Reza Aslan — a guy I normally liked watching when he appeared on The Daily Show and The Rachel Maddow Show — has a horrible piece up at the Washington Post website regurgitating every nasty atheist stereotype you can think of.
He starts off with a plain old mistake when he explains the London Atheist Bus Campaign:
… a friend informed me that the driving force behind the London bus ads was none other than the dean of the so-called “new atheists” — Darwin’s Rottweiler, himself — Richard Dawkins. If you are wondering what an esteemed evolutionary biologist and respected Oxford University professor is doing placing billboards around London proselytizing atheism, you are not alone.
Dawkins wasn’t the driving force. Columnist Ariane Sherine was. Blogger Jon Worth was. The British Humanist Association was.
Dawkins gave some seed money toward it and supported the campaign, but he wasn’t the mastermind.
Aslan didn’t do his research.
And that’s just the first paragraph.
The new atheists have their own special interest groups and ad campaigns. They even have their own holiday (International Blasphemy Day).
We have our own holiday?!
More like we have a popular Facebook group.
It’s not like we’re taking a day off work to get together and say, “Fuck Allah.”
Here’s the worst part:
It is no exaggeration to describe the movement popularized by the likes of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens as a new and particularly zealous form of fundamentalism — an atheist fundamentalism. The parallels with religious fundamentalism are obvious and startling: the conviction that they are in sole possession of truth (scientific or otherwise), the troubling lack of tolerance for the views of their critics (Dawkins has compared creationists to Holocaust deniers), the insistence on a literalist reading of scripture (more literalist, in fact, than one finds among most religious fundamentalists), the simplistic reductionism of the religious phenomenon, and, perhaps most bizarrely, their overwhelming sense of siege: the belief that they have been oppressed and marginalized by Western societies and are just not going to take it anymore.
Oh boy… the “atheist fundamentalist” argument. As soon as someone uses that phrase (in a serious way), you should tune them out immediately because nothing they say afterwards will be credible.
I’ve said variations of this before but here you go:
When I think of Muslim fundamentalists, violent images come to mind.
When I think of Christian fundamentalists, I think of ignorant people who cling to literal interpretations of their Bibles instead of opening their eyes to reality.
When I think of “atheist fundamentalists,” I think of books.
There’s no comparison.
We’re not in “sole possession of truth” but we do think science is the best method to discover it. Does Aslan think truth is found in a holy book?
Dawkins compares Creationists to Holocaust deniers because both groups deny an obvious reality. That has nothing to do with tolerance.
Are we insistent “on a literalist reading of scripture”? If so, it’s because the churches stress it. Nearly half of our country believes that men and women were created in our present form less than 10,000 years ago. That’s appalling and idiotic.
We’re thankful that many Christians don’t take their scripture literally. Yet even they will insist that there’s literal truth in the stories of Jesus’ life.
Aslan then spends 500 words complaining that we atheists just don’t understand religion. From what I can tell, he’s more interested in our religious literacy than he is with any sense of whether or not there’s any truth to what different faiths believe.
I think there’s value in both religious literacy and pointing out that these faiths are misguided and dangerous. There’s a reason to learn about Greek mythology because it gives us insight into how those people thought about the world. There’s a reason to study Christianity because it’s the lens through which so many people (incorrectly) view the world.
But no New Atheist is against that. We’re against the notion that we should take their mythologies as truth. We’re against people taking those faulty beliefs and transforming them into public policy. They’re made up stories and we want people to acknowledge that.
The new atheists will say that religion is not just wrong but evil, as if religion has a monopoly on radicalism and violence; if one is to blame religion for acts of violence carried out in religion’s name then one must also blame nationalism for fascism, socialism for Nazism, communism for Stalinism, even science for eugenics. The new atheists claim that people of faith are not just misguided but stupid–the stock response of any absolutist.
The practice of science is not to blame for the promotion of eugenics. Communism isn’t to blame for Stalinism. Individuals distort ideas into their own agendas all the time.
But some holy books directly call for the slaughter of dissenters. There are people who take those writings seriously. That should be frightening to every single person.
As Dawkins has said before, religion isn’t the root of all evil, but it’s to blame for quite a bit of it.
This is an irresponsible piece written by a person who knows nothing about the subject he’s writing about.
Refute him, ignore him, but don’t take him seriously anymore.