Richard Dawkins and the Brights’ supposed ‘Atheism’: renewed antireligious and antitheist hatred against the most basic human rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1948, arising directly from the experience of the Second World War. It represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled.

Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Religion SymbolsArticle 2
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

First of all, I cannot be considered a religious person. I shouldn’t need to say that, but since the following text is an anti-antireligion one, I guess most religious and antireligious people would like me to clarify this point. I cannot be classified as an atheist either, but rather as an agnostic — I think that the truth value of certain claims (particularly metaphysical claims regarding theology, afterlife or the existence of deities, or even ultimate reality) is unknown and inherently impossible to prove or disprove.

To sum up my ‘philosophy’, I just don’t care for my real life – if there’s something or ‘somebody’ thereafter, great; if there isn’t, great, too. I am interested in the Bible or any other religious text, just as I am interested in Marxist philosophy, in the Hinduist Śruti as in modern Social-Democratic statements. Just to “cultivate” myself in the so-called culture studies, to know what others think and believe.

In fact, when confronted with dogmatic religious or antitheist people, I often see just daring (and arrogant) ignorance. Like the slogan of the so-called ‘Atheist’ Bus, “there’s probably no god”, as if that probability could be measured… Or like the Flying-Spaghetti-Monster-joke, now frequently used in social networks against anyone who dares to say he believes in something. As Astrophysicist Martin Rees has said about Dawkins’ attack on mainstream religion, that criticism is unhelpful, because “such questions lie beyond science”. I would have said such questions simply lie outside science.

My girlfriend’s sister bought me the book God Delusion (in Spanish) for my birthday, so that I could read some intelligent criticism of religion, because she knows how I usually criticise catholic “scientific theses” on life’s beginning and end (abortion, euthanasia, etc.) and the like. After reading some interesting pages, I looked for Dawkins in the net, and I found that preposterous attitude of him and his “Brights”, who have substituted religious dogma with a new (old) antitheist dogma – history repeating itself, a football match involving people’s opinions. How nice.

I agree with Dawkins that atheists should be proud, not apologetic, because social atheism is evidence of a healthy, independent mind, and that education and consciousness-raising are the primary tools in opposing religious dogma and indoctrination. And I could even personally agree with his disrespectful sentence “many of us [see] religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we [think], if people [need] a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm?“. But the following assertion is logical nonsense and clearly supports antireligious hatred:

September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let’s now stop being so damned respectful!

Please note that thorough argument involving “9/11” and insecurity to justify everything else. Dawkins was maybe inspired by this Family Guy scene?

It is logical that righteous and intelligent people – like Dawkins and many well-minded atheists – tend to be aggressive and irrational dogmatics when confronted with aggression and irrationality from dogmatic religious people. It happens often in dialectics, and it’s hardly avoidable. But that’s not a valid reason to maintain and even lead that confrontation into an open war (first verbal, then who knows), supporting an anticlerical, antireligious and antitheist atheism. It should always be human rights and tolerance against tiranny and injustices, not opinions against opinions.

In this new open war of Dawkins and his “Brights” (akin to the state atheism of some dictatorships), antitheism is carefully disguised as the universalism opposed to cultural relativism, which is an argument frequently used by those who wield power in cultures (not religions) which commit human rights abuses. The 2005 World Summit, a follow-up summit meeting to the United Nations’ 2000 Millennium Summit, reaffirmed the international community’s adherence to this principle:

The universal nature of human rights and freedoms is beyond question

It is a principle valid against any kind of human rights abuses, whether justifed by religion or antireligion.

I could write a book myselft trying to discuss Richard Dawkins’ arguments about religion being socially dangerous, but he convinced me it is completely unnecessary. As Mr. Dawkins put it (when confronted by Alister McGrath with the fact that he is “ignorant” of Christian theology), “do you have to read up on leprechology before disbelieving in leprechauns?“. Of course not. And you certainly don’t have to read up on antitheist hate propaganda before disbelieving in antitheist hatred.

I don’t think this post (or any possible writing) will change the mind of those who have already taken sides – as encouraged by Mr. Dawkins – to make of opinion an easier black-or-white, right-or-wrong aspect, but I’ll finnish it with some similar examples. Let’s suppose that I don’t feel nor believe in “love“. For me what others describe as “love” is just another voluntary exchange, as voluntary as buying bread to eat, or reading a book to learn. However, a lot of people ‘believe’ in it (whatever that means); and in their opinion, it is probably one of the most important aspects of their lifes.

So even if I am “agnostic” in that respect – of the meaning and existence of such thing as “love” -, as I am agnostic regarding the meaning and existence of the afterlife and god in which a lot of people (need to?) believe, I’m respectful and consider them personal opinions – just like the need of atheists in believing there is no god. But I could just as well begin my own “school of Brights”, by igniting flames about “love-believers” being dangerous ignorants, asserting that love is incompatible with (and harms) science, writing books dismissing love and lovers, creating a “Foundation for a Rational Life”, supporting the “flying-spaghetti-feeling-joke”, etc., and making disrespectful statements like:

Many of us saw love as harmless nonsense. Belief in love might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? Domestic violence and especially violence against women changed all that. Love is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of feelings. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects love from normal criticism. Let’s now stop being so damned respectful!

Or, let’s talk about political ideas and democracy:

Many of us saw politics as harmless nonsense. Political ideas might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? Modern wars have changed all that. Politics is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of ideas. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects freedom of opinion from normal criticism. Let’s now stop being so damned respectful!

Or, we could also try to ban literature using Dawkins’ thorough reflexion, equally valid either to prohibit communist writings, or to support the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia:

Many of us saw literature as harmless nonsense. The art of written works might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? Capitalism / Communism changed all that. Literature is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of ideas. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects literature from normal criticism. Let’s now stop being so damned respectful!

Mr. Dawkins and well-minded friends: life should be a “damned respectful” football match, it is a complex game and it cannot be made easier with an either-with-me-or-against-me-type of philosophy. If you fight hooliganism with hooliganism, entering the dogmatic game, you can turn life into an open (and unnecessary) battlefield. It is really sad to see how modern religious people struggle to get involved with each other and respect universal rights, while many modern atheists are turning into arrogant, intolerant dogmatic believers in the non-existence of god and the evil nature of religion…

Addition – 12 Feb 2009: With Darwin’s anniversary, Spanish American biologist and pihilosopher Francisco J. Ayala is participating in a conference about evolution and creationism, and he has been interviewed, making some interesting remarks about his (in his own words) good friend Dawkins:

The hypothesis of God
Luis Alfonso Gámez – “After Darwin, the hypothesis that a superior being designed the world is untenable. If one believes in God, he has to do it because of other reasons, but not because he needs it to explain the world”, says Richard Dawkins.

Francisco J. Ayala – I agree with him. You don’t need the hypothesis of God to explain the world. There are people who need the hypothesis of God to have a religious vision [of life], to give sense to their lives. A year ago, Richard Dawkins and I discussed this in the Salk Institute. I told him: “Why do you want to take the hope away from 80% or 90% of humans who have a miserable life and see in religion their only support?”. He answered that we must begin to teach Humanity so that people gradually find the justification of their existence and their values in science, and he expects that in 50 years humans can live governed by the rational principles of science. I answered him: “If you believe that the 8.000 or 10.000 million people that will be then are going to accept the rational principles of science to explain their existence, you probably also believe in the Fairy Godmother and the Magi“. I don’t know why anyone should struggle to make people who need to believe stop believing. There are a lot of Christian, Jew and Muslim theologues who accept evolution and also believe that their theology is better explained with it. It is a school called process theology.

Answering Ayala’s question about why anyone would care about making others stop believing, I guess the answer lies in the public attention, prizes, interviews, book copies sold, donations, etc. he receives by igniting such flames against beliefs (different than his there-is-no-god belief, of course). Just like prominent creationists (as Michael Behe or William A. Dembski) receive support from a lot of believers, he enjoys having his piece of cake from atheists in this global pie of intolerance.