Robert Wright takes on the “New Atheists” (including me!), Part Deux

As I reported last week, Robert Wright (The Evolution of God), whom we interviewed in episode #58 of the podcast, published an essay at Huffington Post titled “Why the ‘New Atheists’ are Right-Wing on Foreign Policy.”  I posted a critique of this essay in which, among other things, I take Wright to task for asserting that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was not originally a religious conflict.  (I do, to be clear, agree with Wright that the problem is not solely and exclusively religious, but rather an unholy–I use that term advisedly–combination of religion, culture and politics.)

Wright has just published a follow-up at HuffPo (titled, oddly, “The Trouble with the New Atheists, Part II“–odd, since there isn’t a Part I sharing that title), in which he counters various objections to his original piece, including mine.   We’ll just have to agree to disagree as to the religious origins (or lack thereof) of the Israeli/Palestinian quagmire.

It’s interesting, if I might indulge in a little picking of nits, that Wright implies that I am one of the New Atheists, since he explicitly took me to task, during our podcast interview, of holding opinions in direct opposition to the New Atheists.  (I’ve also said before that I’m not all that fond of the label and/or definition of so-called “New Atheists,” since I don’t think there’s anything new about them except their sudden discovery by the media.)

At any rate, I’m sure the debate won’t end here, and if nothing else comes out of this, I’ve achieved my first name-check at HuffPo.

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3 Responses to Robert Wright takes on the “New Atheists” (including me!), Part Deux

  1. Ed says:

    Huffpo is pretty darned flaky, it’s hard to take seriously anyone that gives Deepak Chopra a forum. They are left leaning but that of course doesn’t imply credibility.

  2. Pingback: American Freethought contra Robert Wright « Skepoet At Crossroads of Critical Thinking and the Humanities.

  3. Rob T. says:

    Wow. This guy just gets more and more nonsensical and incoherent with every word he speaks or types. And this follow-up HuffPo article seems to be nothing more than a soft apology to Dawkins.

    I think that Mr. Wright continues to overlook one major element in is his arguments – that religions blur the line between history and fiction. His claim that the secular Jews who first inhabited Palestine used the Bible as a “historical text” simply overlooks the nature of the Pentateuch / Torah as viewed by Judaism. It’s not used by the Jews as merely some sort of historical document like the Declaration of Independence (his ridiculous comparison, not mine) – it’s used as a sacred rulebook from God.

    Does Mr. Wright not consider the fact that the Jews believe the Torah was written by Moses via direct revelation from God as important? It’s not a matter of the Jews simply saying, “Um, sorry Palestinians, our history books say this land belonged to us first.”… No! It’s the Jews declaring, “This book that God gave us says this land was promised to us by him.”

    I’d also like to add that, just like Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, Mr. Wright is aware that religious beliefs help to create and mold political agendas – just as political agendas can help to create and mold religious belief… But the real issue is, does it ultimately matter which one leads to the other?

    Let’s assume he is right about the Arab / Jewish conflict… Fine. But, does it really matter that the dispute BEGAN as a land war? The sprinkling of religion into the recipe has now turned a territorial conflict into a holy war, with both sides using their own particular notion of God as cosmic justification for their actions.

    Does Mr. Wright really think that either side could go back to (what he believes) was the root of this problem? Does he honestly think that the Palestinians and Israelis could simply eschew their religious differences and look only at the issue of territorial boundaries? It seems to be clear that they cannot… religion has made the divide between them far too wide and complicated to be easily or simply traversed – which I would argue is ultimately the more important issue that the so-called “new atheists” Mr. Wright criticizes are trying to bring to light.

    It’s unfortunate that Mr .Wright cannot see that it’s ultimately not important that conflicts such as this BEGAN about religion – it’s that they’ve become virtually unresolvable BECAUSE of religion.

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