Another entry in the ‘religion makes people nicer’ contest – Barney Zwarts, religion editor of The Age, offering a subtle, thoughtful, elegant rumination on the ‘new’ atheists.
This brilliant book highlights what is obvious to most reasonable observers: that these fundamentalist atheists, with their vapid, complacent self-righteousness and their facile and unjustifiable certainties, are the precise mirror image of the fundamentalist Christians, Muslims etc they so despise…Like Christian radicals, the new atheists have built squalid little belief systems that serve themselves and their own power, that seek to scare people about what they do not understand, and to use this fear to justify cruelty and war. “They ask us to kneel before little idols that look and act like them, telling us that one day, if we trust enough in God or reason, we will have everything we desire.”
He goes on that way for the whole review, and offers not one word of evidence. He doesn’t quote so much as half a sentence to back up any of that frenzied nonsense – that last quote is Hedges, not any of the sqalid little atheists who ask us to kneel before little idols in their image.
Hedges finds the agenda of the new atheists – Hitchens, Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and others – equally intolerant and dangerous. It is intolerant because it is based on a closed worldview that dismisses all other views without even examining them. It tries to reduce sacred texts to instruction manuals. It tells us what is right and wrong not according to God but “the purity of the rational mind”, allowing no dissent – and wraps the intolerance in Enlightenment virtues. It is dangerous because, like religious utopian views, it believes that if it can eradicate other views, this will lead to a perfect society – which justifies butchering or expelling those with other views.
Those are pretty strong claims to offer in a major newspaper with no trace of quotation, especially when the charges are not in fact true. What those quotation marks on “the purity of the rational mind” are supposed to refer to I don’t know, and I strongly suspect they’re just slapped onto a phrase pulled out of the air – and the childishly ridiculous charge that any of them think anything so stupid as that ‘if it can eradicate other views, this will lead to a perfect society’ is 1. not true and 2. simply taken undigested and unexamined from Hedges’s book. Hedges makes that charge ad nauseam in his toe-curlingly bad book, as I pointed out last April, and this religion editor (ah, so that’s it…) at The Age is simply recycling them as if they had been handed down on gold plates by the Angel Moroni – for real. None of the ‘new’ atheists is anywhere near stupid enough to think that an end of religion would produce ‘a perfect society.’
The new atheists, Hedges says, know how to make humanity perfect and must therefore eradicate the competing visions that pollute society and lead people astray. Harris calls Muslims deranged, Dennett would allow aspects of religion – its art and music and rituals – to be preserved only in some sort of zoo.
Well now he’s just admitting it himself – Hedges says. Yes, Hedges says, but Hedges is 1. wrong and 2. in a frothing rage, so maybe it would be clever to check what ‘Hedges says’ before repeating his grotesque claims as if they were well-known facts.
I wish I could be his editor for just five minutes.