Richard Dawkins has put together an interesting package. His book, The God Delusion, has inspired a great deal of discussion and controversy. After reading the book, I find myself disappointed. I was expecting so much more. For such a great deal of noise, I expected some solid, faith-shattering arguments. Instead, I felt that Dawkins’ arguments were weak, lacking in solid logic and poorly assembled.
Why then am I going to spend time and effort refuting a book that I found to be so negative? Well… the popularity of the book requires some strong refutations in order to set the record straight. That’s my main purpose in posting this set of responses. Additionally, I can’t stand to see these guys (Dawkins, Sam Harris and the rest of their “crew”) thinking that they’ve got the upper hand. I have a keen interest in apologetics, so refuting this type of writing is a great passion for me. Note, apologetics doesn’t mean apologizing for my faith, but rather defending it on intellectual grounds.
Before I get started on my critique, a couple of first thoughts. There are a couple of things that Dawkins does quite badly throughout this book. They are:
- Lack of respect – Dawkins takes on a very confrontational tone in his writing. His arrogant and offensive tone is off-putting and it distracts from his writing. While he is entitled to his opinion, his negative attitudes towards religious belief can at times be seen as an emotional response rather than a rational one. Thus, his lack of respect towards those of alternate worldviews takes away from some of his arguments.
- Stereotyping – Dawkins groups all religious believers into one big pot, confusing the beliefs of many different faiths into his own, convenient negative hodge-podge. Rather than develop a clear and concise definition of his fundamentalist religious targets, he bunches all religious believers together. His glossing over of religious belief leaves the reader wondering if he has a clear understanding of the religious claims of each reader.
So without further ado, over the next few days, I’ll be tackling the following subjects, one by one:
- Straw Men – Dawkins weak proofs of God
- The Ultimate 747 – Is that the best he’s got?
- Problems with Organized Religion and Sociological Explanations for Religion
- The objective roots of morality
- The Historical Jesus
- The problem with fundamentalism
- The slippery slope of abortion
- Why not rid ourselves of religion, politics and economics all at the same time?
- Childhood abuse and brainwashing
- On Evolution and concluding thoughts
Be sure to check back daily. My goal is to post a new section each day, but this will ultimately depend on how much time I can devote to my posts each day. Please do forgive me if I can’t keep up to the daily writing requirements to get these finished on time.
Ultimately, I think the answer becomes one of cohabitation. I feel the presence of God in my life every day. And, I appreciate God’s presence, just as I appreciate the scientific progress in understanding the world that God has provided for us. I am thankful for the scientific research that allows us to lead fuller, richer lives. But I am conscious of the limitations that surround practical scientific research. While science provides us with tools for survival, science lacks the moral compass required to be wise with it. for that, I look to God.
6 replies on “The Atheist Delusion – Why I don’t agree with Richard Dawkins in 10 parts”
I am looking forward to your series on this and you will likely see many comments from me throughout this series. Now to be upfront, I have not read Dawkin’s book but I have read many other publications that argue many of the same points. I would comment that what you criticize Dawkins for I would criticize many religious people I know for the same things. Specifically, lake of respect for others opinions, many times if you question anything that comes out of “organized religious groups” you are immediately viewed as a bad person going to hell..(assuming you believed in hell) and that you are stereotyped into that bucket.
I also wanted to add a comment about how religion provides a moral compass. While many people do use religion to get this grounding I would say that this really provides a very small part in most peoples development. Though I did attend Church growing up I didn’t need to go to church to know it is bad to kill people, it is bad to covet thy neighbours wife or property, etc. I learned way more from what my parents taught me, or from dealing with people that I respected throughout my life, than I did from any sermon. To suggest that you HAVE to have religion to develop any moral compass is an insult to many people. It may work fine for you, but I have found it pretty useless and irrelevant throughout my life.
I too look forward to reading more of this series. I have been addressed with this book myself, and while I’ve not had the opportunity to read it I’m interested in seeing a intellectual and religious consideration on the matters at hand.
I just feel I need to refute the “lack of respect”-argument.
This is something that religious apologetics often bring up. For me, it however is apparet that this argument is severely flawed.
I have since childhood have had an interest for politics. Many heated debates has occurred over the years. I have had discussions with many persons with very different ideological standpoints as to how politics should be invoked. I have hardly ever in those debates been accused for “lack of respect”.
But, a few years back I also started to discuss religion. With the situation in the united states going the way it is (that is, downhill from my perspective) and also after finding my way to some christian blogs here in Sweden (where I live) i started to discuss the matter.
But, what amazed me was that I now, suddenly, heard the argument that I was disrespectful of their beliefs all the time. Why is that? I had in no way changed my way of debating, I was merely debating a different subject, and still this is the kind of responses I received.
I think it’s all really simple. Religious belief is a very integral part of a believers life. Therefore, being confronted with different views can be very hurtful. But this is a problem for the religious believer to deal with. I do not see why I should show any special consideration discussing religion, when I don’t do that when I discuss politics.
Is there a God? I will not try to say yes or no to this question. Rather, I will make this place a law court. I will ask you to be the judge, and I will be the prosecutor. The work of a judge is to make decisions, to approve or disapprove the truth of statements; the work of a prosecutor is to present all the evidence and arguments that he can possibly gather. Before we proceed, we have to be clear about one fact: all prosecutors are not eyewitnesses of crimes. They are not policemen. A policeman may personally witness an event, whereas a prosecutor obtains his information only indirectly. He places all the charges, evidence, and arguments collected before the judge. In the same way, I shall present before you everything that I can possibly find. If you ask whether I have seen God or not, I would say “no.” I am reading or demonstrating what I have gathered. My job is to search for facts and to call for witnesses. You are to arrive at a conclusion yourself.
First, looks at nature, the world that is before our eyes and every phenomenon in it. We all know that scientific knowledge is the rational explanation of natural phenomena. For example, there is an observed drop in the temperature of a patient. The drop in temperature is a phenomenon, and the explanation for it is scientific knowledge. When an apple falls from the tree, it is a phenomenon. Why does an apple not fly into the air? The explanation for this phenomenon constitutes knowledge. A man with knowledge is a man who has the proper explanations.
ONLY TWO EXPLANATIONS
The universe displays countless phenomena of diverse forms, colors, shapes, and nature. We cannot fail to notice these phenomena before our eyes. The explanation for all these phenomena is known as knowledge. All thoughtful persons have only two explanations as far as the origin of the universe is concerned; there is no third explanation. You have to take one or the other of them. What are these two explanations? The first says that the universe came into being through natural evolution and self-interaction; the second attributes its origin to a personified being with intellect and purpose. These are the only two explanations presented by all philosophers of the world. There is not a third one. Where did the universe come from? Did it come into existence by itself or through chance? Or was it designed by the One from whom we derive the concept of God?
What are the characteristics of things that come about by chance? First, we know that they are unorganized. At the most they can be partially integrated. They can never be totally organized. One can achieve a specified goal by chance once, but he can never achieve a specified goal by chance all the time. Anything that comes together by chance can only be integrated partially, never totally. For example, if I throw this chair to the other side of the room, by chance it may come to rest at a perfect angle. If I do the same with a second chair, it may also lie neatly beside the first one. But this will not keep on happening with the third and the fourth and so on. Chance can only provide partial organization. It does not guarantee total integration. Furthermore, all random interactions are aimless, disorganized, and purposeless. They are without order and structure; they are loose, formless, disorderly, and not directed toward any meaningful purpose. Briefly, we can say that the characteristics of chance events are disharmony, irregularity, inconsistency, purposelessness, and insignificance.
CONSISTENCY AND ORGANIZATION
Now let us compare the things in the universe with these characteristics. Take, for example, the human being. He is carried in his mother’s womb for nine months and delivered; he grows up and eventually dies. This cycle is repeated for every single individual. Consistency can be observed. It is not a wild game of chance. Again, look at the sun above your head. It does not exist purposelessly. Rather, it has its purpose and significance. Look at the moon, the stars, and the myriads of galaxies through your telescope. Some stars have their own planets. They all follow definite tracks and patterns. They are all organized. Their manner of motion can be calculated and predicted. The calendar in your hand is derived from them. Even next year’s calendar can be printed before this year is past. All these show that the universe is organized, consistent, and purposeful.
Let us turn to the micro-world or quantum mechanics. Take a thin slice of wood. Put it under a microscope and observe its grain and structure, all meticulously regular and rhythmic. Even a blade of grass and the petal of a flower are finely fashioned. Nothing is unorganized or confused. Everything is disciplined and functional. All these things witness one fact to you: the universe, with its macro (the whole universe and galaxies) and micro aspects (quantum), is purposeful and meaningful. Can you say that all these came into existence by chance? Surely you cannot.
CHANCE OR DESIGN
The universe has to be created by someone with profound wisdom, vast knowledge, and intricate design. If you cannot accept the concept of random formation of the universe, you have to admit that it was created by such a God. There cannot be a third explanation. The choice is left to you. You have to decide if the universe came by chance or whether it was created by God.
A DEMAND AND ITS OBJECT
One witness may not be enough. I will call in another. This time we will consider man’s heart. Before doing so, we should also observe one fact: wherever there is a desire, there must first be an object for that desire. For example, an orphan who has never seen his father naturally has a desire for a kind of paternal love. I have asked many people who were orphans, and they all have felt this irrepressible yearning. By this we can see that every desire of the heart arises out of an object in the world. As human beings we have a need for social belonging. We need companionship and mutuality. If you put a boy on a deserted island and he grows up alone, he still has the yearning for companions, for beings like himself, even though he has never seen a human being. This yearning or desire is the very proof that somewhere in the world there is something known as “man.” At a certain age, man begins to think about posterity; he starts desiring children and grandchildren. This is not a mere fantasy. This desire stems out of the existence and possibility of offspring. Hence, where there is desire, there is an object for that desire.
THERE IS GOD IN THE HEART
Do we have any desires other than social identity and self-propagation? What other cravings do we have? Deep in everyone there is a craving for God. Whether they are highly civilized races, such as those among the Caucasians, or the ancient civilizations, such as the Chinese civilizations, or the African natives and uncultured aborigines, they all have a common craving –God. As long as they are men, they have a yearning for God, no matter what race or nationality. This is a fact. You cannot argue against it. Everyone is seeking after God. Everywhere man is craving for God. This is very clear. By applying the principle that we just mentioned, we can see that since our heart feels the need for a God, there must necessarily be a God in the universe. Since there is a need for God in the heart, there must be the existence of God in the universe. If no God exists, we would never have such a craving in our heart. We all have an appetite for food. In the same way, we all have an appetite for God. It would be impossible to live if there was only an appetite for food but no food. Likewise, it would be impossible to live if there was a capacity for God but no God.
NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT GOD?
Once, an atheist rudely rebuked me in a loud voice: “You said that a man has the psychological need for a God. But there is no such thing, and I do not believe in it.” I said, “Well, do you mean to say that you never think about God? In fact, even while you were talking, you were thinking about Him. This indicates that you do have a capacity for God. There is no one who has never thought about God. He may try not to think much about Him. Since this thought is in you, there must be such an object outside of you.
“THE WORDS AND THE HEART”
A young man once came to me to argue about God. He was vehemently against the existence of God. He gave me one reason after another for saying that there is no God. As he was enumerating the various reasons why God should not exist, I listened to him quietly without saying a word. Then I said, “Although you insist that there is no God and support yourself with so many arguments, you have lost your case already.” He said, “What do you mean?” I went on to explain: “Your mouth can say as much as you want about there not being a God, but your heart is on my side.” He had to agree with me. Although one can give all sorts of reasons in the head, there is a belief in the heart that no argument can defeat. A stubborn person may give a thousand and one reasons, but you can have the boldness to tell him, “You know better in your heart that there is a God. Why bother to look for evidence outside?”Now what would you say? After looking at nature and the universe, after checking with your inner feeling, it is up to you to decide whether or not there is a God. But you should not be irresponsible; your attitude must be sober because everyone has to meet God soon. One day you will all stand before Him. Everything concerning you will be laid bare. On that day you will know God. But now is the time for you to be prepared. We should all be prepared to meet our God.
Finally is there is a God. Who is he? Who among the most ancient religions claim to be God’s son?
As well there must be a written record of God and God’s son. Among all the ancients’ written records is there such a book?
You credophiles are arrogant enough to try to force your superstitious rubbish into a science class room, and you think that Dawkins is arrogant, ha!
You credophiles are busy hiding children raping priests from the full weight of the law, and then you have the arrogance to call atheists immoral.
Godbotherers, you need to take a long good look at yourselves before you criticise anyone else, believer or not.
To HELL with being the least bit nice to any and all Programmed Religious Robots! They treat we Atheists like shit and then want us to be nice to them?
They can kiss my 75 year old All American Airborne Agnostic Atheist Activist Ass!
“You say you’re supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don’t have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist.”
Pat Robertson, The 700 Club, January 14, 1991
“The theory that you should always treat the religious convictions of other people with respect finds no support in the Gospels.”
Arnold Lunn (1888-1974), British author