The present Dawkins is a more congenial figure than the blood-spitting one of the past. Formerly atheism's Grand Inquisitor, sworn to seek and destroy all those who opposed the true word of Dawk, he has re-cast himself as an evangelist, eyes burning with certainty, seeking to persuade the unbelieving masses by the power of his words. He is the true antithesis of the religious believers he so despises. Watching him last night prompted a couple of observations. One is that the church needs more people who can communicate on TV with the same degree of clarity and certainty that Dawkins does. It is a rare gift, but one which would be very helpful if possessed by the next Archbishop of Canterbury (for example).
But the most interesting point is that Dawkins has grasped that belief is intimately connected with the presuppositions which shape our broader thinking. He believes that the reason that religious belief persists, when to his mind it should long ago have withered away, is because children are indoctrinated to it at an early age. So, he reasons, if he can provide an alternative indoctrination, he should be able to inoculate the young mind against religion.
This is a shrewd observation. The mental landscape we construct in our early life is hard to re-arrange: "give me a child at twelve and I will give you the man for life" is a truth long recognised by the Christian church, and Dawkins is merely getting in on the act. But if I was to advise him, I would say there are some glaring flaws in his cunning plan. Setting aside the question of whether he really believes that his one book can counter the effect of the huge mass of religious literature and teaching (I suspect that he probably does), the problem lies in his utterly feeble concept of "truth".
If you watch his interview, you will see that he majors on the concept of truth vs. falsehood. Because the creation stories he mentions (including Genesis) are not compatible with the scientific understanding of our origins, he brands them "false", implying that what he is saying is "true". But that only works if you confine the meaning of "true" to things which can be scientifically proven. To Dawkins, this is self-evident. But it's actually not a great definition of truth. For a start, there is the question of what constitutes scientific proof. Understood in its purest sense, this means something which can be demonstrated by replicating it so that an observer can see it happening. But Dawkins, as an evolutionist, has spent his entire career working on a different assumption, namely that some things cannot be replicated in the lab, but can still be proven by examining the evidence.
This is acceptable, and I am no 6-day creationist, trotting out the lame line that evolution is "only a theory", as if it was some crackpot idea dreamed up by Darwin during a late-night session on an online discussion forum. It is a very good theory, one which reveals certain facts, and indeed some truth. But once we admit that evidence points us to the truth, we also have to admit there are different kinds of evidence. The evidence of a witness in a law court, which has to be evaluated. The evidence of the Bible and the Holy Spirit, for example, pointing us to the truth about God. Dawkins has to construct a very strained idea of truth, evidence, and fact in order to maintain the illusion that we have to choose between science and religion.
Unless, of course, you prefer to buy into the idea that science is an alternative belief system and that the Bible can only be taken seriously if we first rip up all human thinking since about 1500. There are plenty of Christians that think like this, and this is why Dawkins is able to keep going. He is a product of creationism, its necessary antagonist, and as long as religious fundamentalism is around, Dawkins and his like will be with us too.