The Conversation’s dumb article on why New Atheism is just as violent as religion

I don’t know what’s happened to The Conversation site, but one would almost think it was funded by Templeton. Here we have a new article by Nick Megoran and Russell Foster arguing that the arguments of the New Atheists are just as violent as religion. Click on the screenshot to see it, but note the title: THE ARGUMENTS of the New Atheists are just as violent as religion. That is, the New Atheists themselves aren’t as violent as, say, Islamist terrorists, but their arguments are. That is a false equivalence.

The two authors simply analyzed the prose of some New Atheists and found “calls for violence” in it, which include approbation for the U.S./UK attacks on Afghanistan and, in the case of Hitchens, for the invasion of Iraq (a misstep on Hitchens’s part, I think). But the “calls for violence” by the three New Atheists are not at all the same as both the calls for violence in scripture and the daily calls for violence in mosques and in the Middle Eastern public media. Don’t forget that in Palestinian schools, children (even very young ones) are taught to hate and kill Israelis. Is there an equivalent to that in the writings of the New Atheists?

Naturally, Megoran and Foster repeatedly find “violence” in New Atheist writings, even if they have to take words out of context (they also mention the old canard that the USSR committed violence in the name of atheism):

Our study (jointly conducted by a Christian, an agnostic and an atheist) involved analysing the writing of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens – the so-called “New Atheists”. We sought to establish their positions on US and UK foreign policy since the September 2001 attacks. We critically examined their bestselling books, along with their op-eds, social media posts and videos, to ascertain their positions – not on science or morality – but on politics, especially foreign policy.

They each argue that religion inherently incites violence, whereas atheism is more peaceful. Dawkins in particular asks: “Who would advocate killing in the name of a non-God?

BUT. . .here’s the atheist “violence”:

All three of these New Atheists were sympathetic to the attack on Afghanistan in 2001. Hitchens also vociferously supported the 2003 Iraq invasion, while Harris saw Western engagement with Islam and the Muslim world as part of a war that the West must win, or else face “bondage”. In his 2004 book, The End of Faith, Harris says (p.131):

While it would be comforting to believe that our dialogue with the Muslim world has, as one of its possible outcomes, a future of mutual tolerance, nothing guarantees this result – least of all tenets of Islam. Given the constraints of Muslim orthodoxy, given the penalties within Islam for radical (and reasonable) adaption to modernity, I think it is clear that Islam must find some way to revise itself, peacefully or otherwise. What this will mean is not all obvious. What is obvious, however, is that the West must win the argument or win the war. All else will be bondage.

And in specific reference to the Afghan war, Harris adds (p.53):

There is in fact no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified killing them in self defence. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.

We argue that the three supported this war because they read global politics through the lens of their atheism. They appear to see the West as locked in an existential war with religion, particularly Islam. There are four striking aspects of this atheist vision of global geopolitics.

Supporting a war conducted by others, however, is not the same as what ISIS does, stoning gays or tossing them off roofs, and beating women for wearing insufficient covering on the streets.  Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkins do not promulgate hatred of Muslims the way the media of the Middle East does, portray Jews in vile stereotypes and calling for the destruction of Israel. Nor do the New Atheists call for jihad and for the murder of apostates and unbelievers. In fact, I haven’t seen any of these men call for murder at all, except to go to war in response to religiously-inspired violence. What they are saying is that if others attack us in the name of faith, we are justified in fighting back and engaging in a war of words against the tenets of violence-promoting faith.

The authors also make the mistake of saying that all religion is violent, and that’s just dumb. They characterize New Atheists as saying that “religion is the most prolific source of violence”, and that may well be the case. Dawkins adds that “Islam is one of the great evils of the world”, and that is arguably true. And when Harris says “We are at war with Islam,” he means a war of ideas, not a call for us to annihilate all Muslims. Note that, in contrast, it is Muslim dogma that apostates and nonbelievers should be annihilated. Reader Michael, who sent me this link, also called my attention to the Hamas Covenant, which calls for militant jihad against Israel.

Finally, Foster and Megoran make the familiar distortions of Sam Harris’s Gedankenexperiment arguments, and take them as equivalent to the violence committed by Muslims at the behest of their faith:

Harris extends his argument by suggesting that the racial profiling of Muslims and judicial torture of terrorists may be ethical in what he calls “our war on terror”. At its extreme, he contends that “Muslims pose a special problem for nuclear deterrence” because theologically they don’t fear death. He reasons they are immune to the usual logic of Mutually Assured Destruction. Therefore, if an Islamist government acquired nuclear weapons, then “a nuclear first strike of our own” may be “the only course of action available to us”. The irony in this argument, which began with the declaration that religion is uniquely violent, is apparently missed by Harris, who has since qualified his position on torture as this:

My argument for the limited use of coercive interrogation (‘torture’ by another name) is essentially this: If you think it is ever justifiable to drop bombs in an attempt to kill a man like Osama bin Laden (and thereby risk killing and maiming innocent men, women, and children), you should think it may sometimes be justifiable to water-board a man like Osama bin Laden (and risk abusing someone who just happens to look like him).

Harris hasn’t called for torture, but simply discussed scenarios in which torture might be acceptable.

At the end of this execrable piece, Foster and Megoran equate the use of violence with advocating violence. And yes, violence may be the proper response if you’re attacked by people, but fighting against ISIS is not the equivalent of doing what ISIS does. The authors’ call for “nuance” is a call that invariably means “let’s go easy on religion”:

Our research demonstrates the paradox that although New Atheists claim that their ideology is more enlightened and peaceful than religion, they often end up advocating violence. This is because they exhibit a simplistic view of the world as being divided between two civilisations – secular and religious – which cannot coexist. In this, ironically, they arguably mirror the hardline religious leaders whom they so vociferously denounce.

Fifteen years after the invasion of Iraq and the chaos it unleashed, it is clear that there needs to be a more nuanced understanding of Middle Eastern societies and politics. Those nuances are as unlikely to be found in the analysis of fundamentalist atheists as they are in their religious antagonists.

I’ve been to many atheist meetings now, and I’ve never heard—not even once—a call for violence against religionists. In contrast, in the mosques and madrasses of the world you’ll hear that every day.

h/t: Michael

88 Comments

  1. busterggi
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Why yes, I burn witches every weekend and heretics/non-militant atheists every other Sunday.

    • GBJames
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      I roast at least one baby a month to celebrate the 13th.

      • busterggi
        Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        Yeah but that’s just good cookin’.

      • Posted July 27, 2018 at 6:51 am | Permalink

        I thought we were supposed to eat them raw.

        • GBJames
          Posted July 27, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink

          Not since we became civilized!

          • Posted July 28, 2018 at 6:21 am | Permalink

            I thought we weren’t meant to be civilised. Religionists keep telling me that without God I am no better than an animal (which is technically true).

  2. Posted July 26, 2018 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Religious problem is the very dangerous problem in every country, people must have to understand, there is no god/ or if the god in the earth then God can be only one, either Christian, Muslim or Hindu, Buddhist believers.

  3. Ken Pidcock
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    We argue that the three supported this war because they read global politics through the lens of their atheism.

    It is genuinely irresponsible for anyone to make that argument and, of course, anyone making such an argument to explain a Christian’s support of the war would be justifiably pilloried.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      “It is genuinely irresponsible for anyone to make that argument . . .

      I agree completely and thought the same as I read it in the OP.

      These authors are full of it in about 6 different ways.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      It’s not through the lenses of their atheism; it’s through the lenses of modernism and Enlightenment values that Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris read global politics.

    • GBJames
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      There’s some evidence, though, for exactly that: a Christian’s religious justification for the war.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 27, 2018 at 1:47 am | Permalink

        That had crossed my mind too, the moment I read the original quote.

        cr

  4. Historian
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    The necessity of violence under certain circumstances is built into some religions. It is not built into atheism because, as been pointed out countless times, atheism is the belief that there is insufficient evidence to give credence to the existence of gods and nothing more. There is no cause and effect between atheism and the call for violence. I am not even sure there is even a correlation. The fact that some atheists may call for violence when it is not warranted says nothing about the nature of atheism since atheism and violent tendencies are independent of each other. I don’t think it would be hard to find many atheists who opposed this country’s adventures in the Middle East.

    Also, the authors are wrong in saying that the secular and the religious cannot co-exist. The secular and religious have co-existed in the United States since its founding, albeit uneasily at times. What atheists are saying is that religion is a myth and that its adherents have attempted to demonize (pun intended) atheists and the secular and this should stop. Moreover, the religious should not attempt to impose their values on others. But, for me at least, I don’t care if the religious must wallow in their delusions to get through the day. Just don’t drag me into the mud.

    • Angel
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      ++

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      “Moreover, the religious should not attempt to impose their values on others.”

      Indeed. Especially since it has been proven that many religious values are dubious at best.

      This is becoming a huge problem under Trump. The “new” HHS dept. is headed and made up of anti-women’s healthcare zealots. They want to ban abortion, contraceptives and basic reproductive health for women. Like most departments under Trump, their function is to undo what the department is charged to do. In light of the border debacle and losing 1,500 children they should rename HHS The Ministry of Love. HHS also tried (unsuccessfully) to stop funding Obama’s programs aimed at reducing teen pregnancy. Then there was the action to stop Foreign Aid and thus weaken the US’s soft power; this was also a result of religious values. As was the attempted ban and boot of trans recruits and soldiers. There is no separation of church and state in this administration; they are actually wielding wrecking-balls against the state in favor of the church. And then we have the recent SCOTUS decision which sided with a religious bigot; I know it was a narrow ruling, but we’ll see more of these cases. It seems like there is some kind of Theocractic coup going on, and it’s pretty damn unnerving.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

      Well said Historian.

      Excellent post Jerry.

  5. Posted July 26, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    That article reeks of the stench of self-loathing oikophobia so common among the Left: the belief that the West is irredeemably imperialist & colonialist, and that in every international conflict in history, the West has played the role of evil white oppressor to the saintly, mild-mannered brown folk.

    But their real gripe is that the ‘New’ atheists direct criticism against islam — note the article only mentions such — and moslems are one of the regressive left’s pet protected species.

    • nicky
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that is something I still have difficulty with.
      How can ‘progressives’ smooch with the most patriarchal, misogynistic, expansionist, homophobic, reactionary, belligerent, genocidal and supremacist ideology there is?

      • Posted July 26, 2018 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

        Like the host bird responding to the cuckoo chick’s gaping maw and raucous begging, SJWs are overstimulated by the sight of a put-upon ‘brown’ group.

        That, and it’s identity politics all the way down.

      • Posted July 26, 2018 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

        Yes, it is amazing and somewhat analogous to the GOP’s sudden embrace of Putin and Russia.

  6. W.T. Effingham
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Not wanting to nit-pick here…But the cartoon’s third panel might make a better point substituting the beverage with a copy of Faith vs Fact.

    • nwalsh
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Kinda disagree. I like the beverage. It’s who we are.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      No – God forbid. You’d then need to put a Qur’an in frame 1 & a Bibble Babble in frame 2. A beer down the pub with sceptics is the umbrella under which atheism & humanism is promulgated in the UK & long may that be so!

      SKEPTICS IN THE PUB

      • W.T. Effingham
        Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        Ok, I agree in principle. I personally don’t drink anymore or anyless now than I did back in my pre-wife&kids life. It’s just the babble thumper stigma of “worthless drunks” so prevalent out here in flyover central.BTW, do you know how to keep a Baptist fishing partner from drinking all of your beer? Make sure to have at least one more member of his flock along.

        • nwalsh
          Posted July 26, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

          🙂

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 27, 2018 at 1:50 am | Permalink

        Cheers!

        😎

        cr

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      Much as I’m a fan of FvF, we don’ need no stinkin’ holy texts.

  7. Posted July 26, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    There’s a lot to dislike in this article but I find its ending most objectionable:

    “Fifteen years after the invasion of Iraq and the chaos it unleashed, it is clear that there needs to be a more nuanced understanding of Middle Eastern societies and politics. Those nuances are as unlikely to be found in the analysis of fundamentalist atheists as they are in their religious antagonists.”

    What exactly are “fundamentalist atheists” and what nuances are we missing? I guess we can seek some solace in that our “religious antagonists” are missing them also. My guess is the nuances they are talking about are to be found in the authors’ anti-colonialism trope. In their view, neither side has the right to comment on Muslim religion and society. Instead, both Muslims and non-Muslims should be calling out the destructive aspects of both.

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I would say these authors need to find something to do. They see proof of something where it does not even exist. Who went to war in Iraq? A Christian and his followers.
    The war in Afghanistan was originally a hunt for the people who attacked us. Did not matter what religion they were. Our error was in staying, not in going. The fact that one atheist, Harris made some statements about terrorists and torture that most all others do not agree with means very little and it does not necessarily mean a call to violence by Harris. I am also guessing that most atheists were against the war in Iraq and the fact that Hitch and a few others were for it does not call for violent actions coming from atheists.

  9. BJ
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Lest anybody forget, picking Iraq as the country to wage war against for the cause of a larger war against Islam is idiotic. Saddam’s government was a secular one. If they had picked almost any other country in the Middle East, the argument this paper makes would at least have slightly more credence, even though it would still be bullshit. But, since Saddam’s government was secular and brutal, and since it was a mostly Muslim country, I guess we can now both blame the Iraq War on atheists trying to wage war against Islam and we can blame Saddam’s atrocities on atheism/secularism!

    • BJ
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Also, among it’s many other problems, this paper intentionally does what so many of Harris’/New Atheists’ opponents have done before and will continue to do in the future: take Sam Harris’ exploration of moral/ethical questions out of context to portray him as endorsing the objectionable choice. Sam Harris likes to explore difficult questions of morality, using real-world examples. In today’s world, it’s dangerous to do any such explorations in public because enemies — be they in media or bloggers or social media mobs — will see them and remove all context to use it as a weapon against you. We rarely see these interesting and important conversations anymore because people are too afraid to have them. I’m glad Sam Harris still has the courage to discuss anything he wants.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 27, 2018 at 2:08 am | Permalink

        Agreed. Sam has a habit of taking things to their logical, uncomfortable conclusions.

        Like, would you kill Hitler? How about a 5-year-old Hitler, if you knew what he was going to do when he grew up? Could you? Should you?

        Obviously there’s a line to be drawn, but the whole question is where.

        But really this is a question of ethics and has little to do with atheism.

        cr

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted July 27, 2018 at 2:10 am | Permalink

          (I’m not saying Sam has made that exact point, though he may have. It was just the first example of a moral quandary that sprung to mind).

          cr

    • nicky
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      I doubt whether Mr Saddam’s regime was really secular, at least he payed lip-service to the Faith, if not more.
      That being said, I fully agree for the rest.
      The invasion of Iraq was totally unwarranted. (not just with hindsight, I did think it was a bad idea at the time). Contrary to Afghanistan’s Taliban, the Baath regime in Iraq did not sympathise with Al Qaeda, on the contrary.

      • phil
        Posted July 27, 2018 at 2:05 am | Permalink

        There is the Blood Koran, which doesn’t really prove anything and mostly just clouds the issue, but it does suggest SH’s Iraq regime was not entirely secular. He was at least taking on a veneer of faith.

        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umm_al-Qura_Mosque

    • JezGrove
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      Too true. Sadly ‘Dubya’ was happy to conflate the 9/11 attacks with pappy’s unfinished business in Iraq. Hmmm, that worked out well…!

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 27, 2018 at 1:58 am | Permalink

      Yes, kind of ironic that Dubya chose to attack the one country that had the least sympathy with Al Qaeda, and ended up strengthening the cause of Islamic extremism.

      cr

      • GBJames
        Posted July 27, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

        Dubs wasn’t the sharpest blade in the drawer. But at the moment he seems like a major intellect. Sigh.

  10. Jon Gallant
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Christopher Hitchens, in his autobiography “Hitch 22”, publicly expressed approval of the violent actions of his father, an officer in the Royal Navy, who took part in World War II. Moreover Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins have all gone so far, in their war-mongering writings, to use the term “war” in connection with the protest activities of religious campaigners like Osama Bin Laden. Others have gone even further. For example, the designers of the World Trade Towers (who may have been atheists) deliberately placed them in the way of those airplanes piloted by peaceful religious activists.

    • nicky
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      🙂

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 27, 2018 at 2:29 am | Permalink

      Sarcasm aside, the World Trade Center collapse could have happened quite by accident at any time after the towers were built (though probably not to both on the same day).

      Could it happen by accident? Most certainly.
      During WW2, a bomber did hit the Empire State Building. Using modern super-accurate navigation, Air New Zealand managed to fly a DC-10 into Mt Erebus. And, at the time the towers were being built, the Boeing 747 was already in service, with at least the weight and fuel load of the 767’s that actually hit them.

      Whether the tower designers should have foreseen this, or changed their design to be less vulnerable, is arguable.

      cr

      • alexander
        Posted July 27, 2018 at 2:54 am | Permalink

        Is it true that the Trump Tower in NY is the highest “only-concrete” building without a steel frame in the US?

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted July 27, 2018 at 9:52 am | Permalink

          Trump tower is ‘the first skyscraper with a concrete frame’ (Wikipedia). So, very possibly true.

          Of course it will still incorporate a massive tonnage of steel in the reinforcing bars without which no modern concrete building is ever built.

          That might possibly make it more resistant to fire-induced collapse.

          cr

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted July 27, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          432 Park Avenue, NYC is a marginally taller concrete structure

      • Posted July 27, 2018 at 8:04 am | Permalink

        It’s almost certain that the WTC designers did foresee the possibility of a plane crash and made design decisions weighing up the probability of it happening and the likely cost if it did against the costs of making it invulnerable to aeroplane strikes.

        As it was, it is estimated that there were at least 17,000 people in the towers when the plane hit. This means that they stayed up long enough to evacuate 15,000 people, which is a testament to the strength of the buildings IMO.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted July 27, 2018 at 9:29 am | Permalink

          Yes, the buildings were strong enough to resist the initial impact. What brought them down was not impact damage (by itself) but the fuel-initiated fire. In fact in some professional opinions (they’re canvassed on the Wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collapse_of_the_World_Trade_Center )
          the fires themselves would have been enough even without any impact damage. Further, the fuel was all consumed within a few minutes, and it was the burning of the building contents (which lasted for much longer) which softened the steel sufficiently to initiate the collapse.

          So more emphasis on fire protection could have made a difference.

          Had the aircraft hit lower down, thus cutting off more upper floors, the casualties would have been much higher. The design which concentrated all the lifts and stairs in the centre core meant that, once that had been impacted by the aircraft, the floors above were cut off. Maybe high rises should be required by law to have emergency stairs in at least two widely separated locations?

          (Admittedly this is hindsight. But it could certainly happen again – never mind Al Qaeda, the potential for another – accidental – impact is still there, with thousands of aircraft of 767 size and bigger flying).

          cr

        • Posted July 27, 2018 at 9:45 am | Permalink

          I doubt they really seriously considered making the buildings endure a plane crashing into them. They were built before terrorism was a big concern.

          They were built to withstand a major fire and not collapse, so they failed at that. I saw an interesting program that went into the details of what happened in each building. Interestingly, they failed in different ways. In one the center failed and brought the outside down and in the other, the opposite. One of the causes of the failure was the coating surrounding the steel beams, which was supposed to protect them, actually fell off, allowing the steel to be directly heated by the fire and eventually it failed.

          • GBJames
            Posted July 27, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

            But they weren’t built before airplanes were flying around in clouds.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted July 27, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

            Yes, unprotected steel is a definite no-no in a fire.

            But – terrorism aside – there is always the chance of a plane hitting a high building quite by accident. The WTC is almost in line with one of the runways of Kennedy Airport and just ten miles away.

            cr

  11. Posted July 26, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  12. Roger
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Everyone worships something. Atheists worship spaghetti. You always see spaghetti in violent gangster movies.

  13. Posted July 26, 2018 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Popular support for the Western action in Afghanistan after 9/11 was about 66% in the UK (according to polls).

    It’s rather silly to claim that there’s anything significant about a “New Atheist” also being in support of something that was a majority opinion.

    And any mention of Dan Dennett? Let me guess, they omitted him because he doesn’t fit the picture they want to draw?

  14. darrelle
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    This article appears to be a straightforward hit piece on atheism. The authors display many of the cliché and incorrect characterizations of atheism and atheists that religious believers having been telling each other for hundereds, perhaps thousands of years so that they can comfortably other them while maintaining their own sanctity. Also fairly typical, they seem to be either ignorant of history or editing it to suit their purposes. Hard to say if these two authors are lying for religion or are actually as ignorant as they portray themselves in the article.

    For one example, from near the beginning of the article . . .

    ”This modern European atheism promised emancipation from superstition – but quickly morphed into extreme violence. At the apex of the French Revolution, the Jacobin government implemented the original “reign of terror” in its murderous effort to impose state atheism.

    WTF? The Jacobins were a mix of many groups many of which, including Robespierre himself, were opposed to both The Church (as in the RCC) and atheism. Heck, they started their own religious cult and the one group of atheists among the revolutionaries, Hébertist party, were sent to the guillotine in part because ole Robespierre strongly disapprove of their atheism. They were opposed to the RCC not because they were atheists and wanted to promote atheism but because the RCC was a political and social rival.

    When you see this at the beginning of the article it doesn’t put you in a receptive mood for what follows. But of course the authors are aiming at folks who don’t need to be convinced that atheism is bad.

    • AC Harper
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      It made me so mad that I wanted to violently make a nice cup of tea and nibble a biscuit (that’s a cookie to USAsians).

  15. nicky
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    What I’m wondering, what could have motivated Nick Megoran and Russell Foster write this filthy pamphlet at all? It is not as if they are supported by Templeton, aren’t they?

  16. Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m a atheist and I approve of the D Day invasion. I guess that counts too ….

    • phil
      Posted July 27, 2018 at 2:15 am | Permalink

      Yeah. Just what was the correct response to Nazi aggression? Ok, you can have Sudetenland. Ok and Poland. Yeah ok you can have Belgium and Holland. France, well if you insist.

      The case is much the same for Japan.

      The Allies did not start WW2, they were responding to invasion accompanied by some appalling atrocities. In the broad WW2 was a just war against various tyrannies. No it certainly wasn’t a tidy affair and all protagonists did not adhere to the highest moral principles, in fact neither side did. But it was IMO a justified war.

  17. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    … (they also mention the old canard that the USSR committed violence in the name of atheism) …

    The USSR didn’t commit violence because of its atheism, but because of its Marxism — or, more specifically, because of its particular Soviet perversion of Marxism. Even though it was a perversion of his doctrine, Marx himself bears the brunt of the blame. He preached (and I use the term advisedly) the historical inevitability of the proletarian class’s victory over the bourgeoisie. Having history on one’s side (like having God on one’s side) imbues one with a religious zeal that will countenance nearly any atrocity.

    Aside from this, Marxism is essentially utopian — from each according to his ability, to each according to his need — and, of course, wrong.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      And the final step is to do away with government altogether. Anyone anywhere think the Soviet government would ever have done that? Or any government composed of humans? Yeah Marx was wrong about a few things but I think the biggest problem was that he was hopelessly naive.

      • alexander
        Posted July 26, 2018 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think that Marx was naive, he responded to a situation of the working class population–powerless, subdued, and exploited, that existed around the middle of the 19th century in England, a situation we have completely forgotten and cannot imagine in 2018! Well, not entirely, look at the situation of migrant workers from the far East in certain countries of the Arabian peninsula, for example, or construction workers, practically enslaved, in China.

        • darrelle
          Posted July 27, 2018 at 7:43 am | Permalink

          I don’t disagree significantly with your characterizations of Marx’s motivations, but I do think he was naive about human nature with respect to the final step of pure communism. Of course, perhaps he was well aware that his ideas were unrealistic.

          Actually, I think Marx was naive about even the basics of communism. Naive in the same way that Libertarianism (at least the “strong” kind) and many other political philosophies are. They require unrealistic assumptions about human nature to be true in order to work.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 27, 2018 at 2:37 am | Permalink

      “Aside from this, Marxism is essentially utopian — from each according to his ability, to each according to his need — and, of course, wrong.”

      Why is that wrong? It strikes me as the epitome of social responsibility.

      Now it may, as you say, be utopian – though almost every modern country’s tax regime and social services are based on exactly that principle.

      It may also be impractical to apply it in its ‘pure’ form without making compromises for a reasonable degree of self-interest.

      But I can’t see where it’s wrong (to anybody but an extreme right-wing fanatic and I know you’re not that)

      cr

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 27, 2018 at 9:47 am | Permalink

        I think Marx was brilliant in his critique of capitalism (about which he had many favorable things to say, contrary to popular conceptions). Where he went wrong, I think, was in his prescriptive analysis for replacing it.

        • busterggi
          Posted July 27, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

          But it works so well for ants, termites and bees – what could go wrong?

        • Posted July 27, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          Indeed (re: Marx favourable to capitalism).

          And Smith is in favour of a lot of things that get labeled ‘socialism’ in the US, too.

          (You want a *real* radical that nobody notices, read Tom Paine.)

  18. Posted July 26, 2018 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m not a fan of the New Atheists (or even the old atheists), but the notion that they are advocates of violence against religion is just nonsense. The worst I might say of the creation-deniers’ position is that it does violence to reason, like a man leaving the Louvre and commenting, “Lots of wonderful art in there, but I could find no evidence of an artist.” But I’ve never heard an atheist, New or otherwise, advocating for or inflicting physical harm on anyone in the name of atheism. That, I’m afraid, remains the prerogative of religious fanatics.

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted July 26, 2018 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      You have disregarded the photo illustrating the op ed – a picture of Dawkins in front of sign saying ‘There’s probably no God. Stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ You can’t get much more dogmatic and violently menacing than that.

      Just as well they didn’t find all those news photos of Dawkins waving his ‘Behead the Believers’ placard.

    • phil
      Posted July 27, 2018 at 2:28 am | Permalink

      ‘The worst I might say of the creation-deniers’ position is that it does violence to reason, like a man leaving the Louvre and commenting, “Lots of wonderful art in there, but I could find no evidence of an artist.”’

      WTF? I agree, there might be little evidence of artists actually painting in the Louvre but we have plenty of evidence of artists elsewhere that anyone can adduce. By contrast there is no worthwhile evidence that the universe has a creator. If anyone is doing violence to reason it is creationists.

      As (Grace Hopper (or perhaps Carl Sagan, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, Marianne Moore, E. E Cummings, William Allan Neilson, Walter Kotschnig, Samuel Butler, G. K. Chesterton, Max Radin or James Oberg) said (something like) ‘You need to keep an open mind but not so open your brains fall out.’

      • Posted July 27, 2018 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        Definitely not G. K. Chesterton, who did say “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” He might also have said, “If there were no creator, there would be no creatures,” but I think that was what I was saying before my brains fell out. 😊

        • phil
          Posted July 29, 2018 at 2:18 am | Permalink

          Not sure what the point of that is, however there are many atheists who believe there is no god, and if they are right (which seems likely) then Chesteron is simply spouting rubbish. In fact, if there were no god and nobody thought there was then everybody would be an atheist.

          As for “creator” and “creatures”, that is simply an artifact of an old and discredited notion that animals, etc are created by some purposeful divine being. Again we have no credible evidence of the creator but the so called “creatures” have not disappeared.

  19. Posted July 26, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    The thing that leapt out to me in their bullshit was this:

    This modern European atheism promised emancipation from superstition – but quickly morphed into extreme violence. At the apex of the French Revolution, the Jacobin government implemented the original “reign of terror” in its murderous effort to impose state atheism.

    The Jacobins weren’t atheists, they were deists. They executed the leaders of the Cult of Reason in part because they explicitly objected to the cult’s atheism, instead establishing the Cult of the Supreme Being.

    Seriously does nobody edit the US Conversation for this sort of thing?

    • phil
      Posted July 27, 2018 at 2:29 am | Permalink

      Truth is unimportant to most who boost religion.

  20. Posted July 26, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Someone may have already pointed this out; but they also selectively quote Harris on this one (one of the quotes from TEOF most likely to be selectively quoted:

    There is in fact no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified killing them in self defence. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.

    Here’s the full quote.

    The power that belief has over our emotional lives appears to be total. For every emotion that you are capable of feeling, there is surely a belief that could invoke it in a matter of moments. Consider the following proposition:

    Your daughter is being slowly tortured in an English jail.

    What is it that stands between you and the absolute panic that such a proposition would loose in the mind and body of a person who believed it? Perhaps you do not have a daughter, or you know her to be safely at home, or you believe that English jailors are renowned for their congeniality. Whatever the reason, the door to belief has not yet swung upon its hinges.

    The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.

  21. AC Harper
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I wonder why the third member of the team didn’t add his name to the article?

  22. Mark Joseph
    Posted July 26, 2018 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    From chapter 2 of Christopher Hitchens’ book God is Not Great, page 18:

    A week before the events of September 11, 2001, I was on a panel with Dennis Prager, who is one of America’s better-known religious broadcasters. He challenged me in public to answer what he called a “straight yes/no question,” and I happily agreed. Very well, he said. I was to imagine myself in a strange city as the evening was coming on. Toward me I was to imagine that I saw a large group of men approaching. Now—would I feel safer, or less safe, if I was to learn that they were just coming from a prayer meeting? As the reader will see, this is not a question to which a yes/no answer can be given. But I was able to answer it as if it were not hypothetical. “Just to stay within the letter ‘B,’ I have actually had that experience in Belfast, Beirut, Bombay, Belgrade, Bethlehem, and Baghdad. In each case I can say absolutely, and can give my reasons, why I would feel immediately threatened if I thought that the group of men approaching me in the dusk were coming from a religious observance.”

  23. phil
    Posted July 27, 2018 at 2:43 am | Permalink

    ‘After all, if all the evils in the world can be blamed on religion, then arguably eliminating religion is not only desirable but a moral obligation for atheists who believe in peace.’

    I’m offended by the all-too-common and patently false accusation that atheists believe that “all the evils in the world can be blamed on religion” (along with atheists believe there is no god, and atheists are angry with god, and so on).

    Consider that we, atheists and others, tend to agree that crime, drugs, violence, war and corruption (to name but a few) are evils that the world would be better off without, so we work to reduce their negative impacts on societies in various ways. So it is with religion, for atheists. Atheists do not think ALL evils are the result of religion, but that religion is the source of much unnecessary evil that can and should be eliminated.

  24. phil
    Posted July 27, 2018 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    Funny. At the top of the page is The Conversation’s motto:
    Academic rigour, journalistic flair

    Yeah well they certainly missed on the academic rigour here.

  25. Posted July 27, 2018 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    It’s a good thing that the odious PZ Myers lacks the intellect and writing ability to become one of the Four Horsemen after Hitch’s untimely demise. He actually does write violent fantasies.

    • phil
      Posted July 29, 2018 at 2:20 am | Permalink

      Like The Coutier’s Reply for example?

      • phil
        Posted July 29, 2018 at 2:21 am | Permalink

        Oops! Left out an r.

        Arrrr!

  26. Posted July 27, 2018 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I found their (Megoran and Foster’s) conclusion to be a non-sequitur: “they [New Atheists] often end up advocating violence… This is because they exhibit a simplistic view of the world as being divided between two civilisations… which cannot coexist”. It doesn’t follow that having a simplistic world view would lead to advocating violence.

    Unless any simplistic world view leads to advocating violence? I have a rather simplistic world view that about human nature… now where did I leave my humanity killing tools…

  27. Posted July 27, 2018 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    So what. Even if some of the finger pointing is true, atheists, new, old, or otherwise, are human, subject to all the foibles of the species.
    For instance, there might just be the few “atheistic” sadists about but i’d shove them in the bin with individuals who don’t believe in any sanctity of life, other than themselves and not a lot about being atheist.
    So i agree DUMB! we are nowhere with this, except to say, we are better off basing our direction on empiricism and reason than fairytales.

  28. Posted July 28, 2018 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    I really like the comic.

  29. Posted July 30, 2018 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Just for balance on the issue of Palestinian children being taught to shoot Israelis, see here:
    https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israeli-police-teach-schoolchildren-how-shoot-palestinians

    Of course there is religion on both sides of that conflict, but a lot of other stuff besides religion.

    • Malgorzata
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      This is a classic example how to lie with small parts of truth. Yes, police are coming to Israeli schools and among many other activities children are shooting with paint balls into targets. Yes, somebody placed images of Arab terrorists (look at the picture – they are not civilians) but even this (rightly) was deemed too horrid by their commander and by the teachers, and images were taken down before kids came. Not one child has seen them, much less shooting at them. An inquiry by Israeli authorities is under way how this happened. But Electronic Intifada already broadcast that Israeli police are teaching Israeli kids to shoot to Arabs—and you decided to believe it and broadcast it here without checking the facts.

  30. gretchenskepticreview
    Posted August 14, 2018 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Skeptic Review and commented:
    Excellent debunking by Jerry Coyne on the violence of “new atheists.”


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