Implicit in the position that Christianity is "less evil" than Islam is a whole host of unconscious value-judgments that, going along with a Western racialized conception of Islam, are extremely colonial. We have to make sure, in other words, that the white missionaries are the ones who are in control in Africa, to stop the brown evil people from doing anything. Like I said, it's in partly unconscious, but it frames the whole problem in terms of an essentially racial question: given that I hate the brown people's religion and the white people's one, should I support the white people's one?
Saying he's unconsciously racist is unfounded and something for which there is certainly no evidence, and it side-steps any legitimate engagement with a critique of Islam. It's also what I see as a pretty desperate attempt to save your argument. If you want to pursue the line of argument that he's actually an unconscious racist and colonialist, then you can sure do that, but it's a conversation stopper. There's nothing anyone could say or do to prove that he doesn't hold unconsciously racist or colonial values (unless we subject him to a variety of psychological tests designed to measure implicit racism, which we won't have the opportunity to do).
|Doesn't he say something about Islam being "more violent" than other religions? Actually Dawkins says something about this too. It's such a ridiculous claim to make considering what the Abrahamic religions share in terms of doxa.|
Yes, he does. But sharing something in terms of doxa doesn't mean that praxis can't largely differ, so both must be considered. Regardless, this is a pretty minor point. One religion has to be the most violent, and I imagine that, of the big ones, it's gotta be either Christianity or Islam, as compared to, say, Buddhism.
|New Atheism tends to offer up the "we have to liberate the brown women from the oppressive burqas" argument a lot; if you Google around you'll find it all over the place. It's a reasonable extension of the logic of their positions, which reify an Enlightenment conception of reason and rational thought (against which Nietzsche and others have thoroughly railed--in fact, Nietzsche would argue this kind of atheism is awful, since it just expropriates the same morality that makes religion problematic in the first place) and then see it as a transhistorical vehicle to some kind of unmediated meaning or truth in the world (see what happens?). They create straw men of what they seek to critique (straw men that invariably describe their position) and then in the place of "religion" suggest a merely mimetic system of values or methodologies (how is a universal principle of Reason any different from a transcendent God, both being concepts that can be said to have a history until reified in this particular way?). Just as reading the Bible as purely the Truth Of God is incredibly, incredibly flawed, and resists the historical accounting for discrepancies and problems that biblical scholars have done for thousands of years, reading Reason as The Be All And End All Principle Of Truth discounts, like, the history of science. New Atheists use a recent--17th century--concept of reason, reread science as having developed along those lines since its inception (ignoring that religious institutions are responsible for the inauguration of science as a field), and then defend, in the name of common sense and the aforementioned concept of reason, the very same values and morals they see as so hostile to life and truth or whatever within religion. That is to say, these are people who in the name of "common sense" and "free thinking" and "science" are repeating the most toxic and reprehensible aspects of religion in terms of valuation. And if what we're interested in is thinking outside the boundaries of limited, limiting moralization and structuration, then why the hell would we establish a critique on the basis of the same set of values so that we can just extrapolate them and have them by other means? And more insidious means, I'd argue, since there is so much appeal to "common sense," "logic," and "natural" or "self-evident" truth in New Atheism--all of this an attempt to block thought and strip the critical element of history from the conversation.|
Saying their view is that "we have to liberate the brown women from the oppressive burqas," is, indeed, a strawman. Both Dawkins and Harris have argued against the idea and adoption of the burqa, as have many feminists, but that doesn't translate into a positive position of invasion and "liberation." It's possible to critique a cultural practice without proposing or endorsing a radical "liberation" strategy.
I'm aware of Nietzsche's critique of science, and I see it as provocative, but largely misguided. I won't have the time to have a long discussion on the philosophy of science and rationality, though, and I'm sure you're aware that I largely disagree with a lot of your assertions, anyway. You're entire paragraph here, as far as I can see, doesn't really answer my main question, however, which I'm still looking for an answer to. It's pretty much just Nietzsche's critique of certain philosophical values of the Enlightenment. I don't think he went where you go with this, but you seem to basically be positing that since Enlightenment philosophers held certain unfortunate political and moral positions that these same political and moral positions must be present in a group of thinkers of who are strongly influenced by the Enlightenment, or that they're a necessary extension of those philosophical values. You say it's a "reasonable extension" of their views, but you don't actually provide an answer as to how the Enlightenment-influenced stance that Dawkins and others take leads to racism, sexism, colonialism, and imperialism. There's no explanation of how one gets from point A to point B. (Edit 2: Dawkins does recognize
that science originated with religion.)
|Also on a more basic level, what about liberation theology? What alleviations of suffering has atheism effected that have been remotely on that same level? Why is the discussion of religion so black and white?|
Atheism on its own provides no relief from suffering. It's not a belief-system or a means to relieve suffering. It's the lack of a belief. I don't endorse atheism because I think it, and it alone, relieves any sort of suffering. In fact, it probably provides people with much less personal comfort than religion. Edit: I will agree with you, though, that, in some instances (Dawkins especially--I don't see how the same could really be said for Harris, however, who is pretty into Eastern religions without being a current follower of any of them), the group of New Atheists are too black and white regarding religion. As far as suffering, I would say applied science has relieved far more than liberation theology (though it has arguably also caused much more).
|Underpinning all their scientific work is the idea that science is capable of explaining everything. That's pretty problematic.|
Well, this is just false. Any scientist will tell you there are certain questions not able to be put through the scientific method, or, to put it another way, there are questions that just aren't scientific questions. This is also not a critique of their scientific findings as such, but a critique of a philosophy of science (a philosophy which neither Harris, Dawkins, nor Dennett holds).