Atheism, Religion

Why Richard Dawkins & the New Atheists Do No Speak For Me

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There is no “Atheist Movement”, there are only people who lives without the need for, or a belief in, a deity or “supernatural power” and who seek reason and peace. Movement “A”theists (and they desperately want that capital A) only seek to empower themselves and to find a place in the existing power structure. They want the same influence that Christians have had in the halls of power, the Universities and the boardrooms for generations and they are willing to cater to the worst impulses of their followers to achieve this.

Case in point, Richard Dawkins. Richard Dawkins, PhD, the biologist and scientific educator, has played his part in making atheists respectful and taken seriously by the establishment in Western cultural and governmental institutions. His scientific theories are interesting and have added much to the popular understanding of science. Richard Dawkins the man however, the leader of an atheist “movement”, is another matter entirely. He is just another in a long line of powerful, elite, rich white men who have decided that the gravitas granted them by their standing and education gives them the the right to pontificate on everything from torture to date rape. Richard Dawkins twitter (@RichardDawkins) is filled with “logic” based analyses of pretty much anything and everything that pops into his head.

Oddly enough this has recently been rape. He goes on about how terrible it is that men who rape women when they are drunk and cannot remember the whole incident have their “lives ruined”. He goes on about how date rape is not as serious as violent stranger rape and is generally an ass to anyone who would try to get him to see how his “logic” is anything but when applied to such a complex and painful topic as sexual assault. It is not so much the content of what he says, which is bad enough, but the fact that he feels that his position in popular culture and the New Atheist movement gives him the right to act as a moral arbiter of issues that will never affect him as a powerful rich white heterosexual man. It is the sort of privilege that he does not recognize he possesses and in fact does not even recognize as privilege. This is no different than the mindset of many men in various other movements, be they Christian, Jewish, Islamic or any number of secular fields.

Dawkins has made Ayaan Hirsi Ali in particular, and anti-Islamism in general, one of his pet causes. He has tended to attack and shame any atheists or secular group that has any problem with Mrs. Hirsi Ali’s anti-Muslim and Western Imperial apologist tendencies. This recent tweet shows how he takes his position of authority rather too seriously, to the point of almost seeming to “excommunicate” secular groups that do not toe the Anti-Islamic line:

“Inviting a speaker [like Ayaan Hirsi Ali] is not “disrespecting” anybody. I, however, hereby disrespect Yale Atheists, Humanists & Agnostics” (https://twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/511279615844048896

Dawkins seems to have little time for feminists unless they are explicitly anti-religious or anti-Islamic. The fact that Mrs. Ali is the partner of fellow white pro-Western Imperialism master of the Universe Niall Ferguson may have something to do with his affinity for her cause.

Dawkins has also defended and played apologist for philosopher and New Atheist fixture Sam Harris. Harris has some interesting things to say in the fields of philosophy and neuro-biology but his views on Muslims and civil rights are troubling to say the least. Mr. Harris has stated that

“torture may be an ethical necessity in our war on terror”, (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/in-defense-of-torture_b_8993.html

Mr. Harris has also posed extensive thought experiments about the nature of torture in a crisis that have more in common with a plot from the show 24 then anything approaching reality or scientific understanding of torture. Mr. Dawkins has not been shy in his defense of Mr. Harris, a man who believes as he does that Islam in general is a threat to the “West” and secular society. This sort of support for the apologists for big government programs that violate civil liberties is troubling and betrays a sense of moral superiority that is troubling and odd in someone who wishes to reject the power and influence of religion in public life. The New Atheists, including the late Christopher Hitchens and his defense of the brutal US/UK invasion of Iraq, seem to have an affinity for Neo-Liberal and Neo-Conservative policies, especially regarding the so called “war on terrorism”. It leads me to wonder if they realize that they are defending the institutions that are most infiltrated and influenced by the same messianic and power-based religious ideology they attack in other forums? Writer and moral philosopher Chris Hedges had this to say about the New Atheists

“I was stunned at how the very chauvinism and bigotry and intolerance that they condemn in the Christian Right they embrace under the guise of atheism […] they also create a binary worldview of us and them.” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMcd_yWL2DM]

When reason and logic are used in furtherance of the same goals that are espoused by the religious, cultural and governmental powers that be then it may be time to question if what these men are trying to popularize is in fact free-thought at all, or merely another way for the powerful to couch their ideology, misogyny and power aims in a new and more up-to-date form of moral apologia. People who seek out an alternative to the dogmatic, chauvinistic, misogynist and violent religious sects that dominate the world do not need more heavy-handed and morally superior musings from men who benefit, knowingly or not, from the privilege they make their bones attacking. Why do atheists need leaders at all? Why can’t we have a community of freethinking, privilege defying, open-hearted people who do not wish to impose a secular religion of unquestionable “logic”? Why must the same rich white faces keep on telling us what is in our own interest? These are questions we must all struggle with and find our own answers to.

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2 thoughts on “Why Richard Dawkins & the New Atheists Do No Speak For Me

  1. Why would anyone think that there are leaders? It’s a sheep’s mentality that looks for leaders in supposed movements. I speak for no one and no one speaks for me. When we accept anyone as a leader, and I’m critical of those that think of the four horsement of atheism as leaders, then we deserve what we get. Sadly, when given a chance to elect leaders we’ve been either hindered by a corrupted system or given over to single issue voting.

    Don’t blame the four horsemen, blame those that raise them up as icons. It is the sheep that want a leader, it is the sheep the follow them over the edge of the cliff.

  2. The great thing about atheism is that it is not, in most parts, organized. That is why I do not accept your premise that Dawkins or Harris are leaders. To me they are the most visible exponents of an important school of thought. It’s the core of atheism – we *don’t* accept anyone’s opinion as gospel. And we are ready to immediately criticize anything and everything they say. That is enormous progress, and much better than the religious way. Dawkins and Harris speak for themselves, and I must have missed the quote where they claim to speak for ‘New Atheism’. They don’t – at least that’s what I think.

    Now, Dawkins and Harris are humans, and some of what they say is indeed rubbish. But that does not invalidate everything they say – just the rubbish portions. Harris’ defense of torture is not rubbish at all. His agonizing and brutally explicit deduction (IIRC in ‘End of Faith’) is difficult to stomach – but terrifyingly spot-on. I wish there was a flaw in his reasoning, but Harris does show that pure pacifism and non-violence can be immoral, and that in this context exerting violence is an ethical concept. If you follow that line of thought (I do), the inevitable conclusion is that a case for torture *can* be made. If you read the relevant passages again, you’ll find that Harris is as horrified and aghast as you and I. It’s one thing to be against torture. It’s quite another to be against it on principle – *that* would be unethical. That is the distinction Harris makes, and in no way does he promote torture as a viable instrument against *muslims*. He points out that if you employ violence, torture becomes part of your landscape if you want to stay ethical (contrasting it to collateral damage, which is something we accept today). Because it is so horrific, and difficult to understand it has become a major rallying point for his detractors. That, and the passage about pre-emptive nuclear strikes must be the most-misrepresented passages of his book. Harris does not condone torture. He explicitly makes the point that there are worse things we accept as ethical, and as long as we do, there is no case that can be made against torture.

    Anyway – no atheist ever spoke for me. I speak for myself. That’s what atheism is about. Pointing out that neither Harris nor Dawkins speak for you is like saying the sky is blue – unless you talk to religious people who are used to authority.

    -ch

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