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Old 29th February 2012, 11:23 PM   #27165  /  #1
Exi5tentialist
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Left and Right in New Atheism

In a post entitled "The Real Opponents of Secularism" at RDFRS Viveca identifies the non religious 'right' and the non religious 'left' as the real obstacles to secularism. The post receives much praise, not least from the great man himself. Apart from tacitly placing new atheist secularism in the 'centre', which is obviously where any self-respecting balanced new atheist would obviously want to be seen, Viveca's article and the subsequent discussion do little to clarify what is actually meant by 'left' and 'right'.

RDFRS has a heavily-moderated discussion board and it's therefore not surprising that the mods felt the need to intervene with this rather heavy-handed guidance, "Moderators' message - This is a thread that could be very interesting and of direct relevance to the causes espoused by this website. Please stay focused on the question of why the real opponents of secularism are often not themselves religious and, even more importantly, what might be done to help overcome the problem; and do not let it be derailed into an argument about what does or does not constitute left-wing politics. Thank you. The Mods"

But that's the whole point of the article! If you can't have an argument about what does or does not constitute left-wing politics, you can't talk about what the respective threats are from the 'left' or the 'right'. Jeebus!

And what constitutes 'left' and 'right', as Viveca puts it, quote marks included (I prefer Left and Right - capitalised and without irritating quote marks - call a spade a spade) will depend on whether you take a socialist view of Left and Right or a capitalist view of them. If your view of Left and Right is fundamentally capitalist then you're either likely to be an outright conservative or a liberal/neoliberal. Neoliberals are basically conservatives talking in liberal language. Outright conservatives will tend to be proud of being on the Right; they equate right-wing politics with economic freedom, free trade and individual freedom and responsibility within a laissez-faire system. Liberals and neoliberals tend to say they are on the 'centre ground'; but their policies and approach to politics is usually just as class-ridden, laissez faire-orientated and focused on individual responsibility within a market system as the staunchest conservative. This is the reason why it was so easy for them to form a long-lasting coalition with the conservatives in the UK in 2010.

Socialists tend to identify the Left as a class-based, liberating wing of politics. The reason why I think that religious freedom is a defining foundation of the Left is simply that when the Right are on the offensive, as they are worldwide at the moment, they attack more vulnerable people first, among whom religious minorities are historically a classic target. Indeed this tendency to attack religious minorites is such an article of faith on the Left that any attack on religion is seen as being a right-wing attack. In general, I think that's a fair assessment. It's a fair assessment because when attacks on religion are motivated by the fact of their being a religion, rather than specific right-wing policies they espouse like opposing women bishops or gay marriage, then usually the attack does come from a right wing direction, and the ultimate motivation has a right-wing origin; sometimes it may be a diffuse desire to belittle a group in society (any group will do, religious groups suffice); sometimes it may have a specific racist aim as in the case of islamophobia.

The attempt to deny the very existence of Right and Left (or 'right' and 'left' - just to indulge!) is often in my view a right wing characteristic. Conservatives generally want to put forward the idea that their political views, far from being a contrived ideology just like everyone else's, are simply 'natural' laws and therefore Right and Left are irrelevant artifices, at least irrelevant to our age. The market decides that people stratify by class as a 'natural' effect, not because there is a ruling class at work determined to fix the system in such a way that class differentials become exaggerated over time.

The attempt to present us with a new 'political compass' I see as an example of this right-wing tendency, to undermine established concepts of right and left in order to make it possible for the Right to be Libertarian and the Left to be Authoritarian. And Richard Dawkins himself seems to begin to identify with this denial of the left/right view of politics, and therefore fits quite nicely with the right-wing tendency to promote such a denial, in his comment on the article by Viveca; though for some reason, probably because he is as lacking in confidence talking about politics as he is talking about philosophy, he stops short of saying outright that left and right do not exist as useful markers of political opinion.

If I get time I'll go through some of the comments in the RDFRS responses to Viveca's article and say a bit more about where I think they fit in the analysis I've outlined here.

Last edited by Exi5tentialist; 29th February 2012 at 11:35 PM. Reason: tidying punctuation
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Old 29th February 2012, 11:48 PM   #27180  /  #2
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wat?
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Old 1st March 2012, 12:09 AM   #27183  /  #3
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In a post entitled "The Real Opponents of Secularism" at RDFRS Viveca identifies the non religious 'right' and the non religious 'left' as the real obstacles to secularism. The post receives much praise, not least from the great man himself. Apart from tacitly placing new atheist secularism in the 'centre', which is obviously where any self-respecting balanced new atheist would obviously want to be seen, Viveca's article and the subsequent discussion do little to clarify what is actually meant by 'left' and 'right'.

RDFRS has a heavily-moderated discussion board and it's therefore not surprising that the mods felt the need to intervene with this rather heavy-handed guidance, "Moderators' message - This is a thread that could be very interesting and of direct relevance to the causes espoused by this website. Please stay focused on the question of why the real opponents of secularism are often not themselves religious and, even more importantly, what might be done to help overcome the problem; and do not let it be derailed into an argument about what does or does not constitute left-wing politics. Thank you. The Mods"

But that's the whole point of the article! If you can't have an argument about what does or does not constitute left-wing politics, you can't talk about what the respective threats are from the 'left' or the 'right'. Jeebus!

And what constitutes 'left' and 'right', as Viveca puts it, quote marks included (I prefer Left and Right - capitalised and without irritating quote marks - call a spade a spade) will depend on whether you take a socialist view of Left and Right or a capitalist view of them. If your view of Left and Right is fundamentally capitalist then you're either likely to be an outright conservative or a liberal/neoliberal. Neoliberals are basically conservatives talking in liberal language. Outright conservatives will tend to be proud of being on the Right; they equate right-wing politics with economic freedom, free trade and individual freedom and responsibility within a laissez-faire system. Liberals and neoliberals tend to say they are on the 'centre ground'; but their policies and approach to politics is usually just as class-ridden, laissez faire-orientated and focused on individual responsibility within a market system as the staunchest conservative. This is the reason why it was so easy for them to form a long-lasting coalition with the conservatives in the UK in 2010.

Socialists tend to identify the Left as a class-based, liberating wing of politics. The reason why I think that religious freedom is a defining foundation of the Left is simply that when the Right are on the offensive, as they are worldwide at the moment, they attack more vulnerable people first, among whom religious minorities are historically a classic target. Indeed this tendency to attack religious minorites is such an article of faith on the Left that any attack on religion is seen as being a right-wing attack. In general, I think that's a fair assessment. It's a fair assessment because when attacks on religion are motivated by the fact of their being a religion, rather than specific right-wing policies they espouse like opposing women bishops or gay marriage, then usually the attack does come from a right wing direction, and the ultimate motivation has a right-wing origin; sometimes it may be a diffuse desire to belittle a group in society (any group will do, religious groups suffice); sometimes it may have a specific racist aim as in the case of islamophobia.

The attempt to deny the very existence of Right and Left (or 'right' and 'left' - just to indulge!) is often in my view a right wing characteristic. Conservatives generally want to put forward the idea that their political views, far from being a contrived ideology just like everyone else's, are simply 'natural' laws and therefore Right and Left are irrelevant artifices, at least irrelevant to our age. The market decides that people stratify by class as a 'natural' effect, not because there is a ruling class at work determined to fix the system in such a way that class differentials become exaggerated over time.

The attempt to present us with a new 'political compass' I see as an example of this right-wing tendency, to undermine established concepts of right and left in order to make it possible for the Right to be Libertarian and the Left to be Authoritarian. And Richard Dawkins himself seems to begin to identify with this denial of the left/right view of politics, and therefore fits quite nicely with the right-wing tendency to promote such a denial, in his comment on the article by Viveca; though for some reason, probably because he is as lacking in confidence talking about politics as he is talking about philosophy, he stops short of saying outright that left and right do not exist as useful markers of political opinion.

If I get time I'll go through some of the comments in the RDFRS responses to Viveca's article and say a bit more about where I think they fit in the analysis I've outlined here.
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Old 1st March 2012, 12:11 AM   #27184  /  #4
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You almost succeeded in writing a post without mentioning Dawkins.

As for the article itself, it was rather meh, particularly in light of what I read of the ensuing discussion. Maybe I'm out of the loop, but I don't know any atheists that do not wish to maintain and extend secularism. In fact, I don't know many theists that would not either. Admittedly, I have read the occasional article by some atheists complaining about their objections to "attacks" on theists. They don't seem to get a lot of traction, though.
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Old 1st March 2012, 12:19 AM   #27185  /  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seraph View Post
You almost succeeded in writing a post without mentioning Dawkins.
I didn't realise I was under any obligation not to mention Dawkins.

(I'm still not)
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Old 1st March 2012, 01:33 AM   #27195  /  #6
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Who mentioned obligation?

I merely remarked on it because I think it would have made for a pleasant change. A bit like Seth for once not fulminating against the evils of progressivism over at Rationalia.
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Old 1st March 2012, 07:35 AM   #27263  /  #7
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Sometimes it's the comments on the Richard Dawkins site that reveal more about new atheist thinking than the pronouncements of the great man himself. I said if I had time to review them I would, I've got far as Comment 5. They're quite revealing about the underlying thinking of the kind of people who are attracted to RDFRS.

Starting with AsylumWarden in Comment 1 who thinks he/she is on the left but who doesn't even understand the basic concept of solidarity inherent in seeking to protect religious groups from persecution. Atheist Egbert in Comment 2, who thinks that secularism is a necessary principle of a free society (why isn't explained) but doesn't seem to have a concept of freedom of religion and drones on about the inherent weakness of 'group thought'. Schrodinger's Cat, Comment 4, who sees multiculturalism as the biggest defender of religion in the west but of course he neatly fails to mention what is obvious - that multiculturalism introduces the concept of racial difference, and criticism of it is a smoking gun identifying the basic racism of the new atheist movement. The username Canadian_right in Comment 5 speaks for itself, coming from a user who again seems happy to extend the criticism of religion to criticism of 'culture' – which of course is another way of legitimising the criticism of people for their ethnic origin, since ethnic origin inevitably carries 'cultural' components.

More later.

Last edited by Exi5tentialist; 1st March 2012 at 07:37 AM. Reason: One wrong Comment number
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Old 1st March 2012, 09:00 AM   #27275  /  #8
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Ah, the ever increasingly obsolete labels of 'left' and 'right'.
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Old 1st March 2012, 04:48 PM   #27421  /  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exi5tentialist View Post
In a post entitled "The Real Opponents of Secularism" at RDFRS Viveca identifies the non religious 'right' and the non religious 'left' as the real obstacles to secularism. The post receives much praise, not least from the great man himself. Apart from tacitly placing new atheist secularism in the 'centre', which is obviously where any self-respecting balanced new atheist would obviously want to be seen, Viveca's article and the subsequent discussion do little to clarify what is actually meant by 'left' and 'right'.

RDFRS has a heavily-moderated discussion board and it's therefore not surprising that the mods felt the need to intervene with this rather heavy-handed guidance, "Moderators' message - This is a thread that could be very interesting and of direct relevance to the causes espoused by this website. Please stay focused on the question of why the real opponents of secularism are often not themselves religious and, even more importantly, what might be done to help overcome the problem; and do not let it be derailed into an argument about what does or does not constitute left-wing politics. Thank you. The Mods"

But that's the whole point of the article! If you can't have an argument about what does or does not constitute left-wing politics, you can't talk about what the respective threats are from the 'left' or the 'right'. Jeebus!

And what constitutes 'left' and 'right', as Viveca puts it, quote marks included (I prefer Left and Right - capitalised and without irritating quote marks - call a spade a spade) will depend on whether you take a socialist view of Left and Right or a capitalist view of them. If your view of Left and Right is fundamentally capitalist then you're either likely to be an outright conservative or a liberal/neoliberal. Neoliberals are basically conservatives talking in liberal language. Outright conservatives will tend to be proud of being on the Right; they equate right-wing politics with economic freedom, free trade and individual freedom and responsibility within a laissez-faire system. Liberals and neoliberals tend to say they are on the 'centre ground'; but their policies and approach to politics is usually just as class-ridden, laissez faire-orientated and focused on individual responsibility within a market system as the staunchest conservative. This is the reason why it was so easy for them to form a long-lasting coalition with the conservatives in the UK in 2010.

Socialists tend to identify the Left as a class-based, liberating wing of politics. The reason why I think that religious freedom is a defining foundation of the Left is simply that when the Right are on the offensive, as they are worldwide at the moment, they attack more vulnerable people first, among whom religious minorities are historically a classic target. Indeed this tendency to attack religious minorites is such an article of faith on the Left that any attack on religion is seen as being a right-wing attack. In general, I think that's a fair assessment. It's a fair assessment because when attacks on religion are motivated by the fact of their being a religion, rather than specific right-wing policies they espouse like opposing women bishops or gay marriage, then usually the attack does come from a right wing direction, and the ultimate motivation has a right-wing origin; sometimes it may be a diffuse desire to belittle a group in society (any group will do, religious groups suffice); sometimes it may have a specific racist aim as in the case of islamophobia.

The attempt to deny the very existence of Right and Left (or 'right' and 'left' - just to indulge!) is often in my view a right wing characteristic. Conservatives generally want to put forward the idea that their political views, far from being a contrived ideology just like everyone else's, are simply 'natural' laws and therefore Right and Left are irrelevant artifices, at least irrelevant to our age. The market decides that people stratify by class as a 'natural' effect, not because there is a ruling class at work determined to fix the system in such a way that class differentials become exaggerated over time.

The attempt to present us with a new 'political compass' I see as an example of this right-wing tendency, to undermine established concepts of right and left in order to make it possible for the Right to be Libertarian and the Left to be Authoritarian. And Richard Dawkins himself seems to begin to identify with this denial of the left/right view of politics, and therefore fits quite nicely with the right-wing tendency to promote such a denial, in his comment on the article by Viveca; though for some reason, probably because he is as lacking in confidence talking about politics as he is talking about philosophy, he stops short of saying outright that left and right do not exist as useful markers of political opinion.

If I get time I'll go through some of the comments in the RDFRS responses to Viveca's article and say a bit more about where I think they fit in the analysis I've outlined here.
wat?
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Old 1st March 2012, 06:48 PM   #27440  /  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grumps View Post
Ah, the ever increasingly obsolete labels of 'left' and 'right'.
That's what I'm saying is a right wing view if ever there was one. It's fairly typical of the new atheist right - their view of themselves is that their right wing assaults on theism, islam particularly, aren't right wing at all. The best way to achieve this piece of spin is to deny the existence of right and left. Intolerant, dehumanising attacks on non-western cultural groups then become justified in their own terms.
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Old 1st March 2012, 07:04 PM   #27448  /  #11
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It's interesting that later on in the comments, Viveca who wrote the original article goes on to argue that the "left" is the primary opponent of secularism.

This is how new atheism positions itself on the far right of the scale. They start off, like Viveca does, arguing that their atheism is neither left nor right. Then these new atheists go on to launch a scathing attack on the left, thus positioning themselves firmly on the Right. Dawkins himself begins this repetitive progression in his own comment about the article, as I already mentioned in an early post.

Reading the comments from Viveca and the others, it's hard not to conclude that all the new atheists are just a bunch right wing hypocrites who have less interest in atheism than in preserving their home culture against the possibility of any change coming from foreigners.

Last edited by Exi5tentialist; 1st March 2012 at 07:05 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 1st March 2012, 08:00 PM   #27456  /  #12
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Read my posts with the following stupid accent: Edmonton
Thanks for bringing this up, Exi5tentialist. You are doing a good job of exploring a very important topic, exposing the rightist orientation of the evolutionist poobahs.

While I am no defender of traditional religion, I do see a need for the Left to ground itself in a thorough-going spirituality. Zizek has argued along these lines (see his "The Fear of Four Words: A Modest Plea for the Hegelian Reading of Christianity").

Last edited by No Robots; 1st March 2012 at 08:12 PM. Reason: sp.
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Old 2nd March 2012, 06:13 AM   #27639  /  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exi5tentialist View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grumps View Post
Ah, the ever increasingly obsolete labels of 'left' and 'right'.
That's what I'm saying is a right wing view if ever there was one. It's fairly typical of the new atheist right - their view of themselves is that their right wing assaults on theism, islam particularly, aren't right wing at all. The best way to achieve this piece of spin is to deny the existence of right and left. Intolerant, dehumanising attacks on non-western cultural groups then become justified in their own terms.
You have completely failed to provide a definition of the left political spectrum or the right political spectrum, so nothing you have said here is of any relevance.

Now, either you can provide a definition of left and right wing in one sentence each, or you admit you have no clear idea of what these concepts are.
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Old 2nd March 2012, 04:01 PM   #27678  /  #14
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Read my posts with the following stupid accent: Edmonton
The Left is comprised of socialism, Christianity and nationalism. The Right is comprised of capitalism, evolutionism and globalism.
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Old 2nd March 2012, 04:20 PM   #27682  /  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by No Robots View Post
The Left is comprised of socialism, Christianity and nationalism. The Right is comprised of capitalism, evolutionism and globalism.
lol.
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Old 2nd March 2012, 04:23 PM   #27683  /  #16
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Read my posts with the following stupid accent: Edmonton
When a superior man hears of the Tao,
he immediately begins to embody it.
When an average man hears of the Tao,
he half believes it, half doubts it.
When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
he laughs out loud.
If he didn't laugh,
it wouldn't be the Tao.
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Old 2nd March 2012, 04:47 PM   #27687  /  #17
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You're not quite familiar with what a 'definition' is, are you?
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Old 2nd March 2012, 05:09 PM   #27693  /  #18
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Read my posts with the following stupid accent: Edmonton
I take it you are of the Right?
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Old 2nd March 2012, 05:13 PM   #27695  /  #19
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What's the Right?
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Old 2nd March 2012, 05:18 PM   #27696  /  #20
No Robots
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Read my posts with the following stupid accent: Edmonton
You are evolutionist, yes?
You are globalist, yes?
You are capitalist, yes?
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Old 2nd March 2012, 05:20 PM   #27698  /  #21
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What is an 'evolutionist'?

What is a 'globalist'?

What is a 'capitalist'?
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Old 2nd March 2012, 05:25 PM   #27699  /  #22
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Read my posts with the following stupid accent: Edmonton
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grumps View Post
What is an 'evolutionist'?
Someone who believes life-forms originate in phylogenic descent one from another, as opposed to originating independently of each other.

Quote:
What is a 'globalist'?
Someone who believes that the nation-state is an arbitrary fiction that must be subordinated to some kind of internationalism.

Quote:
What is a 'capitalist'?
Someone who believes in the private ownership of real estate.
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Old 2nd March 2012, 05:26 PM   #27701  /  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by No Robots View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grumps View Post
What is an 'evolutionist'?

Someone who believes life-forms originate in phylogenic descent one from another, as opposed to originating independently of each other.

What is a 'globalist'?

Someone who believes that the nation-state is an arbitrary fiction that must be subordinated to some kind of internationalism.

What is a 'capitalist'?
Someone who believes in the private ownership of real estate.


Define 'phylogenic descent'.

Define 'nation-state' and 'internationalism'.

Define 'private ownership' and 'real estate'.
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Old 2nd March 2012, 05:48 PM   #27707  /  #24
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Read my posts with the following stupid accent: Edmonton
Heh. It's been fun. Best of luck.
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Old 2nd March 2012, 05:50 PM   #27708  /  #25
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Case-and-point, you don't understand what a definition is.
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