Dinesh D’Souza has a truly awful opinion piece up in which he basically accuses atheists of being hateful robots. Why? Because Richard Dawkins wasn’t invited to any of the memorials at Virginia Tech, and because he couldn’t spot any atheists in the crowds (I’m wondering what he thinks we look like, that he can say there weren’t any there.)
Is this really one of the prominent thinkers of the American Right?
Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found. Every time there is a public gathering there is talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing. Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning.
Has Mr D’Souza tried asking around? I suspect that even when tragedies don’t occur, he has problems finding atheists. Does he think we vanish in a puff of smoke when evil occurs? We’re here. We’re mourning the death of those students and faculty, too — that we are left out of any public acknowledgment of our existence does not mean we do not feel the pain, too.
The atheist writer Richard Dawkins has observed that according to the findings of modern science, the universe has all the properties of a system that is utterly devoid of meaning. The main characteristic of the universe is pitiless indifference. Dawkins further argues that we human beings are simply agglomerations of molecules, assembled into functional units over millennia of natural selection, and as for the soul–well, that’s an illusion!
That is not quite correct. The universe is lacking any overarching cosmic meaning — it’s almost all empty and hostile to life, for one thing, which ought to give D’Souza a clue — but that does not mean that we individual human beings, atheist or not, don’t find meaning in our relationships with other people, in the interactions with our communities, in family and work. We have spouses and children. We love other people. We worry about those loved ones. When we see bloody horrors like the killings in Virginia, we feel empathy and regret and anger.
The only pitiless indifference here is D’Souza’s, who dehumanizes those people who don’t share his foolish faith and bestows on us a caricature of our beliefs — he is an unfeeling monster himself, who wants to deny basic humanity to us.
To no one’s surprise, Dawkins has not been invited to speak to the grieving Virginia Tech community. What this tells me is that if it’s difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil. The reason is that in a purely materialist universe, immaterial things like good and evil and souls simply do not exist. For scientific atheists like Dawkins, Cho’s shooting of all those people can be understood in this way–molecules acting upon molecules.
Dawkins has not been invited to speak, true enough; it’s understandable, since he is living in a far-off country and doesn’t have any direct ties to Virginia Tech, as far as I know. Has the Pope, the Dalai Lama, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, David Miscavage of the Church of Scientology, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Premier of the People’s Republic of China, or David Hasselhoff been invited to speak? Shall we take that as a rebuke of everything they stand for?
I suspect that if Dawkins were asked, and if he felt it were appropriate, he certainly would have been willing to speak before the grieving families, and I’m sure he would have spoken words of consolation. They would not have been those false promises of religion, but they would have expressed the regret and concern that we all feel, theist and atheist. There were people in that crowd who were atheists. They lost people they cared about, and they were not babbling unfeelingly about “molecules acting upon molecules” … unlike this insensitive clod, D’Souza.
If this is the best that modern science has to offer us, I think we need something more than modern science.
Since D’Souza’s cranky remarks are based on distortions and lies about atheism and science built by bigoted proponents of a mindless religion, they reflect more on that religion than anything of science. We definitely need something more than the delusions D’Souza thrives upon.