The hatred of liberals towards Richard Dawkins is ridiculous

Today, in light of the Peshawar massacre, Richard Dawkins offered his take on the events. He tweeted:

This led to The Independent scornfully covering this  as:

Ho ho! Oh that silly Richard Dawkins, offering this “explanation” which is – oh, hang on, exactly correct. For when have he had an event of such a vile nature that has not been caused by a blinkered and strongly held belief such as fundamentalist religion or nationalism? Erm … I’ll get back to you.

But this is just it. Facts don’t matter when it comes to Dawkins. If you consider yourself a liberal then you have to mock him and act is if he is some comic caricature just as you laugh at Farage or Nick Griffin. I get that we’re meant to dislike him because his views may offend religious types and we’re meant to view people who hack off young girls’ labia as ‘culturally different’, but you know what? I couldn’t care less.

Yes Dawkins does go overboard sometimes, and he is often too belligerent, but what does it matter in the face of such horror? ‘Liberals’ may love to pretend we exist in some lovely, politically-correct world where Islam has no role to play in Islamism and if we just let people be and condemn anyone who suggests otherwise as a racist or, heaven forbid, a ‘militant atheist’ then everything will be okay, but we don’t and it won’t. Such is the great naivety of modern liberalism.

The fact is as I write this we are seeing the US trend of protesting outside abortion clinics spreading to the UK. Are they secularists with a real interest in foetal rights? No. In Ireland you can still die by being refused an abortion. Concern for the doctors who have to carry out the procedure? No. In much of Central Africa homosexuality has become punishable by death. A sudden rise in gay men commiting heinous crimes? No. I don’t even need to start on the horrors in the middle-east. The faux liberals who love to pretend there are only a tiny minority of ever-receding fundamentalists who have minimal influence on state policy are so, so wrong. Islamism has grown in the Middle East and North Africa since the 1950s and, as mentioned above, it’s not as if the Christian world doesn’t have its fair share of fundamentalism.

The reasons for this are of course multi-fold and not just reducible to religious fervour, and of course it is still the case that the majority of religious followers are good, decent people. But those ‘liberals’ who falsely equivocate the ridiculous, made up phenomenon of ‘Militant atheism’ with fundamentalism have their part to play in this sorry tale. I’ll leave you with this. Before condemning atheists and humanists as militant, racist or nasty, take a look at the history of even just the past twenty years of our world and ask yourself, ‘If it weren’t for religion, would so many people have died?’ Answer that, and then ask yourself who you should really be lambasting.

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The Condition of the Left in England

'A grotesque mixture of Enlightenment Liberalism, One-Nation Conservatism and Socialism.' Skeptic and linguaphile.

5 thoughts on “The hatred of liberals towards Richard Dawkins is ridiculous”

  1. You acknowledge the role of secular ideologies like nationalism in motivating such unthinking dogmatism (as does Dawkins in his second tweet), but then at the end you return to blaming solely religion. Sociologists have long pointed out that many different ideologies (Marxism, nationalism, capitalism, ethnocentrism, etc.) can provoke the same horrors, and that a precise definition of “religion” that clearly distinguishes it from secularism cannot be produced, but these facts tend to be excused or ignored when there’s a juicy religious target in the crosshairs. Promoting Dawkins’ facile and naive anti-religious dogmatism doesn’t get us any closer to even understanding, much less effectively responding to, this particular horrific event, it just furthers the broad rhetorical vilification of contemporary secularism’s constructed Other.

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    1. Forgive me Daniel, but you sound like the stereotypical blogger who’s never read anything Dawkins has written but have come to your understanding based on second-hand accounts of roughly what he’s supposed to have said.
      He’s said time and time again, as have his fellow vocal atheists, that you can easily get secular ideologies that are just as bad. No-one is denying that for a second.
      The key difference you need to appreciate though is that you very rarely get a social license for any of those ideologies. There are no marxist schools for indoctrinating children in the west. Nationalist organisations aren’t tax-free. And you don’t get a hoard of mindless liberals defending your beliefs in capitalism from a distance. Those are huge differences that allow religion an undue amount of political power.

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      1. Thank you for your comments, Gary. I’ve followed Dr. Dawkins on Twitter for some time, and I’ve read quite a bit of what he and Harris and others have written and said about these issues, in addition to more informed perspectives from people who actually study them for a living.

        I have to take issue with you comment, though. The notion that the key difference here is social licensing is remarkably uninformed or disingenuous. Numerous cultures have provided social licensing for violent and intolerant secular ideologies. It was programmatic in China, in Cambodia, and especially in Russia with the League of Militant Atheists. It’s still programmatic in North Korea. Even Western cultures gives license in numerous ways to racism, homophobia, sexism, islamaphobia, etc. Dawkins himself takes full advantage of the power several of those licenses afford him, and while he’s obviously not being violent, there are plenty of others who are because of it. If that social license were Dawkins’ concern he would be going after North Korea. That’s a secular state, though, so he doesn’t seem to care much about public executions and even terrorist threats against the US. He attacks Religion as an Other far, far more often than the social channels through which religion exercises its prerogatives (Harris’s misguided attacks on moderate religionists fall a little closer to your distinction). It’s that ideological othering that is the real meat of his rhetorical campaign against religion, as he makes perfectly clear:

        “My point is not that religion itself is the motivation for wars, murders and terrorist attacks, but that religion is the principal label, and the most dangerous one, by which a ‘they’ as opposed to a ‘we’ can be identified at all.”

        It’s about constructing and marginalizing an Other in an effort to legitimate his bigotry and his cultural marginalizing of groups he doesn’t like. As I stated above, that notion of religion as a transhistorical and transcultural ideological category is the critical misunderstanding that undermines the whole thing.

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