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Is Atheist Richard Dawkins Being Responsible In His Statements?

October 4, AD2013 66 Comments

Howard

One of my favorite clichés to refer to when talking about atheism has been that human cliché Richard Dawkins. Nobody just reads his books, we have seen him on television and YouTube. Atheists especially just love him, along with that other fancy talker known fondly as “Hitch” (Hitchens is gone now, and I sincerely give my condolences to those who knew him). Richard Dawkins is quoted after Hitchens death as saying, “I think he was one of the greatest orators of all time.” That is an expected overstatement by an outspoken promoter of atheism.

Even though Dawkins was born in Kenya, I hope he hasn’t forgotten his British History in that it was Winston Churchill that is remembered for the phrase, “Iron Curtain”. Churchill led an entire nation through war with his oratory. I was in London when Churchill died and was one of those that clogged the streets at his state funeral. I was at Tower Pier as his coffin was loaded aboard a boat for the trip up the Thames river and one thing I remember that surprised me, besides the immensity of the crowd, was how many German accents I heard in the crowd.

Others have not remembered “Hitch” quite the same. His writer brother Peter Hitchens is quoted as calling him simply “courageous”. So in memory of “Hitch” and as a suggestion as to who may best carry on this cute nickname tradition for the atheists’ of the world, I nominate Richard Dawkins to be known as “Dawk” or “The Dawk”.

It’s That Blasted Accent.

Look, we Americans get to know a person by their actions and what they tell us rather than be impressed by an American accent. For example, who in the world would ever take anything that Larry the Cable Guy said about foreign policy seriously without some kind of position of power backing him up. Sort of like Donald Trump without the money, you would be focused only on his hair and whether it was real or not instead of only occasionally as now. Or, William Jefferson Clinton who sounds sort of like Larry but is quieter. Knowing as we do that he was the President, we listened to him because of his position. Then if you were like me, was completely disgusted when you found out about by the Do you know how to work a zipper? game.

With Dawk, it’s mostly about the accent to the non-British. Although the Brits have many variations of English, Hitchens for example spoke a version that came from the Aristocracy of London. If his voice was higher he would have sounded like Margaret Thatcher. I know that the Brits are wise to this trick that we fall for, because the ones in my family have told me. If it sounds good, it must be good.

But He is a Scientist?

I would never think about correcting Dawk if he told me that a three-toed sloth actually had four toes, because he is known for having immersed himself in the study of biology. Someone studied sloths closely, wrote about them and then Dawk read about them. He then repeated in lectures what he had learned. I trust his memory.

He later emerged as a popular proselytizer of evolutionary biology. He may even be the leader and greatest living contributing writer of this ideology; or as they like to call it – science. But science has many aspects as does the word evolution. Evolutionary biology is not the science of exactitude derived from experimentation or evidence, but is more inclined to practice abduction or inference.

His evolution from zygote to the world’s consciousness began as a student of Nikolaas Tinbergen. He then did graduate work in materialism and secularism during the socially tumultuous years at the University of California at Berkeley in the late 1960’s. If you are too young to have been immersed in that world, I can tell you first hand (having unknowingly lived across the bay from him during most of his Berkeley years) that it was basic training for what we civilized persons are now having to clean up. He then ended as up a lecturer at Oxford University. So it turns out that he spent his life learning from the sterile environment of science, the riotous environment of youthful rebellion, then graduated to telling others what to think – the ideal leader of an atheist movement that has no soul either recognized or wanted.

So Here We Are.

I was trapped by a feeling of duty to read the writing of this very articulate man (articulation supplements the accent) who wrote the The God Delusion. I could not read more than a few pages at a time before I had to put this drivel down and recompose myself. This is a scientist presenting logical reasoning? I bent over the corners of the pages that contained major arguments and highlighted with a yellow marker the sentences that seemed to stand out. I spent $10.85 on this book full of personal ideas that atheists seem to repeat but do not credit until an authority is needed. I got lots of use out of it in combox conversations with atheists. I bought it along with a books by Hilaire Belloc and others, in order the get free shipping on Amazon. Now, I am going to squeeze the last pennies out of it with this essay.

As far as I actually read was about page 222 out of 420 before I said, “enough is enough”. I found one advertising quote on the flyleaf interesting. Penn and Teller (known for their scientific thought) said, “If this book doesn’t change the world, we’re all screwed.” I love this quote. It recognizes the fallen nature of man and the coming judgment; it’s very biblical in a modern Vegas showroom sort of way. But, as men have done throughout the centuries and the inside pages show, they are repeating the same mistake by seeing clearly that the cause of our trouble is man, then looking to man for a solution. That has been tried countless times with particular disastrous results in the 20th century.

I was lead to understand this man Dawk better, by a comment box discussion with a rather self confident atheist who claimed Dawk was a good guy who never would tell anyone to mock others. What? Who uses that word anyway? This atheist claimed to be a follower of discussions on Dawk’s foundation website. Aha!

Lets Look Closer At This Man.

After divorce, remarriage and a child named Juliet Emma Dawkins, a divorce again, then remarriage, Dawk today is serving as a model for young minds and is cheered by young mouths and clapping hands telling them propagandist style, “Mock them, ridicule them — in public”. He is referring to religious persons. That is me for sure, maybe you and maybe your children.

Now here is his complication. He has a daughter! Yes, she about 29 or 30 by now, but consider this conversation as having been very possible when she was about 8 years old.

Daughter: “Daddy?”

Daddy: “Yes Dear?”

“Some very mean boys made fun of me at school today daddy.”

“What did they say Dear?”

“Well Daddy, our teacher told us some history today. She said that there was a man named Jesus Christ who lived a long time ago and that lots of people believe that he was the son of God. I said that he sounded like a very nice man and I would like to know more about him. And after class those mean boys told me I was stupid and ignorant and not to be so dumb as to think that God was real. They mocked me daddy!”

“Oh…?”

“Yes Daddy, they also said that you were the one that told them to say those things to me!”

“Oh…?”

“That is not true is it Daddy? You love me don’t you? You would never say that would you?”

“Humm…”

A Strange Worldview Emerges.

I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today…

(Richard Dawkins quoted in HuffPoo and The Atlantic Wire)

In order to save his public image he released this almost 900 word backtracking (with Polish translation?) starts out saying how everyone misunderstood his words then ended by saying, “I apologize,” presumably because some people understood his words correctly.

His explanation seems to be that having been mildly molested was not pleasant, but the way in which a child molester should be viewed is by the common social understanding of molestation in that era; not as I would say, by a psychological understanding of the effects of molestation on the molester and the victim in any era. One may then conclude from his statement that the standards of social behavior is really all he cares about and that in his era (I am the same age) “mild pedophilia” was Okay with everyone. It appears to me that he is applying his love of the word “evolution” to another field of study.

The outward response to the act by a victim may be socially conditioned or controlled, but the interior effect on the victim has a real result due to the action itself. He should have also gotten a clue from his own experience when he said, “We discussed it among ourselves on many occasions, especially after his suicide…” A young mind may not understand the importance of these discussions and the death, but those minds knew that something important happened with both. I do not say these things without similar experience. I was sexually assaulted at about 16 by a doctor giving a physical exam. He got only as far as mouth kissing then I did also “wriggle off his lap” as Dawk explains. I was affected in a negative way by the experience, but even stronger was the sight of a very pathetic man over come by strong destructive passions.

These passions destroyed his marriage and practice (this was more than 50 years ago). He practiced bi-sexuality and was actually a family friend. We had an amiable relationship with a clear understanding of boundaries into my adult years until he died. When we speak of these things we must understand them with what is available as to cause and effect and with human compassion for all involved. But, if one’s thinking becomes narrowed by the inevitable reduction necessary to derive reasons for social behavior from material causes (and a quick response as to how one is received in the press), I can see that a larger view of humanity and it’s origins can be overlooked, as it has by Dawk.

Daughter: “Daddy?”

Daddy: “Yes Dear?”

Daughter: “I have something to tell you that happened at school Daddy.”

————————————————————-
update: 12/30/13 thanks to a reader for spelling corrections.

About the Author:

Howard Lee Duncan is a senior citizen widower in his 8th decade of life (70s) who was married for 36 years to his only wife Jill. He lives on 40 acres of the Great Basin Desert in an owner built solar powered home. He has three children who have left the nest and are now too far away. After an Episcopalian childhood, his teen years brought on the disease of agnosticism with occasional bouts of atheism. He entered the Church in 2010 and says he has felt at home ever since. His working life included Forest Fire Truck Driver, Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa building schools, Motion Picture Cameraman in industrial films and while in the U.S. Army, production assistant to a Producer in Hollywood, Professional Still Photographer, Photo Lab Technician, Postal Service Letter Carrier, Computer Systems Analyst in business and government, Computer Consulting, Owner of an Internet business, Web site creation. His educational background is mostly self directed reading and experiential but does include; A graduate of the London School of Film Technique, London, England, AA degree in Business Data Processing with an additional course in accounting, Seminars and technical classes. He now spends his days in local parish church work and Right to Life groups, Internet conversations with new friends and old enemies of the Church.

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  • Robbe Sebesta

    I love this article Howard. And no, he’s not being responsible, imo. But I think it’s hilarious what you said about his accent. Anytime I hear someone from across the pond speak about anything, I tell my husband, “Well, he’s right you know because he speaks with a British accent…that means he’s smart!” haha!

    • Howard

      Y’r’e a good twist and twirl, Robbe Lyn. ‘E’s a bit of a cab ranker.

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  • Diane McKelva
    • Howard

      Just read it. The English do like to adopt and modify our ways (and sell books to us), Elvis and such.
      “In Publicity We Trust”.

    • David_Evans

      I thought that was a good and sympathetic account of the man and the book. Certainly better than Howard’s attack.

  • Kathryn

    His reasoning is based on real evidence. People don’t believe him because of his accent, that’s foolish, and the critique of someone who has no logical argument. Instead of criticising his ideas (in the book that you haven’t read, because you thought it was “drivel” (you were insulted because it opposed your own views that have no evidence)), you instead choose to personally insult him. That is the thought process of a person who has nothing logical to say. Dawkins has the accent he does as a consequent of his education. Your view is simply prejudice and irrelevant to his highly logical and well-authenticated evidence. Additionally, as an atheist i have experienced bullying/insults/intimidation by religious people who claim to “love thy neighbour”. And yes, this man obviously is a scientist. I can give you the evidence but you seem to wish to be ignorant to anything that opposes your own hollow standpoint, so that would propably be futile.

    • Howard

      Kathryn,

      Evidence abounds in my article. You may not be aware, but even the Brits recognize that their (upper class) way of speech influences the reception of ideas. They have taught “proper” speech for centuries and that class has ruled. We have not given the same weight to this in America as we have been the world leader in equality.

      I have read his book (as I said), up to the point of un-necessary repetition of a personal crusade. It is not scientific, it is meant to be a popular influence on like minds. Science is dispassionate, men are passionate. I love a well thought out opposite view of the world that does not skip over common sense and understands sociology. But, this man certainly does not present one.

      Most of all, you miss the ENTIRE point of my article. I would encourage you to re-read the title and ponder the question it asks. If you have children, or understand what Christ wants us to do, you will see better the dangerous trend that He has fostered. When you speak about Christ’s teaching, it is a logical mistake to replace Him with a misguided follower as an example.

    • David_Evans

      “We have not given the same weight to this in America as we have been the world leader in equality.”

      You might want to research the gap between the average pay of CEOs and their workers in America, and compare it with any other Western country. You might also consider how long ago schools and buses were racially segregated in the US (1950’s) and compare that with the UK (never).

    • Matt

      I’m beginning to get that familiar feeling that you actually haven’t read or heard any Dawkins whatsoever.

    • Jeremy

      I apologize but Kathryn is right in her critique your of essay, I’ve read all of Dawkins books and you have clearly misunderstood his position and created a straw man to easily knock down, this is why people like you can never be taken seriously.

    • WhatsHappeningCatholic

      “you have clearly misunderstood his position”

      Jeremy it is going to be very hard for you to overcome his own simple phrases such as, “I am attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural.” A euphemistic way of saying I am attacking a great part of humanity, if you don’t believe these gods actually exist.

      That this man is an an Idealogue is very clear. He is also a recognized leader in the area of atheism and but says nothing unique. Leaders have personal traits that draw others to them.

      Analyze your own attraction to him.

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  • Matt

    Not even close to surprised that you didn’t read the God Delusion cover to cover, congratulations on your celebrated ignorance of the arguments against your absurd position.

  • David_Evans

    When attacking an author and prose stylist of the stature of Dawkins, one should try not to make too many mistakes. Such as:

    In your 2nd paragraph

    “Curtin” for “Curtain”
    “lead” for “led”
    “crowed” for “crowd” (twice!)

    and in the next paragraph, “to be know” for “to be known”.

    and later, “three-towed sloth”.

    • Howard

      I hope you gave Jerry Coyne the same advise before you left his site for here.

      “They’re Doing it Rong” and “another festive pieces of atheist-bashing” and an incorrect title for this article.

    • David_Evans

      “Doing It Rong” is an internet meme (not one I like), not a mistake.

      As for the others, mea culpa

  • David_Evans

    I’m not impressed by your inventing a conversation between Dawkins and his daughter. What gives you the right to do that?

    Perhaps you don’t know the context of Dawkins’ “Mock them! Ridicule them! In public!”

    It was in a speech to adults, and the full quote is:

    “So when I meet somebody who claims to be religious, my first impulse is: “I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you until you tell me do you really believe — for example, if they say they are Catholic — do you really believe that when a priest blesses a wafer it turns into the body of Christ? Are you seriously telling me you believe that? Are you seriously saying that wine turns into blood?” Mock them! Ridicule them! In public!”

    Now it may be hard for Catholics to believe this, but many people do find the doctrine of transubstantiation ridiculous and worthy to be mocked. In any case, saying that is very different from inciting schoolchildren to mock the very sensible statement that you put into Juliet’s mouth.

    • Jeff_McLeod

      So I’m missing the nuance you have in mind wherein he says “mock them” but really means “be cordial.”

      Could you elaborate?

    • David_Evans

      No, when talking about adults who say something he things is ridiculous, he really means “mock them”.

      In the tradition of “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”

      He is not mocking a schoolgirl who asks a reasonable question, as in the invented conversation.

    • james

      Howard may need spell check but you need a better hero. What a loser this
      angry, educated free thinker is. Let’s pray his rebirth is mild.

    • Howard

      Actually I was trying to impress someone like you, I am sorry you missed the point.
      Adults teach children and children learn from adult behavior. Perhaps you have missed the attention that bullying in schools has received lately. To turn anyone against others aggressively and intentionally is bullying. The intensity of militant atheists attacks on other people is not hidden from the world. His outburst in public is very visible on YouTube along with raptured faces soaking up his nonsense.
      Bad behavior is not acceptable from anyone, scientist or not, hero of yours or not.
      p.s. I’ll be more careful of spelling errors.

    • David_Evans

      I agree. I’m not 100% happy with what Dawkins said there. But I’ll bet that many more schoolgirls have been reduced to tears by the threat of hellfire (for themselves and their loved ones) than by any schoolyard atheist bullies.

    • Howard

      So, since you do actually have a feeling (slightly unhappy) if not an understanding of the danger of bullying, try and extend this concept to the point where encouraging others to bully CAN bite you in the a.. someday. He cannot control his followers and has a responsibility to lead in a civilized manner..

    • David_Evans

      Mocking an adult is not the same as bullying. Can you give me a specific example of bullying by one of his followers?

      Also, would you agree that the tone of your original article is somewhat mocking, or even ridiculing, in places?

    • Howard

      A definition by the US Gov. meant to bring awareness to children and parents.

      Any leader in a school yard or an outdoor venue who encourages his followers to make aggressive mocking remarks to others in public is doing what bullies do. The word “mocking” also brings up an image of grade school children being mean to each other.

      This childish behavior is typical of despots of the 20th century.

      I will admit to ridiculing Dawk in my lead-in to a very serious problem with modern atheism. I feel no remorse as I have suffered his personal vendetta against Christianity – he can put up with my humble effort to defend it. But, I would never encourage any of my readers to taunt or mock or use disparaging words in order to belittle him in public. if i was to meet the man i would treat him with the resect due any other person, but, i draw the line at kiss… his a..

      http://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/definition/index.html

    • David_Evans

      PS I don’t regard Dawkins as my hero. I am grateful to him for the pleasure and understanding I got from reading his books on evolution, long before I knew he was an atheist. I also think The God Delusion, despite its flaws, did a useful service in raising the profile of atheism. Which does need raising, especially in the US where “A description of a criminally untrustworthy individual was seen as comparably representative of atheists and rapists but not representative of Christians, Muslims, Jewish people, feminists, or homosexuals” (source http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22059841 )

  • BillyJoe

    You are an incredibly ignorant person, Howie. Or would you prefer Dunk?
    Your arguments are based on what? Quoting out of context (the mocking was in reference to people believing that bread and wine literally turns into the body and blood of Christ), name calling (Dawk – yes, pronounced “dork”), made up conversations/putting words into his mouth that he never uttered or was ever likely to have uttered, and impugning him for being able to forgive a person who wronged him by understanding why he did what he did. What a crime!
    A fine example of Christian charity.
    Richard Dawkins has given you a lesson in understanding in human failure and forgiveness, but it passed right over your head.

    • Howard

      I hope you will let The Dawk know that he must attach a proper use clause to his statements when he encourages people to aggressively attack others. Something like, “You are only permitted to mock in public under the following conditions……….”

  • fry

    Not deserving of too many words in response, as just another pathetic attempt to elevate one’s own position by attacking the man, not the (superior) argument. You got a special table at the Liars for Jesus club?

    • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

      Was that contradiction on purpose, or not?

    • fry

      Don’t think “contradiction” applies here – pot-calling-kettle-black scenario – absolutely correct. Intended to illustrate how much briefer a piece can be when you take the attack the man approach. Dunksy could have achieved the same result he was clearly seeking by editing this article down to “Richard Dawkins is a limey jerk”

    • Howard

      Adults teach children we use a word like irresponsible when they mean irresponsible. “Jerk” is a word used when we unintentionally are saying, “I give up in my exasperation to convince”. I never really understood if “limey” is taken as an insult or not. Again I wish that y’all would actually read the title of my piece and assume that I mean what I am asking. Comments have been all over God’s creation here and the only answer that comes through loudly is, “How dare you criticize the god of materialism.”

    • fry

      Dawkins has stated repeatedly that we all have the right to refute or criticize ideas or views, without any need to denigrate the person who expresses them.

      Do you agree with that?

      If you do I look forward to a future article by you that, say, scientifically refutes evolution, or provides proof that snakes can speak, without any reference to a person’s accent.

      Surely that would be a far more satisfying way to put Dawkins in his place?

      Finally, there is of course no “god of materialism” to criticize.

    • Howard

      He is a man of contradictions isn’t he. You are missing the element of power here. He is a leader of an increasingly militant world-wide ideology. I expect leadership on that level to not take the I-am-the-fittest approach to dealing with the opposition. An example of this following is your comment. It is automatically assumed that I refute evolution. I don’t read a question here. You have wrapped this “god” in science. HIs followers, aside from the few who are willing to speak up, cannot separate the science from the man.

    • fry

      I don’t “follow” anyone. I happen to agree with Dawkin’s view that a world where people are relieved of their superstitions, too often murderously adversarial, is a world where humanity has the best chance to avoid self-destruction and, indeed, flourish.

      Somewhat tangential question for you Howard – who do you feel greater kinship with – the devout Moslem who believes in the same god of Abraham that you do, but also believes that you will, and deserve to, burn in hell for eternity for rejecting Mohammad, or the atheist who holds no eternal animosity towards you and wishes you a happy and productive life in this one and only domain of physical existence?

    • Howard

      I am happy to hear that you do not consider yourself a follower of this ideology. But, your second sentence seems to indicate that you reject the existence of anything outside of the material universe.
      I question the details that are and may be advocated for this “relieving” process. That is the purpose of this article. It often takes the form of politics where power is used to enforce a decision arrived at by various methods.
      I feel a strong kinship with other Catholics, my kin of course and anyone who will discuss ideas without a need to impose. What others consider to be my fate is irrelevant. I will feel friendship towards anyone who honestly wishes me a happy life, atheist or Muslim. Not all in both categories strictly observe the fundamentals of their ideology.

    • fry

      It seems that you object to Dawkin’s strident “preaching” of his own views of our origins and place in the universe. Given your allegiance to a particular religious sect that has imposed itself rather aggressively over many parts of the world, I trust you can feel the same megawatts of irony in that as I do! To wind up. Thanks for the exchanges that I’ve much enjoyed. This atheist wishes you well. My parting words – “God did it” is never as satisfying as learning the truth of what we are, where we came from, and this extraordinary universe we live in.

    • Howard

      You are almost there. Dawkins must be separated from his job as a scientist and his politics as a preacher when he is discussed. That is why I called his book drivel. It attempts to pass as scientific knowledge when it is really some biology, much argument about religion, lots of personal animosity towards religion and other persons.
      Catholicism has not imposed itself on me at all. It is a doctrine of the faith that we are given free will. You must remember when discussing Catholicism that the faith is not the priest or the follower, it is Jesus Christ.
      I wish you well.

    • Howard

      A closing thought. You may be interested in this book. For full disclosure it was written by the editor of this site.

      http://stacytrasancos.com/book/

  • Robert Robinson

    This article is the biggest load of crap I have ever read!

    • Howard

      Thanks for reading it, and you did read it. I hope you will share the link with your friends.

    • The Sprawl

      I’m always amused by the consistent form and content of attacks on New Atheists, and Dawkins in particular – generally there are attempts to convey an air of dismissive levity, particularly towards the arguments against god’s existence, as though they are so obviously worthless as to be beneath contempt. This is always followed by ad hominem arguments. Presumably this is so as to distract attention from the simple fact that the theistic position has no evidence going for it and is both morally incoherent and regressive, but after a while you begin to notice that the critics in question ‘play the man and not the ball’.

      The real reason Dawkins(and to a lesser extent Grayling, Dennett, Harris, etc.) attracts so much ire is because he argues that religious ideas should be justified, and, crucially, he argues for such a requirement BEYOND the point at which many people consider it rude.

      His essential crime is to have rejected the social norm which forbids criticism of religious ideas. People respond viscerally to such transgressions. It still makes me uncomfortable to see someone trying to justify their religious beliefs in the face of even the most unaggressive and simple questioning – I understand that emotion, but I don’t think an instinctive anger towards the questioning of religious beliefs is justifiable, particularly when the questioning occurs at lectures, in books, in debates, etc.,

      The anger that people like Howard feel towards the ‘new atheists’ stems from a perfectly understandable dislike of seeing the strong and robust attacking the flimsy and vulnerable – there is a recognition, amongst theists and non-theists alike, that religious belief, particularly in the west, tends to be constructed on incredibly precarious and delicate foundations; that to maintain their beliefs the religious must pull off a balancing act of spectacular complexity, in the process rejecting or ‘contextualising’ contra-scriptural science, rationalising moral and natural evil and generally dealing with the almost infinite number of things humans encounter on a daily basis that do not accord in any way with the existence of a loving creator.

      There is also an instinctive animosity towards anyone who would be callous enough to disturb such a balancing act, and it is this, I think, that lies at the heart of much of the flailing anger directed towards Dawkins and other atheists, although of course none of the various atheists and theists who dislike new atheism so much would ever admit it.
      Considered objectively the level of vitriol that Dawkins in particular receives is difficult to explain. Compared with the great swirling mass of public figures who comment on politics, sport, art, philosophy, literature, social issues and other matters he is generally polite, calm and reasonable, and when not, generally apologetic afterwards. Where he is arrogant, or outright impolite, and he certainly can be, he is hardly arrogant or impolite to a degree unencountered in modern public discourse.

      In closing, the writer of this piece has conformed perfectly to the anti-atheism essay template. It is devoid of a single argument against Dawkins’s position yet full-to-bursting with slightly sad little barbs and bizarre sanctimony. I definitely get why he’s angry, and why he avoids engaging with Dawkins’s main point: that there’s no evidence for god. If I’d built such a precarious mental edifice I would greatly resent some atheist coming along and prodding at the foundations.

      I also think that in some cases, the kind of disinterested dismantling of a person’s coping mechanism, which is, at heart, what religion is(in the absence of any evidence for religious truth claims this is my best guess as to what purpose it serves, although I imagine theists might bridle just a tad at such a claim), would be a pretty callous approach to take. I don’t see Dawkins doing this though, nor do I see any of the other critical atheists doing this.

      The ‘new atheists” criticism of religion originates in the recognition that it’s just not justifiable on evidential grounds. Everything else follows from this, and it’s Howard’s inability to deal with the epistemic objections to religion, even more so than the bitterness and vitriol, that makes his piece so characteristic of pro-faith, anti-atheism writing.

    • Howard

      Lots of words, but I am afraid you have missed the point
      entirely. I have intentionally criticized the man for the reasons that I give and have not really attempted to justify religion at all.

      The reason is much simpler than the make-believe life you have invented within that mass of words. He is an
      irresponsible man with an aggressive and rather ignorant following. I have had these conversations before with the atheist crowd. If any of you actually would debate an issue without the 4 letter words, anger, answers to made-up questions I would think better of your group. You are not well represented in comment boxes. The closest example is the comment just above your fictional attempt at an answer.

      Take this for example:

      “I once wrote that anybody who believes the world is only
      6,000 years old is either ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked.”

      Or

      “I am not attacking any particular version of God or gods. I
      am attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be invented.”

      The former, I am not sure of the origin but the latter is from
      the delusion book. Attacking is his style. Science does not attack, men attack.There is no science behind that sentence, just social blustering.

      I care not if he believes in God, I care how he goes about
      it because he is speaking about people I care about.

    • The Sprawl

      No, I don’t think I missed your point. I was saying that your original essay was characteristic of most theistic attacks on Dawkins. The fact that you “have not really attempted to justify religion at all” was exactly my point. It’s a consistent tactic to ignore atheistic arguments and go after the atheists themselves.

      In reality it IS the fact that Dawkins doesn’t believe that you care about – he is no ruder or more aggressive than any number of public figures one could mention(off the top of my head David Starkey, Peter Hitchens, Jeremy Paxman, the mass of occasionally ghastly journalists that pop up on Fox News. Oh, and Michael Moore, who’s not particularly rude but is pretty obnoxious) – it is the fact that he is rude/honest about religion.

      The final sentence of your reply characterises exactly what I was getting at – the instinctive, emotional reaction of someone who sees flimsy, tortuously constructed religious worldviews being attacked by someone with all the ammunition on their side. It’s the anger one feels upon seeing a cat take on a mouse, It’s a natural reaction, even admirable in many cases, but it speaks of a deep-seated insecurity about the truth claims made by religions; an implicit acknowledgement that the average person’s arguments for believing in god could be blown away by a light breeze.

      Thanks for your reply, apologies for the lateness of mine. Happy new year.

    • Howard

      “It’s a consistent tactic to ignore atheistic arguments and go after the atheists themselves.”

      This is I think the problem you are having. I have not picked a topic that you want me to pick. I have been writing here since last January and have written on several subjects. I pick what interests me. Usually it is about some aspect of the Church.

      What interests me right now (fading fast) is the larger explanation for the modern aggressiveness and ill-mannered attitude of many atheists.

      Jerry Coyne has sent (I suspect all) of you guys here for the purpose of attacking me because he didn’t like my criticism of a very outspoken and nasty prominent figure in atheism. So he sends his minions to do his work.

      All kinds of attempts have been made to characterize my article as anything but exactly what it is. I understand that this man is an embarrassment to y’all.

      Be a man, quit making excuses for this person.

  • jamey brown

    Mild pedophilia? I can’t believe my eyes! Is that like mild rape–only a few seconds or minutes? Or mild genocide–only a few per cent of the undesirable people? What does Dawk have to say about the atheists Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot who “mildly” murdered 300 million of their own countrymen to install their “utopias?” Were these just mild measures needed to facilitate their “paradises?” I’m still gawkin’ at Dawkins. Mild pedophilia?

    • David_Evans

      Hitler was no atheist:

      “I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty
      Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.”

      “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so”

      “My feelings as a Christian point me to my Lord and Savior as a
      fighter”

      Source, for this and many other Hitler quotes, http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/08/23/list-of-hitler-quotes-he-was-q/

      I can’t defend those massacres, but I never claimed that atheism was a guarantee of good character. Nor is religion – just look at the crusades.

      About “mild pedophilia”. That was a misjudgment by Dawkins. But I have seen similar words used to justify the Catholic Church’s inadequate response to much worse offenses by priests.

    • jamey brown

      Hitler “encouraged anti-church radicals such as Himmler, Goebbels and Bormann to conduct their persecutions of the churches. Smaller religious minorities faced far harsher repression, with the Jews of Germany expelled for exterminationIn Hitler: A Study in Tyranny Alan Bullock, wrote that Hitler was a rationalist and a materialist with no feeling for the spiritual or emotional side of human existence: a “man who believed neither in God nor in conscience (‘a Jewish invention, a blemish like circumcision’)”. In Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, Bullock added that Hitler, like Napoleon before him, frequently employed the language of “Providence” in defence of his own myth, but ultimately shared with the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, “the same materialist outlook, based on the nineteenth century rationalists’ certainty that the progress of science would destroy all myths and had already proved Christian doctrine to be an absurdity.”
      Our culture spends far, far too much time studying madmen and criminals. We should be studying the lives of the saints, Catholic and other religions. People like Maximilian Kolbe who gave up his life for another man in one of Hitler’s concentration camps. There are thousands upon thousands of these stories we could be telling our children instead of pondering psychotic ranting’s like “mild pedophilia.”
      I came from an atheist background myself and my life outlook was basically low or flat with brief glimmers of a pale but fleeting hope. I had no meaning or purpose or real hope until I converted to the Catholic Church 6 years ago.
      Read the brimming hope and humor of Catholic writers such as Britain’s G.K. Chesterton. Just Google his quotes, particularly the ones from “The Everlasting Man,” his history of the world, if you ever want your spirits lifted. Thanks from the bottom of my heart for reading Catholic Stand. I think there is a reason why you do. Have a blessed New Year filled with light, the light of hope.

    • David_Evans

      Chesterton is a very entertaining writer. I re-read the Father Brown stories every so often, but I can no longer swallow his continuing theme that Father Brown has a greater insight into sin than the secular detectives around him. Not since a Catholic bishop defended moving a pedophile priest from one place to another with the excuse that “we didn’t understand pedophilia so well then”. Excuse me? The Church, claiming to be the supreme arbiter of morals, didn’t understand pedophilia?

      Anyway, thank you for your kind words. I wish you a happy New Year also.

    • jamey brown

      The priest pedophile scandal was a true tragedy. Unfortunately many bishops took the advice of psychologists and medical experts that such behavior could be corrected therapeutically. That advice has since proven to be largely wrong. I do hope you give the Church another look and don’t condemn all priests for the deplorable behavior of a miniscule few. Certainly please don’t condemn the whole Church and all it’s teachings for the behavior of a few sinners. Actually we are all sinners and it is a hospital for sinners. The Church is the largest charitable organization in the world, bigger than any governments. I just saw a post that the in some African countries the Church is almost the only source for medical help and education even though Catholics only represent 2% of the population. The Church lifted me out a wretched psychological state of cynicism and despair 6 years ago. Now I have true joy which is “happiness with what is good.” I just want to give that to others, that happiness that sense of meaning and purpose and hope. I do hope, David, that you give it just another glance, and have a good and blessed New Year.

    • Howard

      You guys have to stop letting Hitler “self describe”. History always does the analysis it’s self. I cannot think of any way that he upheld the teachings of Jesus Christ. I have a relative who is a prison corr. officer. He would laugh his head off to hear that you propose that people accept the way a notorious killer of his own people would want you to view him.

    • David_Evans

      Hitler is a slippery character. I have heard it said that he was a pagan, worshipping the old Teutonic gods. The one thing I have not seen any evidence for (and the thing that started me on this argument) is that he was an atheist. Or a rationalist or a materialist – if anything he valued emotion above reason, and sent expeditions to look for the occult knowledge of the Tibetans.

      Clearly he didn’t uphold the teachings of Christ. But nor (in my view) did some of the crusaders or the torturers of the Inquisition, yet they surely believed themselves to be Christians.

    • Howard

      You have a strong argument. I have seen it reported that Himmler was in front of the occult searches made by the Nazis.

      I view it this way, which may be hard to support.

      Hitler, as most humans are, had a natural desire to believe in spiritual being(s). This is even supported by Dawkins (admitting that it is disputable) calling the cause a virus. This is what I see in those atheists who have transferred this desire to an ideology – evolution the magic word. A god, a
      materialistic (another admission of Dawkins) deity capable of running the universe. Something to believe in.

      So Hiitler glopped on to a god as well. Undefined but catering to his whims. Not the Catholic God for sure.

      As for those bad Christians you cite, there are certainly levels of adherence to Christianity but there was also a recognition of the origin and a recognition that the source of good comes from him, Jesus Christ.

    • jamey brown

      The number of deaths during the Inquisition was around 3000. While every death is regrettable most of these were carried out by the state. The Catholic Church was actually a moderating factor at the time. But let us not overlook the 2 atheist poster boys Stalin and Mao, responsible for 80 million and 120 million deaths respectively. And Pol Pot of Cambodia who slaughtered over a million Cambodians. All were installing “worker’s paradises” or “atheist utopias.” They do not speak too well for the cause.

  • Neo

    It is amazing to me, though not surprising, that this article takes a swipe at Evolution, despite Pope John Paul II having declared it as, “more than a mere hypothesis” in 1997. Not that the Church’s official position has reconciled this with the literal idea of Original Sin, nor have they gone out of their way to correct supposedly sophisticated Catholics who still assert Creationism, either old earth or young.

    Dawkins book is ironically dismissed as drivel, yet Duncan’s writing is exactly the sort of anti-scientific stance I’ve seen taken by other prominent Catholics such as Bill Donahue of the Catholic League. Moreover, I’ve visited popular forums such as Catholic Answers where not only is the topic of atheism banned, but so are threads regarding Evolution!

    The Church “embraces science” and talks about NOMA when faced with opposing views, but on the inside, it still comes down to having to accept some literal interpretation of the Bible. Sam Harris and Dawkins point this out constantly. Even if the Church were to cave and say Adam and Eve are metaphorical figures, why not then extend that all the way? If Jesus died for a metaphor, then maybe, just maybe, that story of the Resurrection, the crux of Christianity, is also a metaphor.

    • Howard

      I don’t know what you mean by “swipe”. I recognize the nature of Evolutionary Biology and it’s limitations. I am not anti-science in any way. I made my living with one of the greatest technologies of our day. However, I am for a questioning attitude that leads to a true interpretation of the physical world. When those involved try to overlap into the non-physical or other disciplines and make pronouncements or exhibit personal bias I have a big problem – that is the drivel.

      This book is a personal vendetta written for the unquestioning mind. Despite this diversion, this book has been reviewed to death, the true public nature of Mr. Dawkins is really the subject here.

      I am not the only one who questions.

      http://cafn.us/2011/09/03/saturday-quote-john-c-lennox-on-evolutionary-biologists/

    • Neo

      To clarify what I mean by”swipe,” I am referring to these statements: “He later emerged as a popular proselytizer of evolutionary biology. He may even be the leader and greatest living contributing writer of this ideology; or as they like to call it – science.” The implication here would appear to be that evolutionary biology is not a scientific endeavor. If this is not what you meant, would you please clarify?

      With regard to your link to Lennox, what evidence is on offer that evolution cannot be questioned? There are constant debates with in the scientific community on various aspects of evolution, as is
      the case with all scientific fields. Furthermore, I’ve seen Dawkins and others in the field state exactly what it would take to disprove evolution and that if it were shown, obviously the theory would need to be refined. Instead, what we generally have when people such as Lennox say evolution cannot be questioned, is whining that the overwhelming evidence for evolution cannot be negated simply because there are unanswered questions. It is this overwhelming evidence that lead John Paul II to make his statement that it is “more than a mere hypothesis.” The quote mine Lennox uses is referring to the questioning of the repeatedly demonstrated fact of evolution (a fact on par with gravity); this is not to say that some more encompassing theory cannot come along in the same way that Pertubation theory and Quantum mechanics explained things that Classical Physics could not. Newton’s equations still hold in the same realm they always have even though there is a scope where there are more useful explanations. If the true public nature of Mr. Dawkins is really the question here, it certainly seems that the point of the article is to produce an ad hominem attack to attempt to discredit his arguments, being that the focus of the article was fictitious conversations you portray him as having with his daughter, along with some other quotes about pedophilia, which have nothing to
      do with his book nor evolution, and then the only critique of the book is that it is “drivel.”

      Now, back to my original question, I find it ironic that you frame the debate in such a way that Dawkins’ position is the one “written for the unquestioning mind.” I would honestly like to hear your take on the Church’s position that evolution can be accepted and then
      turning the critical lens on that, how the redemption story plays out in light of the evidence that there were not only two original humans. Which parts of the Bible are literal? (Clearly the parts that contain contradictions cannot be.) Which are not? Who decides this and based on what? What evidence would it take for you to be convinced that Catholicism is untrue?

    • Howard

      To clarify what I said. I am calling the religious zeal and worshiping of this ideology anything but science. I do not deny the obvious truths of evolutionary theory or think of good observation not as within the scientific method.

      Lennox can speak for himself. I assume that since he is immersed in this question on a world wide basis, and has the same access or better than Dawkins, he has the experience to say what he said. I have seen this religious like worshiping of the word “evolution” here on the internet in conversations. Non-scientists (and even some scientists) use it like some kind of broad magic wand.

      Again the debate here is not one of does God exist it is exactly as my title asks (which Coyne got rong).

    • Howard

      An example of what I mean by religious zeal. Believe in??

      “If you believe in evolution, you have to understand this fundamental process.”

      http://stacytrasancos.com/freethinker-editor-barry-duke-unwittingly-good-christmas-eve/#comment-1181635447

  • https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Uriel_Perez2?ev=hdr_xprf Uriel Barboza

    “He may even be the leader and greatest living contributing writer of this ideology; or as they like to call it – science” if you dont know anything about science then you dont know about God. Science is merely a way to understand Gods creations. Have you ever heard the term evolutionary creationism? You should look up videos of Dr. francis collins Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) . I sincerely dont belive Richard Dawkins , but i agree with Francis collins that science and religion can coexist.. After all science can try to understand life, but it can’t explain everything , like for example what happened before the big bang. i believe that before that, there was God and he created the heavens( the universe). Not in a day of course. After all he is infinite so it would be illogical to say that a day for us is a day for God.. Of course not.. Maybe a day for god is a billion years or 13 billion years ( the estimated age of the universe).

    • Howard

      Uriel, I referred to him as a proselytizer of an ideology. An ideology that claims to be a science. The ideology that rejects God based on supposed scientifically derived evidence. That is what is nonsense. He and others have attempted to conflate the prestige of measurable examination in other disciplines with the conclusions of a man with an axe to grind. Francis Collins has the same understanding (possibly greater) of scientific principles and has concluded differently than Dawkins.

      An understanding of science is not a prerequisite to understanding God. It is His grace that is the important factor. The Old Testament contains stories of a
      relationship of a people who knew no advanced science, with God.

    • https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Uriel_Perez2?ev=hdr_xprf Uriel Barboza

      Pretty good answer, i get now what you meant.. and yes i guess you are right. Although science can help to understand God, in a way ( by understanding his creations) it can’t help us to understand him truly and it can’t help us to make a relationship with him. That is something that science cant and will never approach. I guess thats why alot of scientist dont believe ( im a scientist myself) .. Because they are used to believe only in facts and evidence that they forget one of the most powerfull things humans have.. Faith.

    • Howard

      Yes science is a great help in increasing our appreciation of God and all He has created. I wish you well in your scientific work. Dawkins has said in print that he is a materialist without evidence to support that claim. It is impossible to prove that material things are all that exists. And I think he has a problem with the existence of energy by taking that view. He has limited his investigations by proclamation, a very unscientific approach to discovering the wonders that God has created.

      But my article deals with a more important aspect of the man and his minions – his followers and sympathizers. Those who read his books and hear his speeches where he disguises his animosity towards religion with a claim that it is “science”. He is no more than a left over social radical from the past.

      Faith is always in something or somebody. There must be something believable or trustworthy to start with. There is no debate between science and religion there are only those who wish it so.

  • Kathy K-m

    I’m an atheist and even I find Dawkins a pretentious twit. He may be a jim-dandy evolutionary biologist, but he’s a lousy theologian.
    His message of intolerance does no favours to atheists in America, who are already viewed only slightly more favorable than axe murderers.
    Perhaps this comes from his British background, where nobody bats an eye, when you tell them you’re an atheist (Same in Canada, Australia, most of the EU) but he’s doing more harm than good, in the good, old, U.S. of A.
    Even I am beginning to find the Dawkinettes insufferable.
    And Hitch…what can you say about a fool, who went to his deathbed believing in WMD’s and that the war in Iraq was justified.
    But, just like Islam must bear the shame of nuts like Boko Haram, and Catholics must deal with child abuse cover ups, we atheists are faced with the hateful, ignorant and…less than intelligent? in our midst.
    Please do not take them as representative of the whole. :-)

    • Howard

      Kathy K-m,

      We are certainly all very human in our faults, which of course needs to be put in perspective when judging the beliefs of the groups we associate with. The internet tends to be populated by very out-spoken atheists, some very nasty. I wish there were more who offered an opinion and understood that it will be considered if it is given with some measure of respect. You appear to be of that mind.

      I have been on your side of the issue for years and am not some kind of dummy who was tricked into belief in God as I was “larnin” to walk. I appreciate thoughtful argument and spirited defense of a position, but, I find bullying from a supposed intelligent man intolerable.

      I have heard and read complaints from university students who would like to sit in class and not have to be the subject of ridicule from a professor and work towards an honest grade and not have to have the fear that the other
      students don’t suffer.