Another critic who hasn’t read the book

The City Pages, the arts and entertainment newsweekly in Minneapolis, had an article on the best artists of the year. One of the entries is jarring in its strange conclusions, the award to Christopher Hitchens:

Fueled by cigarettes, alcohol, ego, and, most importantly, intellect, Hitchens employs his excoriating eye in his Vanity Fair column, television appearances, and what’s quickly becoming his very own nonfiction canon. The only thing more surprising than the abundance of his output is his sheer audacity. After alienating pretty much every leftist in the country with his vociferous support for Bush’s invasion of Iraq, he dropped God Is Not Great, the most cogent condemnation of religion in recent memory, onto the number-one slot of the New York Times best-seller list and earned himself a National Book Award nomination in the process. Far from the vitriolic diatribe of a God-hating misanthrope like Richard Dawkins, Hitchens’s work is both appropriately respectful and right.

The City Pages is not a doctrinaire organ for the right or for religion — it’s irreverant (another winner is Stephen Colbert), and atheist-friendly (ditto for Philip Pullman), and this is a positive review of Hitchens. That last sentence, though…the complete mischaracterization of Dawkins took me aback, as did the cockeyed assessment that Hitchens is “appropriately respectful”. Hitchens isn’t respectful of religion at all, and Dawkins certainly isn’t less respectful.

Did Dawkins make a surprise visit to Minneapolis specifically to shoot Emily Condon’s dog or something?


  1. says

    Hitchens’s work is … appropriately respectful

    I suspect, actually, that Hitchens himself would agree this sentence is literally true.

  2. Sigmund says

    I would hazard a guess that the only part of Dawkins book she actually read was the quote about the God of the old testament being a bully. If the entire book was written in this vain it might come across pretty much like she infers.

  3. jfatz says

    “I suspect, actually, that Hitchens himself would agree this sentence is literally true.”

    Well, yes, but I’m pretty sure the writer was not meaning that in the “as respectful as it deserves” way, else he wouldn’t have had an issue with Dawkins, either. ;-)

  4. Stephen says

    Dawkins makes people uncomfortable because he deals with somewhat harsh scientific truths. Hitchens doesn’t neccessarily shake anyones faith further than enlightned deism with his entertaining ramblings. Being told that Jews engage in sex through a hole in a sheet (although this is false) is something everyone can find funny/entertaining. Being told that evolution points to a world in which a God figure is hugely unlikely (as a hugely complex being) is not so comforting. Otherwise Emily simply hasn’t read TGD and is merely placating the angry religious with a criticism of “new atheism” after an endorsement of one of its proponents.

  5. says

    That’s not really fair, I have known people that have read TGD with less than open minds and focused their criticisms on the sections which confirm their bias that they don’t like Dawkins.

    Trashing Dawkins for what he hasn’t said, using projection of their own prejudices against atheists is pretty easy to do. He is the new living symbol of hatred, bashing him is a “meme” to boost book sales and increase Google rankings. What I can’t figure out is how Hitchens is always spared this disgust. Perhaps it is because Hitchens is given more credibility for being a journalist and not a “scientist out of his depth.”

    The odd thing to me is that some of the same people who dis TGD praise The Blind Watchmaker and Unweaving the Rainbow. The only difference I can see as far as the atheism in The God Delusion compared to his other books is that he more explicitly spells out the dangers of magical thinking. His other books were no less atheistic.

    And speaking of secret visits to Minneapolic, Kristin Harley will be interviewing Richard Dawkins on Sunday, January 13th for the inaugural show of Atheists Talk on AM950. Streaming available via web, for those who are interested. It will be a phone interview, so as much as he would like to kick a dog or two in Minneapolis he won’t be able to accomplish it except by proxy. Heh, heh.

  6. SEF says

    Far from the vitriolic diatribe of a God-hating misanthrope like Richard Dawkins, Hitchens’s work is both appropriately respectful and right.

    How odd when the reality of the situation seems to be much more the other way round (at least on my sampling). Perhaps Emily Condon should be pressed for specific examples which she believes support her opinion – ie to find out whether she’s a fantasist in her own right, a very poor reader (including not bothering to read as well as any comprehension problems when reading) and/or a complicit victim of quote-mining. Alternatively, ie in an alternate reality of which the rest of us aren’t aware, maybe Richard Dawkins really did say something terribly inappropriate and wrong whereas Christopher Hitchens didn’t. I’m stuck for what it could possibly be though.

  7. Moses says

    Her article reads like a book report taken from a movie that doesn’t actually follow the book closely. Especially as her characterizations of Hitchens and Dawkins seem to be entirely opposite of the great body of their rhetoric.

    Yes, Dawkins does call religion child abuse. Because, frankly, it is child abuse and does, for the life of the victim, cause deep psychological process/emotional problems. Once you get people to, as adults, believe in Santa Claus you’ve substantially impacted their ability to process skeptically and rationally.

    Magical thinking, in children, is a wonderful thing. Magical thinking in adults leads to Iraq, suicide bombers, or that praying for an end to pedophilia withing the Catholic church will, by itself, do something.

  8. Sigmund says

    I think it also brings out an important point about how religion can be tackled by non-believers within a religious population. The ‘new atheists’ are frequently criticised for ridiculing the religious yet it is really only Hitchens who does this. Dawkins, Harris and Dennett tend to argue as scientists or philosophers, using reason and evidence while Hitchens goes straight for the jugular, HL Mencken style, and yet he is the one that is perceived as less of a danger.

  9. Steve Borthwick says

    Xenophobia perhaps, after all Hitch is “officially” American now whereas Dawkins is one of those miserable Brits, otherwise completely baffling.

  10. Hank Fox says


    That was just like reading

    Far from the vitriolic diatribe of a British-hating misanthrope like Gandhi …

    Or maybe …

    Far from the vitriolic diatribe of a white-hating misanthrope like Martin Luther King Jr. …

  11. says

    Gandhi did write a newspaper article in support of Hitler in 1940 when the old country was rather up against it with Adolf and his hordes, hence Churchill’s later antipathy.

  12. SEF says

    I wondered about the nearly-US versus wholly-UK contrast too. However, Sigmund’s #9 offers a better explanation. The fantasists may have no fear of Hitchen’s unsupported rhetoric because it matches their own ad hominem style (and, as well as liking the familiarity of it, they secretly know how unfounded their own opinions are so they have no trouble dismissing his as being similarly wild making up stuff). Whereas Dawkins’ work is scarily evidence-based and they are mortally afraid of the truth of it and how it might convince them (and endanger their faith and their imaginary souls) if they dare to find out and, worse, think about it at all.

    I’ve noticed this trend on the BBC site (from both staff and users). They don’t mind incompetence, dishonesty, defamation, plain rudeness, liars, quote-mining, misattribution, misrepresentation, sockpuppetry, morphing, trolling or anything much else which is genuinely bad. The one thing they absolutely can’t stand is anyone competent and honest telling the well-evidenced truth. They have false and hypocritical versions of “respect” and “politeness”.

    The ones who whinge most (and falsely) about such things in others tend to be the worst offenders in reality. Their fake version of these things is so much more important to them than the real thing. It seems to be part of them hanging on to their fantasies and making believe that they are good and that the good are bad instead. So Emily Condon may have some measure of that attitude too. One possible diagnostic feature would be whether she has any genuine merit of her own in any relevant area (eg any science qualifications and logic ability).

  13. Kampar says

    I’m still waiting for the day when commentators like this understand and accept that we atheists don’t “hate god”.

    When will they finally get it that we just don’t believe in the existence of either one or more “gods” and therefore have no discernible emotion towards a non-existent object.

    It’s as if by falsely projecting that we hate their particular brand of supreme being they are subconsciously stating what they must really think, that atheists must hate any individual who believes in said “supreme being”.

    I suspect this only goes to reinforce their often-stated belief of individual or group persecution, which seems to be a necessary part of any religious-based dogma.

    Perhaps “Far from the vitriolic diatribe of a God-doubting misanthrope like Richard Dawkins …” doesn’t have the same power to sell newspapers.

    And then there’s that word misanthrope … seems to me like Dawkins enjoys his time being part of, interacting with and contributing to this world and all it has to offer much more than many in the religious sphere. I guess they don’t like that either …

  14. Richard Harris says

    As I recall, in The God Delusion, R D was quite temperate in his prose, except for one instance where he described the Xian god using colourful language. But he did that for effect. Normally, R D is the perfect gentleman, & it’s Hitchens who can be insulting, & good for him.

    As for the god of the old testament being a bully, (# 2), it’s a really nasty shit in the new testament. I quote the final words of that absurd book:

    13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

    14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

    15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

    16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

    17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

    18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

    19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

    20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

    21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

    It ain’t just the old crap that’s nasty, the new is too.

  15. SEF says

    It’s as if by falsely projecting that we hate their particular brand of supreme being they are subconsciously stating what they must really think, that atheists must hate any individual who believes in said “supreme being”.

    I think it’s a little different. Being theists, they evidently haven’t managed to notice that their god is (like all the others) imaginary not real. However, they can scarcely have completely failed to notice that their stories of their god are hateful – regardless of how much they deny it and especially when they contortedly attempt to excuse it away!

    So, since they do recognise that their god is a hateful idea but they don’t recognise that it’s only a fictional being, they are forced to conclude that anyone who fairly evaluated its attributes would indeed hate it – were it to be real. It’s that last little bit which they don’t have the sense to comprehend to its fullest extent, viz that atheists don’t believe the god is real and hence don’t hate any real thing at all. An atheist (or even a believer in a different god/pantheon) is only likely to hate their evil stories about their wholly imaginary friend and all the evil things that they, as contrastingly non-imaginary theists, do in reality because of those stories.

  16. Shawn Smith says

    I took that as an objection to the very title of TGD. There are still many religious people who are still pissed off about the title, and are convinced that Richard Dawkins calls them “deluded” personally. If you’ve spent most of your life accepting as a fact that something exists, that you’ve invested so much of your life and actions based on that belief, being called “deluded,” even if accurate, hurts. Some people just haven’t gotten over that word, and are unwilling to change.

  17. says

    That sentence sits with the whole passage so badly, I tried to see if there is a way to “read” it so it makes some sense.

    Try this:

    Far from “the vitriolic diatribe of a God-hating misanthrope like Richard Dawkins”, Hitchens’s work is both appropriately respectful and right.

    Bad editing? You see Hitchins can’t be right, if she is supporting religionists, can he? I think she may be condemning all the new-athiest critiques obliquely.

  18. Ginger Yellow says

    Hang on. Dawkins is a misanthrope, and Hitchens isn’t? Where has this reviewer been for the last 30 years?

  19. Tracy says

    *choke* *sputter* *cough* I just spat my diet Pepsi upon my computer screen. What has this reviewer been reading?

  20. Ric says

    Wow, that author is… so wrong. having read both Hitchens and Dawkins, I can say that Dawkins tone is much more respectful than Hitchens. I looked for her email addy but couldn’t find it. Anyone have it?

  21. Owlmirror says

    Random notion: Could it be that “respectful and right” are code words meaning “Hitchens pours more vitriol on Muslims than on other religionists”?

  22. Bob L says

    I read that right; someone did use the word “respectful” to describe Hitchens? This is a joke, right?

  23. Sastra, OM says

    It’s funny. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett … I have heard different people compare and contrast them in virtually every permutation. Dawkins is awful, but Harris is considerate. Dennett is respectful, but Hitchens just rants. And vice versa, and contrariwise. And some of them are “more reasonable” and “more academic” than the others, but it’s take your pick on which ones.

    I’m not sure what goes on. Perhaps a particular passage grabs someone the wrong — or right — way. Maybe it’s the titles, as Shawn Smith #19 suggests (I think some people on this blog have admitted that most of their objections to Dawkins’ “tone” would disappear if only the book had been called The God Illusion.)

    In the case of Hitchens, he spends a lot of time railing against dogmatic, fundamentalist religion. Religious people often like to see religion attacked if they can someone start out distancing themselves from the group that’s being criticized. If you subtract the competition, you get even stronger and surer. Maybe that’s what’s going on here, I don’t know. As someone said, “Religion Poisons Everything” in the freaking title is hardly soft-peddling and easing into things gently.

  24. Jason Dick says

    I don’t get it. I thought Hitchens was vastly more abrasive than any of the other “four horsemen”. Of the four books I’ve read from them (God Delusion, End of Faith, Breaking the Spell, and Got is not Great), I Hitchens’ was the only one that I was genuinely taken aback by. Now, I couldn’t find fault with it per se, but really, how many times do you have to repeat, “religion poisons everything,” before certain people get the picture that Hitchens is not being nice?

    I thought that The God Delusion was a positive love note to religion compared to Hitchens’ treatment. Not that I think Hitchens was necessarily wrong to do so, I just find the comparison really odd.

  25. says

    Somebody please notice my comment. Are we sure we aren’t being unfair to the author? It may be her editor is at fault. Maybe somebody could ask her?

  26. Peter says

    I think #10 and #14 are on the right track. The leftwing media people in England, including the BBC are conspicuously anti-scientist: it reflects the “arts”/science dichotomy, which is very strong in the UK. All scientists are supposed to be inarticulate and lacking in all social skills, and all bright ideas must come from the media/arts people. Dawkins has done the unforgivable and created a global debate without their assistance.
    Cristopher Hitchens is one of their caste, and he is allowed to do it.
    I remember a sneering review of Jared Diamond by one of them, and betting with myself that the guy wanted nothing more than for Diamond to sink into oblivion to be able to present the ideas as his own. Peter

  27. DiscoveredJoys says

    I believe Peter #32 together with #10 and #14 (Pharyngula Bingo!) has hit the nail on the head. As long as you can argue using rhetoric, no inescapable conclusion can be drawn (your opponent’s success lies in his skill, not the facts). Argue from scientific fact and somebody has to lose. They see this as bad manners and a personal attack.

    Now you know why Dr Dr Dembski and his chums use rhetorical arguments and seem impervious to arguments based on provable, repeatable, facts. Once they accept true scientific debate rather than vague handwaving they know they will lose.

  28. says

    And we aren’t going to win the argument unless we get our own facts straight. Until we know we she meant we are also just waving our hands about. Who is in minnesota? If she is a free-lance journalist she must have a contact e-mail. Somebody ask her.

  29. says

    the vitriolic diatribe of a God-hating misanthrope like Richard Dawkins,

    Dawkins is not vitrioloic, God-hating or misanthropic, he also doesn’t write diatribes apart from these minor points the lady hits the nail on the head.

  30. noncarborundum says

    Hey, Reason, if you wanna marry her be my guest

    Except that she might not have him. After all, to quote Reason,

    . . . it appears she is young and attractive. I’m not.

    Tune in next week for another thrilling episode of “Out of Context Theatre”.

  31. tyaddow says

    Come now, let’s listen to ‘reason’. The whole of the piece doesn’t seem to suggest that the author would hold such views of Dawkins. While Condon had a mountain of more apporpriate word combinations to describe Dawkins’ views, we could concede that Dawkins hates god as one who hates any particularly nasty fictional character. It is, however, incorrect as well as offensive to call him a misanthrope. The false characterizations of Dawkins and Hitchens together suggest either atrociously poor journalism (which is admittedly common) or bad editing. Let’s wring some clarification out of Condon to see which it really is.

  32. Bryson Brown says

    I wonder if the author has simply accepted the standard caricature of Dawkins as shrill and nasty without reading his book– it’s still being actively spread by reviewers, quite recently in the Globe and Mail book section. After all, would so many nice, purportedly moderate religious types misrepresent an articulate atheist?

  33. Don says

    I agree with most of the comments so far, Hitchens is far more vitriolic than Dawkins (and more sloppily researched). I hugely enjoyed both books, but where I disagreed with Hitchens on this or that minor point I was pretty sure I was right and he had just not fact-checked. Where I found points of difference with Dawkins I was forced to concede that his expertise far out-weighed mine.

    Both can elegantly eviscerate an opponent, with Dawkins you may not realise you have been gutted until some time later. Maybe that is why he is so much more hated(and feared).

  34. SEF says

    Judging by her Author Archive, Emily Condon is an emotional arts bod and not a rational science one. As an arts critic, she’s a professional rubbish-talker and is probably aware of that on some level. I haven’t gone far enough to find out what religion (if any) she has.

    However, many people (especially but not at all exclusively the religious) are offended by reality. For them, about the most offensive thing someone can do is to expose them (and their most dearly held falsehoods) plainly and unequivocably to the facts. Science does that. Rhetorical tricks don’t – particularly not to someone who earns their living in the same superficial bluffing arena. A scientist, no matter how mild, is almost always going to be seen as more offensive for that evidence-based reality-check than even the most abrasive philosopher (sophist) type.

    If they fear the reality, they hate the person who brings it to their attention. It’s basic fight-or-flight behaviour. Flight equates to avoidance in this context. Eg they can run away from the information or a conversation and/or ignore the content to concentrate on the style of delivery. Fight equates to hating and impotently attacking the cause of their fear. Axis of evil anyone?

  35. AlanWCan says

    #13: hence Churchill’s later antipathy
    I rather suspect that had more to do with the prospect of losing the money train that was Colonial India to a half-naked fakir don’t you?

  36. Nefrubyr says

    All it takes is a comma to change the meaning:

    “Far from the vitriolic diatribe of a God-hating misanthrope, like Richard Dawkins, Hitchens’s work is both appropriately respectful and right.”

  37. noncarborundyum says

    All it takes is a comma . . .

    Good point. I’ll keep that in mind the next time I see a sign that says:

    Private? No! Swimming allowed!

  38. SEF says

    I see what you intend as the alternative reading but your additional comma doesn’t exclusively give that meaning. The sentence can still be read the same way as before, even with the alteration to the punctuation. Richard Dawkins could still be the misanthrope. It needs more radical revision. Eg:

    “Far from being the vitriolic diatribe of a God-hating misanthrope, Hitchens’s work, like that of Richard Dawkins, is both appropriately respectful and right.”

  39. says

    Nobody is getting my point. If you put one line of the text in quotes – and read it as a quote from another reviewer talking about Hitchins – she could be merely exhonerating Hitchins without any implications at all about her PERSONAL opinion of Dawkins. That seems more consistent with the rest of the piece to me. We need her views to know way or the other. I tried to find about more about her personal opinions on google and only found out she has a pleasant face and seems pretty light hearted (hey it was a joke guys) so no help there.

  40. clarence says

    Reason, I wouldn’t waste too much of your time on this. It’s a throwaway comment in a throwaway free weekly. City Pages is useful for looking up movie times and finding out if your favorite band will be playing at First Ave, but the writing is pretty much always terrible. A bunch of hipsters without editors writing poor exegeses of their navels.

    We can only hope Dawkins doesn’t have an attack of misanthropic vitriol and refuse to come to the convention.

  41. LC says

    I read a several-page excerpt from Hitchen’s book, more than enough to convince me not to buy it. It was a rambling, incoherent, poorly-argued mess. Could that be why some people prefer it to the Dawkins book (which I have not read)?

    Unfortunately, I can’t recommend Sam Harris’ End of Faith book either. It is, mainly, a rant against Islam* written by a man who supports a U.S. preemptive nuclear attack (p. 129 of paperback on what we should do if an Islamist regime acquires nuclear missiles: “nuclear first strike of our own ….unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us given what Islamists believe.)” and spends the last pages justifying torture.

    I did like Mills’ Atheist Universe.

    Unlike many here, although I am an atheist with a strong dislike for evangelists, I also see no point in trying to save believers from their false beliefs. I know good people who believe strongly, and their faith quite obviously helps them get through the rough times. Like sedatives, alcohol, & psychotropic drugs, religious belief can be misused. I will challenge believers who try to convert me or try to break down the wall between church & state, but outside that space, I am quite willing to leave them alone.

    *For ex., he spends pages listing all the violent statements he could find in the Koran but doesn’t bother to do the same for the Old Testament. Also, there are close to 2 billion Muslims in the world of whom some very small percentage deploy bombs and who are supported by a somewhat larger but still relatively small percentage who provide political support for such behavior. One might as well argue that all the men in the world should be banished to another planet because men are responsible for most of the violence in the world.

  42. Virginia says

    All it takes is a comma:

    Call me, Ishmael.

    (from Peter de Vries via Daniel Dennett)

  43. Moses says

    It wouldn’t be the first time this website has gone on a wild goose chase.

    There were no quotes around her comments and they flowed naturally within the body of work. I’m not going to presuppose incompetent editing.

  44. says

    AlanWCan: no. If Britain had not fought in 1940, there would have been no Britain to launch D-Day from. Nazi Germany may have made short term gains, but eventually the Soviets would have taken all of western Europe.

    Churchill’s oratory and leadership in 1940 were absolutely crucial in convincing Parliament to ignore the heirs to the appeasers who wanted to negotiate peace with Hitler. It was often close. Our colonial past was not glorious, but in 1940 Churchill was instrumental in keeping Britain in a very crucial fight. Gandhi publicly backed Hitler writing of him as ‘a genius, as a brave man, a matchless organizer and much more.’

    Churchill said: ‘I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

    Hitler prosecuted the second world war and the Holocaust, tens of millions died. Churchill screwed Britain’s courage to the sticking point and we fought the battle that according General Jodl proved Hitler’s undoing. Gandhi was right on many things, but he was wrong, badly wrong on this.

  45. says

    Winston Churchill:
    But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

    Probably that last bit is a reference to Darwinism.

  46. Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth says

    As skeptic grggsy[Google me!],I excoriate religion as much as any other New Atheist. Why should we be respectful to superstition? Sometimes I calll God Pappy to lower His standing.
    Do any of Dawkins’s critics offer at all to show where he might be wrong is his evalutation of theistic argumentation or just find that he does not fathom theology?
    [ I wouuuld so likle to knonw why I cannot post at anti-evlolution?]
    Graham Oppy’s “Arguing about Gpds” and Jordan Howard Sobel’s ” Logic and Theism” minutely destroy theistic calptrap in a scholarly way unllike my polemical one. With Oppy however, I do note my fallibism and that theists might find my argumentaion wrong.I state that tha there is probaly no god[ Actttually, I think He ranks with perpetual motion machines!]

  47. Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth says

    Sorry for the missed typos. I meant Sky Pappy.[ Why no editing ?]

  48. windy says

    Peter McGrath: I think Churchill’s antipathy of Gandhi was evident considerably earlier than 1940. And after a little googling, Gandhi’s Hitler quote seems to be part of a belated plea for nonviolent resistance toward Hitler and is about how future Germans may remember Hitler. Hopelessly naive sentiment on Gandhi’s part, but not as nefarious as the quote-mined bit makes out.

  49. Steve Zara says

    “For ex., he spends pages listing all the violent statements he could find in the Koran but doesn’t bother to do the same for the Old Testament.”

    That might well be because most christians don’t consider the Old Testament that relevant.

  50. Matt says

    I find the whole thing rather amusing. I would have thought Richard Dawkins would be considered much, much more moderate than Christopher Hitchens. After all, Hitchens’ focus is on the moral standards of religion, and what religious people have done in the past. Dawkins uses a more science-based approach, and so to me he seems more reasonable.

  51. Troublesome Frog says

    Whenever I see people freaking out because Dawkins has said something not particularly inflammatory that happens to upset them, I think about a Bill Hicks routine: Your children aren’t special. “Hold on. I know you think they’re special. I’m just hear to tell you that they’re not.”

  52. Helioprogenus says

    A few comments originally posted by myself and approximately 6 others have been I figure accidentally deleted. PZ, you might have to look into this glitch, otherwise, no worries, they weren’t that important.

  53. Desert Donkey says

    While I think reason has a point, #47, I still like Hank’s response best, #11. Now back to reading The God Delusion by the disrespectful (but nonetheless respected) R. Dawkins. Thank goodness I’ve already completed reading Hitchens latest batch of pleasantries so I needn’t worry about dozing off.

  54. says

    I think it’s irreverent, Reverend PZ. Though you might think that irrelevant. And, yeah, I blinked in confusion at the Dawkins reference myself. At this point, facts clearly do not matter, as everyone appears to have made up their mind, without reading Dawkins, what he is like. Even evident fans of skeptical/progressive thought seem willing to marginalize him with a completely unfair false image. I wonder why? Look, you’ve met the guy, PZ—what’s going on, do you think?

  55. Shrike says

    I find the whole thing rather amusing. I would have thought Richard Dawkins would be considered much, much more moderate than Christopher Hitchens. After all, Hitchens’ focus is on the moral standards of religion, and what religious people have done in the past. Dawkins uses a more science-based approach, and so to me he seems more reasonable.

    I suspect that it’s precisely because of Dawkins’ emphasis on science that he’s become the Freddy Krueger of the faithful. As a prominent scientist and atheist, he makes a convenient target for claims that atheists are hijacking science in an effort to destroy religion.

  56. says

    With reference to Peter McGrath’s commments #13, #53, and windy’s #58:

    Gandhi is one of the world’s greatest con jobs. A person with very limited intellectual capacity and understanding of the world in general, he was however supremely crafty and manipulative. Blackmail was his chief weapon and he wielded that weapon behind a cloak of piety thick enough to cover up all the nastiness he actually represented. His letter advising the British to give in to the Nazis without a struggle was both ignorant and arrogant. Much of the blame for the failures of India can be directly attributed to that one man. But having said that, in the ultimate analysis, the average Indian’s ignorance is what led to Gandhi’s elevation to such heights that Gandhi’s dead hand has continued to strangle whatever potential India had.

  57. Ian says

    What, exactly, do they mean by “appropriately respectful”?

    As long as they’re not physically harming anyone, I respect any individual’s right to privately practice whatever inane religion they chose (even as they fail to respect my right to follow none), but I don’t respect the myths they swallow, nor their attempts to force those myths upon me & mine. There’s no reason whatsoever why I should.

  58. michael spear says

    Hitchens is by far my least favorite of the “four horsemen”. I recently watched him and the rest of his fellow “horsemen” talk about life since publishing their books which is a new video on dawkins site. In the video you have dennet, dawkins, and harris, all sitting down to either a martini or sparkling water, but hitchens, not to be outdone of course, has one hard drink, one beer, and continually smokes the entire time. The majority of what comes out of his mouth seems to be nothing more than ignorant rhetoric. This is clearly illustrated when Hitchens specifically states that he does not wish religion to go away because there wouldn’t be anything good to argue about anymore. Throughout the conversation it feels as though he’s a lead weight pulling the conversation down into a bottomless pit of sophist rhetoric.

  59. says

    I agree: Dawkins is a misanthrope compared to Hitchens? Truly bizarre. I often enjoy reading Hitchens, tho I often disagree with him, too, but he’s clearly the more misanthropic of the the two – and he’d likely say as much himself! Has Condon even seen Dawkins in interviews or in his documentaries? He’s engaging and usually unfailingly polite. He’s obviously fascinated with the world around him and if he ever displays any anger or condescension – ironically – it towards misanthropic and anti-human organizations and belief systems.

    Finally, she credits Hitchens with coming up with “tackle” as a “euphemism for male junk”? Bizarre. I’ve been using that expression for over a decade since I first heard it from one of my Pommie friends in the mid-90s.

    So, apparently, Condon’s poor research skills extend beyond beyond her cursory analysis of Dawkins and Hitchens’ respective personalities.

  60. AlanWCan says

    Taking the bait from Peter McGrath et al. and running seriously off-topic, it’s interesting that Gandhi is being vilified for somehow being interpreted as supporting the Holocaust, a terrible atrocity bravely battled by Britain headed by nice Mr. Churchill. Not being a rosy-eyed worshiper or the Attenborough Gandhi that has seeped into the collective consciousness, I have actually read quite a bit of his own writing and find him an interesting, if quirky and often unpleasant, character. My point though, is that he was a major thorn in the side of the dying days of British imperialism. This may also be an interesting point in the discussion to point to a nice article in the Guardian about the book Late Victorian Holocausts by Mike Davisby and a couple of others that lay out some of the fairly unpleasant things the British Empire did that rival the Holocaust in both sheer nastiness and in body count.

    In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, published in 2001, Mike Davis tells the story of famines that killed between 12 and 29 million Indians. These people were, he demonstrates, murdered by British state policy. When an El Niño drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau in 1876 there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent its export to England. In 1877 and 1878, at the height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4m hundredweight of wheat. As the peasants began to starve, officials were ordered “to discourage relief works in every possible way”. The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited “at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices”. The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. In the labour camps, the workers were given less food than inmates of Buchenwald. In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death rate of 94%.
    As millions died, the imperial government launched “a militarised campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought”. The money, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan. Even in places that had produced a crop surplus, the government’s export policies, like Stalin’s in Ukraine, manufactured hunger. In the north-western provinces, Oud and the Punjab, which had brought in record harvests in the preceeding three years, at least 1.25m died.

    I stand by my previous contention that a lot of Churchill’s animosity toward Gandhi had to do with how he was getting in the way of the Raj.

  61. says

    AlanWCan, thanks for the references above. Truly astounding.

    There is an interesting parallel between the general ignorance amongst Indians about the historical atrocities of the British during their colonization of India, and ignorance of what Gandhi really did and who he was. Gandhi in India is a demi-god (as if Indians did not have enough gods). Anyone with that last name is bound to win elections — never mind how tenuous the relationship with the man.

    My sincere apologies for the off-topic drift of this thread. It has been instructive.

  62. says

    This was posted on the Richard Dawkins Website:

    hello all,

    It may be a mistake, and I’ll not address, I think, whether what I “really need” is a “jolly good rogering,” but I will try to speak to the wrath raised against me here.

    The piece I wrote was initially somewhat longer, and the line about Dawkins was an attempt at a little playful humor that as it stands falls somewhat flat. One of Hitchens’s most infamous –and, in my opinion, remarkable and impressive–qualities is his contrarianism, something I mention in the piece, and there was a contrarian theme running through my piece that got somewhat lost when I cut it. In retrospect, I should have been more attendant to the shift in tone–I know Dawkins is a committed secular humanist, as am I (I have no pastor, as anyone who read the piece should have surmised), as, I’d argue, is Hitchens, though he often doesn’t get credited as such, and often himself earns the label of misanthrope. That line comes out rather mangled without appropriate context, and for that I apologize.

    Emily Condon