Much of Dawkins’ section on the evils of fundamentalism is, like his attack on the Bible, recycled from other authors. I didn’t find much worth blogging about — other than the specious contention that there is no moral difference between aborting an innocent fetus and killing a convicted murderer. But Dawkins closes by claiming that moderate religion enables the extremism and so is equally guilty.
I wonder if he would agree that, by that logic, socialists bear responsibility for the crimes committed by their extreme brethren in national socialism or communism. Granted, he’s claiming faith encourages people not to think — apparently having never met a conservative rabbi or a Jesuit teacher. But most socialists don’t think about their views either. They buy into the nonsensical mantra that an egalitarian society can be created by the force of government despite ample evidence to the contrary. They base a lot on feelings and intuition — especially guilt. It’s no accident that clergy tend to be very socialist.
A refusal to think is not the exclusive domain of religion.
Again, there are other ways to pursue faith than blind obedience to a doctrine. And indeed, we are moving in that direction. In the most dogmatically religious country in the west — America — the vast majority of religious people believe that others faiths can be equally valid. I’m sure the idea of deeply religious people being tolerant must stick in Dawkins’ craw.
The evolution of religion gets to heart of the entire “religion is cruel and evil argument”. I strongly suspect that religion reflects society more than it drives it. As the wag once said, we tend to make God in our image. When we were a cruel people, we made a cruel God. When we were an intolerant people, we made an intolerant God. Now that we are moving forward — a subject (The Changing Moral Zeitgeist) that Dawkins devotes a lot of time to — religion is following. it’s a trailing indicator, but an indicator nonetheless.
The history of science follows a similar intellectual pattern moving from the deterministic world if Newton to the uncertain world of quantum mechanics. But he world didn’t change; our understanding of it did. As we have moved from a cruel and jealous God to a tolerant one, God hasn’t changed. Our understanding has.
Overall, as you can tell by my putting up of eight long posts on one book, I found The God Delusion to be stimulating. The section that deal with biology and intelligent design are outstanding. The sections that attack faith less so. And while some of my arguments are addressed in the book, they aren’t addressed very well.
Atheists like Dawkins like to believe they are open minded. To use his phrase, their consciousness has been raised above that of us unenlightened folk. But I have a final thought. Early in the book, Dawkins asks if there is any scientific evidence that would ever make a theist abandon their belief in God. I have to wonder: is there any evidence that would cause an atheist to accept belief in God? I can’t think that there would be.
If that tenet is agreed to, then the God question moves beyond science. Science can tell us what God isn’t. But I’m not convinced that it tells us that God isn’t.