Sunday, February 23, 2014

The God Delusion - Preface, Part2

I started talking about the preface of The God Delusion here, so lets know get down into it.
I won't go into too much detail about the preface of "The God Delusion", especially as Dawkins is mostly just introducing his ideas, and giving an overview of the chapters to follow, but it is worthwhile picking up on a few things, and also listing down some of my thoughts and expectations about what is to follow.

Also he doesn't seem to lay down his main thesis till the start of the second chapter, so I'll wait till then to discuss it.

And also I probably won't list all that is in his book, but concentrate mainly on the content I am most interested in discussing, or is most significant. I could comment on all 400 pages or so, but we would be here till Christmas (or longer, given the speed of my writing).

In the preface, after his opening request to consider changing what you believe, he makes the comment that Religion is not the "root" of all evil for "No one thing is the root of all evil". He does want to be fair it seems, and not overstate his case by saying "Religion is the root". But can he and will he demonstrate or prove there is no root to evil. It seems like it is just given. It prompts the question: where does evil come from? From us? Where, then?

He also wants us to "Imagine the World without religion".
As a side point, Christians don't like calling Christianity a religion - as that implies rules and regulations, ceremony, trying to impress God and earn his favour (or more crudely prove your zealousness).
He lists a few evils he associates with religion e.g. Crusades, Serb/Croat/Massacre, suicide bombers. Interestingly enough, the first Suicide bombers were not "religious".
It is sad that these things of happened, and our desire is that then never did.
But is removing religion the solution. Some might say, especially of Christianity, it happened despite Christianity, not because of it. As others have said, many of those wicked deeds committed in the name of Jesus had their cause not in the perpetrators following Jesus too zealously, but that they didn't "love" and follow Jesus seriously enough. They didn't really take him seriously at all, if you see what he was really on about.
On the other hand we still have WWI and II and many other events that are clearly not linked to religion, we still divide over race. And religion is often tied heavily to culture, which is often the larger root to many alleged religious conflicts, so will removing religion make much a difference?
Maybe Dawkin's argument will be nuanced enough to include much of these complicating factors. We will have to wait and see.
Not that I'm saying "religion" is necessarily good either. Jesus himself would criticise the common religious Islamic practise, for example, the clothing laws for women, which don't really real with the evil of lust and its fruit  (Mark 7:1ff). He was critical of the religion of his day and the religious leaders. And they didn't like him, and wanted to get rid of him, and they ultimately did.

He then gives short overview or his chapters.
Chapter 9 gets a longer mention, where he speaks of his disagreement with  calling some one, for example, a "Muslim child" instead of child of Muslim parents, since they don't really have a choice in the matter yet. I am sympathetic to his thought here, and I'm aware of it being even worse. In many Islam dominant countries people can't stop being a Muslim, and children are said to have the father's religion (until 18) even if the the mother is Christian and they believe this themselves. They then have the official change religion at 18 even though they never did.
He also mentions the connected issue of indoctrination. I am interesting on seeing how he defines and handles this. And also why his Atheism might be immune to it. I have the experience in a university lecture of what seems to be indoctrination, by way of a Biology lecturer telling us point blank that God didn't create us. The lecturer didn't provide any reasoning, justification or evidence, nor did he consider that evolution doesn't disprove God in general.

Interestingly, while discussing the idea of a new word for a religious delusion "relusion", he quotes "Phillip E Johnson" who also recognises "Darwinism" is seen as a "liberator" from this "delusion".
I have read some of Johnson's work - Johnson, himself is a Christian, and has written some penetrating books (e.g. Darwin on Trial). He tends to be more against Philosophical Naturalism (belief that nature is all there is etc) though also argues that Material Evolution has a long way to go in proving its case.
Dawkins gives his own definition of delusion: " a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of the psychiatric disorder". In applying this to religion, his ideas of course are not that new. It seems that he is following the western modernist assumption, that religious is about "blind" faith and not evidence. Yet we have Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 actually employing logic and evidence in his argument about Jesus bodily resurrection from the dead, and the logical consequences if he didn't rise, and criticises the Corinthian Christians for being contradictory, in this regard. Not what Dawkins would expect of the Bible.

To close, he states his intention for the book, that "religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down". He predicts that many won't, especially those very well indoctrinated from childhood.
In my experience, many "indoctrinated" people are the weakest and easiest to change. I also see that many people stop being religious when the arrive at Uni... they often are working out for themselves what they believe (e.g. is what I grew up with true, in relation to all these other ideas and peoples beliefs). They are thrown into a big pool where there are a lot of people different from them. Many actually become stronger in their beliefs when they are tested and tried. Many also who weren't Christians, decide to check it out for themselves, instead of listening to what the dominant culture or parents said about it.

My next post is here, where I start on the book proper.

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