“Mock [believers], ridicule them in public, don’t fall for the convention that we’re far too polite to talk about religion,” Richard Dawkins exhorted an estimated 10,000 atheists near the end of Washington, DC’s “Reason Rally” on Saturday. “Religion is not off the table. Religion is not off limits. Religion makes specific claims about the universe, which need to be substantiated. They should be challenged and ridiculed with contempt.”
As the inestimable Bugs Bunny was wont to say, “Of course you realize this means war.”
Since we’re all presumably adults, we all know that neither mockery nor contempt demonstrates intellectual superiority. Especially if one’s preferred form of ridicule relies heavily on four-letter words and sexual references; then you’re just demonstrating your immaturity. And Dawkins himself has a penchant for an exaggerated incredulousness (“Do you really believe that?”) that has long since become tiresome. Yes, Rich, we really believe that; prove it false or just get over it. As I said yesterday, if you’re gonna claim to be more rational, it would help your credibility if you behave like a rational adult instead of like a middle-school bully hazing the geeky-looking wimp.
But more to the point, neither does atheism sit in a privileged place, exempt from the need to prove its assumptions about the nature of the universe. Indeed, it’s impossible to prove that something does not exist; the best you can do is point out that its existence hasn’t been irrefutably demonstrated. We can cut the atheist position a little discount: the atheist doesn’t need to prove the non-existence of gods or of a supernatural order so much as make a coherent, convincing case against.
But if you want to play rough ….