Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On Harris On Collins

I apologize to anyone who is absolutely, positively and utterly sick to death of hearing about Sam Harris and Francis Collins. I really would like to stop posting on the subject, but events well beyond my control are keeping this subject alive. I do want to take a minute, though, to explain my own continued and keen interest in this matter.

First of all I have loathed the New Atheists since I first heard of their loathsome existence. In fact, I already didn't like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett from way back when they were red-baiting Stephen Jay Gould and accusing him of being a closet theist! Srsly - check this out, from 1997: http://cogweb.ucla.edu/Debate/Gould.html. I have also loathed Christopher Hitchens ever since he turned into one of George W. Bush's second tier poodles (well below Tony Blair on that roster).

Far more seriously, though, Harris' NYT column on Collins' nomination to be NIH Director represents a genuinely dangerous escalation in the blindly intolerant idiocy that is the New Atheism. One would not be surprised to hear such overtly bigoted sentiments being expressed by David Duke, but the New York Times is unlikely to ever provide space to Duke on their OpEd page. When it is proposed with a straight face to bar someone from a prominent public office on the basis of their religion and the proposal is trumpeted in the pages of the New York Times by someone who is seen by many as a "liberal", a best-selling author, an invited speaker at such venues as The Aspen Festival, a winner of a PEN Award -- well this really and truly is something new under the sun.

Thirdly, as I already alluded to, others keep kicking this very undead horse. Andrew Brown's Guardian piece on Sunday really got the New Atheists riled up -- especially since Brown very clearly called them out on the issue of religious bigotry.

Finally, as anyone who has read more than a few posts in this blog knows I am quite frequently, and quite harshly, critical of Christianity and Christians, and I am often critical of what I see as "Christianizing" biases in scholarship dealing with Paganism (both modern and not so modern). But I think it is important to oppose religious bigotry even, no, strike that, especially, when it is directed at a religion other than one's own.

Added later: And on the off chance that anyone doesn't "get" why I keep posting pictures of lesbians and gay men smooching - it's because those who have religious beliefs should feel free to openly express, indeed, to celebrate, those beliefs. Just as people in love should be free to openly express and celebrate their love. And if anyone doesn't like it, that's just too freaking bad.


Anonymous said...

I, for one, am definitely not sick of reading your posts on this topic. I've thoroughly enjoyed being kept abreast of them and your insightful commentary on the whole situation and the characters involved. (I particularly liked your post on ancient pagan scientists, but then being such a Philoalexandrian I would, wouldn't I?)

So, in other words, keep posting about the things that interest you, because they may well interest us as well!

Kullervo said...

I am also most certainly not tired of reading your posts on the New Atheists, as I also think they are total tools.

And I absolutely maintain, as much as it makes them shriek and scream and cry foul, that while "atheism" is not a religion, New Atheism has pretty much all of the characteristics of a religious movement.

Unless of course you accept the New Atheists' special-pleading strawman definition of "religion." Which I do not.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

Thanks to both Sannion and Kullervo for your comments.

Sannion: I will do just as you say - that is very good advice!

Kullervo: yes, the New Atheism certainly has the makings of a religion, but not in a good way! They share many of the worst characteristics of Stalinism and other modern totalitarian ideologies, IMO.

Yewtree said...

Hi, I have written a response to the God Delusion: part 1 and part 2 which you might enjoy.