Thursday, July 31, 2014

The New Fascism

By Thomas M. Cothran

The new atheism has distinguished itself from other forms of atheism by the paucity of its intellectual standards. Another element has become increasingly pronounced; namely, a tendency to fascism.

Sam Harris, for instance, is not only a supporter of the use of nuclear weapons, but a supporter of an offensive nuclear first strike. Harris has also been a longtime champion of torture.

Even that is mild stuff for Harris. In The End of Faith, Harris advocates killing people for their beliefs:
The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense.
The fires of fascism have caught on in other corners of the new atheist movement. Richard Dawkins has suggested that bringing a child up in the Catholic tradition is worse than sexual abuse

In the God Delusion, Dawkins states:
I am persuaded that the phrase ‘child abuse’ is no exaggeration when used to describe what teachers and priests are doing to children whom they encourage to believe in something like the punishment of unshriven mortal sins in an eternal hell.
Dawkins leave the consequences unsaid, but you can fill in the rest easily enough. The state prohibits child abuse, and takes children out of abusive homes. Raising one's child as a traditional Christian is abusive. Therefore, Christian parents should have their children taken away from them.

Perhaps it is not enough for the state to persecute Christian parents. Certain hangers-on of the new atheist movements, such as John Loftus and Jerry Coyne, have recently attacked academic freedom. They suggest that certain approaches to religion―particularly philosophy of religion―be eliminated from secular universities. 

The assault on academic freedom is not limited to the low end of the new atheist spectrum. Richard Dawkins has advocated similar forms of censorship in universities.

When you can't win the arguments, the best tactic is to use the state to suppress the opposing side, or to influence universities to boot out those who disagree with them. The new atheists are not shy about imposing their views by force. 

What is usually indicated as differentiating new atheism as a species within the atheist genus is its particularly low quality of thought. But this alone is not enough to distinguish the new atheism; there have been shoddy arguments for atheism in the past. We should, therefore, identify a second differentia: fascism.

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