utopianism is right on the ball and in line with thinkers like John Gray who have offered a similarly different take on the reasons for global terrorism see ‘Al-Queda - and what it means to be Modern”. Gray often makes the point that the neo-enlightemment and secular humanist thinkers are just pushing another idealist ‘salvation’ philosophy that takes the illusion of mankind’s moral and technological progress as it’s central tenet. He urges a post- humanist and less idealist approach to human affairs, very much in line with current ecological thinking. It may sound crazy but in some ways we have to see ourselves as less important than we actually think we are and to stop reading history in such a linear manner. Science and reason may not always lead us in an ever upward path to perfection - one could even argue at this point that science has made human survival more perilous than it ever has been in the past.
I think something else revealed by the interview is the terrible habit of generalising when it come to islam/terrorism/middle east - these are not homogenous subjects and Hedges was quite right to pull DJ up on this - it must be very frustrating for someone who lives in Turkey for example to be lumped in with countries such as Saudi Arabia or Iran when these debates are being made. As someone who grew up in Ireland at a time when religious and political ideologies were causing death and destruction it was crucial to remain informed and clear about the distinctions between the groups involved and cringe inducing to hear the simplifications and misinformation of foreign commentators on the subject. I think a little more rigour and clarity is needed in this area.
Having made the above points I still believe that a Natural view of the world is the best way of achieving both clarity of thought and of purpose - however I think we need to find a broader term than ‘Religion’ to attack and replace it with a more general intolerance of dogmatic ideologies and insupportable Utopianism. Atheists are in danger of seeing themselves as part of some sort of vanguard for humanity and there is a flaw in this thinking - which should be at least one good lesson learnt from history.
Hedges strikes me( and it’s only from this interview) as a good old fashioned contrarian, Robert Fisk being another example. It’s great to have them around but they can be a little self-centered in their thinking - arrogant might be a better way to put it. In fact, it would be interesting to hear Robert Fisk on the program - his knowledge of the middle-east political and religious situation is impecable and having heard him speak numerous times he might be more willing to flesh out his own position than Hedges was.
All in all, a great show - more like the Hedges one would be great. I’d love to hear John Gray or James Lovelock or how about some people from the Arts - Will Self comes to mind, his novel ‘The Book of Dave’ being a brilliant and insightful deconstruction of religion…

many thanks

Jay

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 May 2008 01:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
Jr. Member
RankRank
Total Posts:  35
Joined  2007-09-01
Jay - 04 May 2008 11:43 AM

Hi There
Science and reason may not always lead us in an ever upward path to perfection - one could even argue at this point that science has made human survival more perilous than it ever has been in the past.

And ignorance is better? I think that few here will deny that science and technology make progress. This is a consequence of methodological naturalism. It seems to me that what science and reason do for the world is simply provide an increasingly better understanding of cause and effect. One view is that technology doesn’t change the underlying motives people have, except maybe indirectly by allowing them to realize more fully the consequences of their choices (issues of free will aside). Hedges seems to be claiming that there will always be the same old violence etc (no moral progress) because people’s base animal instincts just don’t change. I think that the picture is actually much more hopeful and more complex than that. What people know and what they think about reality does change how they feel and how they react. The big question is whether or not increased knowledge of cause and effect will reduce human suffering on the whole. Certainly there are examples on both sides of this question: weapons vs cures for disease, for example, but can anyone really credibly argue that the world is no better off today than 100 years ago (in terms of human suffering and human behavior)? I think it’s a hard case to make, though I can understand why Hedges may feel that way after living so long in such a troubled part of the world.

As I see it, what Harris, Dawkins and others are promoting is not atheism so much as rational thinking (scientific naturalism) and the abandonment of dogma. Atheism is, in their eyes, a result of rational, objective thinking. 

- however I think we need to find a broader term than ‘Religion’ to attack and replace it with a more general intolerance of dogmatic ideologies and insupportable Utopianism. Atheists are in danger of seeing themselves as part of some sort of vanguard for humanity and there is a flaw in this thinking - which should be at least one

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. Clearly, the problem is understanding dogmatism and irrationality in social groups of all kinds, not just religion.


Richard

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 May 2008 03:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  13
Joined  2008-04-16

I do not think I learned much of value from Chris Hedges.
This guy misuses the word racism.  He is overly pessimistic.  He also puts pressure on DJ to offer concrete examples for discussion, but lobs “New Atheists” into a group.  I think he is forcing the Fundamentalist mold.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 May 2008 04:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
Jr. Member
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  4
Joined  2008-05-04

I could not agree with Geodesic more.  I had several huge problems with this talk.

1.  At one point Hedges says, “when you look at what goes into making a suicide bomber, it has nothing to do with the Koran.”  This to me seems so patently wrong as to need no further discussion.

2.  He does misuse the word racism.  The New Atheists are hardly racist.  Take Hitchens as an example, he hates with justified fury those Muslim fundamentalists who are into the practice of female genital mutilation.  To say that “most of those people are Arab and therefore Hitchens has racist feelings toward Arabs” is just silly. 

3.  His case for the New Atheists being fundamentalists is weak.  This whole idea that both religious fundamentalists and the NAs are linear thinkers is a) not very revealing about their individual philosophy and b) not a strong case that their worldviews are similar.  I’m not even sure I understand his other point about the externalization of evil.


I have heard otherwise intelligent people make a similar case—that atheism is really just another religion with its own rigid dogma.  Uhhh, no.  A belief system shared by a group of people is a necessary but not sufficient part of the definition of relgion.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 May 2008 11:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  4
Joined  2008-05-04

what Chris Hedges says makes sense. I did not like the way the host conducted the interview. He was basically repeating the same questions without trying to understand what Hedges was saying. This was somewhat like listening to Sean Hannity trying to prove the other guy wrong no matter what and maybe showed a glimmer of the new militant athiesm Chris was talking about. Please uphold the secular values you profess and keep open minds. Don’t make this fox news. Thanks

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 May 2008 11:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  13
Joined  2008-04-16

I don’t think the interview was confrontational at all.  The think that DJ was asking clarifying questions to get an understanding of what Mr. Hedge’s views are.  It seems to me that they are forced.
Racism is misused—even if he was arguing that there is prejudice against believers of Islam, this is not racism; many “new atheists” do not make stereotypes, but recognize the role that religion plays in extremes of thought.  So even if he was arguing that new atheists are prejudice against believers, he still didn’t do a good job of presenting an argument.  The views of some atheists are misrepesented.  He fails to make a straightforward argument for his claims.

Some random thoughts from listening a second time:

Flaunting of credentials is an argument from authority, which is what many fundamentalists are good at.  Dark forces in human nature?  Isn’t that an abstraction?

The only aspect of his views that I found informative were on the links between economic and political conflict that lead to extremism.  Listening a second time, none of the authors discussed blanket believers of Islam as suicide bombers.  Hedges discusses some of the factors that lead to it.  I think what “new athiests’ argue is that without an afterlife, people would not be so willing to blow themselves up.  According to Hedges, you are racist if you think that people are more willing to blow themselves up if they believe that they are going to paradise for doing so.

There were some previous posters with incendary rhetoric—I don’t think that is cool.

I just get the impression that Hedges didn’t research the “new atheists” a lot because I don’t remember much advocation of violence.  What is this from?  Some Harris book?

[ Edited: 05 May 2008 12:19 AM by Geodesic ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 May 2008 12:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  4
Joined  2008-05-04

People do not need the idea of an afterlife to help them blow themselves up. In the case of Islamic terrorists the imagery of a heaven with virgins helps but if it wasn’t that it would be something else which helps them rationalize that behavior. The Japanese Kamikaze pilots did not read Koran. The root causes of their behavior are bad foreign policy, repressive governments and poverty more then anything else. 

I think Chris makes an excellent point where he points out
1. an idea of superiority
2. dehumanization and stereotyping of others
3. working towards a utopian world
as the basic elements of all fundamentalist ideologies because they all end up rationalizing the eradication of dehumanized people with different ideologies to achieve that utopian world they set as their goal.

The idea of dropping an atomic bomb on people the majority of which have nothing to do with terrorism shows that a part of atheism
has all the above 3 elements.

Militant atheism if it develops will hurt atheism itself more then anything else

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 May 2008 12:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  13
Joined  2008-04-16
hasheesh - 05 May 2008 12:39 AM

I think Chris makes an excellent point where he points out
1. an idea of superiority
2. dehumanization and stereotyping of others
3. working towards a utopian world
as the basic elements of all fundamentalist ideologies because they all end up rationalizing the eradication of dehumanized people with different ideologies to achieve that utopian world they set as their goal.

The idea of dropping an atomic bomb on people the majority of which have nothing to do with terrorism shows that a part of atheism
has all the above 3 elements.

 

Maybe I’m looking at this through rose colored glasses.  Do you mind fleshing these points out with examples?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 May 2008 01:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  4
Joined  2008-05-04

take for example the opposition from atheist community to the idea that students should be able to choose which theory of creation they want to believe in for themselves in the classroom. I believe in evolution but I wouldn’t want it to be force fed to my kids like it was to me where I knew any questioning from me would result in ridicule or hostility. maybe there is another perfectly explainable theory of how we arrived on Earth other then evolution or the religious theories.

evolution has some gaps which most atheists prefer to jump with a leap of faith. It just annoys me how darwin has become a prophet with blind , rigid followers just like other religious institutions trying to prove their point even if it means joining humans skulls with monkey jawbones. and there is this undeniable superiority complex I detect when talking to atheists who are so sure they belong to a higher IQ level of humanity and it’s their job to save humanity from religious savages.

I didn’t allow religion to tell me how to think why should I let atheism do that

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 May 2008 03:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
Jr. Member
RankRank
Total Posts:  35
Joined  2007-09-01

Ok, for the record, here is what Sam Harris actually said about bombing the Middle East. This is from p129 of The End of Faith under the section heading Jihad and the Power of the Atom:

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. How would such an unconscionable act of self-defense be perceived by the rest of the Muslim world? It would likely be seen as the first incursion of a genocidal crusade. The horrible irony here is that seeing could make it so: this very perception could plunge us into a state of hot war with any Muslim state that had the capacity to pose a nuclear threat of its own. All of this is perfectly insane, of course: I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world’s population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and unicorns.
...
The Muslim world in particular must anticipate this possibility and find some way to prevent it.

Seems to me that Hedges clearly did not read Harris’ book carefully, or is intentionally distorting the actual text, or is relying upon what someone else “said” Harris wrote. You be the judge.

Richard

[ Edited: 05 May 2008 04:00 AM by rgill ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 May 2008 04:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
Jr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  89
Joined  2006-09-08

Nagasaki and Hiroshima…

Those that cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

If we have different labels and reasons, does it make the final action different?

Profile
 
 
   
4 of 31
4