7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking sides....
Hedges pretty much makes it clear where he standing on the atheism/religion debate just as Dawkins and Hitchens do, and like Dawkins and Hitches, Hedges doesn't necessarily play fair. At times both sides have a tendency to set up their arguments like a child propping up small toy soldiers so that he/she can feel like Napoleon when he/she runs them over.
Published on May 7 2010 by redfish/bluefish
53 of 67 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hedges has snapped
"Those who insist we are morally advancing as a species are deluding themselves. There is little in science or history to support this idea."
Hedges is overstating his case here. Yes, there are plenty of scientific utopians who will overstate the "progress" humanity has made in the past 500 years. But the fact is that the Enlightenment and contemporaneous...
Published on April 8 2008 by M. Norwood
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53 of 67 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hedges has snapped,
This review is from: I Don't Believe in Atheists (Hardcover)"Those who insist we are morally advancing as a species are deluding themselves. There is little in science or history to support this idea."
Hedges is overstating his case here. Yes, there are plenty of scientific utopians who will overstate the "progress" humanity has made in the past 500 years. But the fact is that the Enlightenment and contemporaneous developments elsewhere in the world have accomplished drastic improvements in the treatment of human beings by other human beings. Slavery, once a universal practice sanctioned by warlords and priests like, is now nearly abolished worldwide. Women, long held in brutal submission by cultural mores backed by religious authority, are accorded more freedom and dignity than at any other time in human history. Racial, cultural and religious minorities are protected by laws allowing them to live their lives without molestation or discrimination in most free societies today, a reality almost unheard of in the history of mankind. To associate the Nazis with the Enlightenment is shockingly ahistorical: Hitler's nationalist movement, like Mussolini's, was grounded in mythological romanticism and involved the complete rejection of legal and scientific authority, instead elevating the god-king and the tribe using language strikingly similar to the directions given by Jawhew in the Bible. Far from being a consequence of the Enlightenment, it was a reactionary movement against it and back toward tribal religious fanaticism.
WIAFTGUM was a beautiful and honest account of what war does to people and societies. "American Fascists" was a brave denunciation of one of the most dangerous political developments in America today, made doubly brave by his self-indentification as a Christian. But this second book seemed to exhibit a strange schizophrenic quality, as Hedges dredged up so much damning evidence against the Christian Right while insisting that their traditions and views had nothing, absolutely nothing, in common with those of "mainstream" Christians. In this final book, the strain of reconciling what he knows to be true of the Christian Dominionist movement with the history of "mainstream" Christianity seems to have driven him off the deep end.
Of course Christopher Hitchens is a racist, imperialistic boor. It's his trademark, and it helps him sell books and collect speaker's fees. He overstates the case against religion, attributing many atrocities to religion that were doubtless motivated by racism, greed, or imperialism but used religion as a pretext. This last criticism is equally true of Dawkins. But none of this invalidates the thesis that religion has historically encouraged, and continues to encourage, anti-egalitarian, anti-democratic, morbid, violent, misogynistic, culturally bigoted sentiments wherever it blooms most fiercely. Hedges' hesitance to examine the historical record in any depth on these points undermines his commitment to the project of redeeming religion from its terrible history, from the Inquisition to the KKK. I suspect that this book is an attempt to salvage his damaged faith after the harrowing it must have been subjected to while writing AF. But Hedges would have been better off keeping it to himself, because it is an unconvincing document.
Hedges' railing against "reason" is particularly troubling, as his arguments rely on reason for their force. This is the ultimate vindication of the Enlightenment: it argued, not that Reason was some unassailable idol whose worship would instantly grant us perfect knowledge and understanding, but rather that reason was the only guide by which one could reliably, albeit imperfectly and always at a remove, approach the truth. Any assault on this thesis using rational argument, as Hedges does, implicitly accepts the truth of the thesis while trying to disprove it, and is therefore doomed from the outset. Hedges' failure to recognize this suggests that he has lost his bearings; he is a rational man who is trying to defend groundless faith -- unreason -- by using reason, which is prima facie a futile endeavor.
The only effective arguments against reason are the gun, the fist, the image, the song, the chant, the battle cry, the burning cross, the noose. Words, laid out as an argument, are already on the side of reason, and pose no threat to it. This is the truth that Hedges and his fellow otherwise-rational religious sentimentalists and apologists refuse to grasp, and it makes them strange and contradictory.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking sides....,
This review is from: I Don't Believe in Atheists (Hardcover)Hedges pretty much makes it clear where he standing on the atheism/religion debate just as Dawkins and Hitchens do, and like Dawkins and Hitches, Hedges doesn't necessarily play fair. At times both sides have a tendency to set up their arguments like a child propping up small toy soldiers so that he/she can feel like Napoleon when he/she runs them over.
There were a few points I did take from Hedge's book.
One that's repeated in the book is on the march of progress being anything but bloodless and kind. Just as a religious person may forget the atrocities done in the name of religion, people who believe in progress would sooner like to forget such things as The Reign of Terror and scientific racism (Mismeasurement of a Man by Stephen Jay Gould touches on the history of science and racism). This isn't to say that science and reason haven't brought us wonderful things and changed the world in a positive way, but we shouldn't be blind to the fact that it can be destructive as well. For every vaccine and antibiotic, we've also generated new weapons to kill and maim. As Hedges notes, material progression isn't the same as moral progression, although the two are often confused.
Another is an idea that may of be more interest to people who are of a religious bent is on the concept of God. "The second of the Ten Commandments prohibits the Israelites from making images of the Lord. This new deity could not be captured in pictures, statues or any concrete iconographic form. God existed in the world and through the word, a radical concept in the ancient world. To worship God without physical representation of God made it appear as if believers were worshipping nothing. It was to give up security, It was to believe in a God that could not be seen or controlled. It was to live with paradox, uncertainty, and doubt. It was to accept anxiety. To believe in this deity required abstract thinking. It made possible the moral life." This isn't a concept of God that appears much in most popculture religious books.
This book is an interesting addition to the current debate about religion and atheism. Read it with books like God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkin's books, Mary Midgely's books, and The Case for God by Karen Armstrong.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the few books dealing with the issue.,
This review is from: I Don't Believe in Atheists (Hardcover)Despite the title, this book is not an actual critique of athiesm, but rather a critique of Dawkins, Hitchens, and particularly Sam Harris, the neo-athiest movement. He does not seem to touch 'classic' athiesm. Infact he seems to respect it.
While there is a section he rallies against 'reason' it is not reason per say that is being railed against, but reason based on a belief that a personalized reasoning is flawless and totally free of bias. If anything, i gained the impression that he warned against 'careless' reasoning rather than reasoning it self.
It is easy to misinterpret Chris Hedges message, nor have i agreed with everything he has written. None the less, this book is one of the few works of it's kind in popular print media.
23 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars He might be right.,
This review is from: I Don't Believe in Atheists (Hardcover)"I Don't Believe in Atheists" is a comparison of religious and atheistic fundamentalism, in which Chris Hedges perceives utopian ideologies to be the true culprit at work. Whether it be the Christian apocalyptic tradition or a scientific telos, utopian philosophies stand behind both the God delusion and the reification of reason. In claiming that moral progress is possible, Hedges argues that utopian ideologies lead to psychosis, a disconnect from reality. The end - whether it be a land of honey and milk or a world in which reason rules over humanity - justifies the means. Religious crusades? Totalitarian regimes? Any act of violence can be justified to procure a means to one's utopian ideal. Is this the real problem?
Hedges draws on a vast philosophical canon of utopian thinkers. In this, he does not provide anything new. Yet, "I Don't Believe in Atheists" is a well-packaged introduction to what might be quite dissuasive to militaristic atheists - most of whom are probably ignorant of this fundamental similarity between theirs and religious thought. Another noteworthy section concerns "The Illusive Self", in which Hedges turns apologist, dismisses his earlier unbiased stance, and displays some rather common-place idiosyncrasies: we don't have consistent, rational, and objective selves, therefore there is a place for the non-rational, mysterious... religion!
Hedges's publication is a far better rebuttal than Alister McGrath's "The Dawkins Delusion", though both deal with the topic in distinct ways. Hedges, however, offers something more concrete. He tells us repeatedly that utopian ideologies are the problem, that all fundamentalists employ simple, black and white responses to the other. Yet, has Hedges made both fundamental atheists and faithful into another 'other'? He has painted hope (albeit false) against common sense, a common sense which he believes to offer true hope. He might be right.
Read it and think for yourself.
32 of 48 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Atheism as "utopian"?,
This review is from: I Don't Believe in Atheists (Hardcover)Hedges's premises are very flawed.
First he believes is that the human society is not perfectable, (perhaps true), then he argues that it is harmful to try, (very dubious). In that regard he blames the 18th century Enlightenment for "utopian" attempts at perfecting human being and society for most of the bloodshed and suffering since then. (Right: so I suppose abolishing slavery was "utopian".)
Secondly, he condemns adamant atheists such as Dawkins and Hitchens as "utopian fundamentalists", working on the established theme that attempts to improve the human condition are futile and harmful. Funny: it struck me reading Dawkins and Hitchens that they were rather more cynical than utopian. As for these gents being "fundamentalist", it seems to me that to be fundamentalists you have to be fundamental to some revealed wisdom. These atheists, and most of my acquaintance, are rationalists who are very basically opposed to revealed wisdom or received knowledge without putting it to the test.
Hedges also resorts to other invalid and refuted notions regarding atheists, viz. that atheism as a "belief system" no different from religion, and that atheist are essentially without ethics or morality. Hedges also resorts to the weary and discredited arguement that because science hasn't (or "can't") explain everything, we must necessarily look to religious or spirituality explanations.
In general this book is trivial and a waste of time.
9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Challenging Reminder to Those Who Think They Know Better,
This review is from: I Don't Believe in Atheists (Hardcover)For Hedges, the reknown theologian, this world has become divided between those who accept human limitations and choose to recognize the infinite power of God in the world and those who want to usurp it by raising false gods of their own to satisfy personal needs. On one side of this battle for the hearts and minds of people are the modern-day atheists who deny the existence of God. For the likes of thinkers like Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins, it isn't reasonable to entrust one's lot to a divine being who doesn't seem able to remove pain and violence from every day existence. Their answer, instead, is to build a simplistic trust in the wonders of science to create the perfect world. Ironically, this celebrated group of thinkers express the same wanton disregard for God as those right-wing fundamentalists who view themselves as God's anointed. In this latter group, Hedges portrays people who believe they have a complete lock on Christianity to the point of excluding other views. God and the Bible are their answers for enjoying prosperity, health, friendship, and respectability. In response to these extreme positions, Hedges clarly points out that science has not paved the way to a better world, if the record of history is anything to go by. Nor is trying to live morally, upright lives by identifying with a correct religious movement going to make it either, if the presence of sin in the organizations is anything to go by. As Hedges sees it, the whole human race is blighted by the fact that it cannot do anything to improve its lot in life. Sorrow and tragedy are the human condition because of our fallen humanity. To think otherwise is to be self-delusionary. We are all together in this search for eternal completeness, and must learn to accept that only God has infinite grace and power to restore any sense of wholeness. Left to ourselves, we devise intellectual and physical means by which to fill the gaps of loneliness, alienation, despair, fear, and hostility, only to discover that the problems are getting ever bigger. In writing this book, Hedges saves himself from ranting against his opponents by referring to a lot of the ancient and modern philosophers to clarify his views. This is a worthwhile read for those who seek a well-written, metaphysical understanding of why we are here on the face of this planet. Lots to think about in this book even if you don't agree with any of it.
20 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Chris Hedges: I don't know what to believe!,
This review is from: I Don't Believe in Atheists (Hardcover)I Don't Believe in Atheists
Mr. Hedges argues that fundamentalism itself is dangerous. He argues that both religious fundamentalists and new atheists are guilty of the same utopian fantasies and that we are not progressing morally as a species. His argument fails because the conclusions do not necessarily follow from the premises and the premises are false.
His argument is the repetitive idea that science is a cult and atheists are utopian. He berates scientific enquiry and atheists with broad generalizations and false characterizations. For example, he states, "The new atheists, like all fundamentalists, flee from complexity..." and "The new atheists, angry and polemical, adopt the rhetorical style of the bigots they attack." Hedges has cast a wide net that throws Dan Dennett in the same category as Jimmy Swaggart.
It's unfortunate the book is plagued by such misinformation and cynicism, because Hedges does make some good points regarding the destruction of democracy through the militarized corporate state. His rhetoric, however, is defeated by centuries of progress since the invention of the plough (to pick an arbitrary point in history), and more importantly, that morally we are evolving. He fails to acknowledge atheists would be the first to admit that 6.5 billion people offer a multitude of reasons for a constant state of war - not a utopian dream. Do health care and charity even exist in Hedges' world?
I started skim-reading when I read this passage on page 56, "The extinction of our species, though tragic, would not mean the extinction of life. The human race is not at the center of creation." Thank you Chris for stating the blatantly obvious - now what?
Hedges, it seems, is a christian-educated agnostic with a very cynical and negative world view. He shares many of the same ideas that atheists assert but clings to the belief that the unknown must be explained by something, yet rather than acknowledge that rational enquiry continues to provide reasonable explanations for an ever increasing range of topics, he still believes that sin, god, and biblical wisdom have a place in our discourse.
"I don't believe in atheists" is simply an exercise in defining atheists according to Hedges; the arguments are weak and general without much supporting evidence. Read the back cover and you'll have the entire argument in a nutshell or buy the book and read the same argument over and over and over again on every page. It's up to you.
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone Should read This,
This review is from: When Atheism Becomes Religion: America's New Fundamentalists (Paperback)First of all the people giving this book bad ratings are your typical brain dead Atheists. THe very people who will jump on whatever band wagon that comes along that makes them feel smart because they want to avoid all the nasty consequences of thinking for themselves.
Atheist, Christian, Muslim, agnostic... lalala The problem with the world are people who take other peoples ideas and submit themselves to them without thinking them through so that they dont have to do hte hard work of thinking for themsleves.
This is a great book with some great challanges for society.
Atheists, when given power, have always abused it in the most violent and disgusting manners that would make their religious counterparts sick. Zealotry in all its forms is terrible, but in the form of Atheism it has not even the illusion of accountability or any means for appealing to the tyrant outside of a narrow conception of reality. That has made it much much worse.
Any breif study of history would reveal this.
7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile read but a bit disappointing,
This review is from: I Don't Believe in Atheists (Hardcover)Apart from the fact that the book's title is misleading (Hedges does believe in `moderate' atheists) I must say that this book was a disappointment after the strong and well-documented `American Fascists'. It seems hastily written and rushed into print. I can only speculate at Chris Hedges' reasons.
When I heard Hedges being interviewed on CBC a few weeks ago I was impressed and I thought "here is a man who shares many of my opinions", but the book proved me somewhat wrong. Authors tend to sound more conciliatory and moderate in interviews than in their books. It was the same with Dawkins.
Nevertheless I agree with many of Hedges arguments, but not at all with others. To blame, for instance, the enlightenment wholly for the atrocities during the 20th century which, of course, include those perpetrated by the Nazis towards Jews during WW2 and religion not at all, is distorting history. History is a continuous line and the enlightenment has causal roots in Christianity which had been persecuting Jews for centuries, long before the enlightenment.
Similarly, whereas scientific and industrial developments have played a role in the barbarities of the 20th century and are indirectly amongst the sour fruits of the enlightenment, it is wrong to suggest that therefore the enlightenment is even partly to blame for those barbarities. The industrial products and the methods that were used were tools only. To suggest that they may have changed human predilection for cruelty is to do exactly what Hedges is denying: that human morals can be changed or are changing.
Does one have to choose between God on the one hand and Science on the other hand as two totally contrasting points of view? I believe not and in my book `My God!' (amazon.ca) I advance reasonable arguments why and how a harmonious merger between the belief in a God and acceptance of scientific findings is possible. It seems to me that Chris Hedges has found his way to do that but he does not elaborate on it.
I have not read Hitchens but have read Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris and The God Delusion by Dawkins. Harris' bigotry towards Islam is more than evident. But Dawkins' book certainly did not leave me with the feeling that he sees Darwinism as the road to a Utopian world with perfect humans.
Hans van Hell
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It's difficult to understand what Hedges is doing here.,
This review is from: When Atheism Becomes Religion: America's New Fundamentalists (Paperback)Chris Hedges is an important voice and I vastly admire the works he has produced and the way he helps me see the world more clearly on a daily basis. But in this book he seems to have "snapped" (as another reviewer put it). I assume that his enforced Christian upbringing is too deeply entrenched in his persona to allow him to accept criticisms of philosophies based on myth and, I feel, manipulation. (With that statement you will see where I stand!)
He employs too many over-generalizations to attack those who disagree with him on religion. This is so very, very contrary to the clear thinker I know him to be. "They propose a route to collective salvation and the moral advancement of the human species through science and reason." This route, science and reason, is, in my interpretation, the one Hedges follows in his clear-thinking works. That, mixed with anger, indignation, and a sense of moral outrage.
It's unfortunate that Hedges gets downright insulting, as when he confusingly tries to lump together humanists (I'm not avoiding the term "atheist", I embrace it, but I want to use "humanist" to remind us what we are talking about): "These atheists and Christian radicals have built squalid little belief systems that are in the services of themselves and their own power. They urge us forward into a non-reality-based world, on where force and violence, self-exaltation and blind nationalism and unquestioned good..." And so it goes.
As other reviewers have noted, some writers, Christopher Hitchens being an obvious example, are self-important blowhards. These type of people exists in many human groupings and, perhaps unfortunately, get a disproportionate share of attention. It's that phenomenon, in my guess, that grates Hedges and triggers some of his own issues. I'm not blaming him or saying he shouldn't speak his mind, I'm just saying that the way he has done it is insulting to many of us who are, in most other respects, his audience. However, this does not deter me from valuing his voice and listening to what he has to say.
For me, I found the work of what Hedges dismissively calls "The New Atheists" to be a breath of fresh air in our religous-dominated culture. It helped me to realize that there are many others who share my views and that we can speak out. Not with "self-exaltation" or "in service" of ourselves, but to broaden and freshen the discussion. Would that they (The New Atheists) were as graceful writers as Hedges!
I'll close by saying that Hedge's current book, The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress, is the most important thing I've read this year. Write on, Chris!
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I Don't Believe in Atheists by Chris Hedges (Hardcover - Mar 4 2008)
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