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on 28 July 2015
Hedges is trying to shift some of the key elements of this debate away from the traditional 'god exists', oh-no-he-doesn't, oh-yes-he-does game. Instead, he is attempting to look at the political dimension of atheism in today's US (a very different animal from UK or European atheisms). He is onto something, I think, but it becomes a bit boring and predictable in places. It's quite negative in fact, and he doesn't really present a positive case that has proper coherence - but who can blame him, seeing what he has seen. I suspect that in future debates on this topic are likely to be moving towards the field where Hedges is fighting - and on that basis I believe the book is recommendable. Plus there is no disputing that Hedges is a great writer, and despite being downbeat the book is quite a pleasurable read.
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on 14 July 2010
Chris Hedges takes a different approach in the debate between atheists and believers, he avoids dogma and cuts through the false assumptions made by both atheists and religious fundamentalists. Indeed he treats them both as opposite sides of one coin and points out the errors they have in common. This book is refreshingly free of dogma and is a good read for people of many traditions.
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on 9 November 2016
I was disappointed. What started out as a great critique of the worsts aspects of religion and atheism returned to an apology for religion juxtaposed to his straw man anti-'new-atheism' position. He is right of course that the enlightenment brought with it the 'hope' and faith of a utopian future (a new religion), where there was no more conflict, war, etc. It was born from the failure of religion to bring anything but war, conflict and oppression for the vast majority of society. It was people like Grotius and his ideas of natural laws, which we could all agree on, which served as the basis for the end of religious wars. It was the emptiness of religious conjectures, about the natural world, which were refuted by scientific discoveries, that led to reformation and reassessment of what 'true' religion is. Hedges talks about people cherry-picking their faith position, as if it is a good thing; that there is no absolute truth, or right way, but that's ok because the Bible (or religious texts) are all metaphor and allegory about spiritual 'truth' unobtainable through reason. Some atheists may have hope for a better future but I don't. What Hedges talks about as the corruption of man (sin), and his irredeemable moral depravity, which we have to recognise (which religion describes), is our evolved animal nature. We mask our true animal nature with civilisation practices, religion, and moral law, but in times of difficulty the mask falls off. We are straw men, we are hollow men, we are animals with the mask of the delusion of imagio dei or the pinicle of evolution. Hedges avoids this conclusion to soft sell his religious position (unproclaimed, thankfully). Yes, he is right, the enlightenment and dreams of a utopian future brought as much pain and misery to the world as religion, but no hope of a redemption or salvation in an imaginary next life with it. "Religious thought is a guide to morality. It points humans towards enquiry...." Which is bulls***. Religious thought about morality is a pretention to knowledge about morality (but don't stop thinking about what truth is on my say so). The statements of conjecture, which make up all religious texts, and for that matter the theology born from them, are multifaceted and mysterious because they say absolutely nothing. They point to a state of being that is imaginary, imagined by the first authors. and adapted and reassessed by subsequent thinkers, when things didn't add up. I deeply respect the works of Barth, Niebuhr, Bonhoffer etc. for attempting to bring theology into the real world, but for all their words, all they point out is the obvious: that we are not homo 'sapiens', we are not 'perfect', there is no golden future, and all who promise such are false idols; but they, like Hedges, return to their own 'hope', that there is more to life than this, which they all pretend to know. I get the critique of new atheism, and its calls for the irradication of religion, as if genocide is a good thing, and the communist experiment in that aspect worked so efficiently, but failed (because you can't irradicate hope). Hope, is a human tragedy; It is what gets us out of bed in the morning, but hope is as empty as faith, and hope is the reason we kill others that don't share 'our' hope. We hope in what we do not see, and there is no evidence for, and yet Hedges thinks this is a good thing. He highlights the limits of reason, where a 'sense of the religious' takes us to 'truth' and yet doesn't have the reason/intelligence to see that that 'sense' is just as imaginary as the thing he criticises and it is not 'truth'. My interpretation of this imaginary world/'truth' is flawed, because it is beyond reason, and because it can never be universal. The problem with every religion is the fact that the interpretation of this 'sense' is not universally the same between any two individuals. There are no absolutes, they are just claimed as conjectures. Hedges, like Midgley, and Werleman, point to the faults of scientific and reasoned enquiry, to dismiss them as myths (evolution, wrongly understood as the myth of progress), faith, and religion, as if that makes their 'faith' position more valid, or 'true'.. and that doesn't follow. In the end I was disappointed, with the man, and I half liked his book for its attempt to critique the worst aspects of atheists polemics, but hated it.. because it only did so to attempt to make religion seem more reasonable in the end. He failed
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on 20 November 2016
As always, eloquent and relevant.
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on 19 September 2010
In I Don't Believe in Atheists, Chris Hedges claims that the New Atheists are mistaken in thinking that human nature is perfectible and that a utopian future is possible in which rationality and science can replace religious thought. He says that we should acknowledge that human nature is intrinsically flawed and can never be perfected. He claims that the New Atheists are blaming religion for the problems in the world and that this can lead to a belief that to rid the world of its problems and achieve the utopian future we must rid the world of religion. This way of thinking, he says, has dangerous precedents.

Hedges believes that there is place for religious thought in helping us understand the non-rational aspects of existence; that not everything can be explained by science; that the meaning of human existence is ambiguous and ultimately unknowable.

I'm an atheist and I agree with him. Unfortunately, to make this important point, I think he's attributed opinions to people - Dawkins, Harris, Dennet, Hitchens - that they don't necessarily have. There are parts of the book that appear to be non-sequitur arguments. However, I still think this book is well worth reading. It's the third book of his that I've read; the other two are Empire of Illusion and American Fascists, which I think are both worth five stars.
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on 14 April 2016
Fantastic book. Hits the nail in the head just with the title.
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on 20 March 2013
You can think the New Atheists are annoyingly fundamentalist or that humanity is on an unstoppable downward spiral, but it does not mean atheism is wrong. You might as well say you don't believe in round earthers because they sound too confident that they're right. Well, they are right. It seems to me that Hedges just can't quite get the religiousness of his upbringing out of his system, clinging on to it as it would be too painful to deny his past completely, and this results in a mean-spirited, unconvincing piece of self-justification.
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on 7 June 2011
There is much to challenge with the ' new atheists' but Hedges book is a poor attempt, for the following reasons:
Continual straw men: the atheists he is attacking never claim that man is perfectible or that progress is inevitable.
The tired old idea that enlightenment and rationality led inevitably to Hitler and Stalin. Which of Hitler's beliefs are rational?
Very selective and dishonest quotation from Harris and others, giving the impression they advocate actions that they clearly do not if you read their books.
Hedges' main hate seems to be not atheists but the 'corporate global capitalism' bogeyman. He tries to fit this idea with vehement atheism and it is very clumsy.
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on 9 June 2015
Hedges rehashes his tired and mendacious arguments from 'I don't believe in atheists' : atheists believe in moral perfectability, they are imperialists, they are fundamentalists etc. None of his positions squares with what they actually say and write. Hitchens' support for the attack on Iraq has nothing to do with his atheism; rather it is his opposition to totalitarianism and genocide. As he pointed out, the bulk of post- invasion atrocities were committed by God- inspired thugs (and still are, when you consiser IS). The idea that secularism has not created moral progress is ludicrous and easily refuted.
Hedges clearly has personal animus against Sam Harris, as demonstrated by his shameful and grossly inaccurate personal attacks (along with Reza Aslan). If you want to see Hedges' true nature, investigate this as and watch his dismal performance in debates.
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Silly title. I see an atheist in the mirror every day, but who has seen God? Titled When Atheism Becomes Religion in the US. Crusade would have been more accurate, if less bankable
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