Rationality ought to be polite and humorous

The Times talked to Richard Dawkins the other day, and The Australian republished the interview.

He is thrilled that The God Delusion was recently translated, unofficially, into Arabic and circulated online. “It’s been downloaded ten million times, mostly in Saudi Arabia, but also in Iran and Iraq. I get very encouraging messages; there’s a substantial underground of nonbelievers in those countries. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a secular uprising?”

Hey you know what? It was also recently translated into Kurdish, by the guy who translated Does God Hate Women? I passed a few questions on to Dawkins for him, and also helped him with some English idioms. The translation was published a few weeks ago, and I helped the translator get copies to Dawkins. I share his view about the benefit of the Arabic translation. Whatever our disagreements, I think that’s a good thing.

But then there’s the other stuff.

Dawkins blames the rise in extremism on a confusion between religion and politics. “In the case of Islam, religion has got bound up with a sense of identity. It would be very nice if people did identify with science, but we don’t say, ‘Join the science party, join the rationality party.’ Maybe we should.” The West should be more confident about its values, he says. “We should have a sense of identity as rationalists. We should be more proud of that and it should take on some of the gentle decency of the Church of England. Rationality ought to be polite and humorous. Aggressive atheism is sometimes attributed to me, but I think wrongly.”

That’s the self-knowledge problem again. He still thinks it’s wrong to call him aggressive, after who knows how many aggressive tweets. He still apparently thinks his rationality is polite and humorous, after who knows how many rude tweets.

Ah well, we all have our faults. I’m glad he’s recovering.

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