War of words over Dawkins visit to the Hebrides
Following the reaction Richard Dawkins forthcoming date at a Lewis book festival, the scientist has ducked a challenge to debate his beliefs in what has become a war of words.
‘Dawkins branded an elitist snob’
So ran the recent newspaper headline. The news report stated that a church minister has accused the atheist author of “astounding arrogance” and that he was “behaving like the fundamentalists he despised”.
The ‘elitist snob’ remark related to a claim that Dawkins was highly selective regarding the status – as he himself perceives it – of those with whom he was and is prepared to engage in debate.
Meanwhile the scientist – due to speak at the Hebridean Book Festival in Stornoway during November this year -– is side-stepping (declining) the challenge to debate; and writing it down as merely a "change of tactics". (In fact those who have been calling for the debate have also been very vocal in their public criticism of fellow churchmen in the Lord's Day Observance Society who were calling for a boycott of the Dawkins’ event.)
In declining the invitation to defend his view, Dawkins has written a piece 'Why I won't take part in debate with fundamentalists'. He judges that such exchanges “make for good drama, but they do not make for good understand”. Concerning his critics he continued: “If they can, after all, bring themselves to cross the road in the interest of tearing me to pieces, they are very welcome to come and have a go”.
Debate going nowhere
Much has been usefully said and written in rebuttal of Dawkins’ views; and good material which counters the scientist’s arguments is freely available in print and electronic form. However debating and arguing with Dawkins is ultimately a waste of time. Dawkins is on an anti-Christian crusade (pardon the pun). He fits well Winston Churchill’s definition of a fanatic as being “one who can’t change his mind, and won’t change the subject”. For the ubiquitous neo-atheist, Christian- and Christianity-bashing is his mission; and he has the appearance of a man tortured by his unbelief. (In one sense he probably wouldn’t mind if it was proven that God in fact does exist – provided no one was to show any allegiance to the Deity.)
Faith – generally and after all – is based on, well... faith. And the Christian faith in a creator God is no different in this regard. Dawkins’ problem is that he cannot disprove the existence of a deity in order to discredit Christian believers. However neither can Christians offer concrete proof that God does exist. Belief in God is ultimately a ‘heart revelation’. (It may be, as it is argued, that Christians have more evidence to support what they believe than atheists do for their views: however the latter will not be won by argument but only by the Spirit of God.) In the final analysis it will be the Creator whom atheists deny that they will have to deal with.
Because of the rather unthinking actions of a Christian believer this Editor was obliged to ‘enter the door’ of the Dawkins on-line forum some years ago. Before I engaged with Dawkins' friends I imagined that it would be akin to swimming in a pool of sharks. In fact it felt more like trying to keep my head above water in a demonised cesspit. It was a highly toxic and venomous environment.
One of the atheist archbishop’s principal mace bearers – she who had interviewed Dawkins on stage during his Inverness visit – suggested on the forum that I was ‘wasting my time’ there. I responded by agreeing with her expressed sentiment, and thanked the lady for her counsel. Her immediate and very angry reaction was: “Don’t you dare agree with me!” Oh dear.
The article ‘Richard Dawkins’ Delusion about God’ summarises the above-mentioned Inverness event in April 2008. In a comprehensive record of the content, questions and answers Dr. Donald Boyd captured the main points on that occasion.
Subsequent to Dawkins’ Inverness visit Professor John Lennox delivered a public lecture in the same (Eden Court Theatre) venue on 27 Oct. 2008.
The article ‘David Robertson counters Dawkins’ includes an embedded copy of the following short video relating to the book ‘The Dawkins Letters’.