“The New Atheists as Secular Fundamentalists”

My delightful evening of fun and intellectual stimulation continues shortly, with a guest lecture on my campus from Chris Hedges, who threatens to berate atheists with his typical ignorance. I’m hoping for full-bore hand-waving purple-faced screaming, but otherwise, it’s going to be a failure of a night.

I’ll try to live-blog it, if he says anything interesting.

His introduction is all about his Harvard Divinity School professor’s experiences in Nazi Germany, and how Christianity was coopted by fascists, which led to his book, Christian Fascists, and his concern with the origins of totalitarianism. He also talks about how megachurches absorb people into the fold, and the nonsense at the Creation Museum.

Then he debated Harris and Hitchens. He was upset and angry at how Dawkins and Dennett and Harris and Hitchens replicated the authority structures of the Christian Right. What?

7:45. Suddenly we’re talking about genocide in Serbia. Where’s the connection to the atheists?

Now he says that like like the Christian Right, atheists can only argue against a caricature of religion: they haven’t studied theology! They have gods of reason and science. And this meme stuff is an example of the misuse of science, reflecting the desire of atheists to engineer ideas, and control the way people think.

He really doesn’t like Sam Harris, quoting him on torture and nuking Islamists. I know this would surprise Hedges, but there are an awful lot of atheists who dislike Harris’s ideas, too.

But no: both atheists and the Christian Right embrace the dehumanization of Muslims. We do? I keep hearing things that I reject, being told that this is what I believe to be a New Atheist.

Weird. Now we’re being told of the bizarre practices of Christian Right anti-abortion activists. What drives people into these movements is despair. Relevance? I don’t know. It seems he doesn’t have enough horrible stories about totalitarian atheists so he has to drag in tales of the religious to tar us with their sins.

The New Atheists misuse Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. It’s not a theory about politics or culture, and Dawkins and EO Wilson abuse it to make false claims about society. What? The Dawkins who has said that selection is an inappropriate ideal for human behavior? Freakish. And now he has brought up Social Darwinism. He’s sounding a bit like the loons at the Discovery Institute.

The New Atheists believe that evolution is linear and directed towards a goal and that we believe in using it to justify genocide.

Religion is not irrational, but it is non-rational. Jebus, Hedges, focus. Make an argument and back it up. This is rambling nonsense.

8:05. My brain hurts. This is stupid. Now he’s chewing out science for fracking and global warming and pollution, and blames it on the corporate state. Fine. Do atheists align with the corporate state? Does any of this have anything to do with his thesis?

New Atheists see evil as something outside themselves that must be eradicated and that evil is largely Muslim.

Fundamentalists readily embrace violence, just like Sam Harris, therefore atheists are fundamentalists. How can I possibly defeat such lucid logic?

8:15. I don’t much like Sam Harris. Harris rather detests me. It’s getting a bit old hearing some horrible thing Harris said being pinned on atheists, including me, as a class…by a guy who’s berating atheists for demonizing groups of people.

We seem to be closing with some babble about transcendance and the struggle with the irrational and the need for the sacred, whatever the hell that is. And we get to the heart of his problem: atheists are knocking down his cherished presumptions, and replacing then with squalid monuments to ourselves…which is a form of idolatry.

8:20. He’s blathering incoherently through the Q&anp;A now. This talk has been such a mess of misconceptions and rambling nonsense that I can’t even think of a question. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m at a creationist talk: it’s wrong from word one, so where do you start?

There were two places where Hedges totally lost me with his bullshit false equivalencies. Well, more than two — but these were the big ones.

  • Just as the Christian fascists abuse the bible, the atheists abuse evolution. Dawkins argues for a linear, progressive, utopian version of evolution. Total crap. Dawkins has been quite clear that natural selection is a “clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel” process, and not at all desirable as a model for human relations. Hedges argument relied entirely on misrepresenting what atheist evolutionists have said.

  • Christian fascists have totalitarian authority structures, just like the New Atheists. I just wanted to ask, what authority structures in atheism? He spent a lot of time railing against Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris; one of those three is dead, and the other two are single individuals who’ve written books. I remember attending a Hitchens lecture in which he presented his odious anti-Muslim views, and the audience booed him. These guys are not our rulers. Hedges has simply inflated his animus against a few individuals into a broad brush characterization of every atheist.

It was infuriating.

The Northstar Holy War continues

Which of these things is not like the others?

  1. The North Star, the abolitionist newspaper established by Frederick Douglass?

  2. The North Star STEM Alliance, an undergraduate organization that gives minorities research opportunities?

  3. The North Star, Polaris, an important navigational guide in the Northern Hemisphere?

  4. The Morris Northstar, a right wing newspaper run by wackaloons at the University of Minnesota Morris who hate equal opportunity laws?

It’s (d). It’s an embarrassment.

I just got back from the campus police, where I was read my Miranda rights and recorded giving a statement, because the Geiger cranks have apparently made a formal complaint, accusing me of stealing their rags and adding a new charge, that I’d vandalized the latest edition, scribbling an “str” on the cover to change “right-to-life” to “right-to-strife”. So I also had to leave a handwriting sample.

It’s gone well past ridiculous. Singling me out as a scapegoat (I am not alone in my contempt for their awful paper), making baseless criminal accusations, wasting the time of the university police and lawyers…this is now in the territory of harassment.

I love to watch my enemies flail at each other

Two creationist camps, both alike in dignity, in fair America, where we lay our scene, from ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. Not that they were ever very civil to begin with.

The Discovery Institute snipes at Answers in Genesis, suggesting that the Nye-Ham debate is going to humiliate the science side and also clarify the difference between Intelligent Design creationism and Overtly Religious creationism; Ken Ham fires back at the Discovery Institute, arguing that ID fails to lead people to the One True God.

This can only end in blood, we hope. Or poison.

Gun-fondler porn

Watch this video for a rather nauseating perspective on American gun culture. Whatever you do, though, don’t think about the fact that the dorks so earnestly firing their weapons in this video are showing you their “O” face, as I did — it just makes it even more icky.

So what sells this ammo is its viciousness? Sweet.

Of course, if you read the source I got it from, a military guy criticizing the dumb people who will buy this crap, you’ll also realize that its claims about the properties of their bullet are physically contradictory and obviously false. But that doesn’t matter if your market is gun-fondling idiots!

I thought he’d live forever

Pete Seeger has died. No, I said that wrong — read that amazing obituary, and you realize that Pete Seeger has lived.

Just for the contrast, the NY Times also has an interview with the odious Tom Perkins, who is now equating the 1% with the people who are creative…while flaunting a $300,000+ watch.

I look at Seeger. I look at Perkins. I look at Seeger again.

And I wonder, who is going to kill fascism now?

Some people don’t know how to handle bad weather

It’s cold out there. So cold that last night, I got this weather alert:

The Stevens County Sheriff is advising NO TRAVEL in Stevens County. It is unsafe to travel and roadways are blown closed with hard packed snow. The County plows will not go out until the wind goes down. Again, NO TRAVEL ADVISED IN STEVENS COUNTY until conditions improve.

That’s right, it was so cold and blizzardy that the snow plows weren’t running. So we waited to hear what the university was going to do. And we waited. And waited. UMM’s official policy is to send out notices about any class cancellations due to weather by 5am on the day of the affected classes, so of course we get notice at…5am this morning. The university is opening 2 hours late, so morning classes are cancelled (which doesn’t affect me or my students at all).

I can understand the dilemma. University schedules are tight; unlike the public schools, which can simply add extra days to the end of the school year to make up snow days, any lost classes are just that, lost. Students are paying good money for those classes, and our curricula are often fairly tight, so losing a day without a makeup can mean some critical subject isn’t as well covered in lecture.

On the other hand, dying or getting injured on hazardous roads blows an even bigger hole in the learning experience.

I think university administrators are quite aware of the conundrum. You’d think students would be aware, too — they’re paying $12,000/year for these classes, you’d think they’d express some resistance or at least hesitation about wanting classes shut down.

Not at the University of Illinois. Some students really, really wanted a snow day. What do they think this is, sixth grade? They got so irate about the fact that the chancellor did not cancel classes today, that they took to Twitter to complain bitterly about having to go to school…and very quickly the complaints descended into sexist and racist remarks about the chancellor, who is a woman of Asian descent.

Don’t do that, children.

College students are adults. You weigh the consequences. UMM is largely a residential school, so it’s not a big deal when we have to stay open during bad weather…but some students do commute, and are going to have a more difficult time. I say, think about your personal circumstances and do what you have to do; you can’t make it to class without putting yourself in peril, then don’t. I have students who’ve written to say that they can’t make it, and that’s all right, I understand and won’t penalize them. I’ll help them go over the material if they stop by my office later.

That’s how adults handle these little setbacks.

But if you’re pissed off because the university tells you that you don’t get a day off from school, a day you’ve already paid for, so pissed off that you start ranting like this:

Asians and women aren’t responsible for their actions #FuckPhyllis

It’s going to be -27 without wind chill tomorrow morning and I have class at 8 #FuckPhyllis #Cunt #Bitch #Whore

phyllis can go shove tomorrow’s weather up her wideset vagina. #fuckphyllis

In a room with Phyllis Wise, Adolf Hitler, and a gun with one bullet. Who do I shoot? #fuckphyllis

You know, I don’t think the university would be out of line to add an additional requirement that you take a course in Remedial Humanity before they allow you to graduate.

When the phrase “out-of-touch” is too mild…

We need a measure of just how far out into space a commentator has launched themselves. I propose that we use the unit, the TomPerkins.

Last week, he sent a letter to the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal, and they published it, despite the fact that it is certifiably nuts, because Tom Perkins is an obscenely rich venture capitalist. Never mind what he says, he’s rich. Yet this letter blithely compares the fate of obscenely rich venture capitalists to that of European Jews in World War II.

Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."

Whoa. He kind of red-lined my TomPerkins meter there.

But now you have to go read his book. Yes, he’s written a whole book, and it’s not what you think it is: he was once married to Danielle Steel, and this book is pure one-percenter porn. Go read the excerpts and gag, or you can buy your own copy on Amazon. The latter is not recommended; while the article says it’s available for 1 cent online, it doesn’t seem to be true any longer — there has been a run on Tom Perkins literature, no doubt driven by aficionados of awful writing.