Dawkins and the Religion Petition

Dawkins and the Religion Petition December 29, 2006

Update: at the insistence of several readers, please be advised that Dawkins has now repudiated his signature on that petition and asked that it be taken off. You can find that retraction in the comments below.

Update #2: Please read my open letter to Richard Dawkins, which I think brings the whole thing to an end. click here.

MikeGene responds to my post about his typology and offers some information I was completely unaware of. He points me to this petition, which Richard Dawkins has signed and is promoting on his website, as evidence that Dawkins does indeed favor coercion to stop religious belief:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by religion before the age of 16.

In order to encourage free thinking, children should not be subjected to any regular religious teaching or be allowed to be defined as belonging to a particular religious group based on the views of their parents or guardians.


This I was completely unaware of, and I find it highly disturbing. And I agree with him, this is absolutely evidence that Dawkins does indeed favor coercion to try and stamp out religion. Let me make this clear: no government has the authority to decide what views they may teach to their children. Indeed, I would argue that the absolute last thing that any atheist wants to do is to encourage government to take such authority, because believe me, it’s a hell of a lot more likely that you’re gonna find it illegal to teach your beliefs than it is to make it illegal to teach someone else’s beliefs.

This proposal is every bit as noxious and totalitarian as a proposal from Christian reconstructionists that those who teach their children about witchcraft or atheism should be thrown in jail would be. Just imagine what you would have to do to actually enforce such a law. No one could take their children to church, which means you’d have to literally police the churches to make sure no children went in. Nor could they teach their children about religion at home, read the Bible with them, say prayers with them before they go to bed. The only way to enforce such a law would be to create a society that would make Orwell’s 1984 seem optimistic by comparison.

As far as I’m concerned, this pretty much removes Dawkins from any discussion among reasonable people. The atheist dystopia he seems to favor is no less appalling than the Christian dystopia favored by people like RJ Rushdoony. Both seek to make government the enforcer of their ideological views, to punish those who believe differently or dare to advocate those views. I cannot abide totalitarians of any stripe.

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