Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Sharpe Criticism for Dawkins

Stuart Sharpe has an interesting reaction to the Papal visit. Worth taking a look. It's probably not what Richard Dawkins was hoping for.

It also has an xkcd cartoon, which always makes something worth looking at ;-)


  1. It's a rather paradoxical article. On the one hand it lambasts Dawkins but then it accuses the Pope of saying Hitler was an atheist.

    I haven't checked everything the Holy Father said, but as far as I can see, the only evidence that Pope Benedict said Hitler was an atheist comes from Dawkins - the very person whose rationality is in question.

    The other problem is that Stuart described Stephen Fry's speech to Intelligence Squared as "a wonderful example of an emotive yet still rational and reasoned argument against Catholicism." A terribly compromising statement given that Fry's speech was hopelessly ill-informed and prejudiced. Personally, I find Fry even less reasonable and informed than Dawkins - though it's a close run thing, I admit.

  2. Hello, Mr. P.

    And here was me thinking that you'd managed to be very quiet about the Pope's visit.


    What fascinated me was not so much Stuart's piece, but the comments thread. Looks like civil war breaking out among the atheists.

    For some time I've reckoned that Dawkins is the Ian Paisley of atheism. He goes down very well with the enthusiasts, but is very embarrassing to those with a modicum of sophistication.


    The quote that Dawkins referred to is here. The controversial words were "Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a 'reductive vision of the person and his destiny'"

    I think I know what he means, but I also think that he was asking for trouble, and would have been wiser to rephrase it.

  3. Thanks YMB. That paragraph does not claim Hitler was an atheist. I think it shows simply that Nazi ideology has its origins in atheistic roots - Nietzsche would have been the name, if anyone had asked the Holy Father. He was also explicitly showing how the same Nazis did exclude religion.

    The argument is simple: man is made in the image of God. If God is denied then one rather fundamental brake on mass violence is removed. That's not the same as saying atheism causes violence, only that in denying God atheism loses the Christian way of recognising the diginity of each individual.

    The proper atheist response to this should not be to misrepresent the Holy Father, but to find ways of filling that gap. And if that gap can't be filled (and it hasn't in my view) then to agree either atrocities aren't so atrocious after all, or admit that atheism has been morally falsified.

    I don't really care which move they make. But what they can't do is express moral indignation about the Holy Father calling Hitler an atheist, because he didn't. And until atheists come up with some sensible basis for morality, they have no philosophical right to get morally indignant about anything.

  4. Albert,

    I think that the distinction between "the Nazis wished to eradicate God from society" and "Hitler was an atheist" is probably a bit subtle for Richard Dawkins.

    I can see why he read "the Nazis wished to eradicate God from society" and "the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century", and come up with "Hitler was an atheist". He simply put two and two together and got five.

    Easily done when you are dealing with a subject that you know nothing about.


  5. YMB,

    Yes, interesting isn't it. In order for the Holy Father to speak to people like Dawkins he needs to simplify his language, to the degree that key subtleties would be missing.

    For these reasons, while I am pleased to see Stu giving up on Dawkins, I never cease to be amazed by how many people were taken in by Dawkins in the first place.

    But then Dawkins seems to have been taken in by Hitler's lies about being a Christian, despite the fact that Hitler was a self-confessed liar. A our Lord puts it: you can tell a tree by its fruit - and by that measure, Hitler is no Christian, but he is a liar. That Dawkins is so naive as not to see this is fascinating and raises the question of whether Dawkins would have defended Hitler when the latter said he had no more territorial ambitions in Europe.