Richard Dawkins & Atheism
Clinton Richard Dawkins was born on 26 March 1941 in Nairobi, Kenya.
His father had worked in the British colonial service in Nyasaland, now Malawi,
as a British colonial civil servant but with the outbreak of the Second World War he had moved to Kenya. In 1946, his father unexpectedly inherited a cousin's farm
near Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire.
The family returned to England in 1949.
Richard Dawkins' family appear to
have introduced him to a mild form of Anglican Christianity throughout the early years of his life. Both of Richard Dawkins' parents seem to have had some interest in scientific matters and to have attempted to seriously address
Richard Dawkins' early questionings about "scientific" subjects. By his mid-teens Richard Dawkins had
read about the Darwinian Theory of Evolution and had accepted it to the degree that it lead to him becoming an irreligious teenager.
Richard Dawkins attended a fairly prominent private school, Oundle School, before studying Zoology
to bachelors, masters and doctoral degree levels at Oxford University.
In 1967 Richard Dawkins embarked on a career as an academic in Zoology and related fields, taking up a post as an assistant professor of zoology at Berkeley, California,
but returning to Oxford after two years to continue research into the mathematics of animal behaviour.
A significant milestone in what became his dramatic rise to prominence as one of the world's most vocal atheists in contemporary public debates
relating to rationalism, science and religion being the publication of his 2006 book The God Delusion.
This Preface to this work features the following passage:-
I suspect - well, I am sure - that there are lots of people out there who have been brought up in some religion or other, are unhappy in it,
don't believe it, or are worried about the evils that are done in its name; people who feel vauge yearnings to leave their parents religion
and wish they could, but just don't realize that leaving is an option. If you are one of them, this book is for you. It is intended
to raise conciousness - raise conciousness to the fact that that to be an atheist is a realistic aspiration, and a brave and splendid one. You
can be an atheist who is happy, balanced, moral, and intellectually fulilled.
Since the publication of The God Delusion Richard Dawkins has been seen as one of the most prominent atheists and a recognised proponent
of rationalism and science as against religiously linked ideas of the existence of life and the universe.
Dawkins' emergence as a notably combative global prophet of irreligion seems to a large extent to be attributable to his own adverse reaction to the attack,
by radicalised Islamists, on the World Trade Center, New York, in September, 2001.
The Guardian, a relatively thoughtful newspaper based in the UK featured an "Has the world changed?" article on Thursday 11 October 2001
- one month after these attacks -
where 23 commentators drawn from various fields were asked to give their views in the aftermath of so much death and destruction.
Richard Dawkins contribution read:-
Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for
consolation, where's the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous
nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false
courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others
labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into into a weird respect, which uniquely
protects religion from normal criticism. Let's now stop being so damned respectful!
Perhaps surprisingly, given his reputation for atheism, Dawkins as recently as late 2004, unashamedly called himself a "Cultural Christian."
In other words, although Dawkins rejected any and all claims regarding Jesus' deity, he nevertheless accepted that Jesus' code of ethics
should be respected and liked his moral values, and wished more people lived according to them.
As recently as December, 2004, Richard Dawkins was pictured wearing an "Atheists for Jesus" tee shirt sent to him after he had himself
composed an article, bearing that title, for a Humanist publication he was editorially involved with. At that time Dawkins was prepared to admit
to liking the character traits exhibited in Jesus. He liked his stand on human rights and human worth. He liked his patience, kindness, compassion, and love. He also opted to
participate ~ culturally ~ in carol-singing and similar activities.
It may be that even today, although his reputation as one of the planet's most vocal atheists has perhaps increased since 2004,
Richard Dawkins might still admit to being a "Cultural Christian" in such a sense of that term.