U.S. and World Politics

In Defense of Atheism

KPFA and the Dawkins Cancellation

By Chris Kinder

The noted evolutionary biologist, atheist, and author of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, was to have spoken in Berkeley in a KPFA-sponsored event in August 2017 focused on his new book, Science In the Soul, Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist. After a week or so of on-air publicity for this event, and in reaction to complaints from Muslim activists, KPFA cancelled the event.

KPFA cancelled a book event with Richard Dawkins when members of our community brought our attention to Dawkins’ abusive speech against Muslims. The speech we reviewed included assertions during his current book tour that Islam is the ‘most evil’ of world religions, Twitter posts denigrating Muslim scholars as non-scholars and other tweets.

“We serve a broad and diverse community, including many Muslims living under threat of persecution and violence in the current political context. Islamophobic rhetoric stokes that threat. While Mr. Dawkins has every right to express his views, KPFA has every right not to sponsor and profit from an event spreading them. That is what we’ve done.”

The KPFA news report on the cancellation quoted a spokeswoman from the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) saying that, “Richard Dawkins is a well-known Islamophobe; he’s spoken publicly about Islam being the worst evil in the world today, and has vilified Muslims in extremely sick, racist and misogynist ways... [Dawkins] promotes anti-Islam and anti-Muslim rhetoric.”1

Dawkins’ “Feminists Love Islamists” Tweet 

Richard Dawkins does have a twitter habit, which has gotten him into trouble, with statements such as “I think Islam is the greatest force for evil in the world today,” and that “Islamophobia” is a “non-word.” He reminds one of another prominent public figure with a bad twitter habit. But that is not all.

One of Dawkins’ tweets included a YouTube video titled “Feminists Love Islamists,” which apparently he thought was funny. This piece of trash was part of the evidence cited by the Muslim spokespeople who called KPFA to object to their sponsoring Dawkins, and it is truly vile. In it, simplistic cartoon characters representing an “Islamist” and a “feminist” have a dialog set to music, in which they both proclaim that they have “so much in common:” Woman says: “I say social justice.” Man says: “I say jihad.” Woman: “I say slutwalk.” Man: “I say, whore where is your hijab.” Then together they sing that Islamists and feminists are “a slimy pair of little spastics.” Finally, we have: Man: “So, do you mind if I rape you now?” Woman: “Oh don’t be silly, it’s not rape when a Muslim does it” (!!)2

Words escape me. How does this sexist garbage support the “Feminists Love Islamists” title, or provide any other bit of wisdom, which anyone in their right mind would find either funny or illuminating?

This cartoon’s author is a
right-wing jerk

Interestingly, the author of this piece of crap answers the question...well sort of. He is an alleged atheist and alleged “center-leftist” named Carl Benjamin, who goes by “Sargon of Akkad,” which is an absurd reference to the first ruler of the unified city states of ancient Sumer, in the Fertile Crescent, in about 2350-2150 BC. Hello, what? Perhaps Benjamin relates to this time because women were becoming property then and men were dominant (well, the rich priestly ones anyway). Hardly a leftist of any sort, this guy is an open misogynist, male chauvinist and alt-right supporter who thinks white men are the victims. He supported Trump and Marine Le Pen, although he allegedly would have preferred Bernie! But Benjamin would have fit right in with the AltRight/fascist/KKK rally in Charlottesville on August 12th. What a bundle of contradictions!

But that gets us right back to Richard Dawkins, who forwarded this disgusting cartoon video. What was he thinking? Well, perhaps he wasn’t (thinking, that is).

What Does Dawkins Think?

Dawkins, despite his tweet habit, claims not to be a Muslim hater, or a hater of any people. Nor is he an advocate of persecution of Muslims. He points this out, in his “open letter” statement to KPFA in response to his “de-platforming” by KPFA:

“I have never used abusive speech against Islam. I have called IslamISM vile, but surely you, of all people, understand that Islamism is not the same as Islam. I have criticized the ridiculous pseudoscientific claims made by Islamic apologists (‘the sun sets in a marsh,’ etc.), and the opposition of Islamic ‘scholars’ to evolution and other scientific truths. I have criticized the appalling misogyny and homophobia of Islam, I have criticized the murdering of apostates for no crime other than their disbelief. Far from attacking Muslims, I understand—as perhaps you do not—that Muslims themselves are the prime victims of the oppressive cruelties of Islamism, especially Muslim women.”3

Dawkins is a UK academic, an emeritus fellow at New College, Oxford, and professor at New College of the Humanities (London). He is the author of many books, including The Selfish Gene, and The God Delusion. He explained his atheist views on religion in an interview with Evan Davis on the BBC on February 18, 2015: “You can believe anything you like, but don’t impose your beliefs on other people.” He went on to say, “You can’t say ‘I believe this, and you have to believe it too, or else’.” On education, the question of religious schools is “very difficult,” involving “freedom of parents vs. the freedom of children not to be taught erroneous views [which are] imposed upon them.” And, Dawkins said, “teach about religion as history...but not just about an individual religion.” 

Dawkins also discussed the wearing of the Islamic burkha, in which females expose only their eyes through a slit, as “personally offensive,” but nevertheless, he says, this is a “personal right” of the wearer. Dawkins also said he is against the “Muslim ban” of Donald Trump, and is a defender of the national rights of Palestinians against the Israeli occupation of Palestine (as well as a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn of the Labor Party).4

So far so good, but in another interview, this one with Dave Rubin in New York in 2016, Dawkins admitted to being an elitist: allegedly speaking on rationality, Dawkins said, “[There is] a lovely quote from George Carlin, who said, ‘think how stupid the average person is,’ and I reflect that 50 percent are even stupider than that.” Dawkins goes on, “I’m accused of being an elitist, and I suppose I probably am.”5

Abrasive elitist, or fascist thug?

So, Dawkins is an outspoken and abrasive atheist, and also an elitist and upper class twit, who insults people for fun. But is he a fascist or hate-group mobilizer, such as Milo Yiannopoulos, for instance, who was legitimately shut down by a leftist mobilization on the UC Berkeley campus, and prevented from speaking? That is the question. Of course, nothing about atheism requires any particular social views, so anything is possible. “New atheists,” Dawkins included, are under attack for being rightists and Islamophobes.6 But I do not believe that Dawkins, obnoxious and elitist though he is, is an enemy of Muslim people or a proponent of persecuting Muslims, despite his insulting tweets. He is an outspoken and harsh critic of religion—the idea of it, the reactionary effects it has on people—but not of the people who have fallen victim to it. He is a critic of religionists’ views, but not a threat to them or of their right to exist. In short, he is not a fascist. As such, Dawkins should not have been cancelled by KPFA. Rather, he should have been heard, and challenged by any and all who disagree with him for any reason.

KPFA made a mistake in this cancellation, and Dawkins was therefore within his rights to claim that his freedom of speech had been compromised. But this was not “censorship;” KPFA does not have it in its power to censor anyone. And KPFA certainly has the right to sponsor, or not sponsor, whomever it wants. It received complaints from Muslims who felt insulted, and certainly had a tough decision. Nevertheless, those who are fascists, racist thugs, Nazi sympathizers are a different story from the likes of Richard Dawkins. They are essentially action groups, whose only purpose is to smash the working class and racial minorities with force and annihilation. For Marxists, and for anyone with judgment, they have no right of free speech. As Trotsky said, they need to have “their heads acquainted with the pavement.”

Reactionary activists
rally around religion

But those with whom we might disagree, even if they are on the right in some sense, should be debated, but not necessarily silenced. To silence them just hands the right an argument of “free speech denial” that they don’t deserve to have, and which will be used against the left.

And that is most critical. Dawkins, after all, is an opponent of religion, not of people. KPFA knows this, and that is why they originally decided to sponsor him in the first place. Religion has nefarious effects worldwide. KPFA regularly receives attacks and threats from Zionists over its steadfast critiques of the theological state regime of Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine, in which settlements on Palestinian land are reserved for Jews only, and Palestinians driven out. Dennis Bernstein, of KPFA’s “Flashpoints” show, is regularly threatened and accused of being a “self-hating Jew.” But KPFA doesn’t back down against this (false) accusation of criticizing a religion. And while Jews are not now in the cross-hairs of the state as they were in Nazi Germany, they ARE targeted by the racist thugs who marched in Charlottesville, chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” and “blood and soil.” “Blood and soil” was a Nazi slogan, which supported the persecution of Jews, including Kristallnacht and the holocaust; and the idea that this slogan could now be dragged out of the Nazi dirt in the U.S. is both notorious and outrageous.

The “Patriot Prayer Group,” set to gather in San Francisco on August 26th this year, is another example. Their allegedly “Christian” events are a front for hard-right racist groups, even though one of their spokespersons is African-American. These offshoots of the KKK and Nazis are crawling out like cockroaches from under the kitchen counter into any venue they can occupy.

Religion, in short, is a fallback, and I would say inherent, position for the extreme right. Consider, for instance, the so-called Wolves of Vinland, a far right group in the U.S. West which attempts to revive pre-Christian tribal and Germanic folk religion as part of its attempt to re-establish white male supremacy. A small group, to be sure, but nevertheless a part of the rightist revival under the ascendance of Trump, which manifested itself in Charlottesville, and an example for other hard rightists.7

Religion is divisive

But is Islam “the most evil religion” as Dawkins said in a tweet? Let’s get real about religion. All religions in the world today have much more differences within them—varying from very reactionary and warlike to peaceful and charitable—than they do between them. Thus Muslims in the U.S. and Europe are generally much less radical than those in the Middle East. And the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda radicals who regularly behead apostates, kill civilians with impunity and brainwash young men and women to blow themselves up in order to kill others, are a minority there, if a terrifying one. Yet they all, somehow, identify as Muslim.  

Christianity has its radical right in the U.S. linked with Tea Party reactionaries. These scum support the destruction of Planned Parenthood and of abortion clinics, and even tolerate the murder of doctors who perform abortions. And let’s not forget Christianity’s history of the Crusades, wars to annihilate heretical sects, and the burning of heretics at the stake...alive. What they do now is prevent women from being priests, molest little alter boys at will, and suppress liberation theology, among other crimes. It took a Protestant Reformation and decades of war just to establish that individual believers could pray to their god directly, without a priest’s intervention, whatever that was worth! Yet somehow, Christianity lumbers on. The reactionary Christian fundamentalist lobby is a key part of the Tea Party and Republican right wing, which is now challenged to move further to the right by unite-the-right filth.

This motion to the right includes religious aggrandizement. The Hobby-Lobby decision allows private employers to deny services to consumers on the basis of religious prejudice, despite their supposed requirement to serve without discrimination; and the Education Secretary is now accelerating the drive to privatize schools, and turn over taxpayer dollars to religious institutions.  

U.S. imperialism is the greatest “evil” in the world today   

Hindu masses commit slaughters against Muslims in India, Buddhists persecute Muslim communities in Burma, and I could go on. But what is the real greatest evil in the world today, if not imperialism, and U.S. imperialism in particular? Religion is a tool in the hands of the rulers or imperialists, and always has been. Religion is, in fact, an ideology of the ruling class of its time, invented by people and written by scribes, be they the ancient Egyptians, the Hebrews of the Middle East, or Arabs of Arabia. But in the age of capitalist imperialism, religion—which is now just a hangover from accumulated ancient nonsense-speak—is just another tool of the (British imperialist-inspired) U.S. “divide and conquer” strategy. 

U.S. imperialism is in fact the greatest evil in the world today, and this is a fact that people could have taken up with Dawkins had he been allowed to speak at the KPFA event that was cancelled...but, it was cancelled. Tariq Ali said it well: “the ‘mother of all fundamentalisms’ is U.S. imperialism.”8 It was U.S. imperialism that, with its invention and promotion of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan to oppose the Soviet Union gave new life to Islamic extremism; and with its invasion of Iraq promoted sectarian war between Sunni and Shia Islamists (who had previously lived side-by-side in peace, and even inter-married.) And it was U.S. imperialism’s regional ally, the theocratic abomination of Saudi Arabia, which principally financed and supported the Islamic State (ISIS) and its predecessors in order to prevent a Shia (Iran-Syria-Hezbollah) domination of the fertile crescent (i.e., a “Shia crescent.”)

The Russian revolution put religion in its place

 Dawkins may be an atheist, but he has no idea of how to convey that diplomatically (by his own admission), or how to actually achieve it as a societal goal. This is another point that could have been taken up with him in a KPFA-sponsored event that never happened: the Russian Revolution of 1917 showed how to put religion in a box. Only a full-on social revolution, putting working people in power, can rid the world of the nefarious influence of religion on society.

The Russian Revolution decreed the following, right from the get-go: First of all, church was fully separated from the state. This was very important, since in pre-revolutionary Russia—never having had a bourgeois revolution—the Church and the Czarist state were like Siamese twins: dues to the church were mandatory; and the Black Hundreds, who conducted murderous raids against Jewish communities, were made an official part of Church function by the Czar. The January 1918 Soviet decree provided that every citizen had freedom of belief, or of “no belief at all.” And (take note, Hobby Lobby): “Nobody is entitled to refuse to perform his duties as a citizen on the basis of his religious belief.” Also, “The school is separated from the Church.” No more state supported yeshivas or madrasas, in today’s terms, and no religious schools whatsoever. Churches were allowed their own associations, but without any special privileges or support from the state. And such religious associations were not allowed to impose “imposts or taxes” or “measures of compulsion or punishment” in respect of their members, nor were they allowed to own property (churches were nationalized, but allowed to be used by their relevant believers.)9

The Soviet anti-religious reforms had a lasting effect, which extended well into the years in which the Stalinist political counter-revolution held sway. In the hitherto Muslim-dominated Caucuses and Central Asia, and “even the Ukraine... Local women were frightened and shy.” But the revolutionary Zhenotdel, the Bolshevik women’s organization, got to work. As late as 1929, “there are extremely affecting reports of how on every May Day and International Women’s Day, thousands of women [in the Caucuses and Central Asia] would voluntarily and insolently cast off their veils. Nor did they ever look back.”10 

Today’s fight against the fascist, white supremacist revivalism stimulated by the Trump regime is supremely important. Now more than ever, the left must both mobilize against fascists and their spokesmen, and come to the defense of immigrants, people of color, Muslims, Jews and any and all those who are in the rightists’ crosshairs. But that does not mean that we should drop our opposition to the reactionary effects of religious ideology. Allowing people their right to believe in a god and maintain their culture—as long as they do not force it on others—is a principle to be defended. But revolutionists seek a world that is free not only of capitalist imperialism, but also of the religious sectarianism and insularity that divides us.  

1 KPFA News Story,

2 Dawkins has deleted this tweet, but see: Thanks to Isis Feral for supplying this and other Dawkins tweets for this article

3 But of course he did say that “Islam” not “IslamISM” “is the most evil religion. See the report in the Guardian

4 BBC interview:

5 Dave Rubin and Richard Dawkins, New York, 2016,

6 See for instance, Nathan Lean, “Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens: New Atheists Flirt with Islamophobia,” Salon, March 30, 2013.

7 See this piece from the anti-fascist site, itsgoingdown: The Wolves of Vinland: a Fascist Countercultural “Tribe” in the Pacific Northwest, December 11, 2016,

8 Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms, Verso 2002.

9 “The Separation of the Church from the State and the School,” in Mervyn Mathews, ed., Soviet Government: A Selection of Official Documents on Internal Policies, New York, 1974, pp 32-33.

10 Tariq Ali, The Dilemmas of Lenin, Terrorism, War, Empire, Love, Revolution, Verso 2017.