13 November 2007

On the wall

I've been meaning for awhile to put up a more thorough analysis of the recent explosion of aggressively anti-religion* literature and its tripartite vanguard of evangelists Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins. Mostly because I have little interest in actually reading any of their screeds, which seem to amount to little more than "fundamentalism sucks, therefore all religion is a cancer." It also reeks of the kind of intellectual elitism ("easy enlightenment through rejection of theism!") that tends to be incompatible with genuine left-populist politics (witness the decline of the aforementioned Hitchens, whose "bomb Teh Moozlims!" repetition has soured some of the AAR crowd but shouldn't surprise them.).

There is also the occasional habit of these folks to exhibit some of the more annoying features of the religious fundamentalists they claim to abhor. Most recently, concern that the Hollywood film version of Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass will downplay the book's anti-religious sentiment. Flip sides and reverse two years, of course, and you could have found much the same thing being said about the film version of Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.** Altemeyer's book only describes in detail what he calls "right-wing authoritarians" (RWA) and the difference between them and anti-authoritarians. However, he does mention in passing left-wing authoritarians, the kind of people who slavishly follow whichever leaders are trying to overthrow the established order. Altemeyer doesn't elaborate much on this except to cite some radicals of the 60's and 70's as potential examples of LWAs. I think I have an idea where he might find a few of them remaining.

*I don't like to use the term "atheist" to describe them, since their beliefs typically greatly exceed the limited definition of atheist, which is simply a metaphysical statement about the existence or non-existence of a deity. It has nothing to say about "delusional, irrational, child-abusing God-botherers." "Anti-religious" casts a much wider net, and dismisses the term "fundamentalist atheist," which the AARs love to claim is a contradiction in terms (which it may be, but it's also irrelevant, as they aren't merely atheists.)

**Not coincidentally, in a way, since Pullman intended His Dark Materials to be a counterpoint of The Chronicles of Narnia. General consensus seems to be that Pullman was moving along fine through the first two books, before the third book devolved into an anvilicious nightmare. Which is what you'd expect from someone who doesn't trust his unenlightened audience to appreciate the Very Important Message he's preaching.