Home » Atheism, News » “We, the undersigned atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and other non-believers, hereby condemn Richard Dawkins”

“We, the undersigned atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and other non-believers, hereby condemn Richard Dawkins”

We, the undersigned atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and other non-believers, hereby condemn Richard Dawkins’ continued comments trivializing what he termed ‘mild’ sexual abuse of children. Dr. Dawkins is seen by many as a representative of the atheist community — but when it comes to his dismissive comments on the incredibly serious topic of sexual abuse, the atheist community emphatically does not stand with him.

Dr. Dawkins has publicly compared childhood sexual abuse favorably to teaching children about Hell since at least the publication of The God Delusion. He has extrapolated from his relatively trauma-free experience with sexual abuse to make general comments about the experiences of other victims. These comments have received serious criticism from victim advocates as misrepresenting the truth and for undercutting support for victims.

Excerpt from a petition that seems to be widely circulated. Apparently it was enough to induce Richard to offer a a not-pology.

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15 Responses to “We, the undersigned atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and other non-believers, hereby condemn Richard Dawkins”

  1. Dawkins should be criticized for what he said, which was so profoundly stupid I still can’t wrap my head around it. Considering that he was abused, I’d say that he’s deeply in denial about what happened.

  2. I’d like to start out by stating that I’m not trying to undercut support for victims but there are different types of abuse. Yes, I was sexually abused by an attractive (non-nuclear) much older family member when I was 13. Part of it was my fault for being curious, and no, I wasn’t forced into it–I’m fortunate in that regard. Now as a middle-aged person I would cringe if it were to happen to my child, even if instigated by him or her. The physical abuse I suffered at the hands of my father was much more of an issue, but NOTHING compared to the emotional anguish I experienced considering there was a possibility that I would burn in “hell” for all eternity since I wasn’t a true believer. My friends and family made sure to rub it in. Now I’m a typical example of a person that has been ostracized by loved ones—all in the name of Jesus and Ignorance. I’ve gotten over the sexual & physical abuse but not the religious trauma. I’m still licking my wounds and don’t understand why there isn’t more outrage on this topic. The way my family raised me it didn’t matter if I were to die in the most heinous of circumstances (holocaust, gulag, crucified, etc.) because if I “believed” then I’d be in a better place. Well…I don’t believe. Threatening eternal damnation upon a sensitive soul is one of the cruelest forms of emotional abuse and should be outlawed.

  3. Happy Agnostic @ 2: If you suffered so much anguish, did it ever occur to you to actually read or study the Bible to see if hellfire is a biblical doctrine? Did it ever occur to you to find out the facts for yourself?

    You can be as outraged as possible over the teaching of hellfire, but know that not all Christian denominations teach this doctrine. You might want to get a little more educated on the subject.

  4. I feel for you, HA.

    “Hypocrisy” seems to me to be too light of a word for those who perpetrated and enabled your physical and sexual abuse, yet allowed themselves to be possessed of the unmitigated gall to turn around and threaten you with their hell.

    Having had some experience in Christian ministry with both victims and perpetrators, I would highly recommend to you Pia Melody’s (Twelve-Step based) book, Facing Codependence: What It Is, Where It Comes from, How It Sabotages Our Lives.

    In it, for one thing, she details that of the various ways that caregivers can abuse their dependents, spiritual abuse is the absolute worst.

  5. To jstanley01: Thanks for your understanding and for recommending that book; I’ll put it on my reading list. It’s good to know that on my first-posting-anywhere-in-cyberspace that I received useful info.

  6. Well…I don’t believe. Threatening eternal damnation upon a sensitive soul is one of the cruelest forms of emotional abuse and should be outlawed.

    Welcome to our humble weblog.

    It is abuse if what is taught is untrue. Until it can be determined it is untrue, it is premature to say it is abuse. If one is truly an agnostic, one is not sure whether hell is real or not.

    Given that I accept Design and that it suggests the existence of God, I’ve concluded the Designer of souls is quite capable of creating a place like hell.

    For a season in my life I did not believe in hell. Once I concluded there is a God, and then when I saw all the pain in the world that the Designer has allowed, hell and the wrath of God became quite believable…

    Personally, would I rather worry about the emotional distress of telling someone what I believed to be true vs. letting them go to hell?

    You obviously feel it should be outlawed because you’re convinced it cannot be true. I respect that, but you’re presuming you’re absolutely right, and that there is zero chance of you being wrong. But if there is a 1% chance of you being wrong, then which way would rather err? Emotional distress or eternal punishment.

    I respect that you don’t believe, on the other hand that is not the same as being absolutely right.

  7. To Barb: Yes, I’ve read the bible a few times as a child and had to memorize many passages for school. I wasn’t too concerned with the words printed on paper or what the teachers had to say, I was more concerned with my parent’s and grandparent’s input that didn’t mesh with my beliefs. While still a teenager I remember asking Catholic priests (on different occasions) specific questions re: whether I would join my family in the afterlife since I didn’t believe in “John 3:16”. All of them answered that it was essential to believe if I wanted to be saved—even my good deeds would not be enough. Their answers coupled with my family’s convictions put me in a depression spiral.
    Some people don’t understand that this inflexible doctrine is a form of emotional bullying and has the potential to cause suicidal thoughts in a young mind. Forget the priests, the bible, and religion (or more importantly, whom to blame) for a moment, my…family..was…my…life. And after they shunned me it felt like the end of my world.
    I’m aware that other Christian denominations don’t subscribe to the hellfire doctrine-and to their benefit-they were the first group I encountered that led me on the path to healing. Since then I’ve met many wonderful people of all faiths and non-faiths—even some decent Catholics :-)
    I empathize with all groups that have wrangled with civil rights and spiritual issues, most recently the “It gets better” campaign. I’d love to see a popular, well-respected movement that attacks this other beast head-on: maybe something like-‘Stop Spiritual Bullying Now’. I’m happy I didn’t go down that dark path by taking my own life. I don’t know where the courage came from, especially since I decided to confront this demon without prescription drugs, narcotics, alcohol, religion, or binge eating. I took the narrow path and it was a dizzying journey to pick myself up by my bootstraps.
    I don’t live in fear anymore. All that remains is a hollow shell of other-worldly broken promises and a family’s love gone wrong. To those that have trekked on a similar road where you’ve been thrown under the proverbial bus while your family and friends put on their cloak of invincibility, I extend a virtual, profound hug.

  8. To scordova: Thank YOU for posting your article and opening the dialogue. Technically speaking I think you are correct on your Design premise. I didn’t describe my beliefs in their totality and if there IS a 1% chance of their being a hell created by God for the non-believers, then I’m probably condemned. I’m not capable of fake-believing to avoid damnation. So if that minor possibility arises, I’ll be satisfied to know I won’t be the only soul burning, but I would plead with God to eliminate my soul as if I never existed—press option 1 for hellfire or option 2 for extinguishing your soul. What kind of entity would force you to suffer for an ETERNITY over semantics? I’d rather not be a part of that plan. That notion and power is more sadistic (in my humble opinion) than any crime that can be committed by any human in the past, present, or future.

    No disrespect to your God, but think about it for a while. It’s not a pretty picture and some of us don’t have the option to appease the Creator. If those are the cards we are dealt then Shakespeare’s ‘To be or not to be’ has more meaning.

    I hope you agree that there could be other possibilities if God exists, like the simple fact that none of us will be condemned and we’re all on a ‘magical, mystery tour’.

    I still think that the threatening of eternal damnation upon others should be outlawed, whether or not God exists. Some of us in the modern-world have evolved re: issues in the bible pertaining to the maltreatment of women, slaves, etc. I’m concluding that Spiritual Bullying should be the next serious topic to be considered seriously.

  9. Technically speaking, the issue (more alive among Bible-believing Christians than your average orthodox pastor cares to admit) isn’t whether there is or will be a place called “hell.”

    The English word is a translation from the Greek New Testament of the word gehenna, which was the name of a valley outside of Jerusalem where during the kingdom period Israel sacrificed their children to Moloch. And it is my understanding that in Jesus’ day it was the city’s garbage dump.

    The issue is whether hell (also called the lake of fire) is a place of annihilation or unending torment.

    If the latter is true — aside from the impossible task of constructing an ethically coherent theodicy that preserves the goodness of a Creator who would bring beings into existence for the express purpose of torturing them forever — until it is explained to me as a Bible believer how Revelation 21:4 can say, “…there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away,” when all who enter in by the wide gate will remain very much alive and doomed to agony unendingly, I’ll have to go with the former.

    In the meantime, I will remain satisfied that John 3:16 covers all the bases: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Which scripture turns the 1% question around, by a complete about-face, into, “What if there is a 1% chance that Jesus Christ is making eternal life available to you? Right now?”

    That He did exactly that, to me, that is “the good news.”

  10. I’m not capable of fake-believing to avoid damnation.

    I respect that, in fact I salute that you’re sincere in what you believe!

    So if that minor possibility arises, I’ll be satisfied to know I won’t be the only soul burning, but I would plead with God to eliminate my soul as if I never existed—press option 1 for hellfire or option 2 for extinguishing your soul. What kind of entity would force you to suffer for an ETERNITY over semantics? I’d rather not be a part of that plan. That notion and power is more sadistic (in my humble opinion) than any crime that can be committed by any human in the past, present, or future.

    Thank you for your comments, and I’m glad to dialogue with atheists and agnostics. Even though I self identify as a Christian, my personality matches that of a seeking agnostic as described here:

    http://www.atheismresearch.com/

    So you and I probably have something in common if you would classify yourself also as a seeking agnostic.

    As we view the designs in nature, the way creatures die can be quite cruel (for example they get eaten alive, and suffer enormously). Darwin himself was horrified about the cruelty seen in nature.

    I do believe the Designer is quite cruel. I don’t like it, I don’t like to talk about it, but those strike me as the facts. What it means to say, “God is love” has to be tempered with the notion “God is a consuming fire”. If we are made in God’s image, I suppose there is some analogy. I’m quite loving to those I love, and insects and cockroaches, they’d probably view me as quite sadistic when I exterminate them….

    As far as me believing in the Bible, I’m not an inerrantist, but on the other hand, so much of it rings true, so count me in category of saying 98% of the scriptures we have had handed down are accurate, there is about 2% that might be disputed but not the major doctrines…

    I believe that people come to believe by the grace of God, not by their sheer power of belief. If you ever come to believe in God, you’ll know what I mean…

    It may seem strange to some that I keep invoking gambling type arguments where its not just about the odds of being right, it’s about the payoff given the odds. That is the way to beat the casinos, other gamblers, the investment markets, etc. It applies to spiritual truths.

    I post at UD in part to help answer questions indirectly related to God, to Malicious Designs, etc.

    Now with regard to bullying, bullying is telling someone they’re going to hell in order to manipulate them to do what you want. Bullying is denying them food if they don’t agree with you. That’s not the same as a parent who wants his kids to go to heaven instead of hell. Suppose for the sake of argument there is no hell, it’s an honest mistake, its not bullying.

    Also even if something is wrong, it may be a worse crime for outsiders to be meddling in parent child relationships. For example, say a child misbehaves, it’s not my place to punish the child. In similar manner, short of physical endangerment, the sword of the government should be quite reluctant to interfere with parents.

    Why do I say that? I don’t trust government bureaucrats. I’ve seen lots of kids raised up in homes that believed in hell, they didn’t necessarily seem worse off imho.

    As to the cruelty of God, in 2 Cor 4:17, the cruelty we see in the present is part of a larger drama to make heaven more meaningful. I discussed this somewhat in:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....arguments/

  11. To scordova: Refreshing! Cathartic. What a great first experience for me in the blogosphere with pensive, erudite folks. Thank you all for being candid. Who says you can’t have meaningful, intense discussions in this arena?

    I agree with a lot of your points and also think that as ‘seeking agnostics’ we’re finding common ground.

    The pope recently opened Pandora’s Box re: atheists and I think the final outcome will be a more conciliatory tone. I’m hoping this aperture will lead to thought-provoking discussions at the dinner table between parents and their children.

  12. scordova (#11) (and hopefully Happy Agnostic is listening watching in)

    You said,

    I do believe the Designer is quite cruel. I don’t like it, I don’t like to talk about it, but those strike me as the facts. What it means to say, “God is love” has to be tempered with the notion “God is a consuming fire”. If we are made in God’s image, I suppose there is some analogy. I’m quite loving to those I love, and insects and cockroaches, they’d probably view me as quite sadistic when I exterminate them….

    Intelligent design is completely compatible with multiple designers, some benign and loving, and some malevolent. And traditional Christian theology includes not only a God of love, but malevolent designers, both human and superhuman. It is not necessary when one finds a field of mixed wheat and tares to suppose God is completely responsible. Jesus’ own words were “An enemy hath done this.”

    Are Sarin-laced shells, or napalm bombs, designed? Yes. They bear all the marks of intelligent design, even if we couldn’t trace them to the factories where they were built. But don’t blame God for them.

    As for Happy Agnostic (#8), I believe (with what I consider good Scriptural backing) that eventually all lost people will push button #2 and God will accept their choice. Even the bugs that scordova squashes usually die fairly rapidly. And according to standard Christian theology, God is much more loving than scordova (or me).

    That being said, the major concern that I have for the upbringing you have described is not the mention of hell (as scordova said, that could be an honest mistake) as the withdrawal of their personal interaction, the ostracizing and shunning. If someone is bound for hell in spite of the most sincere warnings, the way of Jesus (who covered for Judas as he left after “Satan entered into him” [John 13:27]) should be our modus operandi. We should be making this life as pleasant for them as possible, as that’s all they have. I fear that what you got was more manipulation than love.

    Hopefully you can see past the family who poorly modeled Christianity, to the God Who suffers none of those defects.

  13. Sorry, that was scordova (#10). I thought I had corrected that.

  14. Well, Dawkins is an uncompromising scientist, and he goes where the data lead him, even when the data lead him someplace really uncomfortable. Several years ago there was a study (Rind, B; Tromovitch P Bauserman R (1998)) published in the Psychological Bulletin,a respected and peer-reviewed publication, that seemed to suggest that not all cases of
    adult-child sexual contact result in psychological harm to the child. The blow-back was immediate and severe, with representatives of the American Psychological Association,
    which publishes the Psychological Bulletin, being summoned to the Halls of Congress and bullied, essentially, into disavowing the study. Dawkins, like the authors of the study referred to, is evidently more interested in what is in fact the case, than in how people might feel about what is in fact the case. In that sense, he reminds me of the high-functioning teenaged autistic boy who, asked to deliver a pep talk to his high-school prior to an important football game, analyzed the statistics of his school and the rival school and, at the pep talk, laid out the reasons why his school was probably going to lose. He was astonished at the boos that followed his presentation. Withal, I think Dawkins is a worthy representative of the nullifidian world-view, who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “mealy-mouthed” and is congenitally incapable of equivocation.
    10 minutes ago. · Like

  15. Nice to hear from you Dr. Giem!

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