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Prominent Atheist Richard Dawkins Defends ‘Mild Pedophilia’

Richard Dawkins, an Oxford University professor and author of a bestselling book defending atheism entitled, “The God Delusion,” has provoked outrage with his comments on child sex abuse:

Salon.com reports:

In a recent interview with the Times magazine, Richard Dawkins attempted to defend what he called “mild pedophilia,” which, he says, he personally experienced as a young child and does not believe causes “lasting harm.”

Dawkins went on to say that one of his former school masters “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts,” and that to condemn this “mild touching up” as sexual abuse today would somehow be unfair.

“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today,” he said.

Plus, he added, though his other classmates also experienced abuse at the hands of this teacher, “I don’t think he did any of us lasting harm.”

Read the full story here.

I find these comments as sad as they are infuriating. But they are the logical extension of Dawkins’s belief system. In a world without God, there is no such thing as an absolute right and wrong. In this sense, though we may rightly be shocked by his remarks, we shouldn’t be surprised by them. This is what moral relativism means–plain and simple. At least we can say this for Mr. Dawkins–he is being logically consistent.

Normally, Dawkins’s brand of cocky, biting atheism angers me. But today, as I read his words, I can’t help feeling sorry for the man. His life no longer has moral meaning, even to himself.

It’s sad.

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Like The College Fix on Facebook. / Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden

(Image: Matthias Asgeirsson / WikimediaCommons)

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  • Wyck Holland

    When you believe in Nothing; nothing is wrong. For all we know Dawkins is an atheist because a perverted schoolmaster fondled him as a child.

  • Abu Nudnik

    He has no way of knowing how many there were or how far the teacher went with them. They groom many youngsters and they don’t stop with “mild” activity so far as I know although I think they sense which children are good “soil” for them. I had a couple of mild events that fall short of what he experienced at a boy’s boarding school but there was no follow-up. Perhaps that was true of him. I think they sense who’s “safe” for them too. That says something about the mind of a predator. But he’s right in one respect: generally speaking, past events can’t be judged entirely by today’s standards.

    But this confession is interesting. First he goes far afield of his research, evolutionary biology, to spend endless amounts of time away from his own work to prove that something doesn’t exist (God), which can’t be done because one can only prove what is, not what is not. Nor would a proof of God’s nonexistence have any meaning anyway. A being for whom potential and actual are one must experience no loss of time between imagination and manifestation. If no time, no experience, no identity and no “existence” as we are capable of knowing existence. But that doesn’t mean God is not real even if He doesn’t exist. But how He is Real is beyond our ability to ponder, so distant from our meek skills must such a Creator be for whom the actual and the potential are one.

    • ObamiesaCommie

      I’m a conservative atheist and am appalled at this statement made by Dawkins (See my remark a few posts above). While you are correct that it is impossible to disprove the existence of a God or Gods, the only conclusions from existing logical, historical and scientific evidence that a reasonable person can come to are:

      1) There is no God and the Universe is purposeless.
      2) There is a God but it takes no interest whatsoever in human affairs.

      I prefer to believe the former for many reasons; untold human suffering, The Laws of Thermodynamics, The acceleration of the expansion of the Universe which will result in a “Big Rip” where even molecules are torn apart.

      I’ve been an atheist since the age of 13. And, just for the record, I will have no “deathbed conversion” – I am terminally ill with cancer and this has done nothing but confirm my atheism.

      Matter does spontaneously come into being and disappear in the form of virtual particles (this has been proven by the discovery of the Casimir effect), and the Universe can be explained as a statistical certainty over infinite time given this fact, an event known as a vacuum fluctuation.

      No God is necessary in order for this to occur.

      • Josh River

        Exactly how is being terminally ill from cancer a confirmation of your atheism?
        This isn’t a joke, I really want to know. My wife is also terminally ill from cancer, and it’s made her more religious.

      • Abu Nudnik

        You’re missing another possibility: God may both exist and not exist. If Schrödinger’s cat is both dead and alive, why not?

      • Abu Nudnik

        God exists as a concept. Is that not existence? Does space exists or merely the aggregate of interrelationships of all measurement? Kant’s category of the being for whom the actual and the potential are one and the same is necessary for man to understand his nature as being between that category and that of the animal who is mere actuality without potential. I watched a cat up a tree the other day and realized that cats will never figure out how to walk backwards, the same way they walked up. The solution is there but the imagination to conceive it is not. I’m not trying to convince anyone of the existence of God. I’m just pointing out a philosophical truism: an absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and one can only prove what is, not what is not. And to repeat, saying that God doesn’t exist is an empty statement. It’s meaningless.

  • Jason

    I’m stunned. Here we have a plausible explanation for Dawkins’ disbelief–he was abused as a child.

    In what world is it acceptable for any adult to fondle a boy? Dawkins suggests that in England fifty years ago it was, but, surely, that’s not true. One can only imagine how this must have affected him growing up. I pray that Dawkins will come to know God’s mercy after so many years of blaming Him for what some pervert did half a century before.

    • Josh River

      Closeted homosexuality in England, especially boarding schools, is well known.
      For that matter, so was Churchill’s comment on the Navy and sodomy.

  • M.R. Canon

    Wonder if Dawkins is now involved in his own “mild pedophilia.”

  • ObamiesaCommie

    I’m a conservative atheist and have read Dawkin’s reasons for being an atheist. They are based on reason, science and logic and are for the most part the same reasons I am an atheist. My problem with Dawkins (and the late Carl Sagan as well) is that he allows his uber-leftist views to color his opinions on certain matters (including science which should be completely objective) – as when he refers to soldiers as “victims of military recruiters”. I also completely disagree about this current comment on pedophilia – perhaps the most vile crime one can conceive. Dawkins is an arrogant jerk but he is dead-on with his reasons to be an atheist, just as he is dead WRONG about anything being able to be called “mild pedophilia”. Is that like a “mild abortion”, a “mild rape” or a “mild murder”?

    Dawkins stuck his foot in his mouth with this one. He is incredibly wrong on this particular point.

    • ptiderman

      I do not understand your statement that Dawkins is “dead right” in his atheism, but “dead wrong” about pedophilia. If the universe is “purposeless” and life is merely an accident, then on what basis can ANYTHING be deemed “right” or “wrong?” And what makes mankind any more accountable than a bacterium, or a dog? How can there be any such thing as “morality” if no God exists? If it does exist, where did it come from and why should we concern ourselves with it?

      • ObamiesaCommie

        You proceed from the false assumption that humanity requires an outside authority to determine right from wrong – like the role of a parent. It doesn’t. All we need to know is that pain is an unpleasant stimuli and causing innocent others pain is sick, evil and sadistic and therefore highly undesirable behavior which deserves punishment. We are smart enough to determine what’s right and wrong ourselves. There is no need to assume that the 10 Commandments (an excellent moral guideline that I think everyone should adhere to) were divinely-inspired. The contents of the Bible were assembled at the Council of Nicea in 325CE; several centuries after Christ’s crucifixion. The contents of the Bible were selected from “worthy” writings decided by the men of this council. Not by God, but by men assigned to do so by the Roman Emperor Constantine . Bet you didn’t learn that in Sunday School.

        It amazes me that people look at the pyramids and decide that simply because THEY don’t know how to build one, that our ancestors were ignorant hicks that couldn’t have done so either.

        A modern example of this is in a book written by a USAF Col Corso (ret.) in which he claims that things like lasers, fiber optics and night vision were all reverse-engineered from a crashed flying saucer. How ludicrous, the history of the development of all these things is clearly documented and all came right out of human creativity.

        We are perfectly capable of determining right from wrong ourselves (At least Christians and Jews and a lot of atheists are), but Muslims aren’t. Mindlessly following evil religious beliefs – like Muslims do, can lead to all kinds of tragedy as we have been witnessing.

        Few despise militant atheists more than I; these people try to use their atheism as cloak to disguise their true motivation – as an excuse to do immoral things. I think this is disgusting behavior. Homosexuals are a good example of this. I don’t need a God to tell me that homosexuality is wrong – all I need is the feeling of profound disgust it engenders in me and a vast majority of the population and to also note that nothing comes from that behavior but many forms of disease and death.

        There is a reason that the smell of rotting meat makes us throw up – so that we don’t eat it. Evolution has provided us with these mechanisms to keep us safe and healthy. I live my life with such strict morality that you’d think I was a devout Christian, never an atheist.

        If humanity realized that this one life is all we get, and killing someone kills them forever, I think there’d be a lot less wars and murders.

        If Heaven is such a wonderful place, then shouldn’t we all commit suicide as soon as possible in order to get there?

        • Josh River

          Your assumption is false from the start.
          Knowing that pain is unpleasant and “causing innocent others pain is sick” is a moral leap that is unfounded.
          Hence, the most artistic, educated nation on Earth, Germany, had no problem exterminating Jewish children and adults under the leadership of a God hating madman.
          That you choose a “morality” that values kindness doesn’t mean that anothers choice that values sadism makes the other choice less moral, but rather a matter of choice.

          • ObamiesaCommie

            Hitler didn’t hate god. Hitler was a practicing Christian and prayed to god all the time. His evil soldiers wore belt buckles with the phrase “Gott Mitt Uns” – which means “God is with us.” He proclaimed the extermination of Jews was “doing God’s Work.”

            Evolution has instilled moral values in us as survival traits. Those of us who are basically sociopaths are quickly imprisoned or killed (punished) by the majority of society – thus rendering sociopathy an undesirable survival trait.

            You “Trve believers” always use the argument “without an ultimate exteranl moral source like God, how would you know the difference between right and wrong? What stops you from raping and killing? Myself, I rape and murder all I want, and the number of my victims is zero – because I have absolutely no desire to rape or kill anyone even without any belief in any ultimate supernatural moral authority. The very idea of harming an innocent person makes me sick. The idea that all Christians need to know that they are being watched every second of every hour of every day by a putative “god” that will punish them if they rape or kill, and that this is the only thing stopping them from doing so, is one of the most self-damning statement I have ever encountered.

            Also, you might want to take a much closer look at your Christian Bible – especially the Old Testament. God orders the deaths of about 30 million people – including newborn babies, and women and children and no one so much as twitches. He also orders the deaths of all humanity in the Flood with the exception of Noah’s family. How did they fit all the species of viruses, diatoms, protozoans, etc. on the ark – or even identify them? They didn’t have microscopes and how were they classified and stored? Were they stored next to T. Rex and the velociraptors? How many goats/day do you think it took to keep the T. Rex and raptors fed and healthy?

            The Devil orders/causes the deaths of TEN people in the whole Bible (Job’s family) and HE is supposed to be the bad guy???!!!

            I suppose the above inaccuracies are what you get when you have MEN interpreting what ancient writings would be include in the Bible at the Council of Nicea in 325CE by order of the Emperor Constantine.

            Face it, your whole bible is nothing but a self-contradicting mess – and it contradicts itself in so many places that it is a source of constant amazement to me that anyone can believe this is the “Perfect Word of God”.

            IN the KJV of the Bible there are two conflicting accounts for Genesis given in the beginning – which one is right?

          • Josh River

            And yet you did not address a single salient point I made, in your rebuttal of my argument.
            Point, set, and match.

  • Nick

    He used a bad example, he had to know that this would cause controversy..

    BUT…he’s right about things being “Wrong” now used to be fine, or the other way around.

    It used to be OK to OWN people. The Catholic Church used to torture and war and murder EXTENSIVELY. At one point it was “Wrong” to drink alcohol too.

    You would think that it’s “common sense” to not abuse a child, sexually or otherwise, but you would also think that OWNING A HUMAN BEING AS PROPERTY, torturing, and killing is wrong, according to “common sense”

    It’s also a bit hypocritical for anyone who says they believe in “God” to complain about anything related to pedophilia. Considering the largest Christian corporation on Earth is known for molesting children, covering it up, and promoting the offenders.

    I still don’t get why so many of the super-zealots think that I have to believe in “God” in order to not be an ass hole. As if, without the promise of “heaven”, everyone would spiral downward. When in reality, more people have been, and are, being killed in the name of “God” than every war in history combined.

    How about instead, we all agree to NOT be assholes because that’s the decent thing to do, instead of only being nice because you’re worried you’ll burn in hell for it…

  • Josh River

    I had a longish experience with a Scoutmaster (over 2 years) at a time when my parents divorced and my older brother detached from the family.
    I knew it was wrong, he knew it was wrong, but I got something out of it, and so did he.
    The Sandusky papers show something similar (young teenaged boys getting trips, sports gear, clothing, etc).
    It made me neither an atheist nor a Christian; but the “mild” business ended fairly quickly and became much much more.
    I think Dawkins is confessing a hidden part of his life (narcissism is also characteristic of these folks), and couching it in his comments.