9/11 and the New Atheism

Interesting video (via Latte Labour) of Terry Eagleton talking about Christopher Hitchens and the political dimension to the “New Atheism”, which Eagleton links to 9/11:

That fits with my own private theory about the rise of the New Atheism: that 9/11 led (obviously) to a concern about radical Islamism, which was then conflated with Islam, which in turn (partly, one suspects, out of a desire to avoid the charge of “Islamophobia”) led to a more general critique of “religion”, which in practice (given the cultural and religious backgrounds of the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens) led to books whose main concern was to attack specifically Christian conceptions of God.

I know there’s more to it than that, but that seems to be one of the dynamics involved.


2 thoughts on “9/11 and the New Atheism”

  1. Interesting, but I think the new atheism is not related to 9/11 specifically. I see it more as:

    1. A reaction to increasing fundamentalism in many religions, particularly Christianity, Judaism & Islam;
    2. Increasing religious interference in political spheres; and
    3. That, as a movement it is relatively new, so people are evangelical about it.

    Examples that make me feel angry and more aligned to the New Atheism, include teaching creationism to children as though it was science; persecution of homosexuals – making being gay unlawful, raping lesbians to “cure” them eg in some W African countries as well as some Islamic countries; the position of women eg being forced to ride on the back of public buses in New York on routes through Orthodox Jewish areas, even though this was the land of Rosa Parks; young girls being called whores on their way to school by ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel; crimes against doctors & nurses who are lawfully carrying out abortions; women being imprisoned or stoned for being victims of rape…need I go on?

    The more extreme the position taken by each side, the more others who disagree feel the need to respond equally strongly and so the rise of fundamentalism increases. People get frightened and retreat further into their own moral certainties.

    As to the last point, when I was a child it was not uncommon on forms, for example if you were admitted to hospital, for the CofE box to be ticked if you said you did not have a religion. You do not “get over” 2,000 years of religion easily. So there is a fundamentalist, evangelical aspect to the New Atheism which is not attractive.

    Speeches like Cameron’s, or actions like Gove’s (sending every school a King James Bible with a foreword written by him) make people more defensive and are counterproductive.

  2. This is very interesting I think, and Eagleton has some great points – thanks for carrying it.

    This squares with my opinion about Hitchens’ early journalistic response to 9/11 (limited to only one article, I forget which) which was that I thought he was naively conservative (for someone I had guessed was a liberal), and here Eagleton gives me an insight into that judgment which makes me curious to re-check the article I’m talking about.

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