Richard dawkins

What does Christian atheism mean?

Two opposed camps can only have a fruitful debate if they agree on what it is they disagree about. A militant atheist such as Richard Dawkins is right to call out scientific ignorance in some religious settings. But at a deeper level his argument fails, because the deity he rejects is a blown-up thing, not the Creator conceived in classical tradition. Similar considerations apply to Slavoj Žižek’s Christian Atheism. When the claim that religion is no more than pious fantasy forms your starting point as well as your conclusion, then reason becomes the first casualty. This approach is as circular as beginning a book on socialism by asserting that all

Is Richard Dawkins a Christian?

When the New Atheism thing was new, I wrote a piece saying that the people who supported it were pretentious and cowardly. They pretended to know what religion is, and said that it caused great harm. I said this was ‘intellectual cowardice’. The intellectual coward is one who chooses simplicity over complexity and difficulty. One aspect of their cowardice related to Islam. Their popularity was a result of 9/11, and the widespread fear of religious extremism that ensued, but they didn’t dare focus on Islamic extremism; they wanted to say that religion in general was to blame, that mild-mannered liberal Christians were implicated in violence. Now Richard Dawkins is trying

Richard Dawkins’s views on Down’s syndrome aren’t a surprise

Irish radio host Brendan O’Connor is not interested in having an emotional discussion. He’s just curious: if a man of science claims that it would increase the sum total of the world’s suffering to bring a child with Down’s syndrome into it, what evidence does he have for that claim? In a viral clip, O’Connor — whose daughter has Down’s syndrome — maintains his professional poise as he asks Richard Dawkins to comment on an old tweet offering advice to a woman torn over what she would do if pregnant with a Down’s syndrome child: ‘Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world

Richard Dawkins is an ally to the oppressed

Richard Dawkins is no longer a humanist. At least, not one that deserves to be honoured as such, according to the American Humanist Association (AHA), which excommunicated him from the Humanist of the Year award last week. The fatwa issued by the AHA, which generously includes ‘critical thinking’ in a list of its own Ten Commitments, accused the evolutionary biologist of ‘demean[ing] marginalized groups’ when he asked his Twitter followers to ‘discuss’ the vilification of critics of transgender theory. Proponents of the new blasphemy codes have seemingly forgotten the decades of humanist work in favour of free speech. More qualified persons can better comment on Dawkins’s implied scepticism of modern

How Richard Dawkins fell victim to the transgender thought police

Richard Dawkins – the biologist, humanist, and author – is a well-known critic of religious faith. As he once put it, ‘Religion is capable of driving people to such dangerous folly that faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness.’ Traditional religion may have loosened its grip on society, certainly in the United Kingdom, but new quasi-religious ideologies are taking root in spaces that the churches have vacated. Earlier this month, Dawkins upset the transgender brigade by questioning their core beliefs. He Tweeted, ‘In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women,

What have you changed your mind about? A Spectator Christmas survey

Grayson Perry In 1992 I created a graphic novel called Cycle of Violence. Reading it now, the initially striking thing is that it predicts the rise of cycling culture in the UK and a working-class boy called Bradley winning the Tour de France. But it mainly reflected the state of my mind at the time — it contained a lot of perverted sex, dysfunctional parenting and mercilessly mocked the process of psychotherapy. In 1992 our daughter Flo had just been born and my wife Philippa seemed to have read every parenting book under the sun. Our house was full of the jargon and ideas associated with psychotherapy. Words and phrases

Richard Dawkins and the ignorance of ‘New Atheism’

I recently met an old friend at a party. She works for a Christian NGO. Later that evening we were introduced to a man with a background in software engineering. Having learnt about my friend’s job and then discovered that she goes to church, he asked her how old she thought the universe is. Her jaw dropped a bit. But she was composed enough to reply with a counter-question. ‘Did you know that it was a Catholic priest [the cosmologist Georges LeMaître] who proposed the Big Bang theory in the first place?’ Now it was the engineer’s turn to look shocked. Some may dismiss this exchange as a flash in

Why everyone loves Dolly Parton

When her musical 9 to 5 opened at the Savoy Theatre earlier this year, Dolly Parton stayed at the Savoy hotel itself. Very convenient, you might think: the walk between the two takes about ten seconds. But to ensure she arrived at the far end of the red carpet like everyone else, Dolly had to be collected from the back entrance of the hotel, and driven in a black SUV around to the front. Such are the lunacies of stardom. We learned about this in Dolly Parton’s America, a nine-episode podcast from WNYC radio. ‘In this intensely divided moment,’ they claim, ‘one of the few things everyone still seems to

Letters: Remainers lost – and Richard Dawkins needs to accept that

Deny Remainers oxygen Sir: Your correspondent Richard Dawkins seems to have a very tenuous grasp of logic for an academic (Diary, 5 October). He excoriates a referendum on the grounds that in the run-up the voters may have been misled. There is one choice between two alternatives, and the supporters of each outcome will do their best to persuade. Both may be less than truthful. Yet he adores a general election with five or six candidates hawking their conflicting and unfulfillable manifestos — all of them those pillars of veracity, politicians. Let us be frank. Since the shock result of 2016 we have listened to the whines of the EU fanatics

I was a Remainer – but I now want no deal

When I told two neighbours that I had become a no-deal Brexiter they physically recoiled from me. ‘You can’t.’ ‘But there’s no other option,’ I said. ‘You can vote Lib Dem,’ they said. ‘But that’s the same as a second referendum. Even if the Lib Dems came to power, the ones who hadn’t voted for them would hate the ones who had.’ Until 2016 I wanted to leave the EU. My thinking was half-baked. There were the silly laws driving farmers mad, the judgments of the European courts and the fact that Brussels hadn’t signed off its accounts for years. So when the chance came to vote to leave, I

Twitter: no country for old men

As I write these words, I regret to inform you, John Cleese is on his way to being cancelled. Now there’s a sentence that straddles a generation gap. Many people very familiar with John Cleese will have only the dimmest idea of what ‘cancelled’ means; while people who are all about cancelling celebrities will tend not to know what ‘John Cleese’ means. If anything saves him from cancellation, it will be the hope that he can snuggle down and hide in that gap until it’s all over. The cancellers won’t try too hard because they didn’t know who he was in the first place; others will register the row, furrow

Richard Dawkins is dragged into America’s tedious free-speech war

Anyone who has followed the free-speech wars in America over recent years will know that by now, basically, nobody can speak anywhere. Especially at centres like that one-time home of free speech, Berkeley, California, you now cannot speak in public if you’re a man or a woman, if you’re gay or straight and if your skin is white or not. Now to the great list of categories of people who should not be allowed to speak in America we can add scientists. Richard Dawkins is, by any standards, one of the most famous scientists on the planet. His books have brought writing about science to a world-wide audience. One recognition

Did Darwin get it wrong?

This week in the books podcast, we’re taking on some big issues. John Hands, the author of Cosmosapiens: Human Evolution From The Origin of the Universe, is in the grand tradition of ambitious gentleman amateurs. His book attempts to answer the fundamental human questions – who are we, why are we here, and where are we going? In doing so he considers everything from the origins of the universe to evolutionary theory. The answers he arrives at fly in the face both of Darwinian orthodoxy and the Standard Model of theoretical physics. Yet he argues that, as an outsider, he’s better placed to weigh the arguments than those labouring in

Books podcast: Cosmosapiens

This week in the books podcast, we’re taking on some big issues. John Hands, the author of Cosmosapiens: Human Evolution From The Origin of the Universe, is in the grand tradition of ambitious gentleman amateurs. His book attempts to answer the fundamental human questions – who are we, why are we here, and where are we going? In doing so he considers everything from the origins of the universe to evolutionary theory. The answers he arrives at fly in the face both of Darwinian orthodoxy and the Standard Model of theoretical physics. Yet he argues that, as an outsider, he’s better placed to weigh the arguments than those labouring in

Why I’m telling my son about the sky fairy

After we were married, my husband and I went on honeymoon to Mexico. We drove across country east to west, then north to Mexico City, to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe where I prayed for a baby. My husband, the least judgmental of atheists, sat happy in the babble of ladies all talking loudly, conversationally, to God. In April this year, with a vomity newborn on my shoulder, I made a nightlight out of a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe and some fairy lights. Now, eight months later, as we begin each evening’s slow, hopeful descent towards bed, I take the stout and opinionated baby to say

Losing their religion | 21 July 2016

Scriabin once suggested that the audiences for his music should be segregated according to their degree of personal enlightenment, with the ‘least spiritually advanced’ in the worst seats. Unsurprisingly it didn’t happen. But perhaps the Southbank Centre should take up the challenge. For its 2016–17 season, the centre has devised a series of concerts and talks entitled Belief and Beyond Belief. This ‘festival’, as it grandly styles itself, could have been an exploration of the enormous and neglected influence of faith on the great composers. Could have been — but, predictably, won’t be. Instead, the Southbank has chosen to subsume religious faith into ‘belief’, whatever that is, and then tacked

Every pro-EU argument boils down to not being able to trust the ‘plebs’

We all know that the Remain camp has peddled the politics of fear. But what is the object of their fear? What’s the thing that makes them so scared, so convinced that a litany of social and political horrors will befall Blighty if we pull out of Brussels? It’s you, and me; all ordinary people. It’s the public. It’s our unpredictable passions. When the pro-EU lobby frets about a post-EU Britain having Boris as a PM, becoming a right-wing cesspool, getting rid of workers’ rights, becoming less eco-friendly, and / or becoming vulnerable to neo-fascistic forces, what they’re saying is: ‘You can’t trust the public. You can’t leave politics to

What’s the point of The Templeton Prize? After going to last night’s ceremony, I’m not sure

The Templeton Prize is known to lots of people from Richard Dawkins’ intemperate denunciation of it in The God Delusion in which it features as the unspeakable temptation for scientists to do business with the God lobby. But having been to the ceremony last night in which it was awarded to the former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks – who, unusually for a winner, featured, mike in hand, in a performance of a hymn to celebrate Israel by the Shabbaton choir – I’m still at a bit of a loss as to what it’s about. The billing is that it ‘honours a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to

If I were Richard Dawkins, I’d count my blessings

It reflects rather well on Richard Dawkins that he still hasn’t joined his followers – the religious connotations of the word are intentional – in objecting to the Church of England tweet on Friday about praying for his recovery from a stroke. Prayers for Prof Dawkins and his family — The Church of England (@churchofengland) February 12, 2016 Presumably the CofE did so on the basis of Christ’s exhortation to ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you’, as well as genuine affection for the old boy. But of course the kindly post got the inevitable response from

Atheism may be fashionable, but most intelligent people believe in God

Have we ever needed Christianity more than we do today? It’s a rhetorical question, for sure, because the loss of our faith and the inability to confront Islam have never been greater. When I was a little boy during the war, my mother assured me that if I believed in Jesus everything would be OK. This was during the Allied bombing on Tatoi, the military airfield near our country house where the Germans concentrated their anti-aircraft guns. My Fräulein, the Prussian lady who brought me up, was more practical. She handed me a beautiful carved knife that made me feel safer than my prayers ever did. Today, of course, 74