Andrew Sullivan’s response to Wieseltier is here (It’s already old news; the world has moved on.) I haven’t read it all through, partially because I’m not getting paid by anyone to read and write, unlike the folks at the heart of this dispute. That I can find time to read or write anything amazes me to no end.
Andrew is punching with big fluffy gloves on this time. The vitriol is gone. It’s time to make amends, if they can be made. The rest is commentary. But, like I said, it’s yesterday’s news.
Their tiff reminds me so much of what happens whenever Israel is at the center of some public dispute. Like a global civil war, it tears friendships and families apart. There are people who no longer speak to me on account of my views on the Israeli-Arab conflict (perhaps they weren’t friends to begin with, one must conclude), and I’ve even been called a “Nazi”. Which is exactly what happened to Jeffrey Goldberg the other day, only he was called a “Goebbels” – but by a Zionist! Which goes to show you can’t please all the people all the time.
I wish only to point out that, for whatever reason, passions run amok when Israel is in the question. I don’t think even religion (the other half of the Sullivan-Wieseltier debate) comes close to being this volatile. It makes me wonder what stake most people have in this debate, myself included. Or is it just an overgrown meme gone crazy?
When I wrote my post on Wieseltier-Sullivan, I wasn’t cognizant that I had entered into battle in this year’s Dershowitz-Phillips debate. Silly me. In fact, I wasn’t even cognizant of the fact that the world was paying attention to Wieseltier-on-Sullivan-on-Wieseltier-on-Sullivan (-on-Kristal?).
This is a debate I’ve been trying to get away from, but which keeps following me. Blogging is for hotheads, which was pointed out at least twice by Leon Wieseltier and once by Andrew Sullivan himself. Somehow a debate over criticism of Israel has turned into a debate over religiosity, which I find a bit infantile. When calling Catholicism “polytheistic crudity” compared to the Judaic concept of divine unity, Wieseltier opened the door wide to the new atheists. At that point my impulse is to kick it in and say, “But, Leon, don’t you realize even your Judaic conception of God is vulnerable to the scrutiny of reason and skepticism? I mean, can it really be defended from the likes of Sam Harris? Or even Julia Sweeney?”
No, Wieseltier holds on to his God as if it were the irrefutable result of a life of pure reason. Which makes me wonder what the subtle difference is between him and Andrew Sullivan, who apparently believes all sorts of stuff shared by a billion other people worldwide which to an atheist sounds much like hoodoo.
Or: can we have a serious political discussion while invoking arguments for God? Are the underlying tensions of Wieseltier-Sullivan just a rehash of good old medieval debates about the trinity? And, if so, who cares?
Some of the primary links in the above discussion have been gathered here. Go nuts.