Just belatedly noticed this rather hysterical post by the Guardian's religion supremo Andrew Brown. Brown has some of the same problems I have with the Protest the Pope campaign and some of its more vitriolic comments, but his comparison of the likes of Terry Sanderson and AC Grayling with Stalinists sails as far over the top as any denunciation of Ratzinger. That something a little strange is at work is evident, I think, from this:
Richard Dawkins calls the Pope "the head of the world's second most evil religion". Presumably this means that he considers Islam the world's most evil religion.
I find this very revealing. Andrew Brown offers not a shred of evidence as to Dawkins' views on Islam, though he does go on to criticise the National Secular Society for nominating You Tube legend Pat Condell ("an exemplification of what is meant by Islamophobia") for one of their awards. Hmm. Pat Condell doesn't like Islam, certainly. And there's absolutely no reason why he, or anyone else, should, any more than anyone should be obliged to like Catholicism or the Pope.
Those who promote the concept of "Islamophobia" like to claim that it is bigotry and racism against Muslim people disguised as disagreement with Islamic doctrines. To my knowledge, Condell has never said anything inciteful or unpleasant against peaceful, law-abiding people who happen to be Muslims. His criticisms, however forcefully expressed, are aimed entirely against the violent, intolerant, homophobic and misogynist tendencies that are rampant within Islam today. If to say such is to be "Islamophobic", then Islam really is a special case, the only religion in the world that it is compulsory to like. This, of course, is what Islamist propagandists, whose true aim is to shut down criticism and even discussion of their beliefs, are really after.
As to Dawkins, he devoted very little time to Islam in The God Delusion or in his films for Channel 4. He has always been much more engaged with attacking both Catholicism and bone-headed American fundamentalists. Perhaps he thinks that Bible Belt creationists represent "the world's most evil religion." Perhaps, like fellow "New Atheist" Sam Harris, he thinks that Islam is worse. I don't know; I haven't asked him. Why does Andrew Brown leap so readily to the conclusion that Dawkins puts Islam at the head of his league-table of religious awfulness? Is it because, at some level, Andrew Brown himself thinks it is "the world's most evil religion"?
UPDATE: Twitter-user Morungos points me towards the probable source of the "most evil religion" chart - a blogpost on the Dawkins website by "Hitchens Jnr" listing his own personal top five evil religions. This list is indeed headed by Islam, followed by Catholicism, then Zionism (which isn't a religion) and Scientology, with Protestant fundamentalism bringing up the rear. A plausible list (though where are the Moonies?) - but not Dawkins', even if the professor may well have had it in mind when he spoke to New Humanist. And it still leaves the question as to why Andrew Brown should have made the assumption he did.