There’s something slightly cute and just a little pitiful about Richard Dawkins’ response to his recent “deplatforming” at a Berkeley book talk recently. Something that reminds me of a cosseted lapdog when refused a Battenberg Treat at the tea table.
Just to catch you up, everyone’s favourite atheist was “deplatformed” ( a neologism you better get used to in the coming years) at a Berkeley sponsored radio station when the powers that be discovered that Dawkins had, to their horror, belittled Islam and created offence tweets about that religion.
Here’s how they informed everyone:
Never mind Brown Paper Tickets, hand me a brown paper bag! What a load of tosh!
The key line is the disingenuous “We apologise for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins views (or broader knowledge of where to put a possessive apostrophe for that matter) much earlier”.
Why is it disingenuous? Because the same type of talk which they labelled “abusive”, is the same type of talk that Dawkins has been spouting about all religions in general, and specific religions in particular, for years. He’s made a career and a tidy packet from it.
Here’s the tricky thing though. For most of that time Dawkins directed that “abusive” (their word, not mine), language at the common religion of his cultural frame, Christianity.
He scorned it, belittled it, said nasty things about it, accused it of all sorts of things, organised others to laugh at it, debated people and refused to take them seriously if they were Christian about it. And in short, the Berkeley types were right on with him about this. If they didn’t know his views on all religion prior to booking him they’ve had their heads in the sand.
Dawkins response? As I said, lapdog sans carb-loaded sugary treat:
The consternation almost oozes off the page does it not?
Now dear reader, this blog post is not heading in a “here’s why Islam is wrong” direction, because we can leave that to the likes of Dawkins. He’s got twitter form after all.
But here’s the thing: When Dawkins was railing against religion and its fundamentalist tendencies, his first railings were against the Christian religion. If we were deluded about God it was about the Christian God. I am sure Dawkins was aware of all other religions at the time, but since he was in the “all religions are the same” camp, along with his good, late friend Christopher Hitchens and his nuanced text, “God is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything”, he took it for granted that all good secular liberals felt the same way about all gods.
And more to the point, and this is the point, he assumed that the freedom that would come with the jettisoning of God would usher in universally what he experienced locally at Berkeley back in the good old anti-Vietnam days when it was all about free speech and free love and stuff. You can almost hear his rich baritone straining to the chords of “All You Need Is Love”, along with ten thousand other Baby Boomers, can’t you?
Surely Dawkins can be deluded no more. Surely he will at some stage have to put up his hand and offer a mea culpa to the very Christian worldview and frame that allowed him to throw the religious furniture around the room with impunity.
Surely he will have to conclude that the only worldview that gave him the space in its own backyard, to kick and spit and foam about it was the Christian one. Surely he will have to deliberate on how it was that Christians were eager to get his noxious views on a platform to discuss them, rather than deplatforming him as hard secular Berkeley has done.
And whether or not Islam would ever allow an advertising campaign on the sides of buses that states “Allah is Not Great” is a moot point. This is not about fundamentalist Islam. This is about the deep, hard secular fundamentalism of the post-Christian culture that Dawkins for so long mistakenly viewed as a glorious liberal future in which free speech would be normal rather than “iconic” (his word). Well Richard, welcome to the new normal. You played your part in bringing it about, so enjoy.
You see Berkeley in the sixties and early seventies still had the vestiges of a Christian worldview too. Dawkins was simply deluded into thinking he was experiencing the fruit of a new worldview, when all he was doing was sucking at the withering teat of a mother he had rejected.
The only difference between Berkeley and Dawkins is that the institution jettisoned all liberal pretension quicker than he did. When it came to throwing away the Christian God Dawkins was an amateur, well behind the curve.
And now? Now all that the likes of Berkeley has left is the deep unbending dogma of the godless religion that Dawkins spent the better part of the last twenty years promoting. A dogma that shuts down inquiry, patronises favoured religions while pretending to protect them, and that offers hand-wringing gnashing of teeth about supposed hate speech.
Ultimately Dawkins was deluded about the fact that you cannot remove the framework of the Christian gospel from the culture without removing the freedoms it afforded him. And now all he can do is splutter ineffectually on the sidelines.
And Berkeley? Their need to protect Islam is merely the self-righteous self-preening of elite liberals who are confident they stand above all religions and therefore are the arbiters of which ones should be afforded their favour and protection at any one time.
I kinda feel sorry for Dawkins, but not too much. There’s a touch of Schadenfreude there that feels like he needs to learn his lesson the hard way. And he deserves everything that is coming his way.
Mind you so did St Paul when he was doing the Christian killing thing back in the day (and all of us for that matter).
I daresay the level of surprise at Berkeley, should Dawkins one day grace its halls effusively espousing the glory of God, would approximate the level of surprise in the Damascus synagogues when Saul of Tarsus began proclaiming that Jesus was the Christ in Acts 9.
One wonders how long Dawkins can continue to kick against the goads.