Chris Hedges

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Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges (born September 18, 1956) is an American journalist, socialist, Christian, seminary graduate and public speaker. He obtained his Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School but he decided to pursue journalism rather than join the clergy. He has worked for 20 years as a foreign correspondent and now reports on American culture.

Contents

Views

Hedges regards human existence as sacred and transcendent. He claims monotheism's most important contribution is individualism. He stresses the monotheistic contributions to the concepts of individual responsibility, separation of powers and a tradition of defiance of human authority. [1] Hedges has views that are somewhat similar to Christian existentialism.

Anti-Dogma

Chris Hedges claimed disinterest in dogmatic differences between the various denominations and is critical of biblical literalism. [2]

"It makes no difference to me if Jesus existed or not. There is no historical evidence that he did. Fairy tales about heaven and hell, angels, miracles, saints, divine intervention and God’s beneficent plan for us are repeatedly mocked in the brutality and indiscriminate killing in war zones, where I witnessed children murdered for sport and psychopathic gangsters elevated to demigods. The Bible works only as metaphor."
"The moment the writers of the Gospels set down the words of Jesus they began to kill the message. [1]"
"The concept of God, even within the same religious tradition, mutates as human societies change. The reaction of nonbelievers changes with it.[...] This flexibility is what keeps the concept of God-of the divine-alive."

He claims that religion, without dogma and fundamentalism, is essential.

Institutional religion

Although a self described Christian, he commented that it is likely that no denomination would consider him a Christian. [3] He is a critic of institutional religion and does not attend church. [2] He is critical of the failure of both evangelical and liberal churches to take a stand on economic and political issues, saying: [2]

"They have failed to unequivocally denounce unfettered capitalism, globalization and pre-emptive war."

However, he is concerned about the void created by the collapse of institutional religion. [2]

In his book American Fascists, Hedges criticised the religious right in the United States, comparing them to "fascists" and observing they are a "deeply anti-democratic movement that would like to impose a totalitarian system". [4]

"I’m an enemy of fundamentalism, period. [5]"

Political and cultural views based on religion

Hedges was an early critic of the Iraq invasion and stated: [2]

"Given that Jesus was a pacifist, and given that all of us who graduated from seminary rigorously studied Just War doctrine, which was flagrantly violated by the invasion of Iraq, this is a rather startling statistic."

He criticised the current approach to remembrance of war which results in "sanctified violence". [6]

He is also critical of the moral vacuum of consumerism culture than has replaced religious ethics: [2]

"As we devolve into a commodity culture, in which celebrity, power and money reign, the older, dimming values of another era are being replaced. We are becoming objects, consumer products and marketable commodities. We have no intrinsic value."

The New Atheists

After debating with Sam Harris [1] and Christopher Hitchens [7], in May 2008, Hedges wrote a book I Don't Believe in Atheists (2008) based on the experience. Hedges regards new atheism as confusing religion and faith with tribalism, superstition and the idea of an anthropomorphic god. He criticised new atheists for offering a delusional "Utopian belief system", scientism and their modernist idea of the moral process in mankind. Hedges argues that a moral code is still necessary: [5]

"[Not] believing in God is not dangerous. Not believing in sin is very dangerous."
"I’m not a cultural relativist."

He claims new atheism ideas are inadvertently helping a neo-conservative agenda by promoting the same foundational doctrines of moral superiority and utopianism. He criticised some new atheism proponents for attempting to justify pre-emptive war and torture in extreme circumstances. Hedges expressed concern that anti-Islamic forces, drawing support from both secularism and the Christian right, could possibly result in a "call for a horrific bloodletting and apocalyptic acts of terror". [8] Hedges' analysis has been generally dismissed by the new atheism movement. [9][10]

He criticises Sam Harris's generalisation of Islam, retorting that most Muslims are not Arab and have moderate beliefs. Regarding Harris's justifying torture, Hedges claims he is trying to endow "the moral right to abuse others in the name of their particular version of goodness." [1]

Controversies

Sam Harris and a pre-emptive nuclear strike

In this book The End of Faith, Sam Harris writes that there may be no alternative but for the West to pre-emptive nuclear attack any Islamist state that gains long distance nuclear weapons but such an action by the West would be "an unthinkable crime" and "an unconscionable act". [11] Based on this, Harris likely regards pre-emptive nuclear attack in these circumstances as a "necessary evil". Harris calls for the scenario to be avoided altogether by moderate Muslim countries to prevent it, presumable by discouraging nuclear proliferation. Chris Hedges responded to Sam Harris: [5]

"I mean, Sam Harris, at the end of his first book, asks us to consider a nuclear first strike on the Arab world. Both Hitchens and Harris defend the use of torture."

Perhaps because Hedges did not include all Harris's qualifications that any nuclear target must be a long-ranged nuclear armed Islamist state, Harris says Hedges is misrepresenting his writing. [10]

"After my first book was published, the journalist Chris Hedges seemed to make a career out of misrepresenting its contents—asserting, among other calumnies, that somewhere in its pages I call for an immediate, nuclear first strike on the entire Muslim world."

However, Hedges is not criticising Harris for calling for an "immediate, nuclear first strike on the entire Muslim world" but rather for considering the use of nuclear weapons in support of what he considers Western imperialism.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Religion and Politics: The End of the World? A Truthdig Debate, Royce Hall, UCLA, May 22, 2007 [1] [2]
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Chris Hedges, After Religion Fizzles, We’re Stuck With Nietzsche, Truthdig, May 9, 2010 [3]
  3. Evie Ruddy, Interview with Chris Hedges, UCObserver [4]
  4. Michelle Goldberg, The holy blitz rolls on, Salon, Jan 8, 2007 [5]
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Charly Wilder, I don’t believe in atheists, Salon, Mar 13, 2008 [6]
  6. Chris Hedges, Celebrating Slaughter: War and Collective Amnesia, Truthdig, Oct 5, 2009 [7]
  7. The "Is God...Great?" Debate, King Middle School, Berkeley, May 24, 2007 [8]
  8. Chris Hedges, I Don't Believe in Atheists, Continuum, 2008, pg. 36
  9. Michael Shermer, Twitter, 24 Jun 2013 [9]
  10. 10.0 10.1 Dear Angry Lunatic: A Response to Chris Hedges, Sam Harris Blog, July 26, 2011 [10]
  11. Sam Harris, The End of Faith, pages 128-129

External Links

Chris Hedges on Truthdig

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