I think of them as H2D2 — not the name of a techno-punk band, but the two H’s and two D’s of the ‘new atheism’ quadrumvirate (that’s a triumvirate plus one, or at least it is now) consisting of Hitchens and Harris, Dawkins and Dennett. One of my first posts here on The AT was Is Christopher Hitchens Running for Pope? and I’m far from the only one to suspect his evangelical fervor.
Now Reza Aslan, author of Beyond Fundamentalism and No God But God, by far the best general introduction out there to the history of Islam, is tackling both the fervor and the astounding simplicities of H2D2 thinking. In a post over at the Washington Post’s ‘On Faith,’ he starts by talking about an atheist ad on the side of a London bus (what is this thing with buses and religion?), but quickly gets to the point. The H2D2 movement, he says, is:
… a new and particularly zealous form of fundamentalism–an atheist fundamentalism. The parallels with religious fundamentalism are obvious and startling: The conviction that they are in sole possession of truth (scientific or otherwise), the troubling lack of tolerance for the views of their critics (Dawkins has compared creationists to Holocaust deniers), the insistence on a literalist reading of scripture (more literalist, in fact, than one finds among most religious fundamentalists), the simplistic reductionism of the religious phenomenon, and, perhaps most bizarrely, their overwhelming sense of siege — the belief that they have been oppressed and marginalized by Western societies and are just not going to take it anymore. This is not the philosophical atheism of Feuerbach or Marx, Schopenhauer or Nietzsche (I am not the first to think that the new atheists give atheism a bad name). Neither is it the scientific agnosticism of Thomas Huxley or Herbert Spencer. This is, rather, a caricature of atheism: shallow scholarship mixed with evangelical fervor.
Read Aslan’s full piece, posted on the Washington Post’s ‘On Faith’ blog, here.
Meanwhile Hitchens’ new book Hitch-22 is, to quote the Hitch himself, Not Great. I opened it expecting an extended fireworks display of wit, and instead found a self-conscious memoir written in the pompous style of a member of some musty gentleman’s club in St James’ Square, musing aloud while nursing a glass of port and a gouty foot. All the “good bits” had already been quoted in the reviews (yes, all of them — that’s how many there are), which obligingly glossed over the far more extended sophomoric sections. But he did finally get me to laugh out loud when he makes the belated discovery that one of his grandmothers was half-Jewish (the shock! the awe!), impelling the great atheist to go haring off to eastern Europe in sentimental search of his Jewish roots. Oy vay.