Monday, January 29, 2007

The God Delusion

I can't remember if I mentioned that I finished The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Believer or not, I think that this is a must read. Or if you prefer then you can do what I did and download if from Audible and listen to it. It took me less than a week to listen to the book while running and commuting. The experience is brilliant because instead of just listening to music I can listen to a very stimulating book and finish it in much less time than otherwise. I'm not a terribly fast reader and I have to fit my reading into my limited spare time which often causes me to stay up too late.

Back to the book. Do you think homosexuals are stigmatized? According to Dawkins a gay candidate for public office is much, much more electable than an atheist. I remember think that way. Atheists are branded as horrible, immoral people. Someone who doesn't believe in God in some way or another is fundamentally flawed. In our society faith is considered a high, noble, and necessary trait.

Dawkins effectively discusses the basis of morality. The truth seems to be that morality seems to be pretty univeral across all belief systems including atheism which would seem to rule out a religious basis. In fact, he gives some startling examples that illustrate that religion often makes people accept as moral things that would otherwise be abhorrent. One that I remember is the story of Joshua conquering Jericho and killing every living thing with a few exceptions. Most Israeli school children considered Joshua and the Israelites morally justified for various reasons and some of those that thought they were immoral was because they shouldn't have destroyed valuables that would have enriched them. When told the same story, but with the names changed to the Chinese and another place, something like 97% found the conquerors completely unjustified. It sorts of confirms the statement that it takes religion to make good people do bad things. Maybe, just maybe, atheists are more moral than their religious counterparts because they have to think about right and wrong based on rational thought instead of having right and wrong defined dogmatically.

A comment over on Simeon's Peep Stone made some comment to the effect that it's too bad people lose their belief. Why? Do we bemoan children's loss in belief in Santa Claus? I mean, it's sort of cute for a while, but at some point it becomes pathetic and causes you to question the intelligence and maturity of kids who haven't figured it out for themselves yet. I'm embarrassed that I held on to Mormonism for as long as I did since it has little more justification than a belief in Santa Claus. Okay, maybe it's more like believing in Pat Robertson and the 700 club types.

Religious apologists like to trot out their pet scientists. But Dawkins points out that they do it because they are so rare. He also gives examples that illustrate that many of the "believing" scientists don't believe in any way that would be recognizable to most religious people. Many believe in little more than a sense of wonder and not in a anthropomorphic, personal God that answers individual prayers and meddles in our affairs. This month's National Geographic includes an interview with the head of the Human Genome Project who claims that he finds no conflict between religion and science and yets articulates a belief in a God that performs miracles so rarely that he might as well be non-existent. In other words, he claims faith, but really puts his faith in science and reason and doesn't expect his God to interfere in human affairs. I think most Christians would find that a strange cread. I personally don't see much comfort in such a belief, although it probably isn't very harmful either.

Anyway, read or listen to the book. Whether you agree or not it will broaden your horizons and perhaps battle the popular misconceptions and prejudices against atheists.


Just one of many said...

I agree morality is not legislated by any religion. It is based upon the uprightness of the individual. Person accountability...hmm, now I sound like I am still a mormon~ :)

Sideon said...

Call me a phreak, but I've never downloaded a podcast. It terrifies me for some reason.


You've made me be willing to load up my mp3 player and listen to something when I'm slogging away at the gym.

Be well.

Oh - I hope if you're in the area again that I'm not in the middle of house construction and picking up a car that had been in a fender bender. Ack.