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Richard Dawkins is more than a 'militant atheist': he's a magnificent writer who changed my life - Comments

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 1 by Ignorant Amos

He gets a lot of stick for being a “militant atheist”, which is a little ridiculous.

I would say it is "lots" ridiculous and said by the ignorant, stupid...oh and unread.

Edit. Having read the comments after the article, I resolutely stand by what I've said "ignorant, stupid and unread"

Wed, 24 Mar 2010 18:27:00 UTC | #451886

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 2 by Stafford Gordon

I've attempted to say much the same thing, but I'm not a writer and so failed to get the point across.

I sort of got told off for being disrespectful.

Wed, 24 Mar 2010 19:35:00 UTC | #451905

Chris Roberts's Avatar Comment 3 by Chris Roberts

Respect should be earned, not automatically expected.

The catholic church and child rape scandel is one prime example of why respect should never be given automatically - especially to an idea or ideology.

Wed, 24 Mar 2010 20:46:00 UTC | #451926

Stonyground's Avatar Comment 4 by Stonyground

The comment thread below the article contains the usual nonsense. There seems to be an almost infinite number of straw Dawkinses that his detractors can create in order to knock down. On the subject of The God Delusion, all of them can criticise it in a non specific way that fails to rise above the level of name calling. I am still waiting for a specific, well founded statement about something that he actually got wrong.

Wed, 24 Mar 2010 21:00:00 UTC | #451929

DeepFritz's Avatar Comment 5 by DeepFritz

Tom Chivers is in my view correct in saying that Dawkins best books are Blind Watchmaker, Greatest Show on Earth and the Ancestors Tale. They are books that highlight Richard's love for his science and the pure majesty in the realm of living creatures as science has demonstrated to us. The passion in which he writes comes out in these works. The God Delusion however, has you shaking your head, going "I can't believe that people take this seriously."

I am looking forward to the Childrens book that Richard is writing. I wonder if the delay in it getting to us is that he is having trouble finding any words that rhyme with Coelacanth£

Wed, 24 Mar 2010 21:02:00 UTC | #451930

Duff's Avatar Comment 6 by Duff

Could we establish an accepted rule that we assume, now and forever, anyone who calls the Professor "angry", or "militant" hasn't read anything he has ever written, or heard any speech he has ever given?

Wed, 24 Mar 2010 21:10:00 UTC | #451931

Muetze's Avatar Comment 7 by Muetze

Here's my guess about this whole "Dawkins is a militant butthole" issue: could it be a cultural thing?

I have noticed that Richard never seems out of place in English (or Australian for that matter) talk shows, and almost every writer or pulblic intellectual I know who similarly enjoys "robustly humorous broadsides" is also British. Just contrast this healthily uninhibited debate culture with the awkward spectatle that was Richard's appearance on Johannes B. Kerner in German TV a couple of years ago, or the frequent "strident, etc." introductions he gets on US television.

I am familiar with many social circles where it is just completely out of the question to directly address issues that are often a matter of personal conviction. It is easy, then, to see the disconnect between Dawkins' own perception of his public persona and that of many accomodationists around the world: For many people religion is a matter that just isn't discussed, and Dawkins is quite literally breaking the spell. I can only really speak about a German perspective, but I was somewhat bewildered (although not really surprised) when Richard quoted quite vicious restaurant reviews and the like in his TGD paperback foreword. I can confidently tell you that I have never read the like in German language outside of YouTube comments.

In a nutshell: People outside the Commonwealth, or from somewhat isolated upper-middle class upbringings are not used to either Richard's method nor his vocabularly and hence misinterpret both. What do you think, am I on to something?

Wed, 24 Mar 2010 22:00:00 UTC | #451938

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 8 by Mr DArcy

A generally favourable review of Richard in the Telegraph, a review I can't find it in the paper edition, but, well things can't be all bad! The Telegraph is owned by the Barclay brothers, who have their own little tax haven in the Channel Island of Sark. The Telegraph tends to represent conservative views, hardly the paper demanding the overthrow of capitalism, but occasionally it can express a view which doesn't retard progress.

Wed, 24 Mar 2010 22:34:00 UTC | #451945

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 9 by Nunbeliever

Many of the comments on the original site were a bit scary. I was stunned that people still use the argument that there can be no morality without god.

I realize that I am probably a bit sheltered from the real world living in Finland and having a circle of acquaintances made up mostly of rational non-believers or very moderate believers. I really should be used to all the religious crack-pots out there by now, but evidently I am not as I get equally upset every time I hear the same stupid and ignorant religious arguments.

Wed, 24 Mar 2010 23:18:00 UTC | #451947

Steve_the_Instro's Avatar Comment 10 by Steve_the_Instro

I have to agree with Tom Chivers, the Good Professor is one of my favourite authors.
I own most of his books but I have to keep them seperate from my Stephen Jay Gould books, because the resulting meme/anti-meme reaction would cause my bookshelf to spontaneously combust!

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 09:45:00 UTC | #452000

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 11 by the great teapot

How can you not see that we must have god for morality. As the guy on the Telegraph comments board said - some made up charachter in a Russian novel said,"without god everything is permitted" and that made up charachter was even an atheist his-madeup-self. Case closed.
I have only read crime and punishment myself and quite enjoyed it, well kind of. I have often wanted to ask the many believers what their opinion was on "The Brothers Karamazov" but something tells me apart from this great knockout argument for god based morality they wouldn't have a clue.
Why do people keep quoting this stupid point, do they think mentioning a highbrow author makes them look intellectual. Thats a rhetorical question btw.

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 09:47:00 UTC | #452002

maelzoid's Avatar Comment 12 by maelzoid

The comments following the article do a great diservice to the Telegraph. As a rag that is a considerable level above the Daily Mail, its comments appear to be almost identical.

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 10:03:00 UTC | #452005

MarkOnTheRiver's Avatar Comment 13 by MarkOnTheRiver

12. Comment #472223 by maelzoid

The comments following the article do a great diservice to the Telegraph. As a rag that is a considerable level above the Daily Mail, its comments appear to be almost identical.

Should we be surprised by this. The relentless rationalist squeeze on, for them, an ever shrinking base for their arguments, is leaving faith-heads to argue their points from an ever narrower perspective. All that’s left to them is rhetoric and bile.
No wonder the comments look so similar.

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 10:51:00 UTC | #452017

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 14 by crookedshoes

My favorite Dawkins book is "The Ancestor's tale". I use it frequently in my Advanced Biology class. I have also lobbied to have it replace my existing textbook and be the primary text I use.
I have also read the bible cover to cover many times. I have a fairly high comprehension level and am confident that I read it at or above the level of most (or many) christians (who I truly doubt read it at all). Anyway, when I read the two books and then investigate the world around me, I find that Dawkins informs me more about the truth I'll encounter in the world I am immersed in.
My favorite Bible book is Leviticus. Any person who claims themselves to be a literal reader of the bible and wants to talk about the literal interpretation of Genesis had better be slaughtering bulls on sunday because the odor is pleasant to the lord. They had better not be wearing garments of mixed textiles. They should have side curls, never eat shellfish, have slaves, and be willing to sell their daughters into slavery.... You get the point. It is LITERALLY impossible to be a LITERAL interpreter of the bible and actually abide by the 700 - 800 literal laws found within its covers.
I am so tired of the literalist slamming the athiest. You are not a real literalist; it isn't possible. You have cherry picked your verses, or better yet, been told at a sermon what it says in a book you will violently defend yet have never actually read. I have read your book. It is entertaining. It is nice in places. It is scary in places. It is true in places. BUT, and this is a big BUT, it is false in many, many places. It contradicts itself to the point where one part or another MUST be wrong. The defense of an indefensible position requires suspension of logic. I do not subscribe to suspending logic. If you do, well maybe you should repeat your education and PAY ATTENTION THIS TIME AROUND.

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 12:31:00 UTC | #452045

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 15 by Dr. Strangegod

Oh, yes, Richard should be ashamed of himself for speaking his mind and daring to be socially active for the good of all. Shame shame. Stick to the science.


Thu, 25 Mar 2010 13:12:00 UTC | #452059

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 16 by aquilacane

Respect is given not asked for.

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 13:19:00 UTC | #452063

Apathy personified's Avatar Comment 17 by Apathy personified

My favourite RD book is Unweaving the Rainbow, though this may say more about me than the relative merits of his different works.

I'm glad one journalist had the immense courage and bravery to point out that the word 'militant' is somewhat overused and well over the top when discussing RD.

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 13:22:00 UTC | #452068

Philoctetes                                        's Avatar Comment 18 by Philoctetes

I picked up on a similar quote the other day:
"Such talk, naturally, is liable to drive evolutionary biologists into a rage, or, in the case of Richard Dawkins, into even more of a rage than usual."

What is it about journalists? Why are they determined to trash their sometimes not unreasonable prose with this lazy cliched and above all inaccurate attempt at seizing the zeitgeist … and dropping it?
I watched David Starkey on BBC''s Question Time recently and what a contrast his performance was to Richard Dawkins on the Australian equivalent. RD was all charm, good humour, wit and eloquence. Starkey was certainly eloquent, but what a rage, Not since Norman Tebbit or Melanie Philips have I seen so much bad tempered ranting and bile.

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 14:19:00 UTC | #452097

petermun's Avatar Comment 19 by petermun

Having read the comments following the article, it is clear that there is little difference between Torygraph and Daily Mail readers when it comes to differentiating facts from dogma. Where did "I just wish atheists wouldn’t pick an hate-monger as their cheerleader" come from?

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 14:37:00 UTC | #452102

Will S's Avatar Comment 20 by Will S

Isn't it down to Dawkins to decide what his 'real work' is? And mightn't he, quite reasonably, give a fairly complicated answer to the question? - 'It's largely biology, but it's also ... and ... and ...'

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 15:12:00 UTC | #452113

SilentMike's Avatar Comment 21 by SilentMike

20. Comment #472362 by Will S

Richard Dawkins decides for himself of course, just like everyone else. But everyone is entitled to their opinion about the quality and importance of the different facets of his work. Personally I also like his writings on evolution best, though I also enjoy him on other topics.

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 18:41:00 UTC | #452210

miketheiron's Avatar Comment 22 by miketheiron

It amuses me greatly that the people deploying the "militant atheist" term like to think of it as a cutting insult - it's like to trying to insult someone by calling them a "militant human-rights campaigner", or a "militant philanthropist", or a "militant humanitarian", or a "militant pacifist" :)

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 21:34:00 UTC | #452283

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 23 by prettygoodformonkeys

@ crookedshoes

Marked excellent. I've felt that in the background but you said it out loud.

As to the rest: 'militant' must be reserved for 1. the military, and 2. those who blow up things if people disagree with them.

I'm happy to be in a demographic that...wait a minute...I can't unsee the fact that atheists are in the military, and 1=2.


Fri, 26 Mar 2010 01:18:00 UTC | #452337

Philoctetes                                        's Avatar Comment 24 by Philoctetes

Not to mention "The Church Militant", makes the claim "ours is a peaceful religion" in the same league of cynicism as the change in title of "The War Office" to "The Ministry of Defence". Quite Orwellian really. It is said that the easiest way to identify a totalitarian state is to look for the word "Democratic" in its title. In like manner, the deceivers, the deluded and the outright liars talk about their "True faith", or more scarily "the one true faith"

Fri, 26 Mar 2010 01:23:00 UTC | #452338

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 25 by prettygoodformonkeys

Mmmm, "True Faith".
The most delicious oxymoron.

Now being served, just down the street....

Fri, 26 Mar 2010 01:27:00 UTC | #452341

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 26 by prettygoodformonkeys

24. Comment #472609 by Philoctetes

Good points. It's always been fascinating to me how the US, in creating the Constitution for the Democratic Republic on the United States, forged one of the most hopeful, progressive documents for humanity and immediately split into Democrats and Republicans - and the fight was on.

Fri, 26 Mar 2010 01:31:00 UTC | #452342

Katana's Avatar Comment 27 by Katana

#7 Muetze

In England [IMHO] saying anything publicly, even within a group of friends, marks you as open for debate on the matter. I would add a nuance to it though, saying you are something like "I am a Atheist" doesn't really mark you out (unless what you are is very unusual or distasteful), but saying something beyond that would, "I am an Atheist and i think blah blah blah". During my experience of growing up i've very rarely seen good debate discouraged, not sure how other people see this though.

Fri, 26 Mar 2010 08:39:00 UTC | #452433

Degsy's Avatar Comment 28 by Degsy

I agree with some of the comments, especially those decrying the opinion of those who have labeled the Prof as a 'militant atheist'. Whilst such comments are usually uttered and written by the religious and their apologists, who for some reason think that The God Delusion is his only book of note, I fear the same type of thinking is apparent in the minds of those who purport to know a thing or two. No one should be of the opinion that The God Delusion is his best or most important work. Go read the Blind Watchmaker. Go read (or re-read as I am doing) the Selfish Gene. Be in awe of the scope and scholarly brilliance of the Ancestor's Tale. These books blow my head off. The God Delusion pales in comparison. It is a parallel of triviality when lined up with his other work.

Fri, 26 Mar 2010 11:18:00 UTC | #452467

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 29 by Ignorant Amos

28. Comment #472741 by Degsy

Agreed, but TGD had a completely different agenda from RD's other works, and in it's own category, it is up there.

Fri, 26 Mar 2010 14:07:00 UTC | #452532

atheist_gooner's Avatar Comment 30 by atheist_gooner

#472705 Katana

Have to agree with you regarding England and opinions here - but we seem to still be a minority and Richard will seem militant in amongst that!

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 11:27:00 UTC | #453286