Richard Dawkins' Faith Festival Invitation Protested by Scottish Christians

Renowned author and biologist Richard Dawkins has been invited to speak at the faith-themed Faclan Hebridean Book Festival in Scotland, and some local church groups have questioned how the atheist professor's presence would benefit attendees.

The festival, which will take place in November in the Scottish town of Stornoway, on Lewis Island, explores belief and faith in the various ways it is presented in literature, which includes anti-theist works such as Dawkins' own The God Delusion.

Dawkins, a fierce proponent of rationalism and evolution, has called faith a "cop-out," insisting that people do not need faith in their lives.

"Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to explain," Dawkins has said.

Many in Stornoway, which is heavily Christian, are resistant to Dawkins' presence, with church leaders suggesting that a discussion on atheism shouldn't really be a part of such a festival.

"He has got a name for himself and being invited to a place like the Western Isles, which is a stronghold Presbyterian area, I just find it amazing he should be invited to a place like that," said John Roberts, of the Lord's Day Observance Society.

"He has a personality that has reached certain heights but it just shows how gullible people are when so much of what he says can be torn to pieces," he added.

Roberts insisted that people should make their own decisions when considering whether to attend a supposed faith and literature event where someone so resistant to Christianity is scheduled to speak.

"It is disappointing that he has been invited given the Christian heritage and local sensitivities here," said Pastor Donnie Stewart, of the New Wine Church at Stornoway. "But we will keep praying that (Professor) Dawkins receives the personal revelation of the Holy Spirit."

Some reports have suggested that churches have even called for a boycott of the event because of Dawkins, but whether such a protest will happen is yet to be seen.

Organizers of the Faclan Hebridean Book Festival insisted they were not worried about the controversy surrounding their decision, and explained that they expect Dawkins will receive a warm welcome from attendees.

"Professor Dawkins was asked because he is one of the world's most eminent and influential scientists and has trenchant and sincerely held views on this. His beliefs happen to be in reason, logic and evidence and it is appropriate that such views be given a platform within the terms of the festival," said Director Roddy Murray.

"I am not worried about the reception he will receive in Lewis. People here are unfailingly courteous and tolerant," he added.

While Dawkins has not yet commented on the controversy surrounding his invitation, the BBC quoted a spokeswoman for the professor, saying: "The very fact they are making such a fuss about a talk which no one will be forced to attend betrays their panic at the mere idea of their beliefs not being considered sacrosanct by all."

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