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Was Dawkins cruel?

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I would've gone with "delusion" rather than "hallucination" myself.


In this instance, and any other I've ever heard or read, he is by no means cruel. Not even harsh. Just forthright. I was actually kind've disappointed when I finally started reading his stuff, expecting a bold, offensive cruelty, but only found unapologetically polite directness :P His reputation is definitely not earned :(

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Yes, hallucination was the wrong word, unless the guy somewhere claimed to have actually seen Jesus. Maybe he was being harsh (not holding back his opinion in deference to the man's beliefs), but I think forthright would be the better description. As for cruelty, the other man would have had to be lying about the strength of his beliefs if having them questioned agonized him.

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I think 'hallucination' was the right word, since the speaker seemed to be describing an actual sensation of the real presence of Christ in his life. Christians often claim that they know that Christ is real because they have direct, inner experience of his presence which is so convicing phenomenologically that they cannot doubt it. But in this conviction they ignore statements in the Bible which warn that the Devil may often appear to the mind in the guise of something holy, so I wonder how they can be so sure on the basis of a mere sensation that they are not just indulging in wish fulfillment, cultural delusion, or self-serving self-deception.


The proper attitude to take is to insist of all the odd convictions and sensations that spontaneously sweep through the mind and at least temporarily suggest to us that we have reached some strange or unique insight is that they be held up to the standards of rationality, and if they are consistent with it, they can be provisionally accepted as genuine revelations, but otherwise not.


The OP raises the interesting question generally of why people are condemned for ridiculing religious belief, when greeting Holocaust deniers or global warming deniers with hoots of derision is considered just fine. People hold many beliefs quite dearly, and just as some people may be crushed by being told that others find their belief in the Sun God stupid, others may burst into tears if you make fun of their belief in a flat earth. For some reason religion still maintains a hold on our secular age by its continued ability to insist that we respect everyone's religious beliefs, even though we can freely ridicule all their other beliefs.

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Hallucinations don't have to be visual.

If the word used was "delusion" or "dream" or whatever the man's reaction would probably have been much the same.

I think it's the right word but the OP's question was is it cruel?

I don't think it's cruel any more than it is cruel to explain to children that bad things happen.

Sometimes you just have to give bad news.

Whether or not Prof Dawkins could have found a "gentler" way of putting it I don't know , but I can't see how he could have told the truth (as he sees it) and kept the man happy.

Shattering (d)illusions isn't cruel; it's kind.

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Shattering (d)illusions isn't cruel; it's kind.


Sometimes. My best friend loves a certain pair of blue shorts. But, everyone in our group of friends agrees that she looks hideous in these shorts. I had to be the one to tell her that these shorts looked awful. It was shattering a delusion she held, but it was not kind. It was simply the truth.

Edited by A Tripolation
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I wrote this about a year and a half ago in context of the gay marriage debate. Seems sort of relevant to the questions asked here:



There are certain behaviors which absolutely should be shunned and ostracized if we are to advance ourselves as a species. This is how we strengthen the pack. And, you know what? I don't respect all beliefs. I don't respect people who think that the easter bunny is real, and I don't respect people who think global warming is a big conspiracy. I certainly respect their right to believe what they want, but I don't have to respect the belief itself. This is a crucial difference. I respect your right to believe what you want, but the belief itself is not worthy of ANY respect or deference if the belief itself is ridiculous, fallacious, and/or based on nothing more than scripture.


My argument is simply this. It is not only okay to ostracize bigoted and hateful mindsets, but it's actually important, imperative, and indispensable. I ostracize racists. I ostracize child molesters. I ostracize cheats, and liars, and thieves, as do we all. In much the same way, I ostracize homophobes, and I speak out openly and passionately against those who seek to legislate their homophobic bigotry... a bigotry grounded in nothing more than their special book of fairy tales written by barely literate tribal peoples during the iron age... bigotries selectively chosen for no good reason, all while they ignore other teachings in their special book of fairy tales about behaviors and actions in which they themselves might engage... such as infidelity.


So yeah... It sure would suck gigantic donkey nuts if I were the one being ostracized. I concede that. However, I accept that possibility in the knowledge that it's more important to stand up for what is right than to remain silent in hopes that the same bright light of truth won't be shone upon my own faults.


Yes, we should ostracize these people, point out their hypocrisy, and demonstrate how laughably inconsistent and ignorant they are. At the same time, it's important to note that this is about much more than ridicule. It is about equality, and it is about fighting for what is right, even when we may be doing so at the expense of our own ability to get away with things.


Please don't dismiss our desire to call attention to these issues as merely a desire to "ridicule," as that is not only inaccurate and disingenuous, but also disrespectful of the actual position being put forth.



And here's something from Sam Harris, author and neuroscientist:




Harris acknowledges that he advocates a benign, corrective form of intolerance, distinguishing it from historic religious persecution. He promotes a conversational intolerance, in which personal convictions are scaled against evidence, and where intellectual honesty is demanded equally in religious views and non-religious views. He also argues for the need to counter inhibitions that prevent the open critique of religious ideas, beliefs, and practices under the auspices of "tolerance."


Harris argues that such conversation and investigation are essential to progress in every other field of knowledge. As one example, he suggests that few would require "respect" for radically differing views on physics or history; instead, he notes, societies expect and demand logical reasons and valid evidence for such claims, while those who fail to provide valid support are quickly marginalized on those topics. Thus, Harris suggests that the routine deference accorded to religious ideologies constitutes a double standard, which, following the events of September 11, 2001 attacks, has become too great a risk.


In the 2007 PBS interview, Harris said, "The usefulness of religion, the fact that it gives life meaning, that it makes people feel good is not an argument for the truth of any religious doctrine. It's not an argument that it's reasonable to believe that Jesus really was born of a virgin or that the Bible is the perfect word of the creator of the universe. You can only believe those things or you should be only able to believe those things if you think there are good reasons to believe those things."

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