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Homage to Leon Wieseltier



One reason I find Wieseltier so interesting is that he is a staunch political liberal—he says he can’t imagine The New Republic‘s supporting a Republican candidate for president—and yet, he has been a merciless critic of the New Atheists.

His attack on Rosenberg’s new book does not come out of thin air. Rather, it reflects a consistent philosophical position that Wieseltier has been articulating for some time.

For instance, several years back he published a scathing review of Daniel Dennett’s New Atheist classic, Breaking the Spell (Viking, 2006). It was called “The God Genome,” is full of delightful jabs at Dennett’s self-importance.

At one point in the book, Dennett makes himself out to be a hero for risking martyrdom by standing up to the religious right. To which Wieseltier replies:

Giordano Bruno, with tenure at Tufts!

Best of all are some of the things he has to say about the New Atheists in a long conversation with Richard Wohlin, a distinguished intellectual historian at CUNY Graduate Center, recorded in 2010. I have embedded a video of this long, but highly stimulating conversation below (there is a handy index—the discussion of the New Atheists occurs in section #17).

Here are some of the highlights:

– James Barham, “Homage to Leon Wieseltier,”The Best Schools blog More.

The new Atheists are to the liberal and skeptical tradition what the land and sea pirates of the Dark Ages were to classical civilization. It was either them or civilization. Take some comfort, if you will, from how that turned out.

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For the record, I am also a staunch political liberal who is a critic of atheism and Darwinism. I also accept that the jury is really still out on the degree to which human activity is contributing to global warming and climate change. However, as a liberal, the hoopla doesn't upset me because the remedies being proposed are measures we should take anyway---weaning ourselves from fossil fuels, moving towards reliance on sustainable energy sources, etc. Personally, I find the tendency in this blog to lump Darwinists and atheists with political liberals not very perceptive. In particular, there are many, many theists of many different stripes, from New Agers to liberal Christians who are political liberals, and many of those, particularly in the New Age communities, agree that Darwinism is undoubtedly false. Bruce David

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