23 March 2011

We can be friends, but that doesn’t mean you are right

Ophelia Benson has a new post over at Butterflies & Wheels on more ‘nasty atheist’ complaints. Apparently New Atheists are just like those hyperbolic Tea Partiers. Yup, non-belief in a magic sky fairy is just as dangerous to civil society as right-wing hysteria cooked with superstition and bigotry. The resemblance between the two is striking.

Anyway, silly people saying silly things aside, one commenter, Sajanas, mentioned attending Richard Dawkins’s Duke University lecture in October last year. Here’s Sajanas’s comment in full:

I attended the lecture Dawkins gave for his most recent book at Duke University, and for whatever reason, the religious person asking him why he was so mean to religion was the last one. His reply was simply ‘by all means, let’s be friends, but that doesn’t mean that you are right’. And so many people simply won’t be satisfied or friendly unless atheists cave to that desire they have to be fawned over because of their deeply held beliefs, because of how much they go to church, or what not, even though atheists don’t find those things at all impressive. I do think that the many people whose faith motivates them to do good works are very impressive, but I would find it more impressive still if they did these things without disrupting gay rights, women’s health and equality, and science research and education. And the atheists that want to get on the good side of religion (and religious cash) by using the good works to hide the bad can just get a big ole raspberry.

Sajanas makes good points aplenty, but that phrase, “by all means, let’s be friends, but that doesn’t mean that you are right”, jumped out at me. Knowing a few people who are either religious or believers in the supernatural, Dawkins’s statement could come in handy next time someone I know tries to sell me the idea that Jesus saves or that the ancient wisdom of pre-modern, pre-scientific societies is a superior tool for understanding the world, the universe and humanity.

We can be friends, but that doesn’t mean you are right.

By the way, Sajanas’s reference to atheists kissing up to religion and the monetary resources at its disposal is a jab at accommodationism, where smart people who should know better trade their intellectual integrity for cash and kudos from religious-but-pretending-it-isn't organisations like the John Templeton Foundation. Sunny Bains, a journalist and scientist at Imperial College London, has written a report on the Templeton Foundation exposing the lies and misrepresentation it concocts in order to woo scientists and atheists to its oxymoronic cause – the reconcilement of science and religion.


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