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How to reconcile Richard Dawkins? - Comments

liddlefeesh's Avatar Comment 1 by liddlefeesh

This looks like just another article filled with back-handed compliments for professor Dawkins.

"how, after all, could the executions of religious figures not follow logically from the promotion of atheism?"

What I don't understand is how the promotion of a-fairy-ism does not equally promote the execution of rival religious leaders.

What utter nonsense.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 07:38:00 UTC | #163452

SilentMike's Avatar Comment 2 by SilentMike

And perhaps that's because the personal Richard Dawkins is a lot more open to contrary evidence, and much more nuanced in his thinking, than the literary one.


Funny thing about books. they don't correct themselves or answer questions. Not quite sure exactly why that is...

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 07:42:00 UTC | #163458

VanYoungman's Avatar Comment 3 by VanYoungman

All you have to do is listen. The good Doctor has never hidden anything.

Mr. McKnight is definitely a potential convert.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 07:43:00 UTC | #163460

bamboospitfire's Avatar Comment 4 by bamboospitfire

I have to say I don't entirely understand Dawkins's thinking here -- how, after all, could the executions of religious figures not follow logically from the promotion of atheism.

Oh dear. It's going to be like that, is it...?

But he offers that perhaps it's because Marxism itself acts something like a religion in its appeal to a higher power -- the Party, rather than God. And in this Dawkins may be absolutely right, though it reveals that an atheist philosophy can indeed operate as a religion, and therefore offer a logical pathway to evil deeds.

Does suicide bombing have to be religiously motivated? No, of course not - even though most of it is. It is conceivable that even an atheist could be driven to such desperation that he would undertake such an act. But, as anyone who gives the issue a moment's thought should realise, it would not be the person's atheism that drove him to commit that act. Instead, it would be the source of his desperation. Similar reasoning applies to Stalin's execution of priests. Obviously.

The root, strangely enough, is that which first made Dawkins famous -- evolution.

I do hope the intention is not to suggest that evolution should be dismissed because we are products of evolution and we sometimes do evil things. That would be truly moronic...

Lastly, wouldn't someone who had bothered to do some research on the subject know that Professor Dawkins did not choose or condone the "Root of All Evil" title? I can almost smell the indolence...

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 07:46:00 UTC | #163463

hallsp's Avatar Comment 5 by hallsp

This is a nice alternative to many of the other characterisations of Richard but it's still lacking.
Many of the points are well made but gloss over the details. Of course, you can reconcile the apparently differing perspectives. Richard never claimed religion was the only source of terror, just a very good one. Religion may indeed inspire ethical behaviour but because it borrows ethical and moral tennets from existing human experience and finally, religion played no part in the genesis of the scientific method, religious people may have but they were only religious because frankly there was no alternative.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 07:48:00 UTC | #163466

jimbob's Avatar Comment 6 by jimbob

But he offers that perhaps it's because Marxism itself acts something like a religion in its appeal to a higher power -- the Party, rather than God. And in this Dawkins may be absolutely right, though it reveals that an atheist philosophy can indeed operate as a religion, and therefore offer a logical pathway to evil deeds.


Finally somebody gets it!

The problem is not exclusive to religions -- it's a problem of dogmas!

Thus, the penalty for heresy or apostasty from (say) Stalinism is the same as the penalty for questioning radical Islam.

At last!

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 07:56:00 UTC | #163475

Monty Burns's Avatar Comment 7 by Monty Burns

I have to say I don't entirely understand Dawkins's thinking here -- how, after all, could the executions of religious figures not follow logically from the promotion of atheism?

Funny thing about thinking: you have to do it yourself to understand it. The writer seems to equate atheism to "lack of a moral code", which is an all-too-common fallacy. If Stalin had executed only religious people, there might be something in the observation, but he was fairly indiscriminate about it, so there isn't.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 07:57:00 UTC | #163477

gcdavis's Avatar Comment 8 by gcdavis

Atheists have not only engaged in suicide bombings, but have pioneered the practice -- specifically, the Marxist Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka

Correct me if I'm wrong but the Tamil Tigers are a nationalist, separatist organisation seeking a Tamil homeland in northern Sri Lanka. They have been responsible for atrocities and suicide attacks but I don't think they are overtly Marxist.

I have to say I don't entirely understand Dawkins's thinking here -- how, after all, could the executions of religious figures not follow logically from the promotion of atheism?


Tyrants dispose of those who threaten or confront them, the Russian Orthodox church was a potential threat. He didn't kill for atheism, he killed to maintain his power, these dolts just don't seem to get it!

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 07:59:00 UTC | #163480

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 9 by Steve Zara

Well, yes and no. According to Dawkins, Stalin was an atheist who did evil things, but there is no direct "logical pathway" from atheism to bad deeds, as there is with religious faith. I have to say I don't entirely understand Dawkins's thinking here -- how, after all, could the executions of religious figures not follow logically from the promotion of atheism?


It could. But, and I am interested, is there any evidence that Stalin was intending to "promote atheist", as against supress other power bases?

Also, there is nothing intrinsic to atheism that requires you to promote it. There are no gods or spirits who have a message to be spread in order to save souls.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 08:04:00 UTC | #163488

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 10 by irate_atheist

I cannot currently be arsed with this thread or the author of the article. Sorry.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 08:19:00 UTC | #163498

Alkal's Avatar Comment 11 by Alkal

As far as I know, all the communist struggles were class struggles. They were anti-religion because the religious had amassed vast wealth by duping the ordinary folk. It was oppressed against the elite. Of course Stalin and Mao later made huge personality cults of their own- not unlike religions. Had people been atheist pre-the class struggle maybe the inequity would not have existed as much as it did,and the killing avoided.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 08:21:00 UTC | #163500

maton100's Avatar Comment 12 by maton100

Back on this Stalin crap. Jeez. I wish Stalin stayed with the seminary.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 08:34:00 UTC | #163505

D'Arcy's Avatar Comment 13 by D'Arcy

But he offers that perhaps it's because Marxism itself acts something like a religion in its appeal to a higher power -- the Party, rather than God.


Is Dawkins referring to the Soviet Union, China and other supposedly "Marxist" regimes?

Since when did these countries base themselves upon the "absence of buying and selling", "the abolition of the wages system," "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need", "Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to gain", (Religion) "is the sigh of the oppressed. It is the opium of the people"? Never.

These countries were never based upon Marx's or socialist ideas at all. They were and are thoroughly capitalist in nature, if not in jargon. Marx would have been horrified, and probably one of the first against the wall.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 08:42:00 UTC | #163511

Dinah's Avatar Comment 14 by Dinah

Did Stalin execute religious figures specifically because they were religious, or because he saw them as representing an alternative kind of power and therefore a threat to his leadership? He did after all suffer from paranoia, and executed many people he imagined were plotting against him.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:01:00 UTC | #163514

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 15 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Simple rebuke:

Atheism is NOT Anti-theism.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:08:00 UTC | #163518

FightingFalcon's Avatar Comment 16 by FightingFalcon

Two things:

1) No semi-intelligent Atheist would ever argue that a world without religion would lead to an end in violence. I'm sorry but there is absolutely no reason to believe that. What Professor Dawkins has argued (if I can be arrogant enough to argue for him) is that religion leads to an amplification of warfare that few other philosophies can do. The best manifestation of this is suicide bombing but it isn't the only one. Religious warfare is marked by a horror and level of violence that is rarely matched by wars over greed, land, etc. An exception to this is World War II, whose unspeakable atrocities on the Eastern Front were committed out of racial hatred rather than any religious differences.

2) Everyone keeps forgetting the fact that just because religion makes you feel good, it doesn't make it correct. No matter how much good religion brings to the world, that shouldn't stop us from examining if it's actually true or not. If we admit that religion is wrong but necessary to keep the people content, then how is that any different from brain-washing?

I never allow myself to be taken in by the morality arguments. If someone starts arguing about the morality of a Theist vs. an Atheist, I simply ask them for proof of their deity. When they fail to deliver, the argument is over.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:09:00 UTC | #163520

Pattern Seeker's Avatar Comment 17 by Pattern Seeker

Too bad the fire-breathing 'Dawkins' didn't open-pit barbeque roast the good Sir 'McKnight' in less-than-shining armor.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:13:00 UTC | #163522

asupcb's Avatar Comment 18 by asupcb

Stalin and Mao were just two of many tyrants who disposed of anyone who they felt threatened or could threaten their power. Power can go to people's heads quick. I believe Lord Acton said it best, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:18:00 UTC | #163524

MrPickwick's Avatar Comment 19 by MrPickwick

It's often been said that there are two Richard Dawkinses...
This guy is an idiot... but I guess that when you believe in the Trinity (or any equally amazing belief) you are fully prepared to believe in the Dawkins Binitarianism.
But can we reconcile the two Richard Dawkinses...?
And here the Tertullian wannabee even attempts to shed some light on the mystery.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:18:00 UTC | #163526

DavidJGrossman's Avatar Comment 20 by DavidJGrossman

"how, after all, could the executions of religious figures not follow logically from the promotion of atheism?"

Wait, what?!?! Is this guy kidding?

So, he interviews Dawkins and then just posts his own thoughts about the interview rather than the interview itself? WTF?!?!?

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:18:00 UTC | #163527

riki's Avatar Comment 21 by riki

I'm surprised he didn't mention football riots and claim that as an act of godless inspired violence. It's a bit like saying, Stalin wrote a book and instigated acts of violence, therefore authorship leads to violence. You need to look at the real causes and underlying ideology. Religion isn't the only form of delusion, but it's up there with the best.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:20:00 UTC | #163528

Dinah's Avatar Comment 22 by Dinah

I suspect Peter McKnight has allowed himself to be over-influenced by the negative comments and interpretations of TGD rather than assessing the book for himself. The religious-minded will continue to condemn the book for daring to question the legitimacy of their claims, but McKnight should have the courage of his own convictions - it does sound as though he's inclined our way rather than theirs.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:21:00 UTC | #163530

Count von Count's Avatar Comment 23 by Count von Count

It seems we might never shake these ignorant questions. Perhaps Sam Harris was right to say that the label "atheist" should be discarded. I've notice when I (quite proudly) tell people I'm an atheist, they often say, "Well, don't you believe in the possibility that there is a god?" At which point I must explain to them about massively low probabilities, "a-fairy-ism," and how the word 'agnostic' doesn't really sum it up.

Maybe it would be good antidote for articles like this if one were to say forthrightly that one is actually against dogma in any form, and that this (a posteriori) precludes the probable existence of gods.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:23:00 UTC | #163531

Janus's Avatar Comment 24 by Janus

But can we reconcile the two Richard Dawkinses -- the literary one who has nary a good word to say about religion, and the personal one who admits that religion doesn't have a stranglehold on terror, may inspire ethical behaviour, and may even have contributed to the scientific enterprise?


Oh, I don't know. How about reading The God Delusion carefully and realizing that the 'literary' Dawkins has never written anything of the kind?


There are indeed two Richard Dawkinses, but not the personal one and the literary one. There's the real Dawkins, and there's Dawkins as his critics would like you to believe he is.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:26:00 UTC | #163533

Count von Count's Avatar Comment 25 by Count von Count

Another note:

I think it would be quite effective to harp on the fact that Hitler was also a vegetarian (an "a-carnivore" if you like) and a painter, but no one claims vegetarianism or painting leads to atrocities. I've seen this point casually brought up, but I think it should be used much more often.

Does anyone know similar facts about Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot?

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:28:00 UTC | #163535

FoundLink's Avatar Comment 26 by FoundLink

From the first couple of sentences this writer misrepresents Prof. Dawkins by stating that he (Dawkins) believes religious instruction of children to be abuse. Anyone who has ever listened to or read the words of the Professor knows that it is the labeling of children that he objects to. The opposite is true about religious instruction as long as it is "comparative".

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:35:00 UTC | #163539

tybowen's Avatar Comment 27 by tybowen

I've never been able to grasp why people don't associate communist russia with religion. Just because Stalin placed himself as god rather than an imaginary one doesn't mean he didn't use all the same tactics. The soviet regime was a religion in all basic aspects. Belief in a higher power that you must be subservient to that knows best. That faith in the power is the highest virtue. Hostile opposition to opposing view points. Its hard to tell the difference between some of the soviet ceremonies and some religious ceremonies if the party/leader is replaced with God. To me atheism means rational thinking and a lack of faith. That clearly doesn't describe Stalin's view. He got rid of clergy men because they controlled a power base that could threaten his power. No because he really disliked the idea of clergy men.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:36:00 UTC | #163540

FightingFalcon's Avatar Comment 28 by FightingFalcon


I think it would be quite effective to harp on the fact that Hitler was also a vegetarian (an "a-carnivore" if you like) and a painter, but no one claims vegetarianism or painting leads to atrocities. I've seen this point casually brought up, but I think it should be used much more often.


Many of Hitler's close associates (although not himself) were also homosexual.

Bah - I won't go there.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:37:00 UTC | #163541

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 29 by DamnDirtyApe

Count Count - you should check out Eddie Izzard. His description of Hitler is top, regarding his status as a vegetarian painter.

'I can't get the colours right - ARRRGH I will kill everyone in the world!'

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:39:00 UTC | #163544

Jolly Bloger's Avatar Comment 30 by Jolly Bloger

Can I just say I'm a little confused and disappointed that there was no mention (at least no obvious announcement) of Richard's talk at UBC on this site? As a Vancouverite and big Dawkins fan I would have loved to see him today, but sadly I only happened to hear of his talk by chance through the Chan Centre website far too late. In the future, can you guys let us know through this channel when Richard may be coming to our town so we can get in line for tickets, rather than missing out?

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:42:00 UTC | #163547