I was just watching the Root of All Evil again, and it reminded me of some of the criticism I have heard of Richard Dawkins, even from atheists.
I often hear people say that he is too militant, or too anti-religion. I agree that Richard Dawkins is very critical of religion, and I agree that he seems to have a short temper when debating (remember his interview with Ted Haggard in the film? He looked like he wanted to punch him in the mouth as badly as I did), but I still think that he is doing all atheists a great service.
It is true that he thinks religion is dangerous and believing in things without evidence is ignorant and harmful. But it is also true that he says he is a "cultural christian", in that he does not desire to rid the world of religious music, art, or some of its traditions. As an atheist, I have to agree with him. And I have trouble understanding other atheists who argue that we should just let religion alone and mind our own business.
I have to wonder, do these people watch the news? How can they not be extremely troubled by the things that are happening as a direct result of religion? How can they be so apathetic to it all? I can't help feeling outraged when I hear about honor killings of Islamic women or about Bush waging his holy war in Iraq or about the majority of the U.S. population denying scientific facts in favor of fantasies.
How can these things not make you angry? Really, I would love to know. Because ever since I became an atheist and started researching things, I have become increasingly upset about the absolutely harmful effects of religion on the advancement of our society. Are things getting worse? No, of course not. They have improved. Atheists used to be burned at the stake. But does that mean that we should stop speaking out and stop being outraged by ignorance and introlerance?
I agree that Richard Dawkins is quite terrible at reaching believers. He is far too emotional and anti-faith to get through to them. But I believe that what he is doing serves a different purpose. It serves to wake atheists up. To make us aware of the harmful things that are occuring, and to make us passionate. To help us to "come out", and not be ashamed to tell our friends and co-workers that we don't believe in their god. For this, I am very grateful to Richard Dawkins.
If it weren't for people like him and Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, PZ Meyers, and many others, I would be a lot less interested and passionate about this world that we live in and its future. All of these people are outspoken, and some may say, militant atheists. But I think we owe them our gratitude for speaking out on our behalf. Especially for American atheists, if it weren't for these "new" atheists and these online communities filled with non-believers, many of us would have nowhere to turn to for support.