Friday, January 05, 2007

The Future of a Delusion?

In several different settings recently Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion, has come into the conversation. I haven't read it, and don't know if I will. Based on descriptions of his work, I do wonder 1) why he attacks faith in God with such ferocity (pugnacity was the word used in one response), and 2) why he and others commenting on his work resent the suggestion that rejecting God also requires faith. Dawkins' faith appears to be in science. If he thought that artists or poets or other non-scientists were making truth-claims about ultimate reality, he might attack them too. I don't know of course: maybe I do have to read one of his books!

For some time now I have been profoundly convinced that all human statements about the way the world is, are really faith statements. I think that Christian faith is eminently rational; but I don't see why anyone would claim that reason forces anyone to see that God is there. I have a good friend who is a non-theist ("living with the hypothesis that there is no God"), and he is clearly as rational as I. We have made different faith choices: competing, complementary, and different.

Why should I suggest that his faith in the non-existence of God makes him a fool? Why should he suggest that my faith in the active presence of God makes me a fool? Why should either of us suggest that tolerance requires us to pretend that we don't believe, or that we act on the basis of our belief?

One blog (from The Guardian in the UK) has a Muslim responding to Dawkins. Reader after reader (I assume mostly from England) excoriated the blogger as a fool. The accepted religion of the West is modernism, seen in its empiricist/scientific form. (Christian Smith has an interesting study titled Moral Believing Animals, which tells the stories that people use to shape their lives: the modern Enlightenment story is clearly at work in the posts I read on this blog.)

I propose that fundamentalism (whether atheist or supernaturalist) is the enemy of human knowing, and that we will remain trapped in our delusions, as Freud, from whom the title of the post is almost borrowed, was trapped in his. Courtesy and courage, to speak and to hear, holds more hope than narrow fundamentalism of any kind.


KGMom said...

Daryl--our minister used Dawkins' book recently in one of his sermons. His emphasis was on the degree to which wars are fought in God's name. Our minister read a list Dawkins has of all the recent wars fought between groups claiming to be doing God's work.
I think perhaps that may be part of what motivates Dawkins--the perversion of religion causes some to reject religion.
We have a good friend who goes to our church who winces every time we are called on to reference our belief in faith. This friend says, why can't we say faith and reason? Interesting.
So, I think you do need to read Dawkins.

Climenheise said...

I will at least look at the book. All that such a list shows, however, is that humans fight. One needs faith/religion in order to say that fighting is wrong. If a strict evolution, with no recourse to any outside ethical source, is true, I confess that I don't know on what ground I should condemn the wars of the past century.

Stalin's Russia was an experiment in substituting a strict non-supernaturalist faith for supernatural faiths; and one can hardly argue that Stalin was a great humanitarian. Evidently the effort to eliminate religion does not ensure the end of violent repression.

KGMom said...

I take your point--BUT, as I understand it, Dawkins' point (a bit risky as I also have not read) is that since religion makes claim to having a higher calling (my words), it is at best ironic that wars are fought in God's name.