Monday, November 20, 2006

"I'm an atheist, but ..."

Richard Dawkins, who has been on a promotional tour for his book The God Delusion, gets questions that start with "I'm an atheist, but ...". In fact, he claims to have identified five different variants of what he calls "I'm-an-atheist-buttery". Here's one of them:

5. I'm an atheist, but I wish to dissociate myself from your intemperately strong language.

Sam Harris and I have both received criticism of this kind, and Nick Humphrey probably has too, for the quotation given above. Yet if you look at the language we employ, it is no more strong or intemperate than anybody would use if criticizing a political or economic point of view: no stronger or more intemperate than any theatre critic, art critic or book critic when writing a negative review. Our language sounds strong and intemperate only because of the same weird convention I have already mentioned, that religious faith is uniquely privileged: above and beyond criticism.

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Thanks to Dr. Rajesh Babu, Padma's colleague, for his e-mail alert about Dawkins' website.


  1. Anonymous said...

    I think you haven't seen Arunn's site properly :-). He had a big banner for RD's site (now a small one though). BTW, thanks for this post. This gave me an idea to make a post on my blog using I am ..... but ....

  2. beepbeepitsme said...

    Dawkins is right on the money when he says that religions claim a privileged position from which criticism is seen as blasphemy.

    And, it was, of course against the law in many nations for hundreds of years to in any way, suggest that religion was wrong.

    It has maintained this position of political privilege because it sleeps with the political parties of each country.

    It whores itself out in the political arena where it promises the votes of its followers and demands as payment for services rendered, political protection and, if it can get it, exclusivity.