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Thursday, May 17, 2007
Rev Jerry Falwell RIP

Today, one must sadly report the death of Rev Jerry Falwell. Here is a link to one of the obits. To save you the trouble of reading the piece in full, here is one of the Rev’s attested utterances, made immediately after the demolition of the WTC, that appear in all the obits I have read so far:
The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays, and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union], People for the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularise America - I point the finger in their face and say: 'You helped this happen.'
Please note that this comment was made very soon after the attack so one might, perhaps, excuse a measure of hyperbole; but not this much, surely?

Now, as it happens, there is a group of atheists: Dawkins, Hitchens (C), Dennett, Harris, et al, promoting their books in the US and Canada at this very moment. Many insults have been hurled at them: bigots, liars, intolerant, strident, shrill, abrasive, fundamentalist – you name it. Having read some of their books and followed a lot of the interviews, I can only say that the terms apply much more to the dear departed.

Richard Dawkins, in particular, has been the most criticised, probably because he has the highest profile. In one quite disgraceful interview, Bill O’Reilly of (US) Fox news interrupts Dawkins at every turn, to express his (O'Reilly's) opinions. Dawkins remains equable and does not show the slightest sign of intemperance. You can watch here. At a rough count, O’Reilly gives his views for two-thirds of the 'interview'. Is Dawkins strident and bigoted, even given some provocation? Not on this showing.

But let’s contrast Dawkins with Falwell. As it happens, Dawkins wrote an article in the immediate aftermath of 11 September 2001 – it was published on 15 September. Here’s the link. Even if one cannot accept his whole thesis, one has to admire the sang-froid of Dawkins’s argument. Let’s conclude with his most trenchant statement, from the final paragraph:
To fill a world with religion, or religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns. Do not be surprised if they are used.
What a notable contrast in the way ‘a man of God’ and a prominent atheist interpreted that awful event. And with the benefit of several years of analysis, Dawkins's explanation looks so much better, don't you think?

In a second interview (sic) with Fox 'news', Christopher Hitchens got in the last word: If Falwell had had an enema just before he died, they could have buried him in a matchbox.

So elegantly put!
"looks so much better, don't you think?"


evangelists give
'the Christian ethic' a bad name,
as terrorists give Islamism a bad name.
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