Boycott call over Dawkins talk


People are being urged to boycott a talk by atheist Professor Richard Dawkins in the Western Isles heartland of the Free Church.

The man whose best-selling book The God Delusion argues that belief in a supernatural creator is irrational and harmful to society is the headline speaker at the main book festival in the God-fearing Outer Hebrides – arguably one of the least-likely places his views will be welcomed.

Now, hard-line Christians are calling on people to boycott the biologist’s talk at the Faclan Hebridean Book Festival at Stornoway, amid claims his presence will be “offensive”.

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Written By: Jane Candlish
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  1. Now, hard-line Christians are calling on people to boycott the biologist’s talk at the Faclan Hebridean Book Festival at Stornoway, amid claims his presence will be “offensive”

    How tolerant of them. Someone with a different view should not even be listened to. The only remotely offensive thing going on here is their intolerance of others.

  2. I can’t get this Minchin song out of my head now: .” If you just close your eyes and block your ears. To the accumulated knowledge of the last two thousand years”.

  3. So why is it called “boycott” anyways?  Shouldn’t there be some “girlcotts” to balance things out?  Or maybe “itcotts”?

  4. This, actually, is very good news. 
    He, and his views, are coming too close to the heart (and the mind!)
    They re worried he ll find some furtile ground to sow reason end logic.

  5. Now, hard-line Christians are calling on people to boycott the biologist’s talk at the Faclan Hebridean Book Festival at Stornoway, amid claims his presence will be “offensive”

    That alone is creepy. Just by existing, Dawkins is blamed for upsetting people. As painful as it may be to hear views different from the ones religionists believe, that is not an excuse to stifle his talk. You don’t like it, go somewhere else and leave the rest of us in peace.

  6. no one ever accused hard-line christians of being tolerant. i don’t think even they’d try to say they are… 😉

  7. That’s fine – let them boycott.  In the U.S. there is currently a boycott by many against Chick-Fil-A, a company run by a bigot who has given millions of dollars towards anti-gay legislation and votes.  One of the wonderful things about our countries is that we are free to speak out against and boycott those things we do not like.

    As to Mr. Dawkins’ presence being offensive to them – well, right back atcha, you superstitious fools.

  8. In related news, the “God-fearing Outer Hebrides” are arguably one of the least-likely places anyone wants to visit, largely because its population also believes in stoning adulterers, sacrificing children and murdering homosexuals.

    Otherwise it’s a lovely place.

  9. I actually think a boycott is a healthy form of protest. You don’t like something (like Chick-Fil-A) don’t buy it, or don’t go there, or ignore it. It’s a shame that people have to be closed minded, but it’s at least a non-violent form of protest. 

  10. That is very extremely true. But, I still can’t help thinking, “REALLY?!?”
    But, your totally right. It’s better they do it this way.

  11. Blinkers on – hands over ears!

    The climate encourages the sort of pastors they have there; – cold, bleak, and wet, with intellectual company from sheep and salmon!

    But who knows? With Richard’s books available pastors could be out of a job if alternative social activities to church going catch on!

    The trouble is in remote small communities discrimination against non-conforming individuals is rife!

  12. Rampant sexism! Personcotts; also Personholes- in the road…(girlholes is perhaps not quite acceptable)

  13. Surprising that Richard would visit such an out of the way place with few inhabitants; his time surely would be at a premium?

  14. Xtians, be afraid, be very afraid. The cold light of reason will illuminate your feeble minds.

  15. Stems from Mr. Boycott. An Irish landlord who was “boycotted” by his tenants for refusing to lower his rents. Boycotting then became a political and economic weapon in the land agitation in Ireland in the 1800’s.

  16. My mom was an activist. She started the first food bank in North America. People wrote vicious pieces about her, calling her a communist for wanting food to be eaten by the undeserving rather than destroyed as capitalism required. Nothing got her angrier than wasted uneaten food. She always used to say “There is no such thing as bad publicity”.  She used to remind me of that when various dignitaries accused me of unspeakable crimes because I advocated gay civil rights. I am sure it applies here too.  Nothing much will change minds about attending, but the more people talk about the event pro or con, the better the odds someone coming.

  17. Nothing new here is there, really? You can’t acuse Richard Dawkins of being a coward, going into the lions den. But this is where the battle is being fought. It’s easy enough to preach for your own parrish. It’s almost like missionary work isn’t it?

    Good publicity too by the way, I bet a whole bunch of people in the outer Hebrides didn’t even know he was coming over. Well, thanks a lot.

  18. Oh, joyous news! One of the objectors is bound to be the minister with whom I’ve been locking my diabolical atheistic horns for several years, Rev. Graeme Craig of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing). He used to be my local ‘vicar’ in Lochalsh before he legged it as far away from the real world as he could get: to Stornaway. He’s a 6,000 years literalist and has a degree in geology. I think we might be in for a lot of fun here in the West Highlands if Richard does come.

  19. No doubt Richard is deemed so strident and so shrill that his mere presence is enough to offend!

    Richard, how dare you breathe in the air of the Outer Hebrides, didn’t you know that this is Oxygen reserved for good Christian folk!!

  20. Dear godzacon. Not that surprising, as dozens of ‘tourism’ families from all over the UK have settled on the islands to get their children away from the stress and ‘rat race’ of city life. Prof.Dawkins presence is sorely needed up there as the ‘divines’ have virtually taken over the production dept of BBC Alba – its Gaelic language program “Eorpa” is constantly suffused with the, ‘how to be humble in the presence of our lord’ editions.

  21. Having been invited perhaps he feels obligated; here’s hoping for a good result!

  22. (Dawkins) is the headline speaker at the main book festival in the God-fearing Outer Hebrides – arguably one of the least-likely places his views will be welcomed.

    Why, is this a book-burning festival?

    A savage dose of reality will do them the world of good.

  23. I’ve just been revisiting the ‘Father Ted’ series….way ahead of its time….a bit like’ The Life of Brian’…..every time I watch it, I pick up another wee ditty I had noticed, pure genius.

  24. It’s actually good news because it illuminates their ignorance. There will be much more attention brought to the matter than if they had politely endured, or whatever these folks choose to call their torture of listening to Professor Dawkins. How frail they are! If indeed eternal bliss is in their favour, what to fear?

  25. Up in the Hebrides, R.D. will look like some kind of prophetic Space Wizard figure, I bet.

  26. My favourite line, from the episode The Plague:  “Because, Dougal, my nerves are shot and I won’t be able to relax until the only rabbit left is the one sitting in your head working the controls.”

  27. Fuck….never thought of that. I’m out in España again….so am trying to stay light-hearted what with all the sunshine and vino. The Prof. should be well looked after in the land of the Harris Tweed with his entourage to keep tabs….but care should be taken, Christianity of a variety of flavours has the locals heads well and truly mangled.

  28. Actually most of the quotes have come from the Lords Day Observance Society, a tiny bunch of literalist killjoys who make a habit of whinging about anything they perceive as unbibilical.  Merely to invite an avowed atheist to speak at a festival is probably blasphemous in their eyes.  They have neither the appetite nor intellect to engage in rational debate, so their absence from the talk if they boycott it is no great loss.  Contrary to some of the posts here, most folk in the Outer Hebrides are perfectly normal, and will I’m sure welcome Prof Dawkins whether they agree with him or not.  As others have said, the publicity will merely encourage others who didn’t know about it to attend.  This is a great boost to free-thinking and skeptical islanders who sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of religiosity locally.  Well done to the organisers for inviting Richard, and to him for accepting the invitation.

  29. Apparently that’s how you deal with uncomfortable topics nowadays. A boycott or censorship, instead of open discussion. Nothing new from the faith-heads.

  30. Please don’t tarr all Hebrideans and Gaels with the same brush. Rural Lewis has a very loud and active evangelistic scene, but most of us are normal people. Snide jokes about the Rev IM Jolly and sheepshagging really don’t show the ‘atheist community’ in the best light. I can’t wait for RD’s visit as it will certainly open up a debate which is silenced by the ministers constant shouting at each other – if it just gets people to question ministers’ right to power/influence then thats good enough for me.

    And, perhaps the reason RD is coming to Lewis at all is that it is Britain’s closest analogue to the Bible Belt…

  31. yes, i agree. one is free to protest provided there’s no violence or intimidation involved.  it’s also a good way to draw the attention of people who might otherwise never have heard about it or gone to the event.

  32. I’m not sure this makes much sense. If you were going to boycott you would not have listen to Richard in the first place. the people who would go and listen would not listen to the churches call to boycott. …This is so silly…intorelant Chirstians at it again..

  33. The delusional do not wish to have their armor of ignorance shattered with the hammer of reason.

    So, they employ these primitive behaviors.

  34. People are being urged to boycott a talk by atheist Professor Richard Dawkins in the Western Isles heartland of the Free Church.

    Firstly, there’s no freedom of thought if such an attempt is made, contra the Church’s name and decision, so that shows a nice contrast. Secondly, besides not going, what does boycotting involve? I won’t be going either (I don’t live there), and many people there might not hear of it, or might not care about the issues, or… anyway, besides not going, is there any more to it? Oh, right, the publicly saying you’re not going thing. Show-offs.

    [RD] is the headline speaker at the main book festival in the God-fearing Outer Hebrides – arguably one of the least-likely places his views will be welcomed. Now, hard-line Christians are calling on people to boycott the biologist’s talk at the Faclan Hebridean Book
    Festival at Stornoway, amid claims his presence will be “offensive”.

    Firstly, why should godless hypotheses offend Christians any more than Higgsless models offended physicists (they haven’t)? Secondly, if no-one will welcome his views anyway, what’s the point of a boycott? Just be glad you already know he’ll be ignored.

  35. While researching DNA matches for MY line of the Dawkins family, not necessarily Richards. I discovered matches of at least 12 markers or more with many a “Historically Marked” surname common to the Western Isles. They may be boycotting a possible ancestor.


  36. It’s good the people in the area, too afraid to risk job or social inclusion, will have the noise from outside coming in, asking questions why their two millennial education system has not been updated and still hangs onto a core curriculum set by humans who didn’t know the first thing about most things we take for granted today.

    Also it will be good to expose those who are trying to promote a language with motivation to further hide these facts from the next generations. I think there a covert operation afoot, to under-educate the next generations, in order to self serve the agendas of myths and yet again pass them through another generation with undeserved privilege.

    Isn’t it glaringly contemptible that those people in positions of highest office, throughout the world, still stand steadfast in granting myth mongers extra special protections whilst at the same time often branding those promoting an up to date educated position in a negative light, much the way the myth makers brand them evil for questioning their fossil thinking – thinking fixed in a time long gone!

    I remain saddened in the knowledge many people will be too oppressed to think for themselves and too in fear of reprisals to challenge, or simply live their own way, due what is still a dominant bullying system of governance and power over the common people. 

    No surprises there. It beggars belief humans still insist upon these default positions to mythological pre-educated states of mind as some way of enabling their own “good life” special powers and privilege. In a way this spells out how shallow most humans are.

    There is something very feared about truth and the most frightened of all seem to walk in the corridors controlling everything who smile as they perpetuate the everlasting lies they have conspired down the millennia. Hard to believe, hey, that this is what is not to be taught and that this truth is what must at all costs be hidden from the majority of the next generation, as some kind of unspoken code to secure the class divisions the majority have always been bullied by. 

    Yes, it’s this truth that is most rare in the lower ranks. Good that in todays world technology and education can reach the remotest hideouts and help rescue captives of monstrous myths the world over.

  37. I swear, the way some people think…

    A man criticizing belief in a malevolent deity whose existence cannot be proven is horribly, horribly offensive to us.

    A book that tells you it’s okay to throw rocks at your children until they die if they give you lip, on the other hand, is just hunky-dory.

  38. “People are being urged to boycott a talk by atheist Professor Richard Dawkins in the Western Isles heartland of the Free Church”

    Like it was compulsory to attend…

  39. Lighten up, it’s just a bit of banter drawn by the asinine attitude of certain elements of that community in much the same way the similar recent debacle has been drawn by the same fundamentalist elements here in NI over the ‘Giants Causeway’ and their YEC influence. Ridicule is a useful tool in these instances and those that know, know.

    I’ve had a lifetime of people poking ‘Paddy Irishman’ jokes, my skin is thick enough to take it in good spirit, and know that the generalisation is unwarranted. Heck, Irishmen reduce the innocent jibes further to the ‘Kerryman’ jokes.

  40.  I know the Isle of Lewis fairly well having worked there as an archaeologist a while ago.  The “Wee Frees” are indeed a right bunch of loons, but they aren’t everybody on the island; I found a lot of sophisticated and (yes) atheist people there too.  This was a couple of decades ago now, and surely things can’t have become worse in the interim?   Also I think Richard will face more hassle for being English than for being atheist.  I’m half Scottish and couldn’t live there because of the phenominal amount of anti English racism.

  41. I wish I culd raise enough fund to invite Mr Dawkins to Nigeria because of gods-infestation

  42. Heck, Irishmen reduce the innocent jibes further to the ‘Kerryman’ jokes.

    Really? I thought it was just us Dubs.

    (Amos, did you read the articles in today’s local press on latest figures regarding faith in Ireland. It will put a smile on your face!!)

  43. the worry isn’t the boycotting. of course they want the more “easily led” parts of thier church to stay away but there’ll be no shortage of bible bashers turning up to shout over Richard and cry out in triumph when he starts to look a little tired of the treatment.

    failing that the noise will render the talk impossible causing Richard to step down (more cries of triumph). we’ve seen it in the past but usually one or two wingnuts in an room full of academics. this crowd however could turn very ugly in the name of jesus christ amen

    on the plus side this backwater (I too imediately thought of The Wicker Man) may have some closeted atheists who’ll get to listen to a different perspective for the first time

  44. The unsupported claim of god is offensive to anyone who appreciates reality. At least Dawkins brings evidence. To be offended by evidence just makes you a fool.

  45. No doubt it’s a distinct possibility. Sounds like an excellent opportunity for a video camera to document the reaction “live”.

    I don’t think Richard could lose if he does that. It could be what we Scots call “a right good rammy”…or perhaps even a decent, intelligent discussion? Either way, it’s a chance for Islanders who might not be assertive enough themselves to speak out, to witness (on Youtube?) someone who is well-versed in doing just that.

  46.  Not surprising at all. It has garnered publicity. He seems to wisely choose places like this. Remember Dublin just before the Eucharistic Congress and the Alaskan university? He goes right to the hearts of fundamentalisms or as close as is sensibly safe.

  47. Don’t Christians have some sort of saying in their Bible along the lines that those who never look will not see and those who never listen will not hear? Obviously, that’s just selective advice.

  48. Despite calls of a boycott from
    a member of the Lord’s Day Observance Society, Stornoway Free Church minister
    Reverend Iver Martin, who is minister of one of the biggest congregations on the
    island, said he welcomed the visit as an opportunity for debate. 

    Mr Martin said: “As a minister in the Free Church into whose ‘Heartland’
    Professor Dawkins is being invited I’d like to strenuously reject suggestions
    that there be a boycott of his visit.

    “John Roberts, who has been quoted
    from the Lord’s Day Observance Society, while entitled to his views, hardly
    represents the Lewis Christian community.

    “The Free Church of Scotland
    endorses freedom of discussion and the exchange of argument. 

  49.  GAAZeus, I never saw that episode! Thanks!
     I thought I’d seen them all 3 times!
    Probably PBS didn’t show that one … way over the top!
    Pish galore!

  50. The poor old “Wee Free” couldn’t even stop Caledonian MacBrayne  and their Sunday ferries! A more pathetic group of whisky pickled, paper tigers is difficult for me to imagine. Reality appears to be asserting itself as it always does!

    Those Christians who “welcome debate” will soon find themselves having to amend their theology accordingly, – backpeddling at an Olympic pace!

  51. Brilliant. They should boycott. And then wonder why they boycotted. If they were right, if gods really existed and were on their side, they wouldn’t have to boycott lectures. Their reaction not only prooves that they are full of air ; it also prooves that rationnal debat is so much stronger and convincing than faith that their only resort is censorship. I love seeing them shooting themselves in the foot so efficiently.

  52. What huge fun!  You
    can’t buy publicity like that. I say bring it on.

    And congratulations to Richard for accepting the invitation,
    to the Hebrides of all places, in November. I wonder if there’s an element of his
    secretly relishing the challenge?

    The festival looks fantastic – apart from literary talks, there
    are showings of classic vampire films and suchlike. Just the thing to
    compliment a wild Hebridean night.  I’d
    go, if only I weren’t fully committed shooting fireworks at God that time of

    As others have noticed, if someone tells Richard the venue
    has been changed, with the event now being held inside a huge wicker effigy of
    himself, to which he should proceed directly from the airport, caution might be

  53. Personally, I would have thought Liberty University, and other places in the USA, far more potentially dangerous to Richard’s health. The Hebrides FFS, what will the Lord’s Day Observance Society attack him with? A lobster creel? A Holy Hand Grenade? A hedgehog sandwich?

  54. “couldn’t live there because of the phenominal amount of anti English racism”.  Really? On Lewis?  Never noticed it myself.

  55. I just saw the article on another thread….not as fookin’ thick as the rest makes us out to be, eahhh Tyler?

  56. Who cares about these numpties? They will be wiped out in 1 or 2 generations. They don’t have an education and will only isolate themselves further. 
    People are studying hard in China and India to make something of their lives. More than 80% of people in U.S. colleges are also Asian. Good luck with that. 

  57. “Many in Stornoway are resistant to Dawkin’s presence”.


  58. The stirrers in the press (BBC and Press & Journal articles in the News list) seem to have fooled a few posters here into thinking that the W Isles are a sort of Christian “Taliban enclave”. Have they forgotten that the media can distort the truth as much as any religious group? And for the totally ignorant (for I have met them) – the Western Isles has the Scottish curriculum, libraries, electricity and all other utilities. It’s also got Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, Hoodies, Gaga Monsters, Agnostics, and Atheists. It’s a microcosm of the UK, says this Islander. But don’t let my opinion get in the way of a “good” story, which amounts to only two Christians venting their insecurities.

  59. I agree. I hate this ‘Tartan Taliban’ narrative the press always seems to go with. Lewis produced Iain Crichton Smith for god sake! Our main 20th century literary figures – Iain Crichton Smith, Derick Thompson, Donald MacAulay – were all atheists. Fine what they were doing was in reaction to the Free Church fundies, but the fact is there was a reaction. The Western Isles have been rebelling against their Christian heritage for the past fifty years – the vast majority campaigned FOR sunday openings, not against. It’s just the people in power in the council are mostly middle-aged to old men, often elders etc, so the Church retains a huge degree of influence. Similarly, the local press gifts column inches to ministers – Donald MacLeod in the Free Press and Iain what’s his name in the Gazette. 

    Also, the southern part of the islands is overwhelmingly Catholic, so even within the religious, the dour presbyterian narrative is false…

  60. If you look at the timetable for the Faclan festival,… you will see some interesting names. Quite a few theists in there, including, surprise , surprise, the “Wee Flea” himself (David Robertson)

    I expect that the fundies will turn up in protest, just like they did in Inverness a few years ago when RD spoke at UHI:… 

    They made complete tits of themselves by protesting at that –….

    From which there is this wonderful quote:

    “Derick Gillies, of the Free Church of Scotland, said there was an unbalanced debate between those believing in creationism and those believing in evolution.” (Actually this guy is from the Free Church CONTINUING, not the Free Church. Confused, yep.

    But, the highlight of the Inverness visit HAS to be this:… 

    This idiot made a total fud of himself – (he’s actually a tongue-speaking, “voices in the head”,  hyper charismaniac who is , worryingly a school chaplain)

    There will be many more twats like that in Stornoway. Funny thing is they will all disagree with each other because thats what fundies do. That after all is why we have this chart:


    Read it and weep, fundies.


    PS Richard, if you read this, when you are in Stornoway, look out for a guy called Dr Finlay Macleod. He is an atheist. Lewis born and bred, and a scholar,  who has battled against the dead hand of Calvinism all his life. Regarding ferries running on Sundays for the first time, Macleod said:  “It’s a major step forward to free Lewis, to make it a much more open society where no sect or sector tries to control the free movement, the free thinking or the free speech of the people”. A sound person indeed – his writings are well worth reading.

  61. Just to reinforce the point that the president of the Lord’s Day Observance Society is not representative of the population of the Outer Hebrides at large, here is a transcript of an editorial in the West Highland Free Press, written in response to the boycott call:

    It is possible to disagree with Richard Dawkins. It is possible tocriticise Richard Dawkins. It is possible to dislike Richard Dawkins.But it is neither civilised nor productive to suggest that he should bebanned from your local book festival because he is an atheist.

    Faclan, the Hebridean Book Festival, has achieved a serious coup inattracting Richard Dawkins to Stornoway in November. Professor Dawkins isnot only Britain’s most famous atheist (contrary to reports elsewhere inthe press this week, he is British and not American).
    He is also one of the UK’s most eminent scientists, the author of suchgroundbreaking works as ‘The Selfish Gene’, and a biologist ofinternational renown. Few more distinguished men or women will speak at anybook festival in Scotland this year.

    He will be in Lewis, of course, to talk about his rejection of theAnglican Christianity of his youth and his subsequent belief in Darwininianevolution. His rejection of God is not shared by most people in the WesternIsles.

    Most Christians in this region, however, believe in free speech as acornerstone of our democracy. When he describes Dawkins’ invitation toFaclan as “offensive” and calls for his talk to be boycotted, John Robertsof the Lord’s Day Observance Society is not speaking for the great majorityof tolerant Christians in the islands, and they should waste no time intelling him so.

    Richard Dawkins is a profoundly intelligent debater. Mr Roberts’conviction that he personally holds superior views should be tested throughreasoned argument, and not allowed to degenerate into unworthy abuse. IfWestern Isles Christianity is so fragile that it can be broken by onevisiting lecturer, it does not deserve to survive.

    Such abuse may have given Professor Dawkins the impression that he will
    be walking into a hornets’ nest in Stornoway. He will not. He will find
    himself in the company of clever, witty and above all hospitable people,
    even if most of them disagree with him.

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