Why everyone thinks Dawkins is rude, and why he isn’t.

Richard Dawkins could perhaps be considered the most popular/unpopular atheist public figure in the world today, spearheading a surge of atheism throughout the world and slowly piercing the heart of even Evangelical America (with pretty heated rebuttals). He has a bevvy of friends on his side of course, and if I may go off on a brief tangent, they seem to all have special atheist points of view that assist in a holistic sort of appeal for the masses. In the rhetorical, inflammatory and obstensibly intoxicated corner we have the esteemed Christopher Hitchens; he’s the fore front of the so-called savage attacks on religion, a self-confessed “anti-theist” and often, unlike his brethren (who don’t concern themselves with such things) , will go toe-to-toe with the more radical christians such as attacking Jerry Falwell post mortem. In the scientific and somewhat more understanding corner is Sam Harris- clever guy that one; a scientific and sociological observer well capable of adding a drop of grace to any public debate. Moving on, Dawkins often finds himself being criticised as rude, uncaring and so on, and to a degree I agree with this assertion. Dawkins himself has defended his methods and in equal parts accepted that there is a place for the understanding atheist also. In this article I hope to outline the three tenets of Dawkins- two that are inherently obvious and one that is hidden: the respect of religion, the layer of sympathy and lastly Dawkins’ lack of rhetoric which in my opinion is the overarching feature.


The respect of religion is something that has been taken for granted for a long time, and, like so many old traditions, jostled around a bit in the 21st century. Why should religion be respected? It’s a big question that I’ll briefly outline here. On one hand, if you are to say that you are an appreciably liberal and understanding person, a member of the multicultural community we live in and more importantly an addition to the society built on scientific endeavour, you still may find that you want your religion to be accepted. Radical believers don’t see it this way- I don’t think it is any coincidence that the truly radical religions are also inherently closed minded to new ideas, new culture and new ways of life. Putting aside the radicals, whose intolerance for any new concept let alone a critique of concepts they possess is staggering, I would question anybody who feels that they are a part of this community to ask themselves why religion is so special. From what I can see Dawkins misses the point- religion is not just about some heaven in the end and a bunch of stuff that we will never know until we get there- religion is a way of life, a way of looking at the world. When a good-minded religious individual says their religion should be respected, I would argue that they are talking about their ethics, their morality and the fact that they are good members of a community. Dawkins sort of appreciates this in the depths of his book The God Delusion, but in the public eye he’s oddly quiet on the topic. What I will say is that when he does speak of it, he establishes that there is no appreciable reason to believe in God or worship christianity (or anything else for that matter) due to an ethical standpoint and he is right. There are plenty of ways of living morally without divine intervention and I suggest anyone who is defensive over their religion have a look (Satreism is a starting point). If you aren’t convinced, why not test your religion? If you are convinced then surely your belief will be enhanced.

The second issue regarding Dawkins is summed up quite succintly in this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_2xGIwQfik . In it, another atheist by the name of Tyson argues that Dawkins needs a sense of nice-ness in order to be more convincing, as Dawkins is the public figure for scientific understanding, not the figure for scientific truth. I’ll implore you to watch the brief video, among other reasons it will give you Dawkins retort which is also my answer.


The third concept is I feel something which no one has really seen which confuses me. Dawkins is speaking with other public figures, and is engaging with a public who are use to and implement the ancient art of rhetoric. Rhetoric is a way of convincing that goes beyond the facts in a number of ways. It is argument that invokes emotion, and argument that sympathesizes and soothes at times. It is a mob-maker and mob-remover. Rhetoric is useful; one must only look at Martin Luther King and his wholly unscientific but impassioned “I have a dream” set of speeches with are an example of excellent rhetoric. I believe that the world we live in today uses rhetoric as a sort of cultural currency. In a world where pomp and ceremony are decreasing, rhetoric fills in that space of luxurious time wasting and polite discussion with warm sentimentality. Its emotionality is more natural to a human way of thinking, more accessible to the uneducated and more gentle to those who have had cold tones of fact drilled into them by people in their life that have been undesirable (teacher, judge, boss and so on). A mimeticist like Dawkins, relying on truth and truth alone, must be a rude awakening to a public eye so basted in rhetoric- I mean come on, has Dawkins ever said anything even close to a slanderous remark? Howabout a derogotory comment that wasn’t assessed fortrightly? In my opinion, it is this blast of frank discussion that sets claims against Dawkins’ civility.


~ by freeze43 on September 4, 2008.

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