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When Atheism Becomes Religion: America's New Fundamentalists [Kindle Edition]

Chris Hedges
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From the New York Times bestselling author of American Fascists and the NBCC finalist for War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning comes this timely and compelling work about new atheists: those who attack religion to advance the worst of global capitalism, intolerance and imperial projects.

Chris Hedges, who graduated from seminary at Harvard Divinity School, has long been a courageous voice in a world where there are too few. He observes that there are two radical, polarized and dangerous sides to the debate on faith and religion in America: the fundamentalists who see religious faith as their prerogative, and the new atheists who brand all religious belief as irrational and dangerous. Both sides use faith to promote a radical agenda, while the religious majority, those with a commitment to tolerance and compassion as well as to their faith, are caught in the middle.

The new atheists, led by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, do not make moral arguments about religion. Rather, they have created a new form of fundamentalism that attempts to permeate society with ideas about our own moral superiority and the omnipotence of human reason.

I Don't Believe in Atheists critiques the radical mindset that rages against religion and faith. Hedges identifies the pillars of the new atheist belief system, revealing that the stringent rules and rigid traditions in place are as strict as those of any religious practice.

Hedges claims that those who have placed blind faith in the morally neutral disciplines of reason and science create idols in their own image -- a sin for either side of the spectrum. He makes an impassioned, intelligent case against religious and secular fundamentalism, which seeks to divide the world into those worthy of moral and intellectual consideration and those who should be condemned, silenced and eradicated. Hedges shatters the new atheists' assault against religion in America, and in doing so, makes way for new, moderate voices to join the debate. This is a book that must be read to understand the state of the battle about faith.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Hedges is clear from the outset: there is nothing inherently moral about being either a believer or a nonbeliever. He goes a step further by accusing atheists of being as intolerant, chauvinistic, bigoted, anti-intellectual, and self-righteous as their archrivals, religious fundamentalists; in other words, as being secular versions of the religious Right. Like best-selling atheists Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett, Hedges is disgusted with the Christian Right, going so far as to call it the most frightening mass movement in American history. Even more disturbing for Hedges, however, is the notion, which many atheists and liberal churchgoers share, that as a species humanity can progress morally. There is nothing in human nature or human history to support the idea, Hedges maintains, nor that the flaws of human nature will ever be overcome. He discusses the dark sides of the Enlightenment, Darwinism, consumer culture, the justifications for America’s wars (including in Vietnam and now Iraq), and obsession with celebrity, among other equally hot topics. His purpose in this small, thought-provoking book is, he says, to help Americans, in particular, accept the limitations of being human and, ultimately, face reality. --June Sawyers

Review

"Chris Hedges reminds us that the point of religion is not to make us disdain those who think differently but rather to help us become decent, responsive, and moral human beings." - 0, The Oprah Magazine

Product Details

  • File Size: 301 KB
  • Print Length: 225 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1416570780
  • Publisher: Free Press (February 20, 2009)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001TKD4HG
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #423,795 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
(106)
2.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
559 of 679 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What?! Who? April 20, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I might not be the typical reviewer of this book. I am an atheist, but one who is as annoyed as Hedges over the excesses and irresponsibilities of the more dogmatic of "public figure" atheists. But, wait! I gave this book two stars. Why would I give a book whose message I essentially agree with 2 stars?

Well, for starters, I don't agree with much in this book; suprising, because I thought that I would. Of the scores of things Hedges could have challengd these atheists - Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens - on, Hedges manages to miss most of them and add some that are quite illigitimate. Had I written this book, I would have taken the three authors to task on a few things:

a.) their simplistic and baffling view that not only religious extremists, but moderates, are to be condemmed. (Isn't religion a tool? Just as people can do bad with it, so they can do good, depending on their motive?)

b.) these authors occasional faith-driven zeal, that given enough time, sceince will explain all of the things it has tried and failed to explain (like morality, even though science deals with 'is' rather than 'ought' questions. (And don't get me started on the idea of 'memes' as opposed to the older, more sensical, idea of 'ideas.')

c.) These authors' very frequent exhibitions of the type of fanatical extremism and dogmatism they rightly point out as a flaw of their opponents (fundamentalists).

The only of these Hedges hits on is the third. Hedges is not even primarily against atheism. He is, rather, against dogmatism and fanasticism, which he rightly sees exhibited in spades amongst these new 'public figure' atheists.
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162 of 197 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not black or white March 14, 2008
By Donna
Format:Hardcover
Interesting that all of the reviews posted so far are either 5 star or 1 star. It seems that people are rating the book based on whether agree with what the author has to say or not. That is no way to judge a book. A book can be excellent even if don't agree with one conclusion the author comes to, and a book can be poorly written even if you agree with every word in it.

I think the title of "I Don't Believe in Atheists" is plain stupid. Beyond that, Hedges has some very interesting things to say about the interaction of religion (and nonreligion) with politics, and it's worth reading by anyone who has read any of the other recent literature about atheism.

But Hedges did himself a disservice by framing the book as a critique of Dawkins, Harris, etc. because in many cases he's totally misrepresenting what they wrote. He should have just stuck to writing his own ideas on the topic, as he has in his other books, and this book would have been much better. As it is, it just sounds like he's mad because the so-called "New Atheists" don't like what he believes in. Hedges is a better writer -- and thinker -- than that. It's a shame he didn't do his best writing in this book. But, then again, believers tend to become irate when people insult their gods.

I saw a debate between Chris Hedges and Sam Harris on this topic on TV a few months ago, and Hedges was completely incoherent. I had read some of his other writing (books and online) in the past and was hoping he'd do a better job in writing about this topic than he did in debating it.

Oh well. I bet his publisher was pushing him to rush his book to market. Too bad.
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226 of 287 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My interest in this book came from a nasty experience in college some years ago. I was talking about Christianity and its effect on my life. Apparently my views were too conservative and/or orthodox to suit two people I was talking to. They started to get in my face and insist that I was wrong. No matter what I said, they would take turns interrupting me and insisting that I was wrong and that Christianity had "changed," and that I needed to change with it. That I had been raised in the home of an ordained minister and had just about cut my teeth on a Bible didn't matter - to them, I didn't know that I was talking about and they wouldn't listen. I was bothered by this - not so much that they didn't agree with me, but that they wouldn't listen, and at one time they were almost shouting and backing me up against a wall - literally! Later on I thought, "If a so-called "fundamentalist" Christian had acted like that, they would have had his/her head on a platter!"

When I first found this book, I wondered if Chris Hedges had the same type of experience I did. Probably not - but his message rang true.

In my opinion, the title of this book is misleading. Hedges doesn't necessarily disapprove of atheists, if they have reached their position with an honest heart. His issue is with the "fundamentalist mentality" which he claims can happen as much with atheists as with believers in God.

This book contains a badly-needed two-fold message. First of all, that we need to come back to the idea of human corruptibility - a truth that we don't need to be Christians to accept. The other part both religious and non religious people need to reject the idea that we can perfect ourselves.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Weak composition, weak arguments, but very liberal
Hedges book is disorganized and obnoxiously repetitive, hence tedious to read, especially the first half. Read more
Published 10 days ago by expatTim
2.0 out of 5 stars Hedges channels agnosticism
I must preface this comment by stating that I admire Hedges as a journalist and social activist.
Mr. Hedges argues that fundamentalism itself is dangerous. Read more
Published 3 months ago by H. Kennedy
5.0 out of 5 stars I like Hedges idea of the metaphorical value of Christianity
A thoughtful rebuttal to the new fundamentalist atheism movement. As an atheist/agnostic Buddhist with a spiritual bent, I like Hedges idea of the metaphorical value of... Read more
Published 5 months ago by William H. Burke
4.0 out of 5 stars Spiritual Autopsy
Hedges is great. A Spiritual Autopsy of Science and Religion is a totally different, and fantastic look at the excesses of atheist thought - from an atheist!
Published 5 months ago by misterkel
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read after reading Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens
I read Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens before reading this book, along with Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene. I would recommend reading this book after reading theirs. Read more
Published 5 months ago by JustinHoca
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Interesting look into ethics and extremes in faith
Published 5 months ago by Yoyoyoyo
1.0 out of 5 stars Off target
I like reading and listening to Chris but he has a serious bone to pick against religion. This is one thing to take into account when reading Hedges on religion. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Earthling
5.0 out of 5 stars This shows that human nature, if you want to ...
This shows that human nature, if you want to call it that, uses religion or lack of religion to arrive at the same negative result. Read more
Published 6 months ago by David Woods
5.0 out of 5 stars Pivotal reading for atheists and agnostics
Transformative. This lead me away from my atheist "heroes" into a sober independent quest for meaning. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Rio
3.0 out of 5 stars Good
I liked this book, somehow I still have no assurance of what the author wants to active, but it gave me an idea that the overall goal of the book was to denounce the exaggeration... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Luis A. R. Branco
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More About the Author

Chris Hedges is a cultural critic and author who was a foreign correspondent for nearly two decades for The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio. He reported from Latin American, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He was a member of the team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for The New York Times coverage of global terrorism, and he received the 2002 Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. Hedges, who holds a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, is the author of the bestsellers American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle and was a National Book Critics Circle finalist for his book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. He is a Senior Fellow at The Nation Institute and writes an online column for the web site Truthdig. He has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University and the University of Toronto.

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Wild Claims! Why?
First, I have not read the book (yet). I have read The God Delusion, God is not Great, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian nation. Dawkins is reasonable, imploring; Hitchens is harsh but devastating, as is Harris.

I listened to the Truthdig.com debate between Hedges and Harris recently... Read More
Mar 27, 2008 by Symbiosis |  See all 6 posts
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