Monday, January 10, 2011

Why Richard Dawkins is not actually an atheist

Well, a bit of a hiatus from blogging!  My apologies, Xmas and New Year's tends to be busy in this line of work.  I do hope not everyone was losing sleep waiting for the next installment...but here it is anyways.

I have long harboured a suspicion about atheist-poster child Richard Dawkins.  It has nothing to do with our difference of opinion: his lack of faith does not threaten mine.  But I do suspect that my faith threatens him.

Put another way: I suspect that, contrary to his books, interviews, TV appearances, webpage, t-shirts, lapel pins and bobblehead dolls, Richard Dawkins is not an atheist at all.  Here's what I think:

Richard Dawkins absolutely believes in God, and he absolutely hates Him.

The reason I suspect this is that I, for example, do not believe in leprechauns, the boogeyman, UFO's or ghosts, yet I have not dedicated my career, nay my very life to disproving the existence of these things, while taking cheap potshots at the intelligence of those who do.

I just casually disregard these things and get on with my life.  I don't even thunder from the pulpit about the things I believe in, much less about the things I don't.  You must really have a hate-on for something or someone in order to dedicate your life to undermining them to the degree that Dawkins has.

Let me use a real-world example: you remember that guy in who high school or college who was a raging homophobe?  Did you even flinch at the reunion when he told you he was married to a guy?

No, because those who rattle the cage the most do so not becase they love their cage, but because they are scared witless of what lies outside that cage.

To be fair, this argument goes both ways: many people of faith are equally prone to get upset when their deeply-held assumptions are challenged, and rattle their cages when threatened because deep down, they don't feel all that secure about themselves either.

But I digress.  I was unimpressed in seminary by a professor who was a Freudian, not because I dislike Freud, but because I find his material and his contributions to the field of psychiatry to be (although fundamental to the discipline) quaint, arcane and out of date.

Similarly, Dawkins is a devotee of Darwin.  Sorry Dick, old news.  150 years old, in fact.

I have my own biases which admittedly not all people of faith share: although a priest, I was educated secularly, and so the concepts of evolution and survival of the fittest are accepted by me as fact.  That being said, while I believe in evolution, I do not find that it contradicts the concept of divine creation.

And neither did Darwin.  I will not try to claim that Darwin was a theist.  Both religious and nonreligious camps try to claim him as their own, and I never met the man, but he did write that it was  "absurd to doubt that a man might be an ardent theist and an evolutionist".

Here's why I think Chuck was right:

You know the story of Chicken Little?  CL gets nailed in the head by an acorn, thinks the sky is falling, whips up a mob of farm animals, spreads fear and panic, etc.  The moral of the story is that you shouldn't go around spreading rumours based on partial information because bad things can happen.  Good moral, right?  Universally applicable?  You bet!

If, however, you get to the end of the story and say, "Wait a second!  Chickens don't talk!", and you discard the moral along with the story, you have missed the point.

Don't mistake me, I am not trying to compare the Bible to a fairy tale.  There is much in the Bible which can be verified as historically accurate, but there is much which is certainly apocyrphal, if not wildly innaccurate.

The problem is that people try to read the Bible as a book.  It is not.  It is a library of books written by different people, at different times, for different reasons, for different audiences, and written in different genres.  Some books in the Bible are poetry, others song, others corretional, others eyewitness accounts, others geneology.

The relevant question then becomes: Does believing in the minutiae of the Bible make you a good person?

I would offer that it does not necessarily, and in fact it is the literalists who are not only the greatest embarrassment to rational people of faith, but who are also some of the most dangerous people I can think of.  I for one cannot relate personally to either the process of evolution or to Adam and Eve.  The simple reason: I wasn't there to see either of them happen.

What I can relate to is feeling, like Adam and Eve, that I have lost my innocence, that I have been ejected from paradise, that I feel spurned by God.

This is the key to reading the Bible, as it is to how we approach our favorite music, our favorite poems, songs, literature, films.  They touch us deeply because we can relate.  Thematically, there is nothing new under the sun; the Bible touches on it all: lust, greed, heartbreak, betrayal, mortality, heroism.  These are themes which are endemic to the human condition.

The stories in the Bible are supposed to be taken personally, not literally.  We are supposed to ask ourselves, "Who am I in that story?".

And this is why I feel rather sorry for Richard Dawkins.  His outlook on the world is mechanistic, Hobbesian, Newtonian, and quite frankly, a little outdated and not a little bit hollow and unsatisfying.

I say that I am sad for him because among other things that I am, I am in love.  According to the Dawk/Darw-inian outlook, that feeling is not real.  It is merely a random (yet somehow reliably regular) delusion induced by random chains of chemical compounds interacting with randomly occurring receptors in my randomly developed brain.

If I am indeed delusional, then I for one am happy to be.

1 comment:

  1. Richard Dawkins, the closet theist? I'm not sure I could "easily" go along with that.

    I'm entertaining, in my mind, different 'sorts' of atheists:

    1. Christopher Hitchens
    2. Richard Dawkins
    3. Frederich Nietzsche
    4. John Loftus (Debunking Christianity)
    5. Luke Muehlhauser (Common Sense Atheism)

    I think there are two varieties of atheist here: the first kind - Nietzsche and Muehlhauser - would probably say, "God is dead - lets move on with things and adjust the world accordingly." They may present arguments against Christian theism from time to time, but it is largely a secondary concern. (Nietzsche utilized Christianity as the 'relief' with which to post his own outlook. I think different than the undertakings of the 'New Atheists'.)

    The second kind are the Hitchens, Dawkins and Loftus' of the world - they believe theism to be a force for evil: causing strife, disease, war, illness and generally holding humankind 'back'. So impassioned with their cause, they make it their life's mission to fight against theism. They have but one issue: they are irrational.

    So the question is does Dawkins' intense hate of religion reflect a 'secret' belief in such? I don't believe Hitchens has this same sort of 'secret suspicion', and I'm inclined to think the same of Dawkins. As contradictory as it is (to himself), I'm of the opinion that Dawkins is just a very hateful, arrogant, prideful man.