Richard Dawkins is Coming to My Campus (And I Need Your Help)!

This Friday, October 11th, the great evolutionary biologist and pope of the Atheists Richard Dawkins will be stopping by my campus as part of his An Appetite for Wonder book tour. I first heard of this only a week ago in that Atheism class that I kind of sort of mentioned in that one post. If you’re familiar with what I tend to post on this blog, you know I don’t really gush about popular figures. While I admire plenty of people, I don’t tend to have specific idols. (Oscar Wilde may be the closest to an exception, but I’m not very foppish and don’t believe in the mighty sovereignty of aestheticism). However, I must say that I became inordinately excited that Dawkins was coming to campus (and that the event is freaking FREE for students).

Richard Dawkins - Appetite for Wonder US Book Tour

I need your help. 

I first heard about Dawkins in relation to his ideas on religion, undoubtedly through YouTube. It was shortly afterwards that I looked into his books. I have The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype, gifted to me by a good friend of mine and fellow Dawkins admirer of sorts. The only books of his that I have read so far are The Blind Watchmaker (fantastic read to get a better grip on the basics of evolution) and The God Delusion (an entertaining and often insightful look at the arguments against the belief in God). While I don’t agree with every single idea that comes out of his mouth, I do agree with many of his points, his passion for science, and his all-around humor.

What I need your help with is coming up with a question for Dawkins during the Q&A portion of the event. A mic will be given to the audience, so that people can ask him questions. I’d love to ask him a question, but I do not yet know what I want to ask him exactly. I have an idea of what I want to get at, but I don’t know how to phrase it.

This is where your help comes in.

One of my thoughts concerns Dawkins’ continual rejection of the assertion that Dawkins is himself a fundamentalist – just a fundamentalist of science rather than a Christian fundamentalist. I’ve read and heard his replies and I do not want to ask him this question that he has head perhaps hundreds of times.

What I want to get at is whether or not he acknowledges the merits of religion – not a specific religion, but the concept of religion in general. Religion is wildly popular – that’s a gross, gross understatement. It is a worldwide phenomenon and it seems so… natural. Religion appeals to our humanity in a way that science does not quite do. It’s true that science has the capacity to be wondrous, awe-inspiring, and beautiful – poetic, even – but it doesn’t have the emotional oomph that religion seems to have. Humans are magical thinkers. We can not help but to initially attribute phenomena to supernatural forces with workings beyond our human grasp.

Science lacks the spiritual element (figuratively speaking). Sure, scientists hold conferences and schmooze with each other here and there, but it doesn’t provide that connectedness that religion generally seems to have. Of course, unfortunately, pretty much all the major religions are salvationist and guilt-based, teaching people that they are not good enough as they are and that they need to work toward some better transcendental life or some such nonsense. That is no good obviously, but that does not mean that religion in itself is bad, does it?

According to people like Dawkins, science and rationality is enough to amaze us, to keep us enthralled with life, the world, and everything. But where does irrationality fit into all of this? Surely, he isn’t supporting a Vulcan-like existence, where everyone must always be logical at every point of life…

Can you help me formulate a question around this? Or even come up with other questions? What do you want me to ask Dawkins (if I do in fact get a chance to ask him anything)? You have until Friday, October 11th 7PM (PST) to get in on the action, so please, please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

“Homosexuality is a sin!” And Other Words of Crazy Bible Thumpers

When the sun comes out in full display, the crazies come out and want to play.

The university I go to is smack dab in the center of the largest city in the state. This city has a reputation of being eccentric, liberal, and full of hippies and hipsters alike. About 29,000 people attend this school and thousands of students pass through the heart of campus, the Park Blocks, everyday.

Bring on the Bible thumpers.

“Homosexuality is a sin!”

All right, pretty tame by Jesus freak standards. Heard this before. Next.

“All sinners are going to Hell.”

Yawn. Yeah, yeah, we know. Anything else?

“Depression is the accumulation of your sins.”

Which inspired this reply from a student: “No, f#ckhead, it’s biological.”

Now we’re getting somewhere. Time to grab some lunch and watch the rest of the show.

Proselytizers love standing on the benches in the Park Blocks to spout the mighty word of God – or their superior interpretation of it at least. It never fails to draw a crowd – and oh what a crowd we have today. Let the monkey show begin.

Most times, these people are harmless and easy to ignore. They just stand around shouting to the air and whomever is bored or mildly interested enough to listen. Sometimes, there are multiple people, however and they carry large signs with bold letters that read: “God hates fags.” The leader will hold up a microphone to his religiously fouled mouth and preach what amounts to nothing more than bigoted hate speech.

Bible Thumper hate speech

Where’s the love? Whatever happened to God loving everyone? [Insert Carlin rant here]

These people in all their ignorance and spite are actually quite fascinating. I would love to catch a specimen and do some prodding tests to get to the bottom of what the hell they are and why the hell they do what they do.

Fortunately, those crazies with the signs haven’t been around recently. This day, it was just two guys, who traded shifts every couple of hours or so. I didn’t get to hear the rest of the first guy’s preaching as I was on my way to meet up with a friend, but I got to pass back by a little while later. The young guy had turned into a post-middle aged man.

The day was winding down, so there weren’t nearly as many people on campus and hanging out in the Park Blocks. The man still had a small audience in a semicircle in front of him, though. After buying a Coke, I joined the audience, picking a spot off to the side. From where I was positioned, I could only hear his louder proclamations. His mellower responses to the people directly in front of him were out of ear shot.

From what I could make out, he was talking about sex (ooo, scandalous). And based on the reactions of the people around him, it was the sexist, “religious purity” crap. Something to do with girls staying virgins until marriage. Dude, it’s a bit late to spread that message to a crowd of youngish liberal college students.

His speechifying then gravitated toward the reproductive organs.

“There is a flap of skin between the legs of a man called the scrotum.”

Man in crowd: “TESTICLES!”

Laughter.

“What is the female equivalent of the testicles?”

Woman in crowd: “Ovaries!”

No bother masking the sardonicism. “I’m a health major. Thank God for fifth grade sex ed!”

And so this went on for some time longer. I don’t really know why he was giving us an anatomy lesson.  Something more about virginal girls, unclean sinful sex, his wife blah blah blah. And something to do with heterosexual coitus being the only God-ordained type of coitus. He made the cliched “the only purpose of sex is to reproduce” and that is why homosexual sex is bad bad bad. Another sexist comment.

Man in crowd: “And what about women who can’t have children? And women going through menopause?”

Your rational reasoning is wasted, sir. What’s the point? Preacher Man ain’t going to have his mind changed. I wonder how many minds Preacher Man has changed? I doubt he changed anyone’s perspective on our campus that day (but who knows, maybe he did. Probably not.)

As I was reaching the end of my bottle of Coke and attention span, I heard music a few dozen yards down the Park Blocks. It was the university acapella group. How refreshing. Some attention diverted from the hate and ignorance being squawked by the religious nut. Something positive and less tiresome to counteract the sex organ-obsessed Bible thumper.

I debated whether to stay with the Jesus freak or go to listen to the acapella group. The debate was a short one.

Just as I joined the small group of people enjoying the musical entertainment, the acapella group started whooping and cheering and setting off poppers. Back at the Bible thumper crowd, people started cheering and clapping, too.

It took me a moment to see why. A woman had her arms wrapped tightly around a man in a suit and they both looked ecstatic. They kiss. And hug. And kiss again. I’m not much a romantic sentimentalist *cough*yeahright*cough*, but the scene just tugged at my heart strings. The man gave the acapella group a Chesire cat grin and two big thumbs up. The newly engaged woman turns to see familiar faces, “omg, you’re here, and you’re here, too” etc, etc. She shows off the ring with a Chesire cat grin of her own.

Not bad. Finally, a message of love.

Now here’s George Carlin with a special message:

Thoughts on these type of folks? Have you had any run-ins with Bible thumpers?