Richard Dawkins, the strident atheist, advocates for and teaches at a new private school, called The New College of Humanities, offering degrees via the University of London (51 degrees North, 0 degrees West). The list of teaching and visiting professors is a who's who of elite academics from elite international academies. The sell is to high-flyers and the offer is commercial and philanthropic.
The New College of Humanities website says:
NCH is open to all students of high potential, from any background. The generous NCH scholarship fund and the associated Trust ensure that finance should not be a barrier to any UK student of high ability who wants to apply to the College.
The pitch is straight from the film An Education, where the innocent lower middle class girl, Jenny Mellor, with the bright future ahead of her if she only complies, is side-tracked by a trio of uneducated, philistine spivs, living on their wits, including a thief, a blond airhead and a near-paedophile.
Jenny Mellor has a lucky escape and pleads to be let back on track. Having learnt her lesson, she says : The life I want, there is no short-cut.
Success and the happy life only come with hard work. Where? At Oxford. Or The New College of Humanities.
Dawkins' trumpeting of this college pegs him and his colleagues in the anti-state, anti-community tradition which underpins the elitism they cherish. All along the delusion Dawkins offers is that his interests are in freedom and education. Religion is the enemy, people of faith (the vast majority of people in the world) are dangerous, Islam and certain Muslims are particularly dangerous. Why? Because they don't comply.
Whatever about the truth of Dawkins' assertions regarding the existence of God, there can be no doubting his belief in an elitist view of education and his capacity for strident battering of public spaces and communities, not only in faith and non-faith settings, but also in education.
The over-riding impression given by his public work is that the majority is not worthy, because people are stupid. And haven't been to Oxford. Or the 21st Century version, The New College of Humanities.
Dawkins' desire is to be a guru. A leader, basking in the chant
'Dawkins is our Leader! We are easily led!'
to the tune of 'We shall not be moved!'
That is his tragedy. He is D'amville in Tourneur's play The Atheist's Tragedy when he posits to his companion Borachio:
Borachio, thou art read
In Nature and her large philosophy.
Observ'st thou not the very self same course
Of revolution both in man and beast?
Let all men lose, so I increase my gain.
I have no feeling of another's pain.
An Education: film; Lone Scherfig; BBC Films; 2009
The Atheist's Tragedy: stage play; Cyril Torneur; 1611