Tuesday, 19 February 2008

God Delusion#1

It's kinda inevitable that if I started to read the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins I'll end up making comments about it, so here goes. I'm basing my comments on the paperback version which includes some additional material.

I was thinking of writing a fairly pedantic response, but there's just so much there I disagree with I'll have to be far more judicious. In this post I'm confining my critique to where I believe RD is factually wrong or where he reveals nastier sides to his character. At the moment I'm only 81 pages into his incessant diatribe so there's plenty of space for me to reasses the quality of the book. However, here goes:

  1. Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot quote. Here, Sagan claims Christians argue "no, no, my god is a little god and I want him to stay that way." When in fact Christians argue on the basis of the wonder of the universe that he's exactly the opposite and that the more amazing we find the universe is, the more amazing God must be. Dawkins reiterated this quote in a TED lecture. I don't know why - Christians don't preach it, and we don't believe it.
  2. Pages 46-48: The Danish Cartoons of Mohammed(pbuh) riots. The thing that gets me here is Richard Dawkins gets it so wrong. He says the episode 'illuminates society's exaggerated respect for religion' in fact the original thing was triggered by a bunch of secular cartoons that displayed a complete disrepect towards Muslims. RD passionately defends the right of secularists to ridicule religion, but it wasn't Atheists who died from the riots, but Christians and Richard Dawkins cares nothing for them, his adjectives are 'ludicrous', 'comic', 'tragedy' for the whole episode.
  3. As you read through Dawkin's book you find that he pillories Christians at every turn whilst portraying Atheists in consistantly glowing terms. In fact he believes mockery is the best way to deal with Christians. As RD says (p55) "Thomas Jefferson as so often, got it right when he said 'Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligable propositions.'
  4. Secularism and the Founding Fathers (p60-68). Here the whole section is highly disengenious. RD starts with a false premise "It is conventional to assume the founding fathers... were deists." Is it? I'd always been lead to believe they were a mixture of fairly radical Christians of the Pilgrim Fathers kind and Enlightenment thinkers (including Deists). I found a webpage which lists the actual religious affiliations of the 56 signees and it turns out that even though the majority were Christians, RD quotes only from the 4 Deist/Unitarians.
  5. RD supposes that the reason Christianity is weak in the UK is because the UK was weary of religious wars or because it's full of ineffectual vicars (p62). He's half-right there. Actually it's easy to see why Christianity is weak in the UK, because church attendence tailed off massively after WWII, a secular war. Though it's probably true there's lots of UK vicars who see their role as having "innoculated vast swathes of the English against Christianity."
  6. Burden of proof. Strangely, RD believes on the one hand that the burden of proof rests on Christians (p74-75) and yet that it's unnecessary to read what they write (p14-p15). Admittedly, he says he'll read from credible Christians (p14), but most of the quotes he uses are from Christians I've never heard of, apart from Alistair McGrath p78pp1.
  7. Evolution as an Atheist weapon (p92). in the end RD sees the point of talking about Evolution as part of a war against Christianity "the real war is between rationalism and superstition... religion is the most common form of superstition." This is why RD isn't interested in avoiding conflict between Science and Christianity and why he's so critical of Atheists and Christians who do.
At this point I'm leaving it for now, because I'm only up to Chapter 4 and I want to watch the next episode of Life On Mars on DVD :-)

-cheers from julz @P

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