A few weeks ago, Neil Godfrey, who writes the website Vridar and has criticized New Atheists for being Islamophobes who consistently misrepresent the roots of Muslim terrorism, sent in the following comment on my post “A Muslim-basher becomes an atheist-basher“:
Jerry, what concerns me about the various statements made by yourself along with Dawkins and Harris is that they are not informed by specialist scholarship — sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists et al — in Islamic and terrorist studies. Rather, they seem to be fueled by visceral reactions without the benefit of broader understanding and knowledge that comes from scholarly investigations into these phenomena.
It almost appears to some of us that your criticisms are willfully ignorant of the scholarship. I find these visceral responses coming from trained scientists difficult to understand.
What “scholarship” that people like Godfrey and Robert Pape have mentioned or produced has completely ignored what the terrorists say about their own motivations in favor of blaming colonialism—something that self-flagellating liberals in the West love to do. (Not, of course, that the U.S. is completely blameless in oppressing and attacking the Middle East, but neither are we the sole cause of extreme Islamic terrorism.) As I once asked one of these blame-the-West apologists, “What would it take to convince you that some Muslim terrorists are actually motivated by religion?” Clearly the terrorists’ own words don’t count: the “scholars” claim to know better. This unfounded psychologizing clearly shows their motivations.
Quoting Robert Pape’s discredited conclusions about the colonialist sources of Islamic terrorism, Godfrey has argued that “all suicide bombing can be attributed to political causes.” (For a few critiques of Pape’s widely-accepted but fallacious claims, go here, here, and here).
I would maintain that this “scholarship” we ignore (and, in fact, I’ve read it) is tendentious and ideologically motivated, and that Godfrey is pulling the credentials card here.
A few days ago, reader Robert C called my attention to another post by Godfrey at Vridar that makes the logical (and unfounded) extension of the argument above: New Atheists who pin Islamic terrorism on Islam are members of the political right:
Hector Avalos does identify himself with the New Atheists and it is true, as Robert Myles notes, that the likes of Dawkins, Harris, Coyne, the later Chris Hitchens, are all embedded in the political Right. I don’t know whether Avalos does likewise.
Clearly Godfrey has found a truth universally acknowledged!
As Robert noted, “I guess that Godfrey might perceive that any atheist who doesn’t osculate Islam’s rump would be among the political right.”
Indeed. It’s simply invidious to claim that because we agree with conservatives on one issue—the religious motivation of Islamic terrorism—that we’re “embedded in the political Right.” Yes, I am uncomfortable with my conservative bedfellows, but even conservatives can be right sometimes, although I suspect that their emphasis on religiously-inspired terrorism is meant to buttress Christianity, while ours is to point out the dangers of faith.
More important, what kind of “scholarship” tries to discredit New Atheists’ criticisms by simply saying that we’re right-wingers? Only a moron who ignores everything we’ve written would claim that those of us named above are “embedded in the political right.” That’s not scholarship, but smearing—a form of Manichaeism that sees any agreement with any claim by a right-winger as a form of heresy. Such is left-wing identify politics.
By the way, Myles, a Marxist, wrote this:
Avalos self-identifies as a a New Atheist. This perspective holds that theism is generally destructive and unethical. It is embodied for example in the writings of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. What Avalos doesn’t explore is how this movement has also tended to form strong associations with a neoconservative political ideology, perhaps expressed most triumphantly by the late Christopher Hitchens.