Education in Texas: yet another exposé »« Botanical Wednesday: Frozen Grass

<groan>

A week from Tuesday, UMM will host a distinguished visitor whose anti-war work I respect, but who otherwise is a raving nutcase. And wouldn’t you know it, his talk is specifically centered dead on the topic in which he is an ignoramus: Chris Hedges will be lecturing us on The New Atheists as Secular Fundamentalists. Promising title, yes?

You know, I’ve already heard this same stupid song before, and I didn’t like it then. I suppose I’m going to have to go listen to this product of the Harvard Divinity School rant about it again, and I’m not going to enjoy it.

I would have enjoyed hearing him dissect the war culture in America, but listening to him blame the atheists for both the terror and the war on terror is going to be annoying.

Comments

  1. says

    It’s also going to be annoying to be personally lumped in with both Harris and Hitchens, whose politics I detest, as if being an atheist promptly puts me into their camp on all matters.

  2. Lauren Fitzpatrick says

    Ugh. While I disagree with the premise of the title, I admit that emotionally the Harris/Hitchens politics camp can feel a bit like fundamentalism.

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  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    product of the Harvard Divinity School

    Divinity is tasty, I especially like versions with pecans. Maybe he’ll have some good recipes.

  4. says

    “… listening to him blame the atheists for both the terror and the war on terror is going to be annoying.”

    Didn’t you know that atheists flew planes into the World Trade Center? Are the chief instigators of anti-gay legislation in Russia and Nigeria? Are the reason why women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive or even show their faces in public? Didn’t you know that atheism was the principle ideology behind the Holocaust? The genocide of Native Americans? Slavery? The Crusades?

    Check mate!

  5. Rey Fox says

    Secularism seems like a pretty good thing to be fundamental about.

    I mean, if we’re going by actual word definitions rather than dogwhistles.

  6. footface says

    I guess I could see it if people meant “rigid” or “mean” mean they accuse the gnus of fundamentalism. I mean, I would disagree with that—Richard Dawkins is mean? And how can you not be rigid when you say, “I believe X is true”?—but I can understand it.

    But if people mean “just like religious fundamentalists,” then I think that’s incoherent.

  7. doublereed says

    Karl Marx and Ayn Rand are both atheists. It’s kind of stupid to relate specific politics to atheism, considering.

    I also hate how people try to make ‘secular’ into a dirty word. That’s just wrong.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    Hedges also suffers from the problem of doing just enough homework to put him into Dunning-Kruger territory.

    E.g., during the release tour for American Fascism, he gave interviews claiming that the far right in the US always showed respect for the police (based on his tour of wingnut meetings in the midwest) – while on the same day “Operation Rescue” was bitterly denouncing the cops of Jackson, Mississippi for interfering with OR’s harassment of the city’s only abortion-providing clinic and its patients.

    Another e.g.: asserting that the Vatican made a deal with Mussolini as soon as the fascists came to power in Italy. In point of fact, the blackshirt coup happened in 1922, but the Lateran Concord was signed only in 1929.

  9. =8)-DX says

    </groan>

    Sorry, but I just had to – can’t be leaving unclosed xml tags all over the place… (Also, seconding the groan – fundamentalists don’t admit they could be wrong and at the same time reject liberal modernism. Most atheists are the opposite of fundamentalists by every definition).

  10. mx89 says

    Hedges often has an apocalyptic tone to his speeches and writings but he does a lot of important work critiquing the Western form of political economy as well as US foreign policy.

    This atheist stuff is a pretty minor component of his output and while I wish he’d just focus on the Harris/Hitchens neocon form of politics (i.e the possibility of some atheists to become associated with a rigid and dangerous political movement), that ignorance does not detract too much from the rest of what he does.

    The guy’s been to several wars as a correspondent and witnessed the very worst of human behaviour. I forgive him for not buying into the Enlightenment idea of human progress, nor the still-common view among atheists that just ditching religion will solve a lot of problems. He’s just unfortunately beating a straw man too often when he goes into the subject.

  11. Sastra says

    I’m re-reading Hedge’s basic argument in your second link and finding it full of holes. He accuses gnu atheists of being Utopian, of believing that humans are morally perfectible, and of not believing that the universe is morally neutral. Apparently the goal of “becoming more reasonable” will INEVITABLY lead to fascist gulags which kill the unreasonable and anyone who stands in their path BWAHAHAaa!.

    Hedges thinks and argues like a fundamentalist.

  12. woozy says

    The “stupid song” link argument seems to berate atheists for not being cynical enough. I gotta admit I’m not used to being accused of that.

  13. woozy says

    I forgive him for not buying into the Enlightenment idea of human progress, nor the still-common view among atheists that just ditching religion will solve a lot of problems.

    Is that really a common view among atheists? I always figured at best that was a view minor point and to base an argument on that being the entire heart and gyst of atheism seems really bizarre to me.

  14. gussnarp says

    From the excerpt in your old post, he sounds like an idiot. He’s crafted quite a straw man there. There’s no shortage of good critics of war and imperialism, I think I can get by without Hedges.

  15. alkaloid says

    Actually, Parson Hedges might have moved on from just blaming atheists for American imperialism.

    In the past (I’m not sure if he still holds this view) he also blamed the vast majority of scientists:

    “A rational world, a world that will protect the ecosystem and build economies that learn to distribute wealth rather than allow a rapacious elite to hoard it, will never be handed to us by the scientists and technicians. Nearly all of them work for the enemy.”

    as well as rational thought in general:

    “To think, we must, as Epicurus understood, “live in hiding.” We must build walls to keep out the cant and noise of the crowd. We must retreat into a print-based culture where ideas are not deformed into sound bites and thought-terminating clichés. Thinking is, as Hannah Arendt wrote, “a soundless dialogue between me and myself.” But thinking, she wrote, always presupposes the human condition of plurality. It has no utilitarian function. It is not an end or an aim outside of itself. It is different from logical reasoning, which is focused on a finite and identifiable goal. Logical reason, acts of cognition, serve the efficiency of a system, including corporate power, which is usually morally neutral at best, and often evil.”

  16. Rob Grigjanis says

    alkaloid @21:

    …as well as rational thought in general

    Were we reading the same article? He’s bemoaning the lack of thought, not blaming thought.

    And here is the dilemma we face as a civilization. We march collectively toward self-annihilation. Corporate capitalism, if left unchecked, will kill us. Yet we refuse, because we cannot think and no longer listen to those who do think, to see what is about to happen to us. We have created entertaining mechanisms to obscure and silence the harsh truths, from climate change to the collapse of globalization to our enslavement to corporate power, that will mean our self-destruction. If we can do nothing else we must, even as individuals, nurture the private dialogue and the solitude that make thought possible. It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one’s own country, than an outcast from one’s self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.

  17. fredericksparks says

    At what point will stop calling the new atheists the new atheists? when Sam Harris is 85?

  18. alkaloid says

    @Rob Grigjanis, #22

    How do you reconcile what he says in the paragraph that you quoted with this subquote from the paragraph that I excerpted, namely:

    “It [thinking] has no utilitarian function. It is not an end or an aim outside of itself. It is different from logical reasoning, which is focused on a finite and identifiable goal. Logical reason, acts of cognition, serve the efficiency of a system, including corporate power, which is usually morally neutral at best, and often evil.”

    Isn’t deciding that the world, and yourself as a person within the world, is worth trying to save or preserve assigning a utilitarian function to thought?

  19. Rob Grigjanis says

    alkaloid @24: I took “It has no utilitarian function” to mean that thinking is not a tool to fix the world, but to see it as it really is. Mileage may vary on that, but I thought the rest of the article made his views quite clear.

    How do you reconcile “blaming rational thought” with the rest of his article, especially the final paragraph?

  20. alkaloid says

    @Rob Grigjanis, #25

    “alkaloid @24: I took “It has no utilitarian function” to mean that thinking is not a tool to fix the world, but to see it as it really is. Mileage may vary on that, but I thought the rest of the article made his views quite clear.”

    Doesn’t your first sentence imply that seeing the world as it really is, is still more useful than seeing the world as it isn’t, though-and assigns some utilitarian value to the former over the latter inadvertently?

  21. Rob Grigjanis says

    alkaloid @26: Tell you what, why don’t you write a stern letter to Mr Hedges scolding him about his possible misuse of ‘utilitarian’? It seems to bother you a lot.

  22. theoreticalgrrrl says

    Do people who accuse atheists and secularists of “fundamentalism” understand what they’re actually saying?
    The reason fundamentalism is associated with or confused with fanaticism is because the basics or primary source of most religious teachings are fanatical and oppressive.

    fun·da·men·tal [fuhn-duh-men-tl]
    adjective
    1.
    serving as, or being an essential part of, a foundation or basis; basic; underlying: fundamental principles; the fundamental structure.
    2.
    of, pertaining to, or affecting the foundation or basis: a fundamental revision.
    3.
    being an original or primary source: a fundamental idea.
    4.
    Music. (of a chord) having its root as its lowest note.
    5.
    a basic principle, rule, law, or the like, that serves as the groundwork of a system; essential part: to master the fundamentals of a trade.