Why do people have a hard time with Hitchens and Dawkins? Part 2

Part 2

An interesting collaboration occurred several years ago (September 30th, 2007). Four gentlemen gathered at one table for a conversation. The conversation was called ‘The Four Horsemen’. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris, the major drivers of the “Gnu Atheist” movement, participated in this unmediated discussion/debate. For two hours of stimulating conversation, these four authors demonstrate their different approaches to accomplishing the same objective.

This conversation is a great testament against making sweeping generalizations about atheists. Atheists are almost invariably independent thinkers, and having a meeting or gathering like this has been said to be akin to herding cats. Still, the cats were herded and what a result. If you’ve not watched any of the video, I highly, highly recommend you do.

I would love to entertain a debate or discussion with people in a casual setting such as this on a frequent basis. Conversing about topics which are deemed untouchable by modern media and taboo in casual conversation is key to people’s understanding of them, and ultimately, the destruction of the taboo. To me, is important to raising awareness and fighting fear in the common populous that has been propagated by the various religious organizations for the last millennia. In the 60s, our parents (grandparents even?) decided it was okay to talk about sex. Will our gift to our children be the ability to freely discuss – and criticize – religion?

What I especially enjoy in this discussion is that all the men appear relaxed and engaged by the conversation. They are not talking down to anyone or trying to prove a point to an opposing world view, all the while having their own opinions and ideas on the topic of religion and human rights violations associated with religious practices. Richard and Christopher seemed to butt heads a few times, with Christopher having the overpowering advantage due to his passion and extensive historical, social and theological knoweldge. Richard seems to have a personal outlook on the religion topic and he tends to utilize biology more than history to refute the claims of preachers on the pulpit.

At 24 minutes into the first hour of the video, Richard talks about how people are accusing these four men of going after the easy targets (ex. congregations, worshipers, etc.) rather than the “sophisticated intellectuals and theologians”. These people don’t have to talk to easy targets; the more stimulating conversation is, obviously, between their colleagues. The Four Horsemen seem to need to speak out against religion out of moral obligation.

A point comes up about the belief that is ground breaking. The holy books are said to be the dictation to man from an omnipotent being, which is claimed infallible. Any religious person of the 3 main religions of the world have to accept this as truth, otherwise the entire idea of the institution is a fraud. Yet the faithful always state that a passage is true or a metaphor for something that is true based on the interpretation of the reader. Any rational person would see the man behind the curtain in this concept. Men have been using the concept of religion to control a populous and obtain notoriety and wealth for thousands of years, from the tribal shaman to the pope. Each practitioner of religion is equal in their knowledge that the practice they preach is false and guilty for spreading lies and bigotry as truth. If the Word is Truth, and the Word is absolute, how can there be room for interpretation?

Now rational people can and usually do see these and other claims as false. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. A completely non-scientific, but still intriguing, trend I have been noticing for years has been the peoples reaction to being confronted with new information. I have found that, in general, people are more willing to believe than to disbelieve. It is easier to accept making complacency have a greater frequency in test subjects. In fact, these data have been replicated in actual psychological studies of children, where they found that even when given all reason to believe to the contrary, the children would still believe a lie.

Body language changes dramatically based on what is happening around people. Honestly, words are not nearly necessary to communicate as a human being. The body, as is commonplace with animal communication, can say a lot. I would have loved to have observe the body language of the judge in India who ruled that astrology is a science.

An interesting note is that Christopher states does not want the world to exist without faith. And he does want the argument between religion and atheists to go away. And it is to these two points where Christopher Hitchens divides his ideas from the other three minds. He seems to enjoy the “theatre” of the argument. Richard Dawkins becomes passionate about this ideology that Christopher says. “Whether its astrology or religion or anything else, I want to live in a world where people think skeptically for themselves, look at evidence. Not because astrology is harmful. I guess it probably isn’t harmful but if you go through the world thinking that it’s ok to just believe things because you believe things, without evidence, then you’re missing so much. And that (stumble with words) its such a wonderful experience to live in the world and understand why your living in the world and understand what makes it work, understand about the real stars understand about astronomy, that its an impoverishing thing to be reduced to the pettiness of astrology.” Richard goes on to talk about the similarity of the same statement replacing “Astrology” with “Religion”.

Richard, even with his mastery of biology and science has not found the words that will once and for all convince the believers of religion that what they believe is not nearly as amazing and beautiful as the entire universe full of wonder. He is desperately trying to find the words but, like his peers, he has not been able to express his zeal for the natural, explainable world (if not soon to be explainable). I hope he lives long enough to find the particular phrase that will awaken the minds eye of fanatics to reason and evidence. Unfortunately, I think the words Reason and Evidence are profane in the religious world.

Richard Dawkins, I can say this with conviction, is responsible for my awakening to the scientific rational thinking that he is so fond of. Prior to viewing a lecture given by Richard, I was angered by religion and encouraged the dismantling of all religious institutions. After viewing the lecture, the words reason and evidence began to ring in my ears like the word of god rings in the ears of a fanatic. The difference being that those words opened my mind to the natural, where the religious fanatics ears close to the world and open to lies and evil. Even if the religious fanatic is not inherently evil, the words can hypnotize the person to commit evil on an extremely small level or on a destructive level. My mind opens only to the building of bridges and opening of doors to the wonder that exists.

That being said, Richard has, for me, discovered the words and phrase to bring out the knowledge seeking the he incites.



Why do people have a hard time with Hitchens and Dawkins? Part 1

Wanting to discuss Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, I posted a comment on the message board for Winnipeg Skeptics:

Winnipeg Skeptics Meetup Board

Meet-up group to find out exactly why science enthusiasts say negative things about these two individuals. I had some interesting comments.

The whole topic was spurred on by a comment made during the question period at a recent trip to the Winnipeg Creation Museum. (Edit: I would love to have a copy of the audio that was recorded by Creation Museum staff during this period and the question period from the group before us, Winnipeg Atheists I believe were involved in that session). I do applaud the Creation museum for allowing several groups in that day who, for all intensive purposes, are hostile to their “evidence for creation”. I hope they would welcome us back for some more discussion and they are welcome to attend any Winnipeg Skeptics event to give a talk. Ideas, no matter how unorthodox should still be discussed, if only for fun, in a safe and welcoming atmosphere.

I digress. The comment which began my train of thought on this topic was “Dawkins is a bit of an ass”. This comment was interjected into the middle of an argument against religion that creationist John Freakes began to state, by Gem Newman, founder of Winnipeg Skeptics (Don’t take offence Gem, I am just painting a picture). The interruption achieved it’s intended target, stopping the argument proposed against evolution by Mr. Freaks, in which he began evoking confrontational nature of Richard Dawkins as a defensive mechanism.

“Dawkins is an ass,” is an interesting statement and it struck a cord with me. As with all skeptical thinkers, I demand proof for definitive statements such as that. Before posting a comment on the WPMG message board I did a little research to see if this is a common feeling among evolutionists and secularist enthusiasts. I found numerous comments around the internet which stated much the same thing. Hence, I posted the comment on the message board to find out why the particular group I belong to felt this way. Although it isn’t a unanimous feeling, generally, the methods used by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens to refute religion are more in your face than even secular individuals are comfortable with.

I would like to convince my reader that they should come out of their comfort zone. Starting with Christopher Hitchens, who seems to have a huge impact on religion, I will then move onto Richard Dawkins in this multipart Subspecies blog segment.

I would like to start with the signature “Hitch-slap” that allows Christopher Hitchens, during a debate, to change the minds of those who are undecided and even to convert some of those who entered the room pious and left the room humbled. His bold statements against the dictatorship that is organized religion have, time and again, shocked his viewers into disgust or applause. More often than not, it seems, applause erupts in the audience. Disgust is reserved for those in denial.

In recent times, Christopher Hitchens has softened his approach by cooling down his shock tactics, instead installing small similarities into his statements that regular people can understand and associate with. An example of which are his quiet statements made when probed at a panel while debating his brother:
Hitchens Vs. Hitchens

Another example of his relaxed tone appeared in a recent article for Slate:
Hitchens @ Slate

-on how to make a decent cup of tea. I enjoyed the quips against religion but I also enjoyed the cup of tea I made after reading this article. Seriously, this is how my Nana used to make tea and I have not had a good cup of tea since she died. I could never recreate her old English style of brewing tea simply because I did not pay attention during the process.

Christopher has repeatedly and loudly brought the atrocities committed by all religions (Yes even Buddhists) to the surface for all to examine rather than letting the dictators of theology sweep crimes under a rug. One needn’t go further than last week to find criminal acts committed by proprietors of organized religion. I will list a few stories:

Suicide bombers in Kabul
Child molestation, abuse, and confinement in Bountiful BC

These acts of criminality are glazed over by secular law, preachers of religion, and the average person. How many of us thumb over these stories from around the world and at our back door for the sports page or comics? How many people actually read these stories and not feel immediately sick for humanity? I will answer the second question first (an interesting method of answering questions used by Hitchens): Number of people is so close to zero, it’s negligible. But, this is not humanities fault. Globalization is a rather new concept and we as a civilization are still getting acquainted with the appearance of cultural differences in our living rooms. The human animal is strongly opposed and afraid of change.

The answer to the first question (drum roll): far too many people. If it is not happening in the back yard of the observer the problem is brushed off as irrelevant. It could be a factor of desensitization or ignorance. It could be a myriad of other reasons to which I am not qualified to speak on, nor do I have the data to back my point of views up. What I do observe, on countless occasions, is the power of the spoken word to break the walls in the mind of humanity. It takes a cunning debater like Christopher Hitchens to remind me that the driving force behind nearly everything that is bad in this world is religion. Second only to religion is money and/or greed. Money and/or greed are is second only to religion, you ask? It is this way because religion tends to have and covet these two concepts on top of practice of faith, while discouraging the flock to avoid these feelings and actions on pain of everlasting damnation, torture and pain. Religious proprietors, like the personification of all they deem evil, are greedy for souls to fill their bastions and coffers. While some use the space and money for noble causes, the tariffs paid to greater powers tend to be used to cause the very thing religion is said to protect against.

What Mr. Hitchens does in his debates is unearths the hidden truths that embarrass and outrage the faithful and shoved them in their face in a similar manner to a mother washing her child’s mouth out with soap after a profanity is uttered. The taste does not sit well with people who know there is something wrong but decide not to confront it. Those who are oblivious tend to be surprised, and perhaps, disgusted by the revelation that Christopher Hitchens provides for them. Those people who share his observations tend to be less interested in what he is saying and more interested in how he is saying it.

Frankly, I don’t think we (atheists, secularists, humanists, etc.) should be bringing this man down in the eyes of those who oppose his statements against religion. Christopher has nothing to do with the wicked acts committed by religious organizations. We are – forgive the cliche – shooting one of our best messengers.

I will miss Christopher if cancer takes him before his time. I hope he lives long enough to awaken the world to the unbelievable evil that is religion. I know, this may be impossible in the time he has left (whether it is one yeah or 20 more years).

On a side note, the issues in Egypt have me engaged. I feel fortunate to be around and alive when a group of people rise up, in protest, to change the way their country is governed.


Edit: I am working on embedding these videos into my blog post but it seems the feature is not working or I am doing it incorrectly. Not to mention the frustration of typing in this format where the document keeps returning to the top and I continuously have to scroll down to where I left off.