I follow Richard Dawkins on Twitter. Why, as a devout Mormon, do I follow the world's most prominent (living) atheist? I'm always interested in both sides.
Obviously an articulate and intelligent man, Dawkins is also, how do I put it, snarky. Case in point, the following three tweets, all generated, along with many others, in a single day.
Here, Dawkins manages to impugn the intelligence of anyone who believes the biblical account of creation AND convey the false idea that the Bible is not consistent with the evolution of species over time. As for the spark that brought inanimate matter to life, as long as science isn't able to create life in a test tube, all bets, including Creationism, are still on the table.
Oh my dear creationist friends, if you want to attack evolution, your personal incredulity isn't enough. There's a lot to read, I'm afraid.
-- Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 8, 2015
Here, Dawkins reveals his ignorance of true faith, not to mention his capacity to make light of the death of another human being (the true measure of mockery). No god I'm aware of--not Allah, not Jehovah, not Krishna--needs help with anything. Why God may decline to intervene in a particular situation is his business.
Niloy Neel, atheist fighter for women's rights, butchered with machetes. You'd think Allah'd be strong enough to need no help from machetes. -- Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 8, 2015
Here, Dawkins didn't actually initiate the joke but found it funny enough to retweet. He and the original jokester infer that believers are on the level of monkeys and manipulative to boot.
@RichardDawkins all started since the first monkey pointed at the sun and said "he told me you should give me your banana"
-- Whitey Bulger (@TheNotBadGatsby) August 8, 2015
Taking Dawkins's points without the mockery, he is saying faith is incompatible with intellectual proof; some believers are known for discounting all theories of evolution; an all-powerful god would be expected to prevent evil; religion began as a primitive belief system.
All valid points of discussion and disagreement. So, why the mockery?
The Mormon Church this week released pictures of the stones Joseph Smith reportedly used in translating the Book of Mormon. Within hours, South Park's song, "Joseph Smith Was Called a Prophet" resurfaced.
Now, that joke I almost understand and would probably find quite funny if I weren't Mormon. It's crazy to think that a modern American translated some gold plates he found in a hill and called it "Another Testament of Jesus Christ." Still, the chorus of "dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb" in the background of the song conveys more than incredulity, to use Dawkins's word above.
Interestingly enough, this "dumb" book Joseph supposedly translated recounts its own mockery of religion. In a nutshell, people who had found the gospel were persuaded to drop it like a hot potato when other, seemingly more sophisticated people laughed and pointed at them.
I guess it's human nature to avoid being mocked.
What is also human nature, as any devotee of Dr. Phil well knows, is the practice of leveling. Insecure people (obviously a subgroup of overall dignified atheists) need to put other people down to feel better about themselves. Alternatively, they can build themselves up, but I don't know how one would one-up God himself, no matter how imaginary he may be in one's eyes.
I'm not suggesting that leveling is always a reason for mockery, nor that levelers are even aware of their motive.
But when Twitter, South Park, and the Book of Mormon all depict the same human action, it's worth a look.