Dawkins: How dare you call me a fundamentalist

In How dare you call me a fundamentalist the Times online presents an excerpt from Richard Dawkins’ introduction to the paperback edition of ‘The God Delusion’ in which he responds to some critics of the hard cover edition.
Unfortunately his use of “faith-heads” to describe those who reviewed him unfavourably belies his claim to politeness, and his assertion that “most believers echo Robertson, Falwell or Haggard, Osama bin Laden or Ayatollah Khomeini” and that “decent, understated religion is numerically negligible” are unsupported and probably unfair.

He answers the criticism about preaching to the choir by saying that the nonbelieving choir “desperately needs encouragement to come out”, and although I personally don’t feel any need to read ‘The God Delusion’ I can imagine that it may be helpful to some in that regard – especially to support demands for the ending of long standing predjudice in favour of religion of any kind as opposed to non-religion.

Among the many comments is this from Rich, of Birmingham, UK

“It’s all very well deriding the foundations of religion, mocking their flimsy construction, but it will not deter the people who live within its opulent confines.

In the real world, no one chooses religion as a comfort blanket, people choose it because of the need for social acceptance. Join a religion – any religion, it doesn’t matter – and you immediately become the adopted child of a million-strong family. You have access to a formidable social network that can bring great benefits, material and spiritual. Suddenly, and maybe most importantly, you are not alone. You’re not free either, but then no one is, and anyway, what good is freedom without any power?

This is the ‘Truth’ that Dawkins and his rationalist ilk, for all their undoubted common sense, appear to miss, never mind address.”

and CL of London says
” . . . Pragmatically, I’d rather win over with tolerance the 95% of religious people who quietly believe in an invisible friend without bothering anyone, than antagonise them into the arms of the truly dangerously irrational — those who seek to use religion as a cudgel to batter society into submission?”

a certain Father Bryan Storey, Tintagel, uk has been involved in several extended exchanges asserting the need for belief in god as a prerequisite for goodness – his latest being
“Jim of Sydney: What you and others to whom you refer write about our morality cannot be achieved without a sense , albeit implicit, of God which is deeply ingrained in the personality. There is no humility without the idea of God. Like many others , I’ve tried it and it does not work. Yet a great thinker once wrote that the ‘atheist’ who achieves goodness has somehow found God. I’m sure there are many ‘atheists’ worshipping within the personality as many believers are not doing it too much. Funny old world.”

Storey’s personal experience does not of course preclude others from achieving humility without a god concept – and indeed a morality based on avoidance of hellfire seems more self interested than one that comes from exercise of a free conscience. Perhaps his concluding remarks suggest an openness to the idea that true worship does not require an object. Personally I see vastly more worshipful humility in much of Dawkins’ scientific writing than I do in the pronouncements of priests popes and mullahs. In religious terms, perhaps the designation of an object of worship should be considered as the first level of blasphemy. The second being attribution of human emotions and thoughts to that object, and the third being the idea that any such thoughts can be expressible in human language. The bible may be a deeply flawed document, and if god exists maybe it is the work of the devil, but at least it has the germ of our salvation in its proscription against “taking the name of the lord in vain”. And of course it identifies our original sin as eating not from the tree of knowledge of evolution and quantum mechanics but from that of the knowledge of good and evil. So if one reads the right message into it it may be a good book after all.

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