The evolution of Robert Wright

When othering the ‘New’ atheists, there is no need to be too nice about accuracy. Robert Wright gives a demonstration of that to join the growing stack of such demonstrations from otherwise liberal commentators.

[T]he New Atheists’ main short-term goal wasn’t to turn believers into atheists, it was to turn atheists into New Atheists — fellow fire-breathing preachers of the anti-gospel. The point was to make it not just uncool to believe, but cool to ridicule believers.

The usual thing – exaggeration (to put it charitably), malicious rhetoric, sheer invention. (Who says the point was to make it cool to ridicule unbelievers?) Childish stuff – in Foreign Policy. What next, Rush Limbaugh writing for The Wilson Quarterly?

Even on the secular left, the alarming implications of the “crusade against religion” are becoming apparent: Though the New Atheists claim to be a progressive force, they often abet fundamentalists and reactionaries, from the heartland of America to the Middle East.

And then we get several paragraphs about how the ‘New’ Atheists do that sinister thing. It’s sleazy, McCarthy-like stuff, as so much of this kind of thing from the ‘we hate New atheists’ crowd is. I hear the Senator’s whining voice, I see his blue-whiskered mug.

[T]here’s a subtle but potent sense in which New Atheism can steer foreign policy to the right…Most New Atheists aren’t expressly right wing, but even so their discounting of the material causes of Islamist radicalism can be “objectively” right wing.

Uh huh. They claim to be one thing, but they ‘abet’ another; there’s a subtle but potent sense in which they can do something very sinister and creepy which I can’t quite explain; they aren’t actually right wing but in fact they are, and any Stalinist would see it the same way. (Wright quotes Orwell for ‘objectively’ but Orwell was using the Stalinist term with considerable irony.)

Then he just flops all the way over into Armstrong territory, where compassion has always been at the heart of all religion.

All the great religions have shown time and again that they’re capable of tolerance and civility when their adherents don’t feel threatened or disrespected.

Bullshit. All the great religions have shown time and again that when they have unquestioned power, they use it, and they don’t use it for tolerance and civility, they use it for social control and for their own protection and well-being. Robert Wright should take a few minutes to ponder the tolerance and civility of the Irish Catholic church.

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