The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.


Have you heard of Richard Dawkins? World famous evolutionary biologist? Prolific author, public speaker, and maker of numerous documentaries? Author of The God Delusion, a book that has sold over two million copies, and been translated into 31 languages?

Well of course you’ve heard of him. Apparently, however, not everyone has. Which, in a way, is perfectly fine (I’m sure there are plenty of famous people out there who I’ve never heard of. I’d give you some examples, but I’ve never heard of them).

What’s not so perfectly fine is when you haven’t heard of Dawkins, yet you hate atheists enough to ban one from your country club.

You see, Dawkins has a new book out called The Magic of Reality, and sub-titled “How we know what’s really true”. It’s essentially a science primer, aimed primarily at children and young adults, but suitable for adults as well. It does not promote atheism.

The Centre for Inquiry (CFI), being an organisation that “[fosters] a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values”, invited Dawkins to Michigan to talk about the book, and booked the Wyndgate Country Club in preparation.

Meanwhile, Dawkins appeared on The O’Reilly Factor, hosted by intellectual giant and staunch Christian Bill O’Reilly, to talk about his new book. Don’t know who Bill O’Reilly is? He’s the genius who came up with the famous, impossible-to-argue-against “Tides go in, tides go out” argument for theism:

Uh huh.

Oh, and this is revealing, too:

Predictably, O’Reilly had no interest in discussing the book, and insisted on talking about atheism instead. The good people at the Wyndgate saw the interview, realised their panties were in a massive bunch, and then cancelled CFI’s booking.


Dawkins himself had this to say:

If the country club had said, ‘I’m not having Dawkins speak because he’s a Jew, or because he’s black, or because he’s gay,’ they would never get away with it.

I of course think it’s ridiculous that Dawkins was banned, but I don’t think the analogy he draws is quite right. There are absolutely no good reasons for banning someone from a venue simply because they are black, or a Jew – these are simply biological or cultural descriptors that have no real bearing on a person’s inherent worth. It makes as much sense to ban an amputee, or someone with a beard. There can, however, be some very good reasons for banning someone from your private venue because they are a purveyor of harmful or distasteful ideas. The only way I would allow a paedophile, racist or apocalyptic Christian homophobe to promote their “values” at my own venue, if I had one, would be if everyone in the audience was given a basket of things to throw at them as they spoke. Rocks, probably. Or maybe frozen poo (although that would create some interesting logistical problems).

Of course, atheism is nothing like paedophilia, or racism, or the death fetish and rampant bigotry of an apocalyptically-minded Christian homophobe. Not only is it about as benign an idea as you can get, but Dawkins was there to talk about his book. You know, the one that has nothing to do with promoting atheism.

So, Dawkins’ banning isn’t so much equivalent to the banning of a black person, as the banning of a Jain for discussing the benefits of exercise, which makes the management at the Wyngate not just malicious, but stupid.

Category: Bad


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