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Why We Need Richard Dawkins

Posted: 13/01/2014 16:15

Despite having written The God Delusion which inspired me and others to be involved in the secular movement, an argument goes that Richard Dawkins has had his day, a bit like a star footballer approaching retirement. His style of play is seen as ineffective and embarrassing as we are urged to move to civil engagement and reconciliation with believers. Turning keyboards into ploughshares will apparently herald a new age of reasonable reason.

Dawkins for me is the star defender of the team - he tackles hard. You do not want angels playing in that position; there will be times when the other side will shout for a booking let alone a sending off. But the game would be lost without that talent and determination regularly being employed on the pitch.

Watching Dawkins debate Deepak Chopra reminded me why I traveled thousands of miles to support the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Dawkins' passion for not just calling out pseudo-science but explaining what the science actually is, expressing real poetry in how things are without needing to imagine what we cannot know. Quite simply it is enthralling to hear complex subjects so beautifully explained by Dawkins.

I remember listening to a radio interview when a recovering drug addict phoned to say his new found Christian faith helped him and who was Dawkins to knock that? Richard replied that he had no desire to do so and wished him well. So much for the uncaring atheist bashing professor "The Guardian" article tried to paint to besmirch him recently.

Twitter does not do full justice to Dawkins, but his intellectual capacity to aid public understanding of science together with the resources he makes available to secular and atheist organisations makes a huge difference. Accusations of aloofness at someone who engages with the public on a social media platform, is the least of his worries in the hullabaloo.

For me this goes further than a culture war, or enjoying the argument on social media. People are suffering and dying because of attitudes which are defended as religious - or claimed simultaneously to be cultural yet still to be respected. For Dawkins this is no intellectual exercise but a moral imperative to speak out. How someone feels about a t-shirt really is not in the same league.

Though that did not stop Yvonne Ridley suggesting to me I must find the Jesus and Mo t-shirt as funny as the anti-semitic quenelle salute - because she said there is the empathy with how she feels about an image of the prophet. Religious cartoon satire worn at a student fair is the same as an inverse nazi salute on the railway tracks that led to a concentration camp where thousands were killed.



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A t-shirt that says hi yet the image used (which do not forget means the cartoonist hides his identity for fear of reprisal) is somehow comparable emotionally with a disgusting gesture of fascism that killed millions. Sensibility is not sense when it comes to this view.

Religion needs challenging by one and all against apologists who misrepresent what religious freedom means as a way to reduce human rights. Sensibilities might be hurt, but bruised pride is the least of our worries in the grand scheme of things.

Debating tactics and strategy is all very well, and yes there will be times when free kicks might be awarded against Dawkins. It misses the nature of the game being played and the stakes involved. It's not about winning player of the match, but calling out the harm done by religion and preventing it. Human rights, freedom of speech, contraception, to learn proper science at school and even men and women sitting or doing group work together. Even non religious institutions like University UK colluding with gender inequality unless challenged.

Dawkins, with The God Delusion, started a new wave of atheists. Not just to publicly declare there probably is no God, but to challenge the supernatural claims and pseudo science by which public policy is manipulated.

Secular activism needs you - it's time to get off the bench. With a revamped OUT Campaign promised now is a good time to warm up. Join a secular society and get involved.

 

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