“And among them are those who listen to you. But can you cause the deaf to hear, although they will not use reason?”

“And among them are those who look at you. But can you guide the blind although they will not [attempt to] see?” (Quran 10:42-43)

 

Richard Dawkins is allergic to reality. And I don’t mean he doesn’t like reality, or that he has an aversion to reality, I mean that reality functions as a literal allergen to him, like walnuts or jelly are to some. Not merely can he not come in contact with reality, but events occurring in reality, or anything that might even be remotely connected to reality, are also off the table.

How else do you describe someone who is not merely content with not bothering to read the Quran whilst describing Islam as “the greatest force for evil in the world today”, but feels compelled to announce both things in the same sentence? [1] A man who openly praises fascists for their stance against Islam and Muslims, while at the same time reveling in how brave he is for doing so? [2]

And when your hypersensitivity to reality is as high as Dawkins’ or Hitchens’, or Harris’, or any of the other New Atheist thought-leaders, it becomes a downright necessity to inoculate yourself against the roving plagues by forming your own world, a thousand times more intricate and complex than Oz, or Middle-earth. Your own freethinking utopia, to protect yourself from the barbaric hordes of mindless believers.

You can go there if you’d like. Just close your eyes, lean back in your chair, and imagine a world where all thought not based on empirical evidence has been eradicated, where the Iraq war turned out to be a great idea [3], where torture is upheld as a moral ideal [4], and where brave freedom-fighters nobly execute individuals for holding “sufficiently dangerous ideas” [5]. Welcome to the New Atheist Fantasyland.

Faith is dead in this world. Faith is dead, and SCIENCE has prevailed. Now, SCIENCE here has little to do with the scientific method, or the systematic process of gathering knowledge that is ‘science’ itself, which has been fully prepared to be thrown out the window the second it does not fit an atheistic agenda [6], rather, it comprises of a series of thrown together scientific principles, pieces of research and experimentation, and appealing catchphrases all neatly packaged together in the massive face of Dawkins himself, bellowing to any and all in sight that THERE IS NO GOD.

You look out into the merry world and see buildings. Beyond that, roads. Beyond that, trees. Beyond that, dirt. And beyond that, walls [7]. Massive concrete mounds stretching to as far as the eye can see. Trapped outside it are the barbaric hordes from what was once known as the Middle East, animals “utterly deranged” by their primitive faith [8]. After all, if these people’s antiquated dogma makes them incapable of holding humane practices like elections, or the right to freedom, what right do they have to be treated as human? Isn’t it only fair that these nations be subjected to some degree of force, at least until they begin to enact ethical principles? [9] You look closer at the barrier, and see a faint wisp of smoke rising from the top, a remnant of the latest bombing. Because after all, if there is even the possibility of a terrorist plot emanating from these benighted countries, is it not the duty of the civilized nation to combat this by any and all means necessary? No matter the collateral damage [10],  or the horrific, even genocidal [11] consequences, is it not better to sacrifice millions then to let one terrorist go free?

You fall to your knees and feel sick to your stomach. Around you, people walk purposefully to their places as if nothing were wrong. Who are these people, and what have they done to humanity? You try to think to yourself about how Religion Poisons Everything, or how Religion Causes All Wars, but what are we left with now? Has mankind truly been fulfilled by rationalism and scientism? You try to convince yourself that science can solve our problems, that it can determine morality, and that it is faith, exclusively and entirely, that afflicts us. But you cannot, because the universe is not a canvas to play out some zealous, black-and-white fantasy of reason and belief, locked into a zero-sum game. The fundamentalist idea that all world conflicts can somehow be reduced to sheer theology is an intellectually untenable position at best. At worst, it functions as a way to absolve nations of blame for their political interference and military interventionism.

You look out at the world again and it begins to crash down around you. You look at the gray walls and the gray skies and the gray-uniformed soldiers, and you realize that this is exactly what they all rallied against: a totalitarian, fundamentalist state.


New Atheism is a threat. Not to Islam and Muslims, or even to believers in general, but to the world at large. New Atheism emerged as a reaction to the sudden wave of religious conservatism and zealotry that emerged in the late 20th century, not to provide a solution, but rather, to create an irreligious variant of it. It was a reaction, of sorts, to the sudden repudiation of the worldview that science was beginning to represent what mankind had once needed religion for, and that God was being written out of society, infamously represented by the 1966 Time magazine cover boldly asking, in dark red print, Is God Dead? Then the 1980s occurred, and with it, the Iranian Revolution, the newfound popularity of fundamentalist Christianity in the United States, and the worldwide baal teshuva movement, and it became clear that God was far from dead. And so, a certain faction of atheists brought to life a much more hostile version of disbelief, one that was antagonistic and belligerent. The fact that the tired platforms the movement continues to espouse- that the Book of Genesis is scientifically inaccurate, that religious differences naturally give way to violence- had already been voiced in the past, continuously, did not seem to matter to the disenfranchised youth it appealed to, when it burst into the mainstream in the chaos of a post-9/11 America. As Luke Savage writes in New Atheism, Old Empire: “It is simply impossible to imagine the commercial and intellectual success of the New Atheist project in a pre-9/11 world without both rising anti-Muslim sentiments across Western societies or neoconservative geopolitics.”

After all, New Atheism should really be titled New Imperialism, because beneath all their scientific facades and polished prose, lurks the presence of a disturbingly familiar worldview, one that has been echoed time and time again throughout history, from the European colonization of Africa in the 17th century, to the torture and prisoner abuse of Abu Ghraib in the modern day. Their writings may span the covers of the world’s leading periodicals, but when Sam Harris enthusiastically advocates racial profiling [12], or when Christopher Hitchens gleefully remarks on the murderous power of cluster bombs on ‘Quran-bearing fanatics’ [13], it’s difficult not to draw comparisons to the ominous tone of a 19th century ethnographer, remarking on the urgency of “the civilizing mission”. They’ve traded in Christ for Darwin, but let’s not be fooled. We’ve seen it all before.

 

[1] Source: Richard Dawkins’ Twitter

[2] “On the strength of ‘Fitna’ alone, I salute you as a man of courage who has the balls to stand up to a monstrous enemy.” (Richard Dawkins, speaking to notorious far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders). See also: “With a few exceptions, the only public figures who have had the courage to speak honestly about the threat that Islam now poses to European societies seem to be fascists.” (Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation, p. 85)

[3] Source: A Long Short War (Christopher Hitchens)

[4] Source: In Defense of Torture (Sam Harris)

[5] “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them” (Sam Harris, The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror and The Future of Reason p.52-53)

[6] “I used to say it would be very simple. It would be the Second Coming of Jesus or a great, big, deep, booming, bass voice saying “I am God.” But I was persuaded… that even if there was this booming voice in the Second Coming with clouds of glory, the probable explanation is that it is a hallucination or a conjuring trick by David Copperfield… I’m starting to think nothing would [persuade me to believe in God], which, in a way, goes against the grain, because I’ve always paid lip service to the view that a scientist should change his mind when evidence is forthcoming.” (Richard Dawkins on what it would take for him to believe in God, source)

[7] “When I search my heart, I discover that I want to keep the barbarians beyond the city walls as much as my conservative neighbors do.” (Sam Harris, source)

[8] “Most Muslims are utterly deranged by their religious faith” (Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation)

 [9] “Some form of benign dictatorship will generally be necessary … But benignity is the key and if it cannot emerge from within a state, it must be imposed from without. The means of such imposition are necessarily crude: they amount to economic isolation, military intervention (whether open or covert), or some combination of both.” (Sam Harris, The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror and The Future of Reason p. 151)

[10] “We cannot let our qualms over collateral damage paralyze us because our enemies know no such qualms. There is a kill-children-first approach to war, and we ignore the fundamental difference between their violence and our own at our peril. Given the proliferation of weaponry in our world, we no longer have the option of waging this war with swords. It is certain that collateral damage, of various sorts, will be part of our future for many years to come.” (Ibid, p. 203.)

[11] “What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry?…The only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own.” (Ibid.)

[12] “We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.” (In Defense of Profiling, Sam Harris)

[13 ] “If you’re actually certain that you’re hitting only a concentration of enemy troops…then it’s pretty good because those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. And if they’re bearing a Koran over their heart, it’ll go straight through that, too. So they won’t be able to say, “Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.” No way, ’cause it’ll go straight through that as well. They’ll be dead, in other words.” (Christopher Hitchens, source)

 

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