Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Hitchens’s atheist fundamentalism

Peter Berkowitz takes apart "the new, new atheism." Berkowitz shows, among other things, that Hitchens is the mirror image of the fundamentalists he purports to criticize. And he offers this sober conclusion:

Playing into the anger and enmities that debase our politics today, the new new atheism blurs the deep commitment to the freedom and equality of individuals that binds atheists and believers in America. At the same time, by treating all religion as one great evil pathology, today’s bestselling atheists suppress crucial distinctions between the forms of faith embraced by the vast majority of American citizens and the militant Islam that at this very moment is pledged to America’s destruction.

Like philosophy, religion, rightly understood, has a beginning in wonder. The most wonderful of creatures are human beings themselves. Of all the Bible’s sublime and sustaining teachings, none is more so than the teaching that explains that humanity is set apart because all human beings--woman as well as man the Bible emphasizes--are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

That a teaching is sublime and sustaining does not make it true. But that, along with its service in laying the moral foundations in the Western world for the belief in the dignity of all men and women--a belief that our new new atheists take for granted and for which they provide no compelling alternative foundation--is reason enough to give the variety of religions a fair hearing. And it is reason enough to respect believers as decent human beings struggling to make sense of a mysterious world.

Read the whole thing.

Discussions - 4 Comments

Fundamantalist Islam is not comparable at all to fundamentalist Christianity.

Attempting to make the two the same is the lazy man's way of deriding all religion as one and the same.

The Bible certainly is clearer than the Greeks that the most wonderful beings are the beings who wonder, and that the beings who wonder necessarily wander or are not fully at home in the world. (The stars and heavens [not to mention the other species] are mighty boring compared with us.) In order for the world to in some measure be the home of the human mind it can't be unambiguously the home of the whole human being. The GENESIS account, to begin with, is better, truer on the fundamental human experiences than anything Darwin or any Darwinian has ever said. I take Hitchens' angry atheism to be at the core of his republican fanaticism. The one time he came to Berry College, he explained to an astonished audience that England was still a despotism because it still had a monarch. But if I were Hitchens I would say to Berkowitz: "Sublime and sustaining" are weasel words, I'm interested in what is true, especially because the history of the mere utility of Biblical religion is pretty uneven (although of course not as bad as Hitchens would have us remember).

"GENESIS account, to begin with, is better, truer on the fundamental human experiences than anything Darwin or any Darwinian has ever said."

Do you realize how simply silly that statement is? It's like saying that Aesop's Fables are truer than Copernicus, or Shakespeare is truer than Newton. Legends try to teach lessons; science tries to teach truth. Allegory comes in Genesis, but the true history comes from Darwin. Don't try to play word games and say that allegory may be a "truer truth" than "literal truth." Playing with words like a Zen Sensei just makes you look pretentious.

Dinesh had a spot-on critique of Berkowitz, whose thesis is reflected in the URL name:

I know Peter had a harsh review of Dinesh's 9/11 book, but the critique stands on its own merits.

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