Richard Dawkins Guilty of Religious Vilification

Seriously. I thought it before, and now I know it.

As part of my job, I had to read the transcript of the Catch The Fire Seminar on Islam–the one in which the VCAT has found that they were guilty of religious vilification. One of the give aways that this was vilification was the ridicule of Islam which was calculated to produce laughter in the audience. The laughter was transcribed into the transcript.

It hasn’t been transcribed in the transcript of the ABC Radio National Background Briefing Program from 26th November featuring Richard Dawkins reading his new book “The God Delusion” to an audience in the US. The transcript is bad, but when you listen to the audio download, you cannot doubt that this is vilification. Intentional vilification. The laughter is a dead give away, as is the snide tone of Dawkins own reading voice.

I can only say that to me this is the most offensive ridicule of my faith I have ever come across. I don’t know if the ABC could be held accountable–only VCAT could really decide such a thing. All I know is that if Dawkins had given this speech here in Victoria, he would be found guilty of vilification.

The book itself might get away with it as a “scholarly academic” work, or a work in “good faith”. But not this presentation aired by the ABC. It is thoroughly disgraceful. This is something that should concern Jews and Muslims as well as us Christians–because he vilifies us all.

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4 Responses to Richard Dawkins Guilty of Religious Vilification

  1. Peregrinus says:


    Haven’t listened to the ‘Background Briefing’ programme, but I will. Thanks for the link.

    I have to say I’d be concerned about the idea of taking action against the ABC for broadcasting it. If the likes of Richard Dawkins are going about the world presenting their ideas in the fashion that he does, I think we have an interest in knowing about it. And, as you say yourself, we don’t get the full picture of his presentations simply from reading the text of his books.

    When I lived in Ireland, I listened a lot to BBC radio, and Dawkins was frequently to be heard. He was a regular guest whenever a producer needed someone who would comment on religious matters from an anti-religious perspective in an articulate way.

    From my own completely partisan position, I was glad that he received this degree of exposure. He had a deeply unpleasant, cross, sneering, chip-on-the-shoulder manner, and it gave listeners a fresh perspective on where he was coming from, and why he was saying what he was saying. He might have been a [i]convinced[/i] atheist, but he certainly wasn’t a [i]secure[/i] one. Or a [i]happy[/i] one.

    From what you say, it sounds as though the same thing comes across in the talk that the ABC broadcast.

    It certainly didn’t make me feel comfortable to be exposed to this side of Dawkins; in fact it made me angry. But I think at a minimum people are entitled to know about it, and on the whole, in terms of its effect on non-Christians or the undecided, I would actually prefer that people would know about it.

  2. Schütz says:

    I think there is a difference between having Dawkins on as a guest in an interview or as a partner in a debate, or even doing a program about him and his ideas, to this program. This program was Dawkins himself at his own gathering where he is the star speaker, ostensibly to promote his ideas. There is no moderator or moderation–it is Dawkins in full flight playing to his crowd and eliciting reactions (laughter) from them at the expense of religious believers. The full effect is not possible from reading the transcript–you need to listen to the program.

  3. Peregrinus says:

    I will listen to the programme.

    I’d have to say that Dawkins very often got quite an easy ride on the BBC, evern where there was a moderator or interviewer involved. But it didn’t need the editorial voice to point to the nastiness in his presentation of his views; it was quite effective at pointing to itself.

    I did feel disturbed and angry when Dawkins carried on in that way, because it was my beliefs that were being trivialised and misrepresented. But I don’t think I should be entitled to be protected by law from that feeling. And, more to the point in the present context, I don’t think it would serve the interests of Christianity if society at large were protected having its Christian members suffer that feeling. Hearing Dawkins speak, as opposed to reading what he writes, tells an audience something important about his message – something Christians should want the audience to know.

    In short, the very thing which arguably makes Dawkins’ views cross the line into vilification – the sneering, derisive, bigoted tone in which they are presented – is also the very thing which undermines them. The more society hears of it, the better.

  4. Schütz says:

    Yep, right on all counts, Perigrinus. I’m not really serious about taking the ABC or Dawkins to task on this–I just wanted to point out that to any unbiased observer, what Dawkins does in this program as it was aired contravenes the RRTA legislation in Victoria.

    Personally, I would prefer a “gloves off” playing field, and don’t think that anti-vilification legislation is necessarily the way to go.

    Moreover, I don’t think its a good show for Christians to run for the protection of the law in this case, when we are quite capable of standing up for ourselves, thanks very much.

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