March 17, 2008
The Atheist Delusion

Wow - The Guardian is having a bit of an anti-atheist moment.

In The Atheist Delusion (see Godless evangelicals for a précis with comments enabled), John Grey says For Dawkins and Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Martin Amis, Michel Onfray, Philip Pullman and others, religion in general is a poison that has fuelled violence and oppression throughout history, right up to the present day and These writers come from a generation schooled to think of religion as a throwback to an earlier stage of human development, which is bound to dwindle away as knowledge continues to increase. Now I think that they are certainly saying the former - and I agree with them. But I don't think that they all think that religion is bound to die out, only that it would be better it it did. Certainly there seems little evidence that the majority of people are becoming more rational, and if some of that irrationality is siphoned off into fringe beliefs like homeopathy and UFO belief, I think that's always going to be a limited group.

Yet Dawkins seems convinced that if it were not inculcated in schools and families, religion would die out. This is a view that has more in common with a certain type of fundamentalist theology than with Darwinian theory. So, Dawkins is a one dimensional character, is he? He's not allowed to hold opinions not directly related to Darwinian theory?

The idea of free will that informs liberal notions of personal autonomy is biblical in origin (think of the Genesis story). The belief that exercising free will is part of being human is a legacy of faith, and like most varieties of atheism today, Pullman's is a derivative of Christianity. I don't think anyone's saying that nothing that's ever come out of any religion was good. For example, Christianity's inclusivity was a major step forward for its time, with no built-in outgroup to despise. Christians have had to invent their own outgroups - mainly other Christians, for some reason that I'll never understand. Splitters!

Dawkins's "memetic theory of religion" is a classic example of the nonsense that is spawned when Darwinian thinking is applied outside its proper sphere. Unfortunately, the theory of memes is science only in the sense that Intelligent Design is science. Strictly speaking, it is not even a theory. This isn't entirely unfair, in so far as I've not heard of any serious work to verify memetic theory. But it seems quite falsifiable to me, in principle, so there's a least the germ of a theory there.

Wow - less than halfway through. More later. But once again, all this misses the crucial, central part of Dawkins' thesis, without which all the rest is minor, trivia: Religion, it's all just not true.

Posted to Atheism by Simon Brunning at March 17, 2008 02:30 PM

John Grey's article was all vacuous claptrap. I would be far more impressed with a defence of religion rather than an attack on Dawkins writing and his attacks were carefully selected to mislead the casual reader - I heartily recommend reading Dawkins book and making your own mind up rather than listen to Grey's ranting. I sometimes wish that Dawkins would be more politic in his writing - he seems to enjoy confrontation but that is up to him I suppose and I guess that non-religious folk need someone like him to remind believers that their faith is built on shaky foundations.

Posted by: rob on March 17, 2008 04:25 PM

"all this misses the crucial, central part of Dawkins' thesis, without which all the rest is minor, trivia: Religion, it's all just not true."

Fairly large values of cool for that one, IMHO. :)

Though not so much for the inability to use HTML here :(

Posted by: Martin McCallion on March 18, 2008 01:08 PM
Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember info?