Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Stealing Richard Dawkins' Christmas

Dawkin's Christmas alternative not quite what it's cracked up to be

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring -- except for Richard Dawkins. Fortunately, that guy is a bloody idiot.

In an amusing article appearing in the New York Times, Olivia Johnson recounts a story about Richard Dawkins telling her that Sir Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day. Thus the 25th of December could be treated as an alternative atheist holiday -- celebrating the coming on the man who invented modern physics and mathematics.

Unfortunately, there turn out to be more than a few problems with Dawkins' suggestion.

First off, as Johnson notes, Newton wasn't really born on Christmas Day. When Newton was born England was still using the Julian Calendar. According to the Gregorian calendar, Newton wasn't actually born until January 4, 1643.

But this isn't the greatest difficulty with Dawkins' proposal.

After all, Newton was known to be a committed Christian. One popular story recounts Isaac's dealings with an atheist:
"The story is told of an atheist scientist, a friend of Sir Isaac Newton, who knocked on the door and came in after he had just finished making his solar system machine.

The man saw the machine and said 'how wonderful' and went over to it and started cranking the handle and the planets went round. As he was doing this he asked, 'Who made this?'

Sir Isaac stopped writing and said 'nobody did'. Then he carried on writing.

The man said, 'you didn't hear me. Who made the machine?' Newton replied, 'I told you. Nobody did.' He stopped cranking and turned to Isaac 'Now listen Isaac, this marvelous machine must have been made by somebody - don't keep saying that nobody made it.'

At which point Isaac Newton stopped writing and got up. He looked at him and said 'Now isn't it amazing. I tell you that nobody made a simple toy like that and you don't believe me. Yet you gaze out into the solar System - the intricate marvelous machine that is around you - and you dare say to me that no one made that. I don't believe it'.
The story concludes that the encounter with Newton converted the man from atheism to Christianity -- although whether this is true or not is a detail that has been lost to the pages of unwritten history.

It's rather ironic that Dawkins -- as committed atheist as Newton was a Christian -- would seek to supplant a holiday celebrating the arrival of the Christian messiah with a holiday celebrating an individual who many consider to be the atheist messiah.

An atheist messiah who himself was a Christian, interred in Westminster Abbey upon his death.

Only an individual whose thought tends to be as empty as Richard Dawkins' -- after all, this is an individual who can't seem to tell astrology and racism apart -- could dream up something quite like that.


  1. This, of course, comes as no surprise if you consider that Dawkins has essentially become the very thing he hates-a crusader, an evangelical zealot so convinced that he holds the moral truth, who condemns any who dare to disagree with him and sees himself as spreading the one grand universal truth, and is determined to destroy any institutions that holds beliefs different to his own.

    Whenever I hear of radical militant atheists talking about bringing "light into darkness", of spreading the word, of fighting the good fight, I am constantly reminded of the same Christian fundamentalists who badger atheists about their beliefs, who tell them that they're going to hell, that say that it's their duty to "fight" on behalf of Christ by destroying their opponents, who define it as an us vs. them scenario.

    Richard Dawkins is a fanatical evangelist, albeit one who works on behalf of atheism more than anything else. As much of a fool as he is, he does perform the valuable service of showing Christians and other religious folk how atheists feel when fundamentalists harass them about their beliefs, and hold up a mirror to the worst excesses of the likes of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson.

    On the one hand, you have Dawkins and Bill Maher, while on the other you have Robertson and Falwell. In the Middle East, you have the radical Zionists on one hand and the radical Islamists on the other. In Northern Ireland, it's the IRA on one hand and the likes of Ian Paisley on the other.

    Radicalism and militancy are two of the truest evils of our times, provoking these same ugly cycles that set people against one another. Richard Dawkins isn't adding anything constructive to the debates, aside from showing the ugly side of radical Christianity-all he does is pour gasoline on an already hot fire.

  2. Dawkins has become a crusader in the most ironic sense possible. Personally, I think it's hilarious.

  3. What a nasty little christian you are. You lie, you misrepresent and you insult. I am so pleased to have you on the theist side because I enjoy occupying the moral high ground.

    Atheism and agnosticism is an active and ethical philosophy far greater than any negative responses to religion. As an atheist you should live life based on humanity and reason and recognise that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone. Base decisions on the available evidence and an assessment of the outcomes, not on any dogma or sacred text. Foster individual rights and freedoms but believe that individual responsibility, social cooperation and mutual respect are just as important.

    People can and will continue to find solutions to the world's problems so that the quality of life can be improved for everyone. Be positive, gaining inspiration from life, art and culture, and a rich natural world. We have only one life and it is our responsibility to make it good, and to live it to the full.

    To deal with all of your religious fantasies we would need to take you back to your childhood and re-educate you. We might then enable you to free yourself of the religious misinformation which so distorts your world-view.

    I take heart in the knowledge that even as we are faced with hoards of indoctrinated religious idiots in the present the mountains of evidence for a world without supernatural intervention continues to grow for the benefit of future generations.

  4. Merry Christmas to you too, Jerky.

    Which precise part of what I wrote here do you want to claim is a lie?

    Do you want to claim that Sir Isaac Newton wasn'a Christian? Would you like to pretend he isn't interred at Westminster Abbey?

    Believe me, no one is more pleased to be on the theist "side" (how amusing that you actually believe there are sides to this!) than myself. And no one is more pleased to have individuals such as yourself -- individuals of such extreme temperment and extremely limited patience for the views of others -- to point to as examples that, indeed, it isn't merely religion that leads people to irrational behaviour.

    You yourself are proof that many atheists are as irrational as anyone.

    And good luck solving the world's problems. You have yet to so much as crack the "religious intolerance" nut.


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