Andrew Brown may get the award for Biggest Faitheist of the Decade, for, despite being an admitted atheist, he spends virtually all of his time excoriating atheism and atheists (especially Richard Dawkins) and keeping his mitts off religion.
For years he’s done that at the Guardian, but now he seems to have expanded his venue to the Spectator, which, perhaps, is seeking the kind of rage-fuelled clickbait that Brown always provides. And, three days ago, the Spectator has published a particularly noxious attack on Dawkins by Brown: “The bizarre—and costly—cult of Richard Dawkins.” The main point seems to be that the Dawkins Foundation is raising money by giving people paid opportunities to interact with Dawkins. Brown sees that as equivalent to setting up a cult with St. Richard as its head.
Brown’s piece begins with this stupid and childish cartoon:
Really, it’s something that a 15-year-old could have drawn, and makes fun of Dawkins in an immature and unfair way. Read the text and the cartoon balloons. But we’re used to this kind of stuff with Brown.
Brown’s other points include his attack on Dawkins’s claims that babies are born atheists, for Brown implies in the included audio clip that since there are babies of nationality, like German babies, or babies of ethnicity, like Asian babies, there must surely be “religious babies”—Muslim babies, Catholic babies, and so on. An atheist baby would then be the child of atheists, so those certainly exist under Brown’s conception. But the comparison is bogus, for atheism is not a biological trait or place of birth, but a belief (or rather, nonbelief), something that you simply can’t attach to a child. Really, does it make sense to say that a newborn is a “Muslim baby”? “Offspring of Muslim parents,” perhaps, but not “Muslim baby,” and I don’t use such terms.
Brown goes on about Richard as the equivalent of a cult leader or religious figure, but it’s clear, as it always has been, that Brown is simply jealous of Dawkins’s success (listen to the audio as well):
Last year he tweeted a recommendation of comments collected by one of his followers at a book signing in the US. Among them were: ‘You’ve changed the very way I understand reality. Thank you Professor’; ‘You’ve changed my life and my entire world. I cannot thank you enough’; ‘I owe you life. I am so grateful. Your books have helped me so much. Thank you’; ‘I am unbelievably grateful for all you’ve done for me. You helped me out of delusion’; ‘Thank you thank you thank you thank you Professor Dawkins. You saved my life’; and, bathetically, ‘I came all the way from Canada to see you tonight.’ With this kind of incense blown at him, it’s no wonder he is bewildered by criticism.
I wonder whose lives Brown has changed?
He then he raises the Religious Trope:
Like all scriptures, the Books of Dawkins contain numerous contradictions: inThe God Delusion itself he moves within 15 pages from condemning a pope who had baptised children taken away from Jewish parents to commending Nick Humphrey’s suggestion that the children of creationists be taken away because teaching your children religion is comparable to child abuse. So believers can always find a scripture where he agrees with them, which naturally cancels out the one where he doesn’t.
Whether he means that religious believers are despicable ‘stumbling, droning inarticulate .. yammering fumblewits’ who are ‘likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt’ (that’s from a 2009 blogpost) or ‘I don’t despise religious people. I despise what they stand for’ (from a 2012 speech) can lead to arguments as interminable as those over the peaceful or otherwise character of the Prophet Mohammed.
And, in the depths of his rancor, Brown gets confused:
Similarly, does he mean that genes are selfish, or that they are co-operative? Both, it seems, and with equal vehemence.
Well, Mr. Brown, Richard means both, and that’s clear. Natural selection can sometimes favor genes for cooperation, and sometimes genes for being selfish. Humans are, in fact, both. We’ll take care of ourselves if it is best for our genes, and be cooperative when that behavior is best for our genes. Brown, it seems, hasn’t absorbed the lesson of evolution.
What’s ironic about all this is that Brown criticizes atheism and atheists in proportion to how “religious” they are, but he neither criticizes religion nor the followers of religion who not only say things that rouse ire, but actually kill people, or urge others to do so. If atheism is as bad as religion, why don’t we see Brown going after faith? Brown’s neglect of religion, more than anything else, tells me that one of his biggest motivations is jealousy—a jealousy that he tries to overcome by going after atheism’s most prominent figure. But, as someone said, tearing down Richard Dawkins doesn’t magically turn you into Richard Dawkins.
The ten-minute audio clip is a discussion between Brown and Andrew Trilling, editor of New Humanist Magazine. Trilling does a great job at countering Brown’s blather, and, as usual, Brown is supercilious and arrogant.
And, of course, the Spectator got what it wanted: views. There are 449 comments as of this posting. No matter that most of them make fun of Brown or denigrate his views, for clicks are money.