God-fearing islands keen to hear atheist Richard Dawkins

Prof Richard Dawkins drew 220 to his lecture
Prof Richard Dawkins drew 220 to his lecture
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ATHEIST Richard Dawkins arrived in the Western Isles yesterday to deliver a lecture entitled “The God Delusion”.

Professor Dawkins, who travelled to Stornoway with a film crew, had turned down an offer from a Free Church of Scotland minister for a debate at Faclan, the Hebrides book festival, at which he is appearing.

Some members of the Lord’s Day Observance Society on the mainland have called on islanders to boycott the talk by Professor Dawkins at An Lanntair arts centre. However tickets for the lecture sold out within minutes, and ministers for the Free Church, the biggest single denomination in the isles, are telling members not to stage any protests.

Rev Iver Martin, minister at Stornoway Free Church, the biggest single church in the Hebrides, said: “A boycott to me is counterproductive. It will achieve nothing. I would seriously hope there will be no form of protest. It would send out the wrong type of message.

“It gives the wrong impression of the Christian faith. I would hope the discussion might raise questions in people’s minds, which can only be a good thing.

“Just because Professor Dawkins is an Oxford professor it does not give him the monopoly on the truth. He cannot answer the ‘why question’.”

Last night the Rev David Robertson of St Peter’s Free Church, Dundee, attempted to counter Prof Dawkins’ views in advance with a talk.

Mr Robertson has described the professor’s beliefs as “soundbite atheism” which does not stand up to scrutiny.

“The number of people who have visited the Free Church website has shot up and I know people who, as the result of this debate, have turned into Christians,” he said.

Prof Dawkins’ talk, which is due to take place this evening, sold all 220 tickets “in 40 minutes”, said a spokeswoman.

The main Presbyterian islands of Lewis and Harris are particular bastions of strict Christian beliefs.

Prof Dawkins arrived the Western Isles to find his flight from Glasgow had not taken his luggage. He left Stornoway Airport with a promise that his bag would be sent on to him.