Posts tagged ‘richard dawkins’
I finally read Richard Dawkins’The Greatest Show on Earth last week. As I read the chapter on embryology a couple of nights ago, I couldn’t help marveling at how amazing life is in all its forms. Religionists often claim that their views enhance the value of life, particularly human life, because all of it has been ordained and designed by the hand(s) of god(s). It seems to me, however, that religious views actually cheapen the value of life. I want to point out three ways in which this occurs.
First, the creation of life forms is not a particularly significant accomplishment for a deity or deities that are capable of doing all sorts of spectacular things. A galaxy here and a supernova there, a parasite here and a mammal there – just another mundane day in the deity office. Ho hum; now it’s time to rest. Big deal.
Second, religious believers frequently assert that earthly life is second-rate compared to what’s ahead in the next life (or lives). Life on earth in the here and now is a trial run, a testing ground, the primary significance of which is to prepare people (or allow people to prepare themselves, or for people to allow god(s) to prepare them – there are many variations on this theme) for the hereafter. If you think this life is great, just wait till you get to heaven; you haven’t seen anything yet. Or, if you think this life sucks, just wait till you get to heaven; god(s) will reward your patience and faithfulness with something much better.
Third, there are religious believers who teach that humankind is the pinnacle of creation. Think about this a moment. As marvelous as human life is, it takes real hubris to believe that humanity is the apex of creation. Bertrand Russell put this idea well when he said, “If I were granted omnipotence, and millions of years to experiment in, I should not think Man much to boast of as my final accomplishment.” Human life is remarkable, but to consider it the best thing going (outside of heaven) is tragically impoverished…
Since its initial release, millions of people have read The God Delusion. Some have echoed Michael Shermer in hailing it “not just as an important work of science, but as a great work of literature.” Others have sided with H. Allen Orr in deeming it a “badly flawed” book in which Dawkins “makes a far from convincing case” for his opposition to religion. My view lies somewhere between these two extremes.
The God Delusion is not Dawkins’ best book. In fact, it may be his worst (even so, Dawkins at his worst is immeasurably superior to most of us at our best). While his scientific discussions are, as always, insightful and illuminating, his philosophical and theological shortcomings are clear. Nevertheless, The God Delusion is a book that should be taken seriously by religious believers and non-believers alike.
Dawkins describes himself as a religious non-believer, a position that he also ascribes to Einstein, Sagan and Hawking – lofty company, indeed. Since theists are often quick to claim that Einstein was a theist too, Dawkins cites several passages from Einstein’s letters and other documents to refute their claim. Dawkins contends that Einstein was a deist, or perhaps a pantheist, but certainly not a theist…
Partially as a response to the thoughts of LeoPardus and partially from the evolution of my own psychology and philosophy over the past year or so, here is something I just put up on my blog:
My road to de-conversion was a long one. I spent several years as an anxious theology major, and later as an anxious philosophy major trying to sort through the veracity of Christian truth claims. During the process of coming to reject Christianity, I remained quite agreeable to Christianity. When I made the leap and walked away from Christianity, a combination to the flood of responses (both positive and negative) and my own naiveté led to a most vicious lashing out against institutions of faith.
In due time, my anger subsided and I was left with the question, “What next?”
There is a great tension in my life regarding this question. On the one hand, I believe Christianity is just another mythology, if a bit more complex. On the other hand, my time as a Christians contributed a great deal to my formative years as a person. On the other, other hand, I see great amounts of harm come from those who subscribe to what I perceive to be false religious belief. On the other, other, other hand, I see people do great amounts of good as a result of their committed Christian faith…
LeoPardus recently posted a few You might be a Fundy if… one-liners. Among them was:
You might be a Fundy if… God regularly opens up convenient parking spaces, JUST FOR YOU.
Well, it turns out that this is not far from what is being preached at one of the largest churches in America, Lakewood Church in Houston, Tx. According to a Slate Article by Chris Lehmann on Joel Osteen’s new book Become A Better You:
Joel Osteen’s God really wants you to dress well, stand up straight, and get a convenient parking space.
The article gave this analysis of Joel Osteen:
Joel has pointedly refrained from … really doing much biblical preaching at all. He has the wardrobe and tirelessly dapper mien of an oil industry lobbyist; it’s as a walking advertisement of the success creed, and not as any manner of prophet, that he’s made his name. “I’m not called to explain every minute facet of Scripture or to expound on deep theological doctrines or disputes that don’t touch where people live,” he writes dismissively in Become a Better You. “My gift is to encourage, to challenge, and to inspire…”