Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Three Horsebros: A Defense of Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris

One of the upsides of arguing with strangers on Twitter is one is occasionally invited to challenge articles.

In a post titled "Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins just don’t get it: The real reason(s) progressives can’t stand them", Adam Johnson states the case against Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Bill Maher.

Some snippets:
Firstly, no one thinks “Islam is a protected species” as Maher put it. This is a typical strawman New Athiest employ. Dawkins doesn’t go after “all religions” equally. Quite the opposite, he has said that Islam is uniquely sinister, referring to it as “unmitigated evil“, on numerous occasions. Accusations of bigotry against Dawkins, therefore, are not selective in favor of Islam, they are areaction to his selective, repeated highlighting of it – fair or not. Secondly, this position is dripping with libertarian false equivalency. The “I criticize all religions equally” is the close cousin to “I criticize all races equally” — a principle that sounds cute in theory but willfully ignores the burden of history and imperialism.
After some discussion of American wars, Johnson continues:
Never mind this. To them, religion is seen in a historical and political vacuum in the same way crime and economic hardship is to libertarians.
[... some discussion of US support of Salafist entities]

What say they of this? Almost nothing. Maher and his loyal band of Twitter partisans have little to say about colonialism, and when it’s brought up, as Glenn Greenwald did to him in 2013, it’s dismissed as irrelevant. It’s excuse-making, end of story.
The ignoring of these power dynamics is dripping with the same type of reductionist handwringing one sees among the right’s obsession with “black on black” crime. It’s an appeal to objective standards that willfully ignores that history did not begin in 1970 and Islam’s relationship with the United States isn’t limited to light panel chats with Aspen Institute-vetted token Muslims.

In general, the claim is that Dawkins, Harris & Maher are ignoring the greater context that Islamist violence happens in, and therefore unfairly judge Islam or use judgment of Islam as a quasi-racist project. What these three are supposed to do is explain shared American (and presumably Zionist) culpability in the growth of Islamist movements before placing any blame on old time religion.

What the three horsebros are to do is to order villains by privilege - start with two helpings of criticism of American support the Saudi Arabian regime, continue with an appetizer of discussion relating to open questions in Israel or AfPak, and then finish with a garnish of talk about the absurdity of religion. This template apparently applies no matter what crime Islamism commits in any particular place - despite Islam predating the creation of the United States by about a millennium, its impact in the real world apparently marginal.

What is undoubtedly true is the Harris, Maher & Dawkins claim to criticize "all religions equally" is absolutely laughable. The three do indeed disbelieve to the same degree in Christianity and Judaism, but are never actually in a position to provide criticism to an equal degree. Yet this is not the fault of strident secular curmudgeons - it is the fault of an Islam that finds itself in the headlines for very unique reasons.

There is no need for "equal time" in criticism of religion as patently ridiculous to think that all religions are the same. Religions have not been equal throughout history, and they are not equal now.

While on the subject, much is said of Dawkins' response to the "clock incident". Many "progressives" on Twitter claimed Dawkins bullied a young creator. While Dawkins did indeed invite many distasteful comparisons & arguably used the wrong tone, it's difficult to disagree with Dawkins' conclusions as the device hardly qualified as a science project and the school was not wrong in its confusion in the matter.

The strange thing about the hatred of the three horsebros is that ultimately few care to disagree on facts pertaining to any specific situations the argumentative atheists happen to bring up. It's a matter of these three men not having sufficiently comfortable footnotes to assuage the feelings of those deeply marinated in a culture of unrelenting self-reflection with an icing of undeserved respect and deference.

Perhaps most confusing is the suggestion that these men do not quite understand why a legion of secular liberals dislike them. What is true may be the opposite - it is that perhaps the horsebros know why they're disliked more than the haters care to understand why they hate.

1 comment:

  1. I saw a video recently where C. Hitchens says that if he were asked what is the most dangerous religion in the 1930s, he would have said the RC church, for its support of Fascism.