The problem of “Dawkinsian Atheism” in a university environment

University Atheist/Secular Humanist societies should beware the recent rise in what theists are calling “New Atheism”, the approaches of people like Richard Dawkins and some YouTubers while welcome to the debate, need mitigating in the fairly liberal, University Environment.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that being honest and forthright about the fallacies of religious thought is honourable and that Richard Dawkins does it exremely well. He can put things into lay-english very well, has the force of integrity built up by years as a scientist, is witty and humourous whilst not falling into the trap of screaming and shouting to gain more attention.

This is great for television, in speeches and in debates but can in my view be a problem when this adversarial and occasionally combative philosophy pervades a group to the exclusion of all other viewpoints, as had until recently appeared to be the case at Southampton Atheist Society.

The problems of such a take-over range quite widely, but there are one or two to which I would particularly wish to draw attention:

Atheism – by definition of being a lack of belief in a deity or deities – is unique amongst belief systems in being a “broad church” comprising people who both have been brought up in a religious belief system and those who have not. In todays multicultural society that means that any group of atheists may consist of ex-Christians, ex-Muslims, ex-Jedi, Buddhists, cultural atheists and any number of other people. There is also a curious tendency for people of any ex-religious grouping to have a soft-spot for the religion which they left, especially if the transition was long and peaceful (Richard Dawkins himself has said that he holds a soft-spot for the Church of England).

It is very hard for some people to make a transition from one belief system to another, and it almost certainly isn’t as though you are switching on a light; as this video from the world of the YouTube may demonstrate:

If you are in the process of this transition when you come to university and you come up against the sort of “dawkinsian new atheism” that i’m talking about at the society’s stall, what impetus is there to join the society if the people involved won’t be sensitive to your lingering beliefs, or the soft spot you have for the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Some of the people I have spoken to about it say that these people are not just insensitive, but can be down right rude and condascending. Religious groups and churches are often more than willing to let atheists and agnostics attend their meetings and are open to debate, The ulterior motive being “we might convert them”. Why can we not be just as open but without the motive, afterall we just want people to think for themselves… don’t we?

This leads to the second problem I want to bring up, which is that any group showing “fundamentalist” tendencies, whatever they may be, is unlikely to attract the “moderate” members of their group needed to ameliorate their group and make it more appealing to outsiders. Now I’m not saying that you have to be wishy-washy liberals about everything, merely that just because someone shares your viewpoint or belief system doesn’t mean that they are forced to employ your methods and traditions.

As an atheist I more than likely agree with everything that the four horsemen (Dawkins, Dennet, Harris and Hitchens) say – but the way I like to do things is very, very different. I’m a scientist and hold to the belief that if you can expose someone to the evidence without biases and in a way that encourages the use of a scientific method and mind-set, you’ll be fantastically more convincing than a rhetorical preacher who requires the flock not to think.

Ben Brooks

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9 thoughts on “The problem of “Dawkinsian Atheism” in a university environment

  1. Les amis de Robespierre

    I m an atheist since …. I read the bible at 11.
    I m Belgian and never talk about god until I came to live in uk.
    I m a “nasty” atheist, my pastime is to try in a very blunt way to debate on christian blog or website(I ve try golf but too expensive).
    I don’t think that I can change their mind but I sent a electro shock in their live and make them think. I m less “in their face” what I speak to someone who is reasonable, the kind of that Dawkins would like to come out the closet.
    Time to live and let live is over, and we must let them feel our presence if we want a better world

    1. Benjamin Brooks Post author

      That’s all well and good, and please don’t take my post as meaning I think your viewpoint any less valid than mine, I just do not see how it can help for a society at a university to be so immersed in the Dawkinsian viewpoint that they exclude anyone who is more “reasonable” as you put it.
      Thanks for the comment, it’s so rare to get actual conversation.
      Ben Brooks

  2. Les amis de Robespierre

    I m a passionate man and I agreed that my way is not always the best but it leave traces.
    We never talk god when I was at uni but my people are apatheist, that s help.
    Like you the denial of scientific or historical evidence is; may I say “heretic”.
    For me 1 and 1 equal 2 and I cannot compromise but I can understand that a more subtil approach is more appropriate on a campus. Anyway the goal is to get their critical minds kicking for the world producing more scientist (humanity need them).
    Our “civilisation” is moving forward but we need more people like you (or me)


    PS French is my first language so forgive my grammar or my spelling.

    1. Benjamin Brooks Post author

      Not to worry about the spelling and grammar, you can make yourself understood here which is far more important.

      I definitely agree with you on humanity needing more scientists, without them humanity cannot move forward!

  3. Patmos Pete

    Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

    [MODERATORS NOTE: I have allowed this comment to pass on this occasion because at this point there are no “house rules” regarding this blog. Also, whilst I believe this is a Troll; I cannot in good conscience dafame the posters character when there appears to be no incitement to anger. I will however remove the URL, once again for anti-spam purposes.]

  4. roulette cheats

    This is really unbelivable. I cannot believe in this article.


    1. Benjamin Brooks Post author

      Thankyou for your kindness. I’m working on improving my content/rate of posting but as a university student I must be conscientious and careful with my time.
      I hope you enjoy any of my other posts you may read. The Theme is “Vigilance” with 5 “widgets”.
      Ben Brooks

      *** Since this was originally posted the theme has changed several times, As of September 2011, I am running the “Twenty Eleven” theme, though it’s likely to change again ***


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