The Elders of Atheism

Danny Finkelstein has spotted a sweeping statement by Richard Dawkins that will rebound. He argues that atheists should follow the alleged model of ‘the Jewish lobby’:

When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told – religious Jews anyway – than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place.

An anti-democratic sentiment and anti-Jewish stereotype in one.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    If he’s argiung that Jews are able to successfully influence US foreign policy disproportionately, then surely that’s a positive stereotype?

    And if are you arguing that political lobbying is anti-democratic, should all interest groups just stop pleading their cases or other efforts (eg funding parties)? Sounds likely(!)

  • Doctor Who

    While it is a sweeping statement, it is also an over reaction by Finkelstein. He goes on to state that Dawkins is is saying that Jews control the world. Dawkins is of course saying nothing of the sort and this is a clear attempt to distract from his original point.

    All Dawkins is saying is that to be an Atheist in U.S politics is political suicide and hence a large percentage of active politicians are disenfranchised.

    He has wrongly suggested that atheists look to the perceived high level of Jews in places of power for inspiration. This is nonsense but it doesn´t make Dawkins anti democratic or anti semetic.

  • Nevin

    “An anti-democratic sentiment and anti-Jewish stereotype in one.”

    A sweeping statement? Are the Fink and f_d by any chance related?

    PS What about the Masons?

  • Fraggle

    “He has wrongly suggested that atheists look to the perceived high level of Jews in places of power for inspiration.”

    What’s wrong about it?

    It’s a measure of the power of the Jewish lobby that if you even mention this lobby, you get branded a nazi. (see 1st reply in Finklestein’s blog)

    Anyway, whether were talking about a Jewish lobby or the Irish-American lobby or whatever is irrelevant to Dawkin’s point.

    This smacks of people opponents not able to face up to Dawkin’s main arguments searching for weak spots in order to make ad hominum attacks.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Dawkins is undoubtedly a highly intelligent and likeable man, but his constant tiltings at the windmills of religion are ill-judged and often counter-productive.

    Pointing out for instance that football is merely 22 overpaid idiots chasing a bag of wind is unlikely to put anyone off attending matches every week, and pointing out that religious belief is preposterous nonsense flying in the face of logic is hardly news to most either.

    The fact is that most believers do so because they want to — it’s a crutch, a comfort, a tribal ritual, whatever. They don’t need the like of Dick Dawkins pointing out the obvious.

    Where Dawkins hopes to exert some influence is in the sphere of interference of established religion in political affairs and supposedly moral dilemmas, such as stem cell research and abortion.
    Religion needs to be kept in it’s box, and in the west, that is largely what is happening. Despite Dubya’s religious credentials, his fundamentalist supporters must be mighty disappointed with his lack of achievement in this area. By and large, whilst the Christian lobby is noisy, it achieves little. Islam, likewise is both vocal and physically threatening, but has won relatively few western converts and is highly unlikely to do so given it’s current tactics.

    Dawkins is correct in his current analysis of the Jewish lobby punching above it’s weight, but this is unlikely to be a long-term arrangement, and is a highly emotive and specific case.

    Dawkins advocacy of Atheism is on shaky ground regarding the track record of Atheist Communism and (debateably) Nazism, and he would be well advised to stick to science rather than taking on the behemoth of world religion.

    Rather like alcohol, a little religion does no-one any harm. Dawkins vociferous attacks merely encourage those who seek to profit from the gullability of others.

  • The Dubliner

    You could interpret Dawkins’ statement as being anti-Zionist in a roundabout way: ‘Israel is a Jewish state for a Jewish people that is maintained with the support of US foreign policy. If atheists influenced US foreign policy instead of Jews, US foreign policy would not support a Jewish state for a Jewish people.’ I don’t he meant it that way, but Jews of a Zionist disposition are hyper-sensitive, especially in the broader and current political climate when a statement smacks of supporting Iran’s claim that Israel has no right to exist. Kinkelstein has a Jewish surname, so that probably explains why his reaction to Dawkins’ statement is more visceral than rational. When it comes to MOPE-ry, the Irish have nothing on the Jews – using it, rightly or wrongly, to secure the location of a de facto Jewish state in the middle of an Arab heartland. These kinds of hysterical tactics aiming at shouting down anything that is perceived to be counterproductive to Jewish interests are themselves be counterproductive to Jewish interests in the long run, as people tend to tire of the tactic once their see it as such.

  • Different Drummer

    A Fair Point Fair Deal

    One only has to think of Chomsky to know that Dawkins jargon about the ‘jewish lobby’ is rubbish.

    His book is so simplistic it can’t engage with human ethics and how these are formed by our beliefs and culture.

    Chomsky and many other radical Jews who no longer belief in God accept that advanced questions of history, knowledge and ethics are part of their tradition. Materialization of religious thought is a very complex process one only has to examine the life of Walter Benjamin to see that.

    Dawkins just sees ‘jews’ who ‘lobby’ and implies that their is no other kind who also lobby but most certinly do not ‘influence American foreign policy’ – Chomsky being the prime example.

  • Turgon

    I have not read Dawkins book, I guess few here would expect me to have, though a number of Christian friends have.

    He seems to me to be a mirror image of some fundamentalist Christians. He really is the high priest of atheism and seems to have elevated it in his mind to a religious belief in a science which can answer all questions. In contrast he sees religion as the source of pratically all evil in the world and its defeat would make life so much better for us all. Is does rather remind one of some other debates we have had here recently.

    In general science is rather good at answering the question How? but has more problems with some Why questions.

    I do feel that his current position has seriously undermined the message of the advancement of the public understanding of science which is after all what he is professor of.

  • joeCanuck

    You make a good point Turgon.
    He is too strident by far and opinionated. Similar to the “debates” here that you mention.
    Science doesn’t try to answer why. So the “debates” we had here were somewhat meaningless. Although not a believer in the Christian bible, evolution is not incompatible with the notion of a “creator”. All that evolution says is how living organisms changed over time. It says nothing about the beginning.

  • Different Drummer

    There is another very distaseful aspect to this and that is his flase ‘catch all’ attack on religion.

    For Dawkins sees his ideological job as defending British and American rationalism against Islamic fundimentalism. His attack on ALL fundimentalism pretends to cover Anglo American versions of Christianity when in fact both ‘democratic’ system of values which he defends, are strongly indebted to (protestant) fundimentalism. These also produce vastly more violent and destructive acts than any other fundimentalism. We will never know the true figure of the innocent killed in the 9/11’s that the ‘rational’ and ‘democractic’ allies brought to Bagdad.

    I don’t think that saying those who ordered those attacks were Christians makes any case against religion in general. But rather it is a question of legtimation and hypocrisy.

    That also determines the scale of any critique. What you would say as a rationalist or as an aethist to relgious chartity worker in Africa is very different from what a human rights activists say and do in opposition to the theocratic state oppression in Iran.

    If he wants to really get to grips with actual social decline he should start with the the neo-cons and M. Thacher that’s when the rot set in and when people in government thought it would be a good idea to drown the Taliban and the Shah of Iran in money . Dawkins would say that morality matters and I would say it begins at home.

    Which is not to detract from the very special role that fundimentalism plays here in holding back social progress.

  • Fraggle

    Just glanced back at Finkelstein’s blog and I’m relieved to see Dawkins defended, even by people who disagree with him on other matters. It’s a pity Dawkins didn’t use another example such as the Irish lobby. Then again, the Irish lobby isn’t as strong as the Jewish/Zionist one.

    joeCanuck, Dawkins can be as strident and opinionated as he likes. He’s still not nearly as strident and opinionated as some religionists.

  • pauljames

    nice quote mining fair deal, if anyone can be bothered reading the god delusion they would realise that it is a call to arms for atheists to organise (for example along the lines of the jewish lobby in the USA) to provide a political voice to counter the insidious influence of the religos. A black president maybe, a jewish president, yeah ok,an atheist president?- I’ll get my coat.

  • Different Drummer

    MMMMMMMMMMM paul-james

    What about IP snr for first minister? – quite a few put the hats and coats on for that….

    But then again IP snr also has his problems – he’s not ‘insidious’ and fundimentalist enough for some people here!

    I wonder who will emerge as the NI’s next holy saviour? Would N. Duds be a ‘secular’ improvement.

  • I like Dawkins normally but this comment is complete balls.

    A lot of folk dislike the idea of Jews having a country (why can’t they stick to being shrinks, bankers and doctors? Will they ever stop going on about the Holocaust?) and hence tend to see American support for Israel in recent years as the result of the activities of a nefarious and powerful lobby. They neglect to consider that it might have something to do with a desire to support a country with similar social and political values and rational self- interest in having a reliable ally in a volatile area. No, if the Jews not only have a country and it’s doing pretty well 60ish years after having been founded then it can’t be because they have worked and fought hard to make it so, it can only because they are exercising their age-old skills of gulling the goyim.

    If the Jewish lobby is so disproportionately effective, how come it did so little for Israel between its coming into existence and the Six-Day War, the very period in which the state was most vulnerable? After all, it was US pressure that made them leave the Sinai after the 1956 war (in which they conspired with Britain and France, behind the back of the US) and all the way up to the War of Attrition the IDF went into battle with a mixed bag of French, British and Eastern Bloc kit. So what was “the Lobby” doing for all those years?

    Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf States are all heavily dependent on US military and /or economic support and have been for many years. How come we never hear about a cold and ruthless Arab lobby that is disproportionately influencing US policy to support of undemocratic regimes that have scant regard for human rights? No prizes for guessing why that might be.

    The Republic of Korea has received unstinting military and economic American support from its foundation up to the present day. Even now, the presence of 37, 000 US troops provides the ultimate guarantee that it won’t disappear into the maw of the North some morning when Kim Jong Il wakes up with a hangover. Do you hear anyone sounding off about the disproportionate influence of supporters of the Republic of Korea and Korean-Americans on American foreign policy? You do not. No prizes in this case either.

    And finally, I offer a quick definition of what constitutes disproportionate influence for any particular ethnic /religious group on US policy; it is any influence aimed at producing outcomes which the speaker regards as undesirable.

  • runciter

    1. Anti-semitic strawman.
    2. That was 40 years ago.
    3. Because there is no pro-Arab agenda?
    4. In itself, support for a particular country is not sufficient evidence for the existence of an effective lobby.
    4. Ouch!

  • Fraggle

    Eamonn, your point number 4 is, to quote yourself, ‘complete balls’.

    Go and read the relevant passage in the book and you’ll find that Dawkins does not express an opinion either way on the desirability or otherwise of the Jewish lobby. He is simply pointing out that a relatively small proportion of a population can possess disproportionate great influence. Rather than find this undesirable, he would like to see his own particular minority, atheists, wield similar influence.

    This whole argument is a contrived sideshow aimed at discrediting Dawkins’ arguments by association. A pretty cheap trick but a lot of people seem to have fallen for it.

    Turgon, try his book. Here’s a quote for you:

    “In January 2006 I presented a two-part television documentary on British television (Channel Four) called Root of All Evil? From the start, I didn’t like the title. Religion is not the root of all evil, for no one thing is the root of all anything.”

  • The Doc

    you mean that the americans actually have a foreign policy.i thought bush just did what the skull and bones people and the bildebergers tell him.