Richard Dawkins is laughing up his sleeve.
I wasn’t in any hurry to buy this book. I had already read and admired every other book of Dawkins’, and had read enough in the press to have a good idea of what this book contained, and to know that I would agree with it, as I had with Dennet’s “Breaking the Spell”.
But I saw it in the bookstore at Luton airport, and couldn’t resist buying it for Enrico – and myself. We both read through it quickly, enjoying Dawkins’ elegant prose and wry wit brought to bear on some of our favorite targets.
It’s amusing to watch all the mudslinging by religious commentators (and even some atheists), shrilly accusing Dawkins of being strident and dogmatic in his non-belief. Apparently they don’t know about the Streisand Effect, an Internet phenomenon whereby raising a fuss about something brings it more attention than it would otherwise have enjoyed.
Not that I think the world would have ignored Dawkins, but surely some of the book’s sales (23 weeks on the NYT bestseller list so far) have been due to the huge amounts of publicity he has gotten from people anxious to vilify him.
Will this book succeed in Dawkins’ aim of “converting” people to unbelief? I’m doubtful. But, judging by some of the comments on Dawkins’ website and elsewhere, he has at least made many atheists feel more comfortable with acknowledging publicly what they have long felt privately – they are indeed “coming out of the closet.”
I don’t think Dawkins deserves the label of “strident” that so many, even on his own side, have applied to him. In the interviews I’ve seen and read, he’s remarkably polite, especially considering what’s being said about and to him.
At any rate, if you think he’s strident, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. I’m now reading Perché Non Possiamo Essere Cristiani (e Meno Che Mai Cattolici) – “Why We Can’t be Christian, and Less Than Never Catholic” – by Piergiorgio Odifreddi. If this ever gets translated into English, Dr Odifreddi will probably find a fundamentalist Christian/Catholic fatwa raised against him. (Italian Catholics are generally more relaxed about such things.)