Christopher Hitchens and the New Atheists
Updated: Jun 7
We are now almost two decades away from the period dominated by the so-called New Atheists: Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins. Now is the time to pause and reflect on this movement and its significance. The New Atheist phenomenon was directly related to the 9/11 attacks; indeed, the last 20 years—2001 to 2021–will probably be remembered as the 9/11 era, an era dominated by the West’s stance towards Islam, and the 2008 financial crisis. The 2000s set the tempo, with 9/11 and the financial crash, and the 2010s reaped the whirlwind; by 2016, Muslim terror attacks seemed an almost daily occurrence in Europe and there was a sense that the continent was at breaking point—we saw the first retaliatory attacks by Europeans against Muslims. Brexit and Trump represented a turn against the establishment that had overseen both the War on Terror and the financial crash—complacent progressive liberal technocrats. This period ended with Covid-19; we now live in the post-Covid era, just as my generation—around sixteen when 9/11 happened—were formed by the twin towers, so this generation will be formed by life before and after Covid-19.
The New Atheists emerged to solve a problem for the West’s hegemonic ideology, progressive liberalism, when confronted by Muslim terror. This is not to say that New Atheism was consciously planned, rather it emerged organically as progressive intellectuals and journalists reached similar conclusions at the same time. The problem that confronted progressive intellectuals was this: the West had suffered a major attack, an attack that could not be ignored, by a religiously-motivated group. Yet the progressives conceptualised the West as a multicultural, inclusive environment—remember Tony Blair was in power, Britain’s borders had been opened to admit 100,000s of immigrants—and this attack contradicted all these hopes.
Religion was meant to have died in the 18th century, liberalism had then gone on to defeat fascism and Marxism to become the sole political ideology. When Fukuyama announced the “end of History” in the early 1990s, he meant “History” with a big Hegelian “H”; History as a process that worked itself towards the Absolute, for Hegel this was Prussia—for Fukuyama it was liberal America. He did not mean that events would not continue to happen, rather there would be no dispute as to what system was best to rule the world. Since the USSR fell, everything was “post-political”: all questions were technocratic questions and political parties barely needed to stand for anything—socialism had demonstrably failed. All that was left was for the future—the liberal democratic future—to evenly distribute itself across the globe, all under supervision from the progressive elite.
Yet here was a force, bin Laden, who asserted that an archaic governmental form, theocracy, was superior to liberal democracy. This presented two problems: the progressive liberals were engaged in demographically terraforming their own societies, eliminating, as Blair did, through mass immigration, the last rooted elements represented by Christianity and organic white societies. The future was seamless economic integration, the liberal historical subject—the rational calculating individual—had been proved, by History, to be the only viable model. All would be melted down, all would become the same; and the economy would grow.
Now the 9/11 attacks threatened to awaken the people progressive liberals regard as their “real enemy”—the enemy within—the Christians, the traditionalists, and the European nationalists. They would be invigorated by this religiously-inspired attack on the West. Yet, at the same time, the progressive liberals needed to mobilise for high-level aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan; they needed to canalise patriotic feelings to protect liberalism—since liberalism is detached from reality, it must break its own ideological assumptions to defend itself; i.e. not all conflict can be dealt with through economic calculation and negotiation; as with Communism, the liberals must hypocritically rely on the quasi-feudal military and nationalistic sentiments when under external assault.
New Atheism answered this question nicely: it mobilised the Western masses against “Islamofascism” abroad and “evangelical Christian fascism” at home; so it met a double need, New Atheism could propagandise for wars in the Middle East, neoconservatism being intertwined with New Atheism, and at the same time push back against those nationalistic and Christian tendencies at home that were being mobilised by Islamic terror and could potentially threaten the progressive liberal project.
The masses would be mobilised to fight abroad—or support the fight abroad, anyway—by their commitment to liberal democracy as reinforced through sceptical progressive liberalism, the crusade to end the “demon-haunted world” for science. It seems incredible now, since progressives have rehabilitated him, but George Bush Jr. was seriously spoken of as a “Christian fascist” by New Atheist circles; and, though broadly sympathetic to him, the New Atheists served to keep an eye on his politics, lest he divert from “the anti-fascist war for liberal democracy in the Middle East” to “the war for Christian America”.
This was the historical context for New Atheism, now I want to consider a particular example: Christopher Hitchens. When I went to university around 2005, I admired Hitchens; now, I never agreed with his stance on the Iraq War, nor did I care for his New Atheism—I saw it as a pointless rehash of arguments made in the 18th century. What I liked about him was his outspoken resistance to Islam and, further, his argumentative nature—his bitchy comments, now immortalised as YouTube “hitchslaps”. Hitchens was what a man just turned twenty might confuse for a brave and clever person.
At the time I was an amateur lawyer, in the sense that I would take up a position—say, against same-sex marriage—just for the sake of it, and then argue the toss. My position was much the same as contemporary trolls and anons who argue ‘’for the lolz” or “for the banter”; really, adolescent males do this as a substitute for a fight or a war: the point is to burn off the excess energy—a bit like a rough and tumble fight, only intellectual. Journalists and lawyers work this way all the time and, as with my arguments at the time, they often employ cheap rhetorical tricks to move the emotions. Hitchens was masterful at this technique—he had great condescension and real tartness in his formulations. So I liked him, despite disagreements over Iraq and atheism. I even went to see him at a small event at a university and felt pretty excited to see his “routine” in action—all these intellectual celebrities are basically entertainers with a routine.
When I look back, especially at the physical state Hitchens maintained, I feel rather disgusted with myself—also not in very good physical shape at the time—and also a great distance from his views and more than his views, since I often disagreed with him, his general demeanour: in short, his sense that nothing matters combined with smug condescension for everyone else—even people who were more knowledgable in a subject than he was.
To understand Hitchens, you have to see how his position shifted from his youthful Trotskyism to what amounted to neoconservatism—militant progressive liberalism. Hitchens was always a revolutionary, always a destroyer and a man who hated religion. When Marxism failed, he simply jumped back a hundred years to “the Enlightenment”—a Golden Age for the New Atheist religion—and swapped Trotsky for Tom Paine. Every utopian aspiration he had for his youthful Trotskyism, he transferred to his progressive liberalism: the class war was exchanged for an older war between 18th-century rationalists and believers—and, of course, the struggle with Islam fitted better with this schema than the exhausted Cold War categories that revolved around two materialist powers in a competition to see who could make more cars and fridges under their respective economic systems. That was old hat: reason versus religion was where it was at in the 21st century.
The ease with which Hitchens jumped back through the generations and became a propagandist for “revolutionary war” for liberal democracy in the Middle East reveals liberalism’s genealogical relation to Marxism, that Marxism grew out from liberalism—so that when Marxism failed, disillusioned true believers, such as Hitchens, could quite easily jump back and live out the revolutionary fantasy in an older register. This time, since the US was regarded as the undisputed global champion after the Cold War, the revolution was safe and secure and demonstrably powerful—and it paid well for those prepared to shill its wars.
For Hitchens, the War on Terror became his Second World War: the great anti-fascist struggle; the Second World War being, for liberal progressives, the be-all and end-all in morality—a war that even nihilists characterise as a struggle between “good” and “evil”. Neoconservatism was itself developed by disillusioned Trotskyists, so it was natural for Hitchens to fall in with this hybrid ideology; it gave him an opportunity to vent his frustrated martial instincts—and use rhetoric previously deployed by Trotsky to rally the Red Army—in order to incite war on Iraq against “Islamic fascism”—“fascism” the eternal enemy, the unredeemable evil that is used to describe anyone who opposes liberalism.
Along the way, Hitchens—superficial as all journalists are—played up to the American status game; he had already lived there for a long time, so this was relatively easy. Thus when he discovered that his mother was partially Jewish he became—unlike his Christian brother—obsessed with this fact. Of course, he did not actually convert to Judaism. Hitchens just knew that within progressive liberalism—the state religion—Jews, women, blacks, homosexuals, and the holocaust are holy. So he got down and worshipped—obviously, it helped that the Jews are hugely influential in American intellectual, political, and financial life.
As with all New Atheists, Hitchens had an unacknowledged metaphysics; his secular Christianity was progressive liberalism—he was a fanatic for it. He thought he was a very good person indeed, and now that he had removed the religion’s original sin—he was a white man—through his Jewish ancestry he could self-righteously demand unlimited American aggression abroad against the ur-evil “fascism”; he finally had the social credit that made his views good and true—yes, please remember this man thought he was totally free from religion, very cool and sophisticated indeed. He was really completely up his own arsehole and high on his own supply.
Does this matter? Really, he made some funny quips on C-SPAN to sell books; no big deal, right? Yes, it really does matter. Hitchens spread innumerable lies about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq; he whipped up war fever. As Aesop observed, the trumpeter is also complicit; the man who trumpets the soldiers to the battlefield is as crucial to the war as the soldiers. This is why Streicher, the National Socialist journalist, was hanged: nothing happens without propaganda—the keyboard is as lethal as a bullet. Hitchens lied about the Iraq War, the region was reduced to ashes; and millions died, for Iraq led to Libya and Syria and the endless wars there. Finally, it led to the refugee crisis, Europe’s destabilisation, and Muslim terror on the continent. The neoconservatives were told this would happen: they lied and carried on regardless. Hitchens was responsible for this outcome, just like his co-combatant Douglas Murray: a modern Dorian Gray, whose exterior shows a clean and youthful homosexual, though in some Hampstead attic there is a rotten picture that records all the sordid lies he tells and all the deaths he has facilitated.
Among all the New Atheists, Hitchens was the most vituperative and spiteful—and also the most popular with the degraded mob. Dawkins titled his hot take on God The God Delusion; the title reflected his standpoint, people who believe in God suffer from a delusion that science should remove. Dawkins remains human-centred; his problem is with the believer, not with God—as a man consistent to his intellectual position it is impossible to be angry with an entity that almost certainly does not exist; it is the people who believe in the imaginary entity—the refuted hypothesis—who are the problem. Harris and Dennett chose similarly tepid titles for their books. Hitchens, by contrast, called his “God book” God is not Great; in other words, he took direct aim at the Almighty Himself; and if God is not great, then who really is great? The answer: Christopher Hitchens—he is greater than God. A parallel can be drawn with John Lennon, a man who claimed the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. And what happened to him? Bang, bang, splat.
Notably, both Lennon and Hitchens are idols for leftists and progressive liberals, and they are regarded as almost saint-like characters, although in reality one was a mediocre pop musician and the other a slightly superior journalist. These men were not even Beethoven or Nabokov, not even the most excellent representatives in their field—they were just popular with the mob. Even a non-believer such as Nabokov was humble enough not to denigrate God. People with real talent have humility that comes from a sensation that there is a force greater than themselves, even if that force is materialist. In Nabokov’s case, he knew the masters in several languages; and he had mastered several languages to the highest degree himself—an extraordinary achievement, to become an exceptional stylist in his third language. This grants humility, the humility men like Hitchens lack.
You know what happened, really. You are not allowed to think this because it is irrational and, some would say, mad; perhaps enough to put you in a psychiatric clinic if you said it: Hitchens toured round the world speaking in the most vicious and viper-like way against God, then he contracted oesophageal cancer; he had his voice clipped. Deep down, everyone knows it was a punishment; the other New Atheists never hated God, never participated in mass propaganda campaigns to kill people—Muslims—who tend, by and large, to still be believers much more than Westerners. I say the punishment was made to fit the crime; perhaps God is not some man-like entity outside space and time, perhaps He is more like a general principle in the cosmos; if you go against the flow it kills you—maybe.
As Christians and secular Christians, such as Jonathan Pageau and Jordan Peterson, have endlessly pointed out, the New Atheists always assumed a Christian metaphysics and morality to undergird their stance. This critique goes back to Nietzsche, a man who was a more consistent and cold-minded atheist than any New Atheist. Nietzsche said that once God is gone, then to hold on to the Christian morality and sensibility is sentimental and dishonest nonsense. God is dead and all that remains is Darwin—or, perhaps, for Nietzsche, a sceptic towards Darwin, “the struggle”. Okay. What does Darwin—or Nietzsche’s golden barbarian—say we live in? Well, a gene-mediated chimp fight; we are here to beat up other chimps and rape our genes into female apes—the more rape, the more genes go forward.
From a scientific view, this is neither good nor bad: there is no moral imperative to force your genes forward or backward.
However, since this is what we know about the world and since science is integrated with technology—with maximum efficiency and efficacy—then we should, there being no moral laws, push the limits. After all, if we fail to do so then someone else will and then we will die at their hands and their genes will go forward. So, pace Hobbes, since we wish to survive, we shall throw ourselves into the evolutionary arms race with no reservations.
Now the New Atheists refuse all the above: they are truly Nietzsche’s last man, addicted to comfort and to sentimentality. They hold on to their ideological assumptions: their progressive liberalism, their residual soft socialism, and what Nietzsche correctly identified as pseudo-Christianity—Christianity masked as secular rationality. Hence Dawkins is a gushy feminist and Hitchens promoted a weak socialism; and none would admit that a central plank in Darwinism is race—the race struggle, the tribal struggle. When asked about sex differences, Dennett, so tough on the poor defeated Christians, demurred. To talk about sex—let alone race—is a true religious taboo in the West; it is easy to spit on the Christian carcass that no one—not even the priests—believes in anymore; but to question anti-racism, now that is real heresy and real courage—a real attack on the powers that be and a real defence of scientific truth against sentimental delusion and folly.
The best evolutionary biologists, like the ant-man E.O. Wilson, say evolution takes place at the group level. The tribal struggle, every psychological tick a tribal strategy to push the genes forward: the Jews preach to piggy-back on other societies through sentimental homilies, the Europeans make war, and the Chinese slowly and patiently expand like a mould that assimilates all before it.
We return to my current favourite biblical point: God spits out the lukewarm. The New Atheists were lukewarm, they did not live the implications of their worldview through to the end. A real nihilist, a man like Nick Land, runs with nihilism all the way and consistently. He arrives at the conclusion that hyper-racism—remorseless genetic improvement—is optimum. Man is, as Nietzsche observed, a rather degraded and ugly creature; he is fallen, and now we know there is no God to save him. Very well: as Land observes, we shall build God; we shall build a super-intelligent AI to replace us, to step over and above us. To do so, we must augment ourselves and we must live out the tribal truths found in Darwin, otherwise we will extinguish ourselves altogether; we will degenerate and the West—the world—will become a giant Prozac-soaked factory farm; eventually, as our IQ declines, it will be a retard farm. The factory will break down and the self-domesticated human pigs will starve, though only after they have eaten their own parents, children, and friends—probably their own faeces as well, humans being what they are.
The message Jesus brought: do not be a hypocrite. If you pitch yourself as a tough scientist who sees the world only in scientific terms then you better go right into the implications: the implications are Landian, hyper-racism and the cold AI. Do not be lukewarm: be a real atheist—a left-hand path occultist who wants to become God—or be a real Christian, but do not stand in the middle. Do not pretend to be a milky Christian yet deny there is a God. The New Atheists were all hypocrites; they wanted all the niceness that comes from a Christian metaphysics, but no God and no Darwinian nastiness. For the most part, they kicked a corpse—the Christian corpse—yet they made themselves out to be martyrs. These men were no martyrs: they were rewarded with money and top status.
The real atheist, the real nihilist, is closer to God than the New Atheist because he is not a hypocrite; he lives through his beliefs—and this was what Christ told people to do. Do not be a Pharisee, do not equivocate with rhetoric, moralism, and legalism—practically all Hitchens did. Do not sell yourself, as Judas did, for thirty pieces of silver. Moralism: “If you say race exists bad things will happen! The holocaust!” Jesus: I am the truth, the truth. Jesus was not a moral man—he hung out with whores and tax collectors—he wanted the truth no matter the consequences, even if they nailed him to the cross. “He’s causing a ruckus! If this outrageous man carries on in this way, people might get hurt!” Indeed, nobody caused more trouble than gentle Jesus meek and mild. This is not the point: religion is about integrity, and this is more than morality—Jesus was beyond good and evil.
I would go so far as to say that the real atheist is closer to God than a contemporary Christian; for the most part, what is called Christianity today is completely distorted and not even believed by the people who profess it. “It’s good for you,” they say, as if they are trying to get a child to eat his greens—and no child wants to eat his greens. The real atheist arrives back at a view that looks like the Old Testament—a book Nietzsche admired. The tribal struggle: a world where God destroys entire cities and peoples to pave the way for a race, the Israelites, to prosper—or to punish sodomites and whoremongers. Optimum Darwinian behaviour here. “It’s a bit much,” says the Church of England vicar, who is really a nihilist, “I mean, it’s genocide really.” The true message Jesus brought was to be frightfully nice to everyone—really? The real atheist, the real nihilist, is the real Christian: he is no hypocrite, as Christ ordered—and he also embodies the Old Testament fire and fury, thanks to Darwin.
The mistake people make with nihilism is to waver on the cusp; they think if they cling to what has been destroyed they will not fall into the pit—actually, the pit is to cling to what has been destroyed. This is what the New Atheists did; they decided there was no God, but they did not follow the implications from this assertion; and this was because they were afraid. “There’s no God, but everyone is equal and we can all be nice to each other as individuals,” they say, so they stay at the expedient secular Christian level; the valueless level where you do what is required for everybody to like you and have your bodily functions satisfied. If you go into the nihilism, then you return to conclusions that match what is contained in the holy texts, since these match reality very well indeed—and here we find the neoreactionaries, their dark God Gnon, and, if he were to be very consistent, Jordan Peterson.
“Ah, they don’t understand that the real implication of atheism is terror and war. They are Christians really, and Christians are nice,” say men who are also hypocrites, though in the other direction; the so-called Christians. They need to go into their atheism and burn away what is false in their Christianity—for hardly any self-professed Christians really believe today. They cling to the decayed cloak because they like to moralise other people, or because they are afraid. And also, frankly, because they are failures in the savage modern sexual marketplace—or failures in life generally who cannot cope in the harsh post-Christian world.
Really, these “Christians” are secular liberals—just as the secular liberals are Christians. If they met an actual Christian, they would be shocked by the faith: I have seen “Christians” waver when asked if a Muslim child who dies will be saved. The real Christian says, “No.” Today’s Christians—expedient people—waver and tremble. They attend conferences with Israeli academics who talk about the “Judeo-Christian” West, and then the Israeli academic will put Jewish laws and ideas before Christ in his writings—Christ subordinate to the Jews. The real Christian says: “Christ comes first and last; the Jews killed Christ, the Jews must convert to atone.” Yet this would interrupt a rather well-fed and watered conference circuit, and, after all, we are Christians to stop the supposed fruits of nihilism “totalitarianism”, “racism”, and “genocide”—all concepts that do not appear in the Bible; and, indeed, are quite in keeping with the Bible. So who are the real Christians? Now, I am not a Christian myself, but I am for the real; for Christ’s sake, give me something real and not this bullshit that serves the state ideology, impresses your peers, defies logic, and denies reality.
To be an actual Christian in the West is illegal, and anyone who preaches it would be arrested in short order—especially in Britain. Yet there is little risk that this will happen, for the most part the people who declare themselves Christians are truly infected by rationalism and secular liberalism; they also believe in “human rights”, “liberal democracy”, and that “racism” is bad—actually, Christ was the first anti-racist! Yet God orders the Israelites to smite their enemies, down to the last woman and child...
The only way out is through: a few people—not all, not all have the stomach—must go right into nihilism and discard the rotten cloak. There is no path back to Christianity; it has been eaten by liberalism and socialism: what remains is a mummery, and what people online call “cope”—a coping mechanism. New Atheists today and almost all self-professed Christians remain stuck in belief, stuck in the lukewarm position: a real consistent nihilism, right down to the most bleak positions imaginable would bring them back in line, through Darwin, with what the holy texts have said—if they push further, it turns into a genuine spiritual relation towards the world and an enchantment, although this will look somewhat like madness. Then again, if you look at the world itself, madness is already truly enthroned.