Richard Dawkins does what a lot of us atheists do: He calls out bullshit as he sees it. He’s not afraid of tipping over sacred cows. In the process, he gets a lot of criticism because, let’s face it, no one wants to be told they believe in a lie, and he’s the most high-profile atheist out there.
Deborah Orr, writing for the Guardian, is one of those critics (despite being an atheist herself). And her explanation of why Dawkins goes too far is just flawed in so many ways:
It’s all very well to assert that it’s childish or primitive to believe in God. As Dawkins must know, the difference between fairy stories and religious belief is that there comes a time in a person’s life when societal consensus deems it no longer seemly to believe in the former. Likewise, no one would find it cute if they moved in with their boyfriend, only to find that come Christmas he was hanging out his stocking and leaving a glass of advocaat for Santa. There is no such consensus over belief in God, far from it. No British prime minister and no US president has thus far agreed with Dawkins that belief in God is silly and irrational. People are not yet ready to hear it, and ramming it down their throats just closes minds rather than opening them.
How’s that for circular reasoning? People believe in God, so stop telling them they shouldn’t believe in God. It won’t work, you see, because they believe in God.
By that logic, there’s never a good time to say the emperor has no clothes because too many people think otherwise.
This, Orr says, is an example of Dawkins’ “lack of sympathy.” He’s just not very kind to those adults who cling to fairytales. They need to be treated with kid gloves, don’t you know.
The reason Dawkins doesn’t hold back — the same reason most of us don’t hold back — is because we’re trying to wake people up to the fact that their belief in God is irrational. That’s not an easy thing to do. Accepting the truth, for many religious people, means letting go of the safety net of the afterlife and someone watching over you at all times. Most people won’t change their minds on their own because of that. They need someone to shake them out of their childish beliefs. “Societal consensus” won’t change until we push people in that direction.
Orr goes on to say, “I don’t think it’s quite time yet to berate believers as nothing but tiresome fools,” but she never tells us when the right time would be. Is it next year? A decade from now?
It’s an easy question to answer. There’s never a good time to tell people they’re wrong about something around which they’ve based their entire lives.
So you might as well start now.