Dawkins vs. Ratzi

UPDATE: I’ve put up a much better video of the speech; this just appeared on YouTube, and you can actually see Richard this time. I’m told that, despite the large turnout, the British press largely ignored this protest.

There was a big turnout at the Protest the Pope rally in London today: I recall that they predicted 2,000 people but more than 10,000 turned out. Here’s Dawkins addressing the rally; as you might expect, he goes after Ratzi’s attacks on atheists and his claim that we’re responsible for Hitler.

Dawkins has become quite the firebrand.  He did read his talk, but the cadence and substance were very good.


  1. Posted September 18, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Wow… That was simply brilliant. Thanks for posting, Jerry.

    • NMcC
      Posted September 19, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Here’s something else that’s brilliant. It’s a link to an interesting website that shows just how atheistic those Nazis really were:


      The website includes a link (below one of the photos) to a copy of the Concordat between the Nazis and the RCC. Note the very first sentence of the very first Article!

  2. bigjohn756
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Dickie, you are so shrill and strident! Please try to attenuate your logical statements of obvious fact! These religious people will never accept reality! They can’t. If they did then their imaginary world would crumble around them. Faith is so weak that it cannot stand without constant fictional bolstering.

    • rebelv
      Posted September 19, 2010 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      Doesn’t matter. As long as speeches like these spark a fire in more non-religulous people, the walls will be closing in on the nuts.

  3. Posted September 18, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Quite the firebrand indeed. I loved it. I especially loved this quote and I hope it goes viral: “He’s an enemy of women, barring them from priesthood, as if a penis is an essential tool of priesthood.”

    • mike m
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      A great poke at the Pope. The sound turned out good for a home video in a crowd. I’m going to have to agree with Deen on that little barb of logic.

      • Steve
        Posted September 18, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

        Maybe there is some rationale in the Pope’s position, as women just don’t have the right appendage for buggering boys. 🙂

        • Michael Kingsford Gray
          Posted September 18, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

          Yet Nuns still find ways to torture and molest their helpless charges…

          • Posted September 18, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

            Reminds me of the story about the man with the 12″ penis, but he didn’t use it as a rule.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted September 19, 2010 at 9:12 am | Permalink

              That story was too long, especially the girls gets bored before the end.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted September 19, 2010 at 9:35 am | Permalink

              Oops, I don’t know that. Better make it “everyone gets bored”.

  4. Tom M
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Great speech. Any published reaction yet?

    The Guardian was live-blogging the pope’s visit; any chance they did the same for Dawkins? No mention of Dawkins here

    • Posted September 18, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      With the exception of the graun, the uk press has either been quiet or hysterically negative.

      • Eric MacDonald
        Posted September 19, 2010 at 5:54 am | Permalink

        There is a very good editorial in the Grauniad, which you can read here.here. A very strong assertion of the need for secular government, and how Ratzi’s views are in direct contradiction, and likely to be detrimental.

  5. Pagey
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Every now and then, when my guard’s down and the theist and apologist propaganda is in full swing I find myself thinking in a momentary pang of pseudo doubt, ‘Maybe Prof Dawkins is being a bit shrill……’

    Then I just listen to one of his carefully prepared and well thought out speeches and realise whilst kicking myself, he’s just presenting the facts and rationally opining about what they mean. This is another case of that, and it’s great.

    Lucid and clear.

    I wish I was as eloquent.

    Not once in any of the anti Dawkins diatribes from the right wing press have I ever encountered much substance. Indeed, more often than not it’s usually a case of people deliberately mis-representing what he says or feigning to have read his work properly.

  6. Posted September 18, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    That whole nonsense about Nazis being atheist seems incredibly ham-handed and likely to backfire. I mean, it’s not like it’s at all hard to come up with evidence that Ratzi’s wrong.

    Especially with today’s web access, how does he think that he can get away with it at all? Is it worth it even in order to distract from the sins of the Catholic Church?

    All that it seems to do is to emphasize the Church’s lack of meaningful opposition to the Nazis during WWII.

    Glen Davidson

    • jdhuey
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      They keep repeating that old canard about Hitler (and getting away with it) for the simple reason that they only need to fool some of the people some of the time. Sure, just a little bit of research shows it for the lie that it is but so many of the Pope’s listeners will simply not bother to do that research. And, even if they do the research, that evidence can be safely ignored because faith is more important.

      • Michael Kingsford Gray
        Posted September 18, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps Dawkins was correct when he relayed Paula Kirby’s notion that the apparently “ham-fisted” blame for Nazi excesses on atheism was intentional and a carefully planned decoy by the Vatican in order to distract attention from their actual vicious crimes-against-humanity.
        It seems to be working, as I have just fallen for it!
        Damn the crafty old blokes in dresses…

  7. NewEnglandBob
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful. Every point hitting its target.

  8. Evolution SWAT
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    What a brilliant speech.

    Also, I know he wasn’t really a Nazi, but didn’t Ratz actually serve under Hitler sort of?

    The pope really is getting desperate I suppose …

    • Marella
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      Yes with Ratzi’s Nazi past I would have thought he’d do better to leave them out of the conversation. I think I’d have advised him to stick to Stalin and Pol Pot. At least he wasn’t part of “Stalin Youth”!

  9. Doc Bill
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant! Needed to be said.

    Well done, Dawkins!

    Poor Ratz! Shed a tear ’cause he got caught and may have to stand in the corner. Awwwww.

  10. cmassey1
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Oh, you silly-ass pope.


    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted September 19, 2010 at 1:50 am | Permalink

      “coyotesayings” fell, hook line & sinker, for the cunningly baited trap set by Il Papa to distract us all from his crimes.

      • cmassey1
        Posted September 19, 2010 at 9:09 am | Permalink

        Not quite, Michael. You have to read the entire post, which states at the end:

        Okay, now that that’s all out-of-the-way, can we get back to some real issues like:

        •Child abuse within the Catholic church
        •Protection of clergy who commit child abuse
        •Preaching against condom use in regions devastated by HIV
        •Making it impossible for children who have been raped to have an abortion, even when the child’s life is at risk.
        •Promoting ignorance and anti-science views, particularly in areas that desperately need more education and technology.

  11. wunelle
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant! Richard Dawkins is a hero.

    It’s thrilling to hear rationality powerfully embraced and superstition ridiculed in this way. The Pope calls the new atheists strident; I say, more stridency, please. Keep the kid gloves off. I’m sick of the double standard where hellfire and brimstone and mystical nonsense can be shouted with impunity but the mildest non-theist bus or billboard campaign gets protests and vandalism.

    Ratzi said recently that religion is being marginalized. I’m glad to hear it from his lips.

    • Posted September 19, 2010 at 4:47 am | Permalink

      I also thought I heard him saying something about it being ridiculed. It reminds me of a line from a NZ musical, “Songs for the Judges”:

      “Contempt of court is suitable
      When your court is contemptible.”

  12. bad Jim
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    Is it that common to have someone onstage signing, or is that lot especially solicitous of the disabled?

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted September 19, 2010 at 2:13 am | Permalink

      What, exactly, do you mean by “that lot”?

      • Posted September 19, 2010 at 2:34 am | Permalink

        Wherever there’s a large audience it’s a courtesy to have Sign Language interpretation. It’s one area where the US is ahead of the rest of the world, and I was pleased to see it in London. (I didn’t see anyone interpreting the Pope.)

        Deaf people do not consider themselves “disabled” but a linguistic community, whose language unfortunately few Hearing people speak. (I recommend it if you’re at all interested in languages, because the parameters are so different from all spoken languages.)

        I’m proud to say New Zealand Sign Language is our third official language.

        • Michael Kingsford Gray
          Posted September 19, 2010 at 4:22 am | Permalink

          100% agreed.
          But that does not clarify as to why the curiously titled “bad Jim” employed a common colloquial negative epithet (“that lot”), implying “an unruly & ignorant rabble” to the anti-pope, pro-Dawkins organisers.

          • bad Jim
            Posted September 19, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

            I’m aware that signing is common at official events in the U.S. but I don’t recall ever having seen it at an anti-war rally, for example, and when present the signer is generally not adjacent to the speaker.

            As to why I used “that lot”, I didn’t know how to characterize the event, nor whether this was common at most protests in the U.K.

            I’m sorry to have offended you, Mr. Gray. My command of colloquialism is merely American.

    • Posted September 19, 2010 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      Yes, it’s pretty common to have signing for the hearing impaired at big public events. I would have greatly appreciated having the talks signed if I were hard of hearing.

      (I don’t know British Sign Language but can understand some ASL. Unfortunately they are completely different.)

      • Posted September 19, 2010 at 11:31 am | Permalink

        Furthermore, it’s even somewhat enriching for hearing people – there’s a considerable aesthetic element to sign language. I found myself mostly watching the signer while listening to Dawkins (on the one I saw yesterday, where the signer is more in the foreground; I haven’t watched this one yet).

        • Posted September 20, 2010 at 2:40 am | Permalink

          Agreed, it’s a great pity the interpreter is half out-of-shot in the better video. (But you can see the sign for “Hitler” clearly at 0’24”.)

          There’s a film called “Le Pays des sourds” (In the Land of the Deaf, 1992) that begins with some unsubtitled choral signing that is just beautiful.

          There was a lovely interaction when Oliver Sacks was talking about his book “Seeing Voices” in NZ, and said “Um, um” and the Hearing audience laughed on recognising the sign for “Um” [fingers reaching for words] and Sacks said “Oh, you signed my ‘Ums'” and then the Deaf audience laughed when the signer (of course) signed that.

          (They are Deaf, not “hearing impaired”. Hearing-impaired people generally wear hearing aids and don’t sign, and so are not part of Deaf community. And is it more “unfortunate” that Deaf people in different countries {speak} different languages than that Hearing people do?)

          • Posted September 20, 2010 at 3:47 am | Permalink

            Some of my deaf friends in the US prefer “hard of hearing”, as there is a wide range of hearing ability in the signing community.

            It just seems a bit sad to me that there are different sign languages in the “English speaking” world instead of single one, but of course each has its own history and (I would think) cultural richness.

            • What a maroon
              Posted September 20, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink

              Sign languages are independent of the spoken languages in the surrounding community. Most develop organically as Deaf people within a community find a way to communicate among themselves. American Sign Language (ASL) is not English signed; it is an entirely different language with its own structure, grammar, etc. An imperfect analogy would be Basque, surrounded as it is by Romance languages but entirely unrelated.

              ASL is different from BSL because it developed from French Sign Language, which was brought to the US by Thomas Gallaudet.

            • Posted September 20, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

              Well “hard of hearing” is less judgemental than “hearing impaired”. Born Deaf are not “impaired” – they never could hear.

              Stranger than ASL vs BSL, Ireland has two sign languages (I’m guessing BSL for Protestants and something like FSL for Catholics), Belgium only one.

              It won’t be long before we need English subtitles for all trans-Atlantic (trans-Pacific here) TV programmes and movies.

  13. Posted September 19, 2010 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    Richard Dawkins – brilliant!

  14. justsearching
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    From the God Delusion:

    “All three of the boarding schools I attended employed teachers
    whose affection for small boys overstepped the bounds of propriety.
    That was indeed reprehensible. Nevertheless if, fifty years on, they
    had been hounded by vigilantes or lawyers as no better than child
    murderers, I should have felt obliged to come to their defence, even
    as the victim of one of them (an embarrassing but otherwise harmless

    The Roman Catholic Church has borne a heavy share of such
    retrospective opprobrium. For all sorts of reasons I dislike the
    Roman Catholic Church. But I dislike unfairness even more, and I
    can’t help wondering whether this one institution has been unfairly
    demonized over the issue, especially in Ireland and America. I
    suppose some additional public resentment flows from the
    hypocrisy of priests whose professional life is largely devoted to
    arousing guilt about ‘sin’. Then there is the abuse of trust by a
    figure in authority, whom the child has been trained from the cradle
    to revere. Such additional resentments should make us all the more
    careful not to rush to judgement. We should be aware of the
    remarkable power of the mind to concoct false memories, especially
    when abetted by unscrupulous therapists and mercenary lawyers.”

    Has Dawkins changed his view about the sex abuse scandal since he wrote those words?

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted September 19, 2010 at 2:18 am | Permalink

      You are asking Jerry Coyne to speak for Richard Dawkins?
      Why not query Richard himself?
      For FSM’s sake, it is not as though such a project is beyond reasonable effort.
      I can even give you the URL of Richard’s website, if such a thing is beyond your curious “nonjudgmental-about-infant-rape” ken.

      • justsearching
        Posted September 19, 2010 at 6:30 am | Permalink

        All I was asking is if anyone knew if Dawkins has ever publicly addressed his seeming change in tone on this particular issue. And I’m not suggesting it’s a problem if he has changed his mind, especially in light of new revelations and facts, as Shuggy points out. Calling me “nonjudgmental-about-infant-rape” is an absurd conclusion to draw based on the one question I asked.

        • whyevolutionistrue
          Posted September 19, 2010 at 6:39 am | Permalink

          As Michael says, I can’t speak for Richard, but I suspect that he has changed his mind, and that this is based on the revelations of widespread child abuse, and its coverup, since he wrote TGD.

          He’s not the only one to become more vociferous against Ratzi and the church since these facts appeared. I have too. But I don’t know whether there would be a point in saying, “Well, I used to feel that way, but the evidence has now prompted me to change my mind.”

          • Eric MacDonald
            Posted September 19, 2010 at 7:44 am | Permalink

            I think he has probably changed his mind. I also suspect that the kind of abuse that he had encountered was not the very destructive kind that is being revealed in investigations of the church. For a good dramatic portrayal of the kind of thing Dawkins mentions, watch the movie The History Boys, which shows the kind of groping that Dawkins seems to be talking about, combined with the excitement about learning that Dawkins also experienced. What Dawkins is speaking about is something that was obviously embarrassing for both Dawkins and the person concerned. This is not said to justify it, and I do not think that that was Dawkins’ point. However, it would be good to hear from Dawkins on the point.

            • mike m
              Posted September 19, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

              The thing I understood in the the God Delusion when I read that; a victim can develop a victim personality and spend the rest of their lives pointlessly pitying themselves. When in fact the real damage was the indoctrination to Catholicism something that runs much deeper.

          • What a maroon
            Posted September 20, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink

            “But I don’t know whether there would be a point in saying, “Well, I used to feel that way, but the evidence has now prompted me to change my mind.””

            Leading by example, perhaps?

    • Posted September 19, 2010 at 2:23 am | Permalink

      “Has Dawkins changed his view about the sex abuse scandal since he wrote those words?”
      Quite possibly. The number of cases has skyrocketted (making false memory less tenable), the church – right up to Papa Ratzo – has proved to be complicit, and its reaction has been woefully inadequate.

      Also, his London speech only touched on the abuse scandal. It was mainly throwing the Pope’s stones right back – with deadly accuracy – at the RC’s glasshouse on the Hitler-atheism issue.

  15. bhoytony
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    I liked the point he made that the catholics claiming all those who had ever been baptised(like myself)for their numbers meant that they had to include Hitler as well. A rather obvious point that I had not considered before.
    One of these days I must get round to officially removing myself from their records. I would of course prefer excommunication.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted September 19, 2010 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Yes, it was brilliant!

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted September 19, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Oops, I also meant to say that this is one of the perks of having a former state religion over here [Sweden]: the church is obliged by law to remove a person and his/hers statistics from the church roll when asked to.

      • Posted September 19, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        Now if only the government would fund the humanists, as Norway does.

    • Hope
      Posted September 19, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      I’m in the US, not the UK, but I used to think the same thing when Ratzinger became pope and the media went on and on about how he was the leader of the world’s one billion catholics. And I wondered, “Are they counting me? Is there a list somewhere?” And I had a fantasy where Wolf Blitzer announced, “Wait, this just in . . . Make that 999,999,999.”

  16. gatr
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Just had to rout them with facts and logic – and Dawkins doesn’t fail. Any religion will crumble when subject to the slightest bit of intellectual scrutiny. Classic Dawkins here – I didn’t think he was shrill at all – superbly lucid arguments, and on target.

    Ratzi the Nazi – ball’s in your court, and I am sure you will not disappoint with your raving, ridiculous balderdash.

  17. Posted September 19, 2010 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I was there with some Secular Cafe friends. We had a great time.

    There were several other good talks, although Dawkins’ was perhaps the best. The two best points for me were:

    1. If the Vatican wants to count “members” based on baptism records, they have to take Hitler as well.

    2. For the Catholic church, a penis is an essential tool of the priesthood.

    Geoffrey Robinson’s talk was also excellent. I’m going to get his new book, The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse.

  18. Chris R
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    That was magnificent – just a nice, lucid deliverance of the facts. Well done, Richard!

  19. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Good speech!

    It hits me, if the catholic church is really adamant about keeping people on their roll even when the person converts, it is by that logic not just the case of Hitler remaining a roman catholic. But Ratzinger should be still considered a paramilitary anti-semitic nazi Hitler Youth! (And possibly a Luftwaffe member, even if that organization’s function is more definitely defunct.)

    • Posted September 19, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Ooh that’s a good point. I think I’ll pass it on to Paula Kirby (with attribution of course); she’ll probably pass it on to Richard.

    • Posted September 19, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      (Why Paula? Somebody at Facebook said RD’s speech sounded like her and she must have contributed; she said there was some brainstorming and she suggested a thought or two, but most of it was his, and the baptismal roll point was entirely his, she hadn’t even seen it in the final version.)

  20. Jeremy Nel
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Makes me proud to be an atheist – well done, Richard.

  21. Yakaru
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    The point about the Church’s acknowledgement of Adam’s non-existence (and the implications for church doctrine), was public science education at its best.

  22. Posted September 19, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    This is a much better version; not only can you see Richard, you can also see Peter Tatchell just behind him and Maryam Namazie at his right shoulder, and when the camera pulls back, you can see Johann Hari next to Maryam. Some of the best people!

    Who are the guys on his left, anyone know?

    • Yakaru
      Posted September 19, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Geoffrey Robertson, the QC with a forthcoming book against the pope is also there (to the right).

      • Posted September 19, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. (To our right, but Dawkins’s left.)

        Who is the other fella?

  23. Insightful Ape
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Dawkins rocks.

  24. Posted September 19, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    That’s what I’m talking about!

    How a rat gets smoked.

  25. Hempenstein
    Posted September 20, 2010 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Fun to watch the video go viral, too.

  26. Dominic
    Posted September 20, 2010 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Just listened to Mary Midgely on Radio 4 talking about her new book The Solitary Self: Darwin and the Selfish Gene –
    in which she once again has a go at biologists particularly RD of course. It would be interesting to hear the WEIT view of this book – if you get around to reviewing it…?

  27. Jimbo
    Posted September 20, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Jerry. This was Dawkins at his best. Now let’s see him broadcast it across St. Peters square toward the Vatican.

  28. John Keefer
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    About two-thirds of the way through I had an unnerving premonition of a shot ringing out. I hope he’s exercising due caution. You, too, Professor Coyne… we need you…

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