Monday, 5 January 2015

Richard Dawkins - The Beatles of atheism

A fan or not, you can't deny the success and influence of The Beatles. Their sales number in the 100s of millions (600 million approximately) and I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone in the music industry that isn't influenced by them (at least indirectly) let alone has not heard of them. They weren't the first to do what they did, but they were the first to reach the heights they did.

Richard Dawkins is the same. His 2006 book The God Delusion has sold over 2 million copies and I have seen it cited by many as the reason they became an atheist or became a vocal atheist. Dawkins would be the headline speaker at any atheism based event. Like The Beatles in the music industry, you'd be hard pressed to find a vocal atheist who hasn't heard of Richard Dawkins. He wasn't the first to do what he did, but he was the first to reach the heights he did.

The Beatles were not strangers to controversy. When touring the Philippines in 1966 they were invited to a breakfast with first lady Imelda Marcos. The Beatles Manager Brian Epstein declined on their behalf but the breakfast went ahead, only sans The Beatles and they were criticised for 'snubbing' the first lady. There is also the famous incident where John Lennon stated that The Beatles were 'more popular than Jesus now.' The comment hardly caused a stir in the UK, but the US, particularly the south, was a different story. An Alabama radio station, WAQY, banned The Beatles music and held a bonfire to burn The Beatles records. Dozens of stations followed suit. 

The twitter world of Richard Dawkins consists mostly of controversy, even if what he says is logical and rational. There are too many examples to list them individually but it goes something like this:

Dawkins: If X then sometimes Y
Fool1: So you're saying it's okay to X? How dare you!?
Fool2: Your [sic] an awful human!
Fool3: Stick to biology!

They completely ignore that If X then sometimes Y is true. They ignore that Richard is neither endorsing nor condemning anything, but merely stating something he's observed. Media picks up this controversy and runs with it and then Richard apologises for the misunderstanding. Repeat. I honestly think most people aren't smart enough to understand Dawkins. The problem here is he was the Professor for Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford. A position that should have honed his ability to communicate to those not on the same wavelength as him. But he does sometimes seem not very good at it.

Inevitably with anything popular it becomes 'cool' or 'rebellious' to be among those who no longer like the popular thing. 'Oh, y'all like x? I don't, look at me, aren't I cool?' or 'x? Really? x is so overrated.' 

Google search 'The Beatles overrated' and you get back 340,000 results. 59% of people on say The Beatles are overrated. The Top Tens website puts The Beatles as the most overrated band of all time. 

In 2013 Owen Jones writing for The Independent in the UK published an article titled "Not in our name: Dawkins dresses up bigotry as non-belief - he cannot be left to represent atheists" and it's really not hard to find someone admitting to being an atheist but 'hating' Richard Dawkins. 

One last thing they have in common: I like The Beatles and I like Dawkins and I'm sure my life is better for them being in it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment