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Some New Atheist arguments dovetail nicely with extreme right-wing views on military intervention in Muslim-majority countries.

April 3, 2013  |

Scientific racism is a term seldom used today but which has a long and ignoble history in the modern world. In the late 18th century, the renowned scientist and philosopher Christoph Meiners published his famous treatise The Outline and History of Mankind. Central to his analysis was a qualitative comparison of peoples by race - a comparison which his own popularly-accepted findings claimed revealed a clear hierarchy.

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Hey Steph! Good question. I would argue that the "new atheists", specifically Sam Harris and Chris Hitchens, are/were NOT racists. However, they might be Islamophobes, of this I am not quite certain. I disliked Hitchens' politics, and it seems like they were a more extreme version of Harris' own politics, of which I am also wary. He may be basically correct - Islam, as well as any religion, is dangerous and we ought to fight against them in the best way we know how. What makes me wonder about Sam Harris is whether he knows what the best means of fighting religions are. Do we want to use rhetoric about pre-emptive nuclear strikes, rhetoric which may only have the result of hardening their right, and ours, and even alienating much of their left and ours? Or should we take a more nuanced approach? I much prefer the latter. If we are in a war of ideas, then the battlefield is primarily in people's "hearts and minds", and the way you win people over is by presenting a soft front, not a hard front. While religions are ultimately false, we could do a lot more good for the world by stressing what it is religions have in common with secularism instead of dismissing them outright as irrational and completely deluded. It turns out there is a lot of good philosophy in religions, despite the mountains of crap you've got to sift through, and there are mountains of crap you've got to sift through in secular philosophies as well. I am afraid of religions, I am afraid of Islam, and so by definition one could conceivably call me an Islamophobe, but I don't handle my fear of Muslims by berating them wholesale or even make the suggestion of calling for any kind of aggression against them, primarily for fear of turning into the very thing I hate. I think Sam Harris just may benefit from a more tolerant approach. Its like the old analogy of how you lead a stubborn horse. you can't pull him forwards, he just locks his legs and becomes completely implacable. But if you pull him sideways back and forth, eventually you can get him to go where you want him to.




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