Wednesday, February 18, 2009


“I perceive that in all things you are very religious.”
Paul to the Athenian Philosophers, Acts 17:22

As I continue to read Dawkins (chapter 1), I sometimes feel that I’ll never understand this man. Sometimes I wonder if he even knows precisely where he stands or what he believes.

He discusses what he terms “transcendent wonder” (page 33), yet he vehemently denies being religious. He admires Einstein, but wishes Einstein wouldn’t use the word ‘God.’ He seems to think a form of Pantheism is okay, but then defines it. “Pantheists,” he claims, “don’t believe in a supernatural God at all, but use the word God as a non-supernatural synonym for Nature, or for the Universe, or for the lawfulness that governs its workings” (pages 39, 40). However, to many of us, the idea of Pantheism has to do with a worship of the supernatural, however, erroneous that worship may be.

He finally concludes that he wishes “that physicists would refrain from using the word God (even) in their special metaphorical sense” (page 41). He feels that when they do, Theists jump on this usage and try to make men like Einstein into believers. I can’t help but agree! There is altogether too much god-talk without meaning.

He makes clear that the God he is opposed to (that he believes does not exist) is a supernatural God (page 41), or a personal God (page 27). As of yet, he doesn’t seem too concerned about impersonal or non-supernatural god.

In the rest of chapter one, Dawkins bemoans the special treatment that religion and the religious are afforded. He complains about the “widespread assumption … that religious faith … should be protected.” He gives numerous illustrations of court cases where religious belief and behavior is irrationally protected, even when it is known to be harmful and would in many cases even break the law. I tend to agree with him, especially where he criticizes the violence of Islam. But then it’s not just the violence of religion he complains about, but even areas where Christians discriminate against homosexuality (page 46). Is it a sin to believe that homosexual behavior is a sin?

He quotes a speech by Douglas Adams (pages 42, 43), lamenting that it is not considered proper to speak against someone’s religion. I find this tremendously ironic. He complains that “… to have an opinion about how the Universe began, about who created the Universe … no, that’s holy?” Here he is defending his and Mr. Dawkins’ right to an opinion on beginnings. He continues, “Yet when you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn’t be as open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow that they shouldn’t be.”

I agree with Mr. Adams and Mr. Dawkins. These ideas should be open to debate. However, I suspect that what they mean by “open to debate” is that they should have the right to speak their mind on the issue and that those who hold to differing beliefs – beliefs in a supernatural and/or personal Creator God should simply concede.

I’ll have more to say later. I’ve just started reading chapter 2.

Bill Ball

1 comment:

Canadian Atheist said...

Hmmm another interesting post. I don't think it's wrong to think homosexuality is a sin. However, I think it's narrow minded and I have the right to think such people are bigoted. It wasn't long ago that African Americans were being treated in much the same way for religious reasons among others.

What I do object to is when religious people try to make religious laws. Laws aren't (or shouldn't be) made on religious principles in a secular society. Anti-gay laws are pretty much religious laws.

On to part 3.