There is an amazing piece at Alternet (amazing and amazingly silly) by one Robert Wright positing that although the overwhelming majority of atheists are left-leaning in their political stances, the leaders of the "New Atheism," Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris, are "right wing hawks." I say amazingly silly because participtation in this online community convinces me that atheists come in all colors and have a wide disparity of political leanings and geopolitical beliefs. So I resent the writer's generalizations. I also resent Wright's taking issue with the New Atheists' (and particularly Hitchens') argument that there would be no Iraeli-Palestinian conflict but for religion. Wright says this is "just plain wrong."

Hitchens et al. would argue that the proposition is demonstrably true. To begin with, the Israeli government refuses to set the stage for a two-state solution to the conflict by tacitly authorizing the colonialism run rampant in establishment of satellite communities in formerly Palestinian lands: the settlement issue. A recent article in The New Yorker told how the right wing fundamentalist religious groups actually fund the settlements; they've infiltrated the army and fund the building of the infrastructure, all with the government looking the other way. And when asked how they can do these things when it so obviously exacerbates tensions among the two ethnic groups, their answer is -- guess what? God told them so. They believe that God gave them the "Holy [or is that Holey?] Land" and that it is thus manifest destiny.

No wonder the evangelical dominionists here send moral and monetary support to the Israelis and join forces with their influential lobby in D.C. to do all that can be done to aid Israel at the expense of the Muslim peoples. These mindless halfwits have a vested interest in speeding up the Apocalypse (no matter that John of Patmos was writing about Nero Caesar) so that they can bring about their longed-for "Rupture, uh, I mean Rapture, the end times, when Jebus will save all the "good" people and punish all the "bad" people in a fiery conflagration. (As the nutty parochial preacher in Cold Comfort Farm was wont to put it, "It'll be hot there, and there wont be a drop to drink.")

If Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris are hawkish on Afghanistan, it is only because they view the Shariah-obsessed Taliban as a threat to world democracy. (One supposes these leading "New Atheists" would like to do away with the dominionists, too, but that is another war, not yet fought.) Mr. Wright should meet a few of us rather than simply judging all atheists by the writings of the three men he criticizes. I can't speak for all of us, but I am a bit left of Karl Marx, and I support the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Am I "just plain wrong"?

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Golly, you said a mouthful! You only left out the punishments meted out to two persons of the same sex who dare fall in love with each other. I think Harris's position is: all religion is bad, but Islam is the worst of the lot, since it claims instant ascent to paradise for jihadist martyrs, which not even the Israelis believe. (Actually, Harris has some kind words for Buddhism, but in its purist form, Buddhism is an ethical system, not a religion.) Harris and Hitchens both see Islam as the greatest threat to democracy; indeed, to the existence of the species. Harris in particular argues that it is impossible to defeat a foe that feels it has nothing to lose by dying. Think of those cheesy videos that jihadist martyrs do telling their wives (and, incrasingly, husbands) and families that they're going to paradise by blowing themselves up. How can an enemy like that be fought?

In the back of my mind I argue with myself: what if Bush attacked Iraq with the specific purpose of destabilizing the region so that Sunnis and Shiites (with Kurds as collateral damage) would wage an all-out war of attrition, doing their own brethren in to keep them distracted from attacks on a common enemy in the West? Dubya did say he was "taking the war to the Mideast so we won't have to fight them here." What if his Islamic intelligence advisors saw a plan to set sect against sect so that they would continually be at each others' throats and completely oblivious to al Qaeda's stated purpose of destroying the West?
That would submit to that administration a degree of foresight that I don't think they, or any group of people, demonstrably do not have.

Especially considering that they were doing just fine at killing each other and generating their sectarian violence all on their own.
I did say "in the back of my mind I argue with myself." In other words, I do not believe it either, but I have to consider the possiblities. The neocons in the administration all departed after the invasion began. That suggests that either they had obtained their objective or simply split because they didn't want to be connection with the stupidity of George W. Isn't the former more likely; don't forget, invasion of Iraq was a thing decided long before 9/11, which merely served as the casus belli to invade, along with the lies about a Sadam-al Qaida link, WMD'S, and so forth. Perhaps, having obtained what they wanted, the neocons simply saw no point in being linked further with the administration, knowing the heat it would take once we "caught on" to being lied to. I think I voted for Obama because he voted against support for the invasion, but that's another story. I am not saying either Dubya or Prick Cheney had any insight into the situation in the Mideast, but some of the neocons may have. One certainly doesn't hear a peep out of them nowadays. Whatever became of Wolfie, Feith, and Perle? Here is an interesting take on it all:
I admire and highly recommend Wright's books The Moral Animal and Non-Zero, but I think he's missing the mark a bit here. Clearly, there is now, if there wasn't originally (and of course there was), a significant religious basis for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are other factors, but dismissing the religious component is just silly.

On the other hand, I can't for the life of me understand Hitchens's consistent, strenuous support for the Iraq War. I'm pretty sure this will go down in history as America's biggest strategic and moral blunder, even worse than Viet Nam. I supported the invasion of Afghanistan and the toppling of the hateful Taliban. Had that, followed by the pursuit of al Qaeda, remained our focus, we would still have the support of most people around the world, including most Muslims, and bin Laden would almost certainly be dead by now. Instead, by attacking Iraq, Bush committed the US to an extremely perilous course of action and alienated the very people whose help we will need to root out the extremists in Muslim regions. Not to mention, of course, that preemptive invasion is the pretext used by all tyrants and aggressors, which puts us in some pretty crappy company, and is a clear violation of American ideals. I too considered the possibility that the Bush/Cheney junta invaded Iraq in order to revive the Shia/Sunni war started by Hussein and Khomeini, but I really just can't give them credit for having that many healthy brain cells between them. And even if they had succeeded in touching off a Sunni vs Shia Armageddon, I'm sure Muslims would have had plenty of hate left over for the US, after invading a country that didn't need it.

Of course Islam is a dangerous and violent cult. Arguably more so than Christianity and Judaism, but I'm not sure I'd take that bet for all time and in all places. Regardless, there are right ways and wrong ways to deal with dangerous and violent people. Our actions in Afghanistan represent (more or less) the right way. Our invasion of Iraq clearly represents the wrong way. Choosing our battles is important, even if we are a superpower.

And Jack, I liked your post, but I think you meant to say "audacity" in the two places where you had "tenacity".
Ah, you're right.

Learn something new everyday, thanks Jason.
Jason writes: "Of course Islam is a dangerous and violent cult. Arguably more so than Christianity and Judaism, but I'm not sure I'd take that bet for all time and in all places...."

Yes, yes! If you look at what happened in the 11th and 12th centuries, when Western Europe was organizing pogroms against not only Muslims but Jews in the Crusades to the Holy Land, ostensibly to protect Christians in pilgrimage to that place, then contrast the relatively benign behavior of Saladin, it is Christianity that emerges as the more dangerous and violent cult. During the Moorish occupation of Spain, Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived in peace and harmony (and contributed greatly to literature, art, mathematics, and science), so obviously having an Islamic government is not necessarily anti-democratic. Violent jihad may be a thing of our times. If one believed in reincarnation, one might see bin Laden as the avatar of Muhammed Ahmed.
Definitely agree with you about Alternet. About 4/5ths of its content is fine. Even MSNBC allows Pat Buchanan to express his views. One must be fair and balanced...unless, of course, you are Faux News, run by Rupert and the Boys.


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