In what appears to be a serious piece in The Telegraph, columnist Damian Thompson thinks Richard Dawkins is “leading people to Jesus” because this one friend of his (who clearly isn’t a Dawkins fan) started going to the Catholic Church after opening up a copy of The God Delusion… and some other writer began researching Catholicism after reading his book.
(So now we know that the “people” in the headline really refers to just two individuals.)
[The friend] explained that he was, and is, a huge admirer of Dawkins the biologist… “But then I read The God Delusion and it was… total crap. So bad that I started questioning my own atheism. Then he started tweeting.”
As Jerry Coyne suggests, if your beliefs were so flimsy that they were destroyed by a couple of tweets, you didn’t really have very solid beliefs in the first place, did you?
Mind you, Thompson’s friend never explains how disliking Dawkins led him to believe that a priest can say some magic words and turn a cracker into Jesus. Actually, Dawkins’ rhetoric has no bearing on what’s true and what isn’t. It’s pretty obvious Thompson’s friend doesn’t have any evidence for God’s existence or any desire to rebut what Dawkins actually writes. Instead, Thompson’s basic argument is: “Isn’t Dawkins mean?! Let’s show him that people became religious because of his book! He’ll be ever so pissed.”
Sure, Dawkins rubbed some people the wrong way with his abrasive rhetoric. Sure, a couple of them may have became religious afterwards. When you write a book that sells millions of copies, that’s bound to happen. Just like I’m sure reading one of Lee Strobel‘s apologetics books has led some people to become atheists.
Anytime someone writes a book about a controversial subject like religion, you’ll find converts and detractors alike. That’s how it works.
On a side note, Dawkins has on his website a collection of emails written to him from people who became atheists thanks to his writing. There are hundreds of people there who attribute their atheism to him — and those are only the people who sent him confirmation of that. There are certainly many, many more who didn’t do that.
People who say they’re religious because “[insert prominent atheist’s name here] is a jerk” shouldn’t be taken seriously. The same goes for atheists who say they stopped believing in God because someone like Pat Robertson said something idiotic. Those aren’t arguments; those are cop-outs. You’ve already made up your mind and you’re just grasping at straws to justify whatever you already believe.
If Richard Dawkins were somehow inadvertently converting lots of people to Christianity, that would be a huge story. But it’s not happening. All Thompson has are a couple of random anecdotes (that aren’t even very good to begin with).
There are more House Republicans who accept evolution than people Richard Dawkins has turned into Christians.