How Did Richard Dawkins Offend a Christian Group This Time? August 8, 2012

How Did Richard Dawkins Offend a Christian Group This Time?

By accepting an invitation to speak at a book festival.

That’s it.

The Lord’s Day Observance Society said it was amazed by the invitation.

President of the group, John Roberts, said: “He has got a name for himself and being invited to a place like the Western Isles, which is a stronghold Presbyterian area, I just find it amazing he should be invited to a place like that.

“He has a personality that has reached certain heights but it just shows how gullible people are when so much of what he says can be torn to pieces.

“I wouldn’t cross the road to hear what he has to say.”

He won’t cross the road to hear Dawkins… but apparently he knows enough about Dawkins’ work to say it can all be “torn to pieces”? Riiiiight.

I’m sure he believes gay couples are a threat to society, too, even though he’s never hung out with any openly gay people in the first place.

Image via lewishamdreamer

And what’s with the offense taken by Dawkins appearing in a heavily Presbyterian area? Are areas dominated by religious thinking suddenly off-limits to atheists? Shit, I guess Dawkins can never visit Mississippi now…

A boycott is currently being planned:

… hard-line Christians are calling on people to boycott the biologist’s talk at the Faclan Hebridean Book Festival at Stornoway, amid claims his presence will be “offensive”.

In other news, logic and reason and science and evidence are offensive to Christians…

(Do they ever realize that Dawkins was invited specifically because there was local interest in having him there?)

The spokesperson for Dawkins must have been laughing while she said this:

“The very fact they are making such a fuss about a talk which no-one will be forced to attend betrays their panic at the mere idea of their beliefs not being considered sacrosanct by all.”

You know, if that protest happens, a local atheist group should hand out water bottles with atheist quotations on them to the people complaining, just to see how they like it. Give them a taste of their own medicine.

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  • OverlappingMagisteria

    Hang on….. they’re boycotting his talk? So people who were never interested in his talk are going to make a statement by not attending it. What a statement!

    Similarly, I guess I, and many others, have boycotted every Justin Beiber concert. That’ll show him!

  • Margaret Whitestone

    I thought boycotts were oppressive and infringed on people’s First Amendment rights…or is that only when LGBT people do them?  

  • LesterBallard

    You really don’t know what you are missing.

  • Miss_Beara

    An atheist exists and he will be in our town. I am offended!

  • Isaac Rosenbloom

    Personally, I would love for him to come to Mississippi. Also, as a very open atheist in Mississippi, I can tell you that the majority of people here are actually pretty tolerant and accepting. Or, it could be that I’m just that fucking awesome.

  • RodChlebek

    Seems that we’ve already discovered the laughing piece… that people are calling a boycott of something that they would not naturally attend.

  •  I imagine a book festival will not draw the type that would read only one book.  I have always considered Dawkins a fairly insightful speaker. I think he is worth seeing even you don’t agree with him.

  • TCC

    The Lord’s Day Observance Society? Seriously, such a group exists?

  • Centrally Located Independent

    “You know, if that protest happens, a local atheist group should hand out water bottles with atheist quotations on them to the people complaining, just to see how they like it. Give them a taste of their own medicine.”

    hahahaha I’d donate money for that!

  • Erp

    I think the festival organizers enjoy a bit of controversy (why else start it on Halloween) and include some people who’ve written in opposition to Dawkins (also a couple of classical vampire movies and Dr Who).
    “Samhainn, now Halloween, is when the ancient Celts
    believed the veils between this world and the Otherworld were at their
    thinnest; a time for reflecting on mortality.  It is an appropriate time
    of year for Faclan to take Belief as its theme.”

  • You hit the nail right on the head! Hypocrisy at it’s finest! 

  • Matto the Hun

    Hey guys, let’s start boycotting church! That’ll teach those fuckers!

  •  Yes it does. Only it goes by the name of Day One Christian Ministries now.

  • Erp

    I will note the Free Church of Scotland which may be the largest single denomination on Lewis (the island where the festival is being held) has actually said it welcomes Dawkins coming and challenged him to a debate beforehand.

    The area is conservative with strict Sunday closing (ferry and air service on Sunday didn’t exist until the 21st century). 

  • Agnostic

    I did some research last night and came across Dawkins debate with the archbishop of Canterbury when he said that he was not certain there was no god. The Daily Mirror headline went something along the line that Dawkins the world’s most famous atheist is an agnostic. Wow, I am not so dumb to call myself an agnostic after all.

    The problem with atheists is that the self seem to be in the highest order of things and have put the self in the position where the god believers put god. It is always about their rights. How about the rights of the rest of society?

  • Ken

    Dawkins’ very existence is apparently oppressive and an infringement of fundies’ right to determine what rights the rest of us are allowed.

  • Patterrssonn

    I hate to break it to you but just about everyone puts the self in the highest order of thing. Would make surviving difficult if you didnt. Unfortunately it’s worse than you thought.

  •  Sorry to burst your bubble there, Erp. Samhain is the harvest festival – it was all about life and fertility. The Christian “All Hallow’s Eve” is a time of superstition and demons, where they would wear demonic masks and offer fruit and candies as bribes to the devil in the hopes that they’d be left alone.

  • Agnostic

    Not if a person really believe that god is in that position. The question is not how many are true believers. Many may try to be and never get there. I guess in some religions it’s about the trying.

  • The fundie interpretation of the First Amendment:  I get to say whatever I want with no consequences, but I only have to listen to what I want to hear.  Anything less is tyranny!

  •  Being doing that for years and it has not had much effect. Maybe we should grab our bingo cards and go to church.

  •  Scotland, you American, and you know gays are not really human, so they are a special case that the Lord (pbuth) will burn their Satinic asses, very soon in the rap.

  • Kyle Arsenault

    Of course he’s agnostic. He’s a scientist. He can’t say with any absolute proof that there is no god. That, by default, makes him agnostic. 

    No where in the phrase “agnostic” (when he claims it) is the meaning “I think there might be a god.”

  • Itarion

    Something that I have noticed is that most people are very good at adapting to their situation. So, when someone they know comes out as an atheist, or gay, or black/hispanic/asian (only on the internet…) suddenly they have to revise their opinions. Be a good example. (So, essentially, you’re just that awesome.)

  • viaten

     Heck, I’m offended atheists even exist in our universe.

  • Agnostic

    But an atheist is someone who does not believe there is a god. I am just going by dictionary definition . That means a conflict. One cannot be both.

  • machintelligence

    Hello Streisand effect. This boycott will only boost attendance. Just like the surest was to have a best selling book used to be to make sure it was banned in Boston.

  • Erp

     I was quoting the festival organizers.  Btw October 31/November 1 is very late for a harvest festival in the Outer Hebrides given the first frost will have been in mid-October; most harvest festivals in Britain are in September.   One hopes Dawkins remembers to bundle up.

  • Itarion

    Are you sure atheists put the self in the highest order? That seems a very strong knowledge claim about a very diverse group. I think that it’s just as likely that some put humanity or society as a whole in the highest order, hence the phrase “faith in humanity.”

  • Agnostic

    Agnostics are people who do not know if there is or there is no god. You can take it to mean that we are indecisive people.

  • Renshia

     I like the complaint given on the site posted after this.
    ” Yes it does.”

    ” a group of MPs and peers claimed that the equality laws were
    promoting unacceptable discrimination against Christians.”

    What the hell do you mean we can’t be assholes, it’s part of our religion.

    That, in and of itself, invalidates everything about religion.

    Another shining example of religion doing what it does best.

  • guest

    wait, so people who wouldn’t go in the first place are now boycotting the event? I wonder if anyone has ever noticed that I am boycotting the mosque down the street…:D

  • Robster

    Seems those subscribed to the christian delusion would have little to do if they ever lost the ability to be offended. That’s all they do, get “offended”. Mind you, they do it well and it takes little effort fom the non-deluded community to gain their offense. They should thank Prof Dawkins and the rest of thus for giving them something to think about while they wait for a word or second coming from jesus or god or whatever.

  • viaten

    They can boycott the talk the same way they practice abstinence with someone they’re not attracted to.

  • Susan

    How could anyone be offended by the presence of such an intelligent, kind, honest, and gentle man? Their idiocy is showing. 

  • Miss_Beara

    Boo hoo, these gosh darn equality laws are discriminating against by deeply held Christian beliefs. Wah wah wah. We should be free to discriminate against others, anything less is religious persecution!

  • If you want to know what Richard Dawkins actually means, then go read He (like just about everyone else who reads this blog) is an “agnostic atheist” or “soft atheist”.  No belief in any gods, but accept that the position can never be proved.  To clarify, Dawkins also considers himself an “a-fairyist” and an “a-santa clausist”.

    The problem with those words is that the dictionary definitions are outdated, simplistic, and not very useful, because they don’t handle what most people who call ourselves atheists actually are.

    You can say we’re using the words incorrectly, but if you want to know our actual position, then you’ll need to learn what we mean when we say “agnostic atheist”.

  • Erp’s definition is pretty close to the one given to me by the Wiccan who initiated me.  He was from Scotland, and his family’s recorded history went back pre-Christian.  In particular, it was when it was easiest to communicate with the dead, and food was left out for them.

  • Piet

     I don’t believe in atheists. /poe

  • Tom L

     I agree with your general point; however, I’m not sure how the First Amendment applies to Scotland, or to a group based in the U.K.

  • Stev84

    Yes you can be both. (A)theism is about belief and (a)gnosticism is about knowledge. The two complement each other very nicely.

    It’s silly to say that agnosticism is some separate thing halfway between theism and atheism. If you don’t know whether a god exists, but don’t belief in one, you’re an atheist

  • Stev84

    Yes, and most atheists are also agnostics. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

  • Agnostic

    Maybe we are using different different dictionaries. If I am certain that something does not exist, I cannot say that it may exist. Just say you are not sure.

  • Agnostic

    Gnostics are those who know and agnostics are those who don’t know or find the existence of god unknowable. So there is a conflict. Just google the words.

  • Agnostic

    Then you or Dawkins will have to write your own dictionary or protest to google. I certainly don’t want to be classified as an atheist.

  • Glasofruix

    Don’t bother, he’s a troll.

  • debbiedoesreality

    I disagree that one can not be both. I used to refer to myself as agnostic as a means to avoid the negativity associated with the term atheist, but it was also true, as I did not know if there was a God or not. I was then, and still am, agnostic. I do not KNOW that there is not a God or any other deity, but I sure as hell have seen zero evidence of there being any, thus I do not believe there are any, thus I am atheist. The available evidence, or lack thereof, certainly leans in favor of atheism.
    The semantics can be argued, but it’s my position that everyone is agnostic, no one KNOWS, despite the many claims of “knowing God” or even the firmer atheistic stance of knowing no deities exist. Those of us agnostics who don’t believe God exists call ourselves atheists… and as for myself, I no longer avoid the label as a means to protect myself from a society that needs to have advanced past the point of seeing atheism as a terrible thing.

  • Nuno BC

    “Satinic” means “made of satin”, a very smooth and soft fabric. I will assume that “satinic asses” was exactly what you meant, since it sounds apt, at least.

  • debbiedoesreality

     The whole thing was contrived, an antagonistic attempt at shock. “Oh no, one of your “Four Horsemen”, your “atheist-in-chief” isn’t even atheist.”
    Anyone who’s read Dawkins knows he’s atheist, 6.9. He just recognizes the impossibilities of proving his position, as all of us agnostic atheists do.

  • debbiedoesreality

     Let’s hope not.

  • Alchemist

    The upside to the boycott is that it will be fractionally easier to get tickets.

    Who wants to sit next to some ignorant dumbass anyway?

  • Agnostic

    Atheist, the last time I look at the dictionary, means someone who does not believe in a god. The part that they put the self in the highest order is my deduction from the things they do. I have only a limited brain so how can I be sure. A person who thinks he is right all the time must be one who puts himself in the highest order of things. If the person has god or society above the self then he must be lower in order. People who disrupt society cannot be putting society in the first order. They are only thinking of their own rights which they think is always right.

    For those who think they are doing good works, then good works can also be subjective. Say if I spend my time and money on a certain cause, how rewarding is it for society as a whole? If I keep disrupting society how much more can it be further fractured before its downfall? As I said , I my brain is small, so if you think that is dumb reasoning then don’t bother with it.

  • debbiedoesreality

    I’m going to have to continue boycotting those Bieber concerts and remain ignorant of them.
    “One likes to believe in the freedom of music
    But glittering prizes and endless compromises
    Shatter the illusion of integrity”    😉

  • debbiedoesreality

    Funny, I’ve been told God doesn’t either… and the people saying it weren’t being facetious at all.

  • “In other news, logic and reason and science and evidence are offensive to Christians”
    I think you are being slightly unfair here. My guess is that very few Christians found Dawkins offensive until he wrote “The God Delusion”. That is an in-your-face title. If a Christian is at all liable to take offence, that would do it.

  • Dr C Layfield

    Interesting article.  I read the original article you commented on and actually emailed John Roberts directly to ask about these facts that can be “torn apart”.  

    To be fair he replied to me fairly quickly however his answer was [and I quote] “… but I have friends who are experts in engineering and design who could tear many of Dawkins arguments to pieces. They have approached the media for a debate, but Dawkins is not keen in meeting them.”

    I’ve asked him what these arguments might be and pointed out if they had evidence that would disprove any of the science that Richard Dawkins promotes then they should publish it in a reviewed journal because if the facts support it then you can publish it (that’s kind of how science works).  

    I have not heard back yet.

    He also suggested that perhaps his quote was taken out of context.  As I was not present at the interview I can’t completely discount this explanation to be fair.  But I do admit his answer to my question was less than satisfactory.

  • Kevin S.

    Rush that we can all get behind!

  • Glasofruix

    but I have friends who are experts in engineering and design who could tear many of Dawkins arguments to pieces.

    And my hairdresser has a really clever insight on atom splitting…

  • Well, if you don’t believe in a God, you are one by definition. Which doesn’t preclude being an agnostic: atheism is a position of belief, agnosticism is one of knowledge. So, in regard to your beliefs, what are you ?

    P.S. : Of course, you could also be an apatheist, position of belief meaning that you don’t care about that matter, e.g. by considering that the matter is unimportant.

  • Dr C Layfield


    Further in my reply to John I speculated that the issue his friends possibly had was Dawkin’s championing of Evolution.

    One observation I’ve made on this (to various Religious folks) I’ve never really got a satisfactory answer to.

    Creationists seem obsessed with disproving evolution.  Why don’t they put their effort into trying to prove Creationism via the scientific method?  Let’s pretend Evolution is disproved tomorrow… know what?  That does not prove Creationism is true.  I’m baffled at their failure to understand this basic fact and the energy they put into (with miserable failure I might add) disprove Evolution.

  • Glasofruix

    The funny thing is that creationnists claim that there are many scientists who don’t believe in evolution, the thing is, those scientists, for the most part, know nothing about biology…

  • You know you just said there are no fideists ? They are theists which are holding that objective certainty of God’s existence is impossible. An example of a philosopher holding this position is Kierkegaard.
    P.S. : Well, you exactly said there are no agnostic atheists, but what is good for the goose is good for the gander and all that…If agnostic atheism is impossible, neither should agnostic theism.

  • Patterrssonn

    I would think that wanting god to exist is the ultimate in selfishness, imagine thinking that that universe was built just for you. How much more self obsessed can you get?

  • Glasofruix

    I don’t qualify the noise bieber makes as music.

  • Agnostic

    I don’t think that is possible too. But I think a non- religious theist is even though that is besides the point. The agnostic claims not to know or it is not possible to know. An atheist is one who does not believe in his existence. One cannot say he is unsure and know at the same time.

  • Agnostic

    How can I not be sure if god exist and believe he doesn’t exist at the same time? One can be a non-religious theist though.

  • LesterBallard

    “While our loving Watchmaker
    loves us all to death”

  • Agnostic

    They are by definition different. One cannot claim to know and not be sure at the same time. Maybe in certain parts of the country atheism may not be acceptable but in other parts of the country, religious people are not acceptable and seen as backward. I have seen a few debates and have friends of different faiths. Some infer the existence of god from science and nature. One need as much faith to believe or not to believe. And, you can say people like me, just cannot take that leap of faith either to or not to believe.

  • Believing is “holding something for true without evidence”, so agnostic atheism, or fideism for that matter, are perfectly possible positions: you are not sure God exists, because of a lack of evidence either way or because of impossibility to know, and you believe there is one, more or none.

  • One cannot say he is unsure and know at the same time. 

    And here is your error: atheism, like theism for that matter, are not positions about knowledge, but about beliefs. You can very much be unsure, i.e. agnostic, and believe (thinking true without evidence) one way or another, i.e. be an atheist or a theist. 

    P.S. : And a non-religious theist is still a theist, so if agnostic atheism were impossible as you hold, agnostic theism would be too, religious or not. Religiousness being a question of practice and dogma, it is orthogonal to this argument I think.

  • Pisk_A_Dausen

    Why don’t you start here instead of starting this discussion all over again the next time you’re bored:

    The fact that “one” can be an agnostic atheist isn’t an invention by the people in this comment section.

  • People who disrupt society cannot be putting society in the first order. They are only thinking of their own rights which they think is always right.

    You’re not confusing ‘atheist’ with ‘anarchist’ are you?

    Being an atheist has nothing to do with thinking one is right all the time.
    Disrupting society has nothing to do with atheism.

    I don’t care what label you want to use.  Several prominent scientists have used ‘atheist’ in exactly the same way you do.  What I do care about is that you attack people who call themselves ‘atheist’ based on completely false assumptions.

  • Bryan

     You just said what everyone has been trying to say, yet you still reach your same old conclusion.

    I am an agnostic atheist. As an atheist, I don’t BELIEVE in a god or gods. That is, I haven’t found adequate proof to justify belief in a god, and there is more evidence (in my eyes) that there is no god.

    As an agnostic, I KNOW that it is impossible to COMPLETELY DISPROVE the existence of a god. Therefore, I’m still not 100% certain (I don’t KNOW) that there is no god, even if the evidence points that way. If evidence comes up for a god, and it checks out, then both my knowledge ((a)gnosticism) and my belief ((a)theism) might change.

  • Bryan

     “One cannot claim to know and not be sure at the same time.”

    Precisely. The very definition of agnosticism (note the little “a” that means without, i.e. “without knowledge”) is NOT knowing. Nobody is claiming to know for sure (unless you’re a “hard” atheist); but the available evidence points to no god.

  • Agnostic

    Dawkins apparently has not accepted invitations to any debates since he debated John Lennox at Oxford.

  • Do you believe in the flying spaghetti monster?

    No?  Then you are a-flying-spaghetti-monsterist.

    Can you prove it doesn’t exist?

    No?  Then you are an agnostic a-flying-spaghetti-monsterist.

    There is a difference between not believing in something, and thinking you can prove it doesn’t exist.  That is the distinction that you are missing.

  • 3lemenope

    That needs to be weighed against What Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen.

  • Peter Byrom

    As a Christian I think these people are being pathetic. Why aren’t they jumping for joy at the potential evangelistic opportunity, or even (God forbid) the chance to love thy neighbour and thine enemies? Guys, please, you’re letting the side down!

  • Annlumax

    Well, I just repeated what I read. He can define to enlarge his catchment if he wants. But I am sticking to a wider acceptable dictionary definition. I cannot take that leap of faith to believe or not believe so I do not consider myself a theist or atheist.

  • Agnostic

    Well it is invented somewhere by some people who want to widen their catchment. It is definitely a contradiction in terms if you go by the dictionary.

  • Agnostic

    I cannot be sure that a god exist and be sure that he doesn’t exist at the same time .Agnostc theism and agnostic atheism are impossible if you go by the dictionary. Non- religious theist is someone who believe in some deity but not part of any religious organization. Some call themselves free thinkers.

  • Agnostic

    Since I cannot prove whether a deity exist or not,my decision is not to take the leap of faith either way-ie not to be a theist or atheist.

  • Agnostic

    I am not sure what dictionary you go to but I cannot decide to not be sure if there is a god and be sure he does not exist.

  • Agnostic

    But I am not holding something for true without evidence. My decision to not to hold something without evidence to be true. That is why I cannot be a theist or atheist. I am going round and round on the same point.

  • Agnostic

    Oh dear they are so different that it is impossible to confuse the two words. I can come to my conclusions just as you can. You may think that agnostics are stupid and indecisive. You are entitled to your opinion.

  • I have never said, or implied, that agnostics are stupid or indecisive.  I do think you do a lot of projecting.  You make all kinds of assumptions about other people, even with your “you may” when I’ve never said anything of the sort.

    Hey, you may be a flying unicorn.  You’re entitled to your own opinion.

  • Lady Hatshepsut

    I’m offended by your offense.  Go away.  hehehehehe

  • Yes you cannot be sure of both. The impossible position you describe is neither fideism, nor agnostic atheism nor it is a logical consequence of either or both.

    You seem to confuse belief and knowledge. Knowledge is, classically, a justified true belief, that is there must be a reason for the truth of your belief for it to become knowledge. Usually, the reasons accepted for such an important question by denizens of this forum are iron-clad evidence. So, absent evidence (justification for or against the belief)
    on a subject
    you can very much both hold that you have no knowledge about it and that you have a belief about it.

    P.S. : Talking about the impossible position you describe, you can be certain of both with reasons for both, which would be an illogical double gnosticism; certain of both with reasons for neither (i.e. taking both on faith), which would be a very weird atheist theism; or be certain of one with reasons and taking the other on faith, which would be a gnostic theism where you know there is no god or a gnostic atheism where you know there is a god.

  • Fair enough, altough the reasons why atheists (or fideists for that matter) may commit an answer to this question have to do with what count as evidence for a position and what is the null hypothesis (the hypothesis to make when there is no evidence clearing the bar). What you consider the null hypothesis is to not commit oneself on the potential existence of an entity unless there is evidence for or against said entity, which although generally sensible fails to be useful in some cases (e.g. Does Russel’s teapot exists ?). What some atheists consider is given that proving there is no god is basically impossible, the null hypothesis is to believe the non-existence of the entity unless evidence of its existence appears.

    P.S. : The impossibility refers to disproving that all gods which might be conceived exists is impossible, given that you can’t, for example, give any evidence against Spinoza’s god.

  • debbiedoesreality

    I love how Geddy sings this line, especially in the last chorus. I am still listening to the album almost daily, with a lot of other Rush added in. It’s created a Rush Revival around here. Fun Times.

  • debbiedoesreality

    Seems to me it is you attempting to “define to enlarge your catchment” or your ego, either/or.
    The “wider acceptable dictionary definition” has been posted to you over and again by several people and you refuse to accept the facts, choosing rather to stomp  your foot and keep posting somewhat convoluted attempts to defend your position, which happens to be incorrect… do carry on though, of course.

  • Brian Sherson

     Eh, just the mere existence of atheists offends certain theists.

  • LesterBallard

    My favorite line, and now one of my favorite all time Neil Peart lines is “all I know is that memory can be too much to carry/striking down like a bolt from the blue”. If they don’t play The Wreckers I’l cry. I love the way Geddy sings that those lines. Just over a month to go. Haven’t seen them since the Test for Echo Tour. What a wait.

  • Renshia

     As a former christian I think you fail to see the whole spectrum of possibilities involved in this. Religious hierarchy is not big on education. There is just to much of a chance the person attempting  to witness will be exposed to a different perspective. The problem with words is that they always make a person feel like were empowered. Yet when it  comes to facing the world, were who we always are. There is no power. This tends to leave people a little shaken. Thus making them susceptible to new thoughts and ideas. We both no that is never a good idea for a christian. That is where doubt creeps in. As they realize, they got no power, it’s easy to take that next step and wonder if there is anybody out there. This is why they are not jumping for joy. They can’t protect their income source out there.

  • I guess some people never heard of “If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it.”

  • debbiedoesreality

    I also love that line, a lot. ‘The Wreckers’ is a great song. I hope they play it just for you. “Concert Hall!”

  • LesterBallard

    For Rush, The wreckers, The Halo Effect, The Garden, and Wish Them Well are down right catchy. They should get major radio airplay.

  • debbiedoesreality

    Catchy indeed.

  • Bryan Elliott

    How does one boycott a talk one wasn’t going to attend anyway?

  • Bernard Hurley

    Easy, you buy a ticket for it and don’t turn up!

  • corvelay

    Pfft. Everyone knows Dawkins boycotts are only legitimate when Rebecca Watson starts them.

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