Andrew Brown has written a blog post about the atheist rally in England at which Dawkins gave his now famous speech. Brown quote mines Dawkins in a way that is utterly abominable. Dawkins, in his speech, discusses a somewhat complicated relationship between certain facts … not too complicated but complicated enough that an ignoramus would misunderstand, as Brown had demonstrated. Here’s what Dawkins was saying, nice and slow:
1) Pro-pope interlocutors have stated that even if Adolph Hitler was baptized as a catholic and went to church and stuff, he really can’t be counted as a catholic.
2) Pro-pope interlocutors have stated that there are X million (the number does not matter, but it is inconceivably large) Catholics in Britain.
3) We must guess that the number of British Catholics is based on baptismal roles, but that should not really be considered accurate because of the number of ex-catholics who don’t count themselves as Cathlics.
4) Therefore, the Pro-pope interlocutors are trying to have it both ways. If all those Brits are Catholics, then Hitler was a Catholic by the same definition.
Here, Dawkins actually makes a weaker argument than possible (though he makes the stronger argument elsewhere in his speech) because Hitler was not merely baptized Catholic, but he was totally in bed with the Catholic establishment of Germany.
Anyway, the above four statements describe the somewhat complicated thing Dawkins said very clearly. This got translated by Brown to:
There was a picture of the pope holding a golden swastika, which the organisers apparently took down later, as offensive. I don’t know why, since Richard Dawkins later published on his web site the speech he meant to deliver, comparing every Catholic in Britain to Adolf Hitler: “Adolf Hitler was a Roman Catholic. Or at least he was as much a Roman Catholic as the 5 million so-called Roman Catholics in this country today”, although in the event he said something less gratuitously provocative: “Adolf Hitler was a Roman Catholic … If the church wants to claim [5m Britons] as Catholics, then they have to claim Hitler as a Catholic”.
Dawkins statement was not even slightly provocative or gratuitous. Nothing he said was gratuitous during the entire speech, and if you want provocative, look elsewhere in what he said. I would start with his comments on original sin, or his assertion (quite correct) that the Pope is an enemy of Humanity! Is it more important to Andrew Brown that someone may have compared Brits to something bad, or that Humanity has an Aweful Powerful Deadly Enemy?
Brown is an ignoramus at a higher level as well. If you read his commentary (and sadly, comments are closed on that piece) you’ll see that he appears surprised that any atheists showed up at all, that they were unhappy about the Pope, yet cheerful and good humoured, and then he figures maybe they’ll just go away …. their energy will ‘dissipate’ … now that this is over with.
Clearly, Andrew Brown has not been paying attention.