Last week, I commented on the New York Times’ profile of evolutionary biologist and vociferous atheist, Richard Dawkins. Post One of this two-part series described (1) Dawkins’ views and (2) how the overheated antipathy and rhetoric of The God Delusion (2006) may reflect atheists’ marginalization in contemporary society—in itself a legitimate concern. (See additionally my Scholarship Roundup post—Faith no More: the Moral Atheist—where I suggest that religion’s record of immorality, for many, makes atheism a moral choice, not a nihilistic one.)
In this post, I criticize Dawkins’ position as described in his NYT profile: first, for its logical inconsistency and stubborn ignorance of its subject matter; and second, for its divisive rhetoric that fails to recognize the commonalities between his chosen source of meaning and his targets’.
I. Dawkins: The Uninquisitive Critic
Dawkins’ ignorance of the faiths he dismisses is alarming. As Terry Eagleton says in his marvelously scathing 2006 review of The God Delusion, Dawkins illustrates and purports to challenge no more than “vulgar caricatures of religio[n].” Eagleton responds to this facile exercise by speculating, “What . . . are Dawkins’s views on the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus? . . . Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope? Has he even heard of them?”
Yet Dawkins readily, proudly, admits that the answer is no. He scoffs at the suggestion that he study the history and intricacies of the faiths he rejects—study tantamount, in his view, to researching fairy tales. In this way, Dawkins simply refuses to engage in his critics’ conversation.