Are the "New Atheists" Bigoted Tools of Empire?

The part about New Atheists starts at the bottom of page one.

At the forefront of this modern scientific racism have been those prominently known as the "new atheist" scientists and philosophers.

... the most prominent new atheists slide with ease into the most virulent racism imaginable.

While one could cite Richard Dawkins' descriptions of "Islamic barbarians" and Christopher Hitchens' outright bloodlust towards Muslims ... these ... are ... not the most representative of this modern phenomena.

... the most illustrative demonstration of the new brand of scientific racism must be said to come from the popular author and neuroscientist Sam Harris. Among the most publicly visible of the new atheists, in the case of Muslims Harris has publicly stated his support for torturepre-emptive nuclear weapons strikes, and the security profiling of not just Muslims themselves, but in his own words "anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim".

What Harris and those like him represent is the time-honoured tradition of weaponised racism in the guise of disinterested scientific observation.

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Replies to This Discussion

Sam Harris was misinterpreted by his critics, explains Hemant Metha. This rebuttal sounds reasonable to me. I feel mislead.

Criticism of Islam Is Not ‘Islamophobia’

... Both pieces take Harris wildly out of context ...

As Harris suggests on his site, this is a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation for him. He writes about Christianity and his critics say he’s not brave enough to go after Islam. He writes about Islam and they call him a racist.

This is one of the main things many theists don’t understand about New Atheism (or, as the rest of us refer to it, “atheism”): We’re not against your god. We’re not against your religion. We’re critical of belief in all gods and all religions. We’re equal opportunity unbelievers.

These aren’t personal attacks, either. They’re, at best, persuasive arguments against rigid thinking.

Ruth, I often feel mislead.  In addition, there is an arrogance about "new atheism" that is difficult for me to get around.  And finally, "racism" is among the most damning of accusations that we can make.  Along with sexism  and a few others, but in this case, racism.  It puts people on the defensive and can be applied in all sorts of different, honest and dishonest, ways.

As for Harris, I have mixed feelings.  I think he's brilliant.  I don't always agree with him.  His earlier writings emboldened me as an atheist.  Along with Hitchens.  

As for "new atheism", I wonder if I belong in it at all.  I am more along the lines of Ingersoll, who has as much to say as any of the current generation.  Strongly antiracist, antisexist, anti clergical, ,his rants uplift me and give me confidence in free thought.  He was also braver than a lot of "internet atheists" who can hide behind their ISP whereas Ingersoll spoke before large crowds in an era when freethought was more heretical than now.

Mehta is someone who I read almost daily.  One of the few.  He is intelligent and thoughtful, and seems to be good hearted as well.  And appears modest, compared to the arrogance of some of the others.

My thought about anti-Islam sentiment and race....

First, defining race in the traditional sense, which is a social construct, but there are still "racist" people even though "race" per se doesn't exist (so confusing) - Islam spans ethnicities and races.  Somali and Nigerian muslims are known to practice Sharia atrocity as well as Afghani and Arab muslims can.  In Turkey, which is Muslim and not Arab or Persian, Islam has been a milder version for a century.  Turkey is a nation of laws, imperfect but hardly on the model of Saudi Arabia.  Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, and is not Arab but rather Pacific Islander.  So where do we go with that?

On the other hand, to not have strong antipathy toward abuses from religion / religious leaders / religious influenced mobs, seems pretty antihumanist.  "They are christian, so I can criticize them" but "They are muslim and it's racist to criticize them" seems self defeating and dishonest.  Having viewed descriptions of atrocities performed in the name of Islam, and promoted by muslim leaders too many to count, I can't help but consider Islam a scourge on humanity.

So then back to race.  If a majority of muslims are middle eastern (which is not a race and Islam really comprises many ethnic groups including not middle eastern, including Arabic Turkic, Pacific Islander, Indian/Pakistani, African, Chinese, and even some Europeans) - then is criticism of Islam racist?   To say so would be to eviscerate humanist aspirations of free thought (Islam is anti-free thought), womens rights (Islam is highly sexist), human dignity (human individuals aren't worth much in Islam), antiwar sentiments (Islam might claim to be peaceful but looking at the behaviors I think otherwise).  

I did not read the links to Harris about "anyone who looks muslim" which would bother me, as well as torture and nuclear weapons.  It would depend on the context, and I might well disagree with that, and disagree with Harris.  But that doesn't necessarily make it racist.

I'm probably talking in circles here and blathering.  I'll blame post anesthesia encephalopathy, while I still can.

ps.  thank you for posting this  I saw it on Friendly Atheist and somewhere else, forget where.  Didn't know if there would be much interest on Nexus.

I don't believe in any religion and have issues with most of them. But my main issue with Muslims is that I believe the vast majority are peaceful people but they let the fanatics define who they are. Can you imagine what the world would be like if all billion Muslims were terrorist? Some Christians would have us to believe that all Muslims are terrorist or potential terrorist. Another issue I have with Muslims is if you accuse them of being violent and intolerant they prove the point by committing violent acts against those who dare speak of it.

Eddie, this is an important point.

I imagine in any large category of people we could name as intolerant, there are the leaders, egging on and inciting violence, there are those who carry it out, there are those who are enablers, quietly supporting and in agreement with the intolerance, and there are the just ordinary people who want to be left alone to live their lives.  I don't know the proportions.

To Eddie's point, I tend to agree. There are obviously not 1 billion Muslim terrorists in the world, but they let the fanatics define who they are. Same with Christians. I daresay most Christians have no clue what is being done to gays around the world, and especially in Africa (more precisely Uganda) in their name. However, where I do agree with Sam Harris is that the  "moderates" of all denominations, give legitimate cover to the fanatics of their own order.

"Really folks. My religion of (fill in the blank) is really one of peace, brotherhood and tolerance. It's a terrible shame that these fanatics (Jihadists, Westboro Baptist, Hasidim, etc.) give the rest of us a bad name. We're not at all like that."

Problem is, the beliefs which are the foundation for those creeds are the very ones which justify the jihadists, Westboro Baptists, Hasidim, etc. They're the ones who are being literal about this stuff. The "moderates" love to cherry pick their way around these foundational teachings, and then tell us they're the "true representatives" of their faith. It's not how you rationalize away the gruesomeness, but rather the existence of the gruesome teachings themselves. 



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