Saturday, December 13, 2008

THE GOD DELUSION by Richard Dawkins

One of the things that has long attracted me to Richard Dawkins--and which is on frequent display throughout The God Delusion--is his intellectual pugnacity. His seemingly fearless straightforwardness comes like a refreshing breeze into a public sphere where too many academics fear offending their colleagues, superiors, the public, the mullahs (Muslim and Christian), etc. Dawkins is not 'nice'; that is, he doesn't tiptoe across the linguistic eggshells of politically correct discourse, trying above all not to offend. The P.C. disease, rampant in the American academy a decade ago, happily never made it to Dawkins's Oxford office. This undoubtedly reflects a cultural difference between the fervid fundamentalist-tending U.S. and the more laid-back relative secularism of contemporary Britain. (These are of course gross generalizations, but I'm thinking out loud one should expect rigor.) This thought leads me to wonder about the hypocrisies of P.C.: wasn't this (isn't this) really conservatism in radical leftist drag? Whatever leftist intentions may have been behind P.C., by the time this doctrine of inoffensive blandness became institutionalized it was already a reactionary conversation-stifler, an attempt to embrace everyone and everything while discouraging incisive criticism in the names of pluralism, multiculturalism and 'respect'. Pluralism is my philosophy; multiculturalism is the reality in which we live; but respect need not be accorded to horrendous ideas and practices (female genital mutilation, circumcision, the suicidal fantasies of David Koresh) in the names of pluralism and multiculturalism. And perhaps we can best show our respect for other human beings (who are more worthy of it than any religion) by giving them a candle and a key, showing them a possible way out, an alternative worldview, another way of living.

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