Atheists have proven themselves no better than religionists in navigating through the messy world of ideologies and political alliances. Straightening out this mess is nearly hopeless, but I'm going to start providing some guideposts.

Here's a blog entry I wrote on 15 October 2006:

Bronner, Stephen Eric. A Rumor about the Jews: Antisemitism, Conspiracy, and the Protocols of Zion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. (1st ed., 2000) Publisher description. Table of contents.

H-Net review: Linda Maizels. "Review of Stephen Eric Bronner, A Rumor about the Jews: Antisemitis...," H-Judaic, H-Net Reviews, March, 2004.

Chapter 2 reproduces selections of the infamous anti-Semitic forgery. It is immediately evident that this tract could only be a product of an illiberal society attempting to stifle the democratic tendencies of modernization—hence the slurs not only against the Jews, but in association with condemnation of all anti-clerical, anti-aristocratic, anti-hierarchical, democratic and liberal tendencies. Not surprising, as it is a czarist forgery. Some of this content would not pass in liberal democracies, but quite a bit of it is still live within the fascist currents of societies like ours, not to mention others.

When I have finished this book I hope to say more beyond what is said in the H-Net review cited. Sophisticated models of how religious ideology interacts with sociological factors need to be popularized, especially in the philosophically challenged Anglo-American sphere (including, alas, the otherwise salutary secular humanist movement). That is, we need a more philosophically and sociologically sophisticated defense of liberal and secular values than the philosophical mediocrities who dominate such discourse—Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, E.O. Wilson, Daniel Dennett, etc.—are giving us. We also need a counterweight to the fascistic conception of the "clash of civilizations" not only bequeathed to us by right-wrong ideologues but adopted by scared liberals like Harris who is part of the current foaming-at-the-mouth over Islam. We have to know how to condemn religious superstition unequivocally without predicating everything that happens in society as a product of "belief" in the abstract, or for that matter, on sociologically illiterate metaphorical extensions of neo-Darwinism (memetics, etc.).

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Addendum: I indeed finished reading the book, and it is the best conceptual analysis of anti-Semitism I've read.

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Replies to This Discussion

Atheists have proven themselves no better than religionists in navigating through the messy world of ideologies and political alliances.

Well, we can't all be perfect at everything.
I don't think I have a stomach strong enough to participate in an ongoing discussion on this site on the question of Hitler's belief system and the Nazi regime. I have dipped into the historians' debates on the Holocaust, including two schools of thought on how the "Final Solution" was consolidated. Here, however, I'm concerned about the conceptual/ideological complex in which this genocide occurred. To get a grasp of how the different factors coalesce, I recommend this article:

Postone, Moishe. "Anti‑Semitism and National Socialism," in A. Rabinbach and J. Zipes (eds.), Germans and Jews Since the Holocaust (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1986), pp. 302-314.
http://www.autodidactproject.org/other/postone1.html

Postone attempts to account for the generality and the particularity of the Holocaust, and avoid accounts that either dissolve the specific question of anti-Semitism or account for the phenomenon simply as anti-Semitism in the abstract. The Holocaust must be seen not merely as anti-Semitism in general, or racism in general, or fascism in general, but as a specific ideological and sociopolitical conjuncture.

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