Speaking of thought leaders…I was looking for something and happened on this article by Jerry Coyne in The New Republic last October. It’s a riposte to an article by John Gray, also in TNR, trashing Richard Dawkins. I can easily believe Gray’s is a crap article, because John Gray seems to specialize in crap articles. But I read the first paragraph of Coyne’s article, and found a claim that I think is absurd.
It’s not a good time to be Richard Dawkins, for he alone, like the scapegoat of Leviticus, must bear the brunt of everyone’s hatred of atheism. (Sam Harris sometimes serves as a backup goat.) Even though Dawkins has never proclaimed himself as any kind of atheist “leader”—his eminence among nonbelievers is purely a byproduct of his books and talks—he is the poster child for atheism, and everyone who hates atheists, including some other atheists, comes down on him.
The claim I think is absurd is that
Dawkins has never proclaimed himself as any kind of atheist “leader”
You must be joking!
I can easily believe it’s true that Dawkins has never said “I am an atheist leader” – but that’s not the only way of proclaiming oneself as a leader. Here’s the thing: RD set up a foundation for science and reason, with his own name in the title. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that is decidedly proclaiming oneself as a leader.
And he acts as a leader, too. He throws his weight around. He does what he can to exclude people he dislikes from conferences and rallies. He tells women how to feminist. He ranks degrees of bad in discussions with feminists about what they get to object to. He complains of witch hunts. He promotes his friends. He scolds the world on Twitter.
So, no. However unfair the John Gray article is, it’s not the case that Dawkins has never proclaimed himself as any kind of atheist “leader.”