Richard Dawkins came up in a conversation I had with a colleague this evening. I will call her “April” out of respect for her privacy.
She is a “professing” secular humanist and ardent follower of a purely naturalistic worldview.
Nevertheless, we get along quite well and are able to engage in dialogue without resorting to unproductive bickering or intellectual one-upmanship.
April is rather well-read and capable of conversing on a range of subjects with a decidedly philosophical bent.
Our conversation was initiated by an editorial, written in a local paper she was reading, concerning the Theory of Evolution and the ongoing legal contentions taking place within the state board of education. Naturally, the topic strayed (dare I say “evolved”) into the broader realm of the “Science vs. Religion” debate.
As I was making a specific point (regarding an argument Dawkins made in a recent article), I noticed a curious expression on April’s face. An expression that indicated I had somehow offended her, yet I continued on. Wondering, in the back of my mind, precisely how I had gone “over the line” as I thought I was maintaining a more than adequate logical objectivity in refuting the ideas set forth upon their own merit.
Finally, I could tell that we would not make any headway in this exchange if I continued to disregard the sensibilities of the co-participant in this exchange. I stopped and inquired of April as to whether I had insulted her.
After a pregnant pause, with slightly pursed lips, April answered carefully: “No… I’m not offended. It just seems like you really don’t like him personally.”
I have to admit, this caught me a little off-guard. Expecting her to nit-pick my argumentation or assumptions, I had not even considered whether I had come off as brusque or inflammatory. I immediately began to apologize for such.
“No,” she interrupted, “no, it’s not that. I’m not offended. It just seems like you have a personal grudge towards him and that’s just really against type. You’re pretty ‘fair and balanced’ (air quotes) about this sort of thing, but when you talk about Dawkins your whole demeanor changes. It’s really noticeable.”
Busted. Without meaning to, I had tipped my hand with regards to Richard Dawkins the man. You see, I don’t like him… and it has almost nothing to do with his ideas, his books, his lectures, or even his ponsy accent. Alright, now maybe that was a bit over the line there.
My problem with Dawkins is that I think he is a coward.
“A coward?!” she scoffed, surprised and somewhat taken aback. Citing the overwhelming number of Believers in this country, in addition to the pervasive accoutrements of Christianity within our culture, April painted a rather romantic portrait of Dawkins; depicting him as a lone champion of rationality in a darkened world, suffering the slings and arrows of overwhelming persecution from the cruel thumb of an oppressive right-wing theocracy.
“What does that have to do with it?” she replied.
To say that the Christian faith is “on the outs” in England is, in my opinion, no too far removed from suggesting that the Middle East has just had a wee bit of the odd quarrel now and then. That is to say, woefully understated.
Congregations from Lisbon to Helsinki have been rapidly dwindling for decades, and the Anglican Church has been relegated to a comfortable chair in an attic of irrelevance. For one to “wage battle” against what plays as Christendom in the United Kingdom is comparable to armed bandits holding up a Nursing Home: sure as there is little resistance, there’s also little to accomplish.
“Were Mr. Dawkins truly concerned with ‘illuminating the dark corridors’ of religious oppression,” I continued, “he would wield the sword of his pen against an adversary that stands to render the last vestiges of his own culture extinct.”
Plummeting birthrates (as a direct consequence of the deliberate socio-political de-emphasis of the family structure) have utterly hobbled Britain (and, by extension, Europe) against the massive influx of a vast Mohammedan population and the cultural implications thereof.
Why does Dawkins not engage the “Allah” of the Islamic paradigm in so zealous a manner as he doth the triune GOD of the Christians? Why is he so often scurrying “over the pond” to banter about a religion that is all but obscure in his own land? The “Turks” are not merely “at the gates” of the late Empire, but are hastily building a mosque out of Westminster Abbey.
April responded that she “hadn’t thought of that,” and even conceded the point to me as valid and true. I began to return to the initial thread of discussion concerning Dawkins, but April interrupted me: “Y’know, I don’t think I even care to talk about him any more,” she explained, “I just don’t think I can trust a man who picks a fight with the weakest guy in the room.”
Though amused by the visceral imagery, I was also quick to respond as to whether the Christian faith truly represented the “weakest guy” in her illustration.
“Naw, I didn’t mean it like that!” she laughed, “I just don’t think I can trust his conclusions if I think his motivations are dubious.”
…with that, I let the matter go. For now.
Small though it seemed, it was an important victory to have won. May there be, if the LORD wills it, opportunity to delve deeper another time.
The purple night faded into a misty dawning. My shift ended as soon as it began. As I drove home, I thought upon a small flickering tendril of the discussion I had shared a few transient hours earlier… and of the world my descendants shall inherit.
I pull my carriage onto the white-gravel of my driveway and stand in the soft wet grass of my front lawn. A brilliant verdant green ‘gainst the dew and fog.
From the distant East, thunder rumbles under low black clouds. There is a storm a-comin’…
O, verily, there art a fierce storm coming.