Making enemies left, right and centre …

I’ve talked before about how it seems to me that the Gnu Atheists are getting obsessed with the enemy, but reading the first few pages of Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith” has driven home another thought: just how many enemies the Gnu Atheists are making. And by that, I don’t mean people who consider them enemies, but people they consider enemies. There are:

– Accommodationists of the sort who simply don’t think that religion is all bad and that maybe religion and atheism can work together (in Dawkins).

– Accommodationists of the sort who think that science and religion are not incompatible in an interesting way.

– Moderate religious people (Harris).

– Theology.

– And now, at least in the comboxes, philosophy.

All of these have one thing in common: they do not take the hardline towards religion that the Gnu Atheists want taken. The first three are obvious. Theology is not itself religion — although most religions have theologians — and is an academic unit with a long pedigree. However, it can be used to make religion seem rational and so out it goes. First, they attack the idea that most religious people use it, and then they attack the idea that it’s any sort of proper intellectual field. Now that the defenders of theology are mustering philosophy against that notion, some Gnu Atheists are attacking it, partly out of a misguided scientism and partly, it seems to me, out of a notion that if you aren’t against religion completely you aren’t really on the same side as them. This is blatantly obvious with respect to religion because the comments — often from different people, I’ll admit — seem to both use the fact that philosophy is not itself religious against religion and attack philosophy for accepting and taking seriously arguments about God and religion.

Ultimately, it’s a direct reflection of an “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” attitude, and Sam Harris in his first few pages is quite clear that that’s the strategy he’s after. And it is this that “accommodationists” like Josh Rosenau and Eugenie Scott protest. They think that at least some religious people can be allies in some areas — like in promoting evolution — and note that it’s really hard to do that when you have a very vocal group insisting that unless you’re completely anti-religious you’re an enemy of science.

And for their trouble, they get attacked and treated as enemies. Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture?

The more you treat anyone who disagrees as an enemy or a heretic, the more fundamentalist you become. If Gnu Atheism isn’t there already, it’s well on its way. And spare me the “Well, we can’t be doing that because heretic and fundamentalist are religious things, and we aren’t religious” reply. If you act in the same way as people reacting to heresy or the way fundamentalists do, the comparison is apt.

Guys, you look like Boris Karloff, and you don’t even care.

2 Responses to “Making enemies left, right and centre …”

  1. literary lew Says:

    I hope you have a sense of humor. For, when I first read the title of this blog, I read, “Making enemas, left and right….”

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