Back in March of this year, the ABC’s Compass hosted a documentary titled The Atheists. While not agreeing with all the atheists represented (who would? – “herding cats” and all that), I think it was a pretty reasonable job. Given the interviewees.
The point of this post comes from one of the comments made in the documentary by Phillip Adams. In commenting on Dawkins and Hitchens, he claimed that while he didn’t disagree with any of their points, it was their tone that he disagreed with – a tone that “fanned the flames of intolerance” (I paraphrase).
Well, who could disagree with that? (Shut-up and sit down in the back there. Yes I mean you.)
Much has been made of Dawkins’ “strident” tone, and often in public speaking in response to these claims Dawkins presents a passage of the best candidate for strident prose from The God Delusion. This best candidate is the opening of the chapter ‘The God Hypothesis’.
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
(The God Delusion, ‘The God Hypothesis’, Richard Dawkins, 2006)
The usual retort that Dawkins takes on tour goes that the passage was intended in jest, and that Dawkins thinks it’s actually quite funny. (If you laugh, I have a yard ruler with your backside’s name on it.)
Further to this, Dawkins has claimed that if it is strident, it’s only because of the source material he’s referring to (i.e. The Old Testament). Bah. Pish! Nothing of the sort. He’s just not reading the book right. It’s metaphor.
At any rate, like or hate his work, if there is any one candidate for Dawkins’ most strident, this is quite possibly it.
Now, here in front of me next to The God Delusion I have another candidate for “strident atheist” text. More Unspeakable Adams, by Phillip Adams (1981).
Much like Dawkins above quote, it was written and was intended to be read in good humour. Even if on the back cover, it jests about religious indignation.
“LAST DESPERATE OFFER! A limited edition of the book, soaked in kerosene, is available for outraged religious organisations. Bulk orders only.”
(More Unspeakable Adams, Phillip Adams, 1981)
Because we all know how religious organisations can become incensed at the slightest, fairest criticism. Indignation with wailing and gnashing of teeth and all that. Hardly a strident observation.
Let’s see, as with Dawkins, if we can’t quote mine a most-strident-passage from More Unspeakable Adams. 😉
“Lassie’s saintliness recalls the arguments I’d have with our religious instruction teacher, who regarded my insistence on her having a soul as blasphemy. But I knew she did, that she must, and that if there were a heaven and heavenly justice, she’d have to share in immortality… ‘God is dog backwards,’ offered Graeme Wrigley helpfully, only to earn instant excommunication from the class.”
Aghast! The horror! Aiieee! Strident!
Okay. Most of the book only has material that makes tangential reference to religion, as offensive as some of the content may be to religious prudes. Quote mining a lot of it to make it sound strident would require quite a bit of bad faith. I wouldn’t want you to mistake me for a creationist.
But forget strident anyway. What about fanning those flames of…. Oh wait. What’s this? ‘When God was Irish and Dr Mannix his deputy.’
That’s got to have potential.
“One of the great pleasures of a newspaper column is the mail it provokes. The unsigned obscenities, the death threats…”
Even without the Internet, it seems Adams can whip up the hatred as well as that dastardly PZ Myers!
“Fascinated by this revelation, I wrote back (‘Dear Mr Christ, I was most interested …’) seeking further details. This led to a flood of over 100 letters, each more deranged in its misogyny… Unfortunately Mr Christ also detailed his plans to murder some Sydney matrons, so I was forced to get in touch with a psychiatric service sponsored by the Presbyterian Church.”
Shrill! Intolerant! Flashing lights! Babies in peril!1!!
In the same league as Dawkins’-Most-Strident-Passage, don’t you think? But maybe you aren’t convinced. Yet.
Reading further, Adams provides “a glossary of terms used in convent schools in the 1950s’.”
“Body, The: Did not exist except for Breasts (q.v.). A protestant delusion.
Breasts: Sister could not mention them without going red. It was a mortal sin if they showed.”
Intolerant! Flames! Air-raid siren! Gngggggg!!!
“God: The senior male Catholic. Of Irish extraction. Definitely not Italian. Ranked above Archbishop Mannix.”
You can’t imply they’re racist! Next you’ll be calling them paedophile-lovers! Intolera-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-RAGE!
“Hell: For Jews and other pagans, including most Protestants. Also for Catholic girls who did not believe what the priests told them.”
What would Catholic girl, Madeleine Bunting think? BIGOTRY!
“Proddy dogs: State school children of both sexes. God did not love them enough to make them Catholics.”
Well, that’s all I need to see! Case closed! He may talk all tolerant, but never forget; Phillip Adams is a card-carrying, religiously bigoted member of the New Atheist Internationale! (The book has “communism” written in it!)
Disagree with “fanning the flames of intolerance”, indeed!