Tolerance Is Anathema To Dawkins

I get fed up with hearing Richard Dawkins repeatedly rant on about how religion is bad, how religious people are stupid, and how anyone who disagrees with him can’t possibly consider themselves a scientist, because religion is specifically about not thinking.

There are a number of reasons I get fed up with hearing this. Partly because it’s intolerant and offensive, partly because it’s the same stuff he’s always churning out and it’s getting a little boring, and partly because some of his arguments are bollocks.

Which is why I was pleased that the British Humanist Association’s atheistic adverts seemed to be tone in a somewhat less preachy way; a way which gets their point across, will maybe raise a smile, and may indeed provoke some thought and some conversations without being offensive.

Bendy-buses with the slogan “There’s probably no God” could soon be running on the streets of London….The complete slogan reads: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” BBC News: ‘No God’ slogans for city’s buses

Thoughtful, well chosen adverts. Indeed, in that regard they are very similar to the Alpha Course adverts seen at TaylorMade, asking “if God did exist, what would you ask him?”.

In other words, it doesn’t go all out to say “look, we’re right and you’re wrong”; it just presents the perspective and invites you to think about that. Good, wholesome fun for all the family. I applaud these adverts (although I would like to point out to Paul that I was already aware of them before he mentioned it).

Unfortunately, Double-R (Rentaquote Richard) then pipes up, saying “This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think - and thinking is anathema to religion.”

Sadly, he seems to be allowed to get away with tihs sort of comment, despite theologians like Alistair McGrath having rather refuted this point in the past. It’s the sort of comment that says “if you’re religious, you don’t think”. It’s plain offensive, it’s plain wrong, and it’s very intolerant. Hence the title of this post.

In the interests of fairness however, I will point out that the other side managed to wheel out someone else capable of equivalent buffoonery and nonsense:

Stephen Green of pressure group Christian Voice said: “Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large.BBC News: ‘No God’ slogans for city’s buses

What? What sort of nonsense is this? If you come out with a statement as … as… crapulent as that, it’s no surprise people think you’re a blithering idiot. Why are bendy buses dangerous? And even if they are, how does that make atheism dangerous to the public at large? What’s it going to do, bite them? (well… Dawkins might..)

Dawkins Messiah (flickr)

The sad thing is that for most people on either side of this debate — whether they believe in a God, believe that there is no God, or like me vaguely believe that it may be possible that there is a God but I’m not making any judgements in that direction unless I see a bit more evidence first, thank you very much — we can accept that other people have a view which is different to our own. We can be friends with those people. We can accept them, appreciate their good qualities and even believe that they are worthy, clever people, irrespective of the fact that their beliefs differ from ours on this point.

And surely if we want to live in a tolerant society, that’s kind of the point? (For example, I have no objection to Dawkins being critical of religious people who claim that their religion justifies their intolerance — but to criticise the whole religion seems a bit out, particularly when you will find adherents who don’t share that intolerance if only you are prepared to look).

Dawkins Omen (flickr)

But what worries me just as much is the idea that Dawkins is simply replacing one orthodoxy (”believe what the church says”) with another (”believe what Dawkins says”) and that there doesn’t seem to be any room for dissenting voices in his church… that’s hardly encouraging people to think, either, now is it?

It’s important to remember that Richard Dawkins is not the messiah. Nor would I accuse him of being the anti-christ (apart from which, it would run the risk of him refusing to believe in himself). He’s just a person with his beliefs — which should be treated with no more, and no less respect, then the beliefs of anyone else.

Altogether now… “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony…”

6 Responses to “Tolerance Is Anathema To Dawkins”

  1. Shannon responds:

    Absolutely loved this post, Jack! One thing you’ve always impressed me with — your ability to disagree amicably. I wish more people on both sides had that ability, especially when preaching tolerance or love.

  2. Anonymous responds:

    I was thinking of reading “The God Delusion” until someone told me the entire book can be summed up in one sentence: “God does not exist, and those who beieve in him are total imbeciles.” I say that every day! I don’t need to read about it.

  3. chartroose responds:

    The above was my comment AGAIN! Talk about being a total imbecile…

  4. JackP responds:

    …ah no, there’s slightly more to it than that.

    There’s a bit of “look at all the bad things done in the name of religion”, and stuff like that. Dawkins also makes the case well (certainly in The Blind Watchmaker, can’t remember offhand if it’s in TGD) that you don’t need to infer a God simply because you can’t understand how something that complicated (such as the eye) could have arisen by chance. Dawkins calls it the ‘argument from incredulity’ and demolishes it somewhat: just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t mean it isn’t so.

    Sadly, he fails to apply the same rules to his own argument — he finds it inconceivable that there could be a God, but fails to recognise that just because he can’t understand how there could be one, that doesn’t mean there isn’t…

    And I have to say that I think if your viewpoint about the matter is as simplistic and cliched as you present, then maybe you should read more about it — but not just from writers who would support your initial beliefs — read something to try and challenge them also. Above all, make your own mind up, and don’t let anyone else do it for you.

  5. JackP responds:

    …for example, there’s things like the goldilocks enigma, which is a book by the scientist Paul Davies which considers the question of why the universe is fit for life (as there are about a dozen constants — which theoretically could have had any value — and which if tweaked by 2% or so would have meant life (or at least sentient life) would never have arisen), and he considers possibilities like God, and multiverses, and other stuff like that.

    It’s a really interesting take on it, as he looks at a number of theories and presents his conclusions.

    Then you’ve got Stephen Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time, which always messes with my head. Note Briefer; it’s the newer one with less maths in. It’s when you get stuff about time used to be part of space, until space was a particular size; the idea that you could travel in time by going over there seems odd rather than an accepted scientific theory…

    There’s also The Universe Next Door and The Never Ending Days Of Being Dead, if you want other scientific takes on ‘why are we here’, and ‘what’s it all about, really, when you get down to it..?’

  6. Care responds:

    I suppose a bendy-bus slogan of “There IS a God, so don’t worry, enjoy life.” would also be nice. Just another flavor of what KIND of ‘god’ is your God, if you choose one: a happy take-care-of-your-needs kind or the judgemental fire&brimstone kind…

    What the heck in a bendy-bus? Nevermind, I’ll go google and see what pops up.

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