Dawkins’ Principled Stand Against Most Forms of Genocide

Two Recent Headlines:

DawkinsHeadlines.png

Source 1      Source 2

Maybe Richard Dawkins would say that destroying Christianity is not like killing off a nation, morally speaking. If so, then he is blind to historical and geopolitical realities.

Here’s what the Rev. George Pitcher said about it. You’ll find it in the second source article:

But one of these interjections [in Dawkins’ interview with Christopher Hitchens] is most revealing. About half-way through, the Prof gets this in edgeways: ‘Do you ever worry that if we win and, so to speak, destroy Christianity, that vacuum would be filled by Islam?’

So, ‘if we win…and destroy Christianity’. True, there’s a ‘so to speak’ in there, but it doesn’t do much. Try ‘If we win and, so to speak, kill all the Jews’ as an alternative. Doesn’t really work, does it?

If Dawkins isn’t raising a voice in favor of cultural genocide, then he owes it to us to explain what else he might mean by “destroy Christianity.” (Maybe he could tell us what he really meant by “so to speak.”) Note that “Christianity” is not just a belief system (a set of interrelated belief systems, actually) but also a globally distributed interlocking set of institutions, practices, relationships, values, concerns, and associated cultural products including art, caring outreaches, economic connections, and much more.

A call for the destruction of Christianity is a call for cultural genocide. The Carnegie Council* (“The Voice for Ethics in International Affairs”) proposes this definition for the term:

Cultural genocide extends beyond attacks upon the physical and/or biological elements of a group and seeks to eliminate its wider institutions. This is done in a variety of ways, and often includes the abolition of a group’s language, restrictions upon its traditional practices and ways, the destruction of religious institutions and objects, the persecution of clergy members, and attacks on academics and intellectuals. Elements of cultural genocide are manifested when artistic, literary, and cultural activities are restricted or outlawed and when national treasures, libraries, archives, museums, artifacts, and art galleries are destroyed or confiscated.

For political, legal, and practical reasons the UN voted to exclude cultural genocide from its definition of genocide in 1948. The Carnegie Council document goes on to say, however,

Human rights jurisprudence lacks sufficient flexibility to properly redress cultural genocide, which differs from other infringements upon cultural rights in both scope and substance. The existing human rights scheme redresses the intentional and systematic eradication of a group’s cultural existence (for example, destroying original historical texts or prohibiting all use of a language) with the same mechanisms as it would consider the redaction of an art textbook. But cultural genocide is far more sinister. In such cases, fundamental aspects of a group’s unique cultural existence are attacked with the aim of destroying the group, thereby rendering the group itself (apart from its members) an equal object and victim of the attack. The existing rubric of human rights law fails to recognize and account for these important differences.

(Emphasis added.)

Maybe Dawkins can explain how he would destroy Christianity with a pure and noble heart, free from blame. Maybe he can explain how he holds moral high ground on genocide. I’d like to hear him try.

Update Wednesday morning: see comment 4 on the change I made in the title and first sentence of this post. I’ve also strengthened my wording in the paragraph beginning, “If Dawkins isn’t raising a voice …”

Update Wednesday evening: a correction concerning the source of the article I attributed to the Carnegie Council article is in order. See comments 18 and 20. The author was David Nersessian, an expert in international law especially as it relates to genocide. The Carnegie Council did not author, but did publish his article, as part of a major emphasis on cultural rights. Accuracy is important. It does not seem to me that this materially affects the force the argument, however.

Comments 34
  1. mattghg

    The rhetoric from Dawkins to the effect that religious upbringing amounts to ‘child abuse’ (which you’ve blogged about before) is, I think, important in this context. It’s no coincidence that this New Statesman edition contains an attack from him on faith schools. Dawkins probably thinks that using coercion to prevent religious instruction is OK because, after all, religious ideas are a ‘virus of the mind’ which we would all be better off cured of.

  2. Chris

    You seem to have mistaken genocide (the killing of people) with teaching people that they are incorrect.

    Destroying Christianity means showing how utterly ridiculous it is, not murdering followers of Christ.

    Do you seriously lack the ability to tell the difference?

  3. Tom Gilson

    On Reddit, someone complained,

    Physical genocide ≠ cultural genocide. Both have distinct definitions. If you want to say that Dawkins is “flip-flopping on genocide,” then you would be conflating these two distinctive definitions.
    That said, a fair argument can be made that while Dawkins is opposed to physical genocide, he is an advocate of cultural genocide.
    Of course, the “Thinking Christian” seems to prefer the route of equivocation. Lame.

    I answered,

    You are technically correct on the equivocation. Notice, however, that I never came close to equating the two uses of the term except in the condensed wording of the headline. In the body of the article I wrote, “Is it fair to consider this a voice raised in favor of genocide? Cultural genocide, certainly. The Carnegie Council (‘The Voice for Ethics in International Affairs’) proposes this definition:” … and then I went on to explain in more detail. That’s not equivocation.

    Further, if you think you can pounce on this technicality as an excuse to write off what I had to say, I think you’re selling short your own responsibilities as a human being. This is how I ended the article:
    “Maybe Dawkins can explain how he would destroy Christianity with a pure and noble heart, free of all moral blame. Maybe he can explain how he holds moral high ground on genocide. I’d like to hear him try.”
    If you think you can explain it for him, I’d like to hear you try.

    In light of this I am changing the title of this blog post, which was previously “Dawkins is against genocide, except when he’s for it.”

    I’m also clarifying the opening paragraph, which previously read,

    Maybe Richard Dawkins would say that destroying Christianity is not the same as killing off a nation. If so, then he is blind to historical and geopolitical realities.

    Because some readers have been so quick to pounce on technicalities, I recognize that I had better clarify “same” to indicate in what sense I mean the word. Now it reads,

    Maybe Richard Dawkins would say that destroying Christianity is not like killing off a nation, morally speaking. If so, then he is blind to historical and geopolitical realities.

    Still I want to direct your attention to this Reddit writer’s approach, and also Chris’s. They’ve focused on a technicality they can say I got wrong. They’ve missed the important question. I’ll ask it again, yet one more time:

    Maybe Dawkins can explain how he would destroy Christianity with a pure and noble heart, free of all moral blame. Maybe he can explain how he holds moral high ground on genocide. I’d like to hear him try.

  4. Tom Gilson

    Chris: note that Dawkins has in mind something far more total than “showing how ridiculous” Christianity is. He’s talking about doing something that would leave a “vacuum” behind, such that there would be concern over Islam filling it.

    It seems almost certain that if he were just talking about eliminating Christianity from the space of serious discussion in the world, he would be talking at the same time about that space being filled, not by Islam, but by his own pet projects of what he thinks of as “reason” and “science.” So there’s more to this than just hoping to take Christianity off the table for serious belief or discussion.

  5. Victoria

    Perhaps we should remind him about Matthew 16:17-20, Philippians 2:9-11, as well as the entire Book of Revelation (not that he would take it seriously)

    Talk about challenging God Almighty, God Most High to His face!

  6. Chris

    It is fair to say that Dawkins uses language that is slightly more provocative than most. The root of his anger is likely the attacks by the religious on his life work, and for this, I excuse a bit of strong language once in a while.

    Anyone who has read his work knows that he would not hurt a fly. To suggest that he would like to leave a vacuum behind that could be filled with Islam is silly. He has mentioned on numerous occasions that he opposes all religion, and focuses mostly, but not exclusively on Christianity in his writing because it is the belief system with which he is most familiar. I would argue that any vacuum left by the absence of religion might be filled with reason.

    I return to the argument that any comparison between genocide, and the genuine desire to free people from the chains of religion, is ridiculous. Is it not the goal, if not duty, of Christians to rid the world of atheism and for that matter, Islam, and other belief system? What is the difference?

  7. Tom Gilson

    YOU excuse his strong language?? Thank you very much for that, Chris, but it wasn’t directed at you.

    I’ve read his work. He wouldn’t intentionally hurt a fly; but he would intentionally destroy billions of people’s hopes, dreams, plans, cultural connections, institutions, charity operations, relief efforts, …

    Re-read what the Carnegie Council wrote, okay?

    And speaking of being silly, please re-read what I wrote. I did not suggest that he would like to leave behind a vacuum that could be filled by Islam. He said (and I also said that he said) something about that being a concern or a worry of his, not a desire. Sheesh.

    Note carefully, though, that he did not say he has anything against leaving behind a vacuum, through the destruction of Christianity. The issue he had with relation to that was along the lines of, “we have to be cautious about what might remain to fill the vacuum that we intend to create.”

    So Chris, you can return to your argument all you like. In the meantime you’re defending someone whose intent is to eliminate Christianity, and who thinks he can claim the moral high ground in the process.

    The desire to destroy Christianity is not the same as “the genuine desire to free people from the chains of religion.” I don’t experience Christ as being a chain around me, but as the giver of freedom.

    That’s morally bankrupt, Chris. Look at yourself. Look at what you’re saying. Your language is Orwellian double-speak. It’s a standard propaganda line, in fact, to equate the destruction of some large group’s beliefs and culture with “freeing them from their chains.”

    And no, it is not the goal or duty of Christians to rid the world of atheism or other religions. It is our duty to follow Christ, to speak his truth, and let him do with it what he does. He specifically told us not to expect to “destroy” (Dawkins’ term) or “rid the world” (yours) of other beliefs.

  8. The Deuce

    I’m sure Chris and the reddit writer will find it perfectly acceptable when I tell you how much I’m looking forward to destroying atheism in the name of Jesus. Islam might take over in places like Norway as a result, but the annihilation of atheism would also mean the loss of atheistic regimes in North Korea, Burma, etc, where Islam would actually be an improvement. So to speak, of course.

  9. JAD

    Chris:
    Is it not the goal, if not duty, of Christians to rid the world of atheism and for that matter, Islam, and other belief system? What is the difference?

    Since believing from a Christian perspective is a matter of a persons free will choice it would be counter productive for us to try to destroy competing belief systems. Ironically, as a Christian I am advocating persuasion while Dawkins is advocating a crude form of coercion. In other words, my approach is more reasonable than his.

    If you claim that you have reason on your side why is it not possible for you to rely on it?

  10. The Deuce

    Tom:

    Chris: note that Dawkins has in mind something far more total than “showing how ridiculous” Christianity is. He’s talking about doing something that would leave a “vacuum” behind, such that there would be concern over Islam filling it.

    This is key. If Dawkins were merely talking about persuading people of the falsehood of theism, it makes no sense to say that it would leave a vacuum to be filled by Islam. Shouldn’t his arguments be just as harmful to Islamic belief as they are to Christian belief? And if he’s merely talking about converting people to atheism rather than killing them, why would that leave a vacuum to be filled? After all, all of those people would still exist, right? They’d just be atheists. So why would they turn around and become Muslims?

    He also gave away that his driving motivation is an animus against Christianity specifically rather than religion in general, and that his goal (what constitutes “winning”) is to destroy it in particular. Of course, this fits with what many of us have observed: that Western atheism isn’t a coherent or self-sufficient ideology of its own, but is essentially defined by its resentment and rebellion against Christianity. Dawkins implicitly admits as much himself when he describes the elimination of Christianity as leaving a “vacuum”. Again, if atheism is the rational, self-sufficient worldview he claims it is, why should lots of people being atheists make them susceptible to Islam?

    Of course, people who are really talking about persuading others of the truth don’t use negative terms like “destruction”. Jesus didn’t say to “go to all nations and destroy their most cherished beliefs in my name”. Christians have never talked about conversion in terms of “destroying” other religions, even when they were a small minority whose life work was mocked by pagans. That’s bizarre backwards-talk. And there’s never been any worry that by converting people to Christianity, we’re somehow leaving a cultural “vacuum” for some other religion or worldview to fill. We wish to help other cultures’ build on their foundations, not destroy them.

    There’s no way around it. Dawkins’ goal is a militant, hate-filled, destructive vision. And atheists keep complaining and wondering why they’re so disliked when they’re so “tolerant”.

  11. Chris

    If a God gave us free will, and gave us the choice of either being his slave, or burning in hell, he can have it back.

    So you’re saying you would not want to rid the world of non-Christians? That is essentially saying that you are not comfortable unless you know for sure that a certain number of the population (the large majority) are going to burn in hell for eternity.

    Yes, Dawkins wants to eliminate Christianity. I would not be comfortable making that statement, as it seems to me, as you stated in another context, far too Orwellian. I do understand his statement though. As a man of science, he strives for the spread of truth and reason, and those two things are not compatible with the existence of a supreme being.

  12. The Deuce

    The rhetoric from Dawkins to the effect that religious upbringing amounts to ‘child abuse’ (which you’ve blogged about before) is, I think, important in this context. It’s no coincidence that this New Statesman edition contains an attack from him on faith schools.

    Yes, it’s relevant. In fact, he said it’s *worse* than molestation. And what do we do to child abusers? At the very least, we try to prevent child abuse by making it illegal, don’t we?

    Stunts by Dawkins and Co, such as the attempt to have the Pope arrested, are also relevant to understanding what he really wants.

    So are statements by them that Christianity deserves no respect, and ought to be loudly and relentlessly mocked so that people feel ashamed and humiliated to even identify themselves as believers.

    What Dawkins has in mind is not primarily to convert people to his worldview by reason, but to coercively suppress religious belief through a combination of ridicule and legal restrictions making it difficult or impossible for Christian institutions to operate, and for anyone to teach the Christian faith to anyone else (including their children), without running afoul of government regulations. Like Valtrex, it’s all about suppression. And while genuine conversion to a different worldview doesn’t leave a vacuum, suppressing peoples’ religious needs certainly does. In this Dawkins and the New Atheists are demonstrating that they possess the same suppressive impulse of every totalitarian atheist dictator in history and in the present. The attitude is simply intrinsic to Western-style atheism, and is merely expressed to different degrees.

    Contrast this with how someone who *genuinely* wanted to convert others to his beliefs by persuasion, and who suffered quite a bit more persecution and ridicule at the hands of religious objectors than poor little Dawkins has, spoke on the topic of respecting the beliefs and cultures of those he wanted to persuade:

    “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

    -the apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

    And again, atheists keep wondering why so many people hate and distrust them when they’re so “tolerant” and “enlightened.”

  13. SteveK

    An even better title!

    “The Magic of Scientism: How a False View of Reality Leads to the Truth of Atheism”

    🙂

  14. The Deuce

    I do understand his statement though.

    No, you rationalize his statement, because you desperately want to believe that he’s a man of truth and reason, because your belief that a Supreme Being is incompatible with them depends on the belief in the rationality of people like him.

  15. monesy

    Hi Tom,

    I’m the redditor you have commented about above. Let’s clear some things up, shall we?

    First of all, David Nersessian is not the Carnegie Council. You might consider a more intellectually honest approach by stating that “in the 2005 paper Rethinking Cultural Genocide Under International Law published by the Carnegie Council, David Nersessian argues that…”
    Surely that would’t be asking too much. You have managed to remove your intellectually dishonest and inflammatory headline, so I have hope for you in this regard.
    Secondly, I do not regard it as morally wrong, nor ‘culturally genocidal’, to use facts and reason to convince people to stop believing in, and to stop perpetuating, religious mythology as “truth.” Yes–changing minds through discourse can serve to change cultural practices, such that old paradigms are effectively destroyed, and new ones are adopted in their place. But to pretend that this is a form of genocide is completely asinine when nothing is being forced upon anyone, and cultural change is something that can be freely chosen or not by members of the existing culture. Should Dawkins et al. be able to “destroy” a cultural paradigm via peaceful and unforced discourse, then this would simply be the free choice of the people–not the cultural genocide that Nersessian is discussing in his paper.
    Dawkins has never advocated the “the abolition of language, restrictions upon traditional practices and ways, the destruction of religious institutions and objects, the persecution of clergy members, and attacks on academics and intellectuals.” Nor has Dawkins participated in or advocated any sort of “manifestation of elements of cultural genocide”, where “artistic, literary, and cultural activities are restricted or outlawed and when national treasures, libraries, archives, museums, artifacts, and art galleries are destroyed or confiscated.”
    Rather, Dawkins chooses a path of rational discourse to change cultural paradigms, therefore leaving those who freely choose to listen to his discourse, to be completely free to decide for themselves.
    If you wish to hijack Nersessian’s argument so as to construe free discourse as cultural genocide, then you must also assert that proselytizing Christians–such as yourself–to be agents and proponents of cultural genocide as well. Successful proselytizing serves to destroy old worldviews, norms, and cultural paradigms, and replace them with others, and this is the explicit objective of proselytizing. Of course, history shows that in the past Christians haven’t always given people any free choice in the matter at all. I’ll even add–in the spirit of intellectually honesty–that some ‘atheistic theocracies’ are guilty of the same thing. But only now we finally discussing cultural genocide, not to mention the biological genocide that is so often associated with such practice.
    So you are free to continue to contrive Dawkins as an advocate of cultural genocide, even though his actions and goals are to debunk religious mythology through unforced discourse. But don’t forget to level the same charge on yourself, as well as any other proselytizing Christians. While you are at it, don’t forget to implicate any figure or movement, in written history, that served to change, or tried to change, cultural paradigms through free and peaceful discourse. Yes, that would include Jesus, too.

  16. Tom Gilson

    Monesy,

    I’m on my mobile and cannot respond in depth right now, but my impression at this point is that what you have to say has been previously addressed on this thread, other than the question about the Carnegie Council.

    I’ll be back later.

  17. Tom Gilson

    I’ll accept your correction re: the Carnegie Council.

    More later. I’m in the ER right now being treated for an asthma episode. No big deal, It’s all over but the routine chest X-ray, but it’s not like being at the office.

  18. BillT

    “Rather, Dawkins chooses a path of rational discourse to change cultural paradigms.”

    Is this the same Richard Dawkins that wrote The God Delusion. The same Richard Dawkins that claims that religious upbringing amounts to ‘child abuse’. You obviously have a very broad definition of “rational discourse”.

  19. mattghg

    Dawkins chooses a path of rational discourse to change cultural paradigms, therefore leaving those who freely choose to listen to his discourse, to be completely free to decide for themselves.

    If this is true, then Dawkins is not an advocate of cultural genocide and we can all stop worrying. But whether or not this is true is precisely what is at issue; Tom, The Deuce and myself have all produced arguments to the effect that it isn’t true. Look at post 11 in this thread (by The Deuce) again.

  20. SteveK

    Chris,

    As a man of science, he strives for the spread of truth and reason, and those two things are not compatible with the existence of a supreme being.

    The spread of truth and reason are incompatible with the existence of God – huh?

    This much we do know: that truth and reason are not compatible with Dawkins false view of truth and reason (i.e. scientism).

  21. monesy

    I see a lot of conclusory charges about supposed ulterior motives, suppression, stunts, legal restrictions, and other noise.

    But my argument has nothing to do with any of it.

    Is this what is meant by “all my points have been answered”?

    Very perplexing, but to be frank, I am unsurprised.

  22. Charlie

    Dawkins has never advocated the “the abolition of language, restrictions upon traditional practices and ways, the destruction of religious institutions and objects, the persecution of clergy members, and attacks on academics and intellectuals.”

    He actually has. But when the fan was hit he removed his name.

    Here, one of the most militant-sounding of the new atheists called him onto the carpet for it.
    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/12/dawkins_and_the_religion_petit.php

  23. Charlie

    Dawkins has never advocated the “the abolition of language, restrictions upon traditional practices and ways, the destruction of religious institutions and objects, the persecution of clergy members, and attacks on academics and intellectuals.”

    I think this is mistaken as to the bolded phrases as well.
    Dawkins made quite a splash when he and Hitchens decided to have the Pop arrested for his alleged role in child sexual abuse in the Church.
    But Dawkins also has this to say:

    Odious as the physical abuse of children by priests undoubtedly is, I suspect that it may do them less lasting damage than the mental abuse of bringing them up Catholic in the first place.

    Priestly groping of child bodies is disgusting. But it may be less harmful in the long run than priestly subversion of child minds.

    http://richarddawkins.net/articles/118-religion-39-s-real-child-abuse

    Pure logical deduction would demand, then, that Catholic clergy also be arrested, along parents raising their children as Catholics: hence, his signature on the petition.

    He does draw the line at lawyers getting rich suing them, though:

    I am not advocating this course of action. Much as I would like to see the Roman Catholic Church ruined, I hate opportunistically retrospective litigation even more. Lawyers who grow fat by digging dirt on long-forgotten wrongs, and hounding their aged perpetrators, are no friends of mine.

  24. Tom Gilson

    monesy,

    You wrote,

    Is this what is meant by “all my points have been answered”?

    Very perplexing, but to be frank, I am unsurprised.

    You pulled that out of context. I wrote (in this sequence):

    12:37 pm: I’m on my mobile and cannot respond in depth right now, but my impression at this point is that what you have to say has been previously addressed on this thread….

    12:45 pm: I’m in the ER right now being treated for an asthma episode. No big deal, It’s all over but the routine chest X-ray, but it’s not like being at the office.

    1:08 pm (still at the ER, by the way): monesy, please read what The Deuce has written. He has already answered all your substantive points.

    I’m home now, and over the next hour or less I expect to be able to substantiate what I said there, or if not, to make adjustments or corrections as appropriate. Meanwhile you can reflect on whether “to be frank I am unsurprised” really fit the circumstances.

    We see what we expect to see. You saw “I see a lot of conclusory charges about supposed ulterior motives, suppression, stunts, legal restrictions, and other noise” that you say had nothing to do with your argument. I think you saw something other than what was there.

    The question I have to face—and I will do so quite squarely—is whether I did something similarly wrong when I saw something in Dawkins that was worth raising the questions I raised about him in this blog article. I’m willing to correct or retract any errors. Will you make the same commitment?

  25. Tom Gilson

    monesy, I will begin now with your comments in #18.

    You said,

    I do not regard it as morally wrong, nor ‘culturally genocidal’, to use facts and reason to convince people to stop believing in, and to stop perpetuating, religious mythology as “truth.”

    Thank you. I agree with you completely. Does this fit the situation? We shall see.

    Does Dawkins use facts? Not on child abuse. For being the Professor for the Public Understanding of Science (which he was at the time), he is most amazingly willing to cast science aside on that one. I think that reveals him as an ideologue and a hypocrite. At the least it underscores BillT’s comment #21.

    Did we mention, by the way (actually Charlie did), that he doesn’t not say it’s like abuse, or tantamount to abuse, or any such softening language. No he says it is abuse. There is no scientific evidence supporting that strong assertion and the political move he made flowing out of the associated beliefs. For Dawkins, if there is no scientific evidence, then there is no evidence, right? But he believes it anyway. On what grounds?

    Going on: does Dawkins use reason? The reviews of his book, even from atheists (thinking atheists, that is, other than his Gnu companions), were amazingly negative with respect to his use of logic. Did you know that?

    But suppose we not tussle over that one; you could dispute it, and we’d be back and forth on it all day. Let’s just suppose for argument’s sake he is in the habit of using facts and reason to convince people of his position. Let’s read that back into his dialogue with Hitchens:

    ‘Do you ever worry that if we win and, so to speak, successfully employ facts and reason to destroy Christianity, that vacuum would be filled by Islam?’

    What that leaves us still is the declaration that victory is in the destruction of Christianity. It also creates quite an odd question. Do you suppose Dawkins thought that the success of facts and reason against Christianity could be the kind of success that would leave Islam intact? If you think that, then you think that Dawkins is blind to historical and geopolitical realities, just as I wrote; or else you yourself are blind to those realities. I remind you:

    “Christianity” is not just a belief system (a set of interrelated belief systems, actually) but also a globally distributed interlocking set of institutions, practices, relationships, values, concerns, and associated cultural products including art, caring outreaches, economic connections, and much more.

    That’s not something any sane man thinks can be destroyed just by facts and reason.

    Recall also what Deuce said in comment 11:

    If Dawkins were merely talking about persuading people of the falsehood of theism, it makes no sense to say that it would leave a vacuum to be filled by Islam. Shouldn’t his arguments be just as harmful to Islamic belief as they are to Christian belief? And if he’s merely talking about converting people to atheism rather than killing them, why would that leave a vacuum to be filled?

    Maybe, though, Dawkins was just idly speculating, dreaming a “what-if” kind of dream, if someday facts and reason could do that in spite of known realities. Well, that doesn’t make sense, either, because that kind of idle speculation is not usually conjoined with “do you worry what would happen if we did this?” It’s just too awkward a mix of daydreaming and contingency awareness.

    You go on,

    But to pretend that this is a form of genocide is completely asinine when nothing is being forced upon anyone, and cultural change is something that can be freely chosen or not by members of the existing culture. Should Dawkins et al. be able to “destroy” a cultural paradigm via peaceful and unforced discourse, then this would simply be the free choice of the people–not the cultural genocide that Nersessian is discussing in his paper.

    Agreed. If only that were what Dawkins were up to over the past decade or so. But as Charlie pointed out, Dawkins signed a petition urging the following:

    We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by religion before the age of 16.
    In order to encourage free thinking, children should not be subjected to any regular religious teaching or be allowed to be defined as belonging to a particular religious group based on the views of their parents or guardians.

    This, you recall, was based on his strictly anti-scientific belief that raising children with religious beliefs is abuse.

    Going on:

    Nor has Dawkins participated in or advocated any sort of “manifestation of elements of cultural genocide”, where “artistic, literary, and cultural activities are restricted or outlawed and when national treasures, libraries, archives, museums, artifacts, and art galleries are destroyed or confiscated.”

    Apart from the above counter-examples, you may be right. I don’t have my copy of The God Delusion with me to check facts on that. But he did say that victory was the destruction of Christianity. You have most disingenuously missed the fact that Christianity is not just a set of beliefs. It is, as my post reads in its edited form (which I know you read before you wrote your first comment),

    also a globally distributed interlocking set of institutions, practices, relationships, values, concerns, and associated cultural products including art, caring outreaches, economic connections, and much more.

    Maybe he doesn’t have in mind the destruction of such things. But try Rev. Pitcher’s substitution (see the OP) and if you have any cultural awareness you’ll understand that the word “destroy” when applied to a people or to a culture like that of global Christianity is not to be thrown around carelessly. Or try this substitution. I am not advocating this, I am only using it to highlight the way the word “destroy” works in human discourse:

    ‘Do you ever worry that if we win and, so to speak, destroy homosexuals’ values and beliefs, that vacuum would be filled by [fill in the blank]?’

    or

    ‘Do you ever worry that if we win and, so to speak, destroy gay culture, that vacuum would be filled by [fill in the blank]?’

    You say further,

    Rather, Dawkins chooses a path of rational discourse to change cultural paradigms, therefore leaving those who freely choose to listen to his discourse, to be completely free to decide for themselves.

    I don’t think the word “destroy” fits that at all well.

    If you wish to hijack Nersessian’s argument so as to construe free discourse as cultural genocide, then you must also assert that … etc. etc.

    I haven’t done that with Nersessian’s argument, nor do I intend to do so, so the rest of your paragraph there is irrelevant to this discussion.

    To sum it all up:

    1. Dawkins favorably used the word “destroy” with respect to Christianity, which is a global people, a global culture, as well as a widely held framework of belief. This is unacceptable.
    2. He has never advocated force with respect to destroying Christian artifacts.
    3. He has, however, advocated the use of legal force with respect to destroying Christian parents’ rights to “indoctrinate” their children.
    4. He cannot be defended on the basis of any supposed consistent use of facts and reason for mere persuasion, for:
    a. He has displayed his doctrinaire disregard for facts that are not convenient to his situation, and
    b. Persuasion is not a synonym for destruction.

  26. Tom Gilson

    Wintery Knight adds,

    Now you might think that Dawkins intends to destroy Christianity in debates, and not in the wars and purges of atheism that occurred last century in North Korea, Cambodia, China, the Soviet Union, and so on. Those atheist regimes caused the deaths of 100 million people, according to Harvard University Press. But Dawkins has refused to debate William Lane Craig on more than one occasion. So whatever he means by “destroy Christianity”, he doesn’t mean “defeat them in rational debate, using superior arguments and evidence”. He had his chance to do that, and he passed on it. So, he must mean something else by “destroying Christianity” than persuasion.

    I recommend you read the whole article.

  27. andom

    If Dawkins had said ‘destroy Islam’ let’s imagine the reactions..
    If a bishop or religious leader had said ‘destroy atheism’ let’s imagine the reactions too.
    This solves the whole issue and it shows how pathetic is the defense of Dawkins by his fans.

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