The Faclan Hebridean Book Festival, with Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, as a guest speaker, will take place in Scotland October 30 through November 3 at Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis off the northwest coast of Scotland. This area is home for the Free Church of Scotland, but members call for a boycott of the book festival due to Dawkins scheduled to speak at it.
Anglican Journal reports:
John Roberts, president of a group called the Lord's Day Observance Society, told ENInews that people should boycott the talk by Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, which asserts that belief in a supernatural being is irrational. "Why explore faith by getting a person who has no faith? It is ridiculous and offensive," Roberts said.
Writing in the Aberdeen Press and Journal, Dawkins said it was "an extraordinary idea that a book festival should never invite anybody to speak unless they can be relied upon to repeat what the audience already knows and agrees with." Referring to the suggested boycott, Dawkins said, "Not content with stopping his ears like the proverbial monkey, Mr. Roberts seems to want to stop up everybody else's ears too."
Pastor Donnie Stewart of the non-denominationalNewWineChurchin Stornoway said in an interview with The Scotsman that "it is disappointing that [Dawkins] has been invited, given the Christian heritage and local sensitivities here. But we will keep praying that Professor Dawkins receives the personal revelation of the Holy Spirit."
Dawkins commented in his article that "I always marvel when I come up to the Highlands and encounter this kind of sheer, blind panic at the mere thought of my giving a talk. The region has a reputation for solid faith, but if that were really so, you might think it would be able to take a simple talk by an evolutionary scientist in its stride."
Some members of the Free Church say that Dawkins is welcome to speak at the book festival, but criticize him for not debating Rev. David Robertson, minister of St. Peter's Free Church in Dundee and author of The Dawkins Letters, a rebuttal to The God Delusion.
In an interview with ENInews, Robertson said, "Dawkins has revealed his outstanding arrogance…He says he would debate with the Archbishop of Canterbury or with the Pope but not with someone like myself. I have nothing against the man personally and welcome his presence at the book festival because it gives me, as a Christian, a chance to publicly refute his weak arguments against the existence of God.
"Dawkins considers, like so many of his fellow new atheists, that there is no debate—that atheists and atheists alone, have the truth. Ironically, such intolerance of others is the very definition of the fundamentalism that Dawkins professes to hate."
According to The Scotsman, Lord’s Day Observance Society (LDOS) claim it is “hypocritical” and “offensive” to invite Dawkins to speak at the festival.
A spokesman for Dawkins stated that this behaviour is just another example of typical Fundamentalist Christians.
Prof Dawkins’s spokeswoman added: “If the LDOS were really so confident that Richard’s talk will be unwelcome on the island, they would hardly need to call for a boycott since the matter would take care of itself.
“As it is, it appears to be just another example of typical fundamentalist behaviour. Not content with simply choosing not to attend the talk themselves, they are outraged that others who do not share their views are being given the opportunity to do so.
“The very fact they are making such a fuss about a talk which no-one will be forced to attend betrays their panic at the mere idea of their beliefs not being considered sacrosanct by all.”
Director Roddy Murray said: “Professor Dawkins was asked because he is one of the world’s most eminent and influential scientists and has trenchant and sincerely held views on this.
“I am not worried about the reception he will receive in Lewis. People here are unfailingly courteous and tolerant.”