You report (3 November) that Richard Dawkins received an ovation in Stornoway for his speech on the theme, “There’s no God and Islam is evil”. One suspects that some in the audience were more attracted to the second half of his message than the first.
A classic text of modern secular philosophy is the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion by David Hume.
What Dawkins misses is that Hume’s guiding purpose was not to prove that there is no God, but to show that people’s deeply held teleological beliefs need not matter to society.
Ordinary morals and customs can develop in a civil manner regardless.
To suggest that it is morally better to be an atheist is a caricature of true secularism, exalting atheism to ape normative religion, whether mimetically or memetically.
It is imperative now to bear in mind that the most monstrous crimes of the 20th century were fuelled less by any religion than by social Darwinism.
Elsewhere, Hume wrote that the Crusades were “the most signal and most durable monument of human folly that has yet appeared in any age or nation”.
This monument remains durable in the reluctance of many countries to interpret their common law or sharia law in accordance with the principles of international civil law.
By demonising religions, Dawkins is not helping the great endeavour to persuade them to do so.
North Saint Andrew Street