The Berkeley, CA community radio station KPFA recently canceled an upcoming talk by Richard Dawkins, the geneticist-turned-advocate-of-atheism, explaining that while it “emphatically supports serious free speech,” it “does not endorse hurtful speech.” In this case the “hurtful speech” was Dawkins’ criticisms of Islam, which are of a piece with his observations about religion in general. Tom Wilson writes:
Given Richard Dawkins’ [contempt for] religious belief in general, you would have thought the event organizers might have anticipated that this arch-secularist wouldn’t have anything very complimentary to say about Islam, either. Yet there is something rather troubling in KPFA’s statement on its discovery of Dawkins’s “hurtful speech,” [which it] explained as follows: “We had booked this event based entirely on his excellent new book on science, when we didn’t know he had offended and hurt—in his tweets and other comments on Islam—so many people.”
This leaves a question. If Dawkins’s incriminating tweets on Islam eventually came to the organizers’ attention, what about all of his other pronouncements on religion? As in the many writings and speeches that deal with insulting all the other religions. Is KPFA yet to stumble upon Dawkins’s international best-seller The God Delusion? Imagine their sense of horror when they learn of all those hurt Jewish and Christian feelings. After all, Dawkins has had some pretty fiery things to say about the “God of the Old Testament.”
Unless, of course, the organizers already knew all about Dawkins’s past comments on the other religions, but it only became a problem for them when they found out that Dawkins had been saying similar things about Islam. Had Dawkins been silent on Islam and only derided Christianity and Judaism, would he then have still been welcome at the Berkeley event? It rather sounds like it. . . .
Canceling an event with an internationally renowned atheist on the grounds that he has offended the feelings of religious people is, of course, absurd.