Monday, August 03, 2009

dawkins & atheists

Some time ago I read Richard Dawkins's book The God Delusion. I have finally got around to reading Alister McGrath's response The Dawkins Delusion. I am also reading Chris Hedges, I Don't Believe in Atheists.

Dawkins's previous works were well written. Even though I disagree with his conclusions, his books were helpful in understanding evolutionary biology. However, with the "The God Delusion" Dawkins has become a dogmatic atheistic fundamentalist. His arguments are rambling, and lack any real sense of trying to be honest with his subject. For someone who has been noted for solid research in the past, "The God Delusion" is full of misrepresentations and depends on material which has long been rejected. Dawkins has become "an angry old dogmatic atheist." He describes God as:
"a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, magalomaniacal, sadomasocistic, capriciously malevolent bully."
I don't know anybody who believes in a God like that. I don't know of any religion that has a God like that. For Dawkins, even through he radically oversimplifies religions - all religions are alike - they are delusions and lead to destruction [I was going to say "lead to hell" but Dawkins does not believe that there is anything after this life] .

For Dawkins one of the major problems with religion is that it leads to violence - whereas atheism doesn't. He ignores the former Soviet Union, Romania, Cambodia... the list goes on. I think Dawkins needs to go back to high school and learn world history.

Enter Alister and Joanna McGrath. This small book - only 115 pages including notes and a list for further reading - I'm sure glad the Orillia Public Library had a copy - is a concise response to the main themes in Dawkins's book.

In a straightforward manner, the McGrath's show many of the inconsistencies in Dawkins's argument. For example, Dawkins's understanding of the Bible [and remember this is an anti-religion book, so you would think he would familiarize himself with the basic tenets of different faiths] is so minimal as to be laughable.

The McGraths conclude by pointing out that Dawkins relies on rhetoric rather than on evidence.
"Fundalmentalism arises when a worldview feels it is in danger, lashing out at its enemies when it fears its own future is threatened." (p. 96) This has certainly been true of parts of Christian fundamentalism. It certainly seems to be true, as well, of atheist fundamentalism?

Hedges, takes a slightly different approach. Chris Hedges, an award winning journalist and author, writes a critique of what he perceives as a radical mindset that rages against religion and faith. His book was motivated by debates he had with atheist authors Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens who overly demonized religion, particularly Islam, in ways that Hedges believed were eerily similar to the thinking of Christian fundamentalists.

This is a small book, although longer than the McGrath's. It is thoughtful, easily read without being simplistic and filled with references to (mostly Western) philosophers, scientists and artists, from Heisenberg to Gandhi, Spinoza to Proust and Conrad.

Hedges goes after both kinds of fundamentalists with verve. But even as he says, "I probably hate the Christian right even more than they do," the new atheists seem to draw the more pointed, effective jabs in the book.

Neither Jesus nor some kind of exalted rationalism and the erasure of belief will save humanity from what Hedges calls a "terrifying future". "Human evil is not a problem," he says. "It is a mystery. It cannot be solved. It is a bitter, constant paradox that is part of human nature."

As you might expect, the Humanist doesn't like the book one little bit.

1 comment:

Walking Church said...

So...who is this Jesus...that I sup and fellowship with daily? Hard to is not about is all about can anyone tell me differently...Him in me and I in Him...we party together....oh me a mad man!

God does not believe in Atheists!