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A Hypothesis for Richard Dawkins to Test

John on February 27, 2010 at 10:00 am

From Dawkin’s site:

Imagine that you, as a greatly liked and respected person, found yourself overnight subjected to personal vilification on an unprecedented scale, from anonymous commenters on a website. Suppose you found yourself described as an “utter twat” a “suppurating rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum inside a dead skunk that’s been shoved up a week-old dead rhino’s twat.” Or suppose that somebody on the same website expressed a “sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails” down your throat. Also to “trip you up and kick you in the guts.” And imagine seeing your face described, again by an anonymous poster, as “a slack jawed turd in the mouth mug if ever I saw one.”

What do you have to do to earn vitriol like that? Eat a baby? Gas a trainload of harmless and defenceless people? Rape an altar boy? Tip an old lady out of her wheel chair and kick her in the teeth before running off with her handbag?

None of the above. What you have to do is write a letter like this…

Dawkins then reproduces a fairly tepid announcement about changes to the forum which, apparently, led to all the outrage. He goes on to reprimand his readers, calling them hysterics:

The new plan may succeed or it may fail, but I think it is worth trying. And even if it fails, it most certainly will not deserve the splenetic hysteria that the mere suggestion of it has received. Surely there has to be something wrong with people who can resort to such over-the-top language, over-reacting so spectacularly to something so trivial. Even some of those with more temperate language are responding to the proposed changes in a way that is little short of hysterical.

May I ever so gently suggest that Dawkins has just discovered what a lot of Christians on the web have known for a very, very long time. The fact that the hysterical rage is usually directed outward from the centers of atheist thought (places like Dawkin’s website) rather than inward, is a poor excuse for failing to apprehend the obvious.

Here’s a an idea for Richard Dawkins, a hypothesis for him to test at his leisure…

Make an announcement on your site that you heard an argument for Christianity that you found mildly interesting. Nothing over the top, mind you. In fact, this would require real subtlety and all the rhetorical craft of which you are capable. Just let on in a few passing phrases that you haven’t put out of your mind that this one argument might have merit and shouldn’t be dismissed as merit less. Suggest however briefly that it made you pause and reflect whether you’d given proper attention to the idea. Then sit back and engage your observational powers.

I predict your “rational” readers would explode like a keg of black powder. The shitstorm of unbridled rage they unleash would make this current argument look like a pillow fight. I’ll go further and predict that many readers would immediately begin questioning your intelligence, your sanity, your manhood, some would even make veiled threats…

Prove me wrong, Richard.

Or you can just take it from someone who has been on the other end of, shall we say, rational exuberance. What you’ve just seen isn’t a break in the well-tempered reason of online atheists, it’s how many of them behave on a consistent basis towards everyone who isn’t marching in lockstep with them. What you’ve just seen, to be blunt, is your own cult or reason as it appears from the outside. Your readers aren’t suddenly hysterical, Richard, they’re hysterical in your direction for once.

[HT: Hot Air headlines]

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