Thursday, February 22, 2007

Richard Dawkins, part 1

I picked up Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion yesterday and began reading it. Dawkins is probably the best-known modern atheist, and this book is an evangelistic text for the cause of atheism. I bought it, not looking for a new belief system, but because I wanted to see what he had to say. It is my intention to comment on the book in my blog over the next couple of weeks as I read it.

I am certain that I will differ on much of what he says. However, in the first chapter he writes something with which I not only agree; but which has significantly helped me to understand where he is coming from. He writes:
The notion that religion is a proper field, in which one might claim expertise, is one that should not go unquestioned. [A] clergyman presumably would not have deferred to the expertise of a claimed 'fairyologist' on the exact shape and colour of fairy wings. (page 16)
This is a point which deserves consideration. If religious belief is no more significant than belief in fairies, then it is deserving of no more respect. Since he devotes the bulk of his book to demonstrating that religious belief systems are of little or no merit, I will set aside the assertion for now.

But independent of the accuracy of his contention, I cannot argue with the logic. And it helps me to understand better why so many people regard religious belief with disdain. You see, I not only hold to a particular belief system, but do so with all the intelligence I can muster. Because of this, I can hold open the possibility that religious belief is rational, even if I disagree with the particular belief. But Dawkins, and others who hold to a philosophical atheism, regard those same belief systems as wholly irrational, or in Dawkins' words, delusional. Thus, they need be given no consideration at all.

I disagree, but now I understand.

One more thing, Dawkins' logical applies across religious systems: if what I as a Christian believe is true, then all other religious systems are no better than fairyology. This calls the entire multi-cultural / religious freedom premise into question.

1 comment:

the-unintentional-blogger said...

That's a very interesting point of view. It'd be interesting to see how much this argument comes back in his book as a justification for debunking religion. I (ok, not ME, because I'm not that smart, but somebody else) could easily disprove any scientific discovery if you start with the basis that the scientific process itself is in fact imaginary. I think I'm going to enjoy this series of yours.