Dawkins’ ridicule rejects reason

April 20, 2012

Recently Richard Dawkins, speaking at the so-called ‘reason’ rally encouraged the crowd to ridicule Catholics. He said when someone claims to be Catholic that atheists should first not believe that they are, then Dawkins urges his followers to

Mock them! Ridicule them! In public!

Unfortunately this wasn’t a one off comment. Responding to an article about how to treat top scientists who are Christians, he wrote in favor “ridicule” and “contempt”. He says that atheists should ignore those with well thought out opinions, instead:

I am more interested in the fence-sitters who haven’€™t really considered the question very long or very carefully. And I think that they are likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt. Nobody likes to be laughed at. Nobody wants to be the butt of contempt.

That’s a pretty major departure from reason. Using reason one seeks to encourage people to think about problems long and deeply. You engage the strongest arguments, not the weakest. You don’t push your beliefs (or lack of them) by social stigma- such you behaving anti-socially towards them, ridiculing and laughing at people in public and urging others to follow your lead. These are the tactics of a bully, not of a scientist.

Dawkins continues,

You might say that two can play at that game. Suppose the religious start treating us with naked contempt, how would we like it? I think the answer is that there is a real asymmetry here. We have so much more to be contemptuous about! And we are so much better at it. We have scathingly witty spokesmen of the calibre of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Who have the faith-heads got, by comparison? Ann Coulter is about as good as it gets. We can’t lose!

He rationalizes antisocial behavior by suggesting that it will be effective. Despite the fact that Dawkins wouldn’t like people to behave the same way towards himself, he thinks he says atheists are better at ridiculing others. I have no doubt he’s right and public mockery is a very effective way of getting someone to take a badly considered position. So why shouldn’t everyone follow Dawkins advice?

Jesus taught the exact opposite. He said,

In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Confucius said,

Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.

Across the world, from East to West, people recognize treating others in a way which you wouldn’t like is wrong. Dawkins urges us to treat others in a way which he himself would not like to be treated. The reason people shouldn’t behave like Ann Coulter or Richard Dawkins, is not because it is ineffective. It is because it is wrong.

For Christians, Jesus goes further. Even for people who might be considered our enemies, Jesus says we should love them,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

So should we, whether we’re Christian or atheist, act like Richard Dawkins and Ann Coulter, WBC or David Silverman? No. Instead, 1 Peter gives a good way to disagree – to disagree with reason and respect

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

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23 Responses to “Dawkins’ ridicule rejects reason”

  1. twofragments Says:

    Mockery is always essential for debunking authority. Religion is currently privileged with an inordinate level of social respect – far more so than one’s political persuasions for example. Treating Catholicism with a satirical contempt is simply a means of undermining an institutional system of forced reverence which encourages globalised homophobia and opposes contraception – an ideological commitment responsible for immeasurable levels of suffering and death.

  2. Austin 3:16 Says:

    Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let’s now stop being so damned respectful!

    Richard Dawkins The Guardian (October 11, 2001)


  3. Just to clarify:

    “That’s a pretty major departure from reason. Using reason one seeks to encourage people to think about problems long and deeply.”

    There is no law that says if you are using reason you have to ‘encourage people to think about problems long and deeply.’ That thought is simply wrong.

    “You engage the strongest arguments, not the weakest.”

    There is also no law that says reason must engage the strongest arguments rather than the weakest. Again, such thinking is simply silly and foolish.

    “You don’t push your beliefs (or lack of them) by social stigma- such you behaving anti-socially towards them, ridiculing and laughing at people in public and urging others to follow your lead.”

    I’m guessing you’ve not taken a long hard look at what monotheists are doing to those whom their ‘good’ book condemns. To say such a thing is to admit complete ignorance of what monotheism is and what it demands of its adherents. Shame on you.

    “These are the tactics of a bully, not of a scientist.”

    They also happen to be the tactics of monotheists. Even if you can claim you do not behave so, many do and Mr Dawkins was absolutely correct to advocate as he does. Your claims are nothing short of bald hipocracy and irony. Now, I laugh at you.

  4. Chucky Says:

    > Mockery is always essential for debunking authority.

    A valid, well thought out argument is essential for debunking something. Mocking someone doesn’t debunk a thing.

    > Religion is currently privileged with an inordinate level of social respect – far more so than one’s political persuasions for example.

    In comparison to politics, a discussion of pretty much anything gets more respect. That’s not a reason to push any other discussion down to the level of politics (just look at the political parties who use these irrational tactics most), but to move away from name calling, ridicule, and mockery, and more to simply offering truth and good, considered arguments.


  5. [...] A post over at Thoughtful Faith discusses Dawkins not infrequently given bit of advice to shame and mock believers in an attempt to, let’s be frank, coerce them out of their beliefs – such behaviour is repellent to me.  Now, as an atheist, I will disagree with the author about virtually everything, but the responses offered by the atheists in the comments section were disappointing to me – so it seems that it falls to me to play the part of the dissenting atheist.  There were three basic lines of response: 1) theists do it to us and turn-about is fair play; and 2) satire (i.e. mockery) does a very good job of revealing the failings of institutions and beliefs, so is a legitimate tool in the struggle against religious belief; and 3) religious belief is so harmful that these sorts of tactics are entirely acceptable.  I think that all these arguments are wrong in their own way and do not, individually or collectively, justify the mistreatment of theists.  Moreover, Dawkins and those who support such measures are, in any case, simply wrong about the effectiveness of shaming as a strategy to change people’s minds. [...]

  6. Austin 3:16 Says:

    > and more to simply offering truth and good, considered arguments.

    Yeah ’cause that’s what religion deserves good considered arguments.

    Sure. You can see that whenever a topic like gay marriage comes up all the good and considered arguments that flow from the religious side of the debate.

    Let’s face it you have a bunch of primitive myths about the world that you seem to want me to respect ? Why on earth should respect be a given? How about it gets earned first.

  7. Chucky Says:

    > Let’s face it you have a bunch of primitive myths about the world that you seem to want me to respect ?

    If they’re such primitive myths, you should have no trouble offering compelling arguments against them. If you want to blog about it, I’d be happy to respond.

    > Why on earth should respect be a given?

    Of course you can say that ideas like “Do unto others…” no longer apply to you, but don’t expect me to follow you there.

  8. Austin 3:16 Says:

    Hey Chucky,

    I’m not asking for unearned respect for a single one of my beliefs.

  9. Chucky Says:

    Hi Austin,

    If you think my ideas are wrong, that’s great! Tell me why, please. But you can express that without mocking or ridiculing me, just as I can disagree with you without mocking or ridiculing you.

    In fact that’s an open invitation to all the atheists here whether you’re a regularly comment or not. Post your reasons why you reject what I believe, let me know somehow, and we’ll discuss it.

  10. Austin 3:16 Says:

    Hey Chucky,

    I’m not here to convert you or make you change your mind. And logic generally doesn’t beat faith. That’s why it’s faith – faith can survive a heck of a lot without logic. Our recent discussion on God sacrificing God to God is a fantastic testament to that. It’s completely illogical, but you think it’s a-ok. Which is fine, just don’t expect other people to see it the same way.

    If you want to believe in supernatural tales based on primitive myths then demands of respect seem a bit over the top to me.

    Tell my why religion should be respected?

  11. Chucky Says:

    Hi Austin,

    > Our recent discussion on God sacrificing God to God is a fantastic testament to that. It’s completely illogical, but you think it’s a-ok.

    I linked an article to you, which explains in a logical way, why Jesus died for us. Did you get a chance to read it? If it is illogical, tell me why.

    http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/history/ath-inc.htm

    When Dawkins says that Jesus was killed by God to save himself, he’s very wrong about what Christianity teaches. When you both blur distinctions between the father and the son, claiming they’re the same person, you’re not quite right either. Misreprenting others beliefs is not a good reason to reject something.

    For anyone reading along our previous thread is here:

    http://thoughtfulfaith.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/dawkins-promotes-heresy-with-pell/

  12. Austin 3:16 Says:

    Hey Chucky,

    See what I mean. God sacrifices God to God to pay a debt God’s creation owed God. Or as the corrected version of Dawkins might put it

    >> It’s a horrible idea that God, this paragon of wisdom and knowledge, power, couldn’t think of a better way to forgive us our since sins than to come down to Earth in his alter ego as his son and have himself hideously tortured and executed so that he could forgive mankind <<

    This is absolutely illogical and you don't have a problem with it, you'll go through amazing intellectual gymnastics to make it all ok.

    You'll pick up on the one word mistake Dawkins made and tut tut even though his precis of the theology in question was for the most part highly accurate.

    And then you'll nit-pick about the father v the son (hey read the Nicene creed sometime). And insist that whatever your beliefs on the topic are they apply without exception to the rest of Christianity.

    Even if we change it to "God creates people – people act like people – this annoys God – so God manifests on earth as God's own son – God then causes (via man) God's son to be sacrificed to God to make up for God’s creation annoying God. God then forgives God’s creation for annoying God when ever said creation asks Him to.”

    It still doesn't make any logical sense at all, at that still won't bother you a bit.

    As to the article you linked please unless there is a new definition of logical which includes unsubstantiated, inconsistent balderdash then it's not a logical explanation of anything.

    Logic doesn't beat faith. Faith can happily survive without logic – that's why it's faith.

  13. Chucky Says:

    > This is absolutely illogical and you don’t have a problem with it

    I do have a problem with, as I have repeatedly try to explain to you. He presents Jesus as God’s alter-ego. That’s not a view I hold, no matter how much you insist I should. Critisizing views I don’t hold is a pointless conversation.

    I don’t think the incarnation is illogical at all. I think that it is a way that God can act in accordance with his own character, being both just and loving, consistent and merciful. If God simply ignored our sin, then it would be forgiving, but would be arbitrary, not just or consistent. That would be illogical. He wouldn’t have personally overcome evil, and it wouldn’t demonstrate God’s love for us- that he would even suffer and even die for us.

    But my link explains it much better than I can. What part exactly is inconsistent? Which part is unsubstantiated? Do you agree with CS Lewis introduction or not? Examples would be nice.

  14. Austin 3:16 Says:

    Hey Chuck,

    >> That’s not a view I hold, no matter how much you insist I should

    You know Chukster maybe Dawkins didn’t specifically have you in mind when he made the comment – imagine that. Maybe he just had the run-o-the mill type Catholic / Church of England types who would say that Jesus is God.

    >> I don’t think the incarnation is illogical at all.

    No kidding. Of course you might have a teeny weeny little bias on the topic.

    Unsubstantiated gee after the intro the first passage talks about creation and the fall. Nothing unsubstantiated there hey ?

    Or what the mind set of God is on any particular topic. The author knows that God took pity on man and what God’s perceptions of man were at the time of creation.

    I know Christianity lends itself to arrogance but that’s a bit of a stretch.

    and things like

    >> It was unworthy of the goodness of God that creatures made by Him should be brought to nothing through the deceit wrought upon man by the devil; <<>… and it wouldn’t demonstrate God’s love for us

    Right so torture and death are how you demonstrate love. Like if the kids break a vase playing in the house you’d kill their kitten because you love them and want to forgive them.
    More “logic” huh?

    See using logic when it comes to a faith base believer is like talking to a wall. And what’s the point of that ? Might as well ridicule the wall – same effect.

  15. Chucky Says:

    Hi Austin,

    > who would say that Jesus is God.

    I also say Jesus is God. This however, does *not* mean that we think that Jesus is the same person as the Father.

    > Of course you might have a teeny weeny little bias on the topic.

    I’m sure I’ve got many biases. Originally I had one against Christianity. Now you say I’ve got one for it. Perhaps you too might also have some biases.

    > Nothing unsubstantiated there hey?

    Athenasius isn’t trying to prove Christianity. He’s explaining why, given the basics Christians already believe is true, it makes logical sense for God to have acted the way he did. He is, basically, addressing Dawkins accusation.

    > Right so torture and death are how you demonstrate love.

    Athenasius agrees with you. He says that it was unworthy of God that his creation should die like this. For example, at the beginning of chapter 2, he says it is “monstrous” and “unfitting”,

    “The thing that was happening was in truth both monstrous and unfitting. It would, of course, have been unthinkable that God should go back upon His word and that man, having transgressed, should not die; but it was equally monstrous that beings which once had shared the nature of the Word should perish and turn back again into non-existence through corruption.”

    He argues the same as you,

    “It was unworthy of the goodness of God that creatures made by Him should be brought to nothing through the deceit wrought upon man by the devil; and it was supremely unfitting that the work of God in mankind should disappear, either through their own negligence or through the deceit of evil spirits. As, then, the creatures whom He had created reasonable, like the Word, were in fact perishing, and such noble works were on the road to ruin, what then was God, being Good, to do? Was He to let corruption and death have their way with them? In that case, what was the use of having made them in the beginning?”

    So he agrees with you. People naturally become corrupted and die, so Athenasius goes on to describe how God can logically and consistently let us live.

  16. Austin 3:16 Says:

    Hey Chucy,

    >> Perhaps you too might also have some biases.

    Yep we should get this one out of the way first, I’m hugely biased towards the rational over the supernatural. Massively so. Happy to admit it.

    >> I also say Jesus is God. This however, does *not* mean that we think that Jesus is the same person as the Father.

    Ok for a start who is “we”? The “about” section of the blog says that “This blog is my personal project and in no way reflects the opinions of my employers, or any organisation or group which I might be associated with or had any dealings with – past, present or future.”

    So who is “we”?

    Secondly again read the Nicene Creed – Jesus is of one being with the Father.

    I’d say a substantive amount of Catholic / Anglican Christians would say that Jesus = God.

    Dawkins has taken the common view of God / Jesus from the dominant religions of the culture he grew up in.

    How terrible of him, I can see why that would concern you.

    Or is it just that you can’t possibly address his substantive comments so the Jesus / God issue is a convenient straw man ?

    >> … given the basics Christians already believe is true,

    Still unsubstantiated , even if it is believed by many. And how on earth did the author know what God was thinking at the time of creation? How can he possible substantiate that ?

    >> Athenasius agrees with you. He says that it was unworthy of God that his creation should die like this.

    Well no we don’t really agree, I say the whole scheme is nutso – he says it was wrong o God to get his hands dirty. Bit of a difference.

    >>People naturally become corrupted and die.

    Well we get older and die, but that’s nature, it’s what happens.

    Isn’t it power that corrupts ? (hmm and God is all powerful there’s a thought)

    >> to describe how how God can logically and consistently let us live.

    Sure that’s what he did, as long as logic includes unsubstantiated, inconsistent balderdash.

    Even when some of the inconsistencies etc are pointed out to you you still don’t have a problem with it.

    So if logic bounces off a believer like a BB would off an elephant why not use ridicule ? You only have to look at the likes of Colbert, Stewart, Penn&Teller etc to realise that ridicule can be a useful and effective tool of debate.

    On the other hand if I had such a weak side of the debate as the religious do then I’d want every advantage possible. So I can understand the demands for “respect”.

    I think I can understand where you’re coming from

  17. Chucky Says:

    Hi Austin,

    > I’m hugely biased towards the rational over the supernatural.

    It obviously isn’t an either/or choice. Of the four greatest people to promote rationalism three: Leibniz, Kant, and Decartes clearly believed in God, each offering their own arguments for God. The fourth, Spinoza, was a deist.

    On the other hand, look at this article. Dawkins encouraging atheists to use irrational methods to promote atheism.

    Of course, in reality none of us are completely rational (thankfully) and there’s all sorts of considerations which determine what we do and say. Acting lovingly is a good example of where people act irrationally.

    > Ok for a start who is “we”?

    You said (correct me if I’m wrong) that I had a different view to the Anglican and Catholic churches. I disagreed, and “we” here people who share these basic Christian beliefs.

    > Secondly again read the Nicene Creed – Jesus is of one being with the Father.

    Yes, and that’s what I said in my previous reply. Historically it has been put as: one substance, three persons. Same being, *not* the same person. It’s a subtle, but important distinction. If you don’t understand what I mean (eg. don’t get the difference between substance and persons), have a listen to the podcast I linked to you before, where it is explained in a clear way,

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast

    Or maybe read the article on wikipedia,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity

    This little picture might help,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shield-Trinity-Scutum-Fidei-English.svg

    > How can he possible substantiate that ?

    When Dawkins claims it’s a “horrible” idea, it doesn’t mean Dawkins believes in God. Similarly to understand why Christianity not a “horrible” idea doesn’t mean you have to belive in God, or accept Christian belief as true. In both cases you take Christianity as a given and you argue from there. In Dawkins case, its not convincing because his “argument” comes down to making a blatant misrepresenation of Christian belief. In Athenasius case he offers a well thought out and compelling argument.

    > Well no we don’t really agree, I say the whole scheme is nutso

    Saying something is “nutso” is not a rational argument.

    > – he says it was wrong o God to get his hands dirty. Bit of a difference.

    I don’t understand what you mean by “get his hands dirty”. What do you mean? Which part are you talking about here?

    > Isn’t it power that corrupts?

    That’s a saying from 18th century England. I’m pretty sure Athenasius would say it is evil which corrupts us.

  18. Austin 3:16 Says:

    Hey Chucky,

    >> . Dawkins encouraging atheists to use irrational methods to promote atheism.

    Really I can’t see where he did that? Can you point it out ? Looks to me like you’re just constructing a straw-man. Neither logical not particularly honest.

    >> “we” here people who share these basic Christian beliefs.

    Ok this bit still gets me if this blog no way reflects the opinion of anybody but you then who the heck is we?

    Are you just using the royal we?

    >> Historically it has been put as: one substance, three persons.

    Um duh I believe I said it earlier that God’s basically a 3 way multiple personality disorder.

    And your little trinity shield diagram that you linked clearly shows that Jesus(the son) is God. So God sacrificing the son is God sacrificing God.

    >> When Dawkins claims it’s a “horrible” idea, it doesn’t mean Dawkins believes in God.

    I could say that using the death star was to obliterate the planet Alderran was a horrible idea and it shows the evil of the Sith without believing in the Star Wars universe.

    It doesn’t mean that I’m taking Star Wars as a given either.

    >> In Athenasius case he offers a well thought out and compelling argument.

    Sure he does – is there some rule that if you say something 3 times it magically becomes true?

    In conclusion I think we’ve shown that:

    1) Logic is irrelevant to a believer, I think we’ve thoroughly demonstrated that – ta

    2) Ridicule can be a useful tool of debate / discussion – I note that point stands unchallenged.

  19. Kindoalkun Says:

    The next Atheist Rally will advocate an evolution of the latest tactics: just beat the crap out of people who disagree with you. I mean, why not just cut to the chase? After all, the Atheists would win….right? Ohhhh…..still, it would be funny as s h i t to see a bunch of Atheist dweebs get their a s s e s handed to ‘em. Atheists remind of little dogs that yap too much. Please, just STFU the world is sick of your whining. Yeah, we get it…there are people who don’t believe what you do, people we call MOST OF THE WORKD. Just deal with it already and shut yer pie-hole.

  20. Austin 3:16 Says:

    Hey Chucky,

    In light of recent developments are you still sticking to your “ridicule is never appropriate” position ?

  21. Chucky Says:

    > Really I can’t see where he did that? Can you point it out ?

    I did already.

    > Ok this bit still gets me if this blog no way reflects the opinion of anybody but you then who the heck is we?

    I answered that last time as well. As I said, “We” here are the people who share these basic Christian beliefs.

    > Um duh I believe I said it earlier that God’s basically a 3 way multiple personality disorder.

    Did you get a chance to check out the links I gave you?

    > I could say that using the death star was to obliterate the planet Alderran was a horrible idea and it shows the evil of the Sith without believing in the Star Wars universe….

    Exactly. As I said, “When Dawkins claims it’s a “horrible” idea, it doesn’t mean Dawkins believes in God. Similarly to understand why Christianity not a “horrible” idea doesn’t mean you have to believe in God, or accept Christian belief as true.”

    Relax. Take a breath. Don’t argue with everything I say just because I’m Christian. You actually agree with me here.

    > Sure he does – is there some rule that if you say something 3 times it magically becomes true?

    The fact his arguments follow logically from his premises, which makes his argument compelling. So far you haven’t raised any good objections to his arguments.

    > 1) Logic is irrelevant to a believer, I think we’ve thoroughly demonstrated that – ta

    So, do you think that people should use logic and not ridicule?

    > 2) Ridicule can be a useful tool of debate / discussion – I note that point stands unchallenged.

    Did you read what I wrote? I agree that it can be extremely “useful” to treat others badly. My point is that it is wrong.

  22. Chucky Says:

    Sure. Why wouldn’t I?

  23. Austin 3:16 Says:

    Hey Chucky,

    You haven’t pointed it out, you’ve just made a blanket statement that ridicule is a departure from reason.

    Watch Colbert, Penn&Teller etc and reason and ridicule can go hand in hand. Sure they aren’t synonymous but they are not mutually exclusive either.

    Ridicule is the style of the message, not it’s content.

    You’re saying style equals content and that’s not the case.

    — “We” here are the people who share these basic Christian beliefs. —

    Ok here’s what the “about” section of your blog tells me:

    “This blog is my personal project and in no way reflects the opinions of my employers, or any organisation or group which I might be associated with or had any dealings with – past, present or future.”

    You might want to change that. it seems your blog does reflect group opinions.

    — Did you get a chance to check out the links I gave you? —

    Yep God is basically a three way personality disorder. Sure the father is not the son is not the spirit. But God is the father, is the son, is the spirit.

    We’ve covered this one already.

    –So far you haven’t raised any good objections to his arguments.–

    Well none that you acknowledge anyway. Tell you what though, just explain to me how Athenasius knows what God was thinking at the time of creation.

    — So, do you think that people should use logic and not ridicule? —

    Depend on the circumstances and as stated above they are not mutually exclusive.

    I would imagine though that logic would work best in a logical discussion and ridicule when discussing the ridiculous.

    But it’s not an either or as you pretend it is.

    — My point is that it is wrong. —

    Why ?


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