I loved this piece from the Daily Telegraph’s Britons of the Year, 2009 (25 notable Britons) which described Richard Dawkins as an evangelical (surely evangelistic) atheist. There’s a great, really withering comment at the end which I’ve highlighted:
Richard Dawkins: Evangelical atheist
Atheism’s most celebrated evangelist continues a glittering career in which he miraculously manages to do as much for belief in God as for disbelief. Following Richard Dawkins’ support for the bendy-bus “Enjoy your life” campaign, this year saw some of the money he helped to raise for that exercise go to follow‑up posters aimed at preventing the religious indoctrination of children. Meanwhile, the good professor endorsed atheist summer camps for children. So we indoctrinate religion, but teach atheism.
Dawkins featured on Start the Week with Andrew Marr and as first up the discussion centred on faith, evolution and rationality. Dawkins presents himself as a clever rationalist but his responses expose him as less of a reasoned man and much more a brilliant rhetorician:
Marr: you’ve led with your chin becoming a hate figure for creationists and so on…your book the God Delusion was a conflation of your atheism and theory of evolution, was it a mistake?
Dawkins: it was perhaps a politically tactical mistake if your aim is to spread the word about evolution.
If your aim is rationality generally, if your aim is to get people thinking skeptically, rationally, and to be led by evidence rather than just plain er blind faith or just plain prejudice really then no it wasn’t a mistake…evolution is an important priority but rationality is a more important priority.
What is striking about Dawkins is his lack of rationality and so a lack of self-awareness. He is such a convincing story teller that he has convinced himself of his own dogmatic beliefs by making a string of reasonable but illogical statements. Take this little nugget of unsubstantiated rhetoric:
Marr: people of faith umm find it challenging the very grounds of their faith.
Dawkins: not if you talk to the right people of faith, if you talk to bishops, archbishops and cardinals, it doesn’t, but unfortunately the majority of people of faith it certainly does.
Why should bishops, archbishops and cardinals have a monopoly on rationality such that their faith is not challenged by evolution? What sort of faith do the unnamed bishops hold? There is no reason behind Dawkin’s claim, it is plain rhetoric, which works because, in Dawkin’s world, bishops are clever and the ordinary man is simple. It’s worth listening to the rest of the interview, and reading some Dawkins, for more examples of his illogical rhetoric.
One of our family’s favourite bedtime books is “Beware of the storybook wolves” by Lauren Childs. My kids are not old enough yet to appreciate Dawkins, though my daughter says “were people once monkeys?” Perhaps, when she’s old enough, she’ll work out that Dawkin’s books belong on the shelf with Clarice Bean and other made up stories.
Thankfully many Radio 4 listeners are rational thinkers and so won’t be fooled by Dawkin’s elaborate though vacuous and irrational story telling.