Dawkins on Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK was in fact heavily influenced by Gandhi.

For a more informed view, this is an excellent treatment. The chapter about King is in the end.

For what’s worth, Dr. King also said:


Because its inherent in the teachings, does not mean its inherent to those who follow those teachings.

I am regularly amused by the efforts of religious people to engage in attempts at character assassination against scientific figures. The qualities of one’s individual character have no meaningful connection to the objective merits of one’s arguments, and the persistent attempts to link the two betray a total failure to grasp the basis of the scientific method. Rather, the mindset here appears to be a desire to destroy the prophet, in order that his prophecies will be similarly destroyed.

You can see the same approach here, with similarly laughable results.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

There’s always the women’s suffrage movement (can’t link from my bizarre work computer configuration, so here’s a link):


A whole lot of justification was provided, you chose to slam your fingers into your ears and ignore it.

Does that extend to posters on message boards? :dubious:

Well, to be fair, I’ve always maintained that, in current practice, there does legitimately exist a high degree of standardization in orthography, kept afloat by the artificiality of writing as compared to speech.

…that, and, there’s a <dh> in my own name whose <h> people constantly drag to the beginning. :slight_smile:

Admittedly I only skimmed through that, but I didn’t see anywhere where it talked about civil disobedience. It specifically says that their method was to use campaigning and lobbying. That’s something right out of the 1st Amendment, “Congress shall make no law […] abridging […] the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Gandhi isn’t famous (nor MLK Jr.) for petitioning the government. Their method was to use mass strikes and going ahead and doing things they were disallowed from doing, regardless of whether the government tried to stop them. That’s civil disobedience.

Very minor nitpick - M. K. Gandhi’s “native alphabet” would be Gujarati, not Nagari. (Wouldn’t be an ‘alphabet’ either.) Gujarati script is essentially based on it, enough that it has no bearing on your point.

Whether or not Dawkins made the claim, I don’t quite see the point in attacking King that way. Gandhi may not have been a Christian, but he was certainly religious and believed in God; if not a personal one, one with agency nonetheless.

And how is it “inherent in the teachings” ? I see quite the opposite; the teachings of Christianity lend themselves to ruthlessness and brutality.

And a Christian teaching like “kill the heretics” or “slaughter the Jews” is hardly peaceful.

Ummm the teachings of Christ are pretty unambiguous on that front “turn the other cheek”, “blessed are the peacemakers”, and countless other teachings that are clearly teaching non-violence.

None of which appear in the teachings of Christ last time I looked (particularly that second one, what with him being Jewish and all). Its undeniable that christain theology has somehow inspired some unbelibably violent actions, but that doesn’t change the fact they the teachings of Christ are inherently non-violent.

And “I come not to bring peace but a sword”, and him whipping the money changers out of the temple. It’s popular these days to selectively quote him to make him look peaceful. And the worldview of Christianity, by it’s nature encourages and condones massive amounts of violence. Regardless of what he called for, his teachings logically lend themselves to violence.

You said “Christian teachings”, not “the teachings of Christ”, which are two quite separate things.

And teaching people that they ( for example ) have souls and will be rewarded or punished in an afterlife is the opposite of “inherently non-violent”. Such beliefs lend themselves to the most extreme forms of violence, because they teach that human life is worthless, or even negative. “Kill them all and let God sort them out” is a straightforward implication of the Christian worldview.

Very minor continuation of hijack —

Maybe, maybe not. Language and scripts are a very tricky issue in India. The fact that Gandhi himself was Gujarati isn’t sufficient to conclude that he considered the Gujarati alphabet to be his “native script.” A lot of Indians, especially in the north, consider the Sanskrit versions of their names (written in Devanagari) to be the “correct” form of their names, even if their native (“at home”) language is one customarily written in a different script. At least part of the reason is that many people never learn to read and write their “at home” languages, especially if they live in a state where that language is not official.

I don’t know whether there is any record of what form of writing Gandhi himself considered to be the “native” or “true” form for his name, but in many respects he was a pan-Indian, so that suggests to me that it is possible that he considered the Devanagari form of his name to be “correct.”

In fact, though, I have seen his signature only in English – “MKGandhi.” Perhaps then this should be considered the “true” form of his name.

As I said, India is very complicated.

Yeah, that’s what I was thinking, so I was a bit confused as to what the point of this thread was. If Dawkins was found to be a habitual baby-raper tomorrow, that still wouldn’t have any bearing on his arguments.

When I read a nonfiction book by a Christian apologist (or indeed by almost anyone) I expect them to make arguments. That is to say, when they make an assertion, I expect them to present facts and chains of logic to back up that assertion.

Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, does not write that way. He makes assertions, including ones that most people would see as totally off the wall, and usually makes little or no attempt to back them up with facts or logic.* Hence, I’m basically being asked to believe the things he says because he says them.

Given that fact, is it not worth asking whether Dawkins is a trustworthy source? After all, I’m being asked to abandon observation and deduction in favor of simply letting one man instruct me on what to believe. Shouldn’t I at least ask what credentials that one man has? If I failed to do so, wouldn’t I be at high risk of being misled into believing false things?

That, and there’s an obvious second reason for this thread. The purpose of this board is to fight ignorance. Dawkins’ book contains a staggering amount of ignorance. I’m attempting to fight it. People who read my original post will at least know what King actually said, and won’t be tricked by Dawkins’ false statement.

  • I know there will be people shouting “cite!” Here are a few of many examples to demonstrate the point.

In chapter 3, Dawkins addresses the argument for religion from experience by claiming that all religious experiences are hallucinations. He devotes a couple paragraphs to establishing that hallucinations exist. (This was not in question, to my knowledge.) He does not offer any reason to believe that any religious experiences are hallucinations, much less that they all are. Hence, I’m left with the argument that religious experiences are all hallucinations because Richard Dawkins said so.

In chapter 4, Dawkins tries to rebut the anthropic principle by the many universe hypothesis. There are an enormous number of universes, each one with a slightly different set of constants, and that this explains how a universe with constants perfectly set for the emergence of intelligent life popped into being without a designer. Evidence? Not so much.

Chapter 5 is simply ridiculous. He makes all kinds of preposterous assertions and barely bothers attempting to defend any of them with anything like theoretical evidence.

In chapter 7, he spends a great deal of time arguing that a moral zeitgeist exists. (Again, this is not in question.) What he doesn’t defend is the claim that the zeitgeist is entirely determined by his own extremist left-wing rantings. He says that “everybody” would pick a “new ten commandments” similar to his own. His proof of this assertion is to repeat it several times. (I think that most people, if asked to pick ten commandments, would pick the real deal, and would view his list as a bunch of treacly, self-righteous, ultra-PC nonsense, but that’s another thread for another time.)

Chapter 8 is particularly dense with unsupported claims. There’s the one about Alan Turing, dealt with earlier. There’s a repetition of the Galileo myth. There’s the old, meaningless babble about moderation in faith fostering fanaticism. And there are many others.

Chapter 9 gives 8 a run for its money in the nonsense department. Children should not be listed as followers of a religion because they’re too stupid to understand what any religion means. Evidence? None.

And I will emphasize again that these are just a few of many examples that I could give.

The words “civil disobedience” come from an essay written by Thoreau, long before Gandhi was born. As for the basic idea of public, non-violent protests intended to make the authories look bad, examples can be found that go back centuries. Tactics along those lines were sometimes used by the French Huguenots and among the Irish liberation movement. (Yes, I’m aware that the Huguenots used violence at times. There’s no need to point that out.) One might point to the example of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., the father of the King that we all know and love. He was also involved in civil rights movements throughout his life, though he never organized protests on the same scale that his son did. But most obvious of all would be the example of the early Christians in the days of the Roman Empire.

This is an untruth. Dawkins does not claim that all religious experiences are hallucinations. What Dawkins does say is that there is a possibility that some religious experiences are hallucinatory, imagined, or genuine experiences misinterpreted by the brain. He does not claim this is true of all religious experiences, nor indeed most, and in fact gives only a couple of examples which he suggests could be. He does offer reasoning to believe that religious experiences may be hallucinations; in fact, *his very first paragraph *outlines a example of a religious experience that may have been due to a mishearing.

Again, this is untrue. The point to which he is objecting with the notion of many-universe theory is the theory that a universe must by necessity be set up as ours is, that there cannot be a universe that is not set up like ours, not the anthropic principle. Further, in the very paragraph he brings up the suggestion, and indeed he refers to it as a suggestion, by citing an academic paper - sounds like an attempt at providing evidence to me. So not only is his rebuttal to something other than what you say it is, he does, in fact, provide evidence. This particular paragraph of yours then is entirely incorrect.

I obviously can’t agree or disagree with such a general indictment.

Again, this is false. First off, as he says, it’s not “his” commandments, he found them on the net. And second, to quote;

And then, shockingly, he goes on on the next page to point out commandments that he would add to those ones; if indeed, as you claim, he believes all would agree with the ones he has brought up, why would *he himself *want to add to them?

I’m interested in your assertion that most people would pick the original ten commandments. You believe that the majority of people would choose to consider the Christian God their only god? To not worship any other gods but he? To not take God’s name in vain? To keep the Sabbath holy? I doubt it, and I considerably hope not. Certainly many would keep rules against murder and theft. But I rather suspect they’d drop quite a few; what makes you think the majority of the world - a non-Christian majority, at that - would elect to use those particular commandments in their worldview?

I disagreed with you on Turing and I believe i’ve agreed moderation in faith provides cover for fanaticism, though not necessarily in a debate with you.

On this one, however, I agree with you, though again I find your terms to be impressively chosen. Dawkins calls childen “unknowing and uncomprehending”, not stupid, and I too would not call those words synonymous - this may of course merely be a semantic difference. But I do agree he does not provide evidence that children are as credulous as he claims.

I hope the others are more impressive.

Well, I’ll be dhamned! :smiley:

Here 's what he actually says.

“This argument from personal experience is the one that is most convincing to those who claim to have had one. But it is the least convincing to anyone else, and anyone knowledgeable about psychology.”

After one of his typical page-long descents into mindless hatred and bigotry, he then spends the rest of the section explaining that hallucinations and illusions exist.

So if claims about personal experiences are never convincing to any person except the person who had the experience, and if the only “reason” offered for this is that hallucinations exist, this logically means that every personal religious experience is a hallucination. That’s very obviously what Dawkins wants the reader to take away from the section. What else can it mean?

Further, I’ve met plenty of people who trust religious experiences without having one, including several professional psychiatirsts. Are professional psychiatrists “knowledgeable about psychology”? Apparently Dawkins doesn’t think so. But at no point does he provide reason why he doesn’t think so. I’m left to either trust his word or not.

The rest of the section (and the entire book) is equally full of unsupported claims. “George W. Bush says that God told him to invade Iraq”. Oh? Could we have a citation? If not, then why not?

Again, let’s see what he says. Dawkins agrees that there needs to be a good explanation for how our universe came into being with constants fine-tuned for the existence of life. Merely saying that we wouldn’t be here without them is “unsatisfactory” (bottom of page 144). So then:

“This objection can be answered by the suggestion which Martin Rees himself supports, that there are many universes”.

The actual notes to this section aren’t any help. The bibliography mentions Just six Numbers by Rees. I haven’t actually read it, but based on summaries I’ve read in other books, I don’t think Rees actually says what Rees wishes he says. Rees certainly does not claim to offer physical evidence for the existence of a multiverse bearing infinite numbers of universes. So what evidence are we left with, supporting the claim that such a multiverse is probable? The fact that richard Dawkins says so. Nothing more.

But did MLK Jr. pick up on the idea of civil obedience from these sources, principally, or from Gandhi?

I mean you can say that batteries were invented by the Ancient Incans, but that doesn’t mean that we should say that Benjamin Franklin developed his batteries thanks to Native American technology, rather than due to the work of Alessandro Volta.