Dawkins considers that all faith is blind faith, and that Christian and Muslim children are brought up to believe unquestioningly. Not even the dim-witted clerics who knocked me about at grammar school thought that.
There is no way in which we can retrospectively erase the Treaty of Vienna or the Great Irish Famine. It is a peculiar feature of human actions that, once performed, they can never be recuperated. What is true of the past will always be true of it.
Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is 'The Book of British Birds,' and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.
In the end, the humanities can only be defended by stressing how indispensable they are: and this means insisting on their vital role in the whole business of academic learning, rather than protesting that, like some poor relation, they don't cost much to be housed.
Poetry is the most subtle of the literary arts, and students grow more ingenious by the year at avoiding it. If they can nip around Milton, duck under Blake and collapse gratefully into the arms of Jane Austen, a lot of them will.
The British are supposed to be particularly averse to intellectuals, a prejudice closely bound up with their dislike of foreigners. Indeed, one important source of this Anglo-Saxon distaste for highbrows and eggheads was the French revolution, which was seen as an attempt to reconstruct society on the basis of abstract rational principles.
It is in Rousseau's writing above all that history begins to turn from upper-class honour to middle-class humanitarianism. Pity, sympathy and compassion lie at the centre of his moral vision. Values associated with the feminine begin to infiltrate social existence as a whole, rather than being confined to the domestic sphere.
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