Sunday, March 24, 2013

In Defense of Dawkins

Longtime readers of this site know that I am not impressed with the work of Richard Dawkins and his fellow atheists. His arguments against God and religion, to put it politely, are not very convincing upon even cursory inspection.
But he takes a lot of flak from many Christians for his virulent opposition to Christianity in particular and religion in general. For this strong opposition, it is hard to fault him, at least from a logical standpoint.
For if there is no God, then religion is a damnable lie - a lie that keeps millions in thrall to a non-existent God and enslaved by an absurd cocktail of rules. At the very best, religion serves as a money sponge to make gullible individuals people feel better - an expensive type of homeopathy of the spirit, so to speak. At worst, religion is an organized racket which causes millions to deny themselves pleasures for no purpose, allows unscrupulous individuals to wield arbitrary power over millions, and wastes countless hours of time and energy that could be spent in more valuable pursuits. If religion be wrong and contrary to reason, then it should indeed be destroyed.
And Dawkins and his fellows understand this better than most Christians. They have staked their souls and their reputations on the assumption that their is no God, and from their worldview religion truly is an evil which must be destroyed at all costs. If they believe that, they have every right to do all in their power to destroy religion.
Obviously, I believe they are wrong (this blog would look much different otherwise), and feel it is my duty to duel them. But they have the admirable courage of the conviction of their beliefs all too often lacking among Christians. There is a quote from the poet William Butler Yeats that describes them admirably: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are filled with passionate intensity." Would that Christians possessed so much zeal for their far worthier cause!


  1. Many theists agree with your third paragraph in terms of other religions, they just find their own faith and God the exception. Atheists feel consistently across the gauntlet of religions. Although not all want them destroyed, just contained.

    1. For certain cults (Scientology comes to mind), the charges of deliberate deception and crude power-seeking would indeed be accurate. However, I, as a Catholic, do not see Protestants or other theists as guilty of acting in the manner I described in the third paragraph. I believe that many the founders of other faiths held an imperfect conception of the true God based on false first principles; they sincerely founded a religion based upon a mixture of truth and error.
      Many of my fellow theists would agree with my assertion. As for other theists who may hold the position you described, they are wrong. :)
      As for your last sentence, why bother to "contain" a system that is clearly wrong and built on a web of lies?
      Thank you for responding!

    2. If faith makes an individual happy and thoughts of an afterlife comforting, I feel no desire to destroy it. I just want to contain religions that try to influence the lives of those both inside and outside of their church negatively.

    3. I see two major problems with this sentiment:
      1) If faith is untrue, then it seems cruel to allow a believer to hold a comforting illusion, and which keeps him (or her) from living a full and free life.
      2) Those who follow a faith necessarily hold certain beliefs about how they and how others should live. These beliefs and the actions influenced by them are often in opposition to the cultural zeitgeist - the prevailing culture may consider those actions to be negative, but the believer may consider those actions to be positive.

    4. It's no more cruel then letting kids believe Santa. Kids love Santa. I agree with 2, but I don't see it as a problem from the prevailing culture's point of view. People who do bad things often don't consider them bad themselves.

    5. 1st point - True enough, so far as it goes; although Dawkins and his colleagues would argue that belief in religion is far more destructive than Santa, since it affects more of human experience and is far more pervasive. (Also, we would think adults who believe in Santa are strange.)
      2nd point - My point (admittedly inartfully expressed) was that there is necessarily a conflict between the dictates/moral teachings of religion and the latest societal views on what makes individuals happy. Those who try to live by religious teachings will necessarily act in ways contrary to what the rest of society thinks will make them happy.

    6. You're starting to convince me that I should be more upset with religions...not sure if that was your intent. ;-)

    7. Just playing devil's advocate for my original post. Guess I did my job too well. ;-) I am actually a firm believer in Catholicism.
      On a serious note, however, I do believe that atheism is the second most rational philosophical system, next to Catholicism. (Islam is third, Judaism is fourth, mainline Protestantism is fifth, and I don't know enough about other faiths to make an informed judgment.) I do have some issues with how most atheists can hold the particular system of morality and right and wrong that they do, and the atheistic explanation for certain phenomena (i.e., the 1917 events at Fatima) and inherent problems with a universe without God (how life can stem from no life) various seems lacking to me. Still, however, there are fewer "holes" in atheism then other belief systems, in my opinion.
      At any rate, thank you for being respectful - not many partisans on either side of this debate are.

    8. You're welcome, same to you.

      Have you done a post explaining your ranking of rational philosophical systems? I'd be interested to see why you think Protestantism ranks so low.

  2. Not yet, although that post will be coming soon. (Thanks for the idea!)
    The brief answer to that question is that mainline Protestantism rests on two highly problematic assumptions. The first assumption is the Protestant assumption of sola Scriptura. Protestantism holds that Scripture is the chief, if not the sole, source of revelation about God and Christian teaching. If so, how can one explain how the teachings of Christianity could possibly have spread prior to the formation of the Bible, since certain books of the Bible were written as late as 90 AD and the canon (official list of books) of the Bible was still being hashed out as late as the 4th century?
    The second assumption is more damaging. For Protestantism was founded when individuals decided to break off from an already established Church and return to the teachings of what they considered to be early Christianity. Protestants must therefore explain how the Church rejected the supposedly true Christian practice and doctrine of the early Church and adopted the supposed errors of Catholicism. Most Protestants explain this in one of two ways: 1) True Christianity was defeated during the 4th century (during the rise of Constantine), and over a thousand years, the true teachings of the Church were not practiced. 2) True Christianity existed in the forms of various heresies (belief systems which opposed Christianity) that cropped up during the Fall of the Roman Empire/medieval era. The first explanation assumes that true Christianity was defeated for a thousand years, which is contrary to Scripture (Matthew 16:18); the second explanation assumes that heresies which contradicted one another could constitute true Christian teaching.


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