The Peaceful Delusion

I’m now at the point in The God Delusion where Dawkins is arguing that religion causes violence and bloodshed that otherwise wouldn’t exist, such as in Northern Ireland. This is a common argument for the vileness of religion.

Two problems:

1) It is a classic cost-without-benefit analysis. Zero credit is given to violence that religion might be preventing. An enormous amount of pacifism is inspired by religion (think Buddhists or Quakers) and religion unites nations that might otherwise have strife (such as Saudi Arabia). Maybe the bad outweighs the good. But it’s hard to tell when you’ve only weighed one side and are dividing by zero.

2) I’m pessimistic about human nature. Without religion, people would find something to fight over. In Northern Ireland, it would be the purity of their Irish decent or, more likely, class and wealth.

I just don’t think you can point to religious conflict, claim that religion was the only cause, not give any credit to violence prevented by faith and proclaim faith to be evil. It’s a standard argument. It’s a straw man. It’s bullshit. And it’s unworthy of the rest of an otherwise well-reasoned book.

The height of silliness is argument about how religion uniquely spurs violence because it labels children, segregates schools and forbids marrying out. Gee, Dr. Dawkins. Can you not think of anything else that does all three of these things? Something that is responsible for bloodshed and violence than faith? Maybe … is it … race?

Oh, and for the record? My mother never warned me about blonde shiksas lying in wait to entrap me. She probably likes the one I did marry better than she likes me.