Archive - Mar 8, 2012


The Other God Delusion

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Memo to Richard Dawkins: BE BETTER. Memo to everyone else: YOU TOO.

As a semi-practicing atheist, there are certain headlines that will catch my eye and automatically raise my blood pressure. So it was with trepidation and hypertension that I read this, from the dung beetles of the Internet news world, the Huffington Post.

"Richard Dawkins, Famous Atheist, Appeals To God On Radio Program"

On the face of it, this struck me as extremely unlikely. I don't follow Richard Dawkins super-duper closely, but from what I do know about him, the chances of him having a sudden epiphany and conversion are extremely slim. And the chances of this happening on the radio? As nonexistent as God.

And, of course, on the face of it, it was complete bullshit. What happened was this. Dawkins claimed that most Christians couldn't name the first book of the New Testament, and were therefore shitty Christians. The shitty Christian debating him, Rev. Giles Fraser, challenged Dawkins to name the full title of Darwin's seminal work on evolution. And here's what Dawkins said:

"'On The Origin Of Species' ... Uh. With, Oh God. 'On The Origin Of Species.' There is a subtitle with respect to the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life."

Let me tell you something about that "Oh God" you probably already know. Richard Dawkins, along with the rest of us, have been immersed in the language of belief all our lives. And since Dawkins is 70, that's a long time to be immersed. Little verbal tics like "Oh God" are ingrained in the language, and there's no atheist equivalent worth a goddamn. They either sound awkward, wanky, or both. It's actually one of the most irritating day-to-day realities of being an atheist, to be perfectly honest. So Dawkins didn't appeal to God, or, as the Daily Mail put it, "invoke the name of the deity in which he does not believe".

Next time you're in fear that we're turning into a society dominated by secularism, try to come up with something as satisfying, semantically, as "JESUS FUCKING CHRIST". Then rest comfortably in the knowledge that Christianity still holds sway over the English language, and shut the fuck up, for Christ's sake.

Unfortunately, in reading the article and the cause for Dawkins' utterance, I learned that Dawkins somehow managed to get himself caught out by a shitty argument. And since there aren't a lot of famous atheists, and it's arguable there are any atheists more famous than Dawkins, it's kind of imperative that he not get caught out in shitty arguments.

It's true that most Christians are ignorant of, or don't bother following, a lot of the tenets of their faith. It's also true that a lot of Christians are ignorant of the trivia around their books and rituals. So are the adherents of most religions. But that's not a great argument against religion. I mean, this is religion we're talking about. Intellectual vigor is not part of the standard package. It's a luxury option, and the Jesuits cornered the market on it anyway.

But if you're going to make that argument, there's no excuse for not being prepared to name any book any god-botherer is going to assume is "your Bible". There's only like three of them they ever think up, and even though none of them are actually analogous to a Bible, you should still be prepared. There's On The Origin Of Species. There's The God Delusion, which Dawkins will never get asked about because, well, he wrote it. And maybe, as a distant third, Hitchens' "God Is Not Great". But odds are, it's gonna be the Darwin.

So HAVE THAT SHIT READY. Subtitle and all. Rattle it off like you actually do pray to it every night, even though the connection between Darwin's research and atheism are tenuous at best and largely manufactured by creationist-leaning assholes. Have that shit ready anyway. I know it's more words than their answer, which is just "Matthew", but you're smarter than they are, you can handle it.

Because when you fuck up like that, on a question that doesn't even matter debating a point that doesn't even matter, it makes us all look bad. I know it sucks being The Atheist. I wish there were more of you, too. But there aren't, and until you can convince some more people to write provocative books that get a lot of press, we really don't have that kind of margin for that kind or error.

Just don't sweat the "God" thing. You won't find any way around that crap. Believe me, I've tried.