Monday, November 05, 2007

The Twilight of the Empire

A famous British atheist embraced God in the twilight of his intellectual life, alarming atheists. At the same time, he embraced Islamophobia harder than his new-found God: "[H]e [Antony Flew] seemed generally uninterested in the content of his book [There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind] -- he spent far more time talking about the dangers of unchecked Muslim immigration and his embrace of the anti-E.U. United Kingdom Independence Party" (Mark Oppenheimer, "The Turning of an Atheist," New York Times Magazine, 4 November 2007).1 His embrace of Islamophobia doesn't alarm atheists, however, for some of the most prominent New Atheists, atheists of the evangelical persuasion, are themselves Islamophobic imperialists. Christopher Hitchens is the most notorious example, but so is Sam Harris: "Harris' examples of irrational religious behavior are mostly Islamic, relating to suicide bombers and 9/11" (Alexander Saxton, "Faith in the 'War with Islam,'" MRZine, 19 October 2007).

In the same issue of the New York Times Magazine in which the aforementioned article about Antony Flew appeared, it is reported that MEMRI's clip of "The Truth about Islam from an Ex-Muslim Lady" is the most discussed video on YouTube.
"The Truth About Islam From an Ex-Muslim Lady," YouTube's most-discussed video ever, shows a woman on a TV-news program delivering a fearsome disquisition in Arabic on Samuel P. Huntington's clash-of-civilizations idea -- the concept that global politics are now determined by potentially apocalyptic cultural collisions. The woman [Wafa Sultan], identified as an Arab-American psychologist, celebrates the "civilization" of the West and denigrates the "backwardness" of Islam, according to the English subtitles. Since "The Truth About Islam" first appeared in the spring of last year, something about this video clip has inspired viewers to lay bare their ideological ids. It has prompted 200,000 comments. (Virginia Heffernan, "God and Man on YouTube," 4 November 2007)
It is as if the twilight of the US-led multinational empire brings as much intellectual senility as the twilight of an individual life.

1 That's a turn similar to one that Oriana Fallaci made before her death:
Fallaci has been known throughout her long career for her strong anti-clericalism (she is a long-time leftist, daughter of an Italian partisan who fought the Fascists), but describes herself as a "Christian atheist." While stating that she does not believe in God, she claims that the West cannot ignore its Christian origin and identity. Even if we deny God's existence, Fallaci says, Christianity has shaped the Western world. It defines "who we are, where we are coming from, and where we are going."

But the Church, she says, is not able -- or worse, not willing -- to defend Christianity. Fallaci accuses the Church of helping the expansion of the "Islamic empire," lobbying for more Muslims to come to Europe. (Lorenzo Vidino, "Forceful Reason: Fallaci Issues a Wake-up Call to Europe," National Review 4 May 2004)

1 comment:

masoud said...

I understand Fallaci was some kind of influential feminist before becoming the hate-peddler of her twilight years? The only time I ever mentally cheered on Reza Shah was when reading a snippet of one of his Interviews with her. You can actually see the seeds of the future Empire-booster in her thoughts and questions of decades earlier. It's funny how atheists are so dangerously prone to falling victim to their own unexamined ideologies.