by Paul Bowers
The host of the talk, Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry founder and Secular Coalition for America president emeritus Herb Silverman, shows up resplendent in a tuxedo T-shirt, and the program takes the form of a casual discussion between Silverman and Dawkins. The audience in the packed auditorium can be seen sitting on the stage behind them. If you're looking for the Q&A session, Silverman opens up the room for questions around the 55:00 mark.
Early on in the discussion, Dawkins explains how his work as a scientist led him to his work as the world's best-known atheist:
I love truth, and I think that the truth about the world, the truth about the universe is utterly exciting. It's enthralling, it's exilarating, and it knocks into a cocked hat the sort of parochial, petty, medieval — pre-medieval, Dark Age — view of the world, which is the religious view. And therefore going against religion is for me an integral part of being an expository writer about science. I couldn't imagine doing one without the other.
Dawkins also talks more on the notion of being a "cultural Christian" and mentions that he has "hugely enjoyed" Silverman's autobiography, Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt, for which Dawkins wrote the foreword.
The opening speaker, Dawkins Foundation Strategy and Policy Director Sean Faircloth, also provides some timely commentary on the history of religion in South Carolina politics, leading off with a jab at Mark Sanford's involvement with the D.C. religious community known as the C Street Center. "They were enjoying services all right, and they might have even shouted, 'Oh God,' but these were not the type of services for which you normally get a tax deduction," Faircloth says. Then he gives a rundown of famous and infamous South Carolina politicians:
Cast your mind back a little ways to Lee Atwater, who expressly joined evangelicalism with right-wing politics. John Calhoun, who considered himself a religious man and was the leading proponent of slavery in the United States in the 1800s. Congressman Preston Brooks, for some of you who have your memory of history, who considered himself a devout Christian and who nearly beat to death an abolitionist senator with a cane on the floor of the United States Senate. Strom Thurmond, the man who bolted the Democratic Party adamantly opposing the mixing of the races — some of you may recall the irony in that one. And Jim DeMint — I'm not making this up — Jim DeMint, who said that women should not be able to communicate with their doctors over the internet about their reproductive choices ... Culminating with Tim Scott, who said, and I quote him, 'The greatest minority under assault today are Christians.'