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Richard Dawkins, winged horses, Islamophobia and a hierarchy of nonsense

I’m going to assume that anyone who’s interested in Richard Dawkins’ latest spat on Twitter already knows all about it, but in summary, he mocked Mehdi Hasan as a journalist (and the New Statesman for publishing him) over Hasan’s belief (common among Muslims) that Mohammed was carried up to heaven on a winged horse.

This caused a lot of fuss, with reactions to it ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, before Dawkins posted a more thorough explanation of what he meant by his tweet, without the constraint of a 140-character limit.

PegasusI don’t see any benefit in revisiting this in detail, but the question that’s been on my mind, given that there have been various accusations of atheist Islamophobia recently, is how atheists, particularly Western atheists in broadly Christian societies, should handle Islam and the beliefs of Muslims, and when rational criticism becomes prejudice and bigotry. Read More…

Responses to The God Delusion

The first to state his case first seems right, until the other side examines him

– Proverbs 18:17

In keeping with possibly my favourite Bible verse, one of the few that could claim to be self-evidently true, my next project on completing The God Delusion was to read a response to it, to hear the case for the defence. I knew of Alister McGrath’s book The Dawkins Delusion, and intended to read that as he has a pretty good reputation, but it seemed so flimsy when I picked it up (the text stretches to just 65 pages, and falls short of 80 even with the addition of notes and further reading) that I decided to augment my selection with Deluded by Dawkins? by Andrew Wilson (a comparative shelf-strainer at 112 pages), for no more reason than that it was next to it on the shelf. Read More…

Finally getting around to The God Delusion

Okay, I’m only six years late to the party, but I’ve finally got around to reading it, so here are my thoughts on a book I’ve been avoiding more or less since it was published – The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

First, I should say that I read the paperback edition. This may be important, as it included a new preface, which helpfully dealt with a number of common responses to the book (such as “I’m an atheist, but…”, acceptance of religion as a fact of life, and descriptions of Dawkins as a fundamentalist equal to those he criticises), and mentioned that a few other unspecified changes and corrections had been made to the text. I found it a useful addition, heading off common objections before getting down to the substance. In some cases, I think people would benefit from reading this preface more than the actual book. Read More…

You can’t read that!

Books

Sometimes it’s the small things that make me realise how much I’ve changed.

When Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion was published in 2006, I’d already slipped some way from my previous beliefs, and never considered reading it for information and to “know my enemy”. Instead, I ran scared because I was carefully protecting what remaining faith I had from too many serious challenges. That didn’t stop me from complaining about Dawkins’ fundamentalist atheism and (ironically, given that I hadn’t read his book) of failing to engage with his opponents’ arguments. Basically, I parroted anything I heard that sounded like a good response or a reason for dismissing anything Dawkins had to say. I’m not proud of it. Read More…

Dawkins v Williams: Debate Conclusions – Is Richard Dawkins really agnostic?

I’ve rather painted myself into a corner here, having said that I expected everyone to judge the debate based on their own prior standpoint and preconceptions. I might have got away with that on its own, but as I also said how I expected the debate to go, I have the choice of admitting that my prediction was wrong, or leaving myself open to a charge of merely confirming my own expectations, as I somewhat critically suggested others would do.

Fortunately, I’ve been saved from having to cover that in too much detail, because there’s one issue that’s dominating discussion of the debate – Richard Dawkins’ self-description as agnostic, putting himself at 6.9 on his Spectrum of Theistic Probability. Read More…

Dawkins v Williams: Pre-Debate Analysis – Why the hate for Dawkins?

In the blue corner, all the way from Kenya, the meme-tastic Richard Dawkins! And in the pinko corner, from Wales, the Bearded Wonder – Rowan Williams! Right, gentlemen – I want a good clean fight. No begging the question, no false dichotomies, and no beard-pulling.

Yes, Messrs Dawkins and Williams are going to have a debate on Thursday, on the subject of “The nature of human beings and the question of their ultimate origin”, and I promise to ease up on the boxing metaphors now. I plan to watch it, and will probably blog about it afterwards (yes, I really live on the edge), but I expect it to be a rather damp squib. Read More…

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