CJ Werleman has surpassed himself. His positions become more and more irrational….
He then, in a blame spreading exercise, went on to accuse (a clearly exasperated) Sam Harris of the same charge. See the rebuttal here.
Now, in the land of Twitter, this is all old news. Just provided as a bit of context for those unaware of the kind of character who would go on to write what I’m going to comment on below…..
The Chapel Hill murders were senseless, abhorrent & too recent to currently pass informed comment on. Hate crime? Maybe. Parking dispute? Maybe. Tragic loss of lives? Certainly. No-one honest would try to make a pseudo-political football out of this issue would they? No-one honest would, no. Then there’s CJ.
The first tweet is gun-jumping in order to confirm his internal bias that Sam Harris’ and Richard Dawkins’ (and, posthumously, Christopher Hitchens’) form of non-belief created a killer. The second tweet equates people who may agree with these three writers with ISIS. Yes, really, ISIS.
Then he went on to write this for the Middle East Eye. The publication he’s moved on to since the above plagiarism scandal.
This is the piece I want to concentrate on. I want to draw out the most offending paragraphs and point out the logical and rational inconsistencies. I’ll then leave it to the reader to decide how much of this CJ really believes and how much is to position himself more favourably in the public domain in order to earn a living as a ‘public figure’.
When I first heard news of the attack on Wednesday morning, I immediately presumed the shooter, Craig Stephen Hicks, to be a right-wing extremist; someone of the Anders Brievik ilk but with probable Ku Klux Klan (KKK) leanings. I was shocked when CNN identified the killer to be “an atheist”.
An atheist? I’m an atheist. The mere idea of an atheist motivated hate crime is nonsensical to me. Atheism is a non-positive assertion. Wholly and solely atheism means non-belief. It’s not anti-anything or anyone. So I knew there had to be more to the killer’s motives than atheism or a “parking dispute”.
So, early on in his piece CJ shows himself to be both a gun-jumper, in rushing to a conclusion, and also a clairvoyant who knows the killer’s motives can’t be as simple as a parking dispute. But why wait for facts CJ?
Atheism can’t spark hate crime, says CJ. For he too is an atheist. It must be something else. What could it be?
A visit to Hicks’ Facebook page hints at something a little more sinister. Hicks is an anti-theist (New Atheist), and it’s important to make its distinction from atheism, because anti-theism is to atheism what ISIS is to Islam. If that analogy sounds far fetched, then you really need to read more about the anti-religious genocides of the 20th century.
Hicks’ customised Facebook banner features the wording:
Anti-Theism: Of course I want religion to go away. I don’t deny your right to believe whatever you’d like; but I have the right to point out its ignorant and dangerous for as long as your baseless superstitions keep killing people.
In a recent post, Hicks writes chillingly: “When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I.”
After some top investigative journalism of looking at the killer’s (Craig Hicks) Facebook page, CJ concludes that anti-theism is to blame, and that anti-theism is to atheism as ISIS is to Islam. It’s ‘sinister’, and he quotes a ‘chilling’ paragraph from Hicks. Of course the quote has been said many times before and is only chilling for having been said by a killer. Bit of an easy target there. CJ also makes clear that anti-theists are New Atheists (are ISIS).
He’s always asserted that the no nonsense rationalism of Harris and Dawkins is dangerous and creating animus towards religionists (not religions / ideas) and Muslims in particular, so if this is true, he’s vindicated. He has a way to go to prove this.
After a bit about what others might think the motive for the killing is, we come to this:
If it turns out, as it appears to indicate, that Hicks was inspired to kill by his anti-religious animus, then it’s time for atheists to denounce the extremists in their ranks. The extremists are the anti-theists (New Atheists) masquerading as atheists. I can say this boldly because I was a New Atheist. Witnessing an al-Qaeda suicide attack in 2005 was my come-to-anti-Muhammad moment. I blamed religion, and particularly Islam, for that attack as stridently as any of today’s crop of New Atheist writers. I now hate that old me, and I’ve written extensively about my deconversion from New Atheism to old fashioned, vanilla atheism.
I’ve seen the anti-Muslim animus beast of New Atheism up close and personal. I’ve spoken at the conferences; I’ve appeared and listened to the podcasts – and I can assure you the New Atheists, venomous and virulent, speak in the same hostile language as the religious fundamentalists and bigots they attack.
The need for ‘vanilla atheists’ to denounced the ‘extremists’ in the their ranks. These extremists are not those that kill. Oh, no. They are the New Atheists. Those that dare to question the ideologies of religion. Those that criticise the influence of religious indoctrination on young minds. It’s all hateful according to CJ. He should know. He was once a New Atheist. I hope CJ can confirm that he was virulent, venomous and genocidal during this period in his life.
He assures us this isn’t criticism of ideology, it’s anti-Muslim animus and it’s as bad as the ‘fundamentalists and bigots they attack’. Perhaps he can share the ‘podcasts’ which condemn homosexuality, advocate stoning adulterers and propose living under ancient laws which religious fundamentalists do? Perhaps he can share New Atheist examples of ideologies as stultifying as these? Perhaps not.
After further attacks on Dawkins and Harris, CJ invokes the age old slippery slope fallacy to bolster his position:
If the anti-theistic genocides of the 20th century taught us anything, it’s that it’s a short leap from wanting to eradicate a belief to eradicating the person who holds that belief. The Soviets called religion a “virus”. When their anti-religious propaganda failed to sway a majority, the Soviets used violence. Dawkins has called religion a virus, the equivalent of smallpox, that needs to be eradicated, and Islam “one of the great evils of the world”. While Harris contends, “Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death.”
Because Soviet dictators used similar words and committed atrocities, Dawkins and Harris are, apparently, leading us down a similar path which inextricably leads to genocide. Dawkins’ proposal for this eradication? – Humanism, Secularism and promoting less indoctrination in children. I think Stalin had different policies…..
Hicks is not the first to be inspired to murder by similar anti-theistic beliefs, if it is indeed proven to be a hate crime, nor will he be the last to be inspired to violence by overt anti-Muslim bigotry.
The conflation continues. Anti-theistic beliefs are now anti-Muslim bigotry. This dishonest attempt to say that anti-ideology = anti-person is the thread on which CJ continues to rebuild his career. Notice the ‘if it is proven’ caveat. This cheap point scoring belies the air of respectability the caveat is supposed to give this piece.
Back to attacking Sam Harris:
“Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them,” writes Harris. While Harris specifically refers to beliefs such as martyrdom and jihad, he also contends “suicide bombers and terrorists are not aberrations” in Islam; “They are the norm. They have not distorted their faith by interpreting it wrongly. They have lived out their faith by understanding it rightly.”
Harris has a PhD in neuroscience. Hicks and a majority of anti-theists do not! While the former may understand the nuance of his “thought experiments,” it is likely Hicks does not. It’s therefore not unreasonable to suggest that anti-theists, like Hicks, might take Harris’ “it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them” out of context in the same way jihadis take the Quranic verse “Kill the infidels” out of its historical interpretation and context.
The first paragraph carries on CJ’s penchant for publishing this (hideously misrepresentational) quote. Harris has called CJ and others out on this and explained the context, and that would be enough for an honest person. Not CJ it would seem. He then goes on to say (I’m paraphrasing) ‘clever people shouldn’t openly think about difficult topics because stupid people may not understand it’. Well, the second bit of the sentence is right and my evidence is you, CJ.
Unfortunately, and with rising anti-Muslim animus in the US – anti-Muslim hate crimes are five times more likely today than before 9/11 – it’s likely there are many more New Atheists, like Hicks, who are ready to take up that “noble crusade”.
I hope Hicks is a one-off example of a New Atheist turning his hatred of religion into a maniacal act of violence, but there’s little reason to be optimistic. In their minds, and inside their own echo chamber – New Atheists read the same books; listen to the same podcasts; attend the same conventions – religion is evil; therefore evil acts are motivated by religion. In the hours following the Paris attacks, Dawkins tweeted: “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but I don’t need to tell you the religious faith of the terrorists.”
He ends with this. I suggest CJ turns over his evidence for others willing to take up the New Atheist ‘noble crusade’ to the police. Seriously, there are ‘many’ more out there. I condemn anyone willing to commit violence to propagate their worldview. Tell us who these people are that are willing to kill for their lack of belief in God and (no) doctrines.
Then, the denouement of irony in which he accuses New Atheists of group think in a world where 75% of the population are inculcated into religion and group think before they can free think. Treating New Atheists as one homogeneous bloc, CJ? Surely not!
And there ends the article. For fear you might think I’ve cherry-picked this, I encourage you to go back and read his words. If, indeed, they are his words.
As CJ has pretended to know things that he can’t, let me proffer an opinion on CJ:
His animus towards Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens is because his ‘New Atheist’ book didn’t achieve for him the recognition he so obviously craves. So, he gets this recognition from taking an opposing position where there’s less competition (Greenwald & Co). In terms of intellectual honesty, he doesn’t hold candle to the ‘New Atheists’ he so hates.
And (in CJ style) ‘if this is proven to be the case, I’ll say I was right.’