Dawkins backlash begins

From a different article in the same Sunday Herald, ad hominem attacks on Dawkins from two religionists upset by The Root of All Evil? before they’ve seen it:

Dawkins is well known for his vitriolic attacks on faith, and I think faith has withstood his attacks. He really is going beyond his abilities as a scientist when he starts to venture into the field of philosophy and theology. He is the guy with demonstrable problems,

says John Deighan, a spokesman for the Catholic Church.

These comments are meant to be inflammatory and don’t bear any relation to the facts. Even today, church schools are over-subscribed. He’s prejudiced.

bleats Mike Judge of the homophobic fundamentalist lobbying group, The Christian Institute.

27 Responses to “Dawkins backlash begins”

  1. tom p says:

    did anyone see Madeleine Bunting’s piece of crap in Saturday’s Guardian? It’s here http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,,1681235,00.html if you want to get riled up

  2. Monitor says:

    Can’t be bothered with Bunting’s idiotic scribblings these days. Much prefer to go straight to Ophelia Benson’s bebunking of them.

  3. Andy A says:

    I got so far through Bunting’s crap that I gave up. It’s specious, it’s illogical.

    As GK Chesterton pointed out, the problem when people don’t believe in God is not that they believe nothing, it is that they believe anything.

    Arrant nonsense, GK, old chum. The fact that it’s true of a few does not mean it’s true of all, and it doesn’t take a logician to work that one out.

    Then we get this old chestnut:

    Over the 20th century, atheist political regimes racked up an appalling (and unmatched) record for violence.

    They didn’t do the things out of a sense of atheism that religionists have done out of a sense of religion. Atheists who do bad things happen to be atheists; for the most part religionists who do bad things do them because of and often in the name of their religion.

  4. Stuart says:

    Interesting that Bunting’s ‘technique’ seems to be that if you pile enough broad generalisations on top of one another people will believe it, even though you offer no proof, because you can’t track back to the first lie and so tend to let the others build on it.
    Rather reminds me of Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of blood’ speech, and his technique in general. Also a favourite trick of Goering, of course – all that stuff about Jews secretly controlling the world….etc., etc.
    Interesting also that amongst all the broad unsupportable ‘arguments’ the only actual person Bunting quotes (presunably to ‘demonstrate’ intelligent and satirical religionist ‘thinking’) is G. K. Chesterton, also a notable fascist sympathiser.
    And she’s whingeing about Dawkins making ‘sweeping generalisations?
    Ho hum!

  5. Pete says:

    Perhaps Mike Judge isn’t aware that church schools are oversubscribed for the simple reason that they’re also well-fundedand wel-resourced compared to secular state schools. I know a lot of parents who pretend to be religious for the sake of their kids’ educations. So long as they don’t expect Darwin to be taught in Biology classes, of course…

  6. marc says:

    Exactly Pete. My brother-in-law and sister are doing precisely that for JUST that reason.

    I don’t think either one of them believes in a god at all, let alone cares. The backlash in years to come makes me cringe…

    That’s why my kids go to a secular school and get extra tuition and help at home when school finishes. The eldest one (just 12) has just gotten her first microscope and knows (for instance) how to calculate the SG of precious metals as first perfected by Archimedes.

    I’m not fooling myself into thinking that any of them are going to be great scientists, but they deserve the chance to learn what observation, science and reason can teach us (and what religion wants to ignore).

  7. tom p says:

    Andy A – bunting’s “appalling (and unmatched) record for violence” canard is also incorrect. Hitler was far from an atheist, he was agreat supporter of the Catholic church and did a great deal to embed catholicism in german state structures such as the schools. If his record for violence doesn’t match the very worst of actual atheist states’ then I’ll eat my hat

  8. G. Tingey says:

    Here we go again ….

    we are talking about:
    Unreasoning belief, and the believers.

    The believers, in all the monotheistic religions, and even that religion-without-a-god, communism, seem to have common characteristics, as do those religions.
    All seem to suggest that religion is a very bad idea, and that religions, and especially their believers, will do certain unpleasant things.
    In order to combat this pernicious mind-rot, I’m proposing some falsifiable tests for religions, and some suggestions as to what rational people should do about it.

    So we have (again)
    A set of testable Propositions

    1. No “god” can be detected – OR – God is not detectable
    2. All religions are blackmail, and are based on fear and superstition.
    3.All religions have been made by men.
    4.Prayer has no effect on third parties.
    5.All religions kill, or enslave, or torture.

    What do those religions (including Marxism) actually DO?
    How are they structured?
    Never mind what they claim – what are their real, testable parameters?
    Marxist governments murdered millions in the name of their patent version of Marx’s holy truth – which was wrong, because the revolution was going to come to the MOST DEVELOPED countries first – erm, wrong ……

    Sounds like a religion in its operating parameters to me.

  9. K. Wilson says:

    Let’s face it, religion is a necessity for those people who have a need to believe that life has a higher purpose than survival. If it were just a forum for supporting one another, in a way like alcoholics anonymous, then it would not be any harm. The problem is that it is not, it leads to individuals and small groups of people leading weaker willed people, taking payments, making themselves rich (look at the catholic church!) and using the god/devil (carrot/stick) idea to control them. It should not be taught in schools, social awareness, citizenship and moral values should be taught but not under the auspices of religion.

  10. Sam Hayes says:

    did anyone see the programme?
    saw most of it, it was hilarious when dawkins was talking to an evangelical, who said things like ‘if you knew the scientists I know, and know the things I know, you would be great like me’ and ‘as you get older you will realise you were wrong about things blah blah blah so please don’t be arrogant’, dawkins and the crew then got chased from the church because ‘you called my children animals’
    the interview with a muslim was more disturbing than funny especially as he didn’t seem to be extremist or promoting violence, but still said things like he wanted islam to take over the world ‘and it will’. From what I saw, theres no way it breaks section 4.2 but there may be an argument under 4.5.

  11. Dick Taylor says:

    as Richard Dawkins said ” we are all Atheists” its just that some of us go further and deny All Gods not just some

  12. Rosalind says:

    In reponse to Tom p’s comment, I understand that the Roman Catholic Church were supporters of Hitler’s regime. I think it had something to do with “moral values”!

  13. […] Although there was some criticism of Dawkins’ programme, “The Root of All Evil?”, it seems that the critics are being criticised. This article on mediawatchwatch.org.uk (a site which seems to devote itself to commenting on criticisms of television programmes) is an interesting read. […]

  14. Peter Biddulph says:

    Dawkins views are to be respected since he is following his conscience and is truly seeking the truth about himself and the universe into which he has been born. He sadly falls down as a scientist, however, in basing his views on religion – particularly Christianity – on a small sample of interviewees and responses that can only be described as “on the fringe”. Perhaps if he were to join some of the thousands of christians who daily give of their time and energy to help their fellow man, be it the prisoner, ex-prisoner, the rough sleeper, the broken personality, the vagrant family, he might change his view.

    Dawkins is always welcome to join us. We ask no questions of those we help. We make no judgements. Our faith is based, not on the old testament, not on golden churches and temples, not on phoney relics and bleeding statues, but on the historic fact of a Jew who died in agony upon a cross and founded the new religion of Christianity.

    If I were to run around the world with a camera, I might interview Teller about the atomic bomb, those who create cruise missiles, lasar bombs, napalm, spy satellites, scientists who daily create new weapons to kill human beings, who daily cooperate in creating the best forms of torture of suspects and the subversive. And then I might turn to my audience and proclaim “There! You have seen them in action! This is what the scientist does for our world!”. No, it won’t work. That too is bad process, skewed science.

  15. Monitor says:

    Peter, your statement:

    Our faith is based […] on the historic fact of a Jew who died in agony upon a cross

    is made with unjustifiable confidence.

  16. tom p says:

    Sam, when the evangelical was saying “if you read the books I read and knew the scientists I know…” he was (incorrectly) paraphrasing Dawkins in order to mock him. He was breathtakingly arrogant and stupid and quite amusing because of it.

    Rosalind, it is not just that the Catholics were supporters of Hitler, but also that Hitler was an ardent promoter of Catholicism within the Third Reich.

    Peter, Dawkins’ programme does not purport to be science. It is a critique of religion. Scientists are not like certain artisits, we don’t claim that everything we do is science. We are also well aware of our propensity for bias and partiality as fallible human beings. That is why articles are anonymously peer-reviewed (usually by 2 peers) and why clinical trials are conducted under a double-blind). His point is that the lack of thought that religion requires of its followers (you call yourselves believers not accepters or thinkers, after all) can lead people down dangerous fanatical paths (as well as being an inherent wrong in itself). It’s not fair to imply that he only interviewed extremisits. He didn’t for example talk to the christians who target abortion clinics and threaten (and in some cases murder) the doctors who work there. Also, he claimed that the reason for interviewing the person he did in Jerusalem was in expectation that he (the interviewee) would see both sides of the story to the middle-east conflict (although I think he was being a little disingenuous there since converts are usually the most zealous prosetylisers for the side they’ve chosen). Also, in next week’s episode he talks to (if memory serves) Richard Harris, the bishop of Oxford and a regular contributor to thought for the day, the very model of a modern moderate bishop.

  17. Shaun Hollingworth says:

    “Dawkins views are to be respected since he is following his conscience ”

    Dawkins views are to be respected, because they were arrived at, using observation,analysis, reasoning and logic, rather than believing the content of old books written by largely ignorant people thousands of years ago, along with religious mumbo jumbo, and stupid superstition.

    Indeed religion creates more questions than it answers. As Dawkins pointed out in the programme, if you need a creator for something as complicated as a human being, you surely need one for something even more complicated such as a omnipotent all knowing God! So who would be God’s mother, and who created Her ?

    Now there MAY WELL be fantastic things going on in the Universe which we still don’t know about, and it would be arrogant to assume we know it all. But it isn’t a benevolent old soul with a grey beard, looking down from heaven controlling everything. There is MUCH too much nastiness and horror in the world for that. Much of it sadly, caused by the religious believers themselves, some of whom are the most nasty, bigoted, hyppocritical human beings I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet.

    I find it amazing that otherwise rational intelligent humans abandon their sense of reason to participate in such idiocy as organised religion.

  18. (phil - wellyTop) says:

    Dawkins points out what is blindingly obvoius to many. Dawkins msut be applauded for breaking the taboo against questioning religion openly.

    Only knowledge can bring enlightenment from religion.

    Christianity is only one religion out of a countless amount that have existed. The sheer variety makes even a definition of religion difficult.
    If there were any truth in religion we would expect to find a central fact, core to all religions. Instead we find an amazing breadth of supernatural possibilities.

  19. Dear Madeleine,
    I am a Ugandan journalist currently at Green College, Oxford University on a Reuters Research Fellowship. I have read your Saturday article and as an atheist and humanist, I have this to say. I do not know of anything that human beings have failed to do for themselves and it has been done by God. Therefore, whether God does exist is of no importance.

    I also do not know why his interaction with the universe is not detectable…because I have never seen any physical manifestation of the interaction. If his interaction with the universe is essentially undetectable, it is hard to distinguish him from other things that do not exist, such as Santa Claus, which also gets talked about but in reality does not exist. The assumption that there is something called God is unverifiable and cannot be tested, so it is safe to assume by default that that something simply does not exist.

    As a man whose life is governed by reason a 100 percent, and who thinks deeply about things, I haven’t the vaguest idea why religion advances the theory of an enigmatic God; a God that cannot be seen but “works” — and in an undesirable way nine times out of ten; a God for whom everybody, anybody speaks and acts but cannot come out to say: “This I like or that I do not like.” God, if he existed, would still be what religion wants us to believe he is — even without having to be indescribably enigmatic.

    You talked about regimes that have been led by leaders that do not believe in God causing untold/unspeakable/unmatched violence, but the fact remains there are as many pious leaders as there are non-pious ones that have caused violence. Many African leaders that have killed people they lead are not known to be atheists. And the more than 13 million atheists in the US are not the ones committing the most heinous crimes. George Bush’s war in Iraq has killed hundreds of thousands but there are atheists in the US that would not think even for a moment about waging war of any kind.

    My argument can end in this simple way. If there was God, there would be incontrovertible, independent, direct, ocular, irrefutable, water-tight proof of his existence. Belief in and worship of God is a human weakness. Religion (started by people) creates God but sadly fails to give proof of his existence. That’s why we do not know God’s compelling reasons for creating the universe and, most importantly, why, how and when he created himself. The most popular religious book, the Bible, is silent on the beginning of God, who supposedly wrote it and knew in advance that people would ask how he came to be. But that does not surprise me at all because the Bible was written by human beings.

    Last, but far from least, neither the theory of God nor evolution can tell us convincingly how life started.

    With best wishes,

  20. Peter Biddulph says:

    Sad that some have misunderstood what I was trying to say, but then, in a matter as complex as this, total clarity is difficult.

    Perhaps this might make things clearer. If I were to take a camera crew and interview Pol Pot (Killing fields), could I then claim that that Pol Pot’s views and actions represent the truth about non-belief?

    Of course not. And nor do I feel it fair to represent my own faith in terms expressed by a Mid-American cherry-picking bible basher, however well he might express his views.

    Dawkins seeks an answer to how and why the universe exists and persists. So do I and many others who believe in a God of some kind. I would welcome him at any time to meet and seek the truth together. Not that he would come, of course, since I am but an unknown. I respect his search for the truth that lies behind our universe. All I ask is that he respects mine.

  21. Andrew Nixon says:

    I respect his search for the truth that lies behind our universe. All I ask is that he respects mine.

    Why should Dawkins, myself or anyone else have to respect your religous beliefs, expecially when we may find those beliefs to be quite laughable?

  22. Andy Gilmour says:

    Dear Mr. Biddulph,
    Anyone claiming to have found a/the/some “truth” has to EARN respect. If someone comes along proclaiming a new unified field theory, say, but one which is based upon personal ‘revelations’, inference without evidence, and claims to be unfalsifiable, then exactly how much respect should they be granted? Pretty much none, until they can come up with peer-reviewed, replicated experimental data to back their theory up. Einstein was a relative (sorry!) nobody, who posited truly revolutionary theoretical explanations that challenged the accepted thinking of the day, but then invited other scientists to test them, and even suggested how such experiments could be conducted. The rest is scientific history. Would any supernaturalism offer to add to the great sum of human knowledge in this manner? Dawkins’ central (& obvious) point was that faith requires irrational belief without evidence. It does not matter if you are not a bible-toting midwestern creationist like my mother-in-law, if you are in favour of theistic explanations, then you’re being irrational. One might even say self-deluding. Not exactly deserving of respect.

    You have every right to believe what you wish, but please understand that when you make claims to “truth”, then if you want them to be respected, you have to be prepared to watch them go down in flames, just like any sane, rational person.

  23. Hugh says:

    As a fully paid-up atheist I came away from Richard’s programme a little depressed. It is quite apparent that religion, far from being a fading legacy of our primitive past, is in fact gaining in strength. From my own attempts to find a decent school for my daughter, I also know too well Dawkin’s point about religion understanding that preaching to children is by far the best way of spreading the worlds most dangerous lie.

    I’ve spent far too much time trying to conceive of what it might take to reverse this trend. In a more fanciful moment it occurred to me how religion is primarily rooted in a fear of death and of gods supposed power over life. I wonder if someday a distant scientist brethren of Richard Dawkin’s might, by stretching human life expectancy into the hundreds of years, finally prove that it is the human mind which is truly the greatest power in our little corner of the universe. Without death God would seem even more pointless.

  24. tom p says:

    I don’t know if anyone’s seen this yet, but the first section is a joy to read: http://www.randi.org/jr/2006-01/010613fool.html

  25. Steve McCredie says:

    “As a fully paid-up atheist I came away from Richard’s programme a little depressed. It is quite apparent that religion, far from being a fading legacy of our primitive past, is in fact gaining in strength.”

    Hugh, as a fellow Atheist I was tempted to say “keep the faith” in answer to your statement above, but thought better of it – inappropriate humour! I realise that our seemingly endless struggle with the forces of ignorance, fear and bigotry, or as we all know them “Organised Religion”, seams never ending, but let me share a story that might cheer you up.

    My sister passed away a couple of years ago and my brother in-law re married. Now, my sister, brother in-law and his new wife were/are members of a local Pentecostal church and the wedding was held there. Of course I attended what was a happy family event.

    Anyway the service started and I listened to it, expecting a wedding. Instead the Pastor subjected us to a tirade of gibberish, culminating in an attack on Darwin and the theory of evolution. AT A WEDDING? At first I almost walked out, and in hindsight part of me still regrets I didn’t. But upon reflection what I found encouraging and wonderful was the sight of this fool, talking to a congregation largely made up of gullible fools. Before my eyes I saw a man who despite all his words and filibuster was afraid. So much so that he took this totally inappropriate opportunity to attack what he was scared of. He reminded me of an 8-year-old boy pulling the pigtails of the girl he is secretly in love with. I have seldom seen someone on such denial of the truth and desperately wanting others to agree with him.

    What I took from this is that the religious who are most extreme in their beliefs are the ones who are most in doubt, the most afraid of admitting that their faith is a lie.

    Ohh, and as for Dawkins… excellent program.

  26. Jonathan says:

    A church local to me feels the need to express itself on the matter of the recent programme featuring Richard Dawkins and can be found here:-


    In it he says – “Dawkins claims to be promoting rational truth and scientific method, yet his presentation is just as dogmatic, just as manipulative, and just as irrational as the worst of those he attacks. In short these programs were nothing more than crude propaganda.”

    But what is Richard trying to promote? The ability to reason things out for ourselves, to measure what we’ve been taught against available evidence. Richard is attempting to promote reasoning, logic and the ability to see the world as it is not as some old book or scholars would have us believe. Harmful propaganda is having kid’s brains filled up with superstitious twaddle of the most poisonous kind from a young age, them growing up believing that on some level they are worthless and when they do good it’s because of some supernatural component and when they err, because they’re sinners. Pathetic. The Alpha Course is harmful, impregnating vulnerable minds is harmful. Richard is merely asking us to think for ourselves and when it’s told like that, it’s no wonder the religious find all this dangerous, after all they have based their entire worldview on faith, that is, belief in something without proof.