This week I had a disagreement with someone on the internet. This is, of course, no surprise, given how long I spend on the internet, how opinionated I am, and how the internet is a veritable breeding ground for disagreement anyway.
The disagreement we had was over religion.
Again. No surprise.
Nor that I feel the need to write about it.
Basically, the person in question said that ALL religion was the source of ALL evil in the world. End of. He said that the blame for every single act of evil in the world could be put squarely at religion’s door. He said that any other interpretation was missing the point and allowing evil to flourish. If we banish religion from the world, we get rid of all evil.
Just. Like. That.
I disagreed. I pointed out that in my opinion, evil exists within individuals, and they use labels like religion, and/or other factionalising beliefs to justify their thoughts and actions. In that respect, religion can be seen as one of many scapegoats when it comes to not taking personal responsibility for doing hideous things.
He got out the big guns. He started quoting Richard Dawkins at me.
Richard Dawkins, is to me, rather like the Pope of Atheism. My brief flirting with his oeuvre has led me to think that he is so vehement, so fervent, so fanatical, that he has turned his own brand of atheism into a religion.
Clearly I had just bumped into one of his lay bishops.
I count myself an atheist (with spiritual hankerings), but I would no more like to be aligned with Dawkins and his beliefs than I would with Pope Francis. They both have interesting things to say at times, but fundamentally their ‘join me as I bang my tambourine, or die in misery,’ schtick is not my bag. I’m much more of the ‘cake or death’, school of thought, and you know I’ll always choose cake.
So, Dawkins was on my mind yesterday, and when I woke up this morning I was greeted with the news that Dawkins has become embroiled in a Twitter spat. Here’s the lowdown.
Dawkins took to Twitter to suggest that Ahmed Mohammed, the young American boy who was arrested and illegally detained because he took a home made clock to school that his teacher thought was a bomb, was a hoaxer.
He suggested that Ahmed had deliberately made the clock to look like a bomb in the hope of being arrested illegally so that his family could sue the state he lived in for $15 million dollars.
He then, when it was put to him that this was cynical, and that maybe the boy was just being a boy and had had no such thoughts in his head, sent a tweet which pretty much said that: ‘boys can do evil things too, maybe Ahmed is like this boy,’ and attached a video of a ten year old boy who was forced by Isis members to decapitate a member of the Syrian military.
He was, apparently, amazed that people took exception to this, and the fact that he later went on to draw parallels with the boy killers of the toddler, James Bulger in 1993.
He claims that he is not inciting hatred. He says that he is merely pointing out that Ahmed didn’t ‘make’ the clock, he just put it together. This irrevocably proves to Dawkins that Ahmed is a hoaxer. I say this because he actually said the boy was a hoaxer, not that he believed he might be. This one thing sparked more things for Dawkins.
It gave credence, in his mind, to the fact that this was only the beginning of a devious masterplan in which a young man (or his father, working through his son, as he also suggests) could predict exactly how egregiously he was going to be treated by his school, his local law enforcement officers and other members of his community, and that he would, months after the event, be able to sue them for untold wealth.
It also, by the conflation of words and videos, suggests both that Ahmed’s family are brainwashing him, and that Ahmed and his family and Isis terrorists are pretty much the same as each other. It suggests* that what Ahmed did was both evil and manipulative.
I find this hugely, and sadly, ironic.
Now, of course, Dawkins has not ‘said’ any of these things explicitly, and when confronted with explicit condemnation, has merely shrugged it off by shouting about Nazi sympathisers and numpties.
Dawkins is many things, but he is not stupid, and he has spent a lifetime writing books which rely on the exact and painstaking use and understanding of words and how to argue with them. Of course he’s not going to come right out and say something so offensive so directly, but you are not a numpty if you put together all the textural codes and signs in Dawkins’ text and come up with something that is both inflammatory and hateful. Far from it.
I am not entirely sure what Dawkins’ motive is. It is certainly not for the greater glory of God. I suspect it might be for the greater glory of Dawkins.
What it is not, is an argument for rationality, or calm or peace. What it is not, is a blanket of rational atheism we can use to stamp out the fires of religious hatred.
What it is, it seems to me, is a way to see those fires burn higher, and maybe what Dawkins is thinking is that if he watches the world burn in the name of religion, and he has stoked that flame one tiny lick higher with his mealy mouthed, snake oil slick, double-standard riven, politically glib cant, that it is a fine day for the cause of atheism.
Because of course, when we get rid of religion, there will be no hate left in the world.
Except for what I am suggesting might fall out of Dawkins’ mouth.
*I use the word ‘suggests’ a lot in this post. It is deliberate, because Dawkins is very good at saying a great many things in a way that makes it look like he is merely speculating.