Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Not a Pretty Picture

The Revealer, a daily review of religion and the press, is one of the great sites on the Internet both for its coverage and insightful writing. The lead story right now, by David Sorrell, is titled "South Park Takes on Richard Dawkins."

After providing a synopsis of the two South Park episodes on Dawkins and his new book, The God Delusion, Sorrell sums up -- accurately we think -- the key criticism South Park seems to be making of Dawkins:
extremist enthusiasm for any belief system -- in this case Dawkins’ vaunted atheism and scientific rationality -- can lead to sectarian group-think, absolutism, and even schismatic violence. Replacing religious dogma with atheistic dogma still leaves us with the problems of dogmatism.
As Sorrell points out, South Park isn't going after Dawkins because of his atheism. They have often satirized religious belief in the past. "Rather, it is the slavish thinking and rigid dogmatism that go into any –ism or orthodoxy that South Park is best at lampooning. Dawkins’ abrasive public demeanor and penchant for rhetorical excess is interpreted in South Park’s blunt satire as just as inflexible and uncompromising as any of the religions it targets. This should be a lesson to Dawkins and fellow-travelers to tone down the noise and antagonism of their message if they are going to be persuasive. Yet it also indicates that, unlike Scientology, Islam, or Catholicism, atheism’s ideas, as opposed to its style, proved off limits for even South Park’s religious critique.
For those non-believers who want to defend themselves and the nation's secular institutions from attack by the religious right, all this should be food for thought.

RSR believes effective defense work begins by dividing your enemies and uniting your friends -- not the other way around. Appearing to adopt the dogmatism of the other side is not a useful tool in this respect.


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