Hawkishness and the “New Atheists”

Robert Wright is doing some blogging to promote his great new book The Evolution of God and offers this thought on the oddly right-wing foreign policy views of the so-called “new atheists”:

It must strike progressive atheists as a stroke of bad luck that Christopher Hitchens, leading atheist spokesperson, happens to have hawkish views on foreign policy. After all, with atheists an overwhelmingly left-wing group, what were the chances that the loudest infidel in the western world would happen to be on the right?

Actually, the chances were pretty good. When it comes to foreign policy, a right-wing bias afflicts not just Hitchens’s world view, but the whole ideology of “new atheism,” especially as seen in the work of Hitchens allies Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.

Wright’s ensuring discussion of this bores into the details of Western ideas about Muslim grievances and makes good points. I think another way of thinking about it is that Dawkins has basically tried to reformulate atheism in the evangelizing and illiberal mode of illiberal evangelizing religion. Thus, much as right-wing Christians and right-wing Muslims can simultaneously loathe each other and have structurally similar views, so, too, can “new atheists” join the party. Elsewhere you have a liberal ethic adhered to by people who identify with different spiritual traditions and also by what I think are “normal” atheists, just people who don’t identify with a religious tradition, rather than people who want to construct a self-conscious atheist identity and go to battle over it.