On Dawkins’s Cultured Despisers

I relatively often come across academics who express contempt for Richard Dawkins’s atheist activism and The God Delusion. What is interesting about these critics is how many of them share his contempt for fundamentalist religion. Ironically that is the core of his contempt for religion and theism too.

These academics are usually people who will implicitly talk about fundamentalist, literalist religious beliefs as so plainly and obviously false that one need not even go to the trouble of explaining all that is wrong with them. Even if these academics are themselves religious or sympathetic to religion they will chummily share a laugh with a curiously outspoken atheist like me over how absurd the beliefs of fundamentalists are. They will often express outright puzzlement at how any one could believe things so bizarre as fundamentalists do.

I do not share in these academics’ puzzlement since for a long time I actually was a fundamentalist, in essence, even though I already was leery of the word. To me such people are not just some harmless oddball curiosity for the learned to laugh at or to analyze with an anthropologist’s sense for understanding people without judging or desiring to change them.

Those believers are my former self and their beliefs used to shape my mind and heart in fundamental ways. Not only that, but they are living my former life, and my alienation from that former life constitutes a core part of my biography and my present identity. And having been intellectually, morally, emotionally, and psychologically systemically misled and, in some crucial ways, held back and twisted up, by these beliefs and the communities that purvey them, I take very seriously the issue of how to dispel the delusions of believers. I do not feel like an elite who can wink at the reckless childishness of the common folks’ superstitions the way one delights in the imaginations of actual children. I see other adults’ intellectual infantilization as neither harmless, nor a matter of indifference, nor as a moral necessity for those supposedly not as psychologically superior and autonomously trustworthy as I.

So I don’t share these academics’ revulsion at Dawkins’s efforts to reach out to the everyday believer and vigorously shake them out of their delusions. When I explain to them that all Dawkins is doing is addressing the literal falseness of religious beliefs because truth matters in religious matters as much as in any others, I often get, from some atheists and some believers both, an out of hand scoff that that’s a total misunderstanding of religion—religion isn’t about literal truth in the first place! So it’s wrong to address it as literal propositional truth claims in need of refutation as though their cognitional content mattered at all!

This response frankly maddens me. And it does so even though I agree that religions serve many functions that are, indeed, wholly independent of conveying truth. And I even am sympathetic to the notion that some of those functions are human necessities, whether they are fulfilled by religions or other replacement functionaries. The dismissal of all arguments about the literal truth of religious claims bothers me because it blithely ignores the actual structure of many religious believers’ faiths. And ironically it does so in the name of being understanding about religion. It’s an attempt to be intellectually charitable about religious belief by ignoring the kinds one has contempt for instead of understanding them.

To actually acknowledge what religion is for actual people, we should take seriously the fact that for many religious people (including and especially fundamentalists), religious beliefs must be literally true or they are worthless. That is a real kind of religious way of believing. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the most pervasive kind, all told. And those believers deserve to have academics who give them a shot to share the skeptical academics’ own consciousness of how false, on literal terms, religious beliefs are. They have the right to decide that their religion is not for them if it is shown false on literal grounds or to reinterpret their religion in expressivist terms if that can still work for them. They should not be condescended to and treated as though they misunderstand religion should they find its literal falseness disillusioning and a cause for apostasy. They don’t “misunderstand” religion and its functions. They often understand full well what their religion means to them and on what grounds they can or cannot assent to participate in it in good conscience.

And yet these academics have a bitter sort of contempt for Dawkins for being marvelously effective at raising the consciousness of many believers who are actually grateful to discover the truth of the irrationality and falsehood of their beliefs. He is making the literal falsehood and absurdity of religious beliefs clear to those who do not already grasp what these academics take for granted—that whatever benefits religion is giving people, literal truth is not one of them.

And even more importantly than that, Dawkins and the rest of the atheist movement are (at least  ostensibly) trying to counteract the systematic training religious institutions give in outright anti-rational ways of both forming beliefs and then insulating them from criticism. It boggles my mind and infuriates me that more academics are not outraged at the ways that religious institutions do not just teach apparent falsehoods but actively miseducate people in how to reason. Relentlessly, and with all manner of shameless emotional manipulation, they teach people from childhood to affirm beliefs without evidence, to merge those beliefs so tightly to their identity that they are too painful to ever let go of, and to accept their least justified beliefs as their most sacred and unquestionable beliefs. They go so far as to convince people to orient their very moral reasoning itself, which should be the most scrupulous and conscientious part of themselves, by reference to their least rational and least careful ways of reasoning and believing—their “faith-based” and fear-based ones.

Misleading anthropomorphic thinking, rationalization in the teeth of counter-evidence, poor reasoning with respect to probabilities, indulgence of confirmation bias, blind traditionalism, mental authoritarianism, and practically all other cognitive errors to which humans are prone not only go uncorrected but are actively reinforced and outright cultivated by religious traditions. Religious institutions train countless people to embrace irrational modes of thought instead of to reject them. This training goes counter to practically everything an actual education tries to teach and exacerbates the faulty habits of thought that an actual education would seek to correct. Why are not all academics up in arms about this travesty against reason? And why are not more philosophers in the public square correcting all the philosophical muddles that everyday people believe since the closest thing they have to philosophical education is from pulpits?

This extensive counter-education, this undermining of actual education, is not just being done in a handful of fringe religious sects. This goes on in countless mainstream churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, and homes. Beliefs are inculcated through fears of eternal torture and dissenting consciences are intimidated by everything from threats of disownment and excommunication in more liberal countries to threats of imprisonment or death in more authoritarian ones.

But since Dawkins is not a philosopher and does not write with a philosopher’s technical precision about metaphysics, since he does not treat religion with an anthropologist’s lack of judgments, since he sometimes takes the effort to attack the worst popular religious beliefs that laypeople actually hold instead of the more sophisticated ones academics hold, and since he is being so gauche as to dispel the illusions of the little people, he is seen by elitist academics as doing the public an insulting disservice of some sort. Because apparently there can be no books pitched for the average believer to convince them of judgments about the general literal falsehood of religious beliefs which elite academics take for granted.

Atheist books must be either non-existent or, to be acceptable, be so abstruse that no ordinary people could read them. Billions of dollars can be made every year selling lay people worthless superstitious myths and falsehoods from the orthodox to the New Age, and countless sermons can be preached to average people weekly, but atheists should never counter any of this with something pitched to ordinary people, nor anything containing any modicum of anti-theist, anti-religious bite to counteract the barrage of pro-religious messages that bombard people from infancy.

And these academics are either unaware of or contemptuous of the countless atheists who had their consciousness raised by Dawkins. These critics either resent or miss altogether Dawkins’s genius as a powerfully influential leader of an identity movement. Dawkins told the average atheist it was okay to own their disbelief and many found this liberating and exhilarating. I can imagine why the religious academics are threatened by this and want to dismiss it as a real phenomenon or as a bad thing if real. But why are many atheist academics resistant to this consciousness raising?

If they’re so enlightened about how religion functions for people independently of its truth, then surely they must understand how important it is to people to have strong identities connected to their fundamental beliefs and values. And if they think this is a mostly benign or constructive thing for religious people, why do they react with visceral suspicion at atheists’ forming an identity around their atheism? Can’t they see this is analogous to religious people fulfilling their cravings for identity and community as rooted in their perspective on the world? Can’t they see how this could be just as constructive (or at least as benign) as what they approve of in religion?

Partly this might be met with contempt because, I guess, as irreligious atheists themselves they feel above the kinds of connections between identity and beliefs and values that the religious whom they patronizingly approve of have. So possibly they resent seeing other atheists—people like them—apparently mired in such a thing. It could be (and I claim no empirical knowledge here, I am throwing out hypotheses to be investigated) that they associate atheism with elites who know better than the average person and think it tacky of such elites to go around exposing the embarrassing errors of more simpleminded folk. If this is true, they’re oblivious or callous to the very averageness of the average atheist and to their need for identity too. And they probably overestimate their own immunity to a need for identity. Their own identity is wrapped up in being part of an elite that’s too good for trifling with fundamentalists as though they were not beneath refutation. Finally in some cases their antagonism to confrontational atheists may be an allergy to religious debates altogether based on their bad experience with religious dogmatists or based on a view of atheism as inevitably an “anti-“ position by nature, and so bound to take the form of dangerous hostility if made into a kind of group consciousness.

But these are my best psychological inferences and speculations for a frame of mind I’ve never been in myself. I’ve always cared about the truth or falsity of religious beliefs and thought it important that religious people be challenged to deal seriously with objections to their beliefs.

Finally, a quick note. Although many movement atheists are indeed getting a religion-like satisfaction of having their atheistic beliefs tied in to their identity and made into a grounds for community, this does not in any immediate way turn atheism into a faith or, even, a religion. Faith requires beliefs willfully ill proportioned to their evidence and dogmatically obstinate to evidence in principle. Atheists could be prone to faith beliefs but atheism itself is not such a belief for most atheists since most atheists perceive their disbelief or lack of belief to be at least an attempt to be responsive to evidence (or lack thereof) and not a matter of willing to believe as one desires.  And religion involves much more by way of ritual and far more robust identity and community commitments than most atheists at present seem willing to have with one another (though some atheists are actually part of religions or want to be).

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • DSimon

    I agree with you that many popular academic criticisms of Dawkins are directly caused by him being an atheist writer whose target demographic is the average believer, rather than him actually making any particular bad argument.

    However, I think you’re stretching in your psychological analysis. The motivations you describe are certainly plausible, but are they specifically the ones in play, as opposed to a thousand other plausible motivations? I’d need more specific reasons and evidence to believe so.

    I do agree, though, about opposing the notion of religion as a protected class of belief.

  • vorjack


    *waves lighter*

    Some time back I joked that we should have a challenge for our cultured critics: we’ll pay you $X,000 dollars if you’ll go into the average megachurch and explain to the congregation that true religion doesn’t require belief in a personal deity or the literal truth of the creeds or whatever. Or just read Tillich’s “Dynamics of Faith” to them. And then get out alive.

    Some of these folks are quick to criticize atheists, but much slower to confront the mass of people that they supposedly share a religion with.

  • Tony D

    Thank you for writing this thoughtful post, Dan! I often feel rather unfashionable in my support of people like Dawkins, but as a fellow former Fundamentalist I know that he’s doing important work by simply taking people’s [non-academic] religious claims very seriously. How can anyone show religion more respect than that? Instead of being consistent or truly academic, the academics to which you refer choose to write Dawkins off as unsophisticated or even being a Fundamentalist himself. The irony that Dawkins has more respect for religious beliefs than many religious people kinda sears my brain.

  • http://peicurmudgeon.wordpress.com/ peicurmudgeon

    I certainly have a lot of respect for the way Dawkins was able to being the arguments against belief to a popular level. I have had numerous people tell me that, at the very least, the book made them think about belief in a different way. On the other hand, very few people read Dennett ot the other more academic atheist writers.

  • http://Disqus Obliged_Cornball

    While I agree with your assessment of Dawkins’s treatment of fundamentalist beliefs, the problem arises when he treats theists who strive for a rational approach to faith in the same way. Refusing to engage these more sophisticated views (as if they are akin to “leprechology”) is bad form for a rationalist. I myself would argue that even these rational approaches ultimately fail, but no one should deny that they are qualitatively different than those which are Dawkins’s main aim. So it’s not that he criticizes fundamentalist faith (as many religious people do), it’s that he treats faith that strives for rationality with unwarranted contempt. He should at least be more understanding toward those who take the latter approach.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      So it’s not that he criticizes fundamentalist faith (as many religious people do), it’s that he treats faith that strives for rationality with unwarranted contempt.

      Striving for internal consistency and coherency is different than striving for rationality. By its nature faith does not strive for rationality, it is in principle opposed to it except as a tool for reinforcing itself. Dawkins is right to call out theologians on this point. Were someone to give a sophisticated and intricate explanation of how the greek gods interacted with one another, this would only be rational if it was self-consciously literature studies or an attempt to utterly demythologize and translate Greek myths into philosophical categories. But if one thinks that by ordering one’s mythologies so that they are consistent and coherent means that one is getting at reality and being a rational person by believing in mythological beings, one does not deserve credit for that or acknowledgment as a contributor to human knowledge.

  • BubbaRich

    I REALLY don’t like angry atheists(tm). I REALLY do like Richard Dawkins. I don’t see any conflict between these.

    I can’t recall ever hearing Dawkins ever being rude, and certainly I have never seen it in his books. His writing is brilliant, and communicates his ideas very succinctly and effectively. I think I agree with every one of the ideas he has expressed, and with his goals in expressing them.

    He does stray from my personal path occasionally; he hasn’t studied philosophy, and so often uses formal language very incorrectly. He also often throws accusations with a far wider net than they are usually true (such as telling Christians how odd they are for thinking they are eating the body of Christ, when only half of Christians even nominally believe something like what he said. the main problem with such facile attacks is that they can often strengthen belief. (“Hahaha, he thinks I believe this, he’s so stupid! My beliefs are MUCH smarter than THAT!”) He only does this occasionally as a tangent, and not as a primary argument. but it weakens his argument unnecessarily when he does it. Like Stephen Hawking, attacking philosophy.

    I honestly can’t understand anyone calling Dawkins an “angry atheist,” and the only justification I can imagine them using would be “he doesn’t believe what I believe.” I also can’t understand (or tolerate) the ivory tower academics (whom I never run across in real life) who think Dawkins shouldn’t communicate with real people. That’s one of the main and best functions of science, enriching the lives of everyone, and giving a large number of people the chance to understand and advance science themselves, and/or through their children. Their snobbery would harm the world in exactly the way the anti-science religious believers do (note: those are two different sets. Not all religious believers are anti-science, in fact, I would say that most aren’t.)

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      He also often throws accusations with a far wider net than they are usually true (such as telling Christians how odd they are for thinking they are eating the body of Christ, when only half of Christians even nominally believe something like what he said.

      I explained what he was really saying there here.

  • jose

    I don’t know what it means but searching both Richard Dawkins and atheism in google trends, Dawkins get a big boost after the publication of The God Delusion, but there’s no change in the atheism trend.

  • vito

    I am forever thankful to people like Hitchens, Dawkins etc. who made mea REALIZE that I don’t really believe and never did. Silent academic non believers, who think it is politically incorrect to state their views or even not to pretend that you believe or respect religion, would have never done that for me.

    • edward

      Vito, same here. Despite having been heavily involved in church as a youth leader, elder, etc., a few years back I began to fear that, deep down, I really didn’t believe. Dawkins and Hitchens were the ones that finally cracked the false veneer.

      And my experience is that most of the Christians I know – family, coworkers, friends – accept Christian doctrine as literally true. In fact, most think the world is less than 6000 years old. Granted, I’m smack in the middle of the Bible Belt (Alabama) so I can’t generalize from that, but it does show the desperate need for a Dawkins.

  • John Moriarty

    Yet another home run Dan! Now if you could only make it a little less academic in tone, you could re purpose it towards the less academic reader. May I be so bold as to suggest you try writing an “easy to grasp” precis for those who are less meticulous in their thinking, or just trust you to do all the hard stuff? :)

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Yet another home run Dan! Now if you could only make it a little less academic in tone, you could re purpose it towards the less academic reader. May I be so bold as to suggest you try writing an “easy to grasp” precis for those who are less meticulous in their thinking, or just trust you to do all the hard stuff?

      Hmmm, I thought this was straight up accessible. :/

    • Elemenope

      Some terms of art are still sneaking in there. E.g.: “… reinterpret their religion in expressivist terms…”. The vast majority of readers wouldn’t have a clue what expressivism is.

    • Generally Bob

      Dan, I huzzahed over this piece as much as anything I’ve read other than Dawkins and Hitchens. I like it as it is for what it says to me. But to amplify John’s point, a condensed version with a link to the longer fully extended argument is warranted in addition pointed at the audience that doesn’t have patience for theological discourse.

      Your argument sings to me as a lapsed Catholic, turned Agnostic, turned Unitarian now Atheist, whose smirky_smart friends like to say things like, “it takes two to argue” and who assume religion and politics are always inappropriate dinner conversation. What they really believe is that these conversations can be contentious and disruptive, so be polite and let the plebes hold onto their superstitions.

      Imagine if you thought you had the best information about how the world works and you discovered that hundreds of thousands of scientists knew your information was flawed but didn’t bother to correct you or even engage in a debate because, to them, your understanding of life, death and morality was unimportant other than as an anthropological curiosity. Which scientist would you resent most? The one who debated the facts of life? or the one who protected you from the truth?

  • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber H. E. Baber

    What I think you don’t get is, first, that among academics religion is pretty much not done. In my profession, according to a recent survey, only 14% are “theists or lean to theism.” So, within our world, theism is at best, a source of embarrassment–something that many of us, in order to avoid hassles, simply don’t admit. Secondly, most of us have never knowingly met a fundamentalist. And I think this is true of most educated upper middle class people. These are lower class people that we never meet.

    So the arguments of Dawkins et. al. seem naive: they’re addressing concerns of people we’ve never even known, who are surely a small minority. There may be some of them somewhere in rural backwaters in the Deep South, but they’re an exotic species.

    Frankly I think fundamentalists, out there in the rural backwaters, are unsalvageable–you’re wasting your time trying to wake these animals from their dogmatic slumbers. But please recognize that amongst educated people–not only academics but the educated upper middle class, religious belief and practice is viewed with contempt and those of use who are religious believers have our backs to the wall. Believe it or not, some of us educated upper middle class people are religious believers–and we have absolutely no sympathy for fundamentalists or for the conservative social and political agendas they promote.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Frankly I think fundamentalists, out there in the rural backwaters, are unsalvageable–you’re wasting your time trying to wake these animals from their dogmatic slumbers.

      I seriously object to you calling people “animals” in this pejorative sense. People’s ignorance is not cause for dehumanizing them.

    • Mogg

      I would disagree with this entirely. Do you really think the congregations of places like Mars Hill, Holy Trinity Brompton, Hillsong, Redeemer Presbyterian et al are made up of uneducated backwood hicks? In the middle of cities like Seattle, London, Sydney, New York? These are comfortably well off, suburban or urban, educated and sophisticated people, for the most part, and it doesn’t mean their beliefs are any less literal.

    • http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber H. E. Baber

      @Mogg. I did not say that all Evangelicals were ‘uneducated backwoods hicks.’ I did say, and this can be confirmed because it’s just a matter of statistics, that on the average Evangelicals are less educated, and less affluent than mainline Protestants. I also noted, and this is also empirically backed, that academics are by and large secular–that religious belief and practice of any kind are, at best, a minority view amongst university faculty. Finally my suggestion wasn’t that educated, upper middle class people for the most part rejected Evangelicalism because it was dumb. I just said that that religious belief and practice of any kind was a minority view amongst academics–but that Evangelicalism is very rare indeed.

      So returning to the original question: way don’t academics care for Dawkins? It’s because most of us have never experienced the kind of religion that his critique is primarily directed against. So to many of us it seems like beating a dead horse. Where are these people who reject evolution? WE’VE never personally met any. Etc. In fact in my world “atheist” is odd because it’s the default, the norm. We talk about people being “theists” because that’s peculiar.

  • http://gravatar.com/insanityranch insanityranch

    Subscribing to follow-up comments (Dan, delete if you wish)

  • http://gravatar.com/insanityranch insanityranch

    Somehow this comment seems to have gotten lost — reposting it.

    I cannot say anything about the scholarly critics of Richard Dawkins, because I have not read even one word of them. To be honest, I have not read _The God Delusion_ either; I’ve picked it up four or five times and put it down as indigestible. After reading this post, I went to Amazon and clicked on “look inside” and came, almost immediately, to this paragraph:

    “If only such subtle, nuanced religion predominated, the world would surely be a better place and I would have written a different book. The melancholy truth is that this kind of understated, decent, revisionist religion is numerically negligible. To the vast majority of believers around the world, religion all too closely resembles what you hear from the likes of Robertson, Falwell or Haggard, Osama bin Laden or the Ayatollah Khomeini.”

    Now that is an empirically testable statement, and I submit that it is a false statement. About 5.76 billion religious people claim membership in one or another religion, and it is simply, factually incorrect that the “vast majority” of these people hold beliefs as vicious as those of the leaders of extremist Christianity and Islam.

    I myself grew up in a community where nearly everyone was an adherent of either Catholicism or mainline Protestant denominations, where religious affiliation was a community value, and nearly everyone I knew growing up was decent, morally upright, and kindly. They were also committed to education, and I believe they still are — at least until the recent shale oil-boom madness, my home state of North Dakota had one of the best public education systems (K-12) in the nation. (Our universities were not world-class, but then, given a sparse tax base, that isn’t surprising.)

    I appreciate that Dawkins may have something important to say to people caught in the toils of oppressive religious traditions. But I would argue that it those people are actually unrepresentative of the “vast majority of believers”. And I am not surprised that the actual, decent, vast majority of believers are unimpressed or even put off by his writings on religion.

    (P.S., I HAVE read and very much profited from his writings on evolution.)

  • Ariel

    I claim no empirical knowledge here, I am throwing out hypotheses to be investigated

    The same with me. Just some additional hypotheses explaining the attitude of the academia:

    - A dislike for the rough and tumble. A lecture hall is a quiet place. The activism prompted by Dawkins et al. looks like the antipodes of it. I would guess that to many academicians it seems like an alien, inhospitable and vulgar world.
    - A dislike for the anti-intellectualism, not so rare among the followers of Dawkins. For a recent example see here . All this “fuck off and shut up” attitude, characterizing a substantial part of the new atheism movement, is very alien to the academia spirit. Just to make it clear: it’s not my intention to discuss its practical merits and demerits (that’s a totally different topic!). I only want to say that it’s alien to a lot of us and I can understand that an academician will not want to be a part of it.
    - Every academician knows a difference between science and popularization. Many academicians will also think that popularization is somehow second rate in comparison with science. The outcome is a tendency to view popularization with some degree of condescention.

    Last but not least, for some academicians interested in the topic the important factor may be:

    - The refusal to see the new atheists as “forming an identity around their atheism” (see the OP). The suspicion that atheism (i.e. disbelief in gods) is too meager a basis for an identity. The recognition that in fact this new identity is built around a quite specific, leftist political agenda.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      The recognition that in fact this new identity is built around a quite specific, leftist political agenda.

      I’m not sure about that. (a) Academics are often themselves relatively leftist. (b) The criticism of Islam one finds in Dawkins (and especially Harris and Hitchens) makes the left wing academics fear reactionary rightism.

  • http://OneFamilyManyFaiths.blogspot.com Y

    The most respectful essay on Understanding the human need for The Sacred that I’ve ever encountered. Thank you for sharing your Sacred Spirit with me.

  • Liralen

    Although not an academic, I was raised to be a liberal, non-Christian, a central tenet of which is tolerance and a special reverence for freedom of religion, both of which could be reasons for academics (if similarly raised) to disapprove of Dawkins or proselytizing atheists in general.

    Perhaps a more compelling reason is the need to be sure before becoming an evangelical atheist. One of my most beloved children’s books was Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein. I remember a passage about professional witnesses where an example was given of such a witness describing a house. The witness could only accurately state that the house was white on the side she was looking at.

  • http://OneFamilyManyFaiths.blogspot.com Y

    It is so sad to me that we continue to argue over the validity of the many manifestations of The Sacred Spirit when we should be attempting to reach consensus on what constitutes morality. For me, morality, which is the sign of the sacred is responsible compassion.