There is an interview with Chris Hedges at Salon regarding his new book, I Don’t Believe in Atheists, an attack on the political designs of the “New Atheists” such as Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris. Just in case anyone feels that we’ve been remiss on our Dawkins-harping lately.
I look forward to picking up a copy of Hedges’s book, although the impression I get from the interview is that it’s more polemical than theoretical. Historically however, the case for toleration has always had an integral polemical component as well.
I had considered writing on this issue from a philosophical perspective for my Ph.D. thesis, although I’m currently focused on some of the arguments for toleration put forward in Modern Europe and Classical India. I’m not as confident as Hedges is that the New Atheists are numerous or influential enough qua atheists to effect policy, but I do agree that their views entail serious oppression of religious dissidents.
The major problems with the New Atheists that he identifies is their utopian belief in progress, which is a priori defined to the exclusion of religion. This faith – and it is certainly right to call it that – allows them to exempt themselves from any negative repurcussions of their actions, chalking up any suffering the implementation of their preferred policies would bring as the inevitable march of progress. As Hedges puts it, “I write in the book that not believing in God is not dangerous. Not believing in sin is very dangerous. ”
Hopefully, work that shines a light on the politics of the New Atheists will lead to an appreciation of the value of toleration in diverse societies, and make it more apparent than it is that it’s not a one-way relationship between religions and state or society.