Andrew Brown plays the Islamophobia card

Poor Andrew Brown!  He got left behind in the salvo of “Islamophobia” accusations leveled by his fellow journalists against the New Atheists.  To make up for it, he has an especially nasty post in today’s Guardian, with the headling “Richard Dawkins’ latest anti-Muslim Twitter spat lays bare his hypocrisy” (Subtitle: “The celebrity atheist’s Twitter rant against journalist Mehdi Hasan shows he’s a believer too – in his own mythology.”)

The piece is mercifully short, and about what one would expect from Brown: completely idiotic.  Here’s Brown’s opening; notice that it’s strident, militant, and far from humble: all the things that he and his ilk accuse the New Atheists of being:

Richard Dawkins and Twitter make one of the world’s great pairings, like face and custard pie. But whereas more accomplished clowns ram custard pies into the faces of their enemies, Dawkins’ technique is to ram his own face into the custard pie, repeatedly. I suppose it saves time and it’s a lot of fun to watch. On Sunday afternoon he was at it again, wondering why the New Statesman employs an imaginative and believing Muslim:

[Dawkins’s tweet}: “Mehdi Hasan admits to believing Muhamed [sic] flew to heaven on a winged horse. And New Statesman sees fit to print him as a serious journalist.”

That seems fair enough to me. It’s not just that Hasan keeps these beliefs private, but makes them in public, which does bring into question his objectivity on certain points. Truly, to believe that Mohamed flew to heaven on a horse is delusional, and to say that in public, in a debate with Dawkins, is downright embarrassing. It’s as if Paul Krugman were to confess that he thought that God had two bears kill 42 children because they made fun of the prophet Elisha’s bald head. Of course it’s bigotry to fire a journalist for being religious, but it’s certainly kosher to criticize an employed journalist and wonder why such a delusional firebrand is gainfully employed at a reputable paper.

Brown, lacking much ammunition, then belabors Dawkins for a perfectly normal exchange of tweets with an MP

For instance, Tom Watson, the MP who pursued Murdoch, tweeted back almost at once: “You really are a gratuitously unpleasant man”. To this Dawkins replied “Actually no. Just frank. You’d ridicule palpably absurd beliefs of any other kind. Why make an exception for religion?”

“You are gratuitously unpleasant; I am just frank” comes straight out of the Yes Minister catechism of irregular verbs.

But it gets better. Dawkins continues: “A believes in fairies. B believes in winged horses. Criticise A and you’re rational. Criticise B and you’re a bigoted racist Islamophobe.” It is of course horribly unfair to call Dawkins a bigoted racist Islamophobe. Anyone who follows him knows he is an equal opportunities bigot who is opposed to Christians of every colour as well.

Richard’s statements all seem quite reasonable to me; he doesn’t respond to Watson in kind, but makes a substantive point: that, unlike other delusions, religious beliefs get a pass in British society.  And, once again, the charge of “bigot” is leveled at anyone who dare criticize religious beliefs.

In the end, Brown’s reduced to calling Dawkins a hypocrite, equating Richard’s questioning of Hasan’s stature (in a tweet, for crying out loud!) with Hasan’s delusional beliefs:

. . . us inferior, less rational types can easily suppose that he means what he says, and that therefore he does think that Muslims, especially proselytising ones like Mehdi Hasan, are spreading evil and should not be employed by respectable magazines.

Of course Dawkins would probably deny with complete sincerity that this is what he means – until the next time he says it. This doesn’t make him unusually hypocritical. It just means that he thinks the same way as people who believe stories that are differently ridiculous to his – that the twelfth imam will return, or that Muhammad ascended to heaven on a winged horse.

Leaving aside the false claim that Hasan spreads evil, and that he should be fired by the New Statesman (is criticism the same as a call for firing?), how can Brown possibly equate a passionate but rational tweet with a passionate and completely delusional set of beliefs.  “Ridiculous” is not the issue: truth is.

Sometimes I wonder why I waste my time on Andrew Brown, and I always tell myself it’s for the same reason that I smell the milk when I know it’s already gone bad. This is what Brown is reduced to: trolling someone’s Twitter feed.

h/t: SGM, Michael

74 Comments

  1. @eightyc
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    lol.

    I wonder why when scientists challenge the claims of other scientists, it’s not considered as “intolerant” or “racist”.

    • muuh-gnu
      Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      Or politicians. Imagine being called a racist communophobe bigot for criticising communism.

      Or medicine. Imagine being called a racist homephathophobe for questioning the effectiveness of homeopathy.

      Or entertaiment. Imagine being called a racist cagephobe for criticising films with Nicholas Cage.

      Out of all possible debate topics, it is only religion that can afford to play this card.

      I can not exactly imagine why, but many people instinctively feel that “you can’t criticize it, it is their RE-LI-GION!”. I’ve heard countless times that for some reason they could not explain to me, you can criticize everything but “you should not touch THIS”.

      • Fragmeister
        Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Brown is an atheophobe.

  2. Boris Molotov
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Small typo i think “That seems fair enough to me”

  3. mattmoore
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    well done, well done indeed.

  4. @eightyc
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Journalists are expected to be able to critically assess evidence in order to be able to report objectively on any given topic.

    Belief in a winged horse shows a person’s inability to critically assess evidence.

    lol.

    • darrelle
      Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Though I agree that journalists should be expected to, the evidence seems to be against you. It seems apparent that many, perhaps most, people don’t expect that because there sure as hell is a ton of bad journalism out there at even the “highest” levels.

      In the US if you want reasonably accurate reporting, rational analysis and a decent point of view (as in compassionate, ethical) you are more likely to find it on the Comedy Channel than any of the major news outlet channels.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        So true.

      • Posted April 22, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        Journalists are really only expected to look nice.

    • Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      Richard Dawkins: “Mehdi Hasan is … a very good journalist and political editor, who writes penetrating and sensible articles on current affairs and world politics.”

      I guess he’s just one of those faitheist chamberlainian accomodationists.

    • muuh-gnu
      Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      > Belief in a winged horse shows a person’s inability to critically assess evidence.

      But it is very unlikely that they really objectively believe it.

      They just have, for purely social reasons, to publicly _profess_ to believe it as a sort of pledge of allegiance.

      “I pledge allegiance to the flying rainbow-farting unicorn of the holy prophet Muhammad, and to the religion for which it stands, one Nation under Allah, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all except women, gays, dhimmis, apostates, unbelievers, etc.”

      When publicly asked, he has to say it simply to avoid social consequences. Maybe the moment he admints to not believing it, his religious wife would leave him and take his kids.

      I think that religion is much less a personal belief than it is made out to be. I have a feling that Dawkins and the other new atheists take every religious claim at face value and _completely_ reject the social component of a religion and its function as an expensive signaling device. Especially Dawkins as a biologist should think about why religions, one claming more ridiculous bullshit than the other, have emerged all over the place, not only during the stone ages but, like Scientology proved, also in the middle of an well-educated country in the middle of the 20th century.

      • @eightyc
        Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        lol.

        Well any way you slice and dice it, it’s stupid all around. haha

        Winged horses!!!! haha

      • truthspeaker
        Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        I think Dawkins does understand that, but is taking the claims of believers at face value because they are making claims as if they actually believed them. He’s treating them as if they are being honest and direct even though he suspects some of them aren’t.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think so, because all theories on religion, Paul’s et cetera, are founded on a social component. And Paul show why that is, because religion correlates most strongly with social aspects (dysfunctional societies). Those are social mechanisms.

        That Dawkins, Coyne, Hitchens and others take religious claims at face value is because it is revealing on how religion works on the individual level. As soon as you block theology from trying to point elsewhere, it is clear from a rational analysis religion lacks a rational basis but works by disguising that fact. It uses everything from eager pattern recognition to theological deepitys in order to do so.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

          Not to mention that taking someone’s claims at face value is a sign of respect. It means you’re taking the speaker seriously.

          • muuh-gnu
            Posted April 22, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

            Why should you take someone seriously, if taking him seriously implies that he is seriously crazy?

            The only way religious people are not crazy is if you do not take it at face value what they are saying but consider the group-psychology reasons why they are saying it.

            • Posted April 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

              “Why should you take someone seriously, if taking him seriously implies that he is seriously crazy?”

              But that is exactly why you should!

              The thing is that these shibboleths are acted upon as if they were true, oftentimes with “crazy” consequences for others.

              /@

              • Posted April 22, 2013 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

                Precisely.

                We need to invert the meaning of those shibboleths.

                If we all simply go around nudging and winking nothing will ever change.

      • Darren
        Posted April 22, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        You may be right, but the trouble is, if someone tells you in all sincerity they believe in winged horses, it is only POLITE to assume they mean what they say. To assume they are lying – based on the fact they are surely not as stupid as their stated belief implies – is ultimately condescending. If this fool doesn’t REALLY believe in winged horses, he should have the guts to say so. As long as he professes crazy beliefs, for whatever misguided reason, he must also bear the social cost for professing them. And that cost is abject ridicule.

  5. Mary Canada
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Ah, the usual expected response of erroneous name calling when the truth hurts. Poor, poor Mr. Brown

  6. Posted April 22, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    To me, Brown’s writing smells of someone trying desperately to call attention to themselves by attacking a respected figure.
    It’s a common enough technique. It’s a bit pointless because Dawkins is well liked and is (fortunately) often on British TV.
    Religion does get a pass in British society, and French society, and Spanish society- it’s a shame.

  7. TJR
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Minor typo, it should be that Richard “doesn’t reply to Watson in kind”, not Murdoch.

    Tom Watson should stick to golf….

  8. TJR
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Its very noticeable that all these guys criticising the gnus just keep saying that RD is wrong, or silly, or being ignored etc, without producing any evidence to back these claims up.

    Its almost as if they think that, if you say something often enough, it becomes true.

    I’m sure that reminds me of something, but I just can’t quite put my finger on it…..

    • @eightyc
      Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      lol.

      The “Newness” of Atheism is simply people willing to call out peddlers of quack, on their bullshit.

    • muuh-gnu
      Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      > Its almost as if they think that, if you say something often enough, it becomes true.

      For most people, this _is_ avalid way of reasoning. The assumption is that “where is smoke, there is fire”.

      Repeating something often enough does not factually become true, but it becomes true in the sphere of public opinion since most people either have neither time nor will to actually check rumors for accuracy. “Why should I check, somebody else will probably have already checked it.”

      So as soon as a significant number of people starts believing that Dawkins is a racist hater, it will become harder for his to publicly align themselves with him. If you praise or cite Dawkins, you will be implicitly accused of being a racist hater yourself. This is precisely how character assasination works.

      To win a debate, you dont have to convince your opponent, you merely have to convince the audience. And since they are not trained in recognizing fallacies, you can trick them. And repetition is one of many tricks that evidently works.

      The wonderful ice cream debate scene from “Thank you for smoking”:

      > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eW87GRmunMY

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 5:17 am | Permalink

      It reminds me of the completely bass-ackwards lie – is it still widely believed in the US? – that Greenpeace blew up a French ship in New Zealand.

      In this case, it’s the critics of Dawkins that are all delusional arseholes.

  9. Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    And yet, Richard Dawkins himself actually defends Brown’s interpretation of his tweet:

    “Unfortunately, I phrased it poorly. Instead of saying “Isn’t it quaint that such a successful journalist can simultaneously believe something so daft”, I wrote, “Mehdi Hasan admits to believing Muhamed flew to heaven on a winged horse. And New Statesman sees fit to print him as a serious journalist.”

    I cannot deny that this sounds horribly like a call for New Statesman to sack him, and it is not surprising that it was taken in that way and became controversial as a freedom of speech issue.”

    It’s a rum do.

    • Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      I think Richard’s being overly charitable here, because you have to have ill will to think that he was calling for Brown’s sacking.

      For example, I can say, “I don’t know why the Guardian continues to employ an accommodationist moron like Andrew Brown” but that’s not a call for his firing on the grounds of acccommodationism. It’s a criticism of his stupidity.

      • Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        You’re clearly a bigoted stupidophobe, Jerry!

        /@

        • Posted April 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

          and cat-joke-ophobe too! I made one little joke and I’m on permanent probation! Every single one of my comments is moderated. I think he’s actually more lenient on religious people. I’ll never make an anti-cat-joke again :D

          • Diane G.
            Posted April 23, 2013 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

            Cats are sacred.

      • Posted April 22, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        I agree. In fact, the article in which he admits to poor phrasing goes on to explain the difficulties of conveying nuance in a tweet (pretty much impossible, I would think). To me, Dawkins second sentence is not particularly poorly phrased, and it takes a large dollop of antipathy to twist it the way his opponents have. It reads like a comment on the state of the media; folk with palpably daft beliefs are seen as credible by respectable organs because of religion. David Icke is pretty much a laughing stock because he believes in alien lizards, which are surely more likely than magic horses. Sadly for him, his palpably daft belief does not have the respectable veneer that religion provides.

        • Posted April 22, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

          You imply that Hasan has a “respectable veneer” *because of* rather than in spite of his religious beliefs. The fact is that Dawkins himself believes Hasan to be a commendable journalist. Whereas Icky is a “laughing stock” because his entire stock in trade is bananas.

          If one finds it difficult to convey nuance in a tweet, where nuance is important, maybe Twitter just isn’t the medium.

          • Posted April 22, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

            You imply that Hasan has a “respectable veneer” *because of* rather than in spite of his religious beliefs.

            No, I do not. I imply that Hasan’s belief has a respectable veneer because it’s religious.

            Belief in alien lizards is ridiculous, but they are more plausible than horses that fly to heaven. Yet if Hasan believed in alien lizards I suspect that would reduce his credibility in a way that the flying horse belief does not, and if Icke had converted to Islam and belief in flying horses he would probably still be a sports presenter. Why, is the question that Dawkins poses.

            • Posted April 22, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

              Well in that case you’re not reading very closely. Dawkins’ tweet questions Hasan’s fitness to write for such a renowned journal as New Statesman. (Agreed?) And the only rationale he offers for said questioning is his putative “winged horse” belief.

              Now here’s your interpretation of Dawkins’ tweet: “Folk with palpably daft beliefs are seen as credible by respectable organs because of religion.”

              Dawkins himself contradicts this interpretation by stating quite clearly in his follow-up article that he believes Hasan to be a qualified and valuable journalist, and that he was merely expressing his puzzlement that “an effective critical intellect should simultaneously be capable of believing in winged horses.”

              In other words, Richard Dawkins, Andrew Brown, and the New Statesman are all in agreement that the New Statesmen is correct in “seeing fit to print him as a serious journalist.”

              • Posted April 22, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

                Sadly it is you that is not reading closely. I do not say that “Folk with palpably daft beliefs are seen as credible by respectable organs because of religion.” Please re-read what I wrote and try to present my meaning accurately if you want to respond.

              • Posted April 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

                Expect a response, I mean.

              • Posted April 22, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

                @mkgjones, that was an exact quote. I cut and pasted it. The only thing I changed was making a lower case f in to a capital F.

              • Posted April 22, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

                Apologies, Chris, I did write what you say; I must read more closely! I withdraw my accusation that you did not read closely; please accept my apology.

                re “Folk with palpably daft beliefs are seen as credible by respectable organs because of religion”, this indeed can be the effect of the protection afforded to religious beliefs. That Dawkins says that Hasan is qualified does not contradict this point, since each individual is not just one belief, or subset of beliefs. But since the “shield of religious privilege”, as Dawkins puts it, operates on some beliefs, that can obviously have the effect of raising some individuals’ credibility. Dawkins was not “merely expressing his puzzlement that “an effective critical intellect should simultaneously be capable of believing in winged horses.”, but says “Hasan’s absurdity stems from a major religious creed and is for this reason treated with an over-generous portion of respect.”

                Which is simply my point re-stated.

              • Posted April 22, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

                Yes, Chris, sorry, cross-posted.

              • Posted April 22, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

                @mkjones, please read the tweet again:

                “Mehdi Hasan admits to believing Muhamed flew to heaven on a winged horse. And New Statesman sees fit to print him as a serious journalist.”

                The connotation is simple and direct. Because Mehdi Hasan believes in a flying horse, New Statesman should not treat him as a serious journalist, which is to say they should not employ him. This is the connotation that Dawkins apologized for in his follow-up piece.

                If he had wanted to say that it’s too bad that Mehdi Hasan’s metaphysical beliefs are given a veneer of respectibility, there are a number of ways one can say that without implying that a person who believes in flying horses should be taken seriously as a journalist.

                Now, if you read Dawkins’ apologia, he explicitly says that his point in the tweet was, indeed, to say how odd that someone can be a commendable journalist and also believe in foolish things. He did also write the sentence you cite: “Hasan’s absurdity stems from a major religious creed and is for this reason treated with an over-generous portion of respect.” But that’s not why people took issue with the tweet. They took issue because of the strong implication (though plausibly unintended) that Hasan’s religious beliefs disqualify him from being taken seriously as a journalist and political commentator. So if your point is captured in that latter quote, it really is orthogonal to what Brown, and numerous others, were critical of.

              • Posted April 22, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

                Should read, “should *not* be taken seriously.”

              • Posted April 23, 2013 at 1:47 am | Permalink

                The connotation is simple and direct. Because Mehdi Hasan believes in a flying horse, New Statesman should not treat him as a serious journalist, which is to say they should not employ him. This is the connotation that Dawkins apologized for in his follow-up piece.

                Yes, I understand that is how many people chose to read it (and why Dawkins apologised). But you have made an ought from an is, and made the phrase prescriptive when it is in fact descriptive. The simpler and more direct connotation is my reading; a journalist’s credentials do not suffer so much from daft beliefs if those daft beliefs have the veneer of respectability given them by religion.

                Once one accepts it like that, other questions arise (and Dawkins suggests some in his follow-up article), including the prescriptive one, but also including the possibility that Hasan does not ‘really’ believe in a flying horse, but “pretends out of loyalty to a loved tradition”. There is a suggestion that Hasan himself might be distancing himself from the flying horse belief, perhaps recognising the problem.

                Of course the background to this is important. We have seen an increasing demonisation of atheism generally and the four horsemen in particular which makes uncharitable readings like yours all the more likely and acceptable, and prevents an honest comparison of religious beliefs with others.

              • Posted April 23, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

                @Mark Jones

                Imagine that I tweet the following:

                “Richard Dawkins believes that raising children religiously is “child abuse.” And Ecco Press sees fit to print him as a serious thinker.”

                Or:

                “Jerry Coyne believes Jews were killed in the Holocaust for their religious beliefs. And The New Republic sees fit to print him as a reputable man of science and reason.”

                Would you sincerely claim that my intent in each case was descriptive and not prescriptive–that I meant merely to state what is, rather than to suggest a superior state of affairs? I’m skeptical.

                You might, in fact, note that I had proposed no reason or mechanism by which these beliefs might disqualify Dawkins or Coyne from being taken seriously. (I know it’s an article of faith for you guys that illogic can’t be compartmentalized, but that hardly passes for evidence). As it happens, I don’t in fact believe that Dawkins’ simplistic ideas about child psychology or Coyne’s ahistorical notions about Nazi persecution should have any significant impact on how we regard their contributions to science. Just as I don’t believe that Mehdi Hasan’s religious beliefs make his political reportage unworthy. And, for that matter, neither does Richard Dawkins, if his “Away With The Fairies” piece is to be believed, a piece wherein he repeatedly assures his readers of Hasan’s competency as a journalist.

      • Posted April 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        The difference, and it’s a big one, is that Dawkins clearly esteems Hasan. He doesn’t think that Hasan’s journalism is “completely idiodic,” as you find Brown’s to be. He believes he is “a very good journalist and political editor, who writes penetrating and sensible articles on current affairs and world politics,” that he has “such an effective critical intellect” as to be “good enough to be employed by no less a journal than New Statesman.”

        Therefore the offending tweet can only be seen as a declaration of Hasan’s unfitness to be published as a “serious journalist” in NS on the basis of his supernatural beliefs.

        I’ll concede that a declaration of unfitness is not *precisely* the same as call for sacking. But you surely cannot deny that RD was calling out the NS for employing someone they should not. It is fitting that he apologized for this, and recognized that good journalists are a prized commodity whose role we shouldn’t take lightly. (Yes, that means that if Paul Krugman believed God made bears kill children it wouldn’t diminish the value or importance of his economic writing one iota–and if we chose to mock him for the belief, it would be an over-reach to claim it made him any less a serious economist).

      • Uncle Ebeneezer
        Posted April 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        It’s a criticism of his stupidity.

        It’s also a reminder of how we grant a pass to crazy beliefs held by otherwise rational people, so long as those beliefs fall under the protected umbrella of “faith.” I used to work with a guy who was a total conspiracy nut. He believes in just about every wacky thing you’ve ever heard of. Chemtrails, nonatonic gold, lizard people, etc. etc. He is also a hardcore Sikh. Everyone used to laugh and eye-roll every time he went on about the moon hoax or chemtrails or whatever, but then when he talked about Sikh medicine men who haven’t eaten for 10 years or who heal people through chakras etc., everyone let it go in order to respect his beliefs. I’m glad that Dawkins and many others are willing to point out these things because frankly there is no reason why any belief should be protected from critical analysis.

      • Posted April 23, 2013 at 2:55 am | Permalink

        Or possibly just a demonstration of your superior rationality and the exquisite quality of your repartee. Who knows?

        • Peter Beattie
          Posted April 23, 2013 at 3:06 am | Permalink

          Ooh, the man himself. Andrew, something I haven’t been able to wrap my head around: in your article you say that being opposed to a religion means being bigoted against that religion.

          Anyone who follows him knows he is an equal opportunities bigot who is opposed to Christians of every colour as well.

          Do I understand you correctly, and if so, would you be so kind as to explain how that is bigotry?

  10. brad
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Let’s critically analyze one of Brown’s charges, that Dawkins is a bigot (but at least an equal opportunity one). How exactly? Does he say? After rereading this to answer my question, I can only figure that the charge is backed up, insofar as it is, in the next paragraph, that (Premise 1) he thinks that Islam is the greatest force for evil in the world today and then, by BROWN’S inference, that Hasan (being Muslim) spreads evil and (another Brownian inference) shouldn’t be employed by the New Statesman. Is the bigotry in the first premise, or in one of the inferences? Very vague here. Let’s say it’s the final conclusion, about Hasan. (If it’s the premise, the charge can only, rationally, be backed up by analyzing Dawkins’ arguments for it, which Brown doesn’t attempt to do.) NOtice the conclusion is irrelevant to the tweet! The tweet is about a ridiculous (not necessarily evil) belief of Hasan’s. (There is a corollary charge, also nowhere backed up, that something Dawkins believes is equally ridiculous.) The argument of Dawkins is clearly intended to be fleshed out much like eightyc did in comment 3 above.

    Here’s a good, valid inference (valid in the logical sense of not necessarily having true premises): All Muslims are evil (which Dawkins does not hold!), Hasan is a Muslim, therefore (since newspapers shouldn’t employ evil people) Hasan shouldn’t be employed etc etc. But that’s not what Dawkins (nor any new atheist I know of) has ever argued.

    The argument that Brown does ascribe to Dawkins is NOT Dawkins! And it attributes a clearly invalid, terrible set of inferences to Dawkins. In teaching critical thinking and logic, this is a prime example of failure to critically think.

    Be clear Mr. Brown. Where is the bigotry? Be precise. Is the bigotry in believing that, overall, Islam is a force for evil? Well, take on some of the New Atheist arguments for that.

    • brad
      Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Nor can I gather from Brown what Dawkins’ equally ridiculous belief is. It must be a good one, to be as ridiculous as that Muhammad ascended into heaven on a winged horse! What is it? Damned if I can figure, and I’ve read his piece carefully several times looking for it now. Here’s Brown’s charge (I’ll be precise): “It just means that he thinks the same way as people who believe stories that are differently ridiculous to his”. Then he gives TWO examples of Hasan’s beliefs (or, to be precise, common Muslim beliefs, so I guess he agrees they are ridiculous–WHEW!), but where it would have been easy to include here Dawkins’ alleged ridiculous belief, he doesn’t. Is it just the original tweet? Hmmm…the first sentence everyone agrees to be true, and the second sentence is an inference from the first, not a statement at all. Is it that Islam is the greatest force for evil in the world? Controversial, I’ll admit, but there is much evidence given for it, by many smart people, and while this doesn’t make it right/true, it does pretty much show it’s not ridiculous.

  11. DollisHillBilly
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Good piece. The comments are now closed on that “article”, but still managed to rack up over 2500 in the space of a few hours.

    The majority highlight the sheer stupidity of Brown, his perverse crusade agaisnt Dawkins, and his idiotic insistence that speaking ones mind on the subject of religion – especially if one is an atheist – makes one an “atheist fundamentalist”.

    The real reasons, I suspect, behind Browns opprobrium is the fact that he’s married to a Christian (hence his continued and really rather boring touchy-feely stance toward religion) and is very obviously jealous of Dawkins intellectual and economic superiority.

    I’ve never actually seen an official apology from Brown the last time he slurred Dawkins. This time, unjustifiably calling him a bigot and a hypocrite, requires an apology sooner rather than later. One poster on the aforementioned thread has written to the readers editor at The Graun in disgust at Brown’s above the line trolling from today.

    It is sad wasting time reading Brown, but is worth highlighting at every opportunity the sheer idiocy of the man. He is the troll in chief at The Guardian.

  12. Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    While Richard was on far safer ground here than when he was tweeting about arbortifacients*, he still attracted the predictable replies from people of faith and people of faith in faith who were (wilfully?) misunderstanding what he was saying.

    <rant>

    Such as one @LynnLmat (who has strangely disappeared from Twitter since), who said, among other things, “I have a high IQ, two degrees” [and] “I believe in winged horses”.

    When I asked, “Why’s that then?” she blocked me and tweeted that she’d blocked “another bigoted atheist”!

    This is what I love about these people: They’re very free with their criticism of Richard et al., but oh-so-sensitive when you criticise them!

    </rant>

    /@

    * Not because he was wrong as such, but that that conversation required more nuance than even Richard can convey in 140 characters!

    • muuh-gnu
      Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      > people of faith and people of faith in faith who were (wilfully?) misunderstanding what he was saying.

      Of course they did not misunderstand him. The perfectly know what he is saying, but since it would harm their interests to admit that, they fake a misunderstanding.

      Just imagine if you had an indefensible position and an debate opponent you knew you cant win against. If you didnt want to quit your debating job, you would sooner or later have to start using foul rhetorical tricks to “win”, and the oldest trick in the book is simply slandering the opponent.

      Faking misunderstanding is one way to do it. If you fake it plausibly enough, enough of the passive audience will fall for it, and then your opponent will have to start defending himself, which makes him look weak, which automatically makes every of his subsequent points look weaker.

      If you have to spend half of your nerves explaining to the agitated audience that you are not a hating racist and that you dont pray to Hitler before going to bed, you only half of your ental ressources left to actually debate your opponent.

      • Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        I’m fully prepared to believe that many tweeters were demonstrating stupidity rather than being wily! ;-)

        /@

  13. Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Meh. It is the usual: “he made fun of religious myths and my feelings are hurt” stuff.

  14. JBlilie
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I would like to direct everyone to Sam Harris’s excellent article on, basically, the same subject (the Islamophobia slander).

    • bricewgilbert
      Posted April 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Harris supports racial profiling for muslims. I don’t stay awake at night worrying if calling him an islamophobe is incorrect.

      • Dave
        Posted April 23, 2013 at 6:51 am | Permalink

        I’ll happily take the Islamophobe rap if in exhange I can reduce the chances of being blown up next time I use public transport.

        • DV
          Posted April 23, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

          Sam Harris’ Muslim profiling suggestion has been refuted by Bruce Schneier. Muslim profiling as a security policy is less effective than not profiling.

          • Diane G.
            Posted April 23, 2013 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

            Data?

  15. Kevin
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Again, Dawkins says something that can be taken to mean something far less charitable than what he really meant to say.

    This is why Dawkins is not my Pope. Nor my cardinal, nor my bishop, nor my prophet. Because I don’t have the time to defend his statements — I only have enough time to defend my own.

    Dawkins is just a guy. A pretty smart guy who wrote a popular book about something he called a “god delusion”.

    Turns out, someone who actually believes winged horses are real (or were once in a single context) is in thrall of a “delusion”. That doesn’t make him only fit for being straight-jacketed in a rubber room. Many productive members of society believe the same.

    There are people that Richard interacts with on a daily basis — probably a fairly hefty percentage of the people he interacts with on a daily basis — who believe that some guy walked on water, raised the dead, and raised himself from the dead. Really and truly believe that, no metaphor. That’s a “delusion” too.

    Those people get along fine — holding their delusion in one hand while doing sensible things like taking out the garbage and fighting the war on terror with the other. I rarely question people’s abilities to do their jobs based on their beliefs with regard to water-walking. Because for the most part, belief in water-walking is not a contraindication to selling me a shirt at Wal-Mart or a myriad of other occupations. Including being a good journalist.

    There are “delusions” and then there are DELUSIONS!!!!!! We’re dealing with the former.

    Perhaps it’s the “delusion” word that needs some work. More nuance, perhaps. “Misguided belief” maybe? “Fantastical thinking”? My favorite is “magical thinking”.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think that gets around the problem. You have just transformed it to “magical thinking” and MAGICAL THINKING!!!

      What many or most new atheists note is that you shouldn’t accept “delusions/magical thinking” in some specific (eg protected) area when you don’t accept it elsewhere, such as selling shirts (they don’t magically *POOF* into the customer boot) or doing science.

    • Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      It’s kind of ingesting to counterpoint people of faith’s, um, fanciful notions with their dull reasonableness in other aspects of their lives.

      As Richard tweeted, “The amazing paradox is that the same individual can be v sensible on most things yet believe in a winged horse”.

      /@

  16. jimroberts
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that Mo’s winged horse is an attempt to upstage Jesus. Jesus had to struggle up to heaven by himself, but Mo got to ride up in style like a fine gentleman.

    • Sunny
      Posted April 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      Plus he had to put up the whole crucifixion business. Not very pleasant, I can assure you.

  17. Posted April 22, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    In politics truth does not matter; you attack your opponents and try to tar-and-feather them with whatever lies and distortions you can make stick. Listening to a political TV ad during an election year can leave you wondering how the politician being attacked can even be considered for office; he should be behind bars! And that is now what the NAs are dealing with. Their criticisms of religion can’t be countered so those threatened have resorted to political smear tactics in an effort to distract attention from the real point of NA criticism: people are basing their lives, decisions, and behavior on the myths and iron-age morality contained in ancient holy books.

  18. Peter Beattie
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    In fact, Brown perfectly illustrates the point RD was making. Brown says that opposing a certain faith is the same as being bigoted against it. That’s right, that is his standard:

    Anyone who follows him knows he is an equal opportunities bigot who is opposed to Christians of every colour as well.

    If you are opposed to Islam, or even some of its more outrageous tenets, you’re an islamophobe. Somehow, though, if you are opposed to conservative politics, you are not a Toryphobe. Although Tories have more than their fair share of useful idiots to defend them, they aren’t a patch on religion.

  19. ageofreasonxxi
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    “This is what Brown is reduced to: trolling someone’s Twitter feed.”

    LOL that kind of says it all. there’s nothing more one needs to know about Brown

  20. Dominic
    Posted April 23, 2013 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    So heaven is a place that you can fly to? Yet Belinda Carlisle said Heaven is a place on earth!

    Who are we to believe?!

  21. Jonathan West
    Posted April 23, 2013 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Andrew has two reasons for acting as he does.

    The first is simply that he greatly dislikes Dawkins, something to do with him believing Dawkins to be incredibly ignorant of 20th century history when Dawkins apparently stated on some occasion that Hitler and Stalin didn’t order the killing of lots of people because they were atheists, but rather because they were in pursuit of power and ideology. I forget the precise formulation that Brown took exception to, but that was about it.

    The seond reason is that he is a troll on his own blog. Like most free newspaper sites, The Guardian depends on ad revenue and that in turn depends on page views. I suspect that he has found that the only way he can generate his quota of pageviews and clickthroughs is to produce an article from time to time that will really get hammered by those who recognise that what he is saying is complete rubbish. And it works! Last time I looked, the piece had gathered over 2600 comments, some of them a good deal more interesting and erudite than the original article – and he doesn’t have to commission people to write them!

    I have long since decided that such behaviour should not be rewarded, and so I have made it a policy never to respond below-the-line to an Andrew Brown article.


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  1. [...] WEIT has also documented, probably most of, the articles accusing atheism of Islamophobia in a series of posts, in chronological order, found here, here, here, here and here. [...]

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