Why is Richard Dawkins so disliked?

Why is Richard Dawkins so disliked?

Richard Dawkins has a fabulous brain and has used it to devastating effect. His arguments for atheism are devilishly difficult to counter, and his various books and documentaries are masterfully compelling and convincing.

So why the outpouring of delight when he stumbled on The Today Programme last week?

The obvious answer is that people despise anyone who makes them doubt comforting values and beliefs. However, in my experience, serious “believers” (for want of better shorthand) tend to dismiss and ignore Dawkins, just as they dismiss numerous other threats to their faith. In the view of many of them, religion is by definition “a leap of faith”. It therefore cannot be proved or disproved by science.

No, the reason Dawkins gets up so many people’s noses is simply his manner. We can just about put up with his smugness and arrogance, but what we can’t abide is what appears to be his complete lack of empathy or understanding for anyone who thinks differently than him.

Good media performances are not just about what you say, but how you say it. Yes, you need to be intelligent and sincere – and no one doubts Dawkins on that score – but , particularly when it comes to issues about which people strongly disagree, you also need to empathise.

An empathetic person is one who, for example, gives a little ground before stating their opinion, by prefacing their answers to a journalist’s question with the words “Yes, I understand that’s what people think, and I understand why they think it. But let me tell you what I believe on this matter…”

In contrast, if you sound overtly hostile or, worse still, patronising to those who hold a different opinion, you can wave goodbye to the support of a great swath of the public. That’s exactly where Dawkins falls down.

In today’s media world it’s not enough to be right. To win an argument it’s just as important to be likeable.

Article date

February 20th, 2012

Robert Taylor

Media Trainer


My main passion is media training, and I’m proud to be one of the UK’s most experienced and successful trainers in this field.

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