My Winner of the Week this week was The Free World, an entity that is growing every day as freedom and democracy continue to spread. Long-term, as I said, I have no doubt that it is the values of secularism and humanism that will take hold. The behaviour of many though makes me realize it’s not going to happen in my lifetime. My Worry of the Week is Al-Qaeda, specifically AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) who this week published their latest edition of their on-line magazine, Inspire. Most worryingly, it seems Al-Qaeda is taking note of the success of DAESH – in the magazine is a call for the lone-wolf assassination of ten men associated with the business and finance world. These include Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Michael Bloomberg, Ben Bernake (former Federal Reserve chair), and the Koch brothers.
According to The Blaze, Inspire says these men could secure their safety and wealth by:
1. Drawing all their money from American banks, and moving them to banks that are not related to the American stock market.
2. Investing their wealth outside American soil.
3. Declaring via media that the are far from American policies toward Muslim and America’s support for Israel.
The magazine, issue 14, was released on Wednesday (9 September) and in it the editor, Yahya Ibrahim, after praising the actions of the brothers who committed the Charlie Hebdo massacre, wrote:
“… in the coming days we are waiting for the anniversary of … the blessed 9/11 operation. … We at Inspire, and in the cause of the events of 9/11, encourage the Muslims in the West to join the Lone Jihad caravan. … in this issue, we have presented for the Lone Mujahid ways and methods to enable him to give victory to the religion and the prophet.”
This is what Inspire published in issue 7, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 (Shaykh Usama is Osama bin Laden):
The magazine was first issued in the (northern) summer of 2010, and its appearance is extremely professional. (I downloaded the first twelve issues today – I wonder if I’m being checked out to see if I need to go on a watch list? Don’t worry guys, you didn’t miss anything. There really is nothing to find.)
It looks just like any other magazine with an editorial, questions from readers about jihad that are answered by imams, articles, and interviews. Instead of recipes though, they have instructions for making bombs. You can see on the cover of the first issue (left) that it includes something called, “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom.” That heading appears on page 33. Before they get down to the instructions, there is a page of Qur’anic justification for the murder of civilians. Then comes the seven pages of step by step instructions, with pictures. I only read the first couple of pages, but I could follow it easily. I assume if I kept reading and followed the instructions, I could make a pipe bomb
Each issue has something of the kind. From issue 7 I now have a detailed pdf, step-by-step, six pages long, on how to make a car bomb. It tells me, “If you are a martyrdom bomber, and you want to detonate the car bomb directly, use a manual switch that is operated by hand …” The article ends on a cheery note with these words in a blood red banner: “That’s all there is to it.”
That first issue also includes an article, supposedly by Osama bin Laden, warning of the dangers of climate change. It’s not inaccurate, but the rhetoric gets a bit carried away:
Many senior capitalists are characterized by wickedness and hardheartedness, and thus they don’t care about the human disasters caused by their economic activities. Words, conferences and demonstrations are of no use with such people.
… the corruption of the climate stems from the corruption of hearts and deeds, and there is a close relationship between the two types of corruption. We know that Allāh has punished peoples with tsunamis due to the corruption of their hearts and deeds and their disobedience to Allāh, the Most High; among them were Pharaoh and his people.
There’s a section in each magazine too about what to expect from jihad. They talk about some of the psychological problems they may face if they are unable to speak the local language, for example, because they are thus unable to socialize with their fellow mujaheddin. There’s also advice to bring a friend when you go to fight. (Two New Zealanders who were killed in Yemen fighting for AQAP had obviously followed this advice.) They tell you about the local customs and to make sure you learn them, and even what to pack. It’s all very matter-of-fact, as if they’re going on a tramping holiday and stopping at DOC huts along the way. Here’s some more of the advice:
The article that follows the one above is called ‘The Jihadi Experiences: The Schools of Jihad,’ and is a fascinating glimpse into the minds of the terrorists. I haven’t read much of the magazines yet – they’re 72 pages each. Some of what they write is, as you would expect, interesting, and I’ve no doubt accurate too. It’s what they plan to do about it that’s horrific, and a verse or verses from the Qur’an is used to justify every one of those actions.
There’s plenty of evidence that even though these men are intelligent and organized, their religiosity has led them to make some erroneous judgments. For example in this clip from page 9 of issue 8 (Summer 2011):
And this one from page 6 of issue 11 (Spring 2013):
It seems they consider that any natural disasters that occur on US soil, or any other of what they refer to in Inspire as “crusader nations,” are the vengeance of Allah.
The slogan of AQAP and Inspire is “Here we start, and in Jerusalem we meet.” Just today the BBC reports there was a small battle at Al-Aqsa mosque complex in Jerusalem between Israeli police and Palestinian youths. Fundamentalist Christian and Jewish sects believe in the End Times and a battle at Har-Megiddo, or Armageddon, which is in Palestine. Muslims have a different End Times myth. From IslamToday.net:
Muslims believe that there will be a great battle in the region of Greater Syria (Bilâd al-Shâm) – the countries of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan. It will be between the Muslims and the “Romans”. The Muslims will emerge triumphant after a very harsh battle.
This final battle will be in Jerusalem, and this is the meaning of the AQAP/Inspire slogan. (Most Muslims do not consider this is an event to look forward to.)
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, who has led the organization since the death of bin Laden, also released a recording on Wednesday. Although it’s possible the tape was made as long as eight months ago, his words confirmed that the primary goals of Al Qaeda are still to destroy the USA, establish Sharia throughout the Middle East, and to eliminate Shi’a Islam. In it he said he didn’t consider the DAESH caliphate valid, but he was prepared to work with them against their common enemies.
So I’m worried. Too many people (and even one is too many) have something missing from their lives that they feel can be filled by aligning themselves with groups like Al-Qaeda. It’s likely they took many different paths to get there, and sometimes it will be hard to see what that path was, but it’s the responsibility of all of society to do its best to make sure that doesn’t happen. There are small things everyone can do to make this world a better place to be, and if we all make an effort, terrorists and terrorism will die a natural death.
And yes, I know I’m being naïve and overly optimistic, but that’s better than turning into a negative and grumpy old bitch.
Update: I got this tweet in response to this post:
I don’t suppose anyone knows what it’s supposed to mean?
Great post Heather! al Qaeda has always made it clear why they target the USA: because of our meddling and military presence in Muslim countries. As long as we continue to support authoritarian dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, we will be targets. The US should abandon the notion that we can dictate events in the middle east, and try to resume the role of honest broker, rather than trying to impose our will and our conventions on them.
I’m not sure the US can “resume the role of honest broker.” I’m not sure they’re ever been that, and I actually think they’re more honest now than they’ve ever been. I think they need to become an honest broker. As I said to Ken, I don’t know how to fix this, but honesty and integrity would be a big step in the right direction. The US, like most Western countries, has good intentions most of the time, but they’re also not above knowingly doing the wrong thing when it suits them either imo.
So what can we in the West can actually do to decrease the numbers turning to radical Islam? Correct though we may be to point to their lack of reason, what of our own lack of reason that keeps us from taking the obvious step that would actually make a difference? Our lack of reason has led us to conclude that we can intervene in Mid-East countries as we wish and kill, displace or otherwise oppress literally millions of Muslims, yet expect no violence in response.
If we wish not to be killed, we should first stop killing. Otherwise we’re just hypocrites and there is really no reason anyone should take our moaning seriously.
Stopping killing would be a good step. I do think there must be some form of positive intervention, although I can’t think what it would be. Part of the problem is that even when the West is doing good stuff, we’re largely doing it wearing military uniforms, and with (necessary) military protection. That obviates a lot of good will.
Even though the West’s presence creates a lot of problems, I don’t think we can just ignore the situation either.
There’s heaps we can do, Heather. Put pressure on Saudi to stop funding extremists. Force Israel to withdraw from settlements and negotiate a two-state solution as we’ve already discussed. Stop the bombing that is causing so much “collateral damage”. Take refugees in proportion to the arms we contribute to the conflicts. Stop selling so many arms! London is host to the world’s largest arms show this month, yet almost no one notes the rank irony of this happening at the same time as there is a refugee crisis in Europe, or the hypocrisy of Britain refusing to take more refugees!
Basically, just try and look the least bit like we actually care what the consequences of our actions are on Mid-East populations.
But at almost every step, we’re seen to be acting against our rhetoric. It’s like you say, we’ve never been an honest broker. And I see no reason to say that our intentions are good either. (I’ve discovered that one of the reasons Sam Harris is blind to the political dimension of terrorism is that he’s a deep believer in American exceptionalism. It seems no matter how many people we kill, it’s not as bad as what the other side does, because we have good intentions and they do not. This is as dangerous as any religion!)
I agree that our goal should not be to do nothing, though sometimes nothing really is the best that can be done when it’s reasonably certain that anything we do will only make things worse. I’m happy even to consider military action sometimes, but only when there is a reasonable chance that it will lead to the outcomes we need and not just further the misery. The main reason I’m against just about all military solutions at present is that a country can’t meet this criteria when it starts from bad intentions, not because I’m inherently against military action.
Our governments track records are truly awful and they are not going to change unless their people make them change. As the lucky people living in so called democracies, this responsibility is ultimately on our heads.
I like all your ideas in the first paragraph. We have talked about Israel before of course. Stopping the huge financing going from Wahhabis in Saudi etc would help enormously, and I’ve wondered before whether we can do anything about it. All your suggestions would make a difference.
The bombing of civilians, even though the US has the capacity for more precise attacks, is written about in Inspire at length. They think civilians are bombed deliberately. I wouldn’t got that far; I think they make some effort not to attack civilians. On the other hand, I think there are too many accidents and occasions where they think collateral damage is acceptable.
Everyone is always looking for an easy solution, but with any complicated problem, the solution is going to be multi-pronged, and each prong on its own will only make a small difference, but together are probably greater than the sum of their parts.
I think there are too many wrong-headed people making decisions, especially in US politics. I think they think their intentions are good, but they don’t think through the consequences of their decisions. You can see it in other areas during the current campaign – there are some pretty stupid things being said about China relating to the US economy. Several GOP candidates seem to think things like abusing China, downgrading their upcoming visit, refusing to let them visit at all, giving them a stern talking to about their recent devaluation (which the IMF rightly applauded) etc are good. Winston Peters looks positively diplomatic in comparison!
No, civilians aren’t bombed deliberately, but seem to be bombed with near indifference. I’m not sure that is much better. While “don’t kill innocents” does appear to be on the checklist of priorities, it must be so low down that it gets jettisoned for almost any reason. The reasoning seems to be – if we can do everything we want and not kill children, fine, otherwise too bad. I expect the only reason it is considered at all is that there is some recognition that the public prefers it when civilians aren’t slaughtered. Needless to say, this is hardly a perch from which to claim much moral standing (let alone practical) for one’s continued interventions.
I understand this is a cynical view, but how else can we explain the carnage? And particularly, how can we explain the 500,000 minimum children killed in Iraq due to the sanctions? By Democrats yet, not even the neocons? Albright was happy to claim it was “worth it” on national television, but made no effort to explain exactly how that could be true, and to their eternal shame, no one in the mainstream media ever bothered to followed up (and channelling Chomsky here, this says something about the real purpose of the commercial media in a democracy).
Explain this to me and we may have something to debate, but to do so would be to attempt a defense of genocide. I don’t think it can be done.
Not to keep mentioning Sam Harris, but I debated this stuff with him on email a few years ago. He had no answers to questions like this and just broke off the conversation. In public, he’ll only say that our side makes mistakes (exceptionalism again). But 500,000 dead children over about seven years is not a mistake, it is as near as you can get to a deliberate atrocity.
Inspire quotes Chomsky too. Just sayin’. 🙂
All we can do I think is hope the people who have the power to make the decisions are learning from their mistakes.
I’m not a big one for poetry, but there’s a verse of a James K. Baxter one I still remember from school:
Hoping will get us nowhere. We need to vote against those who kill and convince others to do the same.
Looks like the person on Twitter is talking about the celebration of Eid-ul-Adha which is next week I believe – it’s where Muslims sacrifice an animal and feed it to the poor.
Judging by his Twitter posts, he is a serious Islamophobe (I know New Atheist apologists say this is a term made up by the Left to stifle any criticism of Islam – it isn’t), so he is probably talking about animal cruelty?
I hadn’t had a look at his other posts – I have now. And yes I agree, he is a genuine Islamophobe. I think the term is used to stifle criticism of Islam, but there are also plenty of genuine Islamophobes out there to whom the term can be genuinely applied, and this guy is clearly one of them.
What are the values of secularism? Is it pretending you’re interested in honest, open debate, when in reality you’re just interested in hammering your views into the mind of others?
It is really quite amazing, Coyne asks why atheists hate new atheists, I make a post, but he won’t allow it through. Glenn Greenwald has it right, New Atheism is like a cult, it’s a form of brainwashing where Coyne, Dawkins, Harris etc are looked upon as Great Leaders who are here to save mankind, where dissenting opinion isn’t allowed, and where The Followers all blindly follow without even questioning.
Jerry’s post was really pathetic when he suggested it is because of jealousy, he also showed his complete ignorance when he said atheists attack one another whereas religious people do not attack their co-religionists – this was dumb even by Jerry’s own low standards.
Furthermore, Godless Spellchecker isn’t allowing my comments either on his post about CJ Werleman – now don’t get me wrong, whilst I think CJ is right on some things, I disagree with him on others, and Godless Spellchecker raises some valid points, however, he also talks some rubbish, but he won’t allow my post where I highlight this.
I also see Dawkins retweeted a tweet.
The initial tweet stated:
According to the Arab League Educational Organization, 1 in 3 people in the Arab world are illiterate, including almost 50% of all women.
And then someone else tweeted:
Is this down to poor education system or does Islam want to keep it thisway to discouraged thinking?
And then Dawkins rewteeted this.
So is this the secularism values you talk about – not being interested in intelligent, thoughtful debate, instead trying to use whatever means, however disingeneous, to demonize religion?
Whilst I am sure religion does play a part in some cases where women don’t get education, poverty, lack of institutions, poor governance, and culture seem to play a much greater part. If religion was the driving factor behind women not being educated, why are women in Saudi Arabia and Iran, both theocracies, more educated than women in Pakistan or Bangladesh where religion is influenced a lot more by pre-Islamic culture? Looking at the statistics, women in populous Muslim countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh have pretty low literacy rates – but religion doesn’t seem to be the driving factor here, because even the neighbouring countries like India, Nepal and Bhutan have pretty low literacy rates for women.
Furthermore, looking at the literacy statistics:
The literacy rate of women in Pakistan is 42%, but the literacy rate of young women is 62%.
The literacy rate of women in Bangladesh is 58%, but the literacy rate of young women is 86%.
The literacy rate of women in Egypt is 65%, but the literacy rate of young women is 86%.
So if anything, women are getting access to more education in Muslim countries, yet Dawkins just endorses a tweet that suggests Islam is somehow denying women the right to education!
You say New Atheists don’t kill people with different beliefs – well, directly, they don’t, that’s for sure. However, when people like Coyne and Dawkins simplify things to such a degree, they influence public opinion to be so negative of religion, and they brainwash lots of people into thinking Islam is so bad that there cannot be peace with Muslims, and therefore we must go to war – and this is exactly what the sentiment is in the UK at the moment, where if someone says “we should not be bombing ISIS, we need peaceful solutions” they immediately get shot down.
So, yes, New Atheists can play their part in wars and killing, but because the indoctrination happens that atheists are “the good guys”, it is very impossible for most to admit.
Is this really a response to my post, or is it just a response to Jerry’s or Stephen’s posts that they won’t allow?
When it comes to CJ Werleman, I think he’s motivated by jealousy. I don’t think that’s the case with all atheists who don’t like New Atheists like me. He’s lied, plagiarized A LOT, demonized people by lying about them, attacks people unfairly all the time using lies to do it, and more. I’ve caught him at it myself and exposed him on Twitter for lies he was telling about Hitchens just a few months ago. In the last twelve months or so he seems to have had a complete meltdown. I used to read him fairly regularly. Now, I have no time for him.
Jerry’s post wasn’t up to his usual (what I consider) high standards, but he’s been pretty brutally attacked by Werleman. Most people do come out swinging when that happens, especially when the attacks are unfair as much of Werleman’s are.
I don’t think I blindly follow the leaders among the New Atheists. I certainly admire them, but I don’t agree with everything they say. They have just as much right to speak their minds as anyone else. Neither Coyne nor Dawkins are pro-war, and they’re not anti-Muslim either. They are anti-Islam. And anti-Christianity. And anti-religion in general. That doesn’t mean they are against all the people of those religions. Of course, it’s difficult for anyone who belongs to a particular religion to hear that religion criticized, but the criticism is of the religion, not the person. In the real world, I would have pretty much no friends or family (and colleagues when I was working) if I only associated with other atheists. I disagree with them about whether there’s a god, but most of our values are otherwise in alignment. And even where they’re not, it doesn’t mean we can’t get on day to day.
It’s clear that women are slowly getting better educated in majority Muslim countries, which is great. But that doesn’t mean Islam hasn’t been a big part of the problem when it comes to women being educated. You are completely correct that it isn’t the only problem. I don’t know much about the education in the countries you name, but I do know that Bangladesh has a fairly new secular constitution, and that has a lot to do with why women have been achieving so much since their revolution.
Women in NZ got the vote in 1893, long before anyone else. They’re still waiting in Saudi Arabia, and you can’t argue that’s for any reason other than religion. Women in NZ have 1.43 university degrees compared to every 1.00 a man has, which is the best in the world. Perhaps a result of us enjoying equality in other areas for longer than most. While religion is a part of our culture, we’ve always been largely run as a secular nation. (Saying that, religion definitely has several privileges that I consider it shouldn’t like tax-free status.)
As for indoctrination that New Atheists are the good guys, I’ve yet to see it. Most people around the world are pretty convinced that you have to believe in some sort of higher power to be of good moral character. Statistics show that a Muslim is more likely to be elected President of the United States than an atheist. And statistically, atheists and secularists actually are the good guys. Of course there are bad atheists, and no-one is all good, but I’ve written about this before so I won’t go into it here. Next time more statistics are released showing that a majority hate atheists, I’ll probably write about it again.
Whatever Werleman may have contributed worthwhile in the past, it is pretty clear now that he’s lost it. I can see why the individuals his insanity is directed against want to counter him, but otherwise he’s just no longer worth wasting time on. I just ignore him.
Yes, that was a weak piece from Coyne, but what I’m more surprised about are the many threads I’ve seen since about his moderation habits. So many people are claiming to have had comments deleted without acknowledgement or explanation and a few have said their comments have been changed to appear to say something else. This is extremely bad. You can claim that he can do what he wants with his own blog, but that’s only true in a legalistic sense. Practically speaking, a blogger who goes past moderation to manipulation has lost their credibility in my mind, along with their moral right to host a blog. I think that’s true even if they aren’t actually changing comments, as deciding what information and viewpoints aren’t going to be allowed is surely manipulation too. And it is particularly bad when the blogger is a scientist who supposedly values evidence above all else. And when the blogger has argued vehemently for other’s right to free speech, well, words start to fail me. It’s embarrassing, really. Moderation should be about maintaining a certain standard of engagement and that’s all. If you can’t manage your ego enough to stick to that, you shouldn’t be blogging, imho. Same goes for twitter too really, but more on that below.
New Atheists. I consider myself one too. I think what we have here is too much generalisation based on the actions of a few. Important though they are, they didn’t invent atheism, or even strident atheism, and to the extent it is a movement, will not rise or fall based on their actions alone. The criticism of those few is sometimes quite valid and sometimes scandalously false, which makes the generalisations even more meaningless. End of story for me. People like Greenwald and Hedges would be calling atheism a cult even if the four horseman never existed.
I’ve found this all personally troubling, because I have for so long greatly admired just about everyone mentioned, Werleman excepted. Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Greenwald and Hedges have all made fantastic contributions in their areas, and yet they’ve all made and continue to make huge mistakes too. That people like Greenwald repeat obvious untruths about Harris is simply inexcusable. But that Harris can’t see why people like Greenwald can’t help but equate Harris’ apologetics for US foreign policy with support for the neocons, is at the very least stupidly naive. Someone with a brain as big as Sam’s, who speaks on several topics more eloquently than anyone I’ve ever heard. I just want to scream sometimes. This is why I emailed him, but I came away more disappointed than ever.
And Dawkins makes me want to rip the remainder of my hair out regularly. I’ve read all of his books and found next to nothing to disagree with. For years I defended him at every opportunity. He has definitely been a sort of hero. Then he took to twitter and started saying something indefensible almost every week. About four years ago, I spent an evening barhopping with Sean Faircloth, head of the Dawkins Foundation in the US, who came to NZ on a speaking tour about the dangers of charter schools (he was inspiring). I asked him even then if he ever wanted to take Richard’s twitter account away. He didn’t know what I meant. Richard had just got into trouble for tweeting something like “Islam is the greatest evil on the planet”. Really?, I said. You can think of no other candidates for that honour? He couldn’t. With such un-nuanced arguments as that, it is not surprising that some people just write Dawkins and others off.
I guess we’re just having something about the human condition driven home in all of this. Where ever people are involved, shit’s gonna be screwed up.
Dawkins has screwed up on Twitter a lot. If you know his work, you know how he thinks and what he’s referring to, but for anyone who comes in without that background, his Tweets are frequently appalling.
I’m concerned too about the number of people who are complaining lately about Jerry not letting their comments through. I don’t know what the story is. He lets my comments through when I disagree with him. He’s extremely strict about tone though – if you come across in a way he considers at all rude, he’s pretty intolerant. Perhaps the particular way I express myself when I disagree is one he’s OK with. I don’t know. I’m not about to start telling him what to do though – that would piss me off more than anything and I he’s very similar in that way. He’s been a good friend, and I like him. That doesn’t, of course, mean I agree with everything he says or does and vice versa.
Again, a totally biased apologist defence.
Dawkins isn’t a child, he’s a grown up man (a very very intelligent one too according to his followers (I actually don’t buy that)). He knows perfectly well how to play the game. Of course in his formal literature, he will try to appear as decent as possible and will not say anything that might appear as being bigoted. However, on Twitter, he does it because he knows he can get away with it. He can say “Oh, I didn’t exactly mean that, it’s hard to express yourself in 140 characters”, or, when he retweets things which are not true, he can simply say “I was busy, didn’t have the time to check out source”, or, when he rewteets things which even he knows are bigoted and by Islamophobes, he can simply say “I didn’t check the profile, I ddin’t know that person I am retweeting is a bigot”, and he knows he can get away with it because he knows New Atheism is like a cult where the overwhelming majority of followers worship him and will simply believe him without questioning him.
Imagine if a prominent Muslim figure who in his works came across as liberal, was constantly retweeting lies and half-truths and bigoted about atheism by Muslim fundamentalists, you would be outraged, and rightly so, you would be saying that he just writes liberally in his books and speaks liberally in his public speaking otherwise people would see the bigot he is, but on Twitter he shows his true colours, but when it comes to Dawkins, no, it simply cannot be that he holds bigoted views, because his books and public speaking say otherwise! In other words, once again, your opinion of someone isn’t formed objectively, it is formed depending on which side that person is on – if New Atheist, then good, try and give defence, if religious, then bad, show why bad.
This criticism of me in defending Dawkins is almost exactly the same as the way you have defended a liberal Muslim. (And, actually, I have no problems with the liberals of any religion, just the religion itself.)
No, you are absolutely wrong. Comparing Mehdi Hasan and Dawkins is like comparing apples and oranges.
Jerry posted a Youtube clip of Mehdi Hasan calling unbelievers cattle, and you then wrote what a vile man he is. However, that clip was taken out of context. If you see the whole speech, it is a criticism about Muslims. He calles Muslims cattle in that speech too.
So, yes, that clip Jerry posted was very disingeneous. It gave the impression this guy thinks atheists are like cattle. He admits his choice of words was wrong:
So that’s why I called you out on describing him as a vile man. I don’t think he is.
Anyway, the big difference between Mehdi Hasan is that I only know of one occasion when Hasan has shown bigotry towards atheists. If Hasan was constantly retweeting things about atheists by Muslim fundamentalists, if he was tweeting “atheism is the greatest evil”, if he was tweeting half truths about atheists, then, yes, I would judge him the same way I judge Dawkins – a bigot.
Therefore, it is clear to see your comparison of me defending Hasan with you defending Dawkins is simply unjustified.
Or, maybe, just maybe, what he contributed in the past wasn’t very different to what he contributes now, but because he was criticising religion before, it was deemed worthwhile, and because it is New Atheism now, it isn’t worthwhile?
How many New Atheists called him out on his over-simplification and even lies about religion and religious people before? How many were outraged by his jokes about Muslims and Arabs being terrosists?
Absolutely, this is the conclusion that any objective person would come to. Heather however defended Coyne, she said it’s his blog and he is entitled to do what he likes. Things like these are why New Atheism is described as being like a “cult” – see the discussion on it over here:
I had a debate with one of Jerry’s “fanboys”, a New Atheist who goes by the name Coel, on Vridar, a month or so ago. He was defending Jerry with real fervour. His argument was that maybe the comments were snide, maybe they were this, maybe they were that, and that’s why Jerry banned them. Instead of asking what the comments actually were, and then judging whether Jerry was right to ban them or not, this individual formed the opinion first that Jerry must have had a good reason not to allow them. In other words, instead of looking at the facts before coming to a conclusion, this individual had formed the conclusion first (Jerry must have been right in not allowing comments), and was then intent on trying to fit things around this conclusion.
This kind of behaviour is very cult-like, where the Great Leader must be right, and must be defended at all costs.
The Wikipedia defintion of New Atheism is: “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises”. If that is what New Atheism was, then I don’t think many secular people would have a problem with it. However, New Atheism isn’t that. New Atheism is like a cult, where a few individuals have taken the lead, and others are blindly following. It doesn’t encourage open and honest debate, it isn’t objective, and it isn’t rational. It is fundamentalist, and simplifies complex things into simplistic terms to further it’s own agenda.
How can Grennwald be calling atheism a cult when he is himself an atheist? And, no – see link above.
He couldn’t because he was the Head of the Dawkins Foundation (or whatever), and he was a Dawkins fanboy, so all objectivity and rational thought went out of the window and if Dawkins said something, it must be right.
I’d just like to point out that other New Atheists and I have criticized Werleman in the past for some of his Islamophobic tweets. He is now attacking others for exactly what he used to do, and insisting he’s never done it. Stephen (Godless Spellchecker) has called him out on this, and provided the proof.
Perhaps the reason people are so het up about the criticisms of the New Atheists is that they are accurate. I’ve always found people tend to dismiss the arguments of New Atheists when it comes to religion simply because they are atheist. And as my post pointed out to some extent, I think the behaviour of Islamists has been far more damaging to Islam and Muslims than New Atheism.
No, your conspiracy theory doesn’t work here as I didn’t know of Werleman at all before about a year ago. I was just giving him the benefit of the doubt that he made useful contributions in the past based on the comments of others.
To disagree with Heather about Coyne doesn’t require that she be part of a cult. I mainly post here to disagree with Heather on things, yet we’re both New Atheists! Maybe I keep missing the memos on what I’m supposed to believe. Is there a mailing list I should be on? Or maybe I’m just pretending to be a NA.
There is no NA koolaid. There is just a bunch of people who agree they should be more outspoken about the effects of religion (and the effects of not speaking out about the effects of religion). They can and do disagree on all sorts of other things all the time because they are not actually automatons, but fallible humans. Get over it.
It isn’t a conspiracy theory. I am just asking a question.
Fair enough – I just find that really weird. If I do not know what someone has done in the past, I will not go around giving them the benefit of the doubt, I would simply have no opinion of their past work.
Nothing I said implied that.
If you actually went to the link I provided, and read the comments, you wouldn’t be asking these questions.
Actually, no. A movement isn’t judged by what it’s official stated goals are, it is judged by what the majority of it’s followers are advocating and practising. If me and 5 friends create a movement tomorrow, let’s call it Manism, and the movement’s stated goal is to “debate honestly and rationally whenever feminism starts affecting the rights of men”, and then people start joining our movement because they also feel that in certain cases men get a rough deal and are not treated equally, but then me and my 5 friends actually start acting in a disingeneous manner, we try to blame feminism for everything we can even when we know that it isn’t true, we try to stifle debate and do not allow opposing views that rebut our biased arguments, then Manism isn’t about debating “honestly and rationally whenever feminism starts affecting the rights of men”. Similarly, New Atheism isn’t “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises” (emphasis is mine), a lot of the arguments used are biased and irrational, and the vast majority of people who identify with New Atheism are also not debating objectively and rationally – but of course, you don’t want to admit this, so you will simply ignore it.
It’s quite strange actually, when I was a teenager and really thinking about religion and philosophy and the meaning of life and all that business, if someone had asked me my opinion of religious leaders, it would have been that they are afraid of criticism and that they are not objective, but biased, and if someone has asked me my opinion of atheists, I would have said they are not afraid of criticism because they like open debate, and that they are not biased but are completely objective. However, part of growing up and learning is observing the world around you, looking at it objectively, and then amending your opinion if necessary, and so I came to realise that my opinion of atheists was wrong, I was generalising, there are some who are what I thought of them, but there are many who are actually biased and not objective and can be rude and if you find flaws in their argument they will get vitriolic and really upset. Many New Atheists however suffer from cognitive dissonance, it is just not possible for them to accept this, so even when their Great Leaders are clearly being biased and not objective, or not arguing their point rationally, the followers will continue to be apologists for them.
So when did you guys call him out on his Islamophobic tweets? The first mention I can see by SK about CJW’s Islamophobic tweets is in June this year. Were SK and you criticising CJW when he was still a New Atheist?
BTW, I like SK’s insinuation that CJW is creating fake Twitter followers – the site he uses suggests CJW has 45% fake Twitter followers according to the site, and I just ran BBC News through it, and BBC News also has 45% fake Twitter followers according to the site – I guess SK thinks BBC News might also be adding fake Twitter followers? 😀
Untrue. Of course people with religious fundamentalist views will not be objective, and will therefore dismiss anything New Atheists say. However, there are LOTS of people who are not “dismissing” the arguments of New Atheists, but who are exposing the dishonesty, irrationality, lack of objectivity, and in some cases, bigotry, of New Atheists, and these people are themselves atheists!
It is a response to your post – if values of secularism are the values of people like JC or SK, then to hell with values of secularism – I’d much rather have values such as intelligent, honest and open debate where opposing views are discussed.
Fair enough – that’s your opinion. IMHO, Coyne and Dawkins are motivated by narcissism.
I think Jerry is the last person who has the right to sit there and cry about what is fair and what isn’t – his attacks on Max Blumenthal weren’t fair, I didn’t see any of Jerry’s followers calling him out on that. Or to be fair, maybe they did, and Jerry didn’t allow the comments to go through.
Do you tell them when you disagree with something they say? Have you ever posted a message in the comments section when Jerry said something you disagreed with, telling him this?
And they are not anti-war either. As for them not being anti-Muslim – well simplifying things about Islam to such a degree (because of their “anti-Islam”) that they actually become incorrect has caused many people to look very negatively on Muslims. I might not be a misogynist, but if I am anti-feminism (I am not, just an example), falsely accusing feminism of things it isn’t and blaming feminism for everything I can, then I have to accept responsibility that my actions can cause some people to go one step further than just being anti-feminism and actually become anti-women.
Despite what New Atheists like to try and say, Dawkins and Coyne do not get criticised by liberals because they criticise Christianity or Islam – many liberals themselves do not like religion – they get criticised because they are fundamentalists with an agenda who are not interesed in intellectual, honest debate.
Of course, it’s difficult for anyone who is a New Atheist to hear New Atheism criticised, after all, they have been indoctrinated that New Atheism, unlike religion, is all about honest and rational debate.
How do you know Islam has been a big problem in stopping women from getting educated? Can you provide me with one verse from the Quran or the Hadeeth that says women shouldn’t be educated? I just had a quick look around, and I can find none.
Even the Taliban, when they stopped education for girls, did not cite any religious reasons for it. They said it was because the conditions for education are not right at the moment but in future women will be able to go back into education. One would have thought that if Islam stops women from getting educated, then surely even the Taliban would have been able to find one verse to justify them stopping the education of girls.
This is classic New Atheist behaviour – trying to blame religion for something without having any evidence, but leaving the caveat that there could be other factors too. The key here is you are trying to suggest Islam played a big part in women not being educated.
Another perfect example of New Atheist hypocrisy. When something negative happens in a Muslim country, blame it on Islam. When something positive happens, ignore Islam! I can bet you anything, if female literacy was going down in Bangladesh, you would not say it is because of their secular constitution or have you what – you and people like Coyne will probably be sitting there saying Bangladesh is becoming more Islamic, atheists are being killed, and it is because of Islam that female literacy is declining.
How about Pakistan? Pakistan was Islamisised by General Zia, it used to be pretty secular before. So if you are right that Islam plays a large part in denying women education and secularism is playing a part in women becoming more educated, you would expect literacy rates of women to have declined in Pakistan. However, the data shows that the projected increase in “secular” Bangladesh for (young) female literacy between 2000 and 2015 is 25% whereas in “Islamic” Pakistan it is 29% (Table 9).
Now if you were actually interested in knowing why the literacy has increased, you could find out by reading the same article.
In countries that are making progress, it is often due to substantial improvements in literacy among adult women, who were typically at lower levels of literacy than men one or two decades ago (see Tables 2 and 3, and Figures 6 and 7). For example, in Nepal, the female adult literacy rate is projected to grow from 17% in 1990, 35% in 2000, and 48% in 2010 to 56% in 2015. In Yemen, the observed and projected literacy rates of adult women are 17% in 1990, 36% in 2000, 47% in 2010, and 55% in 2015. In Egypt, the female adult literacy rate was 31% in 1990, 44% in 2000, and 64% in 2010, and is projected to reach 66% in 2015. There are also examples of progress by women in sub-Saharan Africa: in Senegal, the female adult literacy rate is projected to grow from 18% in 1990 to 46% in 2015, and in the Central African Republic the projected increase is from 20% in 1990 to 48% in 2015.
Theerfore, there is no evidence that Islam has been a “big part” in why many Muslim women have lower literacy rates, no matter how much you, Richard Dawkins, or any other New Atheist for that matter, wants it to be true.
I am not talking about “most people around the world”. I am talking about indoctrination amongst New Atheists.
And I am sure if you did that poll in France, statistics would show an atheist is more likely to be be elected President than a Muslim.
First of all, I am talking about New Atheists, and not atheists. There is a difference – atheists are interested in honest, open debate, New Atheists rarely are.
Secondly, this is a gross over-simplification. “Good guys, bad guys”, you sound like some religious fundamentalist or an American. I hate talking in such simplistic terms, is a Christian fundamentalist who doesn’t support the rights of gays and actively campaigns against them but is also a very honest guy who never lies and does good things for others, a good guy or a bad guy? Is an atheist who believes in gay rights and campaigns for their rights, but who lies to people, is a narcissist, and doesn’t really help others much, a good guy or a bad guy?
Historically, an interest-based monetary system was considered very immoral – all the major religions condemned it, it was outlawed in Ancient China, Greece and Rome, but it is now part of the secular West. The majority of Muslims are very against this system, and the majority of atheists don’t really care about it – I can just imagine Muslims arguing that they’re good and atheists aren’t because Muslims are against such an immoral system! This is the way fundamentalists behave – they look at the good things they do and shout “look at us, we’re good”, and look at the bad things the other side do and shout “look at them, we’re better than them”, but they totally ignore the bad things people on their side do.
What do you mean “next time”? There wasn’t a first time. The survey was how you feel towards groups – positively or negatively. The average feeling for atheists was 41%. You spun that article completely into saying people “hate” atheists. Rating something positively or negatively isn’t the same as saying whether you hate it. If someone asks me to rate Kim Kardashian as a person on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is I feel very positive about her, and 1 is I feel very negatively about her, and I rate her 4, it doesn’t mean I hate her. Even you know this, but as a New Atheist, you are a fundamentalist, and being a fundamentalist means you must reduce things to fundamentals such as “like” or “hate”.
Of course, if you were an atheist, and not a New Atheist, your article would probably have been curious as to why atheists have a negative image, and you would be interested in going out there and researching the topic, reading articles by sociologists and psychologists, before coming to your conclusion, instead your article just went something along the lines that liberals are apologists for Islam or something like that.
The problem with writing off all NAs with a caricature is not just that all caricatures are ultimately false, but far worse, that they are too easily misused as ad hominem attacks on individuals, a means of simply discrediting them before conversation starts so that debate can be totally shut down without engaging with any of their arguments.
I like this comment Ken.
Maybe you should tell that to your fellow New Atheists regadring how they treat Islamists and Jihadists.
I’m not going to reply to everything because I don’t feel like it. That’s not personal.
I don’t think Jerry is motivated by narcissism. I consider him a friend and we correspond via e-mail. I’m not about to reveal personal stuff, but I feel I know him well enough to say that. I don’t know Dawkins, but his writing does not give me the impression he’s a narcissist. I understand that to someone with a strong faith, anyone who does not believe in some sort of higher power can seem narcissistic. Atheists tend to see it another way – we’re not arrogant enough to think the world was created for us, or our species. We’re nothing special, and no more or less important than every other living thing on the planet.
As I said to Ken, Jerry lets my comments through when they disagree with him, and I’ve noticed others too. He is strict about tone – he doesn’t want anybody feeling abused on his site. When I first started commenting there, I found it a breath of fresh air after Twitter, because you could have a proper discussion without it resorting to nastiness. I’m more confident on my own site than elsewhere, but when you’re not used to the on-line environment, it can be pretty awful. When I first joined Twitter, I almost pulled out only a few weeks later, and a couple more times in the first six months. Intellectually at least, I’m a very confident person, and more confident than most, but I found the environment quite threatening. Jerry, I think, wants his site to be like one of his lectures or labs where everyone feels able to contribute. When someone comes along who comes across as angry, which usually means they disagree, he shuts them down. Whether he’s right or wrong to do that is a matter of opinion, but it is his right.
I reject the idea that I’m indoctrinated. I develop my own opinions. When it comes to religion, many of them happen to be the same as Richard Dawkins.
I think it’s great more women all over the world are getting better educated. My opinion is that governments, whether they’re Muslim or not, recognize that it’s far better economically if women are educated, and that’s their main motivation. My point was that in majority Muslim countries, the gap between men and women is there in the first place. As far as the Taliban is concerned, what the fuck is the right time for women to be educated and why the fuck to they need to murder people to stop that happening in the meantime? What exactly is their reasoning that this isn’t the “proper” time for fuck’s sake?
Now if the Taliban had a website would they be more likely to let my comment through if I just asked them what their reasons were for considering it wasn’t the right time yet for women to be educated, or if I expressed it as I do above?
I’m not going to get into semantics about using a phrase like “good guys” in the comments, especially when I prefaced it with “generally.” You know what I mean. If I peppered my posts with such phrases, you’d have a legitimate complaint.
If you really think I’m not interested in the opinions of others, I’m not sure why you bother to comment at all, and why you think I reply to most comments. As far as investigating why there is a negative image of atheists, Phil Zuckerman’s book is sitting about 20cms from me. I bought it months ago, but my physical limitations mean I can’t read as much as I used to, so it’s still sitting there. Once upon a time I would have bought Werleman’s book too, but his behaviour in the last year or so means I no longer have any respect for his insight.
So first I was a Muslim because I was defending Muslims, then I was a Christian because I showed Ben clearly did not understand the meaning of theodicy when he was criticising Jesus, and now I am someone with a “strong faith” because I have called some New Atheists narcissists. If tomorrow there is an article criticising Buddhists, and I stand up for them, I guess I will be a Buddhist.
Maybe I should go to an Evangelical site too and criticise them, then I’d be called an Atheist and would have completed the full monty.
No, I do not think Dawkins and Coyne are narcissists because of strong faith or whatever other ad hominem you might come up with it. I think they are narcissists because they seem to crave attention.
Nothing special, except being better human beings than religious people as you have repeatedly said, and always being objective and rational and never being bigoted and never letting biases come into play etc etc. Right – gotcha!
LOL! That’s a new one – someone not letting dissenting views which logically rebut his article because they don’t like the tone it was written in – I have never heard that one before! Message to Imam in Saudi Arabia: Next time someone asks you why you don’t allow criticism of Islam, say it’s because you are very strict about tone and don’t want any Muslims feeling offended.
I wonder what excuse you will come up with defending Jerry when I make a video of me posting a comment on his site, which has no “tone” or whatever else it is that upsets the commenters on his site feeling abused, and he still doesn’t allow it through.
Except those who want to rebut his article.
Can you imagine if a Muslim Imam who had a popular website and was writing things about atheism, would not allow comments that rebut his bigoted criticism of atheism, and then he made the same argument you have made for Jerry. I can bet you anything you would laugh at his apologist argument, and you would say he doesn’t allow opposing views rebutting his article because he is biased and wants to stifle open, honest debate.
So, how do you know Jerry shuts people down because they came across as angry? Did he tell you this? Can you please at least have the decency to admit you’re not being objective, and are heavily biased, or is it too much to do so?
I think many people who are indoctrinated find it hard to come to terms with it. I too was led to believe when I was young that atheists always debate honestly, rationally, objectively, as were many others, but when we see the reality is different, and that atheists too can be fundamentalists who are dishonest, irrational, and biased, we amend our opinions.
Way too simplistic, I don’t have the time to go into details yet, if you really want to explore this topic in depth, let me know, and we can make time, the bottom line is, there is absolutely nothing to suggest Muslims have been stopping women from getting educated because they worry that once women are literate they will leave Islam, so, yes, Dawkins et al were talking nonsense.
I see you are still trying to be an apologist for New Atheists censoring comments on their websites. This tactic is often used by people when they are confronted with something wrong their side is doing, for example, people who were against gay marriage would say “forget about marriage, would Saudi Arabia even let two gay people have sex?”. By showing the other side is worse than themselves, people then feel better about the wrong their side is doing.
Of course the Taliban wouldn’t allow your comments through, but why on earth would you try and judge the actions of yourself and New Atheists against what the Taliban do?
I did not say you are not interested in the opinions of others. As I said before, I think you’re actually a good human being who isn’t driven by narcissism and has a genuine interest in a fair society and genuinely dislike bigotry. However, your indoctrination makes it hard for you to break away from the New Atheist cult, it makes it hard for you to be objective, and that’s why some of your views are irrational and heavily biased. The main attribute you have is honesty, and I respect that a lot, and that’s why I post here – we might not agree, I might believe you’re not being objective because of your indoctrination, but at least I know the debate will be honest and you will never knowingly lie or mislead.
Oh, ok. So when he was making all those racist comments about Muslims and Arabs over 2 years ago, you still had respect for his insight, but only when he started making comments about New Atheists that you don’t have respect for his insight. Makes sense, that’s pretty consistent with New Atheist behaviour – “overlook bigotry and racism of person if he criticses religion, be outraged by bigotry and racism if person criticises New Atheism”. Dawkins does this all the time.
The first quote you have highlighted wasn’t directed at you personally, it was directed at those of faith in general. The second is also about atheists in general – again, because of your prejudices, you’ve chosen to make it personal.
I made it clear that Jerry does let contrary opinions on his site. He makes it clear in the rules for commenting on his site the way he expects commenters to engage – this is not a new thing I have made up. Read it for yourself.
I made no comment on the reason why women weren’t being educated in Muslim-majority countries, just that they weren’t. Again, you’ve put words in my mouth.
Other people might indulge in “whataboutery.” I don’t. In fact I frequently criticize others for it. I do make analogies, but that isn’t the same thing.
If I’m indoctrinated, I’d like to know who the hell did it? I spent most of my life Christian. Almost everyone in my off-line life is Christian except my best friend, who is Hindu. Almost all my family are Christian or Buddhist. I rarely even discuss religion off-line. I go to weddings, funeral and christenings in churches. I am godmother to one of my nieces. How and where did this indoctrination happen? Becoming an atheist was a decision I made on my own. I didn’t consult anyone beforehand, and told people as the subject came up afterwards. I am outspoken about it on-line because I think people who are in a position to do that, should. That is how I feel about most things. It’s the same with something like recycling – if the subject comes up, I tell people I think they should. I never hide my opinions, and I always come to my opinions after careful consideration. I find the charge that I have been indoctrinated about anything offensive. I have never been one who is easily persuaded, or followed the pack. I have always made my own decisions, and I do what I think is right, no matter the consequences. From the age of four, I refused to buy my parents cigarettes for example (yes, at that age they would send me to the shop to get things for them). I never did it, although my bum sometimes wished I had.
That makes no sense. If people of faith were calling some New Atheists narcissist, and other atheists weren’t, then you’d have a point. But other atheists are calling them narcissists too. So, again, your lack of objectivism is clear to see. You totally ignore that other atheists are calling them narcissists too, and simply concentrate on the people of faith so that you can somehow dismiss the allegation if narcissism.
I am not making anything personal. And I don’t have any prejudices – after all, I am not the one going around saying one group is better than the other. My position has been quite clear from the beginning – there are good people and bad people (I am simplifying here for the sake of argument) amongst every group of people, no matter what religion they have or whether they have no religion. I am not arrogant enough to say whichever group I might identify with is better than any other group.
I am not putting words into your mouth. You insinuated it. This is what you wrote:
So you clearly did say that Islam is responsible for women not getting educated, and you insinuated that it could be a big part of the problem. You then proceeded to say that the secular constituition has “a lot” to do with why women are now getting educated in Bangladesh – again, you are insinuating that if it wasn’t for the secular constitution, they would not be getting this much education. I showed how wrong you were, I showed how in “Islamist” Pakistan, women’s literacy has increased at a higher rate than in Pakistan, and I also provided the reason why UNESCO think the rate of literacy amongst women is increasing.
I have always praised your honesty, so instead of accusing me of being dishonest and putting words in my mouth, at least please have the decency to admit that you were commnenting on a topic, trying to praise seculaism for women’s education, even though you had no knowledge of the topic.
It is an opinion, I might be wrong. Learn not to give a s*** what someone thinks of you, especially over the Internet.
Indoctrination doesn’t have to be in the classical sense where someone tells you what to think – it can happen as a by-product of being in an environment amongst people where you keep hearing the same things and then start feeding off one another and then reach the point where you are so much part of the group, you lose the ability to think objectively and are always trying to defend the values of that group even when they are wrong or bigoted. I have seen a number of things you have said which aren’t objective at all, and so I think, “Why is a good, rational human being like Heather, who cares about people regardless of their beliefs or race or sexuality or whatever, quite ofen forming opinions which are not objective and steeped in bigotry?”. And the answer to me is the “cult” of New Atheism.
Did it occur to you that you might be the one who is indoctrinated?
You are a scientist. So I assume in your work you assume that there will be no supernatural intervention – you couldn’t do your job otherwise. Then you leave your lab, and you assume supernatural intervention in other parts of your life.
There are things about Islam I disagree with. I reached my opinions about that on my own. I have read widely to form my opinions, and some of the reading was of NAs. Just because someone is a NA, like myself, is absolutely no guarantee I will agree with them, or even that I am more likely to agree with them. I have never in my life been a group thinker, even at those times most people are like in my teens. You disagree with some conclusions I have reached. That doesn’t mean I am wrong. I will always change my mind if I get information that is better, more reliable, provides a point of view I hadn’t considered or whatever. I never make decisions just because that’s what someone else thinks.
My opinion of Islam is not the same as yours. It is also not the same as Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens or Jerry. On a spectrum it is closer to theirs than yours. I am not apologizing to anyone for my opinion. Having a less than positive view of Islam does not mean I automatically have a negative opinion of Muslims. In fact, proportionately, more of the Muslims I meet are nice people than the Christians I meet.
I am not always trying to defend NAs in general. I sometimes defend some NAs in particular, in certain circumstances, if I think they are right in that circumstance. My defence of Jerry has been in certain circumstances. We do not agree on every subject, and I have pointed out where he and I disagree to you, and I do to him on his website too. I find it more difficult when you criticize Jerry than other NAs because I know him, and I know some of the things written here would hurt him.
New Atheism is not a cult. Personally, I think your opinions of NAs is influenced by your idea that it is. You got a definition of NA from Wikipedia – stick to that. The only think NAs have in common is that we don’t believe in God or gods, and we don’t hide our lack of belief.
Again, who said I believe in supernatural intervention? Just because someone argues against New Atheism, it doesn’t imply they must a theist. I don’t know how many times I have to repeat this.
I am not a “scientist” – I come from a scientific background but do not work in science anymore. And even if I was working in science at the moment, not all scientists work in labs.
My background teaches me that humans are nothing special, I am not arrogant enough to think we are special, we’re just another “animal” like dogs and cats, and just as a dog or cat has limitations on what it can think and comprehend, I believe humans do too. The idea that we should be able to understand fully how the universe works around us because we’re somehow special is very unscientific to me.
Furthermore, science also teaches me that paradoxically, science cannot prove anything. Jerry says evolution is true, I believe it is, but science teaches me that there is no proof it is true and it could be wrong. Maybe you should read up on Boltzmann brains.
My negative opinion of New Atheists because I think they are like a cult cannot be true, considering I never really thought of them as being like a cult up until a few months ago! I had heard it mentioned many times before, for example, Glenn Greenwald has been saying it for quite some time, but I actually disagreed. Only recently did I start thinking about it closely, and I now feel it is very cult-like in behaviour.
Just because someone looks something up on Wikipedia, it doesn’t mean it is wrong! “The only think NAs have in common is that we don’t believe in God or gods, and we don’t hide our lack of belief” – that’s your definition, it doesn’t make it right. People who identify with Atheism+ also don’t believe in God or gods, and don’t hide their lack of beliefs, according to your definition, they are also New Atheists, however, they go out of their way to say they’re not – they clearly do not believe in your definition either.
There’s really not much I could add here, except about the bizarre tweet you got: I think the “ADILADHA” he’s talking about is Eid al-Adha, a major Muslim holiday which I THINK is happening this month, if we haven’t already passed it. I forget what the celebration entails, but it’s meant to commemorate Abraham’s thwarted sacrifice of Isaac as told in the Bible and Koran. Whether any camels get slaughtered, I haven’t a clue.
Thanks! Although I’m not quite sure of the significance. Maybe the person who sent the tweet isn’t either. 🙂
Excellent discussion, like one would never find on WEIT. I think Coyne insists on calling it his web page and not a blog, because he intends it as a showcase for his own views and not as a forum for discussion. That is his right, but it undermines his intellectual credibility.
For all his research, Coyne doesn’t really understand religion. He sees it as a set of beliefs which can be undermined with evidence, or lack thereof. But for most people, religion is not so much a set of beliefs as an emotional commitment to a community of like minded people. They don’t want to know about contradictions and doctrines that make them feel uncomfortable. It’s similar to patriots, who don’t want to know about the bad things their country has done. They prefer a sanitized history, just as Christians prefer a sanitized Bible, read in daily passages carefully selected by their leaders to not raise any questions.
Thus Coyne’s focus on religious doctrines, substitutes a straw man for the real substance of religious devotion, making for easy targets for attack, but missing the paramount danger of religion–the inclination to demonize all those outside the particular religious community.
Ken wrote above of “The problem with writing off all NAs with a caricature”, but this is exactly what Coyne does with religion. And as Ken observes this is “easily misused as ad hominem attacks on individuals”. Islamists do bad things because their religion says bad things, not because they have been the victim of western imperialism for 100 years or so, or because they are shia who have been oppressed by sunnis for 1400 years. Or because their society is still organized at a tribal level, with practices that used to be common world-wide, but have been discarded by our “enlightened” west.
Ironically Coyne is “hoist by his own petard” when it comes to his loyalty to his own religious tradition, Judaism. He is quick to aver that he is a secular Jew only, and anxious to criticize such practices as religious Jews refusing to sit beside women on a plane. But when it comes to loyalty to his in-group and villainizing those who oppose his group, Coyne is as partisan as a devout believer. He won’t come right out and say that Israel has a God-given right to Judaea and Samaria (the west bank) but he defends the occupation and the vicious Israeli response to the Palestinians desperate acts of rebellion.
As much as he tries to intellectualize it, Coyne’s special animus towards Islam stems from his visceral loyalty to his own people. Why does he obsess about the Charlie Hebdo murders, when the most he will say about the terroristic invasion of Iraq by the US/UK coalition is to call it a mistake? He delights in polls showing how many Muslims support the Hebdo killers, or sharia law as a means of implicating a large segment of the muslims in Islamist misdeeds. He opposes Christian privilege and infringements on secular society, but not with the same animosity he reserves for Muslims, and never tries to smear them with a broad brush as he does Muslims.
Thus Jerry Coyne undermines his anti-religion credibility, by exhibiting the same in-group loyalty, and out-group animosity that characterizes religious zealots. I do not know if this is what AU means when he calls new atheists fundamentalists. I’d be interested to have you elaborate. I specify Coyne in this discussion because I am not so current on the opinions of other NAs. I suspect that Harris shares Coyne’s Jewish bias, and Dawkins shares his western bias. Hitchens revealed his special animus towards Islam in supporting the Iraq invasion. Did Coyne, Harris and Dawkins take public positions on the recently concluded nuclear accord with Iran? That could be revealing.
My concerns are twofold: 1) that NA hostility to Islam enables neocons and other warmongers who want to serially invade Muslim countries, and 2) that their political vendetta against Islam and petty attacks on such things as putting the ten commandments in front of courthouses, ends up undermining rather than supporting the atheist cause.
I haven’t read enough Coyne to say, but I’d be very surprised if doesn’t understand what you say about people’s motivations regarding religion. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to convince people based on evidence, particularly when public policy is at stake. I do agree that the in-group/out-group dynamic should get more attention.
Also agree there is too much focus on Islam as THE cause of terrorism, but it isn’t quite as comparable to AU’s caricature, because he wasn’t discussing NAs in the third person, but is talking to several right here, insisting that we must believe certain things for certain reasons when it is obvious we don’t even agree on all matters, let along the reasons why.
I’ve no doubt that the dynamics you discuss are at play here though. Didn’t know that Coyne has defended Palestinian oppression. I would put Harris in Dawkins camp regarding Israel. It’s more about Western exceptionalism for them. As an academic question, Harris doesn’t actually think Israel should even exist, but puts a lot into the fact that Israel is a democracy. He seems to think that makes their intentions better by definition.
Would definitely like to know their views on the Iran deal. I don’t know Coyne well enough, but know Harris and Dawkins enough to predict that they strongly support. I think even Hitchens would, though I’ve never been able to follow his reasoning regarding the Iraq war.
Yes, totally agree, though would say that it’s not just hostility to Islam, but that they give a free pass to Western actions that they actually have some hope of influencing. Of course, the one view bolsters the other, so it’s difficult to say which one is driving them.
Perhaps this is true in combination, though I don’t agree that efforts to preserve separation between church and state are petty. I think they are very important, which can be true even though they aren’t life and death questions like how we respond to terrorism.
I also think they aren’t entirely wrong in saying that Islam has characteristics that make it more troubling in some ways than Christianity, like that they are much quicker to violence, the obvious example being over cartoons and the like. Just as the anti-Islamists are wrong to ignore Western crimes, liberals who act as though religion being in the mix makes no difference at all are also wrong. Both stances make it harder to agree on appropriate actions. Now I agree that politics is the much larger issue to address here – and the one we can most influence – but we can’t even have that conversation when we’re stuck with one side saying politics makes no difference and the other saying religion makes no difference.
I think this will be last comment on New Atheism for the time being, I have lots of things to do, can’t come here every day.
I just came across this gem of a comment from no other than Ben, our theodicy expert.
See how simplistic (and bigoted) New Atheist thinking is? Let’s say you have a devout Muslim, who lives his life according to a liberal interpretation of the Quran where, unlike New Atheists, he actually knows the historical context of the verses. So if the Quran says “kill disbelievers wherever you find them”, he actually reads it in the context that this verse was revealed at a specific time against a specific people who were at war with Muslims, and that there are also verses that are about making peace with disbelievers, and so he isn’t interested in killing disbelievers. Or when it comes to apostasy, he rejects that apostates must be killed because it doesn’t say so in the Quran. He doesn’t believe gays should be killed, because it doesn’t say so in the Quran. This guy follows verses that say things like do not spend excessively, and help the poor and needy, so he lives a very simple life, and gives most of his money to charity. He is also very kind to his wife because of the Hadeeth that says the best men are the ones who are kind to their wife (or something similar). He doesn’t sleep around on his partner even though he has chances to because he is attractive and makes good money, he doesn’t steal, he doesn’t lie, he doesn’t back-bite, he isn’t vulgar – all because his religion tells him these things. He is kind to animals because his religion tells him to be. He doesn’t dislike atheists because his God tells him only God knows what is in people’s hearts, and so he doesn’t judge atheists.
This guy is clearly a good Muslim, he lives his life by his religion, and a good human too. But this contradicts what Ben says, so how can New Atheists get around this. Well, NA will say he isn’t a “proper Muslim” because there are interpretations of Islam that are violent, and as he isn’t following the Hadeeth that says throw gays of buildings or kill apostates, he isn’t a true Muslim, therefore, he isn’t a good Muslim (as he isn’t really a Muslim), and he is a good human because he isn’t a good Muslim!
In other words, NA, who are no experts on religion, want to decide what is true Islam and what isn’t. Even though the Hadeeths were written 200 years after the Quran, and most secular scholars of Islam believe a lot of what is in them isn’t actually part of “original Islam” but was added by the clergy to suit their own agenda later on, NA insist “no, this is Islam”. If two Hadeeths conflict (as they often do), and a Muslim says “I don’t believe in that Hadeeth about killing apostates because it contradicts the Quran and other Hadeeths”, NA will still insist that this person isn’t following true Islam because that Hadeeth about killing apostates is part of true Islam.
If New Atheists were objective, they would read up on the Quran and Islam from both an Islamic, anti-Islamic and secular view (like I have done) – this is what you do when you want to study something. But NA aren’t objective, their starting point is “Islam is evil”, and then they try and fit everything around that starting point.
So in answer to why atheists are the second most disliked group in the USA, it is probably because of things like this – where NA go around telling people that it isn’t possible to be a devout follower of a religion and be a good person too. This sounds very much like religion (proclaiming who is a good person and who isn’t) – it just goes to show how far off New Atheism is from atheism and how similar it actually is to religion (lack of objectivity, irrationality, smears, dishonesty, proclaiming who is a good person and who isn’t…).
I mean they have a very simple view of the world. They think in fundamentalist terms such as “good” and “bad”. They are unable to understand that human beings are very complex, there is a myriad of reasons why people behave the way they do, NA are simply interested in cherry-picking the “religion” out of everything bad a religious person does and blame religion (or actually, they probably do understand this, but their lack of objectivity and bias causes them to behave in a fundamentalist manner).
Please see this post as an example of their fundamentalism:
I consider my view of the world anything but simple, and resent the implication that it is. A statement like, “They are unable to understand that human beings are very complex,” is just ignorant imo, and I expected better of you.
As I have said before, even amongst fundamentalists (like New Atheists), there are differences.
I posted once before that you look at the nuances, so I am clearly not referring to you in that generalisation about New Atheists. You are probably the best New Atheist I have come across, and I think if New Atheism is to get rid of it’s bigotry and toxicity, it is people like you who will help achieve this.