Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Rowan Williams on Dawkins, Grayling et al ... via Dostoevsky

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This morning's Guardian has an interview with the Archbeard, Rowan Williams. It's mostly about the book the Archbish has written on Dostoevsky (serious stuff, forcing interviewer Stuart Jeffries to ditch his question "who would win a beard-off between him and Dostoevsky?"), but in the closing paragraphs the discussion turns to the New Atheists, and Williams' assertion in his book's preface that their critique of religion will be tomorrow's sociological curios. "But aren't they thinking you're the sociological curio?", Jeffries asks:
"They undoubtedly are. The answer is not to say, 'Let's once and for all have the religious reply to it,' it's to go on patiently saying, 'Look, what is it that Christians who are not cheap or trivial are saying?' and work from there rather than the surface level. In [Dostoevsky's novel] The Idiot, Prince Myshkin says, 'When I hear atheists talk about Christianity, I don't recognise what they're talking about.' I often feel when I read Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens that this isn't quite it. I thought it might not do any harm to put down a marker about that and say: 'Here is a form of Christian engagement with the world and with the complexities of human experience that may be radically wrong but is not cheap or glib and any critique has to deal with this just as much as it has to deal with a southern baptist.'"
He also reserves a bit of sarcasm for Jeffries' assertion that New Humanist contributor AC Grayling won a debate against Rabbi Julia Neuberger entitled "We'd Be Better Off Without Religion": "'Oooh,' says Williams, going all Frankie Howerd again, 'I bet God's worried. 'Damn, I'd better retire.'"

However, Williams does enjoy fraternising with the atheist gang – he invited Grayling to the launch of his new book, and with reference to Dawkins he says "There's something about his swashbuckling side which is endearing." Dawkins and his wife attended a party at Lambeth Palace last year, though the reason may come as a surprise: "They were absolutely delightful. My son wanted to meet Mrs Dawkins. She was in Doctor Who. She played an assistant when Tom Baker was the Doctor."

See, he's all for a few drinks with the enemy. As Jeffries jokes in his article "It can only be a matter of time he goes on the lash with Hitchens."


Jonathon said...

The lucky Richard Dawkins is married to the lovely and talented actress, Lalla Ward. Lalla was part of the Doctor Who show during the Tom Baker years, and played two different roles. Her most famous one was as the Doctor's companion and fellow time-lord Romanadvoratrelundar during the early 1980's. It is also worth noting that Lalla was married for a short time to Tom Baker following her departure from Doctor Who.

Lalla also co-narrated the audio version of 'The God Delusion' with Dawkins.