Richard Dawkins, now aged 74, has been a proponent of atheism in the public eye for close to forty years – approximately since the publication of The Selfish Gene in 1976. At some point during this time, for many people, the biologist became the “bad guy” of atheism. Whilst many of Dawkins’ debates with creationists serve to show him in the more intelligent, rational light than his opponent, it is the way in which he conveys these traits which has caused him to come under fire in recent years. As John Gray writes in The New Statesman, you can find hints of Dawkins’ intolerance towards people whom he considers to be of lower intellect throughout his autobiography, and throughout his life itself. It is this same intolerance for the non-rational through which Dawkins’ sees all religions as the same thing: manipulative, fearmongering institutions which provide almost nothing in helping the human race understand life and the universe itself.
Maybe he is right about some of those attributes – and indeed his ability to rigorously dispense these views is what makes him still one of the most popular atheists on the planet – but many would say that he is not being completely fair. One might initially think that Dawkins’ views about the existence of God come from a non-faith standpoint, in that he seeks to reject ideas that have no empirical evidence. However, when questioned about it in 2013, he explained that even if he was confronted empirically with the existence of a divine being – be it through a “miracle” or however else – this would not be enough to make him a believer. This can be described in no other way than ‘faith in atheism’ because Dawkins would be willing to reject empiricism (the reason for his atheism in the first place) in favour of his own personal views. It is this paradoxical nature of Dawkins that people take issue with – how he on the one hand is apparently opposed to the dogma of religion, but is also highly dogmatic and unforgiving in his atheism.
It is my view that Dawkins has simply gone too far down the rabbit hole of atheism and is now too stubborn to relax the narrowness of his views – agnosticism may not be the answer for him, but for many it is. The ability to say “I’m not completely sure” is what differentiates people like Richard Dawkins from agnostics, and maybe makes them come across as a little bit less closed-minded than he is.