June 17, 2019 | 78° F

Column misrepresents 'New Atheist' movement

In his recent column titled “‘New Atheist’ liberals justify Islamophobia with rhetoric,” José Sanchez attempts to smear the leaders of the New Atheist movement. His commentary falsely states, “The New Atheists’ bludgeoning of religion seems to focus only on Islam.” Sanchez is apparently unfamiliar with the work of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, et al. All three men and others like Bill Maher criticize all religions and their holy texts with equal fervor and profess to do as much. They are as swift to denounce Christianity as they are to denounce Islam. A quick search of the Internet will confirm this. However, Sam Harris does note that radical Islamists present a distinct threat to the Western way of life: “Religions differ, and their specific differences matter. And the truth is that Islam has doctrines regarding jihad, martyrdom, apostasy, etc., that pose a special problem to the civilized world at this moment in history.” This is quite a reasonable assertion considering the numerous violent and evil acts perpetrated by Islamists in the West (e.g. 9/11, the 2004/2005 bombings in Madrid and London, the Lockerbie Bombing, the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, etc.). 

Radical extremists seek to silence critics of Islam, like New Atheist Salman Rushdie, through means such as a fatwa issued for his execution by the Supreme Leader of Iran. Many also expressed disdain for freedom of speech, a key element of Western democracy, by protesting, attempting to take legal action and, in some cases rioting, when in 2006 a Danish cartoonist depicted the Prophet Muhammad, which is considered blasphemy to many of the Islamic faith. Now, to be clear, as Harris and Maher stated on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” the vast majority of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide are kind, peace-loving people who are invaluable to their communities. Despite this, radical Islam is still a dangerous specter that must be approached with both condemnation and caution. New Atheists are critical of the ideas that Islam promotes, not the people that follow its doctrines. It is also curious to point out that New Atheists “selectively quote the Qur’an.” If it is a perfect book that communicates the exact word of God, should not all of its verses adequately represent the tenets of the faith?

Sanchez also implies that the New Atheists are mainly condescending white males criticizing people of color because they are white supremacists. This is simply unfounded and ridiculous. He neglects to mention people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Jennifer Hecht, Susan Jacoby and Rushdie, who promote rational thought based upon the principles of science and the philosophy of Western liberalism, as opposed to the demands and threats of the jealous and totalitarian God that we see in the holy texts of the three Abrahamic faiths.

Ian Smith is a School of Engineering sophomore majoring in industrial engineering.

Ian Smith

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