So, so tired of Christian Atheists


Here we go again, with more weird Christian bias from atheists.

You know, the first sentence is just fine — please do appreciated the culture and history of a place. Personally, I’m not at all fond of church bells, because I grew up near a church that insisted on playing those obnoxious electronic chimes every 15 minutes, and here in Morris some jerk insisted likewise that the local cemetery play ear-splitting hymns on their electronic carillon all day long (fortunately, no longer). It might be a matter of frequency, too, since the Catholic church 3 blocks away rings their bells every Sunday before mass, and that’s not a problem at all.

Dawkins begins to go off the rails with the second sentence. Why is he comparing church bells to “Allahu Akhbar”? 1) A better comparison would be with the adhan, or call to prayer, of an Islamic mosque. It’s not “aggressive-sounding” at all. It would drive me nuts if I had to hear it every day, but it’s analogous in every way to his church bells. 2) “Allahu Akhbar” just means “God is great”, a phrase you’ll hear all the time in Christian churches. It is awfully arrogant, but it’s exactly the same crap that goes on in the grand medieval building behind Dawkins. Just a different language and a different culture.

Which is why the third sentence is so disingenuously stupid. Exactly, Richard, it’s a matter of your cultural upbringing. What else would it be? This is nothing but a phony call-out to anti-Islamic sentiment.

But wait, his supporters say. He’s Just Asking a Question. Maybe he’s simply acknowledging the varieties of human experience and openly admitting that he has a preference shaped by his history? Read charitably, maybe he’s noting the similarities of these different cultures.

Nice try. Nope. He followed up with this:

“Allahu Akhbar” is anything but beautiful when it is heard just before a suicide bomb goes off…fine. Relevance? Do you really think the muezzin is urging all listeners to yank the cord on a suicide vest? It’s a call to prayer. Just like the ringing bells of a cathedral. Shall we make the point that the bells of Winchester cathedral are anything but beautiful when it is heard just before a priest yanks down the pants of a little boy? That “Onward Christian Soldiers” isn’t exactly about peace and love? Is it beautiful when Christian America thinks it would a great idea to nuke Mecca?

Talk show host Pat Campbell for WFLA-AM in Orlando, Florida asked the Colorado Republican Congressman Tom TancredoWikipedia’s W.svg how the country should respond if terrorists struck several U.S. cities with nuclear weapons; he responded, “Well, what if you said something like — if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites.” “You’re talking about bombing Mecca,” Campbell said. “Yeah,” Tancredo responded. The congressman later said he was “just throwing out some ideas” and that an “ultimate threat” might have to be met with an “ultimate response.” “What is near and dear to them? They’re willing to sacrifice everything in this world for the next one. What is the pressure point that would deter them from their murderous impulses?” the representative asked, his spokesman stressing he was only speaking hypothetically.

Wow. That sounds just like a Sam Harris hypothetical.

It’s really simply bigotry when you condemn followers of one faith for doing exactly what followers of another faith do, and equate going to a mosque to pray with murder.

Comments

  1. anbheal says

    I’ve worked in Istanbul, Cairo, Tunis, Tataouine, Marrakech, Fez, Azerbaijan, a few other Islamic towns. The sunset call to prayer is sooooo much more lilting and hypnotic than the sunrise version.

    Is this my cultural upbringing? No — simply my uncanny ability to find booze anywhere on Earth except Riyadh and Tehran.

    That 5AM shit is as bad as your Morris cemetery synth-pop.

  2. sparks says

    ‘Fraid you’re making a mountain out of a molehill here PZ. Dawkins is not a Xtian. The fact that he’s comparing the two items in your thesis simply means he’s trying to make a point, perhaps badly, that you missed. Then you’re off to a talk show originating in bloody FL?

    No.

  3. tulse says

    Or is that just my cultural upbringing?

    As someone on Twitter pointed out, this is being asked by a person famous for a notion about the cultural transmission of ideas.

    So yeah, Richard, it’s probably just a meme.

  4. kurt1 says

    Orthodox christians from the middle east say “Allahu Akhbar” as well. And
    what do US drone pilots yell before they blow up a wedding? Or an IDF soldier before he shoots to maim or kill a palestinian child?

  5. Marcelo says

    PZ in the post:

    Shall we make the point that the bells of Winchester cathedral are anything but beautiful when it is heard just before a priest yanks down the pants of a little boy?

    Bad example, PZ. Remember that according to Dick, child abuse by priests is nothing serious. It didn’t affect him personally when he was fondled, so nobody should complain about it.

  6. woozy says

    @2

    “Dawkins is not a Xtian.”

    Well, duh! But he’s a christian culture loving bigot and just as offensive as any bible thumper.

    “The fact that he’s comparing the two items in your thesis simply means he’s trying to make a point”

    What point? That church bells are objectively nicer than adhans? If so then he’s a stupid bigot. Or that cultural bias influences taste? If so, no shit sherlock! His an idiot for even considering that that isn’t bloody obvious.

    Either the “Or is that just my cultural upbringing?” is meant to be sarcastic, in which case he’s being incredibly both stupid and bigoted, or it was sincere in which case that he’d have to ask is jaw-droppingly astonishing; if so he has the self-objectivity of a toddler.

  7. sparks says

    @3: Listening to the lovely bells of Winchester, one of our great mediaeval cathedrals. So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding “Allahu Akhbar.” (While those yelling it are killing other humans)

    It is. (Much nicer to hear before dying in … fill in the blank with any example of extremist violence)

    @7: Well, hoy hoy. No need to answer that. Readily apparent that your mind is closed. Mic drop. No thanks.

  8. anbheal says

    @7 woozy — yeah, the “is it just my cultural upbringing?” cannot possibly be sincere, or else he really has dementia. I took its tone and placement as a deliberate thumbing of his nose, essentially baiting those Wacky SJWs to come out and give his mincing fanboys some red meat to chomp on in the comments section. In fact, the whole comment was a deliberately provocative Eton/Oxbridge bit of snarky Anglocentric elitism.

    Besides, the Germans and Austrians have the best religious music! None of that Masterpiece Theatre stiff British marching stuff holds a candle to the Bach and Beethoven and Brahms and Mozart at a Sunday Mass in Salzburg! (Not knocking Cambodian monastery music, mind you….jess sain,…..that backwards C-major scale that plays over and over and over again endlessly from British belltowers all day Sunday is just pompously pathetic).

  9. anbheal says

    The British battle cries as they murdered over 4.5 million Muslim civilians in WWI was “For God and England”, “God Save The King”, and “Holy Cross!” Not to mention the Crusades and Crimean and Afghanistan adventurism in various parts of their history. Killing Muslims while chanting to the Christian God has been a British specialty, for a thousand years.

    Muslims haven’t even scratched the surface of England’s expertise in invoking their deity while massacring innocents.

  10. says

    … he’s trying to make a point, perhaps badly, that you missed.

    Perhaps you could explain what that point was?

  11. anthrosciguy says

    When I was in rural Sumatra in the early 80s, the call to mosque floating in the air over the rice fields was quite beautiful.

  12. lotharloo says

    @Marcelo:

    I’m all for criticizing Dawkins but I truly hate this type of bullshit posts. Dawkins has never said “child abuse by priests is nothing serious.” That’s just silly, stupid, off the mark and it makes is sound as if most criticism of Dawkins is just vapid and strawman. I know what you are referring to, so I think you are trying to be funny and “fit in with the crowd”. Yawn. Do better.

  13. logicalcat says

    @Lotharloo

    Where’s the straw man? He did say that. In the book “The God Delusion”.

  14. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @LyleX (who quotes Sparks):

    … he’s trying to make a point, perhaps badly, that you missed.

    Perhaps you could explain what that point was?

    Well it’s quite clear from his follow up. In the initial tweet he’s claiming that when you compare these two particular things, one is more melodious. In the follow-up, he makes it plain that the two things that are to be distinguished by their musicality are Winchester’s bells and suicide bombers’ final, aggressive shouts.

    So rather incontrovertibly, Dawkins’ point is this:

    The final scream of a suicide bomber is just like the ringing of Winchester’s bells, save that Winchester’s bells harmonize better.

  15. logicalcat says

    @8 Sparks

    Mic drops are reserved for those who say something dope as fuck. You haven’t done that. Pick that shit back up or go home a failure.

  16. says

    Here’s (only the first verse, mind, of a) hymn we used to have to sing at Sunday Mass when I was a kid:

    Holy God, we praise thy name
    Lord of All, we bow before thee
    All on Earth thy sceptre own
    All in Heaven above adore thee
    Endless is thy vast domain
    Everlasting is thy reign

    Not like those nasty triumphalist Muslims, not at all, we hates them, precious 🙄. At least they’re pithy: “allahu akbar” gets the same point across in two words. Likewise, the shahada is two lines while the Nicene Creed is like a bloody software licence agreement…

  17. imthegenieicandoanything says

    His excellent mind just snapped, like in one day. One day, he was playing with the most dangerous of all weapons, Twitter, but saying witty and yet compassionate things, the next he was attacking “feminists” and gone from opposing the superstitions and stupidities of Islam, among other religions, and had become fully the anti-Islam bigot. And it was really like in only ONE day!

    There’s a lesson here, but whatever my sympathy to his current condition and thanks for his past work, the fact remains that he has become both an embarrassment and an enemy!

    Twitter, do NOT use it!

  18. imthegenieicandoanything says

    I can’t say I much like much of your current crowd of commenters, BTW. It was a mistake to log in and read what they had to spew. Backing Dawkins as he is now is saying that you’re proud to be an asshole.

    Outta here! Hands need washing.

  19. blf says

    (This is a reconstructed cross-post from Richard Dawkins continues to be an embarrassment at the I Have Forgiven Jesus blog here at FtB.)

    I’m inclined to think this bigot should listen to “Kyrie: Call to Prayer” (video (alternative audio, from the recording, which I recommend !)), from David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus: “A key moment in the conception of African Sanctus came at the beginning of Fanshawe’s 1969 journey, in Egypt. Sitting in a Christian church he heard the muezzin of a nearby mosque calling the faithful to prayer, and imagined this beautiful sound in counterpoint with Western choral harmony.”

    Disclaimer: I’ve met Mr Fanshawe (who sadly died eight years ago). Really nice guy.

  20. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @logicalcat:

    I think that the distinction lotharloo is making is that Dawkins clearly was saying that the abuse of a particular perpetrator wasn’t serious. He never ruled out the existence of serious abuse. The problem is that “Abuse is not serious” is easily and properly and straightforwardly interpretable in two ways that have very different meaning:

    Abuse is never serious
    Just because it’s abuse, doesn’t mean it must therefore always be serious.

    Your summation is perfectly accurate, because one straightforward meaning of what you said is #2, which was exactly Dawkins’ point. However, lotharloo feels you are being uncharitable because on the internet you didn’t write with sufficient precision to rule out meaning #1.

    The thing is that quite a lot of people misunderstood the critiques of Dawkins at the time. Even if his point was #2 (and I think it clearly was), why the fuck is he saying this? You could say this in order to make the point that someone doesn’t have to end up an unemployed heroin addict before qualifying for support services targeted to those who have been abused. In that case, you would be providing the same factual content (not all abuse is equally severe, and not all victims are equally affected), but doing so in a manner that is consistent with taking abuse seriously and working to end abuse, ameliorate its effects, or both.

    Dawkins’, however, not only spoke for himself, but in characterizing not merely his experience but rather the perpetrator’s abuse as non-severe he effectively characterized other persons’ experience of that perpetrator’s abuse. That was bullshit and deserved to get called out strongly – and did get called out strongly. But even more than this, the point of his statement wasn’t to take an inclusive and serious stance against all abuse. Rather, it was the opposite: Dawkins wanted to make sure we give ourselves the freedom not to take abuse seriously. He wasn’t actively opposed to taking abuse seriously, if in his judgement it was serious abuse. But he wanted a more tempered reaction. Less fuss. A weaker response. No automatic outrage against the perpetration of abuse.

    From the purpose to which his point was put, we can see that he’s downplaying the importance of fighting abuse. We can see that he doesn’t know anything about the idiosyncratic human response to abuse, where it’s easily possible for a behavior that seems the same in every observable respect to have immediate, horrible impact on one person, no serious impact on a second person, and serious but very delayed impact on a third. We can see that he hasn’t thought through the fact that it is impossible to reliably distinguish (in the period immediately after abuse is committed) those who respond like the second person from those who respond like the third.

    His argument was that we should put less emphasis on fighting abuse. Some people called this downplaying abuse. I think that’s a fair short summary. If you argue we shouldn’t fight abuse quite so hard or so quickly or so universally – and you’re not making a budgetary argument where, say, a dollar (or pound) spent fighting abuse prevents a dollar (or pound) from being used to vaccinate children or provide safe and nutritious food – then your communication is going to have the effect (whether you intended it to or not) of downplaying the seriousness of abuse as a social problem.

    There may be a subtle distinction to be made between “downplaying the importance of social responses to abuse” and “downplaying the importance of abuse as a social problem”, but Dawkins’ defenders by and large avoided this treacherous ground. Instead, they prioritized an argument that insisted that since Dawkins’ was referencing a specific abuser, he couldn’t possibly have been downplaying abuse in general, and that he was speaking from his own experience, so why can’t the people who believe that’s important just shut up and listen without criticizing?

    That failed to appreciate that he was papering over others’ experience and also that he wasn’t “only” telling a story. He was also advocating a particular adjustment to how we respond to disclosures of abuse. His advocacy, rather than his personal experience, is what downplayed the importance of responding to abuse.

    Of course, it also fit in very well with his Dear Muslima letter where he advocated that atheists and skeptics moderate their responses to feminist critiques. Though some would find it surprising, it actually further dovetails beautifully with his public exasperation that a small container of honey was taken from him when passing through an airport security point. Why should we be surprised that someone constantly dismissive of others’ concerns wants us to take his concerns seriously even when it’s a matter of a few ounces of honey? His view that – without ever working within or even academically studying the field of abuse response and prevention – his opinions on the matter are worth the time and attention of hundreds of thousands of people is perfectly in line with a self-centered personality that would believe the time and attention of hundreds of thousands of people should be properly spent commiserating with him on the sad loss of his bee vomit.

    Lotharloo’s criticism has an honest hook, and I’m sure is made in good faith, but it misses everything that’s important about what happened and why.

  21. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Cat Mara:

    Endless is thy vast domain

    This just made me laugh so hard. I’m imagining the lyricist scribbling furiously and then scratching things out with even more fury:

    Endless is thy four-acre plot in Leicestershire
    Endless is thy gated community
    Endless is thy yacht’s afterdeck
    Endless is thy small duchy
    Endless is thy pretty reasonably sized domain
    Ooo, I like that domain bit. What about
    Endless is thy Belarus-sized domain?

    No, too pedestrian. I need a larger version of endless. Wait, wait, that’s it!
    Endless is thy vast domain!

    That’s the ticket.

  22. cartomancer says

    Winchester Cathedral was built by Walkelin – a relative of renowned genocide fanatic William the Conqueror who was raised to the episcopacy as part of William’s programme to subdue the British Isles. It was completed three years after Pope Urban’s declaration of the First Crusade. Pretty much all the great Norman cathedrals of England are part of a conscious effort to Normanise the country and exert cultural as well as military power over the conquered Anglo-Saxons. Harrying of the North, Domesday Book, grand Cathedrals – these are the tools of the bloodiest and most contentious Regime Change England ever saw.

    Also, none of its bells are actually Mediaeval – most of the ones currently in place were cast in the 20th century, and none is earlier than the 17th.

  23. Porivil Sorrens says

    Dawkins is the living embodiment of the “Old Man yells at clouds” meme, except it’s like “Senile Biologist yells at muslims and feminists”

  24. pinguicula says

    Re electronic ‘bells’ played through a megaphone type loudspeaker: absolutely vile. At least 3 local churches play these including bell ‘tunes’ and insist on everybody in a mile or two radius listening also. Real bell have subjectively to my mind a quality that is pleasant, the same kind of pleasantness I feel when I hear for eg steel drums being played. The electronically produced sound via a heavily distorted loudspeaker is really, really nails down a chalkboard kind of horrible.

  25. aziraphale says

    During the Cold War it was understood that part of the mission of the US and UK retaliatory forces was to destroy Moscow. Why is threatening to destroy Mecca any worse? You could even give enough warning to allow evacuation, since the point is to destroy the site not the people.

  26. Porivil Sorrens says

    Uh, if you can’t see why it would be bad to nuke a significant cultural and population center for no actual tactical reason, I’m not sure anyone here has the training to help you.

  27. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @aziraphale:

    The mission to destroy Moscow was immoral. The mission of all of our nuclear weapons is immoral. The only conceivably moral use of an ICBM is to destroy the weapons of an aggressor, and if you use a nuclear warhead to do so, you’ve already lost your moral authority because the warhead will destroy far more than the aggressor’s weapons.

    Destroying Mecca is immoral in the same way and for the same reasons that the mass slaughter of an entire city is always immoral.

    Of course, you can make further distinctions if you wish. At least some portion of the actual military structure of the USSR was located in Moscow. Facilities, leaders, communications, and, yes, actual weapons belonging to the actual enemy army were all located within Moscow in measurable amounts.

    I’ve never seen any information that Mecca is the location of actual military bases belonging to terrorists or to the homes of actual terrorist leaders. So now you’re not only talking about a situation in which legitimate targets are less than 10% of the targets you’re intending to destroy (as would be the case in Moscow vis a vis a mission to destroy the USSR military), but you’re talking about a situation in which legitimate targets constitute ZERO% of the targets you’re intending to destroy.

    Some people would go on about how killing someone or destroying something because someone else will be emotionally impacted by the murder and destruction is a defining quality of terrorism, and so using that to justify destroying Mecca is by definition justifying terrorism. Some people would find great significance in the idea that dropping actual bombs on Saudi Arabia to kill actual residents of Saudi Arabia in order to deter someone living in Pakistan or Iran who happens to care about the mosques and people who live 1000 miles away from them is fundamentally different from dropping actual bombs on Moscow to kill actual Soviet military leaders residing in Moscow in order to injure the Soviet Military based in Moscow.

    me? I don’t give a fuck about that difference. Yeah, you could go on about it, but destroying a city full of people is ALWAYS sick, disgusting, immoral, and unjustified. Creating a hierarchy among the inherently sick, disgusting, immoral, and unjustified tactics we might use only creates the illusion that maybe there is an okay time to use those tactics, that despite being unjustified they might someday be justifiable, so let’s not rule out destroying a million human lives in an instant.

    To the extent that creating such hierarchies contributes to the possibility that we might consider destroying a million human lives a justifiable act of war, simply creating those distinctions and propping up those hierarchies are themselves immoral acts.

    I will not consider genocide as a potentially justifiable action we should bandy about intellectually. That. Will. Not. Happen.

  28. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    and Sergeant Ninja Porivil Sorrens decisively cuts to the heart of the matter while I’m dragging out my thesaurus.

  29. Walter Solomon says

    anbheal #9

    None of that Masterpiece Theatre stiff British marching stuff holds a candle to the Bach and Beethoven and Brahms and Mozart at a Sunday Mass in Salzburg!

    Obviously you’re ignoring what makes the British musical geniuses — stealing African-American rock ‘n roll and R & B and packaging it for a white audience.

  30. Porivil Sorrens says

    @31
    Nah, yours is good, I don’t really address the why of the matter.

    But like, for real, nuking any place ever is pretty fucking immoral if it’s not some bullshit trolley dillemma where you either nuke mecca or else a population bigger than the population of mecca dies.

    The cold war was also hot bullshit cock waving by politicians that nearly fucking ended to massive pointless loss of life on every side so idk why we’re appealing to it.

  31. Susan Montgomery says

    This asshole again? I’m tired of him – and those like him – trying to shoehorn “TEH MOOOZLIMZEZ DO IT WORSE!!!11!!” I honestly wonder that, if he chucks a recyclable into the trash can right next to it, he responds to anyone who calls him on it with “But the MUUUUZLIMSZ!!!11!!11! don’t not don’t recycle even less!”

  32. ragdish says

    Listening to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 Ode to Joy, one of our great historical musical pieces. So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding and nauseating “Anarchy in the U.K.” by the Sex Pistols. Or is that just my cultural upbringing?

    This not my view of course but there may be people who agree with this. It is not bigoted when comparing music from 2 different genres. Why is it bigotry when comparing hymns from 2 different faiths?

  33. rjw1 says

    anbheal @ 10

    Your last sentence is complete nonsense, there’s not much difference between the historical records of the two religions when the massacre of innocents is considered. What do you think happened during the 450 years before the Crusades? It’s a record of massacre and invasion by Muslims Read the history of he Muslim conquest of India or the Ottoman invasions of Eastern Europe. Have you heard of the slave raids by the Ottomans and Barbary pirates in Europe?

  34. Porivil Sorrens says

    And yet, with their early head start, Islam has just a mere fraction of the total deaths attributable to christianity.

    Islamists didn’t nuke 300k+ japanese civilians or kill 17 million untermensch.

  35. says

    I’ve only listened to Handel’s Messiah once. When they got to the part about “break them with an iron rod,” I about had a seizure. Will never listen to that again.

  36. colinday says

    @anbheal
    #10

    During the Crimean War, the British fought the Russians (and only the Russians) in alliance with France,
    Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire. Did the British kill their own allies?

    Or did you mean some other war?

  37. says

    It was the Romans and Persians fighting to exhaustion that helped allow the Arab conquests. Any bets religion had a part in that?

  38. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @ragdish:

    It is not bigoted when comparing music from 2 different genres. Why is it bigotry when comparing hymns from 2 different faiths?

    Don’t you read? Dawkins specifically said he was comparing the bells of Winchester to the dying shouts of suicide bombers.

    Why would these ever be compared? The obvious implication is that for muslims suicide bombing follows the cry Allahu akbar! the way that for white people in England community church services follow the clanging of church bells. The only questions remaining are, 1. what the fuck is that supposed to mean, and 2. is that intended to insult the English, the ummah, or both?

  39. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @robertbaden:

    Fair enough. Though I do smile when I hear the part about how all of us really like sheep.

  40. whheydt says

    The carrilon I’m most familiar with is the one in the Campanile (clock tower) in the middle of the UC Berkeley campus. There is usually about a 15 minute “noon concert” every day, except during finals week.

  41. whheydt says

    Re: Crip Dyke @ #42…
    Yes…I get a chuckle out of that. The problem, of course, was that Haydn’s grasp of English was kind of shaky, so the pacing and stress of the phrase isn’t quite what would one would expect for the intended meaning…

  42. Saad says

    Dawkins:

    My point is that “Allahu Akhbar” is anything but beautiful when it is heard just before a suicide bomb goes off.

    What an utterly non-point to make. Of fucking course it’s terrifying if it’s shouted before an explosion.

    But… I can’t even take a wild guess as to what a tiny, tiny percentage of Allahu Akbars uttered across the globe on a daily basis that use of the phrase is. So the question becomes, why is he comparing church bells to that very, very, very rare utterance of the phrase. When he should be comparing something like “god hates f**s” to it instead.

  43. says

    I have travelled in Iran and heard the sound of the call to prayer from a hilltop above a small village over 80km out in the desert. Far more melodious than Winchester’s bells and definitely nothing like a crazed suicide bomber screaming Allahu Akbar. As for the idea of bombing Mecca in retaliation for a terrorist attack a substantial portion of the world’s Muslim population are not happy about the regime in control of that and other holy sites and wish they were gone. Nuking the place is not a solution. That would only antagonise a whole lot of Muslims who definitely don’t support terrorism of any kind. America manufactures enough of its enemies as it is without adding a few hundred million more.

  44. John Morales says

    Heh. He clearly is under the impression that Christianity is somehow less bad than Islam, the historical record notwithstanding.

    Also, Dawkins is a self-professed cultural Christian.
    He likes the form, just not the substance. Or something.

    PS “never send to know for whom the bells tolls”…
    –Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, “Meditation XVII” — John Donne

  45. John Morales says

    lotharloo @13:

    @Marcelo:

    I’m all for criticizing Dawkins but I truly hate this type of bullshit posts. Dawkins has never said “child abuse by priests is nothing serious.” That’s just silly, stupid, off the mark and it makes is sound as if most criticism of Dawkins is just vapid and strawman. I know what you are referring to, so I think you are trying to be funny and “fit in with the crowd”. Yawn. Do better.

    Technically true; why gild the lily?

    He wrote “I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today”, and he wrote “Thank goodness, I have never personally experienced what it is like to believe – really and truly and deeply believe ­– in hell. But I think it can be plausibly argued that such a deeply held belief might cause a child more long-lasting mental trauma than the temporary embarrassment of mild physical abuse.”

    (My quotations are actual quotations, BTW)

  46. rjw1 says

    So, Prof. Dawkins is a bigot because he’s more comfortable with his own culture? Drivel.

    It follows that any woman covering herself from head to toe is a bigot as well, doesn’t it?

    Is there a prize for making the most illogical virtue-signalling statement?

  47. Porivil Sorrens says

    Because everything happens in a vacuum and dogwhistles don’t exist.

    Prof Dawkins was an Islamophobic bigot prior to this. This is merely him pandering to his base of fellow Islamophobic bigots.

  48. John Morales says

    rjw1:

    So, Prof. Dawkins is a bigot because he’s more comfortable with his own culture? Drivel.

    <snicker>

    No, he wrote “So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding “Allahu Akhbar.” Or is that just my cultural upbringing?”.

    He didn’t claim he found it more comfortable, he claimed he found it nicer, and wondered whether that might be his acculturation.

    It follows that any woman covering herself from head to toe is a bigot as well, doesn’t it?

    Not even slightly.

    Is there a prize for making the most illogical virtue-signalling statement?

    :)

    (Grats on your big-time win!)

  49. unclefrogy says

    @35
    well that depends a lot on how you do it I would think.
    I am not aware of much the religious music islamic countries but I am slightly more aware of “Persian classical music” however and while it is indeed different from western classical music it is no less sublime.
    If you are talking about your own personal taste OK that is one thing if you are saying it is no good and not even music and denigrate on the basis of who makes it that is another.
    I personally do not like punk rock, or rap and hip hop much but that don’t make me right for everyone else nor would I expect it to.
    liking one kind of music and criticizing an other strays close to bigotry it is really a personal prejudice in the end even with intellectual justifications.
    uncle frogy

  50. Rob Grigjanis says

    anbheal @10:

    The British battle cries as they murdered over 4.5 million Muslim civilians in WWI…

    Where did you pull this from?

    “Holy Cross!”

    Well, I’ve read that the Saxons used that at the Battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings, but I don’t think Harald Hardrada or William had many Muslims in their armies.

  51. Saad says

    rjw1, #49

    So, Prof. Dawkins is a bigot because he’s more comfortable with his own culture?

    There are several reasons why he is a bigot but in this case it’s because he’s comparing church bells to those instances of Allahu Akbar that are uttered before an attack on civilians instead of Allahu Akbar as it appears in the call to prayer. What is his motivation for making this ridiculous comparison?

  52. Artor says

    Rob @53
    “Holy Cross!”
    Well, I’ve read that the Saxons used that at the Battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings, but I don’t think Harald Hardrada or William had many Muslims in their armies.

    Nice to know you don’t consider it violence and murder when Xians slaughter other Xians. Were you trying to make a point?

  53. wzrd1 says

    Doc, I’ll say one simple thing.
    Church bells, call to prayer, the dog farting on schedule all share one thing that I didn’t mind and ignored the piss out of the rest (having lived a few hundred yards from a church for over 20 years and lived a similar distance from an Islamic school for five years), each to its time.
    I literally didn’t have to wear nor look at my watch. I knew what time it was from the noise and when off working or work/sleep cycle concerning hours, I ignored it.

    At some point in life, one has to learn to ignore minor annoyances and concern oneself with annoyances one can either warn about or personally address.
    This one, on a multiple guess question is, “None of the above”.
    Just a tidbit of advice from someone junior to you.

    Live and let live is good in some areas, love and just fuckit is far better in some areas as well, be an unmovable object against irresistible force, not a grand idea. If it came to that, let me know. I’m a bit better at that, but then, don’t object to my methods. It’d be Special Circumstances conditions. ;)

  54. Rob Grigjanis says

    Artor @55:

    Nice to know you don’t consider it violence and murder when Xians slaughter other Xians

    How the fuck do you get that from my comment?

    The point is that the battle cry was used about 950 years before WWI, and not since then, AFAIK.

  55. nomdeplume says

    Look, I get that Dawkins expressed himself clumsily. You can see what he thought he meant, but it would have been better left as a private thought, not dumped onto the interwebs. But seriously, with so many bad people in the world, does Richard Dawkins really deserve the out-pouring of hate in this post and comment thread? Seriously?

  56. John Morales says

    nomdeplume,

    But seriously, with so many bad people in the world, does Richard Dawkins really deserve the out-pouring of hate in this post and comment thread?

    To what hate do you refer?

    (Also, you’re suggesting that if there were not so many bad people in the world, then this purported hate would indeed be merited. Which indicates you think hatefulness is relative)

  57. Porivil Sorrens says

    @60
    Unequivocally, yes. Old bigoted white dudes deserve criticism and scorn.

  58. says

    Dawkins is playing two games at the same time, and the “arguments” from his fans prove it.
    Game one, he’s saying that the church bells sound nicer than something said before an act of terrorism. That’s like, duh, dude, what?
    I mean, if I said “lying on a beach in Florida is nicer than having a wisdom tooth extracted without anaesthesia in California”, that would be kind f the same comparing apples to bricks nonsense, but probably nobody would disagree.
    Game two, he’s comparing the prayer calls (while still having some plausible deniability, see game one), claiming that the muslim prayer call is inherently aggressive and the christian one nicer.
    That#s the Islamophobic dog whistle here.
    This is why, nomdeplum, Dawkins deserves the scorn. He and folks like Harris et. al. have no small part in making the racism and nationalism you currently see “salonfähig*”.

    *Alas, English is lacking. To make something “salonfähig” means to make something presentable and fit for the upper class dining room. 10 years ago a lot of opinions that were considered far right have now become mainstream.

  59. madtom1999 says

    And yet if you ask the heavily Christian Spanish what they think of Flamenco, a very very solidy arab influenced sound many will tell you they adore it.
    After someone tried to teach me flamenco guitar I was amazed how the muezzins calls went from wail to music.

    As for church bells – the way they are made means the harmonics they create will always create some sort of clash – even if they are perfectly tuned.

  60. alixmo says

    Dawkins is doing “atheism” no favour. I already see the the leftist (I am one) crowd gleefully read out his Islamophobic, double-standard Twitter statement as proof that “all atheists are stupid bigots”. You know, because Dawkins the alleged “great leader” is one, all atheists are.

    And all the negative aspects that religions have (all of them, but to different degrees varying with the denomination; the Church of Sweden poses little problems to a modern, democratic society and Human Rights) are getting utterly ignored. As usual.

    And Dawkins is really just gunning for Islam!

    I personally find it fair enough to point out problems with any religion, including Islam. No, I even see the necessity! But statements that make every person who adheres to a religion into potential criminals are more than dubious.

    And to point only to one religion (Islam) when there is lots to “hate” about the Catholic Church is showing that Dawkins lacks all objectivity.

    Here are some issues that Dawkins should bring up against the Vatican, just for a change: The treatment of women as “equal but different” (defining women by their biology), condemning and forbidding CONTRACEPTIVES – not only abortions – and sex education; canvassing countries in the Global South with their anti-women, anti-contraceptives doctrine.

    The same goes for Evangelicals.

  61. alixmo says

    Today in the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/jul/13/destroyed-girl-she-was-toll-pregnancy-paraguay-children A must read.

    Why did Dawkins not use this to “shoehorn in” some criticism of the Catholic Church and Evangelicals? The article gives many opportunities for doing so. For example:

    “Abortion comes from a lack of care of the person … we need greater care in the family,” he said. But Florencia has little patience for the bishops, priests and pastors who regularly come knocking. “They say that women are for giving birth – that everything that comes from God is meant to be so,” said Florencia. “They say, the baby is fine. Her mother is fine. They look fine. But on the inside? They don’t think about that. These people from the church are terrible.” Florencia is determined to speak out for other child mothers. “If I have to shout it in the streets, I will. Because this has to stop.” End of quote (So sorry, I forgot how to do the blockquote…)

  62. lotharloo says

    @23: I’m not sure what you are referring to. But the argument I strongly objected to was this:

    “Remember that according to Dick, child abuse by priests is nothing serious. It didn’t affect him personally when he was fondled, so nobody should complain about it.”

    It’s really a simple point: I think that’s a massively strawman argument that should be called out and I think if such a massively strawman argument was used against someone we like like Rebecca Watson, PZ, etc. there would be multiple people condemning the poster here but since it’s against someone we don’t like, it just passes.

    @John Morales

    See above.

    And regarding what you quoted, the point is that true belief in hell can cause psychological issues (and I remember back then, when I was active/reading his website’s forums, that there were multiple people who talked about traumas caused in their lives due to that belief so there is evidence that true belief in hell can be traumatic). However, since hell is a religious concept, spreading the belief in hell specially in children does not get any condemnation and it is not even discouraged by laws. You are legally free to torture kids by subjecting to such harsh imagery as long as you can use the “religious freedom” card, specially if your religion is the dominant religion. The point is ultimately about the ridiculous privilege of religion and harmful religious beliefs. Whether or not Dawkins managed to convey this point perfectly, this is the point that is brought up by the particular quotation and the various criticism of Dawkins that I read on this particular quotation seem to stem from the fact that now we are supposed to not like anything he had to say so any weak sauce criticism of him is allowed to pass.

  63. rjw1 says

    John Morales @ 51

    “Not even slightly”

    Why not, even slightly. The hypothetical woman obviously rejects Western culture, by your reasoning.
    You obviously don’t understand the term “virtue signalling” or you’re trying to be a smart arse. You’re 50% successful.

  64. rrhain says

    So if I am understanding correctly, the tweet boils down to:

    Old white man complains about music he doesn’t get.

    Do I have it right?

  65. John Morales says

    lotharloo:

    And regarding what you quoted, the point is that true belief in hell can cause psychological issues (and I remember back then, when I was active/reading his website’s forums, that there were multiple people who talked about traumas caused in their lives due to that belief so there is evidence that true belief in hell can be traumatic). However, since hell is a religious concept, spreading the belief in hell specially in children does not get any condemnation and it is not even discouraged by laws. You are legally free to torture kids by subjecting to such harsh imagery as long as you can use the “religious freedom” card, specially if your religion is the dominant religion. The point is ultimately about the ridiculous privilege of religion and harmful religious beliefs.

    So, I can read his words, and I can read your exegesis.

    Whether or not Dawkins managed to convey this point perfectly, this is the point that is brought up by the particular quotation and the various criticism of Dawkins that I read on this particular quotation seem to stem from the fact that now we are supposed to not like anything he had to say so any weak sauce criticism of him is allowed to pass.

    So, as you see it, it’s got nothing to do with his comparison of the relative harms of child indoctrination vs child diddling.

    But kudos for not letting such weak sauce criticism of him pass, O Defender of the Dawk.

    (None shall pass!)

  66. John Morales says

    rjw1#68, you’re funny.

    Why not, even slightly. The hypothetical woman obviously rejects Western culture, by your reasoning.

    You’re the one who claimed a logical entailment, yet you make no case.

    But fine, you claim that any woman who covers herself from head to toe is perforce a rejector of Western culture. A very perspicacious observation, you must be proud.

    PS By my reasoning? I didn’t offer any reasoning, just listed facts.

    (heh)

  67. says

    Crip Dyke @24: Lol, who knew hymn writers wrote real estate blurb on the side? “For sale or to let: vast domain, would suit monolithic or triune Deity with incarnate Person, all modern conveniences, four fundamental forces, close to the shops.”

    If we are comparing apples with apples, I wonder which Professor Dawkins would prefer to hear (please tick one):
    □ Allahu Akbar!
    □ Deus Vult!

    Neither seems particularly palatable to me somehow…

    And the Dawkstans clutching pearls at the incivility (hee!) on show here were obviously not here for the Dark Days of the Rancid Porcupine™ (surreptitiously kicks stray quill under the rug)

  68. lumipuna says

    I’m generally very intolerant of noise, possibly because of my cultural upbringing in Finland where peace and quiet is quite highly valued. There’s only one church within hearing distance of my home, that plays a decent electronic replica of real bells on late Sunday mornings. A bigger nuisance is the ice cream truck, which spends much of the Friday evening playing a loud garish tune under people’s windows. Talk about aggressive prayer call.

  69. richardemmanuel says

    Hello, I’m @ the zoo. In the room. There’s an animal with a long nose. I’ve forgotten what it’s called, but I bet it would never forget! You wouldn’t want to be trampled by an elephant – terrifying!’ (I knew it was an elephant – all along!)

  70. lotharloo says

    @John Morales:

    So, as you see it, it’s got nothing to do with his comparison of the relative harms of child indoctrination vs child diddling.

    Whatever. I’m least interested in debating with you since you pretty much want to avoid the discussion and simply harm outrage points. The point is not about comparison but about contrasting: sexual/physical abuse of children is illegal while trauma causing religious indoctrination through concept of hell and eternal torture is not. I agree that if you want to contrast these two, it might give the impression that you are downplaying the former while trying drum up the effects of the latter. Dawkins approach was to try to compare “mild physical abuse” to “extreme hellish indoctrination” and to say that the latter is more harmful. It’s a point that can be made differently, and it’s not the best approach, specially against someone who is looking to score “outrage” points, like yourself, as they will have little trouble farming their points and claim that “Aha! Mr Dawkins, how dare you say child abuse is okay?”

  71. call me mark says

    How exactly did Dick the Dawk get to “all religions are evil but some are more evil than others”?

    His “cultural christianity” bullshit just doesn’t wash. I was brought up in a firmly CofE background, even going to a church school until I was about 8 or 9, and I don’t labour under the misapprehension that Xianity is any less malign than any other religion.

    And quite frankly neither did Dawk himself until relatively recently; when he found it profitable to start dog-whistling to the deplorables.

    And oh look, I’ve answered my own first question.

  72. John Morales says

    lotharloo:

    The point is not about comparison but about contrasting: sexual/physical abuse of children is illegal while trauma causing religious indoctrination through concept of hell and eternal torture is not.

    Mm-hmm.

    Dawkins approach was to try to compare “mild physical abuse” to “extreme hellish indoctrination” and to say that the latter is more harmful.

    No; he said that he thinks that it can be plausibly argued that such a deeply held belief might cause a child more long-lasting mental trauma than the temporary embarrassment of mild physical abuse.

    Three levels of qualification!

    Not quite as bad as his more muddled claim (and I again quote, my emphasis):
    “I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today”.

    (I can’t find it in me to do what I would do today, either. Life is tough!)

    It’s a point that can be made differently, and it’s not the best approach, specially against someone who is looking to score “outrage” points, like yourself, as they will have little trouble farming their points and claim that “Aha! Mr Dawkins, how dare you say child abuse is okay?”

    Outrage?

    Seems to me that you are the one who seems outraged.

    To be fair, I reckon he means well. He’s a product of his time — but hey, I think it might be plausibly argued that he might actually rethink his stances before he fully succumbs to decrepitude. So there’s that.

  73. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @79:

    I think it might be plausibly argued that he might actually rethink his stances before he fully succumbs to decrepitude.

    ʾIn shāʾa llāh

  74. petesh says

    @62: Sergeant Ninja Porivil Sorrens [per Dr Professor Crip Dyke]

    Old bigoted white dudes deserve criticism and scorn.

    Speaking as an old white dude, right on! If I say or do something bigoted, criticize and scorn me, dammit, I can take it! [curls into fetal position]

  75. raaak says

    lovely bells of Winchester, one of our great mediaeval cathedrals

    What does he mean by “our”, exactly? Can’t a Muslim (or an atheist from a Muslim majority country) enjoy church bells or amire its beauty and architecture? I dare say it is -God forbid- even possible that such a persion finds themselves in agreement with the good professor over the enjoyability of sounds of different prayers!

    By inserting “our” in that sentence, Dawkins slyly points out that it is not “yours”. I don’t know what kind of division he has in mind but I can easily guess.

  76. KG says

    Holy fuck. Someone actually used “virtue-signalling” unironically? – Tabby Lavalamp@59

    Yes – it’s called “idiocy-signalling”.

  77. Daniel Dunér says

    @23, Crip Dyke. Thank you for your clarity, your write-up helped me sort out my thoughts on the topic.

  78. woozy says

    <

    blockquote>
    @17: Gravity. I’ll drop the mic anytime I like. Fuck your fail.

    <\blockquote>

    My God, you are an idiot!

  79. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Daniel Dunér:

    Anytime! Glad it was useful.

    @John Morales:

    To be fair, I reckon he means well.

    Yep. The vast majority of people mean well the vast majority of the time, and Dawkins’ could easily be more consistently well-meaning than most. I never thought that the problem with Dawkins is that he consciously, subjectively desires harm (mild or otherwise) to be inflicted on other people. Like all of us, he’s largely ignorant of huge areas of human endeavor. His biggest problem seems to lie in confusing his point of view with a neutral/unbiased point of view. After decades of being told that his thoughts are important (as an educated, wealthy white guy repeatedly featured as a public speaker must necessarily be told), it’s understandable.

    But of course (as I’m sure you’ll agree), being understandable is very different from being benign or helpful. I think it’s likely to be too late in his life for Dawkins to learn the standpoint humility necessary to prevent these types of fuckups in the future. Still, we have to counter his bad statements for the benefit of everyone else who might be exposed to them.

  80. consciousness razor says

    Crip Dyke:

    I never thought that the problem with Dawkins is that he consciously, subjectively desires harm (mild or otherwise) to be inflicted on other people.

    Then I guess we’ve had different thoughts. To be fair and for the record, I don’t know him personally. But he’s always seemed to me to be rather sharp, abrasive, sometimes downright mean…. It may go unnoticed now and then, because he’s this upper crust British gentlemen, who’s trained to make his insults and such sound almost polite or civil or at the very least erudite. But that doesn’t really change what he’s doing.

    He has been on something of a crusade for the last few decades, and while he may rationalize it to himself as breaking a few eggs to make an omelette or whatever, that would still mean he is (at minimum) conscious of the fact that he’s breaking eggs. Not so different from Hitchens, I guess. Dawkins tended to be a little more circumspect about it in some cases, but he still had just as much zeal about “fighting for the cause” and just as little regard for the welfare of the people he considered his enemies (creationists, anti-science types, etc.).

    Maybe you’d even agree what I just said, but you’d want to say it isn’t “the problem with Dawkins”….

    Like all of us, he’s largely ignorant of huge areas of human endeavor.

    You’re giving him too much credit. And you’re probably underestimating just how ignorant an old, distinguished Oxford professor is. Note that it seems to have gotten worse over the years, which doesn’t fit very comfortably with the ignorance hypothesis (at least not without additional explanations that will complicate your story). Is it really like he used to know more about these huge areas of human endeavor but now he doesn’t? I think it’s more like he’s become radicalized over the course of his battles against creationists and such. He probably doesn’t know a whole lot less than when he started.

  81. consciousness razor says

    he’s this upper crust British gentlemen,

    That’s supposed to be “gentleman,” obviously. I guess we got lucky that there’s only one of him.

  82. blf says

    I guess we got lucky that there’s only one of him.

    Not exactly, claims the mildly deranged penguin. There’s some stone-age cloning vats under (coincidently (supposedly)) Hadrian’s Wall which has been churning out “crusty”-types for eons. Originally, “crusty” as in “covered in dried mud”, but the output tends to be tuned to the times. So back then the product tended to be brutish mud-bathing clonk-a-woman-on-the-head “alpha”-males, in more recent times the product tends to be british mouthing-off chuck-mooslins-outta-here privileged males.

  83. raaak says

    @89,

    It is hard for me too, to give him benefit of the doubt when he cherishes our (meaning who? non-Muslim Brittons?) beautfiul catherdrals.

    Enjoying music is not a purely cultural exercise. A five-time-per-day-prayer-saying Muslim is allowed to like the sound of the church bells more than Adhan! A Muslim can agree that an Arabic chant sounds more aggressive and still remain a Muslim. Aren’t there a million jokes about how harsh the German language sounds to non-Germans? Does it mean that no one is capable of enjoying German unless it is their mother tongue?

    The connotaion of immutablility of cultre in his tweet is by far the worst problem I can see here. He has actually provoked people to respond to him by tweeting musical forms of Islamic prayer. Why? Are we holding a religions got talent contest now?

    In a single tweet, he has managed to use his celebrity status and his influence to both dumb us all down and to help push a culturalist (and ultimately racist) notion of human behavior.

  84. raaak says

    Re-posting. So manny typos in the previous comment!
    @89:

    It is hard for me too, to give him benefit of the doubt when he cherishes our (meaning who? non-Muslim Britons?) beautiful cathedrals.

    Enjoying music is not a purely cultural exercise. A five-time-per-day-prayer-saying Muslim is allowed to like the sound of the church bells more than Adhan! A Muslim can agree that an Arabic chant sounds more aggressive and still remain a Muslim. Aren’t there a million jokes about how harsh the German language sounds to non-Germans? Does it mean that no one is capable of enjoying German unless it is their mother tongue?

    The connotation of immutability of culture in his tweet is by far the worst problem I can see here. He has actually provoked people to respond to him by tweeting musical forms of Islamic prayer. Why? Are we holding a religions got talent contest now?

    In a single tweet, he has managed to use his celebrity status and his influence to both dumb us all down and to help push a culturalist (and ultimately racist) notion of human behavior.

  85. consciousness razor says

    It’s not even about what he likes or doesn’t like. Let’s suppose we should disregard the fact that suicide bombers aren’t doing musical performances, and let’s imagine that what he meant to talk about (but in fact didn’t) was the “aggressiveness” of two specific forms of sacred music, in Islam and Christianity.

    Maybe he likes aggressiveness in his music — some people do, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with that. But he doesn’t. Fair enough. Even so, it’s not obvious what the fuck he would’ve thought he was talking about, if he had thought he was actually talking about the music. On the one hand, you have a big hunk metal hammering another big hunk of metal, typically loud enough to be heard for miles (i.e., “church bells”). That is the performance. Musically, it will be the same old thing, day in and day out, as it has been for centuries — not just “like clockwork” because often it literally is clockwork. It will not be reimagined or reinterpreted — if the stale establishment had a sound, and if it could be pounded so aggressively and incessantly as to make it practically inescapable, that is probably what it would be like.

    On the other hand, well, the adhan is not nearly as in-your-face, even when it’s blasted out of a loudspeaker. The music is very traditional, but at least a bit of variation is guaranteed in the process (when they’re not pre-recorded). You can ask whether you like it or not, if that question matters to you — but well, you may not exactly know just yet, because it has the potential to be a fresh experience, which you could definitely share with another actual human being who’s actually communicating with you at the same time. Anyway, what you hear is a person singing, very beautifully in all of the cases I’ve heard. To me, it usually seems rather melancholy, not even close to aggressive … maybe I just haven’t heard it accompanied by a suicide bombing? But no, that doesn’t even make any fucking sense.

    I’m sure Dawkins knows he was full of shit, when simply attempting to describe the sounds he and everybody else can hear. Hence the retraction in the second tweet, about how hauntingly beautiful it can be. But he didn’t really care to have that conversation anyway, not really. I guess he thought his bigotry would sound more respectable or dignified, if it was presented as some kind of sophisticated judgement about something culturally significant or interesting (music), which seems to have no relation whatsoever to religious violence/conflict. Since he rather transparently didn’t know or care about the music to begin with, it’s not clear why he even bothered to go there … it probably doesn’t matter much to his core audience either. Doesn’t honesty mean something to you, Richard, and if so, why not just spew your hate openly? What’s the fucking point of all this maneuvering? That’s all they really wanted from you anyway. And everybody’s going to be seriously fucking confused if you start acting like your the host of Masterpiece Theatre or some shit. You’re a fucking biologist, a writer, a speaker, and a lot of other things, but not that.

  86. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @consciousness razor:

    I never thought that the problem with Dawkins is that he consciously, subjectively desires harm (mild or otherwise) to be inflicted on other people.

    Then I guess we’ve had different thoughts. To be fair and for the record, I don’t know him personally. But he’s always seemed to me to be rather sharp, abrasive, sometimes downright mean….

    I don’t remember ever listening to him speak. I’ve read him – a couple of books and random things online – but never heard him speak, so without tone of voice & other cues, I guess I’m just defaulting to benefit of the doubt. Blast me for my overly-generous naïveté if you wish: it is what I’m known for around here, after all. But once you’re done, let me assure you that I haven’t been considering that “the problem with Dawkins” more for lack of evidence than because of evidence against.

    As for agreeing with what you said about at least being conscious of breaking (and willing to break) a few eggs to make his atheist/secular omelette, I certainly do. On the other hand, I think it’s subtly different to be willing to cause harms if necessary to prevent greater harms than to be consciously, subjectively desiring harm to come to others. I think he’s indifferent to a lot of harm and dismissive of a lot of harm, I just stop short of saying that he actively/consciously wants harm to be done.

    Like all of us, he’s largely ignorant of huge areas of human endeavor.

    You’re giving him too much credit. And you’re probably underestimating just how ignorant an old, distinguished Oxford professor is.

    Maybe. I don’t think so, though. There are entire enterprises of which I haven’t the slightest awareness that they even exist. I don’t think I’m less ignorant than anyone else on the planet, not least because that would be hard to judge. Would we just add up all the bits of information each person’s memory contains and the one with the most bits of information is therefore the least ignorant of all the other information?

    No, he has information at his fingertips. If you want to compare him unfavorably to you or me I would say it’s not on the scale of ignorance<===>information where we do better. Rather, I think that it’s a MASSIVE lack of self-awareness that clearly distinguishes Dawkins from us here. He’s the kind of person for whom the Fundamental Attribution Error is a bosom companion. His “insights” positively reek of availability heuristic. He defines his standpoint as informed and unbiased while assuming that any differences in others’ conclusions must come from deficiencies in education or excesses of invidious bias.

    In short? He’s full of crap. But it’s not because he’s simply less informed. I have no reason to think he knows fewer facts than I do. I can’t easily categorize him as “more ignorant” in a general way (though I certainly can on individual topics). No, his terrible statements come largely from a self-centered arrogance. In the Paleogene or thereabouts people used to say that “What is good for General Motors is good for the US and what is good for the US is good for General Motors”. Dawkins’ arrogant standpoint is similar. He seems to believe that what is good for Dawkins is good for the UK (or maybe the world) and other communities where he counts himself a member, and that what is good for the UK and atheism and his other communities is good for Dawkins.

    His is a particularly glaring bit of idiocy, but I can’t assume that I embrace fewer bits of idiocy.

    Note that it seems to have gotten worse over the years, which doesn’t fit very comfortably with the ignorance hypothesis (at least not without additional explanations that will complicate your story).

    Only if you misunderstand my explanation. I mention in passing that he’s ignorant, but the ignorance itself isn’t the problem. To quote myself:

    Like all of us, he’s largely ignorant of huge areas of human endeavor. His biggest problem seems to lie in confusing his point of view with a neutral/unbiased point of view.

    Emphasis added.

    I guess what i must have been trying to articulate is that if he really was an expert in everything then it wouldn’t be a problem that he always thinks his point of view is reasonable and that conclusions that differ from his are by definition unreasonable. If he had feminism down as cold as Audre Lorde or Maxine Hong Kingston, then even if he were arrogantly self-centered in thinking his position on feminism was the one true position on feminism, he wouldn’t cause nearly as much damage.

    But combine the fundamental problem – his arrogant, self-centered view that his own standpoint is the informed and reasonable one, and therefore that all others are wrong because of lack of information or because of unreason – with the fact that his standpoint isn’t really any better informed than anyone else’s, and you get a red hot mess.

    I suppose bringing up the ignorance bit just confused this issue, but I really didn’t mean that the ignorance was the fundamental problem.

    In short, I think we may agree more than it first appeared.

  87. Mrdead Inmypocket says

    My point is that “Allahu Akhbar” is anything but beautiful when it is heard just before a suicide bomb goes off. -RD

    Way back in the day there was a term one used in the military “HUA”. Depending on the branch you were in or even the outfit you were in, it was pronounced Hoo-ah, oo-rah, or something similar. Back then it meant “heard, understood, acknowledged”. Later it took on more meaning, eventually it could mean almost anything except to respond in the negative. It became a way to express high motivation, a way to instill morale, confidence, or a feeling of success, among many other things.

    (I’m tipping my hand here, being deliberately vague because I don’t like telling stories about some aspects of my life.) Reading Dawkins’ sentence quoted above made me recall the last time I heard HUA. It was over a decade ago, I was on a tour and we met with a few drone pilots who were exiting their daily briefing. They weren’t strapping suicide vests to themselves, but the connotation in their HUA utterance was unmistakable and recognizable. HUA was hauntingly beautiful to me in my youth, it meant camaraderie among other things, but it tends to instill dread in my heart now. It was during that tour I realized that HUA was our own secular version of “Allahu Akhbar”. I wonder now was it always such and I have changed, or had the term become that over time. Probably the former.

    Or is that just my cultural upbringing?

    Can’t tell if that’s said with irony or not, doesn’t matter. Clearly it is his cultural upbringing. If he were born in a Muslim country he might see it differently. Muslim Richard might argue, just as wrongly, that “Hoo-ah is anything but beautiful when it is heard just before a drone missile explodes at a wedding”. Or by the same rationale he could argue that “listening to the call to prayer is so much nicer than the aggressive-sounding “Hoo-ah”. But he’s not Muslim so Richard might find a brisk “hoo-ah!” from some strapping young lads sitting down for a shift behind a cruise missile console uplifting, he’s not likely to state it’s tragic when secularism is hijacked by violence.

    WARNING EXPLICIT CONTENT IN FOLLOWING LINK.
    As an aside, the term has also become more common outside of military jargon. For example, if you listen closely you can hear THIS officer exclaim “booyah” at 01:26 after they shoot a homeless man to death. It’s a derivation of the same expression.

    In closing I’d like to propose, for purposes of brevity, accuracy and using Richard’s comments to bolster my suggestion, that twitter users be henceforth referred to as “Twits”. Just putting that out there.

  88. rq says

    CD

    Blast me for my overly-generous naïveté if you wish: it is what I’m known for around here, after all.

    I’m not going to blast you, but I will overstep the tenets of my faith towards you and say that, in this case, I lean towards agreeing with consciousness razor. I did see Dawkins speak, once, and I don’t think I ever will again. The black woman sitting near me finally gave up and left when he started talking about the benefits of eugenics – not that eugenics, the good eugenics, of course (as one example that I remember, this was a few years ago)! That’s maybe not enough to say he’s actively seeking harm to others, but it was quite clear his desire to cause reactions of some kind was intentional, never mind what those reactions actually were. Maybe that’s just him, in your words, “willing to cause harms if necessary to prevent greater harms”, although in a forum about evolution and biology, I’m not entirely sure how that fits in, since another part of his lecture was focussed on eliminating Women’s Studies as a too broad and unspecific field of study. Yes, evolution and biology.

    Anyway. I rather think it would be nice to go out suddenly and unexpectedly with the thought “My, that’s a nice hymn!” in my head, because I don’t think I’d have time to realize this is a protestant terrorist before the bomb goes off, unless xe is planning on singing all the way down to the last line of the last verse.

  89. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @rq:

    The black woman sitting near me finally gave up and left when he started talking about the benefits of eugenics – not that eugenics, the good eugenics, of course (as one example that I remember, this was a few years ago)!

    Holy Freud, really? I would have walked out as well. Thanks for letting me know all this, rq. I really do appreciate the info and your perspective on it.

    I also value your dragon sketches, but that’s another matter.

  90. consciousness razor says

    Crip Dyke, #96:

    Rather, I think that it’s a MASSIVE lack of self-awareness that clearly distinguishes Dawkins from us here.

    Alright, but there’s also the raging Islamophobia, for one thing. I suppose if I did lack enough self-awareness, then I might unwittingly be a crypto-Islamophobe myself, but I’m pretty sure that’s a very salient distinction to make here. If we’re going to try to do this thing properly, I’d want a full accounting of that….

    Put simply, I don’t think his moral failures are purely due to epistemic failures, as you seem to be suggesting. Like a normal person, he’s reacting (badly) to all sorts of random stimuli, probably with big helpings of fear and disgust and discomfort and alienation and greed and honestly who knows what the fuck else is going on in there. I would not say a decent and reasonable person behaves like this, no matter which collection of facts you put in their head (at least not one I can easily imagine). That would presumably not be enough to do it, so we’d need something else. We could put together a big long list of potential factors, and I guess all I’d need to do right now is mention that you haven’t ruled them all out yet.

    Like all of us, he’s largely ignorant of huge areas of human endeavor. His biggest problem seems to lie in confusing his point of view with a neutral/unbiased point of view.

    Emphasis added.

    I guess what i must have been trying to articulate is that if he really was an expert in everything then it wouldn’t be a problem that he always thinks his point of view is reasonable and that conclusions that differ from his are by definition unreasonable.

    Emphasis noted. Of course, as you know, it isn’t true that he’s an expert in everything. So, we’re supposed to recognize that the italicized condition above is false (i.e., that he is ignorant), and this is how we should understand “the” problem with his thinking/behavior arises. Yes? That’s more or less what I thought you were saying the first time, and I have all of the same reasons to disagree with it as I did then.

    Hanlon’s razor is fine and all, but this time it does seem like it’s probably a case in which real maliciousness plays a role. (As well as stupidity and/or ignorance; I’m not trying to dispute that.) I don’t want to be too simplistic about it, but he’s a bitter, angry, old man who’s lashing out at his perceived enemies. You’ve heard that story before. It’s totally unsurprising (at least it is to me), and there aren’t many conceptual hurdles that need to be jumped to reach this conclusion. If we don’t have that, because we only have a bit of ignorance and myopia and pretentiousness and such, then I think that’d be insufficient and unconvincing as an explanation.

    I wouldn’t accept it and would want to play that little word game, if you simply defined “malice” out of the picture altogether. (Not to say that you are, but hear me out…. Some more thoughts here on “breaking eggs.”) Does he sincerely believe he’s right or that he’s doing good? Sure, I bet he does. That wouldn’t make him non-malicious in my book. It’s not clear what you meant, when you claimed it’s not that he “desires harm.” If he thinks like basically any other villain ever, then it’s not like he believes he’s the evil bad guy who simply desires more badness in the world, for no other reason than because he wants what he correctly recognizes as badness. That’s probably not how it ever is, so that wouldn’t be an important distinction to make.

    Instead, he thinks he’s got a good enough excuse for his bad behavior. So we can get back to the basic question: why is he doing this shit? It’s not just that he doesn’t know or doesn’t get it or something. He’s deliberately causing harm (even if it’s only “mild” harm, as you put it), because he is set on making sure his opponents lose, or at least set on making sure their victory will be costly. I think that is, psychologically, a fairly realistic way to tell this particular story, given what I’ve gathered from years of his books/tweets/speeches/etc. The idea that the issue is merely that he doesn’t know some stuff (but thinks he does) … well, that’s pretty far out there, honestly. It’s hard for me to understand how that could be all there is to it.

  91. consciousness razor says

    correction:
    “I wouldn’t accept it and wouldn’t want to play”

  92. aziraphale says

    @Porivil Sorrens, the mission of the UK Polaris submarines was to destroy Moscow as an act of vengeance after Britain had been destroyed. There was no tactical reason. The last UK Polaris and Trident subs were called, respectively, Revenge and Vengeance.

    My preference is for acts of vengeance that do not destroy millions of people.

    The premise of the quote is that “extreme, fundamentalist Muslims” have destroyed several US cities with nuclear weapons. After that, I think the US could be forgiven for not greatly valuing a Muslim cultural centre.

  93. zenlike says

    aziraphale @ 103
    “After that, I think the US could be forgiven for not greatly valuing a Muslim cultural centre.”

    And what about valuing the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians killed in that attack? Why should we forgive the US for committing this horrendous warcrime?

    I think Porivil Sorrens was spot on in their assessment.

  94. consciousness razor says

    People could be forgiven for just about anything … but that’s not fucking saying much, is it?

    Look, you’ve obviously got enough on your hands, aziraphale. Since you’re the one proposing this rather pointless bit of death and destruction, let’s leave the job of possibly forgiving those who do it to somebody else, eh?

    Even with the forgiveness part taken care of (if you thought it necessary), don’t forget that somebody will also need to try to explain why it wasn’t really pointless and was actually justified somehow. See? This is why you should delegate. How embarrassing for you — it looks like you totally forgot to concern yourself with whether or not this is a good and reasonable thing to do.

    But I get it: you had too much on your plate already. That just slipped your mind. It happens. One minute you’re devising plans for mass destruction, then some bullshit on your smartphone distracts you…. It’s a good thing we caught this now.

  95. Porivil Sorrens says

    @103

    My preference is for acts of vengeance that do not destroy millions of people.

    My preference, as a fucking humanist, is that we don’t undertake pointless acts of vengeance for no actual practical reason other than assuaging some primate-brain desire to see our enemies suffer, no matter how many innocents die in the process.

    The premise of the quote is that “extreme, fundamentalist Muslims” have destroyed several US cities with nuclear weapons. After that, I think the US could be forgiven for not greatly valuing a Muslim cultural centre.

    And my point is that anyone who legitimately thinks what you are proposing is dangerously in need of some very serious mental health treatment.

    Morality isn’t some tit-for-tat nonsense where past atrocities justify future ones, and anyone who thinks it could be remotely moral to fucking nuke mecca is less moral than the shit I just took.

  96. petesh says

    @99, @100: on “positive” eugenics. Oh, yes, there is quite the “intellectual” movement in favor of this, and a major academic center is — I know you will find this shocking — at the same University with which Dawkins is connected. A major (nowadays probably THE major) advocate is Julian Savulescu, who is Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at Oxford, and Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. A quick read is this interview, “As a species, we have a moral obligation to enhance ourselves”:
    https://ideas.ted.com/the-ethics-of-genetically-enhanced-monkey-slaves/

    Wow! I had not seen the whole URL before pasting it.

  97. petesh says

    Quick comment on my 107: Same University I attended. These attitudes cover several dozen of the many reasons that I moved to California in my 20s.

  98. says

    The premise of the quote is that “extreme, fundamentalist Muslims” have destroyed several US cities with nuclear weapons. After that, I think the US could be forgiven for not greatly valuing a Muslim cultural centre.

    I mean, we all know that “Muslims” are not actually a billion diverse people spanning all the continents speaking a multitude of languages and having just as diverse cultures as everybody else.
    They’re just some monolith.
    So if, say, Muslims from Indonesia commit an act of terrorism, killing children in Saudi Arabia in return is perfectly legitimate.

  99. Saad says

    My point is that “Allahu Akhbar” is anything but beautiful when it is heard just before a suicide bomb goes off.

    I thought Dawkins is a scientist. How can a scientist show such pitiful level of thinking?

    So you’re going to judge one thing on the very small percentage of times it precedes violence and you’ll judge the other one one sitting on a bench in a park on a sunny day?

  100. says

    Gillel@109 I can’t imagine anyone would be stupid enough to advocate nuking the Vatican if some Irish nationalist group nuked London for not forcing Irish union. But for some reason their intelligence drops massively when the idea of nuking Muslims for a similar strike is considered.

  101. jimb says

    sparks @ 111:

    Ad homs are the resort of the small minded.

    That wasn’t an “ad hom” you dumbass. It was a straight-up insult.

    Or observation. Whichever.

  102. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @sparks:

    If you’re ignorant enough that you do not know what an ad hominem is (and you clearly, clearly don’t), but you’re arrogant enough to think that you do, then you are, definitely, an idiot.

    But you’re in luck! I have a gift for you: A weasel is a mammal only because you’re a poopoo face.

    Now you run off to your friends and truly claim that someone responded to you with an ad hominem. Of course, you won’t be able to explain the ad hominem or how it relates to anything at all. But you can say it honestly, which allows you to feel superior to everyone around you, and isn’t that what’s truly important?

  103. Louis says

    Listening to the lovely bells of Winchester, one of our great mediaeval cathedrals. So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding “Allahu Akhbar.” Or is that just my cultural upbringing?

    And

    The call to prayer can be hauntingly beautiful, especially if the muezzin has a musical voice. My point is that “Allahu Akhbar” is anything but beautiful when it is heard just before a suicide bomb goes off. That is when Islam is tragically hijacked by violence.

    Hmmmm.

    Okay. I have an experiment, it’s not perfect, but I’ll need volunteers:

    Step 1) I shall record the sound of the bells of Winchester Cathedral at their most tinkling and beautiful. I shall also take pictures of the cathedral in beautiful sunshine to be visualised under the laboratory conditions. This will form “Context A”.

    Step 2) I shall record the most delicately uttered “Allahu Akhbar” from the most excitingly beautiful mosque (with associated pictures, as before) within the aural context relevant to its utterance, as before these will be displayed within the laboratory. This will form “Context B”.

    Step 3) One subgroup of the volunteers (Group W) will be individually tied to radiators and beaten with well oiled kettle flexes after being shown Piers Morgan. This will be “Intervention 1” under conditions described in “Context A”.

    Step 4) One subgroup of the volunteers (Group X) will be individually tied to radiators and beaten with well oiled kettle flexes after being shown Piers Morgan. This will be “Intervention 1” under conditions described in “Context B”.

    Step 5) One subgroup of the volunteers (Group Y) will be taken out for a lovely meal, wined, dined, and then returned to a comfortable high end hotel suite whereupon intimate acts will be performed upon their person by persons or persons deemed sufficiently attractive and suitable for such purposes by a prior screening process. This will be “Intervention 2” in conditions described under “Context A”.

    Step 6) One subgroup of the volunteers (Group Z) will be taken out for a lovely meal, wined, dined, and then returned to a comfortable high end hotel suite whereupon intimate acts will be performed upon their person by persons or persons deemed sufficiently attractive and suitable for such purposes by a prior screening process. This will be “Intervention 2” in conditions described under “Context B”.

    I haven’t decided on appropriate blinding yet, but we could, as a case series at the very least, then record the views of the volunteers by subgroup in relation to Contexts A and B, as influenced by Interventions 1 and 2. The null hypothesis, per The Dawk, being that the Interventions would not demonstrate a statistically significant correlation with positive views of either Context. The claim informing the null hypothesis being, of course, that the Intervention is irrelevant as the merits of each Context are solely dependent on some inherent aspect of the Context and not any Intervention applied within the Contexts.

    N.B. Intervention 1 will involve such a thorough beating with the well oiled kettle flex and such a great exposure to Piers Morgan that even the most masochistic of masochists will be unable to cope. This will be deeply unpleasant. There may be additional Katie Hopkins for the impressively masochistic. This may be too far, and thus could affect the statistics.

    Louis

    P.S. Yes I am taking the piss. Yes Big Dickie has weasel worded a “qualification” that if you take a sublimely beautiful and innocent thing in an entirely pleasant context and then take another (quickly handwaved) beautiful thing in a shitty context that the first thing is nicer than the second thing. But this is, to use the technical scientific phrase: Utter Bollocks.

    Detonate a suicide bomb with the words “Justin Bieber is an Arse Biscuit” (an objectively true and beautiful phrase) and, mirabile dictu, people will get moderately moody about the words…

    …Why it’s like context matt…ha no. Can’t be. I’m clearly out of my tiny little mind.

  104. Louis says

    Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest:

    I quite like(d?) Dick the Dawk (or rather much of his output from years passim), but by Jimminy Fuck he does make it exceedingly difficult as he epitomises the “feet of clay” phenomenon better every day. I mean, if you wish to ever read his books again, never look at Twitter. Just never.

    Mind you, I Still Listen To Wagner (TM) and Love The Work Of Picasso (TM), so I’m clearly having trouble with the art/artist separation spectrum.

    Louis

  105. woozy says

    That wasn’t an “ad hom” you dumbass. It was a straight-up insult.

    Or observation. Whichever.

    Well, it was definitely meant as a straight-up insult but it was a result of the jaw-dropping astonishment of an observation.

    There are many levels of idiocy but somehow the sort that sparks is– the sort that can not comprehend a point other than his own so much that when someone specifically says “His point is x and that is bad” will respond with “you obviously missed his point; it was x” and when it is spelled out precisely why we find x repugnant respond with a “hah! X! I dropped the mic”– always astonishes me. I should be used to it by now.

    I love to argue, perhaps more than I should, but…. fuck… sometimes you have to just walk away from the ghastly scene with an astonished look on your face.

  106. alixmo says

    The problem with “Christian Atheists” is that they are biased in a way that disqualifies them as disinterested observers and critics of religions per se. And there is much to criticise for the sake of progress and humanity. This article was today in the Guardian:

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/22/humanae-vitae-catholic-birth-control-ban-fifty-years (Just a few quotes – I do not know how to do blockquote here!):

    *The encyclical was blamed for a fall in people attending mass and for damaging the authority of the papacy, particularly among younger Catholics. But it was a different picture in the developing world, especially in countries where the church exerted powerful influence on governments. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 214 million women of reproductive age in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy do not have access to modern contraceptives; most are in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia.

    Millions of people have been exposed to HIV/Aids as a result of the church’s ban on condoms. In 2003, a senior Vatican figure declared that condoms did not protect against the HIV virus. The statement brought a sharp rebuke from the World Health Organisation, which said that condom use reduced the risk of HIV infection by 90% and saved millions of lives.

    In 2015, Pope Francis dismayed health educators on a visit to Africa by sidestepping a question about whether condoms could be condoned in the fight against Aids, saying issues such as malnutrition, environmental exploitation and the lack of safe drinking water were more important. (…)
    Launching a report, Humanae Vitae and the Damage Done, Jon O’Brien of the US-based Catholics for Choice said: “Many Catholics choose to ignore the Vatican’s ban on birth control, but the world’s poorest people do not have that luxury. For half a century, the Catholic hierarchy has blocked funding and access to contraception for family planning and HIV/Aids prevention, with deadly impacts for the most vulnerable globally.”* (End of quote)

    The full text to “Humanae vitaeand the Damage Done” is here http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/humanae-vitae/report/humanae-vitae-united-nations/ This is by the way an organisations of people who still believe in Catholicism/God but fight against real life issues that originates in belief/Catholicism.

    I like to see Dawkins fighting against the damage Christianity (Catholicism and Evangelicals in particular) are doing to women around the world (especially poor women of colour). Maybe that would lend him the legitimacy to speak out against the atrocities that are done in the name of Islam.

    As long as Dawkins pretends that Christianity is “over” its own problems and Islam is the only real “enemy” left to fight, he is part of the problem. This “us versus them” attitude of Christians (“cultural” or devout) towards Islam will set us back to a time when religion had a strong hold on society and Government.

    People have to be reminded that Christianity is not as harmless as lots of people want to paint it (at least some denominations). Real life damage is done under the veil of “brotherly love” and charity.

    UNIVERSAL Human Rights and a secular world are the only way forward.

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