Dr. Carlo Strenger is a pretty darn smart guy. A professor at the psychology department of Tel Aviv University, he frequently contributes to The Guardian (a paper that, if you have not noticed, I worship), mostly on the topic of religion and how it pertains to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. I know, it’s a topic that it seems as though everyone in the world has already tossed their two cents into.
But there’s a certain calmness to Strenger’s writing that’s uniquely appealing, and a recent article of his, “Dawkins is wrong about believers” struck me as particularly appealing. In it, his atheist stance is made quite clear (a stance that can be the only logical result of enduring the Middle East’s religious warfare for so long), but he’s not afraid to quickly discredit the man who is considered by many as the king of the modern atheist movement.
That man, Richard Dawkins, though also an intelligent fellow, is also a feverishly pretentious jerk whose eagerness to belittle accomplishes little good other than to cement the beliefs of those he intends to persuade through condemnation. If you agree with Strenger and me, that is.
It’s a pretty simple point that Strenger argues. Dawkins is voracious in his attacks on religion and religious beliefs, and he encourages atheists not to be calm observers of religion’s follies, content in their rationality, but instead to passionately convert them from one belief system to another in a way that is in no manner remotely similar to religious conversion.
This ultimately offends religious folks and makes them further disenchanted with atheists, and more likely to sink further into fundamentalism. It’s like if somebody in a Yankees hat came over, kicked me in the nuts, spat on my Brooks Robinson jersey and then demanded that I purchase some tickets to a Yankees game (for only $240 at that!)
Everybody’s going to be inclined to stick with their preexisting beliefs if berated with new ones that run directly counter to them. The better, and more productive path to take is one of reasonable persuasion, by putting efforts not on dismantling the Catholic church from the bottom up, but in changing their stance on AIDs prevention, for example.
But of course, reasoned, middle-ground ruminations on the possible benefits of a calm and measured relationship between atheists and the religious don’t sell speeches or books…