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More Wrong from Wright

After Foreign Policy published Karen Armstrong’s error riddled piece, they have decided to commission more of the same from Robert Wright. In his newest piece, he takes on the “new atheists,” which has become his favorite topic recently.

Even on the secular left, the alarming implications of the “crusade against religion” are becoming apparent: Though the New Atheists claim to be a progressive force, they often abet fundamentalists and reactionaries, from the heartland of America to the Middle East.

If you’re a Midwestern American, fighting to keep Darwin in the public schools and intelligent design out, the case you make to conservative Christians is that teaching evolution won’t turn their children into atheists. So the last thing you need is for the world’s most famous teacher of evolution, Richard Dawkins, to be among the world’s most zealously proselytizing atheists. These atmospherics only empower your enemies.

I posted some of my thoughts in the comment section at FP so I’ll just reproduce them here.

Of course, we’re all adult enough to read these silly perspectives and dismiss them, but I wish FP would print someone who differs on this “new atheist” issue. Didn’t they just publish Karen Armstrong’s awful piece? What did Wright offer that was different? Although it wouldn’t be very useful, I could stand hearing the same arguments if they were at least more well reasoned.

Similar to Armstrong, Wright just makes assertions without backing them up. “But the New Atheists’ main short-term goal wasn’t to turn believers into atheists, it was to turn atheists into New Atheists” Oh? Where and when was that decided? Also, yes, keeping creationism out of schools is important to each of the new atheists, but what they each stress is valuing reason over faith in all cases. He misses the point; their common attitudes converge on shifting the popular notion that faith offers a useful path to knowledge. So their “goals” are bigger than any specific science versus religion fight. No worries though, Wright provides no evidence that new atheists are actually hurting the case for evolution over creationism.

Finally, can he and Armstrong just quit equating atheists with “divisive fundamentalism” or the militantly religious? Anyone who thinks that strongly criticizing unsupported beliefs is on the same level as burning girls with acid, suicide murder, or supporting, say, anti-gay legislation in Uganda which could lead to genocide should not be taken seriously. I expect more from Foreign Policy.

I also responded to a fellow commenter who claimed that atheists ignore secular ideologies. It is a familiar and annoying argument to which I responded:

None argue that secular ideologies are fine and only religious ones are a problem. That’s the whole problem that Sam Harris pinpointed when he argued it is a mistake to identify mainly as atheists. The problem is not just religion. It is faith. Faith in secular political ideologies as well as faith in any religion. Religion just happens to be a particularly deep well of dangerous faith-based thinking – and one that is often taboo to criticize.

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