Thursday, September 05, 2013

"The Tragedy of Richard Dawkins"

That's a phrase used by Martin Robbins at the New Statesman site.  His title may explain more:  "Atheism is maturing, and it will leave Richard Dawkins behind."

Specifically, Robbins accuses Dawkins of using his widely-read Twitter feed to promulgate a lot of "vaguely racist bigotry," of the kind that you used to hear only when visiting your aged grandparents.  (That's Robbins' image.)  He points to a couple of insipid tweets about Muslims, whose failure to win Nobel Prizes is apparently, according to Dawkins, a reflection of their belief in God.

As Robbins sees it, Dawkins is an old New Atheist headed toward inevitable conflict with the newer New Atheists.  He says:
Dawkins remains a powerful force in atheism for the time being. Increasingly though, his public output resembles that of a man desperately grasping for attention and relevance in a maturing community. A community more interested in the positive expression of humanism and secularism than in watching a rich and privileged man punching down at people denied his opportunities in life. 
Honestly, you know what this makes Dawkins sound like?  The Jerry Falwell school of Christian preacher -- the sort that rose to fame on a wave of resentment among the faithful, and can only retain power by stirring up more resentment.  It's not just preachers, of course, who do this sort of thing; it is all reactionaries.

That said, we hope that Robbins is correctly predicting the path that modern atheism will take.  We have certainly read about people calling for a move in the direction of "positive expression of humanism and secularism," but the evidence of our own eyes suggests that they are still vastly outnumbered by vulgar, intolerant white men more interested in running down their perceived opponents, and harassing their handful of female associates than much else.  At this stage of its development, the atheist movement strikes us as something like the Rand Paul school of libertarianism.  In which case, Dawkins remains a suitable figurehead.

But perhaps Robbins is correct.  We certainly hope so.  Spero meliora, as Cicero says.

7 comments:

mark said...

Tragedy? Do you think the situation really rises to that level?

George Waite said...

Atheism is about as White as Mainline Protestantism; it's less hypocritical (or maybe just less wasteful)because it's never spent millions on "Diversity Outreach" or "Multicultural Resource Officers" which have had virtually no effect on the percentage of non-Whites in Mainline churches, except for symbolic and token representation in synod and headquarter offices.
If being all-male were a problem, you'd be denouncing the Orthodox and Muslims for not having female Imams or priests/patriarchs.

Father Anonymous said...

Mark: Not in the strict Aristotelian sense, since -- among other reasons -- it is real life, rather than a mimetic representation. But if somebody dow the road were to make a movie, I think it might qualify. A protagonist of remarkable endowments; a period of tremendous influence, marred by the hubristic excess which costs him everything. He dies in the end, if only because we all do, but it is his loss of influence which is likeliest to provoke catharsis in the audience.

"George:" Being all-male isn't a problem. Driving women away with a culture of frat-house insensitivity is a problem. I mean, unless you're a frat house, in which case the women really don't belong there anyway (more or less the case of the Roman and Fundamentalist hierarchies as well).

But , honestly, I'm not denouncing anybody here -- just observing out loud the denunciations offered by other secularists. So please, take up your concerns with Martin Robbins, Jim Jeffries, Keith Kloor, and Rebecca Wilson. I'd be genuinely interested in their responses.

George Waite said...

"Father", staying one thing while remaining another is hypocrisy. Or just laziness and a virtual total lack of any real plan to get from Bad A to Better B. Either Mainline Protestantism doesn't know or it doesn't care that its programs have had virtually no effect on its "diversity" except provide a few token spots at Headquarters for "Diversity Offices" and "Multicultural Ministries".

Father Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, George, but ... what on earth are you talking about? Clearly it's not Dawkins or his detractors.

If you're really interested in a wide-ranging critique of mainline Protestantism (and who isn't?), I encourage you to start your own blog, to which I will happily make comments. The failures of my own tribe are a subject on which I have a lot to say, as has this blog from time to time.

But until then, try to stay with the subject at hand, would?

Father Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, George, but ... what on earth are you talking about? Clearly it's not Dawkins or his detractors.

If you're really interested in a wide-ranging critique of mainline Protestantism (and who isn't?), I encourage you to start your own blog, to which I will happily make comments. The failures of my own tribe are a subject on which I have a lot to say, as has this blog from time to time.

But until then, try to stay with the subject at hand, would?

Father Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, George, but ... what on earth are you talking about? Clearly it's not Dawkins or his detractors.

If you're really interested in a wide-ranging critique of mainline Protestantism (and who isn't?), I encourage you to start your own blog, to which I will happily make comments. The failures of my own tribe are a subject on which I have a lot to say, as has this blog from time to time.

But until then, try to stay with the subject at hand, would?