I have often derided the so-called New Atheists for their determined lack of civility. These New Atheists, led by such anti-luminaries as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, are openly hostile to religion -- Christianity being among the chief recipients of their attacks. They have argued that we have too long been respectful of religion while religion is actually harmful to our continuing progression as a people.
Now, I know that in some people's eyes, my complaints about their sayings and attitudes are irrelevant. After all, I am a Christian. Probably in their eyes, I am one of the fundamentalists that they think is leading to the downfall of civilization. When I and others like me complain that the New Atheists are being bombastic, over-the-top and rude, many think that the problem is that we (as the class attacked) are merely screaming in our death throes.
But what if the criticism comes from other atheists who find the tactics of the New Atheists deplorable? Does that matter?
An article entitled The God disunion: there is a place for faith in science, insists Winston published in the Guardian On-Line presents just such a case.
Lord Winston condemned Prof Dawkins for what he called his "patronising" and "insulting" attitude to religious faith, and argued that he and others like him were in danger of damaging the public's trust in science. He particularly objected to Prof Dawkins' latest book, The God Delusion, which is an outright attack on religion.
"I find the title of 'The God Delusion' rather insulting," said Lord Winston, "I have a huge respect for Richard Dawkins but I think it is very patronising to call a serious book about other peoples' views of the universe and everything a delusion. I don't think that is helpful and I think it portrays science in a bad light."
It appears that I can find common ground with Lord Winston. I absolutely agree that Professor Dawkins (and Sam Harris and others like them) are patronising and insulting. But the fact that their spiritual leader is becoming seen more broadly as a man who is insulting and belittling (not to mention the fact that his arguments are weak and unconvincing) doesn't seem to affect those in the skeptic community who view this man as some sort of champion of their cause. For example, while not a skeptic society per se, the Board of Trustees of Rockefeller University recently saw fit to give Dawkins the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science - an award honors "the rare individual who bridges the worlds of science and the humanities — whose voice and vision can tell us about science’s aesthetic and philosophical dimensions, providing not merely new information but cause for reflection, even revelation."
"Bridges the worlds of science and the humanities"? Dawkins is trying to burn the bridge down! Providing "cause for reflection, even revelation"? Only if you think that Don Rickles provides such "cause for reflection" with his insulting comedy routine.
Ah well. I only hope that the atheist community continues to trumpet Dawkins and Harris and others like them as some sort of standards for the atheist thought. In time, as more and more people began to see that they really are rude, insulting and bitter, they should even come to realize that they are wrong, wrong, wrong.