Cohen Tells How

A few weeks ago I stopped challenging the relentless pro-faith commentary in the UK press because I became bored with the repetitive nature of those commentators’ arguments, sick of their self-satisfied tone and feeble jokes, and depressed by their poverty of thought, lack of imagination and absence of compassion.

If you too are weary with Bunting, Brown, Byrnes, Eagleton, Gray, Armstrong, Vernon, Appleyard and all the other bores and charlatans making the same weak arguments over and over again in the comment pages, you might enjoy Nick Cohen’s savage counterblast:

When Ayaan Hirsi Ali published Infidel, her account of escape from forced marriage and genital mutilation to Europe, her defence of the liberal values they once believed in appalled ‘liberal’ Europeans. Although Ali needed bodyguards to protect her from Islamist assassins, Timothy Garton Ash sneered that she was an ‘Enlightenment fundamentalist’ while Ian Buruma denounced her as an absolutist. Maryam Namazie, a Marxist Iranian exile who set up the ‘One Law for all Campaign’ to oppose the Archbishop and the Lord Chief Justice, tells me that she experiences every variety of Western duplicity. When she argues in favour of the demonstrators in Tehran, the hard Left tell her she is serving the interests of US imperialism — ‘It’s now reactionary to have a revolution,’ she sighs. When she last appeared on the BBC, to argue that the burka was a straightjacket designed to mark off a woman as a man’s private property, the presenter told her she was an ‘extremist’. With dreary inevitability, Does God Hate Women‘s critics say that Benson and Stangroom’s atheist liberalism is as fundamentalist as the religion of the hardliners they condemn.

Leave aside, however, that the critics do not even-handedly condemn misogynists, homophobes and inquisitors but dedicate all their polemical energy to denouncing those who do. Consider instead whether their equivalence holds good. If you abandon atheism, no atheist police force imitates the religious police in Saudi Arabia and arrests you. If you decide you no longer believe in the equality of the sexes and say that God has made men dominant, no one arraigns you before an equality court. If you stop believing in free speech and start arguing for censorship, no ‘enlightenment fundamentalist’ judge punishes your apostasy with a death sentence.

It’s a long essay, but well worth reading.

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