Rory Fitzgerald’s latest rant piece at The Huffington Post is called “Richard Dawkins should be arrested for covering up atheist crimes.” It is, of course, a response to Dawkins’s and Hitchens’s call for legal action against the Pope if His Holiness sets foot in the UK. Fitzgerald, an Irish journalist, calls himself a “lapsed atheist.”
The piece is completely devoid of intellectual merit, but is worth looking at for a few reasons:
He doesn’t know who Richard Dawkins is. Until yesterday, Fitzgerald’s column identified Dawkins (twice) as a “microbiologist.”
Richard Dawkins has become a sort of Messiah for atheists. He is a microbiologist. I’m not sure why he feels that expertise in such an arcane field gives him authority to pronounce on spiritual questions. But, if microbiologists hold the keys to heaven, people may wish to consider the thoughts of Nobel Prize winning microbiologist Werner Arber, or eminent geneticist, Francis S. Collins, who led the Human Genome Project. Both are believers in God, and both find evidence for the divine in science itself.
After an alert reader pointed out this error, Fitzgerald changed “microbiologist” to “geneticist.” This is also wrong. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist.
Its insistence that the crimes of atheist regimes should be laid at the door of atheism, and that Dawkins, by not criticizing these crimes, is complicit in them.
As recently as 1979, the Cambodian genocide killed 1.7 million people. These were murdered by communist atheists. War crimes tribunals are now being set up in Phnomh Penh. I don’t see Dawkins loudly decrying the actions of his atheist colleagues in Cambodia. Why? Because his agenda is not to rail against evil wherever he sees it and to seek objective truth. His agenda is to mock, pillory and destroy the Judaeo-Christian principles and beliefs upon which Western Civilization is founded. Indeed, his ideology ultimately renders discernment of good and evil impossible, subjective and arbitrary. . .
Dawkins imagines that by promoting his grim angry personal philosophy as ultimate truth, and by viciously attacking ancient moral systems, he will bring about some sort of atheist utopia. In doing so, he seeks to magnify wrongs done by religions, and to breeze over the immense horrors brought about by atheist belief systems. You could even say that he is involved in a cover up that would make a Bishop blush: for we have seen what atheist utopias look like: they look like cattle trains rolling in to Belsen with women and children hudding together in the cold.
I don’t have The God Delusion at hand, but I recall that Dawkins did indeed decry the crimes of “atheist regimes.” Maybe he wasn’t loud enough? And do we need to once again say that yes, atheist regimes were responsible for horrible acts of genocide, but it’s doubtful at best whether those crimes were done in the name of atheism. (And of course you can make a good case that Nazis weren’t atheists.) Dawkins et al. cover this ground amply and I won’t repeat their arguments here. Finally, atheist “utopias” don’t all look like the Third Reich. What about Sweden and Denmark?
Its criticism of Dawkins and the New Atheists for “militancy” and hostility while at the same time being even more hostile towards atheists. For example, Fitzgerald characterizes the Pol Pot regime as Dawkins’s “atheist colleagues.” And here’s more:
His particular bile is reserved for the Judaeo-Christian traditions. You will not see him spouting off so vociferously about Mohammed. He is too cowardly for that. . .
He does not conduct the debate about belief in God in a respectful and sincere way. He is himself a narrow-minded fundamentalist who appears to be lacking in some basic human faculties, beyond intellect. He is increasingly redolent of a man with no sense of smell going around shrieking to everyone that their sense of smell is a delusion. Meanwhile, the rest of us get on with smelling the flowers, and the coffee. . .
As the ape-descended Dawkins struts around imagining that he knows the workings of every dimension of an infinitely complex universe from his tiny perch on this speck of a planet, the gods, in which he disbelieves, must be laughing big time.
“Ape-descended Dawkins”? That’s pretty damn close to how creationists describe evolutionists! If he’s not a complete idiot—and that’s surely a matter for debate—Fitzgerald should recognize that he too descends from an ape (well, an ancient apelike primate). That aside, this kind of criticism is no different in shrillness, militancy, and lack of “respect” from that of our most outspoken atheist, Christopher Hitchens. It always amuses me when accommodationists unwittingly demonstrate this double standard. But by all means let them loose the dogs of sarcasm and invective on us. I am concerned more with ideas than with outspokenness. I don’t criticize Fitzgerald for his tone. I criticize him for his stupidity. Oh, and he can’t write, either.
You’ll find more of the usual anti-atheist arguments in the column, too, like the assertion that we have no good foundation for morality (“[Dawkins’s] ideology ultimately renders discernment of good and evil impossible, subjective and arbitrary”) and the claim that atheism is ultimately doomed because religious people are outbreeding us. All good fun!
UPDATE: Alert reader Barney (see comment #23 below) points out that since this morning Fitzgerald’s piece has undergone some severe pruning. Barney gives a link to a copy of the original piece, which is here. And Miranda Hale (comment #27) notes that HuffPo has also changed the title. It used to be “Richard Dawkins Should be Arrested for Covering Up Atheist Crimes,” but the new version is “Should Richard Dawkins be Arrested for Covering Up Atheist Crimes?”