Richard DawkinsThe world’s theists can’t handle the fact that atheists (and other types of non-believers) exist. They’d prefer never to hear, see, or know about them. They view the very existence of non-belief as a direct and imminent threat to their very existence. This means they’re especially incensed whenever a vocal atheist (or other type of non-believer) comes along. They think non-believers are required to be silent and go away … and those who refuse to comply are trying to destroy them utterly.

The so-called “New Atheists” (i.e. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens) have especially invoked their sanctimonious outrage. Because they’ve all been successful authors, ardent theists have cast about for years to find any and all means of discrediting them. Most of the time all they can come up with is a repeated, old, juvenile whine along the lines of, “Why, these people are criticizing religion! How dare they!? They can’t do that! It’s not allowed!!! Religion is just too precious to permit any critique!”

Apparently, as the (UK) Daily Mail reports, Richard Dawkins recently handed militant theists what they perceive as “ammunition” they can use against him (WebCite cached article):

Professor Richard Dawkins today dismissed his hard-earned reputation as a militant atheist – admitting that he is actually agnostic as he can’t prove God doesn’t exist.

The country’s foremost champion of the Darwinist evolution, who wrote The God Delusion, stunned audience members when he made the confession during a lively debate on the origins of the universe with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The heart of this matter is a clarification, by Dawkins, about exactly what he believes about God:

But when Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams suggested that Professor Darwin is often described as the world’s most famous atheist, the geneticist responded: ‘Not by me’.

He said: ‘On a scale of seven, where one means I know he exists, and seven I know he doesn’t, I call myself a six.’

Professor Dawkins went on to say he believed was a ‘6.9’, stating: ‘That doesn’t mean I’m absolutely confident, that I absolutely know, because I don’t.’

I’ll say right now that — while I’d welcome Professor Dawkins to the company of agnostics — I neither know nor care whether or not he actually is one. The degree to which he’s an agnostic as compared to being an atheist is not really relevant to me. I have written elsewhere that there is a clear distinction between agnosticism and atheism, and that atheists have revised the definition of “atheism” over the last few decades so as to enlarge their own company. But in the end, agnostics and atheists have far more in common with each other, than either does with theists. That much is undeniable. They are partners — sisters and brothers, even — in non-belief, who are together under siege by militant believers who, rather childishly, cannot and will not accept them as fellow human beings. Dawkins — and the rest of the New Atheists — are as much spokesmen for non-belief in general, as they are for any specific form of “atheism” they may or may not adhere to. Distinctions like this do nothing to mitigate the validity of their critiques of religion or of religious people.

Ultimately, this means that the Daily Mail‘s attempt to discredit Dawkins is a fucking joke. That Dawkins might also be an agnostic in addition to being an atheist, does nothing to refute anything he’s said or done — even if theists erroneously think it does.

One last thing: I love how the Mail called Dawkins a “career atheist.” What a transparent attempt to slur him! Most of us know that Dawkins is, by contrast, a “career scientist.” That he’s published some books on atheism in addition to being a prominent and respected scientist, doesn’t make him any less of a scientist, and it doesn’t mean he’s no longer part of that profession. All it does mean is what I’ve been saying for ages — which is that theists just can’t handle the existence of non-believers, especially outspoken ones like Dawkins.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Shane Pope, via Flickr.

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