Tweeted Richard Dawkins one fine day (11/13/19): “You could easily spot any Religion of Peace. Its extremist members would be extremely peaceful”
Can it be? Is Richard Dawkins referring to Jehovah’s Witnesses—universally known for being “extremely peaceful” yet declared “extremists” in Russia? If so, I will take back the relatively few bad things I have said about him.
I have not really said THAT many bad things about him. At times, I have even been complimentary. When he blessed the atheist buses rolling out in London, I said that he had a good point, even though he wussed-out with a “There probably is no God.” Probably?
It wasn’t until I began following him on Twitter that I noticed how breathtaking contemptuous he was toward anyone who disagreed with him, not merely about God but also on geopolitical things—and then I did say a few mean things. I said of him that “he does not suffer fools gladly, and a fool is anyone who disagrees with him.”
However, he has largely repented over this. I’ve noticed it over the months. He has not banished it entirely, but it is much less prevalent, so that I regret that I ever said what I did.
The temptation to be disdainful of opponents is well-nigh irresistible, particularly if you think that they are willfully choosing ignorance. I have (more or less) mastered it, of course, but I have a source of effective and unending counsel that he does not.
This is no more concisely stated than it was at a recent Watchtower Study: A Bible verse considered how we ought “do nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with humility consider others superior to you.” (Philippians 2:3) Practically speaking, this advice is not easy to implement. It may even strike one as nonsensical—how can everyone be superior to everyone else? Said that Watchtower: “The humble person acknowledges that everyone is superior to him in some way.—Phil. 2:3, 4.”
Of course. In some way, everyone is superior. Search for that way, hone in on it to the exclusion of all else, and it will not be so difficult to treat even opponents with respect. “Disagree without being disagreeable” is the catchphrase today.
But Professor Dawkins does not have this advantage. Much of his tradition would sway him in just the opposite “survival of the fittest” direction. So he must be given credit for his new somewhat softer online personality. Possibly someone who has his best interests at heart—perhaps his wife—said, “Richard, you sure do come across as a cantankerous crank on Twitter,” and he deliberately walked it back.
Now, I don’t think Richard had Jehovah’s Witnesses in mind with his tweet. He probably has formed his views of them through the contributions of their “apostate” contingent, and those views could hardly be blacker. I looked down among his comments to see whether any of those nasties had reared their heads. Perhaps here was an example:
“Not entirely true. Extremists usually have their own misinterpretation of scriptures.”
I responded to this one: “If “misinterpretation” results in a religion of peace, perhaps it is not a misinterpretation after all. Perhaps the mainline view is a misinterpretation.” Is that not a no-brainer?
Another one, disagreeing with the above tweet: “Actually no. Most extremists do exactly what is written in their book. "Misinterpretation" is used as an argument by believers that cherry pick morals that fit our secular ethics today.”
I know this type, too. This is the type that finds slavery in the Bible or war in the Old Testament and rails at the “hypocrisy.” Look, everything has a historical context and to deliberately ignore such context is to be intellectually dishonest. If our side does it to theirs, we never hear the end of it.
If Dawkins’s tweet and my response hangs around long enough before burial in the Twitter feed, I would expect some of our malcontents to observe as they did in Russia, where the only evidence of extremism cited is proclaiming “a religious view of supremacy.” Huge protest will come at how Jehovah’s Witnesses practice shunning and thus “destroy” relationships and even family. But views inevitably translate into consequences and policies. Refusal to “come together” with those who insist on diametrically opposed views is hardly the “extremism” of ISIS—and yet the Russian Supreme Court has declared that it is, with the full backing in principle of those from the ex-JW community—the ones who go crusading, which is perhaps 10%.
I’m going to write this up as a post and append it to his thread. Let’s see what happens. Probably nothing, but you never know.
Plus, let’s expand on that particular Watchtower some more. The particular article covered was entitled: “Jehovah Values His Humble Servants” (September 2019 issue—study edition)
Unlike nearly all religious services, Witness meetings are ones that you can prepare for. You can comment during them. They are studies of the sacred book, not just impromptu rap sessions, acquiescencing to ceremony, or sitting through someone else’s sermon. You can prepare for them, and you are benefited, as in any classroom, when you do. The focus here, as it so often is, is on practical application.
Humility draws persons to us. Haughtiness repels them, and thus makes next to impossible the mantra to “come together.”
My own comment, when the time was right, was that haughty people can only accomplish so much—it may be a great deal, for haughty people are often very capable people—but eventually they run up against the fact that nobody can stand them, and thus people work to undercut their ideas. Humble people, on the other hand, may be far less capable individually, but there efforts add up. They know how to cooperate and acquiesce to each other in a way that haughty people do not.