Richard Dawkins in the Times of London:
The hardback God Delusion was hailed as the surprise bestseller of 2006. While it was warmly received by most of the 1,000-plus individuals who volunteered personal reviews to Amazon, paid print reviewers gave less uniform approval. Cynics might invoke unimaginative literary editors: it has “God” in the title, so send it to a known faith-head. That would be too cynical, however. Several critics began with the ominous phrase, “I’m an atheist, BUT . . .” So here is my brief rebuttal to criticisms originating from this “belief in belief” school.
I’m an atheist, but I wish to dissociate myself from your shrill, strident, intemperate, intolerant, ranting language.
Objectively judged, the language of The God Delusion is less shrill than we regularly hear from political commentators or from theatre, art, book or restaurant critics. The illusion of intemperance flows from the unspoken convention that faith is uniquely privileged: off limits to attack. In a criticism of religion, even clarity ceases to be a virtue and begins to sound like aggressive hostility.
A politician may attack an opponent scathingly across the floor of the House and earn plaudits for his robust pugnacity. But let a soberly reasoning critic of religion employ what would, in other contexts, sound merely direct or forthright, and it will be described as a shrill rant. My nearest approach to stridency was my account of God as “the most unpleasant character in all fiction”. I don’t know how well I succeeded, but my intention was closer to humorous broadside than shrill polemic. Restaurant critics are notoriously scathing, but are seldom dismissed as shrill or intolerant. A restaurant might seem a trivial target compared to God. But restaurateurs and chefs have feelings to hurt and livelihoods to lose, whereas “blasphemy is a victimless crime”.