Thursday, March 03, 2016

I've gone off Dawkins, if you hadn't already noticed

This is something I wrote for a recent humanist group newsletter. I was hoping to provoke a reaction, as I don't usually get much feedback.
There's nothing new about atheism

In his new book, Battling The Gods, Prof. Tim Whitmarsh of Cambridge University claims that despite being written out of large parts of history, atheists thrived in the polytheistic societies of the ancient world, raising considerable doubts about whether humans really are “wired” for religion.

The so-called New Atheists - Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Dennett - have written as though atheism is about countering religious ideas with science. All very clever but they don't seem to understand people - you know, those messy, often illogical, emotional beings that populate the planet.
I tend to agree with comedian Kate Smurthwaite, who recently said that the atheist movement is "pale, stale and male". Besides, being an atheist just means that you don't believe in a god or gods, nothing more. If you describe yourself as one, that's fine, but it doesn't say anything about your values. As some Christians are fond of reminding us, there have always been bad atheists, like Joseph Stalin. As for countering religious faith with science; I didn't need to know about physics to reject religion. I just thought it was a load of cobblers.
At a gathering of humanists at my place last weekend, my comments about the New Atheists were mentioned. I got the impression that two or three of my guests were especially surprised by my attitude towards Dawkins, who they admired. I admire his science books but not his tendency to opine on matters that he knows no more about than most people, and possibly less. Some have said that he's become the focus of a personality cult. Adulation can turn a man's head, and I think it may have done. I agree with Adam Lee:
Like many scientists who accomplished great things earlier in their careers, Richard Dawkins has succumbed to the delusion that he’s infallible on any topic he chooses to address, and in so doing, has wandered off the edge and plummeted into belligerent crankery.
Yes, I know he's had a stroke. What's that got to do with it?

1 comment:

Maria MacLachlan said...

Sadly, I agree. I will never stop recommending his books explaining evolution but I wish he'd just stuck to writing them. I have come to detest him for his irresponsible public pronouncements about all kinds of other things.