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Dec 19 2013

Neo-Colonial Atheism

The Salon’s been interviewing Richard Rodriguez on his beliefs and he takes the opportunity to fire a shot across the bows of new atheism. and atheists in general.

To him it reeks of Neo-Colonialism. And that seems rather odd really.

So here’s the flip side of that. You write about the “New Atheism” emerging from England, catching on here.  How is it new and why does it seem like a dead end to you?

The Salon asks this question and his response I fear is simply not true.

It seems to me that the New Atheism — particularly its recent gaudy English manifestations — has a distinctly neo-colonial aspect. (As Cary Grant remarked: Americans are suckers for the accent!)

Neo-Colonialism is the idea of cultural imperialism. The utilisation of economical and culturak (and even military) pressure to change the “old colonies” and other non-first world nations. An example of “neo-colonialism” in the USA would be the Big Bang Theory.

It’s currently playing all across the world and influencing language in places like India and China. It’s one of the biggest shows out here. Many TV stations show NOTHING but re-runs of it on the weekends.

There is also the idea of winning hearts and minds and such in Afghanistan and Iraq. Changing existing social structure in another country to suit us.

It’s “Gaudy” English Manifestation is just pure elitist bullshit. It’s the reason Americans like Hugh Grant.

Rather than Hugh Laurie. One is a bumbling stuttering oaf (or plays them on TV) and the other made a living playing bumbling stuttering oafs and produced a powerful performance as a modern day Sherlock Holmes. Our accents are not gaudy, you just associate our actions with poshness because we were always made to play posh villains or posh people. Unless we spoke like Eliza fucking Doolittle (Guvnah!)

On the one hand, the New Atheist, with his plummy Oxbridge tones, tries to convince Americans that God is dead at a time when London is alive with Hinduism and Islam.

Yeah

Dear Atheists in General.

This is why you need to get some ex-Muslims/Hindus and get them speaking and adding to our discussion. Because people think it’s just “Oxford White Guys”.

Because people simply don’t believe me when I say that I am a Hindu atheist. And that I never believed in Jehovah or any of the gods of Abrahamic origin. I have had a surprising number of people claim that I am a “secret Muslim” because I have shown an above average knowledge about Islam and have corrected misconceptions.

(The empiric nightmare:  The colonials have turned on their masters and transformed the imperial city with their prayers and their growing families, even while Europe disappears into materialistic sterility.)

Que? There are around 1 Million Asians in the UK and around 1 Million Muslims. There are around 59 Million non-Muslims. This “horde” is not that hordey? This is hardly a transformation. I mean everytime I have been to London I have not seen this transformation of Mosques and Temples replacing the Church.

Christopher Hitchens, most notably, before his death titled his atheist handbook as a deliberate affront to Islam: “God Is Not Great.” At the same time, he traveled the airwaves of America urging us to war in Iraq — and to maintain borders that the Foreign Office had drawn in the sand. With his atheism, he became a darling of the left. With his advocacy of the Iraq misadventure, he became a darling of the right.

Again, I repeat. Due to our portrayal of the “Four Horsemen”, Christopher Hitchens’ faux pas about Iraq has become a defining characteristic of all atheists. HAHA! You supported the war in Iraq!

Not really. No. I got to see the effects of one war first hand and I didn’t like the second much either. I also have lost near and dear friends to war and so would never gleefully support a war. To me a war is a failure, it is the failure of civility and diplomacy. It is a tragedy.

But again this misrepresents atheists as simplistic and colonial. Our lack of diversity has been used to harm us before. Atheism needs new voices and needs diversity. We need to look beyond Christianity to find our diversity.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    From the view of atheists it’s a very hopeful – the whole argument avoids the questions of the truth or falsity of assorted religions or atheism Those are subjects Richard Rodriguez just can’t handle. Instead he goes in for racist gibes.

  2. 2
    Rich Woods

    Ah yes, neo-colonialism. Having realised that rifles and regiments and dreadnoughts no longer cut it in the real world, the UK has decided to regain its foremost global position by selling Doctor Who to everyone. This is, of course, a cunning plan to win by irony, since the Doctor would never ever endorse such an idea, and indeed constantly exhorts people not to.

    “Cunning plan”. See what I did there? Depths within depths within…heh heh heh…

    Of course if I had a plummy accent I wouldn’t be the sort who would give away the plot to dominate the world. My short A’s condemn me to a life of minion and sidekick, at best.

  3. 3
    smrnda

    Is the guy too dense to realize that religions tended to get their starts as imperialist exports as well?

    The whole idea that white Europeans aren’t reproducing and will be out-bred by super-religious brown people is the usual anti-immigrant racist argument brought out all the time. Apparently, people who aren’t white never become more secular. I’m guessing that’s just because we don’t (as you say) hear enough from atheists and secularists who aren’t defecting from Christianity enough, but if a bunch of super-religious white people can gradually lose their faith, why not everyone else?

  4. 4
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Changing existing social structure in another country to suit us.

    And y’know allowing schoolgirls like Malala Yousufzai to get an education instead of having them get shot in the head by the Taliban for trying to learn anything and stuff like that.

    Plus preventing places like Afghanistan from harbouring the late and unlamented Osama bin Laden and people like that.

    War in Afghanistan –

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yst3a35IRd0

    WARNING Swearing.)

    Horrible for everyone really and no one asked for it – except Al Quaida. There are a lot of different persepctives and arguments here.

    “You supported the war in Iraq!”
    Not really. No. I got to see the effects of one war first hand and I didn’t like the second much either.

    Did you mean Iraq specifically or in general? (Puzzled)

    There was the first war with freeing Kuwait then the second toppling Saddam and eventually spending a decade or so bogged down in a nation half fighting a civil war and half fighting the Coalition of the Willing trying to bring them something better than they had. (No, I don’t think it was about oil – y’know we colud just have *bought* that easy enough. Side issue really anyhow.)

    So, Avicenna, were you referring to your thoughts on Kuwait war of 1990-1 then the Iraq war of 2004 till last year or other wars?

    .. Avicenna -’I') … would never gleefully support a war. To me a war is a failure, it is the failure of civility and diplomacy. It is a tragedy.”

    Agreed. (Yes, it may surprise some FTB commenters to have me say that but yes I do agree with that and yes I do mean it.)

    I don’t know anyone who would be “gleeful” about war. Not in this era.

    I don’t think Hitchens was “gleeful”about it.

    But I do think that he and some others recognised that Iraq war (the second Saddam caused one) was – sadly, tragically, horribly, – the lesser of the evil options realistically available.

    So can I ask, Avicenna, do you think sometimes war may be unavoidable and need fighting because the alternatives are worse? Would you (like others) support it reluctantly despite it being tragic when the alternative is even more appalling to contemplate?

    Was the Iraq war unavoidable and such a war? I really don’t know. Hindsight makes it seem far different from how it was and what we all knew or thought we all knew at the time. Oversimplified ideological revisionist narratives of the politicial Left and Right make it easy to put alt lhe blame on Bush or Saddam or whatever. I think it was a lot more complicated and shades of grey than many will now admit. Saddam Hussein made a horrible mistake and stupid bluff and bears a lot of the guilt for it. Far more than the Left usually admits. Bush certainly got a lot wrong too and wanted a war too – I don’t think he lied but was mistaken and did believe what he wanted to believe so .. yeah, its complicated – and its now finally over. Perhaps democracy and a better place will emerge. Perhaps not. That’s up to the Iraqis now and has been for a while.

    this misrepresents atheists as simplistic and colonial.

    What does “colonial” actually mean these days? Seriously, please.

    There aren’t really any colonial powers left and haven’t been for ages. Maybe its me but I don’t see anyone advocating colonialism. Given the chance to make colonies of Iraq and Afghanistan the US refused without hesitation and gave them back to their people to govern So, really I don’t get it, what’s that meant to mean now?

    Our lack of diversity has been used to harm us before. Atheism needs new voices and needs diversity. We need to look beyond Christianity to find our diversity.

    This though I get and fully agree with.

    E pluribus unem – from many one. I am, you are we all are ..* globally human beings!

    We are all the better for diversity and from hearing from the full gamut and range of people that make us and our communities and our lands** and our world who and what they are. I think in all areas we’re well advised to try to include more, learn more and listen more.

    * See : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jD3SkTyXzcE This song is not our national anthem but I wish it were.

    ** Isaac Asimov wrote :

    “The Earth should not be cut up into hundreds of different sections, each inhabited by a self-defined segment of humanity that considers its own welfare and its own “national security” to be paramount above all other considerations. There are no nations! There is only humanity. And if we don’t come to understand that right soon, there will be no nations, because there will be no humanity.”
    - Isaac Asimov, Pages 419-421, ,‘ I Asimov : A memoir’, Bantam Books, 1995.

    I agree with that although un-nationalised world won’t be easy and we are a very long way from it still and living in a world where nationality is still a major reality.

  5. 5
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    An example of “neo-colonialism” in the USA would be the Big Bang Theory.
    It’s currently playing all across the world and influencing language in places like India and China. It’s one of the biggest shows out here. Many TV stations show NOTHING but re-runs of it on the weekends.

    So, a TV show that’s popular is somehow also a political “colonisation” because, its popular and people like to watch or decide to screen it?

    I don’t think this follows or makes sense.

    I’ve never seen the show but from what I’ve heard its a pro-science comedy right?

    Nobody is forced to view it or broadcast it, people enjoy it and that means, well, that its somehow “neo-colonial” and a bad thing (you seem to imply don’t you?) because – why again? I don’t understand.

    Okay, if they refuse to show local shows that are similar and equal or better quality maybe you’ve got a case but if so, I haven’t heard that.

    If the actors espouse a colonial attitude (whatever that may be) rejection of other cultures based on no good reason then too maybe There’s logic to that – but, again, I haven’t heard anything to suggest or state that.

    What’s “colonial” about people choosing to see a TV show that may influence them positively or negatively but they get a choice to watch or not, to screen or not and whether to adopt it as a meme and something they get inspired by and enjoy or not? Is it just because its made in the US (Or UK presumably) with actors of that nation?

    What is the better alternative do you think – would you ban that and suchlike shows or try to discourage people in other nations watching it and, if so, why?

  6. 6
    Avicenna

    Hardly but it’s an example of cultural domination of one country by another

  7. 7
    Shatterface

    Hardly but it’s an example of cultural domination of one country by another

    No, it isn’t. Just because a show is watched in different countries doesn’t mean it means the same thing there.

    When Doctor Who first became popular in the USA in the late Seventies it was watched on PBS late at night by adults who thought of it as the ‘quality’ SF equivalent of Monty Python; in the UK it was just a kids’ show.

    How Dallas was viewed outside the US varied from country to country and audience to audience.

    Different context, different meaning; how it is interpreted will reflect the values of the audience not the other way round.

    Cultural imperialism is insisting that your interpretation trumps the audience.

  8. 8
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @6. Avicenna : “Hardly but it’s an example of cultural domination of one country by another.”

    Really? It is?

    I don’t think so, don’t see it that way and would really appreciate it if you would elaborate on that and the other questions my comment #5 raised, please.

  9. 9
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Plus my comment #4 too – would really like your thoughts and explanations on that as well, please Avicenna.

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