Evangelical atheism

More strange reaction to atheism, more bizarre confusion and surprise where no surprise should be.

And herein lies one of the central paradoxes of Richard Dawkins. Fervent atheist he may be, but he’s also a curiously evangelical figure. It requires no great leap of the imagination to envisage him declaiming from a pulpit, lambasting sinners for their moral laxity.

That’s not a paradox at all. It’s silly to think it is. Atheism is one thing and moral indifference is quite quite another. It’s simply a blank and rather stupid misconception to think that atheism entails lack of moral energy or that passion requires religion. It’s getting increasingly depressing to discover what inane ideas many people have of what atheism is.

Yet Dawkins’s dislike of any notion of God – along with his scorn for anyone who persists in believing in God – is so strong that at times it threatens to unbalance him. As anyone who saw his two-part television documentary The Root of All Evil? will recall, moderation tends to drop away. In its place comes a kind of wintery exasperation at the foolishness and primitivism he sees all around.

I don’t recall that, actually. What I recall is that moderation did not tend to drop away except during the moment when the ineffable (and, we now know, closeted) Ted Haggard decided to tell Dawkins what’s what about evolution. It wasn’t the theism that caused moderation to drop away, it was the (theism-motivated) combined ignorance and presumption of the claim that evolutionists say things developed ‘just sort of by accident.’ The rest of the time, Dawkins was pretty dang polite. So…what does the journalist mean by ‘moderation’? Politely agreeing with everything theists say? That would be asking rather a lot, wouldn’t it? Not raising the issue in the first place? But is it really non-moderate to ask questions about religion? Probably the journalist had no exact meaning in mind, just a formula. The formula is: Dawkins is a rude or harsh or extreme or scornful or unbalanced or fervent or evangelical atheist. Start from there, then embroider. Journalism has its recipes.

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