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When Atheism Becomes Religion: America's New Fundamentalists

3.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  780 Ratings  ·  170 Reviews
From the New York Times bestselling author of American Fascists and the NBCC finalist for War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning comes this timely and compelling work about new atheists: those who attack religion to advance the worst of global capitalism, intolerance and imperial projects.

Chris Hedges, who graduated from seminary at Harvard Divinity School, has long been a
ebook, 224 pages
Published March 10th 2009 by Free Press (first published March 1st 2008)
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Stu Minnis
I opened up this book fully expecting to find some well-formed criticism of the less intelligent aspects of the new atheist "movement." I too had felt that Hitchens and Harris especially paint Islam with too broad a brush. But instead of a the insight I've come to expect from Hedges in the past, what I found was a deeply dishonest work that paints not with a broad brush but with paint balloons. Hedges represents the ideas of "these atheists" so falsely, with so much ad hominem rudeness and remov ...more
Apr 09, 2009 Trevor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trevor by: Ginnie
Shelves: religion
The title of this one was bound to annoy me. I had, about a year ago, started another book with a similar title – God Does Not Believe in Atheists – and quickly came to the conclusion that God’s problem, in this case, is that he doesn’t exist and therefore can’t believe in anything.

Ginnie pointed to this book as worth reading and said that the title wasn’t a very good title or reflection of his main point in writing the book. It is not the title I would have chosen for the book, but then, it is
Joshua Stein
Aug 02, 2008 Joshua Stein rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I swore to a friend that I would give this book a chance, and for a few moments I expected Hedges to provide a serious answer to the quandries offered to apologists by the Four Horsemen of atheism (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens). The book, unfortunately, failed me, as you can plainly see by my rating.

The fact is, Hedges' triteness makes the text unbearable and the fact that he does not even really provide any original ideas makes it all the more painful. The tooth-pulling sensation I got
Mar 10, 2009 Shannon rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: festival-of-suck
This is truly bad. I kind of wanted to throw the book into a fire.

Chris Hedges makes sweeping generalizations about the "new atheists", ones that make it impossible to take his points seriously. I can't tell if he's being intentionally daft and lazy, in failing to cite almost ANY specifics (ie, say, a quote, because some of the things he says that Dawkins, for example, claim, are clearly taken way out of context and misconstrued). Or he really believes the conclusions he has reached, through re
Clif Hostetler
This book provides the best critic of the so called "new atheism" that I've encountered thus far. The book articulates the position that seeking the transcendent experience is an integral part of the human experience. Suggestions that progress in human knowledge and science make religion unnecessary is labeled as arrogance out of touch with human nature. The author comes from a Christian background; He even has seminary training. However, this book is a defense of all religions, not just Christi ...more
Aug 29, 2013 Mic rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best book I've read in a long time with the worst title I've ever seen.
Despite my love for Chris Hedges I shelved this book for awhile because the prologue focuses on Sam Harris, and I thought to myself, "I like Sam Harris but I don't need you to tell me he's a racist; that doesn't discount the non-Islamophobic things he says."

This book is not really about atheism. It's about the current wave of "new atheists" which, in Hedges mind, err just as foolishly as their Religious Right coun
Sep 29, 2012 Katinka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I see how a lot of people pan this book, and I think maybe it is because people are afraid to open their eyes and see the similarities between the New Atheists and fundamentalism. This book resonates with me, as it should with anyone who knows well people of all faiths. It is a call for moderation. It is a call to question wether science can answer all things. Hedges, and I, think it can't. Hedges points out the universe physically is morally neutral, our ability to learn and use the universe ar ...more
Aug 17, 2008 Jason rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
Reading this book was painful. There seems to be absolutely no logical structure to Hedges' argument. Hedges also presents himself as an expert on "human nature," making all types of conclusive statements and generalizations on the subject. Quotes from the "new atheists" are often presented with little context. He also doesn't really grapple much with the logical arguments for or against the existence of a supernatural omnipotent being. I think Hedges is a smart guy, but this was a really sad ef ...more
Tulpesh Patel
The story of how When Atheism Becomes a Religion got into my hands is almost more interesting than what’s contained within its pages. In 2009, whilst working at the University of California, Los Angeles, a friend tried to post me a copy, having found it in a Borders bargain bin and thinking, quite rightly, that it would be something I would be interested in. Two weeks later it was returned to her with "Unauthorized Circulation: Religious Content (Int'l) RTS" written on the package. She kept the ...more
To see the Hedges/Harris debate, go to YouTube and search, "Religion, politics and the end of the world." (I know I put this later in the review, but I thought it was worth it to go back and put it at the top.)

Premise: People do not advance morally at the same rate as they advance scientifically. “Those who teach that religion is evil and science and reason will save us are as deluded as those who believe in angels and demons. …Science and human reason, like institutional religion, have delivere
Oct 29, 2008 Jsb rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was inclined to like this book just from its premise, but I was totally disappointed. Hedges claims that Hitchens, Dawkins, et al as mirror-image fundamentalists to Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, a view I cannot hold. Hedges rants and rants against atheist "fundamentalism" with hardly a citation.
Aug 07, 2013 Murtaza rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Couldn't put this book down, a must-read.
Sep 16, 2014 William rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Chris Hedges seems to have written this book just as a follow-up to some debates he did with Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. Fine, there's a lot to criticize in Harris (I haven't read Hitchens). His major criticism is a kind of "utopian fundamentalism" that he imputes to both atheist and religious extremists, presumably promoting moderation for everyone (although he basically only criticizes others rather than offering any positive ideas of his own). He blames, or at least implies blame on ...more
Serge Boucher
What a dreadful book. It has its moments ("We have nothing to fear from those who do, or do not, believe in God. We have much to fear from those who don't believe in sin.") but as an attack on the new atheists, which is how the author presents it, it's appalling.

Hedges central argument mixes all the new atheists in one big lump, referring to them usually as "these atheists", and claims that what "they" offer is a utopian vision, some perfect society that we could all enjoy if only all their oppo
Jun 09, 2011 Jeff rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The thesis, or at least the vague "Boo Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett!" sentiment that is meant to substitute for a thesis, is poorly argued, and the prose often drags for pages with enervating repetitions of simple contentions. In places the book turns to a boilerplate essay on the moral neutrality of science, with all the boredom and eye rolling that such usually entails. Here and there, Hedges manages to present criticisms of Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens (taken individually) which are ...more
Jul 03, 2008 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Chris Hedges recently released American Fascists. i haven't read the book but i do know that it is a critique of the Christian fundamentalist movement in the US. Apparently, not wanting the atheists get away from his wrath, he penned I Don't Believe in Atheists. And wrath is exactly what the first two thirds of this work read like. Hedges rants and raves about the extreme positions of both atheist and fundamentalist thinkers. He tries to establish a middle ground but only sloppily so.

i do agree
Jun 29, 2009 Christopher rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
Shelves: abandoned
This book was rubbish. It was nothing but an opportunity for the author to air out some personal grievances he has with a couple of prominent atheists he happened to debate.

His main argument is that atheists are similar to Abrahamic fundamentalists in that they --

1. Use their belief in Utopia to justify all manners of violent atrocities.
2. Are inherently racist towards Muslims.
3. Are unwilling to entertain opinions and viewpoints that differ from their own.

I read about half of the book before I
Mike (the Paladin)
I doubt I can review this without causing some consternation for some. I read another book by this author and found that it was a misinformed book. The ideas and impressions in the book were what I'd call mis or ill-informed.

Upon reading this i think I'm beginning to see the problem. I'm sure that Mr. Hedges is quite sincere in all he says and he's working on being honest.

That said he is I believe (based on what he says) laboring under some "preexisting ideas". In other words a certain amount of
First, I should say that I read Hedges’s Empire of Illusion and loved it. After reading it, I characterized him as smart, well-informed, and courageous enough to speak the truth--not to mention an elegant writer. But I Don’t Believe in Atheists has problems.

The title alone is cutesy and reflects the vagueness of Hedges’s entire argument. It indicates that the book will be about atheists in general, although Hedges primarily targets the “new atheists” such as Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens—sometim
Feb 02, 2009 Betty rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
On the back of the copy I found it said "The battle between these new atheists and the religious fundamentalists engages two bizarre subsets of American Culture. One distorts the scientific theory of evolution, applying it to complex social, economic and political systems it was never designed to explain. The other insists that the six day story of creation in Genesis is fact and Jesus will descend from the sky to establish the kingdom of God on earth. Neither God nor Science , will protect us f ...more
Matthew Klippenstein
I'd approached the book cautiously, not knowing much about Hedges, but recognizing that, after reading Dawkins and Hitchens, I owed it to myself to read their critics. (At least the ones who don't hold to literalist interpretations of their particular religious writings.)

To my surprise, the author blew me away with his methodical dissection of the New Atheism. His demonstration that the more strident New Atheists adopt the same rhetorical tactics as their Fundamentalist opponents was on its own,
Justin Tapp
Dec 03, 2014 Justin Tapp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens before reading this book, along with Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene. I would recommend reading this book after reading theirs. Chris Hedges debated Hitchens and Harris, inspiring him to collect the arguments in this book. Hedges is a foreign correspondent, covering multiple wars and directing the Middle East bureau of the NY Times. He is no evangelical, he grew up a liberal Presbyterian that rejects certain parts of the Bible as literal (This creates some l ...more
Fred Kohn
Aug 18, 2014 Fred Kohn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
You know a book is great when you find yourself regretting finishing it. So if you find yourself rushing through the last few pages of a book because you're so anxious to be done with it, it's likely a horrible book. I couldn't bring myself to make this a one star book, because Hedges does bring to the table his vast experience as a journalist in the Middle East, among other troubled places. Thus he is in a good position to make a cogent critique of the ignorant rants against Islam by Sam Harris ...more
Jan 24, 2014 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Louis, I agreed with you when you said that Hedges seems to equi-demonize Christian fundamentalists and the new atheists after I had read War is a Force that Gives Meaning.

I was trying to figure out after reading this book what bothered me. I can agree with so much, especially his sense of sin. Very Augustinian as he himself affirms.

But something is missing. He says a couple of times that man is irredeemable, or something to that effect. And I realized that what is missing is hope.

He seems to be
Jul 03, 2009 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My circle includes atheists and some who believe in a higher power. I value the diversity of opinions in my group. But fundamentalist atheists don't want that diversity. Like fundamentalists of all stripes, they believe in a utopia that would be created if only everyone would just listen to their reasoning and run the world their way - dismissing those with contradictory opinions. It is that notion of dismissal that should scare us all.

Chris Hedges exposes the common threads of this (my pun int
Aug 09, 2010 Dpdwyer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fine book with a suitably ambiguous title, which interestingly was changed to When Atheism Becomes Religion: America's New Fundamentalists, for the paperback. It challenges a number of important issues in fewer than 200 pages. First, he goes after the new atheists: Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris. I have read many of Dawkins books on evolution. He's a calm and extremely lucid writer. Then came The God Delusion, a rant against religion, with Dawkins sounding like a secular Pat Robert ...more
Fortunately for the reader, Hedges decided to keep his overblown screed short. Really, there is little here for either the theist or atheist.

I found myself in a strange position going into this book as a follower of Hedges' journalism and an atheist who is not the biggest fan of the so-called "new" atheism. Hedges targets Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris specifically in places, but slips between indicting those two, the "new" atheists, and atheists in general. This ends up being a fatal flaw
Jun 18, 2012 Below rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In some ways, I'm not quite sure what to make of this book. I have read [Book: The God Delusion], The End of Faith & Letter to a Christian Nation, God is Not Great and Breaking the Spell, so I am familiar with the work of the "New Atheists". I read the books quote a while ago, and read this one a few months ago. I honestly think it's a bit difficult to review, simply because my views (not on the god debate, but politically) have changed since both I read the New Atheists and since I read thi ...more
Christopher Roberts
Chris Hedges should have picked a less provocative title. His book sounds like a work of religious apologetics when what it really is consists of a critique of the "New Atheists" and their brand of foolishness disguised as reasonableness.

Hedges nails the hypocrisy and bigotry of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens squarely. He sees that they have attacked religion using the same tactics that religious fundamentalists have traditionally used. His criticisms are often the same as my criticisms and the
Dec 07, 2008 Tucker rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tucker by: I saw a clip of Chris Hedges interviewed on the Colbert Report
Instead of following the predictable career trajectory for a man with his Master of Divinity degree and an undergraduate degree in literature, Chris Hedges spent two decades reporting from the worst war zones all over the world. His opinions on human nature are especially valuable simply because they stem from this unique combination of education and experience.

My opinion of the book is mixed. Based on the title, I expected it a reactionary Christian screed, and was pleasantly surprised to find
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Limitation 4 33 Jan 28, 2012 11:37AM  
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Christopher Lynn Hedges is an American journalist, author, and war correspondent, specializing in American and Middle Eastern politics and societies.
Hedges is known as the best-selling author of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.
Chris Hedges is currently a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York Ci
More about Chris Hedges...

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“The greatest danger that besets us does not come from believers or atheists; it comes from those who, under the guise of religion, science or reason, imagine that we can free ourselves from the limitations of human nature and perfect the human species.” 46 likes
“The danger is not Islam or Christianity or any other religion. It is the human heart—the capacity we all have for evil. All human institutions with a lust for power give their utopian visions divine sanction” 8 likes
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