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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tony Hendra: Atheists Aren't So Great

In his blog on the Huffington Post, Tony Hendra (erstwhile National Lampoon founder and Spinal Tap manager) has a bone to pick with all the bestselling atheists (the No-God Squad?) who are keen to point out the moral failings of Christianity throughout history.

A liberal Roman Catholic himself, his annoyance at the Squad's harping on the atrocities found in the Bible is somewhat understandable. Hendra has written in his memoir how he had initially planned to become a Catholic monk but failed to follow through, due in no small part to the lure of sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll. He attributes his salvation to the efforts of a Catholic monk he refers to as “Father Joe.”

But as much love and respect Hendra has for Father Joe, he feels disgust and anger for “Uncle Joe.” And by proxy, the glorious age of atheism that he argues was ushered in near Stalin’s birth by the publication of Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, in which God’s death is claimed. His assertion, as is that of most theists critical of atheism, is that the abandonment of God necessitates an abandonment of morality. Readers of this blog already know that this could not be further from the truth.

Running through the list of the 20th century’s tyrannical despots (the usual suspects for those looking to demonize atheism), Hendra lays not only Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot at atheism’s feet, but (in order to justify his claim that Nietzsche kick-started the atheo-fascist process) also claims King Leopold II’s Congolese genocide was an atheistic exercise (a baseless claim which completely ignores the Catholicism of the Belgian monarchy which, presumably, Hendra simply can’t admit to). As if that weren’t preposterous enough, he also makes the claim that World War I can be blamed on “free-thinking scientists” for their audacity to discover facts about the natural world which could be utilized for warfare.

Turning his attention to Dawkins, Hendra dismisses him as “sound-bitey” (this from a man who begins his article with the phrase, “The day God died, Stalin was born”) and a “world-class special pleader” (this from a man who waives away the Crusades as nothing but “greed and cynicism”). Although admitting Sam Harris to be “scientific,” he snidely suggests that Harris’ criticism of Islam is “religious” (a curious perjorative from an avowed Catholic). Christopher Hitchens, though Hendra disagrees with his conclusions, at least entertains him (a passive-aggressive insult, presumably). Summing up the three, he presents their combined thesis as “all religion bad, all atheism good.” A more blatant oversimplification and strawman approach would be hard to make.

Magnanimously, Hendra then reveals that his tirade against atheo-fascism was just a feint, and that he doesn’t believe one’s religious convictions should be called into question for one’s actions. With surprising reasonableness, he says that “in reality mass-murderers are almost always good old down-home hypocrites who exploit the beliefs that help people navigate their lives, to cover for their own homicidal compulsions and/or need for vast amounts of real-estate.”

But he swiftly loses the intellectual high ground when he concludes that, despite his admission that atheism can’t logically be blamed for genocide, the “emotional impact of the horrors that resulted” from atheism is reason enough to suppress people like Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, to protect us from… what, exactly? And what, exactly is his opinion of the “emotional impact of the horrors that resulted” and continue to result from religiously-motivated genocides and pogroms? Hendra is strangely silent on this point- apparently religion gets a free pass (world-class special pleader, indeed!).

Hendra reserves his final drops of venom for science, which he claims is the real danger to humanity, not religion. It is science, he claims, that “brought humanity to the brink of self-extermination.” Not only is this an ironic claim from a man who believes that his god drowned all of humanity save for eight people in a global flood, but it’s a queer Luddite-ish statement from a man who regularly enjoys all the conveniences of modern scientific discovery, including the ability to post his confused and liberally religious ramblings on the web. Tony Hendra just can’t help himself from coming across as a Christian pot seeking to court atheist kettles away from being so… black. Presumably, only one piece of kitchenware is allowed to be black at a time, and Hendra has decided (*cough* *special pleading* *cough*) that this should be him.

Happily, Hendra intends to continue his attack on Dawkins et al, and his next installment will address the question of whether Dawkins or Pat Robertson take the Bible more literally. I don’t think I’m off in anticipating that he’d conclude the former, but I don’t suspect he’ll admit that the (usually textually arbitrary) metaphorical interpretations favored by even hardcore fundamentalists like Robertson belie a reluctance (or inability) to deal with a straightforward reading of a text they take to be divinely inspired.

Post a Comment


5 Comments:

At 6/27/2007 9:26 PM, Blogger Vic declaimed...

My review of his blog post:

"Shit Sandwich"

 
At 6/28/2007 4:03 AM, Blogger BlackSun declaimed...

Zachary, you are TAGGED:

 
At 6/28/2007 3:24 PM, Blogger Alex declaimed...

Hey, while searching for widgets for my blog, I stumbled upon www.widgetmate.com and wow! I found what I wanted. A cool news widget. My blog is now showing latest news with title, description and images. Took just few minutes to add. Awesome!

 
At 7/02/2007 7:22 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

"...he also makes the claim that World War I can be blamed on “free-thinking scientists” for their audacity to discover facts about the natural world which could be utilized for warfare."

How's that again? Facts like "The Divine Right of Kings" is really so much self-serving exploitative bullshit? How, by the way, does he explain the significantly reduced loss of life (including reduced collateral damage and loss of civilian life) made possible by modern warfare? The world now cringes when casualties are in the thousands. War was traditionally (per capita) a far more bloody enterprise, often totaling in the millions of blown up, starved, and killed by disease. His crackpot essay also does not explain why religious freaks the world over grab hold of the fruits of science and willingly kill each other. There were very few atheists in the American Civil War, I reckon. Glory Hallelujah! He also seems to ignore the fact that WWI was the logical progression of all that preceded it, from the Crimean War right back to the first IntraTribal Caveman Massacre (Sponsored by the Folsom Corporation). All the headscarves and uniforms and hairstyles in the world once existed to differentiate "us" from "them" in a free-for-all. Religion has absolutely no impact upon keeping the peace. Only a retard would claim otherwise.

"Damn you science!" - Jon Stewart

 
At 11/29/2007 12:43 PM, Blogger mountain king declaimed...

Could you prove that King Leopold II was a christian?, can you prove the Catholicism of the Belgian monarchy?

 

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