SCANDAL: progressive left hurts prominent atheist’s feelings

Your cancellation of Dawkins’s talk was unconscionable. His speech has not been abusive towards Islam, but has involved criticism of religious dogma–and of all faiths. That is free speech, not “abusive” speech. All meaningful speech hurts some people’s feelings, but in this case there was no “abuse.” (whyevolutionistrue)

Famed atheist Richard Dawkins has had an interview with a radio station cancelled. I personally don’t know much about his work, but I hear on the grapevine that he is a well-known and influential figure who provides facts that help people detangled themselves from the grip of religions. If only I’d known about his work as a teenager, I might have saved myself several years of agonising confusion.

But it’s fair to say that a person can make a great contribution to science, and still be less than intelligent and forward thinking in how they express key parts of their message.

At a time when Muslim minority communities are under attack and suspicion because of the acts of a handful of adherents in their midst, it seems pertinent to question the notion of giving airtime to someone who calls Islam “the most evil religion in the world”. I understand that Dawkins himself would be quick to clarify that he doesn’t mean any offence to individual Muslims, and he intends to fight for their rights, but does he really think his supposed good intentions are appreciated? Of course not! Muslims only feel further marginalised and under attack, and ignorant casual listeners have extra fuel for hate.

You can abhor the religion, or you can abhor the base human motivations that lead people to act in harmful ways on behalf of the religion. Religion is certainly an all-too-common vehicle for harmful behaviour but it’s also a common vehicle for attempts to improve people’s lives, for attempts to bring peace to the world.

Think about something like football (or ‘soccer’ to some of you). It’s a great uniting force of seemingly healthy fun and camaraderie. It’s also an embarrassing waste of time kicking a ball, which provides a glorious backdrop for tribalistic violence and racism on a regular basis. Is football the most evil sport in the world? It simply satisfies a competitive, grouping, tribal identity need, which can express itself in violence when events escalate. Just like religion.

Humans are the problem, not religion specifically. Human behaviour is the problem, not Islam specifically. If Richard Dawkins want to intelligently redirect his scientific enquiry into why men get into illogical groupings based on X, Y or Z and want to kick the shit out of each other, rule each other, or spend generations in mindless revenge cycles, he might have something more intelligent to say about Islam. Or football for that matter.

In the meantime, when any organisation on receiving complaints from the general public wants to cancel a speaking engagement, he needs to bear in mind that although his feelings are probably hurt (he’s an important man, after all), it offers him a valuable opportunity to reflect on his message and how it impacts on people’s lives right now. If he still thinks he’s completely right, he’s free to speak anywhere on his soapbox, and for any less-progressive-left organisation he chooses – the ‘stagnant left’ loves to make a martyr of this kind of rejection, so I’m sure he’ll be overflowing with offers.