Good interview at Salon today with Chris Hedges, who has ended up on several occasions debating the current crop of cranky atheists. The best point of Hedges interview goes to the heart of what’s wrong with the specious arguments put forward by Christopher Hitchens and others:
If we’re afraid to privilege Enlightenment values, don’t we run the risk of sanctioning religious rituals that discriminate against women and minorities?
But I would never argue that! I mean, I think genital mutilation is disgusting. I’m not a cultural relativist. I don’t think that if you live in Somalia, it’s fine to mutilate little girls. There is nothing wrong with taking a moral stand, but when we take a moral stand and then use it to elevate ourselves to another moral plane above other human beings, then it becomes, in biblical terms, a form of self-worship. That’s what the New Atheists have, and that’s what the Christian fundamentalists have.
The atheism-only crew makes a fundamental mistake in confusing tolerance with the inability to make moral decisions. Hitchens and others seem to think that because they’re afraid that their own religious frameworks will be questioned, liberal religious thinkers are in capable of critiquing violent or extreme forms of religious expression. The position held by most moderate religious people is not that anything goes, and everyone is right; rather, it is that the ability to be a moral person is not limited to any single philosophical position or affiliation.