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Chris Hedges slams the ‘new atheists’
Posted: 20 March 2008 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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I attended a lecture by Chris Hedges last night in Portland, OR sponsored by the Illahee society.  Overall, it was a decent lecture, he talked about war, why we fight wars, and the danger of the religious right.  But near the end of his lecture, he completely shocked me by going into a diatribe about the “new atheists”, such as “Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and others” whom he thinks are just as dangerous as those on the religious right.  He said that Sam Harris advocates using a nuclear first strike against Muslim nations, and that the types of ideas that these “new atheists” advocate end up getting us things like the Iraq war.

I don’t recall Sam Harris ever advocating a nuclear first strike, and he strikes me as anything but neoconservative.  Hedges appears to be taking one sentence in The End of Faith out of context, and is using it to paint him as a military war-hawk in the mold of Dick Cheney.  I haven’t read any of Hitchens books, but I know he unfortunately was a supporter of the Iraq war.

Hedges has also said some not so complimentary things about some of the “new atheists” in a recent Salon.com interview.  He claims that Harris is intellectually shallow, and that he doesn’t know much about religion or the middle east.  I can’t help but wonder if he feels a little bitter from the beating he took in his debate last year with Harris.

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Posted: 20 March 2008 08:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Thanks for posting that. I’ll have to agree with you on this completely. Harris deserves much more credit than Hedges is willing to give. Also, in the 4 horsemen video they all say that they are being attacked by many of these “new atheists.” Something doesn’t add up here so I’m less inclined to side with Hedges on that one.

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Posted: 21 March 2008 05:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Joel Armstrong - 20 March 2008 03:28 PM

I don’t recall Sam Harris ever advocating a nuclear first strike, and he strikes me as anything but neoconservative.  Hedges appears to be taking one sentence in The End of Faith out of context…

I don’t recall anything like this either. Could you direct to the sentence in EOF you refer to?

Joel Armstrong - 20 March 2008 03:28 PM

II can’t help but wonder if he feels a little bitter from the beating he took in his debate last year with Harris.

Well duh! tongue laugh Any threat to Chris Hedges’ views simply must be a threat to the world at large.

What evidence did he give for his assertions?

[ Edited: 21 March 2008 05:07 AM by mpbrockman]
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Posted: 23 March 2008 01:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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[ Edited: 07 March 2011 05:13 PM by J.C.]
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Posted: 23 March 2008 09:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Thanks for the info Joel. I’ve since caught up by reading a few   Hedges interviews, articles and book reviews. He’s certainly handy with a straw man argument.

I really got a kick out of the article over at beliefnet that had him accusing SH and CH of “wrongly” twisting Darwinism to suggest that morality evolves, stating that morality does indeed change (often for the better) over time, and then saying there was “no historical evidence” that morality evolves. All within a few paragraphs!

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Posted: 25 March 2008 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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I just finished Hedge’s “American Fascists” and I think he decided, maybe in retrospect, that he may have come across as too hard on his fellow religionists and/or god-believers. I’m guessing that his new book and thoughts about the atheists is his way of assuaging his own, unnecessary guilt. In other words, he wants to make sure he didn’t piss off his god.

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Posted: 21 April 2008 08:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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In Hedges’ truthdig debate with Sam it was clear Chris had no idea what he was talking about. He spent most of his 15 minute opening segment railing on Sam for being pro-torture by taking lines from The End of Faith out of context. Bits like this makes you wonder how Sam’s head didn’t explode listening to it:

“The point is to endow us as a nation with a moral right to abuse others in the name of a particular version of goodness. This is done in the name of reason, it is done in the name of a false god, an idol, and this god, if you want it named, is the god of death.”

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Posted: 22 April 2008 12:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Has anyone read “I Don’t Believe in Atheists” yet?  I could only stomach the introduction.  He says some truly over-the-top stuff.  He thinks we’re Nazis.

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Posted: 24 April 2008 08:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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I listened to some stuff by Hedges somebody posted on youtube (unfortunately I don’t find it now). I have not read his book and I don’t know if I have the time for it. He might have a point in his analysis of the Christian Right, I don’t know and to be honest, as a European don’t really care now.

What I found most repulsive however was his attitude towards Ayaan Hirsi Ali and women that are forced to suffer under repressive cultural practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). When asked about this by the female(!) interviewer he stated (and I remember it very clearly): “it might be bad for her, it might certainly not be bad for others”, and sneering at Ayaan (just like some mullah!) as “western educated” with a colonialist mindset.

This academic callousness towards fundamental human rights is unfortunately not just a “fringe”-belief. In the last 30 years “postmodernism” spread from arts and culture (where it was a fruitful new trend) to social sciences where it established Epistemic relativism as a new paradigm. This quickly lead to an extreme intellectual decay in large parts of the social sciences (and of the academic left), partly exposed by the Sokal hoax. PM spread to (European) politics, where it gave us a form of multiculturalism that allows “no go areas” and ethnic/religious based enclaves (especially in Western Europe) that undermine the rule of law and individual freedoms.

Postmodernists like Hedges have to be asked over and over again if they mean what they say: that all cultures (or grand narratives as they like to call them) are equally good or bad for humans, if women for example should suffer FGM or other forms of oppression just because they have been born into it.

The onlineblog Butterflies and Wheels fights against this kind of “fashionable nonsense”, check it out: there is some good reading on the hot issues of today.

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Posted: 26 April 2008 01:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Well there’s a coincidence - I visit this site for the first time in order to express my strong dislike of Hedges’s book, and I find this thread - and the most recent comment ends by recommending Butterflies and Wheels - which is my site. (Thanks, Mel!)

Anyway - Hedges’s book is the most shockingly bad book I’ve read in awhile; it’s especially shocking coming from a reputable publisher and a reporter for the New York Times. Hedges repeatedly and stridently accuses the ‘new atheists’ (as he insists on calling them) of doing a long list of things that they simply do not do, and he neglects to provide any quotations that would back up his wild, hostile, belligerent, and downright stupid charges. A decent teacher would write in the margin of every page, every paragraph, ‘evidence for this?’ The guy is a hack, and nasty with it. He should be embarrassed.

I did a few (cough) analyses of Hedges’s way with evidence at the Comment section of the aforementioned Butterflies and Wheels, here, here, and here.

This book really annoys me. There’s an ethic of writing, and of reporting, and Hedges simply trashed it - he makes no effort to be even slightly accurate.

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Posted: 26 April 2008 03:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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This book really annoys me. There’s an ethic of writing, and of reporting, and Hedges simply trashed it - he makes no effort to be even slightly accurate.

Nice to meet you here as well, after seeing you around on the very grande Jesus and Mo.
I guess you are rather busy on your blog etc, but I wondered, maybe you can hand us a link:
Also Slavoj Zizek tries to take a piss (sorry, I cannot find other words for that) on Sam Harris when he said that he favours the death penalty because Sam Harris is still alive (compare this thread: http://www.samharris.org/forum/viewthread/9587/) and misconstrues that Harris “advocates torture”.

Is it in the nature of the postmodernist “method” to produce soundbites like that? Is this unethical behavior one of their ways of getting attention for themselfs because they otherwise have nothing to offer intellectualy?
Zizeks whole speech entitled “Materialism and Theology” is available on youtube, I watched it all (one hour long) and I still did not really figure out what he acctually wanted to say. Maybe something like: “it’s all too difficult for your small brains anyway therefore you should shut up and accept me as your guru because I can talk so much”. Is there really not more to that than producing confusion? How is that possible?

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Posted: 26 April 2008 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Ah you’re a Jesus and Mo fan. Comrade!

Well, to tell the truth, I think it often is in the nature of the postmodernist “method” to produce soundbites like that. Not always (she says with strained politeness), but all too often. That’s especially true when postmodernism intersects with what used to be called literary criticism and is now dressed up as ‘Theory’ - there’s an inverse ratio between the amount of substantive content and the verbal decoration. The less a given ‘Theorist’ has to say the more she cloaks that little in wordplay and pseudo-philosophical jargon.

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Posted: 04 May 2008 03:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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The most recent Center for Inquiry podcast http://pointofinquiry.org/ has Hedges as a guest.

“In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, acclaimed foreign correspondent Christ Hedges shares his criticism of the New Atheists, calling them “fundamentalists” in their own right. He responds to their account of the origins of Islamic religious extremism, and he accuses the New Atheists of racism. He explains his view that the New Atheists are proponents of the Neo-conservative agenda and how the American Left does advance secular values in the Muslim world. He also criticizes what he calls the “utopianism” of the New Atheists, detailing his skepticism about moral progress for humanity.”

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Posted: 04 May 2008 04:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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There is another thread on here discussing Hedges (Chris Hedges is an imbecile) and I posted the following on it recently:

I watched Hedges give a talk about his new book on c-span recently.  I was surprised at some of the things I heard him say about the New Atheists, Harris and Hitchens in particular.  One idea he expressed was the New Atheists are as fundamental as the religious right in their beliefs—-beliefs about science improving humankind and that they believe in a utopian view of the world. I have never heard any reference to utopia through science coming from the New Atheists. Where does this originate. He also accused them of being arrogant and using humor (at his expense) to make their points.  Sometimes he sounds like sour grapes. He made claims that Harris is advocating nuclear strikes in the Mideast without putting any context to that claim and ditto with the torture issue. My impression coming away from his talk was he twists a lot of what he says (Harris) to make his critique of him more valid. It is a mystery to me.

 

Joel Armstrong - 20 March 2008 03:28 PM

I don’t recall Sam Harris ever advocating a nuclear first strike, and he strikes me as anything but neoconservative.  Hedges appears to be taking one sentence in The End of Faith out of context, and is using it to paint him as a military war-hawk in the mold of Dick Cheney.  I haven’t read any of Hitchens books, but I know he unfortunately was a supporter of the Iraq war.


This is from page 129 The EOF:

What will we do if an Islamic regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide we will not be sure where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, so we will be unready to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own   (my emphasis). Needless to say this would be an unthinkable crime..

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Posted: 04 May 2008 04:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Mel Olontha - 24 April 2008 12:54 PM

What I found most repulsive however was his attitude towards Ayaan Hirsi Ali and women that are forced to suffer under repressive cultural practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). When asked about this by the female(!) interviewer he stated (and I remember it very clearly): “it might be bad for her, it might certainly not be bad for others”, and sneering at Ayaan (just like some mullah!) as “western educated” with a colonialist mindset.

Mel, If you come across the You Tube clip about Ayann Ali please send me a PM or post it here.  I would like to hear what Hedges has to say since I haven’t heard him make any comments about her before. Thanks.  LJ

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Posted: 04 May 2008 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Hmph. I’ve been on Point of Inquiry myself (last July), and I think I at least did better than that. ‘Atheists are fundamentalists’ indeed: that’s as false as it is stale and as stale as it is false. The ‘utopian’ charge is even falser. I find it scandalous that this book got published by a reputable house.

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