A conversation with a family member this week about that Richard Dawkins faith schools documentary threw up a point that I haven't made strongly enough, whenever I've mentioned the man.
I mean, sure. I enjoyed The God Delusion and I think he's absolutely correct in almost all of his major points. He's a very eloquent proponent of rationalism and science as an investigative method for arriving at reliable conclusions. Unfortunately, as I've noted before, he's also a po-faced grump with an insufferable habit of rubbing people up the wrong way.
And still, he may be arrogant, yet not quite so arrogant that he claims possession of the singular, absolute revealed truth, nor does he claim that his philosophy is the key to the final salvation of humanity, I think. He believes that his ideas are our best shot at a better future, but - critically - he doesn't suggest that they're a guaranteed pass to an earthly or heavenly paradise.
Note - The good professor is also entirely right on the burka, as it happens. If you have any regard at all for human individuality and autonomy, it's an affront and an offence. The burka is a brutal indictment of the cultures that produced it, and the Dawk's reaction - "visceral revulsion" - is entirely correct.
And yet, he doesn't think it should be banned, out of respect for the same principles that make it such an affront in the first place. When the spokeswoman for the Muslim Association of Britain calls him an Islamaphobe, that tells you everything you need to know about that organisation and its commitment to open discussion.
Double note - How could I talk about this without raising Terry Eagleton? My favourite argument of his is the one about how God must exist, because he is inherently unseen, which raises interesting questions about the daily lives of elves and fairies.