On Sunday (in a not-April-Fool’s post) Daniel Fincke posted a long defense of Richard Dawkins’ Reason Rally speech. In a comment thread at RichardDawkins.net, Dawkins commented to say, “I am extremely pleased by Daniel Fincke’s article, which says exactly what I SHOULD have said and, to my regret, didn’t make sufficiently clear in my Reason Rally speech.” Way to go Dan!
I especially liked this part of Dan’s post, which managed to change my mind about something:
The Christian leaders use their claim to great numbers of believers as the clout with which to bully politicians and society in general. Dawkins wants the Catholics whose beliefs the Church does not really represent to start grappling with this fact and with the disconnect between what they really believe and the institution they reflexively claim has authority over their beliefs and practices (to their own potential detriment).
I submit that this is as rational a place as any for Dawkins to request atheists to focus our confrontations with Christians, especially in an explicitly political, and not philosophical, speech. He called us to challenge the irrational ways in which ordinary people blithely confess to membership in an institution whose beliefs they either do notknow, do not conscientiously live by, or cannot with a straight face defend; and yet which nonetheless claims to speak for them and their values in the halls of political power. Dawkins wants to challenge the soft power by which the Church keeps millions of nominal Catholics on the rolls by not forcing them to think too hard about what they believe or whether their faith beliefs square in the slightest with their common sense. He wants to show that in fact a greater majority is in practice as secular as the atheist minority, in a great many implicit beliefs and behaviors and that they should start understanding themselves accordingly.
I’ve previously written that I don’t give a damn if Nancy Pelosi is nominally a Catholic, because it doesn’t tell you much of anything about what policies she’ll pursue in office. But Dan made me realize we should care. We should care because merely by calling herself a Catholic, Pelosi makes the Catholic Church a little bit more powerful.
Nominal religiosity won’t stop me from voting for a politician, but I fully support efforts to question politicians about whatever religion they claim to hold, and to keep questioning them about it until they give a straight answer. Or to just make fun of them for it.