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Aslan: “New Atheists Give Atheism a Bad Name”

Posted on July 19 2010 10:00 am
Ben-Peter Terpstra is an Australian satirist and polemicist. His works have been posted on numerous sites from The Daily Caller (Washington D.C.) to Quadrant Online (Sydney, Australia). He blogs at Positively Churchillian.
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Reza Aslan is no stranger to controversy:

Iraq should look to Israel for a model that combines democracy and religious belief.

But now the Daily Beast columnist is taking on the “new atheists” and their “peculiarly evangelistic” sermons. On The Washington Post’s website he states:

There is, as has often been noted, something peculiarly evangelistic about what has been termed the new atheist movement. The new atheists have their own special interest groups and ad campaigns. They even have their own holiday (International Blasphemy Day). 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.

Or look at it this way: Militant atheists (read: anti-free speech zealots) are against Christian evangelists but that’s not to suggest that they’re against all forms of evangelism (read: hypocrisy). They’re for free speech when they’re selling Darwin’s controversial theories. They’re often against free speech when they’re being challenged with alternative views that don’t compliment or fuel their zealous faith in a God-free universe.

While some softer atheists like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Camile Paglia and S.E. Cupp are exceptions to the rule – mainstream militant atheists act like rulers. Even the more likable Hitchens, who makes a good living off magazines and books in a Christian-majority nation, is happy to play the pretend victim, because he feels entitled. And why did he become a U.S. citizen? Aslan continues:

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.

At least, middleclass professionals like Marx and Nietzsche were creative eccentrics. Today’s militant atheists, by way of contrast, look like cashed-up entitlement theologians:

This is not the philosophical atheism of Feuerbach or Marx, Schopenhauer or Nietzsche (I am not the first to think that the new atheists give atheism a bad name)…This is, rather, a caricature of atheism: shallow scholarship mixed with evangelical fervor.


Ben-Peter Terpstra is an Australian satirist and cartoon lover. His works have been posted on numerous sites from American Thinker (California) to Quadrant Online (Sydney, Australia). For more information see, Pizza Trays and Beer Bottles.

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