CANTERBURY — A prominent atheist has stirred international outage following his comments regarding children who are victims of ‘light pedophilia.’
Richard Dawkins, known for his book The God Delusion, was recently featured in an interview in The Times, during which he spoke of his own sexual abuse as a child, which he said had no long-lasting affect upon his life.
“One day – I must have been about 11 – there was a master in the gallery with me. He pulled me onto his knee and put his hand inside my shorts. He did no more than have a little feel, but it was extremely disagreeable … as well as embarrassing,” he told the publication. “As soon as I could wriggle off his lap, I ran to tell my friends, many of whom had had the same experience with him. I don’t think he did any of us any lasting damage, but some years later he killed himself.”
However, when Dawkins shared his thoughts about degrees of pedophilia, the changing times and not treating all types of inappropriate touching alike, readers expressed shock and disappointment.
“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours,””Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.”
“[T]he most notorious cases of pedophilia involve rape and even murder, and because we attach the label ‘pedophilia’ to the same things when they’re just mild touching up, we must beware of lumping all pedophiles into the same bracket,” Dawkins opined.
On Tuesday, Dawkins took to Twitter in an attempt to clarify his remarks.
“‘Mild touching up’ is bad,” he wrote. “Raping [an] 8-year-old wife to death is worse. Worse? That’s putting it mildly. Quantitative judgment vs. black/white.”
“Is anyone seriously denying that raping an 8-year-old to death is worse than putting a hand inside a child’s clothes?” he wrote again later. “Are you that absolute?”
On Thursday, Dawkins also penned an article explaining his words.
“To excuse pedophiliac assaults in general, or to make light of the horrific experiences of others, was a thousand miles from my intention,” he wrote. “I cannot know for certain that my companions’ experiences with the same teacher were are brief as mine, and theirs may have been recurrent where mine was not.”
“If I am wrong about any particular individual; if any of my companions really was traumatized by the abuse long after it happened; if, perhaps it happened many times and amounted to more than the single disagreeable but brief fondling that I endured, I apologize,” Dawkins said.
However, a number of child protection groups remain outraged at Dawkins’ comments. Peter Watt of the National Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said that the atheist’s remarks slighted others who have suffered from the memories of their abuse.
“Mr. Dawkins seems to think that because a crime was committed a long time ago we should judge it in a different way,” he told Religion News Service. “But we know that the victims of sexual abuse suffer the same effects whether it was 50 years ago or yesterday.”