Josh Timonen: Richard Dawkins’s Judas Iscariot?

Josh Timonen has been Richard Dawkins’s right hand man for a couple of years now, running the Richard Dawkins Foundation (RDF) store and managing the famous scientist’s website. As recently as February of 2010, Richard Dawkins was adamantly defending Timonen against a flurry of criticism. And Dawkins even dedicated his most recent book, The Greatest Show on Earth, to Josh Timonen. In the Preface Dawkins speaks of Timonen’s web design contributions to as “just the tip of an amazing iceberg” of contributions made in a “joint endeavour” toward atheism and science education. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Timonen, in his late 20s, has been like a son to the 70-something Dawkins.

But the operative phrase here is has been, for the son is a son no more. Richard Dawkins, in an 18 page complaint recently filed in a Los Angeles County court, is suing his once beloved webmaster for “$950,000 plus punitive damages.” The son, it appears, may have spectacularly betrayed his father, and that to the tune of $375,000.

According to Courthouse News Service:

Dawkins says he asked Timonen to run the store through his company, Upper Branch Productions. Timonen took the reins, Dawkins says, and ran the online store for 3 years, during which he claimed the store cleared only $30,000 and “was just squeaking by.” But the scientist says Timonen actually pocketed $375,000. Dawkins says he found out about the scam this year, when the Foundation decided to wrest control of the store from Timonen. Timonen handed over financial books that detailed his embezzlement, Dawkins says, including $500 meals, trips to Timberline Lodge in Oregon and the Malibu Beach Inn, and $314,000 in “salaries” paid to Timonen and his girlfriend -though Timonen and the Foundation agreed that the $278,000 it was aware of paying him would be his combined salary for running the store and performing his other duties. Timonen’s “significantly older” girlfriend, defendant Maureen Norton, allegedly used at least $100,000 of the charity’s money to upgrade her Sherman Oaks home before she put it on the market. A recent real estate listing describes improvements such as a “custom backyard pool and spa area with a wonderful waterfall and glass block fire pit plus custom seating for the ultimate outdoor living and entertaining experience,” according to the complaint. Dawkins claims Timonen made off with 92 percent of the money generated at the store in 3 years.

I assume that Josh Timonen is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. And at his website, Timonen is adamant about his innocence, so we’ll see how it plays out. But I still would like to get philosophical here for a moment and think about a religious poet’s moral system: Dante’s. In the Inferno, Dante’s circles of hell are roughly organized in this fashion:

  • the outer circles are devoted to the incontinent (gluttons, the habitually enraged, adulterers, etc);
  • the middle circles are devoted to the violent (those who harm themselves, others, or God); and
  • the inner circles are devoted to those who fake reality, with betrayers being in the very heart center of hell, joined by Satan.

Early on in Dante’s poem, these broad categories are symbolized by three animals: a lean and hungry she-wolf (animal incontinence), a lion (violence), and a leopard (cunning). I think that this way of conceptually organizing the human moral life is exceptionally interesting. Do you have self control? Are you violent? Do you fake reality? These are the three great questions of ethics, and in Dante’s reckoning to do a fake-out on the trusting and vulnerable human heart is the very worst thing that you can do. It is a betrayal of love. And so in the center of hell, Satan, frozen in ice to his waist, is depicted by Dante as having three faces with each of his mouths gnawing on a famous betrayer. Two mouths are devoted to the betrayers of Caesar (Brutus and Cassius) and one mouth is devoted to Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus. It would be ironic indeed if Richard Dawkins, the most famous atheist in the world, approached the end of his own life feeling the sting of a beloved disciple’s betrayal, a sting that is at the heart center of both the story of Jesus and Dante’s Inferno. I do not offer up this irony with Schadenfreude.  I feel bad for both Dawkins and Timonen.

Below is a 1911 Italian silent film depicting Vergil leading Dante through the final circle of hell. If you’ve never seen L’Inferno  in its entirety, it can be had on DVD, and is maybe viewable on YouTube whole. It’s a treat (insofar as a film depicting hell can be).

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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25 Responses to Josh Timonen: Richard Dawkins’s Judas Iscariot?

  1. Christ's Angel says:

    It isn’t any easier to love the sciences than to love your own children. An atheist does neither. It certainly seems that this Dawkins, as an atheist, is getting a taste of what he has sown.

    • mary says:

      “a taste of what he has sown”?

      Please illuminate. How can you excuse the betrayal of trust? Dawkins apparently treated Timonen with great respect, confidence, and yes, love, as outlined in the above article.

      The courts will establish what happened to all the money that vanished. Dawkins’ filing indicates at the very least a breach of fiduciary responsibility and on a personal level, trust.

      Such betrayal is truly deserving of the innermost circle of hell.

      • Christ's Angel says:

        He openly said this of Yahweh in the flesh : “but that he rebelled against many aspects of Yahweh’s vengeful nastiness”.

        As wrong as that statement is, Dawkins is somewhat assured that Jesus will forgive him.

        Yahweh, the God who revealed Himself to be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

        It seems to me Dawkins has only 2/3rds of forgiveness coming his way, maybe only 1/3.

        But both Dawkins and Timonen, who can still work things out between them, seem less wrong than those who openly profess Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and then do a 180.

    • santitafarella says:

      Christ’s angel:

      You don’t always reap what you sow. In this instance, it appears that Dawkins may have sowed trust and love, but ended up like Othello.


    • JCR says:

      Good old Christian ignorance and morality (or lack there of) at its finest. He deserves to be robbed because he openly states that your mythology is baseless? Do you even realize that saying this violate the tenets of Christianity and show you to be an arrogant hypocrite who judges others and seems to rejoice in their pain.

      And where do you get the opinion that atheists do not love their children? The examples of cases of Christians abusing their children or neglecting them are abundant. I wonder, how many can you find of atheists abusing or neglecting their kids? It seems that it is actually easier and more common place to love the Christian fairytale than to actually love your children. And you are a great example of one who simultaneously claims christianity while being distinctly unchristian. John 8:7

      • Christ's Angel says:

        A) It isn’t mythology.
        B) It isn’t a fairytale.
        C) God did not rebel against Himself.

        Forgiveness aside, if one sows confusion and/or a lie, one will reap disaster. Whether that disaster is small or great, temporary or permanent, it is sure to follow just the same.

        For you to attempt a quote from the Bible is ludicrous considering your denial of A, B, and C. I began reply based solely on Santi’s report. Further study continues to pan out this way. If I were truly casting a stone, I would have to deny Dawkins any forgiveness, which I haven’t done.

        If one cannot accept and love one’s Maker, one is only loving oneself, and that is at best. The suicide bombers and murderers are in the same category, but fall short of that “best”.

      • JCR says:

        There is as much evidence to support Christianity as there is for the Greek gods, Islam, Hinduism, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You believe something that is utterly devoid of evidence.

        I simply quoted the bible to you to point out the hypocrisy attached to your ignorance. There is some good moral construction from the bible, mostly in the NT, such as what I referenced. There is also vast immorality condoned by the bible.

        “If one cannot accept and love one’s Maker, one is only loving oneself, and that is at best” – an interesting delusion as reasoning for religion. Love exists in many many forms, across many religions, across atheism and is spread far more than each individual back them self. Interesting that you think a suicide bomber would love himself so much that he would kill himself for his deity. If you are trying to strike at the deeper philosophical point that we only do things for ourselves, that is at least as easily applied to any religious faith as that of a suicide bomber.

      • Christ's Angel says:


        There’s more evidence to support Christianity than all of your other mentions combined.

        You asked a rhetorical question while assuming my view to be as you wrote it. That is ignorance. Your attempt at making your assumed misjudgment seem legitimate is hypocrisy.

        I can gather a little more from what you wrote.

        Like the T-shirt that states “Atheists for Jesus”. That shows me some one trying to take some leadership to bring some unbelievers to a belief in Christ. That’s fine. But if one thinks their life as an atheist is so right, what is there to foster a change?

        By definition, atheism is a direct opposite to belief in Christ.

        You also misunderstood what I wrote, at least by your writing, concerning the suicide bombers and mass murderers. They don’t even love themselves, and they got that way by not loving God and others.

      • JCR says:

        What evidence to you believe exists to prove Christianity?

      • Christ's Angel says:

        You wrote : “What evidence to you believe exists to prove Christianity?”

        Perhaps, which also seems to me more than likely, you intended to write “What evidence do you believe exists to prove Christianity?”

        There was an effort to spread the lie that Christ did not rise from the dead, that His followers came and removed the body. Anyone who supports this lie has no proof, nor has ever had any proof to confirm it. The evidence is more to the contrary and this factual evidence is confirmed in prophecy enormously.

        Sober up.

      • JCR says:

        What I am asking is what evidence do you have to support belief that there is a god, that Christ was his son, that Christ rose .. the litany of things associated with Christian belief.

        It is amusing you immediately cast the concept that Christ did not rise from the dead as a lie. Don’t you first need to prove that Christ rose from the dead.

      • Christ's Angel says:

        History records many examples of people having, believing, and worshipping gods (note lower case ‘g’). History also records people having, believing, and worshipping God (note upper case “G”). At the dividing line of “g” and “G” we have a soldier in the Roman army who upon witnessing the events of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and death, converted from worshipping god to God. The soldier’s name was Cassius who took the name of Longinus as a Christian (though those who believed in Christ at the time were not called “Christians” as yet).

        This is historical fact which is shared thoughout the Roman Empire, as is the yet unsubstantiated claim that someone “stole” Jesus Christ’s body.

        The fulfillment of prophecies are in overwhelming favor of Christ being God and God’s Son.

        There is nothing amusing about this when one considers the fact that God’s Only-Begotten Son died in torments.

        It is not just the story of one Roman soldier that proves the Biblical account of Christ’s Life, Death and Resurrection, but to any one enjoying sobriety, it would be enough.

      • JCR says:

        So, your main evidence is that a Roman soldier converted to Christianity after witnessing the crucifixion? No, it is not enough evidence of anyone of sobriety, quite the opposite actually – it is only enough evidence for the intoxicated. Your criteria for “evidence” is about as low as it can possibly be. Do you live the rest of your life this way? If you heard a story bout someone else believing something, does that make you automatically believe it?

      • Christ's Angel says:

        No. The main evidence is all the evidence and I enjoy finding it because it is wonderful. The case of the converted soldier is strong because Cassius also crucified Jesus Christ. He had nothing to gain amongst his fellow soldiers’ pagan practices in believing in Christ. The confirmation of the weakness of Roman idolatry, played into by some corrupt Jewish thinkers, finally came when Christ ascended into Heaven.

        If atheism is such a precious commodity carrying with it all manner of righteous endowment, it was shattered when the very piece of evidence needed to prove its argument was snatched away, leaving the atheist without an explanation. And so it remains to this day.

        As to your estimation of criteria, the story of Cassius to Longinus is a historical part of such a text as “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire”, an interpolation of what Christ causes in men to a passage in the prophetic Book of Daniel, merely by the words in the title. The ‘minimal’ evidence is also salient in this regard.

        As it is part of my civic duty to ensure the peace and tranquility of those in my empire, which is everyone else and myself, I have weighed the evidence in favor of Jesus Christ. The predominant, overall, obvious, and overwhelming evidence supports His Life, Death, Resurrection, inclusive to the Ascension.

        If you have any information to the contrary, keep in mind you are exhibiting classic signs of paranoid schizophrenia, and by your argument, this from overindulgence, or at least support of such overindulgence of intoxicating substance.

        Once again, sober up.

      • JCR says:

        LOL, paranoid schizophrenia? I would think that the person who believes in fairy tales based on no tangible evidence at all is more prone to mental illness. History is littered with stories of miracles, resurrection, and magic. Yet, you take only the Christian myths as truth. A soldier that converted is somehow evidence. You clearly do not understand either the legal mechanisms for evidence, nor the scientific ones. Christians always tend to reference “eye witness accounts” .. but neglect to mention that all supposed eye witness accounts, even the NT, were not authored by eye witnesses. As for any scientific evidence for god, there is, again, zero. And, of course, similar accounts for other religions are discounted by you?

        There are many christians who take their religion on faith and realize that there is no solid evidence for their religious beliefs. Then there are the deluded few who attempt to pretend that there really is solid evidence. I would bet that your application of what qualifies as “evidence” is not something you live by in any other facet of your life than religion. If Santi swore to you that a friend of his could levitate, would you believe him? If someone offered you an investment opportunity for their discovery of magical forces, would you invest? Even with them swearing to you it is true? What if they wrote a book about it? Yet, these are exactly the same criteria you consider proof of christianity. Do you realize this and lie forthright to pretend they are the same, or is this more of a subconscious lie?

      • Christ's Angel says:

        It is no longer a matter of what you think, JCR, it is a matter of whether you are willing to be obedient to authority.

      • JCR says:

        Obedient to authority? What authority? You cannot even make a case that god exists, but someone needs to be obedient to it? Clearly, thinking for yourself is not one of your strong suits. And how about those other authorities? The other deities, which we also do not know if they exist. You cannot obey all of the imaginary deities at once you know.

      • andrewclunn says:

        I think the Bestbro Baptist Church might have something to say on this subject:

      • Christ's Angel says:

        You parrot the word ‘science’ as if you have a sober grasp of the term. The science of Theology is currently based upon a conversation between two men. Both died but one rose from the dead. You demand proof while flurrying questions when the evidence is staring you in the face.

        Your mind has been allowed to wander into the filth of unsubstantiation thus polluting your logic.

      • The evidence, of which you can produce none. And my demand of proof is filth. that is interesting to know. You should be sure to live every aspect of your life by these same tenets. Be sure to demand no proof of anything posited to you. Accept anything written as you do the gospels. That you fail to see the hypocrisy within yourself is a sad reality. Hopefully, you will someday measure all things on the same scale. When that day comes, your faith will be lost.

      • Christ's Angel says:

        JCR = jaredcrodriguez

        The evidence, of which you are blinded, is there. You should ask yourself these questions, “Why can’t I see it?” “Why do I hate Christ and His angel?” “Why am I an ignorant, arrogant jerk just for a video game?”

        Jesus Christ said concerning St. Thomas the Apostle who doubted that the Risen Christ was truly before him, face to face, asking Christ to let himself touch His wounds, “Blessed are they who have not seen, yet believe.”

        So, if you believe in Christ, having not seen Him, you are met with a pat on the back from Christ Himself. Atheism does not offer any such blessing. Atheism is a dead end street which cannot account for Christ’s paper trail. And as the paper trail continues, atheism must avoid it to appear to be alive, which is one of the reasons it took you days to respond.

        Jesus Christ has raised me from the dead, I have proof directly from Him 24/7, and so it is for everyone else. The more we study, the more proof we gain. That is why gangs are puppets of Christ’s enemy, Satan. If Satan can get everyone to join a gang, waste each others money and time while killing everyone off for a false hope, satan will have perfected one step further satan’s lie in the world – the ultimate fruit of atheism – total destruction.

        I accept Christ first, and this has been through great pain. The Gospels naturally follow, and they are without blemish because I don’t spit on them as you do with your filthy mouth. Neither is there any hypocrisy in my refuting your vapid rantings based on your disatisfaction with your latest wet dream with a video game character.

        I’ll never measure things on the scale you propose here because your assessment of me is wrong as are your views concerning Christ. Christ is not your slave, Christ is your Master.

        Try that one on your B button.

  2. andrewclunn says:

    Very deep piece here Santi. Touches the moral, the existential and the human aspects of the story. With a little expansion and a captioned photo or two, this post could be in a magazine (a good magazine).

    • santitafarella says:

      That’s kind of you to say. And, of course, should you ever make connections with someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows, say, Arianna Huffington, let me know. : )


      • Colin Hutton says:

        I second Andrews comment.

        And, add some aspects from your 24 Feb’10 post then, after the court has pronounced, you have the elements of the Lucifer parable and the Day of Judgement transposed into the setting of the atheists den.


  3. Pingback: A God Delusion: Josh Timonen v. Richard Dawkins « Prometheus Unbound

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