We Can Save Atheism From the New Atheists Like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris

Richard Dawkins, Screengrab
Richard Dawkins, Screengrab
There must be another way for nonbelievers than to transform, as Dawkins and Harris have done, into toxic know-it-alls.

By Jeff Sparrow|The Guardian/Alternet

Why are the New Atheists such jerks? Case in point: Richard Dawkins’ continuing pursuit of Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas 14-year-old humiliated in school after authorities mistook his homemade clock for a bomb.

The other day, The God Delusion author called Ahmed a hoaxer and responded to suggestions “he was only a kid” by linking to a report about a juvenile Islamic State (Isis) fighter. “And how old is this ‘kid’?” Dawkins asked.

Dawkins has been after the teenager for some time. When the story of Ahmed’s arrest and interrogation in handcuffs first broke, Dawkins questioned the boy’s motives, before linking to a video suggesting Ahmed wasn’t quite the inventor as he claimed.

“Assembling clock from bought components is fine,” tweeted Dawkins to his 1.3m followers. “Taking clock out of its case to make it look as if he built it is not fine. Which is true?”

The intervention exemplified everything toxic about Dawkins’ online persona. It’s not just the unedifying spectacle of an internationally famous biologist seeking to discredit a teenager’s science project, like a 9/11 truther obsessing about jet fuel. It’s also Dawkins’ disgraceful juxtaposition between Ahmed and an Isis supporter in Syria.

“How COULD you think I was likening a hoaxer to a killer?” he later posted. “I just meant ‘Only a kid’ is not a knockdown defence. Remember poor James Bulger?”

Except, of course, Dawkins hadn’t compared Ahmed to Bulger, who was murdered in 1993 by two 10-year-old boys. He’d linked a youth falsely accused of terrorism on the basis of his religion to Isis, precisely the kind of smear that any FOX news demagogue might make.

Then there’s the author, philosopher, and neuroscientist Sam Harris – another New Atheist luminary.

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