Andrew Brown gets it wrong … again, as usual


Andrew Brown, a journalist, writer, and editor of the belief section of the Guardian‘s Comment is Free, has had what can best be described as a bit of a rant in his Monday column. He devotes his entire scribbling output to a moan about Richard Dawkins pointing out the lunacy of some beliefs …

On Sunday afternoon he was at it again, wondering why the New Statesman employs an imaginative and believing Muslim:

Mehdi Hasan admits to believing Muhamed [sic] flew to heaven on a winged horse. And New Statesman sees fit to print him as a serious journalist.”

But this is only half the fun. The real comedy comes when he lifts his face from the pie, dripping scorn and custard, to glare at the audience who can’t see how very rational he is. Because there are some people who don’t understand that everything Dawkins says illuminates the beauty of reason.

For instance, Tom Watson, the MP who pursued Murdoch, tweeted back almost at once: “You really are a gratuitously unpleasant man”. To this Dawkins replied “Actually no. Just frank. You’d ridicule palpably absurd beliefs of any other kind. Why make an exception for religion?”

Er no … Prof Dawkins was not suggesting that Mr Hasan being a Muslim was a problem,he was simply pointing out that an apparently rational sane modern human also truly believes that Mohammed flew to heaven on a magical winged horse. For committing such treason against an utterly irrational belief, Mr Brown also goes on to assert that prof Dawkins is both dripping in “scorn” and also “glaring”. If you opt read the article, then you better get you Wellingtons on before you click the link because you will be wading into text that is knee-deep in ad-hominems.

Mr Brown carries on by pulling out the old canard and rather daftly labels Prof Dawkins a bigot racist Islamophobe.

OK, lets clear up a few things …

  • Criticism of all ideas and beliefs is fine … religion is not in some way special or exclusive, and so it is not entitled to a free pass. If for example Prof Dawkins has been critical of some other idea, for example a scientific or political one, that would have passed without notice, but because he dared to criticise a religious idea he is labelled a racist islamophobic bigot … now that charge is quite frankly insane.
  • “racism”, really?  … Islam is not a race, it is a belief system, anybody of any race can embrace it.
  • The criticism was directed against against an idea, a rather daft one that asserts that a magical winged horse actually existed and carried a human up into a place that does not actually exist in any measurable or meaningful way.
  • Hasan himself is not exactly squeaky clean in any fashion at all, not only does he openly embrace bat-shit insane ideas, he promotes them. For example he has asserted that all non-Muslims (and that means you), are cattle and people of no intelligence. So he apparently gets a free pass and is allowed to deploy some truly weird criticism of other views, but when his are criticised, it is Islamophobia!! … nope, sorry, all ideas and beliefs are open to criticism, no exceptions.

There is no middle ground here, either something is true or it is not, and winged magical horses are clearly in the “not” category. Not only is it a fact that Mr Hasan is believing stuff that is simply not part of our reality and so is clearly wrong, but Mr Brown’s assertion that those that point this out are in some way racist bigots is also factually incorrect and wrong.

Rational criticism matters, there is no belief or idea that merits a special pass or is entitled to reside within a special criticism-free reserve. Toleration of bad ideas leads to toleration of the bad actions that are motivated by such bad ideas.

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