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« Saturday Morning Coffee Break & Prayer Revival | Main | Gardening, Puttering and Adventure Thread, Nov. 18 »
November 18, 2023

Surprises from former "New Atheist" Ayaan Hirsi Ali and other current or former members of the left

fascism showtunes.jpg

Michael Misita

Our culture has changed rapidly just in the past few weeks, with no show tunes to warn us that a crisis could be coming.

People are trying to provide insights into what has happened to the ways people in the West think. Some are even making suggestions about what to do next.

This story about one woman surprised me:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali becomes a Christian

After 10/7, but before the idiotic turn toward bin Laden on TikTok, Ayaan Hirsi Ali published an essay about her conversion to Christianity at UnHerd. It was republished at Free Press:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Why I Am Now a Christian
I was born a Muslim in Somalia. Then I became an atheist. But secular tools alone can't equip us for civilizational war.

This is not your everyday religious conversion. Both philosophical and personal reasons for her conversion are described. And she says that she is still learning what it means to be Christian.

It has been analyzed and critiqued both by atheists and Christians. Not everyone is happy about this development.


From the foreword by Bari Weiss at Free Press:

One of the biggest stories of the past few days didn't happen in Washington or Gaza or Tehran, but was an invisible change that happened inside the heart and mind of one woman: Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Ayaan is many things: she is a refugee from Somalia, where she was the victim of female genital mutilation; she was a Dutch politician whose criticism of Islam, the religion she was raised in, led to death threats.

Theo van Gogh, her collaborator on Submission, a film about Islam, was murdered in the streets of Amsterdam. The killer left a note stabbed into his body warning that Ayaan would be next.

A normal person would have shut up. But Ayaan is not normal. She wrote a memoir, Infidel. She became a mother. She became an American. And she never, ever quieted her voice.

It is for all of these reasons and many more that Ayaan is one of the great heroes of our time.

She has also been, since the early 2000s, among the most prominent atheists in the world. Or at least she was until late last week, when she announced in the pages of UnHerd that she has converted to Christianity.

The Egyptian intellectual Hussein Aboubakr Mansour wrote in reaction to the news that "Ayaan Hirsi Ali's announcement of embracing Christianity is one of the biggest pivotal moments culturally since 9/11 and I don't know how many people actually realize that. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was the poster child of what the New Atheists promised Islam. Not just is she saying that she is not certain about that promise anymore, she is saying she isn't even certain about the promise of the future the New Atheists could afford themselves.

Mansour continued: "As Western elites ditched Ayaan for the Islamists, Ayaan turned to the ancient fort of Christianity for a last escape."

I read the first tweet this guy wrote after he learned of her conversion. He really thought that it was important to a lot of former Muslims who had followed her into accepting secular western civilization. It shook him up.

Ayaan's decision to convert prompts a series of very big questions that go to the heart of the challenges facing the West at present: Can religion be justified on pragmatic grounds, or does it require sincere faith? Is an increasingly secular West doomed to lose the civilizational war we find ourselves in? Can Christianity actually serve as a unifying force in that fight? And if religion won't unite us, what else might?

I don't read Ali's conversion essay as totally pragmatic, but it certainly starts out that way. She also describes the power of the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood to inspire people as it swept through Africa, where she was living.

Dennis Prager has, for decades, maintained that the West was losing a "unifying force" which would allow it to stand up to Marxism and Islamism. He has pushed some programs, even before "going national", to maintain general knowledge of Judeo-Christianity (such as his old "Religion on the Line" radio program) as well as ideas for promoting more meaningful commemorations of American holidays such as the Fourth of July.

From Ali's essay:

In 2002, I discovered a 1927 lecture by Bertrand Russell entitled "Why I Am Not a Christian." It did not cross my mind as I read it that one day, nearly a century after he delivered it to the South London branch of the National Secular Society, I would be compelled to write an essay with precisely the opposite title.

The year before, I had publicly condemned the terrorist attacks of the 19 men who had hijacked passenger jets and crashed them into the Twin Towers in New York. They had done it in the name of my religion, Islam. I was a Muslim then, although not a practicing one. If I truly condemned their actions, then where did that leave me? The underlying principle that justified the attacks was religious, after all: the idea of jihad or Holy War against the infidels. Was it possible for me, as for many members of the Muslim community, simply to distance myself from the action and its horrific results?

At the time, there were many eminent leaders in the West--politicians, scholars, journalists, and other experts - - who insisted that the terrorists were motivated by reasons other than the ones they and their leader Osama bin Laden had articulated so clearly. So Islam had an alibi.

This excuse-making was not only condescending toward Muslims. It also gave many Westerners a chance to retreat into denial. Blaming the errors of U.S. foreign policy was easier than contemplating the possibility that we were confronted with a religious war.

The Wiki on Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of the longer ones I have seen. It mentions specifically videos by bin Laden as forcing her to turn away from Islam. This is the opposite of the effect that the "bin Laden letter" is having on young people reading it on TikTok. Do you wonder why?

Back to her essay:

When I read Russell's lecture, I found my cognitive dissonance easing. It was a relief to adopt an attitude of skepticism toward religious doctrine, discard my faith in God, and declare that no such entity existed. Best of all, I could reject the existence of hell and the danger of everlasting punishment.
To understand why I became an atheist 20 years ago, you first need to understand the kind of Muslim I had been. I was a teenager when the Muslim Brotherhood penetrated my community in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1985. I don't think I had even understood religious practice before the coming of the Brotherhood. I had endured the rituals of ablutions, prayers, and fasting as tedious and pointless.

The preachers of the Muslim Brotherhood changed this. They articulated a direction: the straight path. A purpose: to work toward admission into Allah's paradise after death. A method: the Prophet's instruction manual of dos and don'ts - - the halal and the haram. As a detailed supplement to the Quran, the Hadith spelled out how to put into practice the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, God and the devil.

The Brotherhood preachers left nothing to the imagination. They gave us a choice. Strive to live by the Prophet's manual and reap the glorious rewards in the hereafter. On this earth, meanwhile, the greatest achievement possible was to die as a martyr for the sake of Allah.

The alternative, indulging in the pleasures of the world, was to earn Allah's wrath and be condemned to an eternal life in hellfire. Some of the "worldly pleasures" they were decrying included reading novels, listening to music, dancing, and going to the cinema - - all of which I was ashamed to admit that I adored.

The most striking quality of the Muslim Brotherhood was their ability to transform me and my fellow teenagers from passive believers into activists, almost overnight. We didn't just say things or pray for things: we did things. As girls, we donned the burka and swore off Western fashion and makeup. The boys cultivated their facial hair to the greatest extent possible. They wore the white, dress-like thawb worn in Arab countries, or had their trousers shortened above their ankle bones. We operated in groups and volunteered our services in charity to the poor, the old, the disabled, and the weak. We urged fellow Muslims to pray and demanded that non-Muslims convert to Islam.

During Islamic study sessions, we shared with the preacher in charge of the session our worries. For instance, what should we do about the friends we loved and felt loyal to but who refused to accept our dawa (invitation to the faith)? In response, we were reminded repeatedly about the clarity of the Prophet's instructions. We were told in no uncertain terms that we could not be loyal to Allah and Muhammad while also maintaining friendships and loyalty toward the unbelievers. If they explicitly rejected our summons to Islam, we were to hate and curse them.

Here, a special hatred was reserved for one subset of unbeliever: the Jew. We cursed the Jews multiple times a day and expressed horror, disgust, and anger at the litany of offenses he had allegedly committed. . .

Her reasons for becoming a Christian are complex, and you can read them at the link.

* * * * *

The New Atheists

From the Wiki:

The term New Atheism was coined by the American journalist Gary Wolf in 2006 to describe the positions of some atheist academics, writers, scientists, and philosophers of the 21st century.[1][2] New Atheism advocates the view that superstition, religion, and irrationalism should not simply be tolerated. Instead, they should be criticised, countered, examined, and challenged by rational argument, especially when they exert strong influence on the broader society, such as in government, education, and politics.[3][4] Major figures of New Atheism include Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, collectively referred to as the "four horsemen" of the movement, as well as Ayaan Hirsi Ali[5] until her conversion to Christianity in 2023.

Aside from the recent conversion of the "plus one horse-woman", some of the other New Atheists have also popped up on social media recently. Sam Harris apparently suffered some sort of a loss of credibility among his usual audience (I haven't kept track) and is said to have been on a rehabilitation tour of some sort. But he recently made a very articulate statement about antisemitism that has been widely shared.

Excerpts. Sam Harris:

Of course, the boundary between Anti-Semitism and generic moral stupidity is a little hard to discern - - and I'm not sure that it is always important to find it. I'm not sure it matters why a person can't distinguish between collateral damage in a necessary war and conscious acts of genocidal sadism that are celebrated as a religious sacrament by a death cult.
Our streets have been filled with people, literally tripping over themselves in their eagerness to demonstrate that they cannot distinguish between those who intentionally kill babies, and those who inadvertently kill them, having taken great pains to avoid killing them, while defending themselves against the very people who have just intentionally tortured and killed innocent men, women, and yes . . . babies. And who are committed to doing this again at any opportunity, and who are using their own innocent noncombatants as human shields.
If you are recognizing the humanity of actual barbarians, while demonizing the people who actually worry about war crimes and who drop leaflets and call cell phones for days, in an effort to get noncombatants to leave specific buildings before they are bombed, because those buildings sit on top of tunnels filled with genocidal lunatics - - who again, have just sedulously tortured and murdered families as though it were a religious sacrament, because for them it is a religious sacrament. If you have landed, proudly and sanctimoniously, on the wrong side of this asymmetry--this vast gulf between savagery and civilization - - while marching through the quad of an Ivy League institution wearing yoga pants, I'm not sure it matters that your moral confusion is due to the fact that you just happen to hate Jews.

One problem is that you have to be able to read to catch the message above. Or the full message at the link, which flows without breaks.

And here's a podcast by Sam Harris with an edited transcript concerning the moral confusion of this time. The Bright Line Between Good and Evil.

It is less harsh toward the young people in the USA supporting Hamas and gives them room to change their minds. You may know someone with whom it is appropriate to share:

There is no substitute for understanding what our enemies actually want and believe. I'm pretty sure that many of you reading this aren't even comfortable with my use of the term enemy, because you don't want to believe that you have any. I understand that. But you have to understand that the people who butchered over 1,400 innocent men, women, and children in Israel on October 7 were practicing their religion, sincerely. They were being every bit as spiritual, from their point of view, as the trance dancers at the Supernova festival were being from theirs. They were equally devoted to their highest values. Equally uplifted. Ecstatic. Amazed at their good fortune. They wouldn't want to trade places with anyone. Let this image land in your brain: they were shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) all day long, as they murdered women and children. And these people are now being celebrated the world over by those who understand exactly what they did. Yes, many of those college kids at Harvard and Stanford and Cornell are just idiots who have a lot to learn about the world. But in the Muslim community, and that includes the crowds in London and Sydney and Brooklyn, Hamas is being celebrated by people who understand exactly what motivates them.

Again, watch Hotel Mumbai or read a book about the Islamic State so that you can see jihadism in another context--where literally not one of the variables that people imagine to be important here is present.

We all live in Israel now. We just don't realize it yet.

*

Remember Christopher Hitchens? Another of the "four horsemen of the New Atheists" explains why other atheists are wrong to excuse bin Laden. The kids on TikTok were not the first:

Hitchens was not gentle.

The Charles C. W. Cooke thread includes some humorous bits, too if you have a little time. Thanksgiving is coming up.

*

This is not how the New Atheists intended for things to turn out.

Richard Fernandez:

The worst of it for the cultural elite is that their ideology, which they thought would replace God and Western civilization, has turned out to be a big nothing. They are falling as through empty space without footing. Every handhold turns in an instant into an adder.

*

Twenty-two years after 9/11, a new generation of Americans are romanticizing the "liberatory freedom fighter" Osama bin Laden via @tiktok_us. A society that is so willfully committed to its self-destruction cannot survive. This reminds me of the Norwegian man who was raped by a Somali Noble Immigrant in Norway. The Norwegian man felt guilty that the Undocumented Love Maker might be deported back to Somalia wherein he might have a harsh life. Hence, the raped man was predominantly concerned with the sodomizer's future prospects. Human nature is predicated on the notion that humans & societies have a self-preservation instinct. Well, the West does not. Your grandchildren will pay a very dear price. The policies that need to be implemented to correct course are simply outside the purview of the Western mindset.

*

I'm not sure how each of the New Atheists feels about this decision, but it was a close call for Christian Free Speech.

The former Finnish Home Secretary . . has been found not guilty of "hate speech" for quoting the Bible.

Four years of police investigations, prosecutions and court hearings.

But when it comes to cancel culture, the process is the punishment.

* * * * *

Academia and Critical Social Justice (Wokism)

Helen Pluckrose is on the social left, but generally supports the tenets of classical liberalism and western civilization. Co-author with the feisty James Lindsay of Cynical Theories. John Cleese asks her below to explain "Woke" because representatives of this ideology won't talk to him. She responds by explaining how hard it is to have a conversation with a proponent of Critical Social Justice. She is very articulate.

Have you had difficulties having a discussion with someone who has taken some of the Grievance Studies in school? Have you given up trying?

*

Round 2: Helen's friend Peter Boghossian (often considered to be one of the New Atheists) joins John Cleese:

Peter Boghossian has written about How to Have Impossible Conversations and has produced videos with some examples of how to engage in such conversations with people who have differing points of view.

Have you ever run across his ideas about communication?


* * * * *

Streaming Culture

Maybe it's not all the fault of academia.

Pew: 32% of Young People Get Their News from China's TikTok

Wesley Yang:

When we made the succession from a text based culture to a streaming one, all prior knowledge instantly evanesced, reformatting all prior culture and leaving a blank slate

In the resulting brave new world children can know they are the opposite sex, mass murderers of civilians are heroes of resistance - - and Osama Bin Laden is a profound and wrongly maligned truth teller

Anything can happen now

Make sure your kids have some old books to read.

*

Christina Buttons:

Hamas Cheerleaders Are All Over Instagram

Since 10/7, young social-media users have been inundated with memes that present terrorists as social justice champions.

I had no idea that she used to be a leftist "influencer" working for a high-dollar outfit. Here she exposes some others.

A survey of 2,116 registered U.S. voters, conducted in mid-October by The Harris Poll and HarrisX, revealed a striking generational divide on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Approximately half of those respondents aged 18 to 34 expressed the belief that the mass killing of Israeli civilians could be justified by Palestinian grievances. As the age of respondents increased, support for this proposition declined significantly. A similar pattern was reflected in the responses to other questions about Israel.

This result cannot be blamed - - at least not entirely - - on the political atmosphere on U.S. campuses, as only about 35 percent of Americans aged 25 and older in the United States have a bachelor degree. Almost all Americans consume social media in some form, however. And these online spaces are where much of the pro-terror radicalization seems to be occurring.

Video is an especially effective propaganda medium. . .

I recognize these propaganda techniques because back in 2020, I was responsible for curating and creating content for an influential progressive Instagram account with more than 730,000 followers. My role was to keep people engaged and enraged. Like many other old-fashioned liberals, I'd mistakenly perceived the social-justice phenomenon as a moral extrapolation of the civil-rights movement. In time, I realized that what I was really doing was signal-boosting the values of far-left academics seeking to destroy liberal values. Part of that Marxist-inspired academic movement involves slotting whole swathes of humanity into boxes marked either "oppressor" or "oppressed." Having put the Palestinians in the second box, these ideologues are inclined to support any action, however monstrous, presented as a strategy of liberation.

As it turns out, being an anti-oppressive social-justice revolutionary can be quite lucrative.

* * * * *

Some other thoughts

I'm ready for the young woman above to deconstruct Islam and Marxism like she deconstructed Christianity.

Related

*

Sexual assault center at Canadian university signs onto open letter that DENIES evidence that women were raped and sexually assaulted during Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

It wasn't "just" rape.

*


Again, destruction in Homs, Syria.

*

It is getting more and more like the Chinese Cultural Revolution, seriously!!

Be careful about sending your kids to college. Maybe when they come home for Thanksgiving, you should just keep them home.

* * * * *

Weekend

Powerline's Week in Pictures

* * * * *

Music

Bonaparte's Retreat

* * * * *

Hope you have something nice planned for this weekend.

This is the Thread before the Gardening Thread.

Serving your mid-day open thread needs


* * * * *

Last week's thread, November 11, Veterans Day in a time that reminds us how important veterans are

Comments are closed so you won't ban yourself by trying to comment on a week-old thread. But don't try it anyway.


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