Famed Atheist Richard Dawkins: Did He Profit from Family Slave Fortune?

If you find yourself treading closer to the atheist camp in the great religion debate, Richard Dawkins is your guy. Christopher Hitchens maybe used to be your guy, but following his unfortunate death in December, pickings are slim. Bad press for a guy that lonely can be a killer, which is why Dawkins fired back at the Telegraph earlier today for accusing him of profiting (though indirectly) from slavery.

The British ethologist, writer and Oxford University graduate, successful best-selling author, and noted atheist was the centerpiece of a Telegraph article that mentions Dawkins' great-to-the-fifth-power grandfather, Henry Dawkins, who owned some 1,013 Jamaican slaves before his death in 1744. Dawkins saw the "footnote" as an intentional slight against him, calling the article "a smear tactic" and clarifying that he profited-not from the family slave fortune, as it dwindled long before Dawkins was born.

Says Dawkins, the Telegraph reporter who wrote the article called him and quoted a Biblical passage about the Lord "visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." The reporter also added, bitingly, that Dawkins, who is famous for being an evolutionary biologist, has a "slave supporting" gene.

Dawkins said in his blog that he was expecting some backlash after a tiff with a former chancellor of St. Paul's cathedral on a BBC program this week, but didn't imagine the level of harassment that he is reporting. "But in my wildest dreams I couldn't have imagined the surreal form this one was to take," Dawkins said.

Thus far, we only have Dawkins' side, and he has clashed with others in the past, eventually blaming their criticism of him on their religious leanings.

So I turn to you for answers. What do you think of Richard Dawkins? Does this dude deserve a little harassment? Does he handle fallout from his combativeness poorly? Or was this too low a blow for anyone? Is Dawkins justified in his frustration? Let us know in the comments below!