Richard Dawkins, who writes with a prose that is saucy and caustic and witty, argues in his newest book that God is a delusion. I will be joined in this series by RJS; I will write the first few paragraphs today and then RJS joins in. RJS is a scientist at a research university in the USA, and we will be looking at Dawkins’ new book, The God Delusion.
“You can be,” Dawkins claims, “an atheist who is happy, balanced, moral, and intellectually fulfilled” (1) and, he continues two pages later, “for atheism nearly always indicates a healthy independence of mind and, indeed, a healthy mind.” On the contrary, taking aim at his believing targets, “dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads are immune to argument” (5).
How’s that for a Preface? Do you think believers are “immune to argument”?
Chp 1 deals with “deserved” and “undeserved” respect. The former — nature. The latter — belief in God. “A quasi-mystical response to nature and the universe is common among scientists and rationalists” (11). But, this is not belief in God. He’s with Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein. And he thinks physicists should refrain from referring to this “metaphorical and pantheistic God” as “God.” To refer to the former as the latter is “an act of intellectual high treason” (19).
The undeserved respect is the way religion is treated with respect in public sectors. Think of Salman Rushdie or the cartoons published in Denmark or the way American media grants respect to religions. His question: “What is so special about religion that we grant it such uniquely privileged respect?” (27).
Richard Dawkins is an evangelist of dogmatic atheism and secular humanism. Although he is by training an evolutionary biologist, and one who made some substantial scientific contributions early in his career, he has really made his reputation and his later career in the realm of the “popularization of science,” or more accurately in the preaching and popularization of a robust atheism. This book is essentially an extended polemic for atheism. Be aware though that Dawkins is not alone and those openly holding similar positions, although perhaps possessing somewhat more tact, are rapidly becoming more vocal and forceful, and ultimately, perhaps, more dangerous. Many of the arguments presented within this book are ones we must understand and be prepared to deal with.
Neither the preface nor the 1st chapter of The God Delusion contains much science, although Dawkins does quote a number of well known atheistic or agnostic scientists to bolster his argument that rational thinking demands atheism. In the section on undeserved respect his most cogent argument against religion and respect for religion relates to the condoned hatred of groups and individuals, all in the name of God, as practiced by Christians, Jews, and Muslims. How is this argument to be answered?