Posts Tagged “anti-atheism”

Reza Aslan - April 2012-crI’ve blogged about religious scholar — and Muslim — Reza Aslan a couple times. He’s one of those militant theists who views the existence of outspoken atheists as a threat to his precious religionism — and perhaps to his very being. Like a lot of believers, he views religion as above reproach, and anything that ever makes a religion look bad, must be waved off or ignored, because religion is wonderful and perfect and never makes anyone do anything bad. He’s gone on record as insisting that anyone who criticizes any given religion just doesn’t understand it well enough (WebCite cached article). In his mind, there can’t possibly be any such thing as a well-informed religious critic.

After having sanctimoniously gnashed his teeth over what Bill Maher said (cached), in another essay published in Salon, Aslan trained his guns on another of the “New Atheists” he desipises: Sam Harris, widely but wrongly decried as an “Islamophobe” (cached):

Not long ago, I gave an interview in which I said that my biggest problem with so-called New Atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins is that they give atheism a bad name. Almost immediately, I was bombarded on social media by atheist fans of the two men who were incensed that I would pontificate about a community to which I did not belong.

That, in and of itself, wasn’t surprising. As a scholar of religions, I’m used to receiving comments like this from the communities I study. What surprised me is how many of these comments appeared to take for granted that in criticizing New Atheism I was criticizing atheism itself, as though the two are one and the same. That seems an increasingly common mistake these days, with the media and the bestseller lists dominated by New Atheist voices denouncing religion as “innately backward, obscurantist, irrational and dangerous,” and condemning those who disagree as “religious apologists.”

Having spent the last few months screeching to one and all about how horrible it is that insolent atheists have dared criticize religion, Aslan then trickles out this little dribble of disingenuity:

To be sure, there is plenty to criticize in any religion and no ideology — religious or otherwise — should be immune from criticism.

He says this as though we’re all supposed to ignore the fact that he’s spent the last couple months or so making mass media appearances and writing screeds bewailing the very idea that some insolent atheists could possibly have shown the chutzpah to dare criticize religion. Sorry, Reza, but I’m not stupid enough to buy this pretense. You might be able to fool others with this clever little caveat, but not me.

That said, the real gem within Aslan’s anti-Harris — and anti-atheist — diatribe is this bit, which is part of his explanation of the origins of the term “atheist”:

To the Greeks, an atheist didn’t necessarily reject the existence of the gods. He merely acted as though the gods did not exist or were unaware of his actions. Unfortunately, this historical connection between lack of belief and lack of morals is one that still plagues atheism today, despite studies showing atheists to be, as a whole, less prejudiced [cached], less willing to condone violence [cached], and more tolerant [cached] of sexual, ethnic and cultural differences than many faith communities.

Hopefully you immediately see the significance of this. If not, allow me to point it out: Aslan has continuously condemned atheism and promoted religionism — which presumes to make people better than they would be without it — yet admits, explicitly, that religion doesn’t actually do any such thing.

I almost wonder why Aslan included these sentences within his condemnation of atheism, since it so incredibly departs from the position he and the rest of his fellow religionists have staked out. But he said it, and I can only presume … especially since he added links to external sources (which I preserved above) … that he meant it.

I won’t even get into Aslan’s laughable claim that the “New Atheists” are “fundamentalists.” There’s a very simple reason they can’t be “fundamentalists,” because they have no “fundamentals” to rely on (unlike, say, Christian fundamentalists, whose “fundamentals” are their Bibles and their literalist doctrine). Aslan does predicate his declaration that Sam Harris et al are “atheist fundamentalists” on a definition of “fundamentalism,” but it’s one he’s cherry-picked to serve his wishes, and it veers quite wide of what the term actually means.

Finally, as a general observation, please note the vehemence with which Aslan condemns “anti-theists” on the grounds of their (as he sees it) irrational intolerance, without taking into account that his own anti-atheism has the same foundation of intolerance. This makes Aslan something of a hypocrite.

Note: To be fair, while I criticize Aslan in this post, previously I’ve defended his right to write about Jesus. But that problem — i.e. a Muslim like Aslan being told by American Christians that he’s not allowed to write books about their Jesus — is just one more example of the irrational and muddled thinking that religion promotes.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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