Richard Dawkins on his ‘gentle’ approach to attacking religion

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Famously outspoken athiest and scientist Richard Dawkins thinks he's actually been pretty gentle on religion. 

"I've never been the sort of firebrand that I've been made out to be. I'm actually quite a mild person," The God Delusion author told Jian. 

"Because people have got so used to the idea that you simply don't attack religion at all, if you do it – even in a very gentle tone – people hear it as thought it was firebrand language, which it really isn't." 

In a wide-ranging feature chat, Dawkins spoke to Jian about his youth, his public image, and his new memoir An Appetite for Wonder. He also shares his thoughts on so-called atheist churches, why he doesn't care to "unsave" people, and how to raise more skeptical children. 

Dawkins on the Charter of Quebec Values

The author also weighed in on the ongoing debate surrounding the Charter of Quebec Values, and proposed measures that would prevent public servants from wearing "ostentatious" religious symbols.

"I don't think that it's up to government to dictate what people should wear," he said. "My position would be that they should be a free as anybody else."
 

Written By: CBC Radio
continue to source article at cbc.ca

26 COMMENTS

  1. “”I don’t think that it’s up to government to dictate what people should wear,” he said. “My position would be that they should be a free as anybody else.””

    Would that it were so simple…. but of course, religious people may claim a right to wear articles of clothing as part of their deeply held beliefs, where non-religious people may claim no such right, regardless of their own deeply held (but not religiously-based) beliefs.

    And, of course, Richard is familiar with the requirement many organizations have for uniform dress, and surely doesn’t feel that, say, army officers wearing the same uniform is a “violation” of their right to dress as they wish. Don’t join the military if you don’t want to wear a uniform, would seem to be a reasonable suggestion.

    • “I don’t think that it’s up to government to dictate what people should wear,” he said. “My position would be that they should be a free as anybody else.”

      Surely in public you have to conform to certain reasonable etiquette.
      Wearing a full burka is clearly antisocial, confrontational and so unacceptable, likewise with not wearing any clothes at all.
      So perhaps the law does have a valid say on how persons should appear in public, as long as its reasonable.

      So only being able to see the eyes of someone you are talking to is one extreme.
      And being able to see the full nude body and genitalia of someone you are talking to is the other extreme.
      A law that acts against these extremities will surely make it easier for us to get along with eachother.

      • In reply to #9 by Terra Watt:

        “I don’t think that it’s up to government to dictate what people should wear,” he said. “My position would be that they should be a free as anybody else.”

        Surely in public you have to conform to certain reasonable etiquette.
        Wearing a full burka is clearly antisocial, confrontational and so unaccep..

        When I was a lot younger I am sure my then jeans, long hair, beard and ear-rings were regarded by many as antisocial and confrontational. As a result I have great difficulty with burka bans on the general grounds of “etiquette”. So what if it makes it hard for you to talk to someone. Do we have to talk to everybody ? I think we have to obey the law, pay our taxes and (in my country) vote. Whether or not someone wants to talk to me is their choice.

    • In reply to #2 by Alan4discussion:

      The costume of the Ku Klux Klan (sometimes known as the “glory suit” by Klansmen) is perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Ku Klux Klan,

      The problem with “dressing how people like” is that some costumes carry a message!

      Germany upset with Nazi-themed Indonesian cafe with Hitler pics, swastik…

      And yet, apparently the Burkah/Niqab/Abaya are mere matters of choice for women in Islam… no religious symbolism there, then.

  2. I lately try to listen to interviews like these as if I didn’t know anything about the guest (in this case Prof. Dawkins). How much of what the speaker says is relevant to my life? How interesting is the person? Why should I not change the channel?

    Although this was a good interview I don’t think Prof. Dawkins was particularly good at demonstrating a passion for his book. He may well have a passion for it but I’ve noticed he, perhaps out of modesty, tends to put the emphasis on publishers, his advancing age, and various other people when it comes to the reasons why he decided to write his autobiography.

    Prof. Dawkins, you have a marvelous and perceptive life story to pass on to the world. Own it! :-j
    Mike

  3. The author also weighed in on the ongoing debate surrounding the Charter of Quebec Values, and proposed measures that would prevent public servants from wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols.

    “I don’t think that it’s up to government to dictate what people should wear,” he said. “My position would be that they should be as free as anybody else.”

    Damn straight.

      • In reply to #5 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #4 by Katy Cordeth:

        Damn straight.

        Yes, but unfortunately religion does not permit this freedom.

        Thank goodness we aren’t compelled to emulate them, then. Or is the jury still out on whether atheism is a religion?

        Am I to assume that your ‘yes’ means you now agree with me, and as it turns out, Richard, that secular governments have no business banning religious apparel such as the veil?

        Glad to see you turning away from the Dark Side, Peter. :)

        I wonder how many more will follow suit now that our patron has made his feelings known.

        Ooh, I can feel this site getting more liberal and tolerant as we speak. I’m all goosebumpy.

        • In reply to #7 by Katy Cordeth:

          In reply to #5 by Peter Grant:

          In reply to #4 by Katy Cordeth:

          Damn straight.

          Yes, but unfortunately religion does not permit this freedom.

          Thank goodness we aren’t compelled to emulate them, then. Or is the jury still out on whether atheism is a religion?

          Am I to assume that your ‘yes’ means y…

          ME TOO! Wonder what will happen when I follow a burkah wearer into a bank whilst wearing my motorcycle helmet? ;-)

        • In reply to #7 by Katy Cordeth:

          Am I to assume that your ‘yes’ means you now agree with me, and as it turns out, Richard, that secular governments have no business banning religious apparel such as the veil?

          No, seems you missed the second part:

          “My position would be that they should be as free as anybody else.”

          ie crazy religious beliefs don’t give them any special rights.

          • In reply to #26 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #7 by Katy Cordeth:

            Am I to assume that your ‘yes’ means you now agree with me, and as it turns out, Richard, that secular governments have no business banning religious apparel such as the veil?

            No, seems you missed the second part:

            “My position would be that they should be as free as anybody else.”

            ie crazy religious beliefs don’t give them any special rights.

            The sneaky sonofagun. I thought Richard was saying government shouldn’t dictate what people wear, because, you know, those were his words.

            What he actually meant though was that he is in favor of banning the veil.

            Thank you for clarifying the real meaning for me, Peter.

            I say it again: he’s a sneaky, obfuscating sonofagun.

            Thinks: I would make a lousy religious person as I don’t seem to possess the ability to twist people’s words until they mean what I want them to mean.

      • In reply to #5 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #4 by Katy Cordeth:

        Damn straight.

        Yes, but unfortunately religion does not permit this freedom.

        Perhaps we can win over the ‘religious dressers’ by stealth. They’ll notice our inclusive attitude to attire and be won over by our enlightened thinking.

        In places like Iran the dress code is enforced by law. I don’t think it makes us a better place by doing exactly the same thing.

    • In reply to #4 by Katy Cordeth:

      The author also weighed in on the ongoing debate surrounding the Charter of Quebec Values, and proposed measures that would prevent public servants from wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols.

      “I don’t think that it’s up to government to dictate what people should wear,” he said. “My position wou…

      Screw that. If you are a worker for the government, paid by my f…ng tax dollars, i do not want to communicate with you slapping your religious symbol into my eyes.
      I do not have a choice when communicating with government agencies, I have a choice to buy or not in a store where the owner wears
      religious symbols. Big difference. No government employee has the right to poke his religious symbols into my eyes. Maybe I have the right to abuse him in public for doing so, infringing on my rights not to know what religion he/she/it belongs to?
      Believe me, I will do that. So far i did not have the opportunity.

      • In reply to #14 by kraut:

        In reply to #4 by Katy Cordeth:

        The author also weighed in on the ongoing debate surrounding the Charter of Quebec Values, and proposed measures that would prevent public servants from wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols.

        Your view is typical of Quebec natives.

        I have two questions for your opponents. Canadians (unfairly) consider your view religious bigotry

        1. why should a corporation be permitted to have a dress code but not the provincial government?
        2. why should people be banned from expressing political views when they are permitted to express religious views? You want symbols out of the work place for the same reason — to keep the attention on the work, not political/religious debates.
    • In reply to #4 by Katy Cordeth:

      The author also weighed in on the ongoing debate surrounding the Charter of Quebec Values, and proposed measures that would prevent public servants from wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols.

      “I don’t think that it’s up to government to dictate what people should wear,” he said. “My position wou…

      How about nudity?

  4. Another enjoyable interview. I was pleased to see the questions were delivered in a courteous way and not openly openly hostile as is often the case. Richard always answers sincerely and gives obvious thought to each and every point. This is in stark contrast to his slogan wielding opponents.

  5. Dawkins weighed in on the Quebec Charter issue — a subject of much debate. In brief, the Quebec government decided to institute a dress code on civil servants. Employees could not wear political proselytising buttons. Neither could they wear large religious symbols. Corporations routinely restrict dress this way. The issue is whether the provincial government can. In Quebec, the majority support the dress code. Outside Quebec, the majority oppose the dress code. They say it effectively bars Muslims from working for the public service and impinges on the religious freedom of Christian employees to wear large, intricately carved crucifixes depicting the execution of Jesus.

    Dawkins argued you must not give special privilege to religion. So if people are permitted to excuse themselves from the dress code on religious grounds, they should be permitted to do it on any other ground, say aesthetic.

    So similarly if you can get a military exception for religious reasons, you should also be able to get it for personal reasons.

    I suspect if Dawkin’s reasoning became universal, we would find far fewer religious exceptions to the law tolerated.

    The way I look at it, why are people wearing blatant religious symbols at work?

    1. they are proselytising. They might as well say “Ask me about Amway”
    2. They are establishing dominance. They are affirming “This is a fundamentalist Christian workplace, and you had better conform to our standards of conduct.”

    You have to consider the rights of the customers not to be bullied as well as the rights of the workers to dress as they please.

  6. The Quebec charter law applies only to the civil servant workplace workers.
    It seems to me a burqua would make it hard to type or talk to the customers. The claim the is burqua is absolutely necessary for a female muslim. So not permitting is an anti-muslim bar to employment. It is almost like saying “my religion forbids be from doing any useful work. You have to hire me anyway.”

  7. My tolerance for religious dress stops at the burqa. Seeing someone dressed this way makes me feel far more uncomfortable than I would if seeing someone stark naked. I think it’s offensive and humiliating to have one gender completely shrouded in black to avoid provoking the male gaze.

  8. In reply to #14 by kraut:

    In reply to #4 by Katy Cordeth:

    Screw that. If you are a worker for the government, paid by my f…ng tax dollars, i do not want to communicate with you slapping your religious symbol into my eyes. I do not have a choice when communicating with government agencies, I have a choice to buy or not in a store where the owner wears religious symbols. Big difference. No government employee has the right to poke his religious symbols into my eyes…

    I’m sorry, Kraut, but if someone is working for the government, their own f…ng tax dollars come into play. If you pays your taxes, you has your rights. That includes the right to wear what you want.

    Why do so many people here think the way others dress is all about making a statement to the world, or to them? I can’t count the number of posts which have expressed the view that “whenever I see someone in a burka it’s a personal affront to my own sensibilities, it’s a slap to my face, this is all about me!”

    I blame the t-shirt industry, specifically its slogan division. We’ve been conditioned to believe that what others wear always represents a personal communique to ourselves.

    When confronted by someone whose attire doesn’t give a specific message, we’re disconcerted. We don’t know how to respond, so we get scared. Some of us anyway. We project. We get all Monsters are Due on Maple Street.

    It seems a bit odd that some religious paraphernalia such as the burka, which is specifically intended to conceal a woman’s identity and render her invisible, has come to represent to many a symbol of provocation and passive or even overt aggression. I genuinely don’t know whether that’s good or bad.

    …Maybe I have the right to abuse him in public for doing so, infringing on my rights not to know what religion he/she/it belongs to? Believe me, I will do that. So far i did not have the opportunity.

    No, you don’t have the right to abuse anyone in public. Sorry. Why the heck would you want to anyway? I hope to goodness your comment #14 is never used against you in a court of law, Kraut.

    Ten minutes in the life of a British Muslim woman who doesn’t have a choice in what she wears:

    You go down to the shops on a boiling hot August day to get some apple sauce for the sprog. Along the way you encounter a white supremacist skinhead type who you know would spit on you were he not on probation. What little cerebral activity he has at his disposal is at the moment being dedicated to putting one foot in front of the other and figuring out why his hero Tommy Robinson done what he done. He’s multitasking in other words, so you’re probably going to be okay.

    Moving on, you meet the fundamentalist Imam from the mosque. He has recently returned from Saudi Arabia and is appalled that you’re outside without being accompanied by a male relative. He knows you have a five-year-old son and it’s the summer holidays so the kid is out of school. Why isn’t he accompanying you, whore?

    Next you see that nice boy from across the street. He has a girlfriend and you’ve seen them kissing even though they aren’t married! He has a homosexual friend, and on one occasion you saw him reading a book called The God Delusion. You can rest assured he won’t look upon you with contempt.

    Oh dear.

    • In reply to #18 by Katy Cordeth:

      I’m sorry, Kraut, but if someone is working for the government, their own f…ng tax dollars come into play. If you pays your taxes, you has your rights. That includes the right to wear what you want.

      I’m in complete agreement with you that people should have the right to wear what they want in general, particularly in their own time, and that nobody should claim the right to abuse someone else in public (or anywhere else for that matter) on the basis of what they are wearing. However, I also agree in principle with the need (and reasoning) behind the enforcement of a dress code in places of employment such as private companies and government agencies.

      Its a little misleading to continually argue the case for the right to wear what you want in general, when the discussion in hand, relating specifically to the situation in Quebec, should be more focussed on a) whether any uniform codes in any places of employment should be enforceable, and b) whether certain concessions to those uniform codes should be given on the basis of religious beliefs.

      My personal view is that if you are going to have uniform or dress codes at all in the workplace, then they should be enforceable equally to all members of staff. Otherwise we’d end up with an internal memo regarding a new uniform policy along the following lines, which would soon result in (justifiable) resentment from those not named as ‘the chosen few’:

      From next week our new uniform policy comes into practice. Everyone is expected to adhere to this policy with the exception of Ms Aaleya Bin Ladin, who has the privilege to choose to wear her religious paraphernalia which is specifically intended to conceal her identity and render her invisible. Ms Mary O’Mary has also been granted an exemption to wear her mahoosive golden blinged up representation of an iron age torture device, and Mr Obi Wan Smith is permitted to wear his Jedi outfit. For all other employees the dress code will be strictly enforced. And no, Mr Nikko McDeath, you cannot wear your cradle of filth t-shirts any longer.

  9. This has come as quite a surprise to me. I has assumed from the comments in the press, online etc. that Richard’s attack on religion was mostly screaming incoherently with a generous smattering of death threats and inciting mob rule before complaining loudly that he’s being oppressed..?

    then again I’ve only ever read as far as comparrisons of his atheism to religious extremism.

    it’s almost as if no one who writes about Richard has ever actually botherred reading his work at all

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