“Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think,” Dawkins tweeted on Tuesday morning.
He had earlier tweeted: “X is bad. Y is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of X, go away and don’t come back until you’ve learned how to think logically.”
Richard Dawkins classified certain types of rape and paedophilia as 'worse' than others
He followed it up with: “Mild pedophilia [sic] is bad. Violent pedophilia is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of mild pedophilia, go away and learn how to think.”
Furious reaction ensued, with commenters telling Dawkins to “go away and learn compassion”, sarcastically replying: “So helpful! Maybe he could make a list ranking types of rape from worst to least worst?” and accusing him of being “a danger to women.”
Dawkins however continued to push his point, replying to one of his supporters with: “It’s obvious to you and me. You’d be amazed, probably shocked at how many people simply don’t get it.”
The 73-year-old also began re-tweeting messages of support from both men and women, praising him for his “perfectly obvious point.”
He then repeated the statement, altering his phrasing slightly: “'Mild date rape is bad. Violent date rape is worse.’ Is it really so hard to understand that that doesn’t constitute endorsement of either?”
Dawkins’s statements have been met with incredulity by a charity which delivers services to end violence against women and children.
Jody Woodward, a spokesman for East London Rape Crisis, a service within the charity NIA, told Huffington Post UK: “Rape itself is a violent act regardless of whether any physical force is used. For survivors there is no hierarchy as to what constitutes ‘better’ or ‘worse’ rape. Rape is rape; there is no such thing as mild rape.
“Around 90% or rapes are committed by men known to the victim/survivor, these worrying myths around ‘real’ rape being committed by strangers at knifepoint can impact on women feeling they can come forward to report the abuse and feeling they will be believed.
“The impacts and consequences of rape for victim/survivors are no lesser because there was no knife involved and to suggest this is the case is discrediting the voices of survivors.”
Dawkins is no stranger to incendiary twitter rants. He has previously declared victory for Osama Bin Laden after a jar of honey he was carrying fell foul of airport security rules.
He vented on Twitter after the “little jar of honey” went to waste because of restrictions on liquids that can be taken on as hand luggage.
Blaming “rule-bound dundridges”, and apparently sniffy at the ridicule his rant was met with, Dawkins demanded: “Are you carpers really too thick to see the difference between a matter of general principle and a petty concern with a single jar of honey.”
The comment was directed at HuffPost UK Political Director Mehdi Hassan, then working at the New Statesman, who was challenged by Dawkins in an interview in 2012 to admit he believed the Prophet Muhammed flew to heaven on a winged horse.
Dawkins later apologised in a blog, writing: “None of those three meanings was well conveyed by my ill-judged words, and I withdraw them with apologies. I’m grateful to the many tweeters who came to my defence and saw no problem with my original formulation. Nevertheless, I cannot deny that my words were carelessly chosen.”
He has also been accused of disguising “bigotry” as atheism after stating: “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”
He responded to the barrage of ensuing criticism by telling his followers: “A statement of simple fact is not bigotry. And science by Muslims was great in the distant past.”
He added: “Where would be without alchemy? Dark Age achievements undoubted. But since when?”