[Marxism] Sam Harris, uncovered

Joseph Catron jncatron at gmail.com
Thu Sep 27 23:30:46 MDT 2012


On Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 6:54 AM, Shane Hopkinson <swhopkinson at gmail.com>wrote:

These 'new athiests' are a strange crowd - Islamophobic or not - I never
> understood was being labelled an athiest was such an intellectual badge of
> honour


My favorite right-winger (and don't pretend like the rest of you don't have
one!), David Bentley Hart, has written about this at length:

... I have to say I find this all somewhat depressing. For one thing, it
> seems obvious to me that the peculiar vapidity of New Atheist literature is
> simply a reflection of the more general vapidity of all public religious
> discourse these days, believing and unbelieving alike. In part, of course,
> this is because the modern media encourage only fragmentary, sloganeering,
> and emotive debates, but it is also because centuries of the incremental
> secularization of society have left us with a shared grammar that is
> perhaps no longer adequate to the kinds of claims that either reflective
> faith or reflective faithlessness makes.
>
> The principal source of my melancholy, however, is my firm conviction that
> today’s most obstreperous infidels lack the courage, moral intelligence,
> and thoughtfulness of their forefathers in faithlessness. What I find
> chiefly offensive about them is not that they are skeptics or atheists;
> rather, it is that they are not skeptics at all and have purchased their
> atheism cheaply, with the sort of boorish arrogance that might make a man
> believe himself a great strategist because his tanks overwhelmed a town of
> unarmed peasants, or a great lover because he can afford the price of
> admission to a brothel. So long as one can choose one’s conquests in
> advance, taking always the paths of least resistance, one can always
> imagine oneself a Napoleon or a Casanova (and even better: the one without
> a Waterloo, the other without the clap).
>
> But how long can any soul delight in victories of that sort? And how long
> should we waste our time with the sheer banality of the New Atheists—with,
> that is, their childishly Manichean view of history, their lack of any
> tragic sense, their indifference to the cultural contingency of moral
> “truths,” their wanton incuriosity, their vague babblings about “religion”
> in the abstract, and their absurd optimism regarding the future they long
> for?
>
> I am not—honestly, I am not—simply being dismissive here. The utter
> inconsequentiality of contemporary atheism is a social and spiritual
> catastrophe. Something splendid and irreplaceable has taken leave of our
> culture—some great moral and intellectual capacity that once inspired the
> more heroic expressions of belief and unbelief alike. Skepticism and
> atheism are, at least in their highest manifestations, noble, precious, and
> even necessary traditions, and even the most fervent of believers should
> acknowledge that both are often inspired by a profound moral alarm at evil
> and suffering, at the corruption of religious institutions, at
> psychological terrorism, at injustices either prompted or abetted by
> religious doctrines, at arid dogmatisms and inane fideisms, and at worldly
> power wielded in the name of otherworldly goods. In the best kinds of
> unbelief, there is something of the moral grandeur of the prophets—a deep
> and admirable abhorrence of those vicious idolatries that enslave minds and
> justify our worst cruelties.
>
> But a true skeptic is also someone who understands that an attitude of
> critical suspicion is quite different from the glib abandonment of one
> vision of absolute truth for another—say, fundamentalist Christianity for
> fundamentalist materialism or something vaguely and inaccurately called
> “humanism.” Hume, for instance, never traded one dogmatism for another, or
> one facile certitude for another. He understood how radical were the
> implications of the skepticism he recommended, and how they struck at the
> foundations not only of unthinking faith, but of proud rationality as well.
>
> A truly profound atheist is someone who has taken the trouble to
> understand, in its most sophisticated forms, the belief he or she rejects,
> and to understand the consequences of that rejection. Among the New
> Atheists, there is no one of whom this can be said, and the movement as a
> whole has yet to produce a single book or essay that is anything more than
> an insipidly doctrinaire and appallingly ignorant diatribe ...


http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/04/believe-it-or-not

That's the most relevant passage of his essay, but also the least
entertaining. If you're interested in the topic, I recommend checking it
out; Hart is a man who knows how to skewer his adversaries.

And as long as I'm posting, here are three equally relevant (and at times
entertaining) essays from a man of the left, Terry Eagleton:

Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/terry-eagleton/lunging-flailing-mispunching

The liberal supremacists
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/apr/25/liberal-islam

The scandal of faith
http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=11771

-- 
"Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen
lytlað."



More information about the Marxism mailing list