One of the most boring things about celebrity atheist Sam Harris is his obsession with Islamic fundamentalism. I like a lot of other stuff he writes but when it comes to this topic it’s like his voice raises a couple dozen decibels and a couple of octaves as well. It feels like being screamed at.
Am I tone trolling there? Maybe.
Chris Hedges, who’s viewpoint I also admire on a lot of issues also tends towards the rising voice and indignant posturing.
The two of them have had at it more than a few times in debates and in print. Most recently, after the Norway massacre Hedges wrote a pointed column on Truthdig in which he lambasted Harris, along with Christopher Hitchens, for their often expressed Islamophobic paranoia. The implication was that those who expressed such exuberant outrage at this particular religion had more in common with Tea Party wingnuts than the rational atheists they proclaim themselves to be. He also pointed to the influence both have on their various followings. The article is Fundamentalism Kills.
Shortly thereafter Sam Harris responded with Dear Angry Lunatic: A Response to Chris Hedges. He quotes himself quite a bit, or at least from his own books and employs a number of “psychoanalytical” attacks on Hedges as well as picking on his vocabulary. It’s a little frivolous in terms of a response.
Today Sam Harris posted on Facebook a link, prefaced by “The Future of Islam in Europe? A few reasons to worry”, to a video of a “press conference” by some radical Muslim scholars in Britain. I put press conference in quotes because it appeared that there weren’t too many press there and it was posted on YouTube not on the BBC or other media website. So…you know my neighbor’s kid posts their little manifestos on YouTube as well and has more followers than these guys.
But lets not turn this into a YouTube popularity contest. The fact that a Muslim guy rattled on about sharia law and his utopian hope for a society that lives up to all his Quranic fantasies, even if nobody watched, is reason enough to issue yet another call to the Harrisists to twist their knickers so tight they’ll need the jaws of life to get them out of their butt cracks.
And some of them certainly did get twisted. The comment stream is here. One suggested a Final Solution for Muslims.
“As long as islam has a future anywhere we need to be worried. If we don’t come up with a final solution to the moooslim question, we’re all dead.”
Quite possibly a troll attempt one might be tempted to think, but what followed was certainly written with sincerity. Four people liked that status. Someone wrote in contrast:
I just want to point out that you are a troll idiot.
and 8 people liked that. So twice as many are against a “moooslim” final solution than for it, thus far.
But then the original commenter came up with this rationale which is either trolling for the grand prize or dead serious.
Tommy thousands of years have proven that the marketplace of ideas cannot trump religious ideology. Moooslims won’t abandon the perpertual "paradise" of raping 72 young virgins (or raisins) for all eternity in favor of reason and logic. Not a chance. This is why they need to be rounded up, separated from their children (who can be given secular educations that don’t mention religion), and pumped full of antipsychotic meds while being given forceful de-islamifying re-education for 23 hours a day. The ones who can be de-islamified can be released, the rest unfortunately have to be put down – in the most humane way possible. And spare me the hitler/nazi crap, I’m not suggesting we torture, gas, burn, or enslave anyone. It’s either mooslims or civilization, and unlike most people I an NOT willing to let civilization be destroyed just so I can say "well, I was tolerant."
And then more along the same line appeared.
With any luck, Inshallah, some Mossad/CIA/M6 agents will introduce these Neandarthals in bedsheets to their maker. Inshallah.
What scares me more is the so called liberal secularists who would rather be seen as "tolerant" than confront Islamism. If this community had more sense, we wouldn’t be watching conferences like this. Half of the people here are downplaying, if not defended, these Islamists and the threat they pose. If these were white Christians, this thread would be filled with foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics with torches in hand. If Europe does change for the worse, it will be your fault for letting it happen. Your grand children will hate you for it while they try to put back together what was an otherwise secular and progressive continent. I hope you’re all proud of yourselves. If your grandparents had crystal balls, they would have spent a hell of a lot more time cumming into a handkerchief than your grandmother.
I’m so ready to just go to war with these nutballs, pound them into dust, and be done with it already
These fucking troglodyte camel jockeys are saying that THEY are advanced and the rest of us are in the Middle Ages ? WTF ???
On the other hand some commenters did express some objections.
Did 4 people really like a comment about a Muslim Final Solution? Maybe Chris Hedges was onto something.
WOW! I think Sam really needs to clarify what he is asserting, it is definitely not the type of hatred that is in this thread.
My fav part is when people throw out the same type rhetoric the fundies do — round em all up, sterilize them, etc etc… Looks like we have some NAZIs in the atheist community :P tolerance is the holy grail — nobody seems to have found it (except for citizens under Saladin until the fundie Xtians ruined that too)
I guess now that Osama is dead we need to haul out references to every obscure guy with a beard and a twisted utopian/dystopian dream to keep the flames fanned. The Islamophobic paranoia is as bad as the anti-Islamophobia hysteria. You & Hedges make a great couple.
I wrote the last one and it’s the point of this post.
A passion for the truth is something I understand. Sometimes that passion takes one into areas that get pretty heated. It’s easy to overstep. I’ve done it. But I’m not a New York Times best selling author, public speaker, celebrity or public intellectual. Nor do I have tens of thousands of followers, many of whom having had little exposure to public/political debate. The public debate of ideas has certain rules. There is much nuance and subtext and a fair bit of metaphor mixed in with a certain amount of heady egotism. People in the spotlight tend to magnify their expressions to match the occasion. Many in the audience however take what is written or said at face value. That’s a problem. As much as I agree with what both Harris and Hedges write by way of socio-cultural criticism I have some reservations about their ability to view issues clearly or to express them without bombast.
One of the main reasons I won’t join the current skeptic or atheist movement, even as a Buddhist (which has an atheist viewpoint) which I have gathered so far is an unpopular position, is because of the unwillingness of some of the biggest names, as well as their acolytes to rationally self-examine. There is a supposition of rationality that I find lacking a lot of the time. It is not unlike what I wrote in my previous post on moral credentialing by proxy. Stating “I say I am an atheist therefore I am rational” is as much of a non sequitur as stating “I say I am a Buddhist therefore I am moral (or any other Buddhisty thing)”.
It is equally as difficult to buy into Hedges rhetoric when it is so hyperbolic. He is a political columnist and social critic. His stock in trade, and the basis of his Pulizer Prize winning work, is delving into the fray in a very emotionally engaging way. This makes for compelling journalism. I am perhaps easier on Hedges because he does not make absolutist claims in the realm of rationality and objectivity to the degree that some of the atheist luminaries like Harris do.
I’ll still read what they write, put my helmet on and comment once in a while or even write a blog post or two in support of the majority of their goals. But joining up isn’t in the works.