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Dr. Richard Dawkins On Why Disagreeing With Religion Isn't Insulting 1152

Posted by Roblimo
from the there's-no-offense-where-none-is-taken dept.
In part 2 of this video interview (with transcript), Dr. Richard Dawkins explains the function of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, headlined by his website. They're holding it up as a blueprint for similar groups: "We're trying to encourage, with some success, other organizations to make use of our facility, so that they will use our website, or have their own websites which are based upon ours, and have the same look and feel and use the same infrastructure." One of the Foundation's other purposes is to oppose organizations like the Good News Club. "What it is, is a group of Fundamentalist Christian organizations, who go into public schools after the school bell has rung for the day. So that it's no longer violating the Constitutional separation of church and state. ... And it's actually the Good News Club people masquerading as teachers, and they're being extremely effective." Dr. Dawkins also talks about his own comments, and explains why they're perceived as offensive: "Ignorance is no crime. There are all sorts of things I'm ignorant of, such as baseball, but I don't regard it as insulting if somebody says I'm ignorant of baseball, it's a simple fact. I am ignorant of baseball. People who claim to be Creationists are almost always ignorant of evolution. That's just a statement of fact, not an insult. It's just a statement. But it sounds like an insult. And I think that accounts for part of what you've picked up about my apparent image of being aggressive and offensive. I'm just telling it clearly." Hit the link below to see the rest of the interview.

Dr. Richard Dawkins: The central focus of our operation is our website, www.richarddawkins.net, which gets a lot of hits. It gets about a million hits a month, and lots of things go on it. We are trying to serve as a sort of service to other free-thinking, atheist, skeptical websites who perhaps haven't made quite such a professional job of it, because they tend to be run by volunteers, whereas we have salaried employees to make a really professional website with a very large number of hits. And we're trying to encourage, with some success, other organizations to make use of our facility, so that they will use our website, or have their own websites which are based upon ours, have the same look and feel and use the same infrastructure. So that's a big project, which is expensive, and it's a big thing that we're working on.

Another specific thing we're working on is the Good News Club, which, I don't know whether you know about this, is an extremely pernicious organization in the United States. In fact there's a book about it by Katherine Stewart called The Good News Club. She's an investigative journalist who has uncovered it all. What it is, is a group of Fundamentalist Christian organizations, who go into public schools after the school bell has rung for the day. So that it's no longer violating the Constitutional separation of church and state. The school day's over, and they swoop in and, as it were, carry on with their "club." But as far as the children are concerned, they look just like teachers.

So when a member of the Good News Club tells children "You're going to Hell because you're a Jew," or something like that, which they do, or tell children to tell other children they're going to Hell because they're Jewish or Catholic or something, as far as the child is concerned, it sounds like a teacher. And Katherine Stewart documents children who will then go to their parents and say, "The teacher told us that we or somebody else are going to Hell," and the parents are bewildered because they know that the teachers shouldn't be doing that. And it's actually the Good News Club people masquerading as teachers, and they're being extremely effective. They're very, very well-funded, as many Christian organizations are, and very well-supported by local organizations.

They're operating all over the country, and indeed, all over the world. They've actually got branches in almost every country of the world now. And we are going to try to help organize some opposition to this. The Good News Club happens to be concentrating next year on Denver, Colorado, which is close to where we have one of our branch offices. So we're going to try to move in to Denver to try to do something about their assault on the children in the public schools of Denver.

Slashdot: In a TED Talk you gave a few years ago, you finished by speaking about how 9/11 changed you, and said "Let's all stop being so damned respectful."

Dawkins: Yes.

Slashdot: How do you feel your approach differs from people who are more apologetic, or more respectful?

Dawkins: Well, as I said, the appearance of my being not respectful is greatly exaggerated by the presumption that religion is owed respect. I didn't mean we should be specifically disrespectful to religion. I just meant that we should not treat religion as any more immune to disrespect or ridicule or satire than anything else.

There's another thing I'd like to say, which arose after the previous question you asked. To many people, clarity is threatening. There are many people, we'll call them apologists or accomodationists, who, as it were, go 'round and 'round being so diplomatic you can hardly understand what they're saying. And I do believe in "Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay." I do believe in just speaking out truthfully.

So without being particularly deliberately offensive or insulting, just tell it like it is. Just be clear. And clarity, as I say, can sound insulting. A good example of this was a few years ago when I wrote a book review, I think it was in the New York Times, about a book that I think was about Creationism. I said "Anybody who claims to be a Creationist is either stupid, ignorant, or insane. Probably ignorant." Ignorance is no crime. There are all sorts of things I'm ignorant of, such as baseball, but I don't regard it as insulting if somebody says I'm ignorant of baseball, it's a simple fact. I am ignorant of baseball. People who claim to be Creationists are almost always ignorant of evolution.

That's just a statement of fact, not an insult. It's just a statement. But it sounds like an insult. And I think that accounts for part of what you've picked up about my apparent image of being aggressive and offensive. I'm just telling it clearly.

Slashdot: Is there anything that can be done to tone the debate down, so that statements like that aren't considered offensive to other people here?

Dawkins: I'm not sure toning it down is the right approach. I think that the right approach is to raise consciousness to the idea that there's nothing special about religion that deserves respect; so whatever you would say about something you disagree with. If you're having an argument about which is the best baseball team, you can have that argument and it's not taken as an insult to disagree with something. People need to stop cosseting religion, as though a disagreement in religion is something like a personal insult.

If I say "I think you're wrong about your God," it's not the same as saying, "I think you've got an ugly face," or "You smell," or something. But there are people who think it is, and I think we need to raise consciousness that it isn't a personal insult. It's just simply an argument about the way the cosmos is and the way morality is and so on.

Slashdot: Thank you for your time.

Dawkins: Thank you very much.

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Dr. Richard Dawkins On Why Disagreeing With Religion Isn't Insulting

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